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Archive for the ‘Thoughts and Musings’ Category

Richie T – “Best DJ in Utah” (as he’s universally known)

So, okay…I couldn’t resist. Dillon Hansen, the charming young producer from The Lisa Show on BYU Radio, mentioned maybe coming back to do another show, and, well…so he talked me into it. What can I say? He twisted my arm.

This week it was Lisa’s delightful and hilarious co-host, Richie T, at the mic (Richard T Steadman, if you want to get all formal about it), and we had a great time chatting about burnout and how it can really spoil that dream job, if you let it.

But, of course, you’re not going to let burnout rain on your parade, because you’re going to listen to the show HERE, and find out lots of useful pointers on defeating burnout before it defeats you. I start off the show right at the head, and we’re on together for about the first 15 minutes.

It’s a pleasure to work with true radio pros like Lisa and Richie (they both have backgrounds in theater and comedy and improv on top of years of experience on the airwaves, and it shows in a tightly paced, unceasingly entertaining show.)

The truth is I’d join them at the mic anytime they’ll have me. Thanks, guys.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

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This is getting predictable.

I suspect I’m dating myself, but does anyone else remember the Peanuts cartoons? Specifically that endlessly repeated gag (more like heart-wrenching tragedy) of Lucy offering to hold the football for poor, hapless Charlie Brown so he can kick it? Of course, she winds up pulling it away just in time for him to miss the kick and fly through the air screaming, then land in a heap, bruised and miserable, furious at himself for placing his trust once again in a faithless so-called friend. 

Law firms do that. I mean, they do the Lucy bit, with the football. 

“So…when you say he promised you’d be elevated to partner,” I asked one client just the other day, “Do you mean, as in, he actually promise promised to make you partner…or just sort of implied strongly it would happen?” 

My client’s response was unequivocal: “He promised.” 

I fumbled for wiggle room. “But can he do that? How much capital does this guy have at the firm to burn on elevating one of his own?”

My client wasn’t taking wiggle for an answer: “He’s the managing partner of a smallish firm. He can elevate whomever he wants.”

Wait. Hang on…one more question: “Did he specify when he’d make you partner?”

Now I had him.  Because the unfailing law firm answer to any question regarding something good that’s going to happen to you (i.e., not to them) is: Not now…but soon. 

Promising stuff to you (not now, but soon) is actually a key law firm technique for getting what they want from you (immediately.)

The looming temporal gulf between what they offer to you and what they demand from you is acute. It is stark. It is striking. 

Compare and contrast:

The stuff they offer to you will arrive whenever they please, which seldom means anytime remotely contemporaneous with the current era. (And, no, don’t bother them about it, or they might change their minds.)

The stuff they require from you, on the other hand, will happen immediately. This very minute.  As in, I’m aware it’s Saturday night, and no, I don’t care. I’m not asking – that’s me being polite.  I’ll have it Monday morning or you’re fired. 

That kind of right now. Law firm right now. 

Returning for a moment to those lovely, tasty things that they’re promising to you… It’s worth asking just how long a period of time not now, but soon can be drawn out to occupy, at least in the minds of those who run law firms. 

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I had a blast this morning recording a segment on The Lisa Show, on BYU Radio. And no – it had nothing whatsoever to do with law! Isn’t that satisfying?!?

Lisa’s the best!

Instead, we laughed and chortled and giggled and had ourselves a grand old time talking about everyone’s favorite topic – “regression in the service of the ego” – and old tv shows! Cause that’s probably the best response to this pandemic – go watch more old tv shows!

Hey, it might make you feel better. In the meantime, check out the show here. I go on at about 9:00, but the whole thing is a delight and Lisa and her sidekick Richie are a blast and it was worth waking up to share some laughs. Thanks, guys! A great way to start the day.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

These are some serious dudes.

I’ve been on a lot of podcasts over the years. But there are podcasts, and there are podcasts. Iron Advocate, a new series created by legendary courtroom hard-asses Jeff Riebel and Bob Levant, is…well…a hardcore podcast. Which is to say, these guys don’t mess around.

If there’s a podcast out there where you really do cut the cr*p and say what you mean…it’s Iron Advocate.

We got real. Really real. The starting point was my all-time favorite subject – lawyer misery – but along the way we shared a few lawyers laughs as well.

You can hear the show on Apple Podcasts here, and on Spotify here. Brace yourself for impact, because this series is going to have an impact. Jeff & Bob have argued cases in criminal court where lives literally hung on the outcome. They don’t mess around.

Well, they do mess around. But even when they do mess around…it’s hardcore messing around.

Check out the whole series – I’m already hooked.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

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Hi!

I’ve always sort of wanted to do a TED talk. But I’ve also always thought it would be really hard to do a TED talk.

Luckily, I found the perfect compromise: Have someone else do a TED talk about me.

Liz Brown wrote a book in 2013 called “Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the J.D. You Have.” It’s a good book, and one of the really great things about it is that I’m in it, as a case study of one of the lawyers (me!) who left law and went on to find another career.

In 2015, Liz did a TEDx talk about her book – and mentioned me! And I just realized it (sorry, got to keep better track of this stuff.) Here’s the talk, and here’s the bit about me.

Here’s some info about Liz. She’s an interesting lady, and well worth giving a listen (and a read.)

There are a couple teensy errors in her talk. I did Mergers & Acquisitions, not Mergers & Exchange, at S&C. At Barnes & Noble.com I did Marketing and Bus Dev, not sales. And my psychotherapy practice is located in lower Manhattan, not Brooklyn. But hey…she got a whole lot about me right (as in everything else including how much I love the work I do right now. )

So now I can (sort of ) say I did a TED talk (in a manner of speaking) without having to actually, you know, talk at TED. Yay!


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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

poor dears

Ah, lawyer misery. It is a force of nature. It drives the tides, powers the sun, causes the wind to blow and the trees to grow and the seasons to change. What would we do without miserable lawyers?

Actually, it might be nice. And I suspect the planet could handle happier lawyers, all things equal.

A week or two ago I chatted with the utterly delightful and refreshingly forthright Anjali Patel on her podcast for Sweatours, which she founded, and which is super worth checking out because it’s all about making law students and lawyers generally happier and, well, well-er.

the lovely Anjali Patel

Anjali assigned our podcast episode the adorable title: “Why Some of Us are Miserable.” Who can resist a Victor Hugo tie-in?!

You can listen to the podcast here. I can’t recommend it enough. Anjali is something special – totally committed to telling the truth about lawyers’ lives, which is refreshing, and she’s smart, too, and knows what she’s talking about from experience. And (I love this part) she’s actually read my books, so we could get into the nitty-gritty.

Sweatours

This was a lot of fun, and I hope Anjali will have me back, cause trust me we could keep on going. Thanks to everyone at Sweatours – together, maybe we can turn the tide a bit, and spark a little lawyer joy.


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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

batman-joker-interrogation-dark-knightYou are really, really sick of law. In fact, you want out. At a minimum, you need to get out of your current job, or you might die. That much is not in dispute. 

But you still have the loans. Therefore common sense says you should “give law one more try.”

As H. L. Mencken once observed:“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

You sense this quotation might apply to your current situation, because it seems clear and simple you should go find another job in biglaw, at least for a year. Here are some screamingly clear and simple reasons why:

  • You need money to pay off loans – one more shot at biglaw money.
  • It’s not life or death – you can always quit the new job if it doesn’t work out. 
  • According to the headhunters who call you twice a day, there are loads of “lifestyle” shops that would love to snap you up from your hotshot firm, despite the fact that you loath that place with every cell in your body. 

The list of “cons” includes:

  • imagining starting a law job at another firm makes you physically ill;
  • the thought of interviewing at a law firm makes you physically ill; and
  • the thought of walking into another law firm makes you physically ill. 

A lot of lawyers find themselves in this situation, stuck (in the metaphorical sense) between a rock (school loans) and a hard place (the thought of continuing to practice law.) 

However, the final decision tends to be along the lines of – well, no harm in going for an interview. Which is why you’ll probably wind up going in for that interview. 

“So, should I go on this interview?” One client asked me recently. I knew he was talking about that interview. 

(more…)

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(it’s a secret)

I had a ball a few weeks ago recording a podcast with the delightful Kimberly Rice, of KLA Marketing. You can hear the results here.

We talked about my background, including my strange journey from biglaw to psychotherapy, then mulled over the experiences of lawyers nowadays in a variety of settings and pondered the future of the profession.

It’s a far-ranging conversation, and a lively and fun one. Thanks, Kimberly!

Kimberly Rice

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51awxyv-23l._sl110_.jpg

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

This image has an empty alt attribute

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is q

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.21.10 PMIt was my pleasure to sit down a couple weeks ago with Megan Hawksworth, of the Mastering Counseling podcast, and talk about being a therapist.  I always enjoy a chance to compare notes with another person in my field (Megan is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and talk shop – and Megan was a terrific host.  Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.31.45 PM

Our topic was the whole notion of being a “specialist” as a therapist, which is obviously relevant to my practice, since I’m typically considered “the lawyer’s therapist.”  It’s true that I used to be a biglaw corporate associate and have written books about law and mental health and treat a great many lawyers in my private practice.  However, it’s also worth noting that I originally started out as a “gay therapist” working with HIV+ gay men in a hospital setting and then ran a large, diverse private practice as a “downtown therapist” first in Battery Park City and then in neighboring Tribeca, working mostly with area residents and folks in creative fields.  So if I’m a specialist, I’ve had a few specialties.

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 5.37.00 PMThe larger issue we chewed on is that every therapist, by necessity, is a generalist – it comes with the territory.  People are complicated, and diverse, and labels, while useful in some contexts, tend to blur important distinctions in others.  We’re all a lot like everyone else – and completely unique, as well.

Anyway, it’s all super-interesting grist for the mill and led to a lively discussion.  Here’s a link to the podcast.  The MastersinCounseling.org  blog, authored by Dr. Barbara LoFrisco (another therapist) is also well worth checking out.

I would be more than happy to talk about psychotherapy forever (it’s my very favorite subject), and it’s always a pleasure to sit down with a colleague and bounce ideas off one another.  This was an especially fun interview.

Don’t get me wrong – you know I love lawyers.  But everyone likes to talk to a therapist, right?  Apparently, I’m no exception.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

hqdefault-19

There’s a new place in biglaw – not always a comfortable place – called the middle. One of its defining characteristics is euphemism, particularly around job titles. Consider yourself lucky if you’re merely saddled with a legal anachronism like “Of Counsel” or “Senior Counsel” or the more workaday “Senior Attorney” (i.e., a lawyer who’s been here a while, which is apparently the best we can say for him), as opposed to that vague moniker creeping into the legal world, borrowed from finance or consulting firms, “Principal.”

The ultimate horror (though somehow preferable as middle titles go) is that now-commonplace epitome of biglaw oxy-moronicness: “non-equity partner.” Every thinking person’s initial objection to this laboratory-experiment-gone-horribly-wrong of a credential, or title, or status, or whatever it is, is that in purely legal terms, it’s nonsense. How can a partner, meaning a member of a partnership, i.e., a fundamental part of an entity defined by shared ownership – not own anything? I’ve run this past tax attorneys (the smartest of all lawyers) and they agreed to a man (and woman): This is more than a quibble – the concept is absurd.

In essence, a non-equity partner is a non-partner partner. If a partner owns nothing in a partnership, it’s not merely that the partnership is non-equitable, it’s that the existence of a non-owning partner in said partnership renders it a non-partnership. The other guys, who own stuff, have a partnership. You, as a non-equity partner, might as well be called “that guy we let work here until we decide differently” (thus, perhaps, was born yet another neologism, the term “de-equitize.”) The phrase “salary partner” only makes things worse, by sweeping less of the evident cognitive dissonance under the rug. Might as well emblazon yourself “Proletarian Viscount” or “Marquis of the living wage.”

In fairness, the whole problem began when someone needed to come up with a word for lawyers who somehow never left their firms, but on the other hand weren’t really getting anywhere, either. There had to be something better to call them than “fourteenth year associate,” which is one of those titles more apt to leave a lawyer gazing into a mirror, his face wet with tears, than crowing with pride at a firm cocktail event.

More importantly, “Fourteenth year associate” sounds bad in front of clients, and let’s face it, the entire issue of concocting these titles for folks in the middle is about appearances, i.e., what outsiders think. No one cares what you think, and everyone knows where you dwell (amid the dark and dreadful middle realm.) Law is like fashion (to paraphrase Heidi Klum): You’re either in, or you’re out (and no, the middle isn’t in, so all the more reason for clever euphemisms.)

Let’s pause for a moment and get all “big picture” about things: What lies behind this phenomenon? Why doesn’t anyone in biglaw just work hard, make “the sprint” for partner, win the big prize and get “elevated” anymore?

(more…)

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Elvis-on-Camera-BoomIf you’re like me, the letters CLE, lined up, one next to the other, might not set your pulse racing.  Contemplating an hour devoted to continuing legal education, the terms that spring to mind – “somnolent,” “soporific,” “soul-crushing” – seldom correspond to the seat-of-your-pants thrill-seeking typically associated with the practice of law.

Néamoins, as we say à Paris.  Il y a des exceptions.

Imagine if CLE could be fun, gripping, in fact – an outlet for a cry of anguish from the depths of your soul – projected before your eyes as if by sorcery!  Picture in your mind a CLE that beguiles, entices, titillates…betrays even as, and what, it portrays.

I did.  And I had a vision that lit my soul on fire.

And so, in partnership with the gangsta cinematic visionaries of Lawline (including that sultry siren of the silver screen, Sarah Mills!) I crafted what can only be termed the Citizen Kane of CLE videos.

An alchemical admixture that simmers the savage honesty of Godard alongside the fragrant whimsy of Spielberg, baked en croute with a sprinkle of Kurosawa-ian poignance, “Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Competence in the Legal Profession” is an instant classic – often harrowing, sometimes hypnotic – a kaleidoscope of sound and image imbued (merci, M. Kubrick!) with the searing cry of primordial birth pangs exploding across human existence.

Don’t believe me?  Here are some clips.

I’ll set them up (since I’ll probably be doing the talk show circuit soon as word spreads and “MHSA&CinLP” becomes an international phenomenon.)

Go ahead, make popcorn, grab a diet root beer. I’ll wait.

We begin with “Understanding Depression and Anxiety in a Law Firm” – the CLE equivalent of the shower scene in Psycho:

Still with me? Need to catch your breath?

Brace yourself for “How Anxiety Works.” Remember the bicycle with E.T. in the basket, lifting off into a starry summer sky? Well, here we go again…

What to say about “How to Handle Being Trapped by Debt & Burnout”? Everyone repeats the same mantra:  ‘The Andalusian Dog” meets “Hiroshima, Mon Amour.” But press fast forward, beyond the clichés.  Film language is not about words on a page, but light, color…and, perhaps, a smidgen of je ne sais quoi.

(more…)

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upsidedownhouseWe all know lawyers are pleasers. Everyone knows that. The weird thing is how it doesn’t feel that way from the inside. When you are a lawyer, and a pleaser, you don’t think you’re a pleaser – it seems more like you’re the only conscientious person in the world. You are the one who shows up on time, sits in the first row and hands your homework in on schedule, always perfect. Other people don’t, and that’s annoying. Thus begins a typical lawyer pet peeve – that other people never live up to their obligations. Stretch that out to the extreme, and you wind up doing a job where you bill 3,000 hours a year, just to set a good example for everyone else.

The odd thing is that lawyers simultaneously manage to feel a bit like imposters even as they’re pleasing, because pleasing isn’t the same thing as achieving. Achieving is an objective fact – you have accomplished something useful, good, of value. Pleasing just means you’ve convinced someone else that you’ve given them what they wanted, which might involve little more than smoke, mirrors and billable hours.

Lawyers are good at working hard, just like they’re good at racking up grades in school, which amounts to pleasing teachers. But hard work and good grades in school don’t mean you can play saxophone or or paint a portrait or write a gripping novel. It doesn’t mean you can design a computer or cure cancer either, especially since lawyers tend not to be much good at science and math (if you were any good at that stuff, you’ve have gone to med school and really pleased your parents.) Even if you are a lawyer good at science or math, it’s unlikely you’re designing computers or curing cancer because you’re probably an IP lawyer, who fled the lab bench for “money and prestige” (the magical lawyer incantation.) It’s a small wonder “imposter syndrome” thrives among lawyers. Don’t think you fooled me. We both know you aren’t really that good – you just run around trying to please everybody to distract them from the sense of defectiveness that haunts you, keeps you dancing so it won’t become obvious you’ve no idea what you want to do with your life. Everyone else seems to have somehow figured out what they want to do with theirs. Except lawyers.

So who do lawyers seek to please? Lots of folks. Pretty much everyone, except themselves.

(more…)

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2d274907839718-sally-field-oscar-1985-speech-today-150217_27422441b72ca02103b8ba97bd2931d4I love prizes. Everyone loves prizes. Who doesn’t love winning a prize?

So…I am deeply thrilled (and delighted) to announce that this very blog (my blog!) The People’s Therapist, has just been named a top mental health blog of 2017 by OnlineCounselingPrograms.com.

So far, no statuette (although I’m clinging to the hope one might arrive in the mail.) But hey, it’s recognition, and I like recognition.

Here’s the list of winning blogs (there are thirteen, and they’re listed alphabetically, so yes, I’m down there near the bottom, but that in no way reflects my comparative grandeur.)  And yes, of course I urge you to take a peek at those other, dear little lesser blogs when you get the downtime.  Because I’m gracious like that.  Big-hearted.  Classy.

Anyway, here’s a nice long, special interview with moi-self, talking all about being The People’s Therapist, writing The People’s Therapist and reflecting the awesome glory of The People’s Therapist.  Please enjoy.

I want to thank Lauren Delapenha, and everyone at OnlineCounselingPrograms.com, as well as the lovely and talented rapscallions at AboveThelaw.com.  But most of all (he says, barely containing his emotion) I want to thank you, my fans.

I love you.  And now, choking back sobs, I’ll step (with immense dignity) offstage as the sound of the orchestra swells in the background.

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

little-boy-reading-school-bookBlue’s Clues was a children’s television program developed in the 1990’s with the cooperation of child psychologists. The show was unique because it sought to incorporate the findings of cognitive psychology research on children into its content and presentation – a goal that produced surprising results.

What the researchers discovered in the course of their work was that children crave repetition, to a surprising degree – it comforts them. How much repetition do they crave? The results were unexpected, to say the least. It turns out most pre-schoolers are happiest watching exactly the same television show five times in a row. And so that’s what the producers of Blue’s Clues did – broadcast the same exact half-hour episode every weekday for five days in a row, every week. The kids loved it.

You might not be surprised by this outcome if you’ve ever sat a pre-schooler on your lap and read him a children’s book. You know what it’s like to finish “Thomas the Tank Engine,” then point to a stack of other books and suggest, “hey, how about we read ‘Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel’?” only to get shouted down: “No, read Thomas again!”

“But I just read it to you…”

“Read. It. Again!”

And so you do. Again and again and again until you’re getting kind of sick of it, until at last, little pre-schooler nephew lies comatose in your lap amid a spreading puddle of drool. Awwwww…how cute.

But why do kids like watching (or hearing) the same damned thing over and over again?

For the same reason junior (and sometimes senior) lawyers often do.

(more…)

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looney_tunes_mad_as_a_mars_hare_-_screenshot“I don’t think…I mean…I’m not someone it would be fair to call a gunner…do you think?” My client asked, a quiver of trepidation in her voice.

“Of course not,” her therapist reassured her. Because that’s what I’m paid for.

No, that’s not why I reassured her. I did so because my client is a nice person and gunners are loathsome pariahs, denizens of the fens and low places, nothing like her at all. There might not be much that everyone in this country agrees on at the moment but we all (especially lawyers) know one truth to be self-evident, which is that everyone hates gunners and no one wants to be one.

So it’s worth posing another salient query: What is a gunner?

Part of the answer, at a law firm, is obvious – a gunner is someone who wants to make partner. That’s the whole point of “gunning” at a law firm. If you are already a partner, you’re busy doing your partner thing. But if you’re an associate, the goal is to make partner. That’s what a gunner is gunning for.

The term “gunning” further suggests, however, that you’re pointing your gun at someone else (or several someone elses) and (as is normally the case when one points a gun at someone) therefore mean them no good.

And that’s another part of the answer – and what we all hate about “gunners” – not merely that they’re gunning for (i.e., want to make) partner (we all want to make partner (mmmm…money good!)) It’s that, on the way to that goal of making partner, they’re gunning (i.e., want to eradicate) you (or anyone else standing in their way.)

That definition sounds straightforward – and loathsome – enough. But how does one actually know for a fact that someone’s a gunner, that he would nonchalantly pop some caps into a colleague’s back, then prance jauntily over said individual’s bleeding corpse in pursuit of partner-hood…as opposed to simply a hard-working, ambitious, talented lawyer on his way to success in his chosen field? Sometimes the distinction is not as obvious as it sounds.

In my client’s case, for instance, she stood accused of gunner-hood, but felt the charge was unjust. Even if I weren’t on her payroll, I’d be inclined to argue she has a point. Judge for yourself:

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screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-12-01-56-pmI was delighted to be included as a contributor to a piece on Law360 last week – entitled “How to De-Stress and Find Balance as a Busy Lawyer.” My sense is that my views positioned me as somewhat of an outlier among the other contributors…

Here’s a link to the article.  It might be behind a paywall.  So, just to tantalize you…here’s a brief excerpt (though, by all means, please read the whole piece):

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-12-05-53-pm

Thanks to the author of the piece, Aebra Coe.  She was a good sport when I sent her my response to an inquiry soliciting advice on how lawyers should handle stress.  She wrote:

“Will, I love your response! Not at all what I expected, but definitely a great point.”

David Lat can probably relate.  I tend not to hold back when asked a question.

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

9987116d453904225ab5b80d3b4da749Isolation is a popular topic with my lawyer clients. There are so many varieties of biglaw loneliness I hardly know where to start explicating the phenomenon. One client summed up his particular variant:

“They stuck me on a matter that had gotten lost in the shuffle – some rainmaker too busy bringing in business neglected it, so we lost a critical preliminary motion. After that, everyone knew the case was hopeless, and since I was low man on the totem pole, it became mine. Now everything that’s already gone wrong is officially my fault, and no one’s around to help – as in, if you ask for ideas, you hear crickets. I sit in my office, staring at documents, unable to motivate. A calendar on my wall at home has hundreds of tiny boxes I check off each day until November 12th, 2018. That’s when I pay off my last loan – my final day in law.”

To add to the festive ambience, this guy’s firm is in the midst of endless renovations, which they’re taking in stages, floor by floor. Some floors are left mostly-renovated, others barely-renovated, and the stragglers still untouched. My client was assigned to a half-renovated half-floor, nearly empty except for some staff attorneys who toil down the hall in an un-renovated former conference room.

It’s creepy. And according to firm gossip, theirs is one of those “sick buildings” where the ductwork is clogged with black mold or toxic dust or something insalubrious, especially on the as-yet-not-renovated floors. Those could be unfounded rumors. Or not. He hunches beneath fluorescent lights and stained acoustic ceiling panels, trying to breath through his nose.

Law firms are lonely places by design, or at least biglaw firms are, since they’re typically located on multiple floors of sterile glass towers. One partner client was assigned to her office renovation committee. The new philosophy, she says, encourages walls of glass, to bring light in and cheer the place up. So now, as a biglaw attorney, you work in a fish bowl, with everyone looking in as you pretend to review something while surreptitiously playing Candy Crush, or merely ride out an anxiety attack. In a “modern” glass-walled law office, lawyers retreat to the bathroom if they need to cry.

A relatively recent factor contributing to biglaw alienation derives from the fact that biglaw firms aren’t really “firms” anymore – they’re closer to conglomerates or loose federations.

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trump12This blog entry is presented less as a political opinion than a medical opinion, but the political implications are staggering. I believe America has elected a sociopath as its next President, and, as a “mental health professional” that concerns me – in fact, it terrifies me.

What is a sociopath?

The current diagnostic term (per the new DSM-5) for the condition I’m referring to is “anti-social personality disorder” and, if you care to, you can go to the manual and read a long description of the symptoms. It all sounds like Donald Trump, almost comically so, from “inflated and arrogant self-appraisal” to “glib, superficial charm.”

I’m the first to admit there’s a worrisome aspect to mental health diagnoses, which is that they appear subjective. There’s no blood test, no pathogen you can stick under a microscope or obvious physiological indicator of disease. There’s just a description of human behavior and emotions. That hardly seems medical.

Nonetheless, the irregular human behaviors and troubling emotions that define mental illness – including sociopathy – are real and, they exist on a spectrum, so when they are severe, they can be very serious indeed. We all feel down once in a while, but if you witnessed the effects of catatonia in someone suffering from major depression, its severity might startle you. Likewise, knowing someone slightly “kooky” is different from encountering someone suffering from the hallucinations and delusions produced by severe schizophrenia.

Sociopathy is unique and troubling in part because of a peculiar paradox: the more severe the condition, the more difficult it can be to detect. It’s hard to see what isn’t there, and sociopathy, unlike schizophrenia or depression, is about the absence of normal controls on a person’s behavior. It’s easier to notice something new, that doesn’t belong in someone’s psyche, than something we take for granted that’s missing. And what’s missing in a sociopath is the very humanity that might make it hard for him to hide his condition.

So what is sociopathy, really? In brief, it amounts to the absence of a conscience. Whatever it is within us that we call empathy or caring or concern or connection to others, doesn’t exist in a sociopath.

My father, a psychiatrist who ran a secure ward at a state mental hospital, used to quip: “You know the true sociopath because he’s the one you lend money.”

What Dad meant was that the most severe sociopath is the one who can even fool a psychiatrist. And it really happened sometimes – my father used to recount in amazement stories about sociopaths talking their way right out of secure mental wards.

How do they do it? A sociopath has the amazing ability to tell you exactly what you want to hear. It’s as though they possessed empathy – astonishing powers of empathy – in the sense that they can intuit your desires, and sense what it is that you need to hear them say in order to produce a predictable emotional response. This creates a frightening ability to control others simply through insincere words and the inauthentic play-acting of emotions.

A moment after they tell you something – and this is the truly chilling aspect of sociopathy – a sociopath might be with someone else and say precisely the opposite of what they just said to you, with appropriate emotions displayed, simply because they sense that other person needs to hear something else and the sociopath wishes to control them, as well.

A sociopath will tell anyone whatever it takes, complete with apparently sincere emotions, to create the desired response in them, and thus influence their actions.

This phenomenon is sometimes called being a “pathological liar” and I’ve run into examples where the lying itself becomes the end goal – sociopaths who concoct stories to see how long they can fool people, then revel in being found out, as if that heightened the pleasure of the entire enterprise of deceit.

It’s been said that all criminals – at least, criminals with the intent to commit their crimes, perhaps not criminals who had to steal from necessity, due to poverty or desperation – are sociopaths. That’s because it is our consciences that keep us from doing things we know to be wrong. As members of a community, we sign on to a social compact, an understanding with other people, to care for one another, at least to the minimal extent that we agree not to commit acts we define as crimes because they hurt others.

The most dangerous sociopaths are the ones who are less concerned with fooling people or even stealing from people than they are with controlling people. They don’t want to be found out. They want the lies to go on forever so they can continue controlling those around them….

Which brings us to Donald Trump, our next President, and why I believe he’s a sociopath, and thus very dangerous, especially in his new role leading our nation.

First observation: Donald Trump tells lies without the least hesitation.

The lies are near-constant, and on their face, many are absurd. The lie about President Obama not being born in the United States could be disproven in a moment by posing the simple thought problem: Where would Obama’s mother, the teenage daughter of middle-class Midwesterners scraping by on modest salaries in Honolulu, fly to in order to give birth outside her own home country? Fiji? Japan? The Philippines? Chile? Any alternative, non-US locale she could have chosen (ignoring the question of why would she would go to all the trouble of choosing one in the first place and then somehow faking a US birth certificate) would involve an expensive, lengthy flight across thousands of miles of ocean just to place her near-penniless, American, teenage self for no particular purpose, outside the US. Likewise, the endlessly repeated lie that Obama is Muslim (particularly offensive, because it implies there is something wrong with being Muslim) is also flatly absurd, since Obama was raised by his Christian mother and grandparents and barely met, let alone knew, his Muslim father, a visiting graduate student from Kenya. It is absurd to imagine Trump actually believes such nonsense.

However, Trump knew those lies would produce the desired response in an audience of racist, anti-Muslim extremists who hated Obama, and so Trump told those lies. And these are only two of dozens and dozens of outrageous, hateful mistruths he initiated or perpetuated before, during and even after the campaign. Trump knew he could control people, excite them, fire them up, by telling them exactly what he sensed they wanted to hear. He continues to lie, and lie and lie and lie, in order to give whoever is listening to him a chance to hear whatever it was they want to hear and thus fall under his control.

Second observation: Donald Trump has no fixed values, morals or ethical precepts.

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The wait is finally over. STILL Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (the Sequel) is finally here! The ebook came out today – paperback should be available within another week or two.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 4.20.28 PM

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

washington-cherry-treeA patient was complaining about dating.

“It’s annoying.  You have to be cheerful and upbeat.  What if you’re not feeling it?”

I asked him how he really felt.

“Don’t even go there.  I hate people.  All they ever do is take.”

He wanted to meet a girl with whom he could actually bond, and get close.  But it seemed impossible.  He was looking online – it was easier, and that way he didn’t have to actually go out into the world and deal with humanity.

“What’s your online profile like?”

“The usual – just a regular guy who likes to go out for dinner and take walks in the park, blah blah blah.”

“Is that really you?”

He shrugged.  “Is that really anybody?”

“So there’s your mistake.  You’re not introducing yourself as you really are.”

“Who would want me as I really am?”

“You’d be surprised.”

Your first instinct, when you post a dating profile online, might be to do what everyone else does – lie.  But that doesn’t help you achieve your goal of meeting an appropriate partner, it hinders it.

Many years ago, when I was single, I fell into the same trap myself – I typed up a bland, predictable online dating profile that made me out to be pretty much like everyone else.  Then, at some point out of boredom or sheer frustration, I decided as an experiment to post a profile that told the truth.  The result sounded something like this:

I’m Probably Not For You

I am not a “regular guy” and I won’t be right for most people reading this.  I’m a bit intellectual and if you aren’t a bit intellectual too and don’t read all the time and love classical music and jazz it isn’t going to work.  My perfect night out is vegetarian food followed by a classical piano recital at Carnegie Hall followed by listening to some guy play saxophone in a jazz club.  I eschew discotheques and bars and don’t really “get” Madonna or Broadway.  Oh, and I’m a raging atheist, a partisan Democrat, hate smoking and cars and suburban sprawl and have strong opinions across the board on most things.  I kiss my dog on the lips.  If this sounds right and you like my picture, go for it.

Instead of the occasional bland note I’d been receiving with my old profile, I was suddenly deluged by interested parties writing me long, detailed letters.  And all I did was tell the truth.

It works with simple stuff, like sex, too.  I worked with an African-American gay guy a while back who told me he had no luck with online ads on dating sites.  I asked him what he was advertising for, and he said – oh, the usual – “versatile guy looking for fun.”

Then I asked him what he really wanted.to_tell_the_truth

“Oh, a big daddy to top me all night.”

“Then why don’t you ask for what you want?”

“Oh, no one wants a big bottom…”

“No harm in trying.”

He posted a profile advertising (more or less) “Hungry super-bottom for fierce daddy top.”

That did the trick, so to speak.  He had more offers than he could handle.

Gay or straight, or in-between, if you tell the truth – at very least, about sex – someone might be looking for what you’ve got to offer.  I’ve had clients with interests in kink, or who liked to be submissive in bed – or to dominate – and nothing works better than just coming out and saying it.  You can bet someone else shares your interests, or has an interest in accommodating it, but you’ll never find out unless you take the first step and tell the truth.  If you want to smear her body with whipped cream, then lick it all off (or have someone do that to you) then say so!  (And yes, that might entail first finding a dating site that specializing people into whipped cream, but if you look, it’s probably out there.)

In broad terms, truth-telling –  direct, honest communication – is always a good first step towards establishing a healthy relationship.  I’m frequently asked the question:  “How can I tell someone else something difficult about myself?”  My answer is always the same:  directly and honestly.  When you stop and think about it, isn’t the definition of a best friend “the person you can say anything to”?  And that goes especially for talking about the most personal stuff of all – the stuff about yourself.  A romantic partner is supposed to be your best friend, the person who can know you – and accept you – as you really are.

Forthright communication regarding who you are means you stop apologizing for yourself, and own that you are in charge of your identity, and decide who you want to be, living as best you can the life you’ve been given.  That’s the very definition of charisma – feeling comfortable in your own skin.

truthinessSometimes you might feel the urge to hide stuff you’re afraid no one can accept, as if you’ve forgotten you’re not alone in being human.  I had another gay client who was 69 years old and HIV+.  He wanted to date online, but was terrified to reveal the truth about his age or his HIV status.  Instead, he ran a profile with no photo or details, and lied about how old he was.  Predictably, no one answered, and he was crushed.

I suggested he bite the bullet and tell the truth.  It took weeks to bring him around, but finally he put up a pic (he was actually a good-looking guy) and revealed both his age and status.  Lo and behold!  Dozens of gay men in their 60’s and 70’s started coming out of the woodwork, many of them also HIV+.  It only took one person with the courage to stand up and stop apologizing for the reality of his life, and everyone else followed.

Back to that first client.  We talked about possible approaches to his “truthful” profile, and came up with something along these lines: (more…)

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