Byte of Prevention Blog

by Lawyers Mutual |

Crafting Your Way to a Happier and More Satisfying Law Practice

Burnout and attrition are very real problems for the legal profession. Law firms are struggling to keep top talent. Some firms have tried to throw money at the problem, but research shows that this is not the answer. In an in-depth study of lawyer satisfaction, law professor Lawrence Krieger and psychologist Kennon Sheldon found that autonomy, belonging, and competence were far better predictors of attorney satisfaction. So, how can law firms and individual lawyers find ways to foster these conditions? A practice known as “job crafting” may hold the answers.

Job crafting is a three-step process created by research psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski. The process is designed to make a person’s work more meaningful and satisfying.

  1. Task Crafting: This is the process of modifying or adding to the tasks that you perform so that they are more consistent with your talents, desires, and values.
  2. Relationship Crafting: This involves changing who you relate with in your work and how you relate with other people. You emphasize those relationships that energize you and minimize relational connections that drain you.
  3. Cognitive Crafting: This step involves altering the way that you think about or describe your work. In this step, you are changing your mindset to see the bigger picture and meaning in what you do. For example, a janitor in a hospital might changes his description from “I mop floors and clean hospital rooms” to “I help to create a clean and safe environment that makes patients feel safer and comfortable.” 

Job crafting can be used by law firms, partners, associates, and staff employees to make their work more meaningful and satisfying.

 A lawyer can task craft by seeking out new opportunities or practice areas that bring satisfaction or joy. This might mean initially taking on extra work until you can transition more fully into the new practice area. If you like writing, it might mean volunteering to write content for your firm’s website. Modifying and adding tasks does not need to happen all at once. Crafting a new position and replacing old tasks with new tasks is a process that takes time. 

Relationship crafting for lawyers can be accomplished by intentionally seeking out other lawyers who resonate with you and feed your energy. You may have certain people in your work life who are negative and not supportive or encouraging. If you cannot completely avoid these people, you can work to minimize your interactions with them. 

Cognitive crafting might be the most important of the three steps. With cognitive crafting you are changing your mindset about what you do. You are moving from a mindset of JOB to a calling or purpose. As a lawyer, look for the big picture of what you do. Are you a personal injury lawyer or are you an advocate for justice for your clients who have been injured and who have no one else fighting for them. Are a criminal defense lawyer or are you the person standing up to protect the civil and constitutional rights of your clients. Sure, we all have discreet tasks that we do as lawyers. But these discreet tasks are part of something much larger. Decide what that something is and then see how you play a vital role in making that happen. When you view what you do as a calling, it gives meaning to your work. Write your own job description with these things in mind and put it up on the wall of your office as a daily reminder.

If you are a law firm partner or supervisory lawyer, you have an opportunity to utilize job crafting in your firm to raise satisfaction, improve performance, and reduce turnover. Studies have found that happy employees are more productive employees. But to make job crafting possible, partners and supervisors will need to give associates and staff some level of autonomy in crafting their jobs. This will be easier in some firms than others. You can start by asking each lawyer and staff member to draft their own job description in the manner discussed above. You may need to help lawyers and staff see how they serve the big picture. You can also be supportive when lawyers express an interest in pursuing new areas of the law. When the entire firm works together for each lawyer and staff member to find their calling, everyone wins.












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Lawyers Mutual

Lawyers Mutual, founded in 1977, is the first lawyers mutual insurance company in the country and has provided continuous professional liability coverage to North Carolina lawyers for 40 years. Its reputation for leadership, professionalism and commitment to its attorneys sets the standard for other legal malpractice insurance providers. For more information, call 800.662.8843, follow us on Twitter @LawyersMutualNC, connect on our LinkedIn page, like us on Facebook

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