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What's Your Motivation as a Lawyer?

Why do we practice law?  What moves us to do it?  At idealawg, Stephanie West Allen explores the possible motivations that drive lawyers and some of the theory behind those motivations.

West Allen points out that motivation defies an easy explanation and can be very complex.  She cites the work of researcher Steven Reiss at the Ohio State University who has identified 16 different motivations for humans behavior:

"power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility."

That's quite a list.  While Stephanie continues her discussion by pondering the motivation of the "work-life balance people" who look for "violations" of work-life balance, I want to consider her suggestion that we examine ourselves, rather than others, to see what propels us in our practice. 

As lawyers do we seek power and control?  Do we enjoy professional independence and the responsibility that goes with it?  Do we like living in an orderly world, and want to do our part to preserve that order?  Can all of these motivations explain our being lawyers, or just a subset of them?  How do vengeance, eating, and physical exercise play a part in our professional lives?  And is it possible to find tranquility in the practice of law.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen's provocative blog post, I am going to use the list of 16 motivations to reflect my own reasons for being a lawyer, including my areas of practice (Internet, blogging, and e-commerce law) and my status as a sole practitioner.  I invite you to do the same and post in the comments any insights you would like to share.  Thanks.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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For me, being a lawyer means one thing: independence. That is, it is a good job that pays handsomely and allows me the freedom from worry about the financial issues that plague so many of my friends' households. It has other benefits, of course, and considerable ones, but that is the principal one.

I think the awareness of the motivation that each of us have is as important as the motivation itself. Being aware of what drives us lets us at least follow a 'pre-ordained' path towards (hopeful) success. Like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.

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