Nothing in life is certain. It’s full of surprises and challenges. And even if you have the work ethic and ambition necessary to succeed in law, the road ahead is bound to be unpredictable.
For instance, when I was in law school, I was certain I would be the greatest litigator ever. As it turns out, I’m a real-estate lawyer and my career has been the best ride I never expected. I have served as the managing partner of a down-town Toronto law firm, cultivated a great legal team and, all the while, raised two incredible boys.
And here’s another thing: whatever you end up doing, you likely won’t do it perfectly. To succeed, I had to learn to be practical, to prioritize, compartmentalize and delegate. Practising law also taught me (among other things) a lot about luck, timing and resilience.
Every day, of the many balls you’re trying to juggle, you will drop one or two. You are not going to be the best friend, mother, daughter, colleague or whatever else, each day. I’ve missed hockey games and football games and swim meets. When I introduced myself to my children’s teachers over the years, they always said it was nice to “finally” meet me. I was, I suspect, the last of the parents to make an appearance.
Despite all this, my boys turned out to be independent and hard-working. They are trying to live with integrity and purpose. I like to think they learned how to do this from watching their parents work.
One of the most important things you can do is determine what matters most to you. I’ve never missed an event that was truly important to me or to someone I love.
By that same logic, I don’t bother to do the things I don’t like to do. I am not a good cook. I will never be a good cook. There is so little time, and what you have of it flies by at the speed of light. (That’s the same speed at which my children eat, which might explain why I totally lost interest in cooking.)
I’ve learned that life is made up of a series of small decisions that, over the long run, make a significant difference to the quality of your life.
The legal profession is facing challenges — technological, political, societal and economic — that are enormous. It is no longer acceptable for lawyers to just master the law; they must understand the business of practising law as well. But at the end of the day, we should try not to forget why we went to law school in the first place — to help others, particularly those who are less advantaged and those in the profession who are coming up behind us. Because when you look back at all that you have accomplished in your career, decades from now, those small victories and kindnesses will be the ones that you remember and (likely) value most.