Jan 14

As a clinician at LCL, I recurrently have the opportunity to meet lawyers who present with exceptional academic backgrounds, who have excelled in their careers, and who have shown impressive vision and determination in their professional lives.  Even so, the matters bringing them to me are reminders that depression, addiction, attention deficit, anxiety, and the like are equal-opportunity problems, and that these individuals are no more immune from them than those whose backgrounds are less extraordinary.

One reason for that is the fact that different parts of our brains are, in some respects, at war with one another.  Rationality, decision-making, goal-directedness, etc. are functions that seem to go on mainly in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the cerebrum that is uniquely evolved in humans, and we’d like to think that we employ our cognitive capacities to control our lives.  But the fact is that much of our behavior is affected strongly by the limbic system, where we find the influence of emotion and reward.

Lawyers seek to live professionally in the prefrontal cortex, which is essential in the practice of law.  But they are human beings as well, and subject to the powerful behavioral impact of feelings (whether or not these are acknowledged) and reward states (such as those that can be unnaturally elevated by alcohol and other drugs of abuse).   Thus, we find highly intelligent, accomplished individuals, who have tried to apply their reasoning skills to problems of emotion or addictive behavior only to see these difficulties worsen.

We all have to recognize that there is much of life over which we have little or no control, and that when it comes to those parts of our experience we will probably benefit most from (a) acceptance of our human limitations and (b) willingness to make honest connections to others as sources of help.

Jeff Fortgang, PhD

Jan 04

Getting the Job (of Finding a Job) Done (Part 6)

How refreshing it is to hear someone hit a hopeful note, especially at this time of year. At our 6th session of the Managing Your Work Search series, guest speaker Jim Toms, HR Director at Sullivan & Worcester, offered some welcome encouragement in the form of growing legal job opportunities. A survey of the various job posting sites suggested that there were currently 1500 legal job openings in Massachusetts. Although a quick review could not easily assign percentages to full-time vs. part-time, professional vs. paraprofessional, public vs. private, or identify legal specialty, the number was nevertheless heartening. In fielding questions put to him by participants seeking advice in the search and the interview process, Mr. Toms underscored the universal theme of the importance of networking in the job search process. “Simply submitting a resume and cover letter will never get you on the interview list,” said Mr. Toms. He encouraged participants to take advantage of the fact that most people are more than willing to meet you for coffee or lunch for an informational interview, and to follow up with periodic updates to keep yourself fresh in their minds. You just never know where you might find the winning lead, right combination of contacts, or tip of the scales in your favor, but probabilities serve the active networker. Beyond making and maintaining contacts, networking helps jobseekers to clarify their objectives, hone their interview skills, increase their knowledge of the current job market, and in general, become more interesting candidates.
Nancy L Brown, LICSW

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