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Archive for April, 2012

I had the pleasure to sit down a few weeks ago for a nice long talk with the brilliant and thoughtful Dan Lukasik, creator of the brilliant and thoughtful blog Lawyerswithdepression.com.

For some background on Dan and his work, click here.

As always, it was great to talk with Dan – he takes his time, asks good questions and knows what he’s talking about.  We explored issues around depression, talked a bit about my books, and related everything to law, lawyers and the environment of a law firm.

You can read the full interview here.

My thanks to Dan, for arranging and conducting this nice long talk about topics that fascinate and concern us both.

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If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

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My client is finishing her 1L year. She’s bored.

“I study. Then I study some more. Then I go to sleep. Then I get up and study again. It’s the same for everyone.”

At least, I proposed, the subject matter was interesting.

She demurred. “Yeah, I guess…but – really? I mean…Property law? Contracts? Torts?”

Her demurrer was sustained. She had a point.

Maybe it’s your turn to demur. The subject matter of law school – law itself – not interesting!?? That’s unthinkable. It has to be the school’s fault – my client must be attending some fourth-tier degree mill, with sub-par teaching and a dull-witted student body…

But the school’s not at issue here. She’s attending one of the top places in the country. Not that it would make much difference, since every law school essentially teaches the same thing, first-tier or fourth-tier.

Then it must be her fault. If she doesn’t appreciate the study of law – if this Philistine isn’t drawn to the greatness of legal scholarship – she doesn’t deserve her seat at an exalted institution.

I’m not convinced. This young woman projects intelligence, and turns heart-felt-y and passionate discussing her real interest – international human rights law. Unlike most law students, she did an internship and reads books, so she knows what international human rights law is (even if, like most law students, she vastly over-estimates its significance.)

It’s possible things will get better next year, when she takes a course on international human rights law. On the other hand, law school courses have a way of making topics less interesting than they were before you took them.

Maybe the fault doesn’t lie with any particular school, or any particular student. Maybe it lies with the myths surrounding law school itself.

Let’s gather for a moment, and contemplate the inconceivable: Maybe law school is just…well…not that big a deal. Maybe it isn’t engrossing or life-altering or – much of anything. Maybe the whole schtick – law school as the turning point in a young lawyer’s existence – is oversold. The legal industry itself is a bubble recently popped. Perhaps the mystique surrounding law school is due for puncture.

Ask yourself – is the subject matter taught in law schools really so engrossing? Or were you taught to believe the subject matter taught in law schools is really so engrossing?

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I received the following letter regarding telling people things they don’t want to hear:

Dear People’s Therapist

I have been a fan of your blog for a long time, and thank you for running the blog!  I have the following question:
My mother-in-law is obese.  My father-in-law just passed away a year ago from diabetes.  My husband wants to talk to his mother to get her to lose weight because he doesn’t want to lose her (she is almost 60 years old).  We tried hinting but it got no where.  We tried inviting her over to our house for healthy dinners but because I’m Chinese and my husband is Caucasian American, our Chinese diet of vegetables and tofu is not exactly her cup of tea.  We tried analyzing the situation and decided that she doesn’t eat much during meals but she snacks a lot on junk foods.  My husband wants to know how can he talk to his mother about her losing weight and not hurt her feelings or sound like we don’t like fat people (my husband and I are the only skinny people in the family)??

Thank you very much!!

Y

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
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If you’re interested in learning more about the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy, you might enjoy my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

My second book takes a humorous look at the current state of the legal profession, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

For information on my private practice, click here.

Read Full Post »

You’re different. You disdain the crass blandishments of biglaw. You have a soul. Let the giant firms seduce your naïve classmates with their shameless wheedling. You’re made of sterner stuff.

Your ultimate goal? Something better. A place where you might actually do good. Few lawyers receive that opportunity. Many, exposed to goodness, would burst into flames.

That’s why you’re taking the high road, escaping the pervasive cynicism and greed. You’ve got your sights set on a not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promise of a better tomorrow.

Will it work? Can a lawyer escape pervasive cynicism and greed?

Seems unlikely.

Let’s talk about the the not-for-profit track – its ups, downs and in-betweens.

Right off the bat, we have to discuss salary. I know – you want to escape all that – the obsession with filthy lucre. But there’s a stark reality you must grasp before reporting for duty at a not-for-profit: You will earn bupkis.

Maybe that’s okay with you – like Hebrew National, you answer to a higher authority. On the other hand, if – like most young lawyers – you’re sitting on a zillion dollars in bankruptcy-proof loans, an extended period of earning zilch could prove…inconvenient.

This aforesaid stark reality also explains one of the dirty little secrets of the not-for-profit world: It’s a magnet for rich kids. If Mom and Dad have already paid off the $200k you blew on an undergraduate degree and law school, then bought you the cutest little one-bedroom in Chelsea and a brand new Prius…well, the logical next step is to save the world. It’ll be fun!

Not-for-profits are bursting at the seams with eager-beaver trust-afarians – and it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes Mom and Dad (and their friends) sit on the board. Sometimes the charismatic founder and Executive Director is a grinning, twenty-something former college lacrosse star, just back from Burning Man. You can’t hold it against him if he wants to donate a snippet of grandaddy’s styrofoam factory fortune to making the world a better place. But his white-boy dread locks and penchant for calling you “bro” in the hallway make you wince.

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Our initial task as client and therapist – our work during the first few sessions – resembles cartography.  I begin, like a map-maker, drawing a square or a rectangle, then sketching the outlines of landmarks visible from afar – the mountains, the sea, the rivers.  In limning a life, the prominent features are obvious – where you were born, and when, where you grew up, what you do for a living, who your parents were and what they do, your siblings, if you have any, and your relationships with them, your partner, if you have one, and your relationship with him.  I get the big stuff down, then step back, and try to make sense of it all – take “the lay of the land.”  Later, I’ll add shading and nuance, and fill in the details – tiny inlets and hillocks, copses and rills.

I conjure a map from blank parchment.  It returns the favor – conjuring a New World from my collected observations, and serving as a trusty guide.  The expanse charted in shorthand on the map permits me to “rack focus” (as they say in film-making) – alter my gaze to take a fresh perspective, observe an unaccustomed vista. The map, as it develops, assumes a shape of its own.  Disparate regions are drawn together by common threads – the length of a river’s course, a shared coastline or mountain range.  My attention drifts to objects on the edges of boundaries, features I might have missed.  The elusive “big picture” – awareness, the ultimate goal in psychotherapy – begins to coalesce.

The first step in the process comes as a question from the therapist.  The phrasing of that “first question” gets debated when therapists gather.  I trained with a colleague who invariably asked the same thing at each first session:  “So what brings you here today?”  That feels twisty and indirect to me.  I usually start with “So how are you?” or, depending on my mood, or yours, “So how’s it going?”  Sometimes there’s serious upset taking place in the here and now, that needs attending to right away.  Before I sketch the background – the mountains and the sea and the rivers – I need to know if there’s a battle occurring on that stony plain, a castle under siege, a forest caught fire.

This is an historical map.  I am mapping a quest – an epic voyage.  You are the hero. Ours will be the sort of map with crossed swords to mark battlefields and mythic beasts to guard those unexplored zones at the edges of awareness.

The first question doesn’t matter much, because your unconscious feelings function like a compass.  Wherever you start, you’ll find yourself where you need to be.

I have a good sense of direction, too.  If I sense we’re drifting off-course, I’ll lean my elbow on the tiller.

Your compass is guided by emotion, drawn to it as to a magnetic pole.  If I detect an increase in feeling, I might grow cautious, slow our pace and sniff the breeze, comb the sky for a cynosure – fear, anger, sadness, hurt.  Emotions guide our way.

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