Corporate attorney, Mark Guay, shares his journey of self-evaluation and how it changed the way he practiced law.
Many years ago, I was lying on the couch after a long day at the office and my young daughter, Erin, said to me, “Dad, how come every time you come home, and I ask you a question, you say ‘Uh-Huh’?”
Ouch! It was at that moment I realized that even though I was home, my focus was still on my law practice.
Then one day I woke up and did not want to go to my law office. I did not know why, but I just did not want to practice law anymore. I told myself anything else would be “new and improved.”
So as panic began to set in, I embarked immediately on exploring alternatives to my two-decade legal career. I spent several months looking at some career alternatives such as financial, tax, or consulting services. Then it really hit me: I still really liked the legal field.
Now what do I do?
Realizing I Cannot “Be” a Lawyer
I started questioning what was really causing my legal career crisis. The answer I landed on was that it wasn’t WHAT I was doing, but rather HOW I was doing it.
I decided to change, but I needed a different set of skills to do so. To get them I needed to read– but not law books.
I recalled a page in a book titled “A New Guide to Rational Living” by Ellis and Harper about “being” a professional. It simply stated that you cannot “be” a lawyer, doctor, accountant, etc. You can only “practice” these professions. So separating out WHO you are from WHAT you do is the first step.You cannot “be” a lawyer, doctor or accountant, you can only “practice” these professions. Click To Tweet
I asked myself the WHO question, and I wasn’t sure I could answer it. That question seemed to have been shelved years ago while I was focusing on financial and family goals. So I started researching.
How Practicing Law Changed
I read one book, checked the footnotes for a key source, and then read that book. Every book I read was another puzzle piece. The more I read, the more questions I had that seemed to invite me to explore further. It was then I realized that, somewhere down the line, I had simply stopped learning – and learning was a key reason I went to law school in the first place.
Deep reading was exciting, educational and something all lawyers do well. And most importantly, I was learning how to approach life differently, and why I was doing so. I was reframing my thoughts.
Reading books that gave me perspective on meaningfulness, compassion, habits, and living in the now helped me focus on WHO I was and how that affected my work. I used what I learned to gain insight into life’s roadblocks, both personal and business.
Practicing law started to become different. The answers to life’s tough questions may be outside the legal field, but they complement legal answers.The answers to life’s questions may be outside the legal field, but they complement legal answers. Click To Tweet
Here is a short list of a few books I read during my journey:
- Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life by John C. Bogle
- The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand
- Self-compassion by Kristin Neff
- Give and Take by Adam Grant
- The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell
- The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christenson
- Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Thomas Moore
Sharing My Perspective With Clients
Now, I share my deeper understanding with my clients at Strategic Legal Solutions. As a business attorney, I focus on the specific dynamics of the business relationships of each company. What I get in return is a deeper understanding on how things work and that enables me to help move things forward.
I help businesses focus on their mission and vision then co-create organizational alignment. Essentially, I help organizations “pivot” to form effective goals and then execute on them efficiently.
As they say “people can only do business with people” – but they don’t teach you how to do so in law school. I facilitate that conversation with my business clients, individually or in groups, but only if they want to do so. The result: Many of my clients have a better understanding of how to create their own authentic business model based on HOW they do business, not just WHAT they do. As for me, I am always learning from my clients how to improve myself because lifelong learning is a shared journey not a solo destination.
About Mark Guay
For more than 25 years, Newburyport, MA attorney Mark Guay has helped clients take strategic proactive approaches to their business needs. He currently runs his own law practice, the Law Firm of Mark J. Guay, P.C., which provides strategic legal solutions to over 40 business owners worldwide and locally in a variety of industries such as high technology and manufacturing as well as the service industry.
Mark works with companies in all stages of transformation: start-ups, turnarounds, exit strategies, accelerated growth, and transformative change. Connect with Mark on Twitter at @MarkJGuayPC.