WHY ATTORNEYS DON’T ASK FOR HELP: Or ask for the wrong help

One of the hardest things attorneys find to do is ask for the right help.

Why is that:

  • Many attorneys have big egos and don’t want to admit they need help. They are afraid they will look weak and not competent.
  • Many attorneys don’t want to admit that they actually had lots of help just graduating from Law School, passing the Bar and finding work.  They actually feel they did it all on their own when in fact, family, teachers and others provided much needed help along the way.
  • They don’t believe there is good, effective help available to them.
  • They don’t know where to look or find the appropriate help.
  • Many would rather self medicate than admit they need help.  Oh, boy does this cause more problems!
  • Many attorneys can’t identify what kind of help they need.  Or exactly what the problems may be.
  • Some attorneys will ask another attorney/friend for help but get the wrong advice and give up.
  • Attorneys are skeptics.  They have been taught to doubt the validity of many things, including help.
  • Some attorneys are in deep denial and don’t admit they need help
  • And most important, many attorneys don’t want to go through the changes they need to resolve their problems. They would rather stay in denial.


The starting place is to admit it. Then take some ACTION STEPS to first:

  • Grind the problem down to its elements. Is it money? Is it time? Is it burnout? etc.
  • Once you have flushed out the elements, develop a plan to attack the gap between the problem you see it  today and the vision of what it will look like when it is solved.
  • Get some professional help such as a coach to help identify the gap, help you with the steps and hold you to the commitment to overcome the problem.



We have all run into people who have real trouble with commitment. And NO I don’t just mean men about marriage.  I find the ones even more irritating that say YES to a goal or project but only last a week or so before being no longer committed.  Even more frustrating are the passive aggressive types who keep saying yes but never do any work on the goal or project.

We all sometimes commit to too much and we have to withdraw.  It is perfectly acceptable to explain your reasons once you see the error of taking on the assignment in the first place.  This is the adult way of handling the escape.

But let’s look at the mere fact of a belief that you could never be over committed.  What a thought!  There is that saying that “it is best to give a job to a very busy person because they will get it done”.  This holds true because that “very busy person” is usually brilliant at TIME MANAGEMENT.

I love the concept that we all have as much time as President Obama or Beyonce. That means that each of us has 24 hours in a day.  What we do with those hours is our choice.  Even more importantly, lawyers sell their time.  Even those lawyers working for a set salary, work for a certain number of hours every day producing results which are services, not products. How they arrange those hours results in what they produce.

Always being fascinated with the Renaissance, I have trouble equating how little new ideas, art, music, etc. we produce today with what they were able to produce during that time period. How could Michelangelo paint, sculpt, invent, design architecture and do all the things he did in the same amount of time that we have today?  And what about Napoleon who as commanding an army at 19 years old? Do you think either of those two felt over committed?

Let’s take a look at your life.  Sure, you probably played  a lot more and have a better life balance than these two gentlemen but what more could you have accomplished if you had better organized your life?  Someone said (and I don’t remember who) that a life unexamined is a life not worth living.  That’s a little harsh but I would challenge you to take a few minutes each day to examine your life.

  • Are you doing what you want?
  • Do you have growth goals in place?
  • Are you taking care of yourself?
  • Are you doing important things?

That’s your job this week.  Next week we will look at how each of us might find a better way of organizing or live so that we, too, can create extraordinary results.  What FUN!


  • I don’t ask for help because I don’t need it.
  • I can figure it out by myself.
  • I have the internet and I can look up anything I need to know.
  • I don’t want my colleagues to know that I am weak and need help.
  • I can’t afford to spend any money on getting help.
  • No one can really help me.
  • How can I trust anyone but myself to care about my success?
  • I have to stand on my own two feet.
  • and on and on…..


Does it give you goose bumps?  Would it feel really good to have people just waiting to help you?

We know that much of the resistance to get help throughout life comes from the early training of either getting too little or too much help.

Nowadays there are books out about “Helicopter Parents” who get involved in every aspect of their kids’ growth.  They do their homework,they call or text the child constantly,  they write their cover letters for college applications, they yell at teachers and coaches for not doing enough for their child.  Obviously these kids are not going to ask for realistic, reliable help because they have been saddled with feelings they can’t do anything without Mom or Dad’s inclusion.  Or, they revolt and don’t want anyone to “interfere” in their life.

There are the reverse childhood experiences in which children receive no parental help and through neglect end up with no inner strength to succeed in lots of things.  They have had to muddle through without guidance and many times end up on the wrong paths.

How are these two experiences alike?  Both do not have any idea how to “help” other people in a healthy way.

Working backwards from this, could part of the answer be to learn how to help other people in a healthy and realistic way? This would be a huge step forward in learning how to overcome the resistance for help from all kinds of sources as we go through live.  Might this be the way to learn that people can trust you to be there for them when they need help?  To not be intrusive in their lives but to offer support, guidance and kindness when the need is obvious. More importantly, to learn how to not overdo help but have set boundaries so that the help offered is realistic and healthy.

Once you have experienced what it is to help a person in this way, confidence and knowledge that you can ask and receive help yourself will blossom.

I will be gone for the next several weeks, playing in Italy, so let me give you some homework to keep you busy.

  1. Take a look at the excuses for not getting help listed in the beginning of this blog and see if any apply to you.
  2. Write down any “help” that you have given to anyone except your children in the past 6 months.
  3. Identify at least one person who you have noticed lately that could use some help.
  4. Do one small kindness this week (could be holding the door open for someone, carrying a heavy package for someone or just giving a smile to a stranger)

I help attorneys day in and day out.  I see the resistance to help from all kinds of attorneys.  I believe that if there was  understanding of this phenomenon on an individual basis, life would be so much easier to all of us.


Last week I told you we would look into ways you could “partner” with another attorney but not in a traditional way with contracts, space, etc.


One of the first ways is, of course, by sharing space.  In this scenario you simply rent a space with communal areas that you share. This is usually a waiting room, kitchen, copier, etc. You split the rent.

CAVEAT:  Be sure to keep your signage separate so that clients could never mistake the other person for your partner.

A second way of partnering is by joining with another attorney on a legal project.

CAVEAT:  Take care to have the responsibilities and fees figured out in detail before you begin. You might even have a written informal contract to lay out who will do what and who will pay costs. How fees will be collected and distributed is a major decision.

Another way to partner is to do networking and speaking together.  This works best when the two people are not practicing in the same areas(but related) and can make their talks more interesting this way.  Such as a Family Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney.  Lots of cross referrals can come from this.

CAVEAT:  This arrangement also has to be talked about before undertaken.  It can be very effective but each attorney has to understand the ground rules and really want to help his or her “partner”.

Joining a support group that get together on a regular basis to discuss challenges in each attorney’s practice.  When I was practicing we had a Personal Injury Group Support (PIGS) which met monthly.  We laughed a lot and were able to keep up on the latest law while getting help with problem cases. These people act as a helpful partner would on a very limited basis.

CAVEAT: These groups take organization and on going care to stick together.  Also everyone needs to take an oath of privacy so members feel free to share. 

So here are some ideas that you can put into immediate practice if you would like to try a “nontraditional partnerships”.  The main purpose of having a partner is to be able to share and get support and each of these models do that without a tremendous commitment. Let me know how that works for you.

***Sorry, I had to give you just a beautiful picture today because I couldn’t find a cute or catchy partner photo!!!


As Steve Jobs said: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been NO for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

This actually sounds like a great idea.  That question should give you a good idea if you are at least contented with your work.  If not, then just answering NO, even if it is only to the mirror, is not a solution.

There are several steps you need to take:

  • Determine exactly what is it about the work that you dislike. This is easier said than done.  Is it the clients? Is it the actual work? Is it your co workers or boss?  Is it the stress? Not enough income?  exactly what is it?
  • Next, determine what you do like about your work.  This is usually easier.
  • Take one of the items you have determined you don’t like about your work.  For instance, maybe it is the long hours and the stress that produces.  Ask yourself if this item could change would I want to go to work?
  • If the answer is still NO, go onto the other items you have identified and ask yourself that same question.
  • What you are trying to do with this exercise is see if small changes could make you happier or if you have to chuck the whole thing and start over again with a complete change.
  • If changing individual items could produce a better environment, then begin to work on those. If you don’t like the long hours and stress, can you re-frame that by making less income? Can you delegate more?  Do you have someone in your organization you can talk this over with?
  • If you come up against a lot of push back or negative feedback with a small item, it may develop into a large item that needs significant change but you won’t know unless you begin.

By doing this exercise you should be able to determine if enough change can be realized to allow you to stay in your present situation.  If not, then you need to start looking for another job.  Face this fact.  Don’t make excuses.

Take the time to plan exactly what will make you want to get up and go to work each morning.  Work with a coach or create a step by step plan to find a way to grow in what you want your life to be.

Most importantly, don’t let yourself get into another job where you will be doing this exercise again in a year!

Keeping up with our June review, next week we’ll look at feeling lonely and how to make a fuller life for yourself.


Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery spells  PAM.  We could make a logo of that and carry it around to remind us each day that if those three elements can be attained , then we will be doing much better in our lives.

I’m thinking that this is the right order. That we need to find the Purpose first.  Is the purpose a biggie like: “What is my purpose on earth?” or something small like:”What is the purpose of my work?” or even smaller as: “What is the purpose of my being in school?”.  Some answers will come quickly, other not so quickly.  Probably the ones that take longer to come up with are more important?

After that we need to look at Autonomy.…learning to do things ourselves. If we define the purpose of our work is to “advocate for people who are in trouble” then we have to find out what that means in each of our daily lives.  Yours is probably very different from mine, even though we say we have the same Purpose.

Having strength to know what YOU alone can do is the key.  That doesn’t mean you don’t need others to help but you are the leader and define the path.

Last, we come to Mastery.  Here once you know your Purpose and have decided how you alone will fulfill that purpose, then you have to venture out in the world and teach yourself how to do it.  As we discussed in previous posts, you will find others who have already Mastered your purpose and can learn from them.  You will explore exactly what Mastery means for you .  Mastery involves learning but at a deeper level than most of us have experienced.  To become a “Master” one must fail and learn from each failure.  Think of how many times you screwed up learning something like how to play Chess, but mastering it became fun, especially when you could beat your parent!

Now I’m going to let you onto a little secret.  If you are having trouble figuring out what purpose goals you have or where to start, begin by writing out your Mission Statements.  One is for your personal life and one for your professional life.  Here you will find out where your values are and how to expand them into your everyday life.

And you will have PAM.