Graduates of law school shouldn’t be given diplomas – they should be handed crash helmets. Our lives as lawyers can be bruising indeed. It’s not only the emotional charge of situations that we are asked to face; it’s the sheer volume of them. We are always running – running to beat time. The humorist Will Rogers captured the irony of this approach to time when he wrote: “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with time we have rushed through life trying to save.”
As a profession, we are obsessed with the slicing, dicing and crunching of the seconds, minutes and hours were allotted in this life. In a recent search on Amazon, I found 26,864 books on time management alone. Yes, it is true that our working moments as lawyers have a monetary dimension. That’s just a fact of the profession. But for us to have fulfilling lives, time must mean more than that.
We have impoverished ourselves by seeing time only as a commodity to be used and profited from. There is a deep sadness in many lawyers over the use and quality of their time. They resent that their jobs take too much of their time, that they can’t spend more of it with their families and things they enjoy doing. One survey asked lawyers to, “List the most significant fears you have about your practice as a lawyer. Sixty-four percent said they fear spending too much time practicing law and not enough time living.
Too often there is a mindless, driven quality to our lives. Such a way of being is nothing short of deadening. The great psychologist, Rollo May put it succinctly when he wrote:
“The more a person is able to direct his life consciously, the more he can use time for constructive benefits. The more, however, he is conformist, unfree, undifferentiated, the more, that is, he works not by choice but by compulsion, the more he is then the object of quantitative time. . . . The less alive a person is – “alive” here defined as having conscious direction of his life – the more is time for him the time of the clock. The more alive he is, the more he lives by qualitative time.”
Try this day not to work so compulsively – to chase time. Value it not just as a day of work to be endured, but for the qualitiy of the moments that you have been given to live. Be humble and mindful of the love you bring to your work and how you use it. As Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”