Information is Everywhere – Time for Wisdom and Heart…
by Darlene Tonelli, January 7, 2019.

With 2018 wrapped, I’m kicking off 2019 with a review of the past year.

Having had a few weeks off to reflect, I’m going to highlight a few observations about what happened in 2018 and make some predictions for 2019.

Last year was the first year for the Inter Alia Law blog. Writing it was something I had always wanted to do but wasn’t sure if I could add value to an already excellent field of legal commentary. Writing it ultimately helped me to clarify Inter Alia’s mission (privately as well as publicly) – and by the end of the year we had won a Clawbie for “Best Business of Law Blog”. I am taking this as a signal that the topics we chose really do need to be explored further, and that there is value in doing so!

To recap, in the blog, I decided to talk about the personal side of lawyering, and the blend of personal and professional, because this is a neglected topic that in my view, needs far more attention. Whenever it does receive coverage, it’s always relegated to a non-starring role in the discourse.

I feel it’s more important than that. So I decided to look at how to create happiness and fulfillment in a legal career from the beginning – and why doing that matters. I looked at how improvements in a lawyer’s mental, emotional, or spiritual state can improve results – for both clients and lawyers.

These aren’t just musings from the sidelines either. We’re putting these theories to work in our business model at Inter Alia Law.  This year I received feedback from several members of my team confirming that Inter Alia’s approach is having a real and significant impact in their lives. For these lawyers, when convincing them to come along on our adventure, I said “I think you can be a lawyer, AND enjoy your work, AND earn a good living AND be there for your family AND have great clients”. This Christmas, one lawyer (quoted with permission) told me: “Because of Inter Alia, I am increasingly able to enjoy my work, engage in my community, and most importantly be a constant presence at home”.

This is why I do it. Because I believe in a better way. I believe THIS is the standard of living for lawyering. Misery should not be viewed as the norm, with everything else the deviation, unless a lawyer makes a conscious choice to trade wellness, family, relationships, community and health for the income and prestige that some law jobs provide. If that’s your choice, fine – I just want to help people understand that IT IS a choice and not the only possible option in law.

More to the point – I believe that in the very near future (possibly even in 2019) the heart will be as important to good business and law as the brain has been for the past few decades. Fifty years ago, maybe muscle was the most important attribute. Farming, factory jobs, manufacturing, lifting heavy things? Then the brain became the most valued attribute – lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, computer programmers… Now, in the age of automation – it’s going to be the heart, the conscience, creativity, the whole package that a person brings to the professional equation.

Why? Thanks to Google, and other electronic tools, it’s no longer that valuable to “know” things. Almost anyone can learn how to do things on YouTube and Udemy that could once only be learned in a post-secondary institutional context. Now, the ability to match commoditized information or knowledge with wisdom and empathy is the most necessary skill – and what will separate humans from automation or machine learning.

Suddenly, “soft” skills don’t feel so soft. They feel hard-won and of vast importance. But ego, something that our profession is fueled by, is the enemy of those skills – as Brené Brown says in her book Dare to Lead, ego is “that voice in my head that drives pretending, performing, pleasing and perfecting. The ego loves gold stars and craves acceptance and approval. It has no interest in whole-heartedness, just self-protection and admiration” (p. 74).

My wish for lawyers in 2019 is that we collectively put the pens down on all the energy it takes to maintain the illusion that work exists in some separate reality from our needs as human beings. It’s exhausting. And we don’t really have the luxury of getting exhausted about such ego-driven concerns any more.

Let’s move towards ditching these 4 P’s of ego-driven lawyering – pretending, performing, pleasing and perfecting. Let’s go for whole-heartedness instead. The goal is to achieve great results for clients while living a fulfilling life. It’s possible – I’ve seen it happen.

All the best in 2019! Thanks for reading, and for all of your support!

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