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The Japanese concept Ikigai is sometimes translated “Why I get up in the morning”. One popular version is to see it as four quadrants: your passion, your profession, your mission and your vocation. If you can combine what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, then you achieve Ikigai! As a lawyer, you have a professional training and experience. If we can use that to do what the world needs, we are well on the way to achieving Ikigai.
A corporate lawyer who becomes a Trustee of a Local Citizen’s Advice. An in-house lawyer who persuades the company board of the benefits in adopting a sustainable approach to its major supply contracts. The closer the connection between purpose and practice, the better for everyone. The paralegal who helps in a law clinic for refugees and migrants in an inner-City area. An energy lawyer who advised the Government of Liberia on contracts with minerals companies. The law student who mentors a sixth former studying law in a local school. The banking lawyer who twins with a lawyer from a Central Asian Republic.
What is my motivation and where can I add value?
I want to help, I care about [global poverty / social injustice / the needs of the refugee community].
I have legal training, I can help navigate the complex shoals of English law for an organization who may be finding it hard to [get a licence / renew its lease / sort out its employment contracts / lobby government on a new set of secondary legislation].
If I am insured (or can team with a law firm that has insurance), I can provide pro bono help to provide specialist advice within my specialist area
If I am not insured, can I instead be a Trustee and help an organization with its governance processes?
Lawyers do not always have to give pure legal advice. They can use their legal skills, and the needs are unlimited. Lawyers have problem solving skills, they are great researchers, they are good analysts, and can help to craft solutions. These are very transferable skills, and can be applied to help in a wide range of activities.
“I think it my duty … to promote the happiness of society as far as possible & I know not in what manner I would more willingly undertake to do so than by studying the Law.” – private letter from William Pattisson, a young trainee lawyer, 1793
Historically, lawyers were among the most trusted members of society in the UK. In many countries lawyers are still considered highly trustworthy yet in the UK a survey in 2016 ranked lawyers as less trustworthy than “the ordinary man/woman in the street”.
A survey conducted by Princeton University in 2013 showed that although lawyers are considered highly competent and capable, scores of warmth and trustworthiness were lower than almost any other profession.
The duty of lawyers to uphold justice is little understood outside the legal profession. All lawyers receive training on professional ethics and professional standards yet this is rarely appreciated by a non-legal audience.
In-house lawyers are in a position to challenge some of the stereotypes of lawyers within their organisation, and all lawyers have the potential to challenge these stereotypes by positively contributing to society around them. Engaging in initiatives organised locally where there is need for legal input (such as local advocacy campaigns, local legal advice clinics, acting as a trustee of a local charity and protecting assets of community value) can generate trust in lawyers within a local community.