Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Law Career Challenge #17-Don’t Fall Into the Denial Trap

law career fitness challengeDon’t sabotage your career by falling into the denial trap.

Denial is such an insidious force. It can wreck relationships, derail careers and damage lives.

It sneaks up behind us when we are weak and burrows deep in our subconscious, where it is not easily rooted out. The longer it stays there, the more powerful it grows.

Think of a cartoon character that is being chased. It sticks its head in the sand like an ostrich or attempts to hide in a similarly futile manner. The pursued thinks it has concealed itself, thinks it has avoided danger. Actually, it has made itself even more vulnerable.

Such is the Power of Denial.

Ignoring a State Bar Letter Will Not Make It Disappear

Back when I was in private practice, I represented attorneys in disciplinary actions before the State Bar.

Early in my practice, I noticed a pattern. A lawyer would call me after being notified by the State Bar of alleged ethical misconduct. Often the lawyer had practiced for years and had a solid reputation. But something had happened in a case and they had been reported to the Bar.

And here was the frustrating part. Often the underlying complaint was no big deal. It could have easily been cleared up, provided it was done so early on. Now the problem had grown worse because the attorney failed to respond to the State Bar. They had simply ignored the Bar’s letters.

More than one lawyer – capable, caring counselors – walked into my office bearing a stack of unopened letters. They wouldn’t even bother to open them before seeing me. They would just dump them forlornly on my desk: unopened envelopes from the Office of Counsel, certified letters that had been signed for but never read, mail postmarked two years earlier but still sealed.

In all these cases, the lawyer was charged not only with the misconduct as originally alleged, but also with an additional offense of failure to cooperate with the State Bar.

Yet another example of the terrible Power of Denial.

Rolling Away the Rock

Denial is like a huge boulder that has been placed between us and reality. It has what Dr. George Simon calls “obstructive power.”

Nobody likes getting bad news. Nobody likes making mistakes and accepting consequences.

Such unpleasantries make life a drag. Much easier to forget them, toss them away or put them high on a shelf and move on to other, more enjoyable pursuits.

Except that hiding our heads in the sand doesn’t protect us from the monsters. It puts us at greater risk. A healthier choice is to turn on the light. We might not like what we see, but at least we’ll know what we’re facing.

Five Training Tips

  1. If you make a mistake, admit it. Don’t try to cover it up. It only makes things worse.
  2. Listen to friends. If people who love you are saying things you’d rather not hear – and if their stories match up – you should probably unplug your ears and listen.
  3. Deal with problems when they arise. They longer they sit and fester, the more you will suffer.
  4. Ask for help. See Law Career Fitness Challenge #14.
  5. Listen to Oscar Wilde. “To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life.”
You can check out last week's challenge here.


Source: Counseling Resource

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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