12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law (Step 12)

Step 12 – Pace Yourself for a Marathon.

We have now reached the final step in Judge Carl Horn’s 12 Step program for lawyers.  If you have followed steps 1-11, then you are on your way to Step 12: Pacing Yourself for a Marathon. Following the previous steps suggested by Judge Horn will lead to our last goal of a sustainable pace.  In order to pace ourselves for the marathon, we should make it clear that quality of life matters and that while we intend to work hard and pursue excellence professionally, we are not going to sacrifice important relationships and other essential elements of a healthy, balanced life. Professor Dershowitz reminds us that striving for professional excellence is a good and worthy goal.  In sharp and important contrast, trying to achieve perfection is not. Dershowitz observes that “every book, painting, symphony, or speech could be improved. The search for perfection is illusory and has no end.”

Judge Horn closes his 12 step chapter with this encouragement: “Except for the extraordinarily well disciplined, and perhaps the most saintly, these are challenges and issues with which we can expect to struggle for the rest of our lives. But, thankfully, they are not impossible struggles, and if we diligently take these ‘steps’ we can realistically expect to move closer to our goal: finding balanced success and fulfillment in the practice of law.”

Judge Horn then concludes his book with a charge to the jury:

Now, members of the jury, the evidence is in, and it is your turn to deliberate. You have been introduced to the experiences of your fellow lawyers, some happy and some not so happy, and have seen what many are doing to find fulfillment in the practice of law. Members of the jury, it is solely up to you to address the issues that have been raised.   Please retire to your own personal and professional “jury rooms” and do your best to reach a unanimous verdict. When you complete your deliberations, you will not be discharged from further service.   Much to the contrary, your service on this jury is for life, or at least as long as you labor in the law. May you find the “wherewithal” to keep any commitments you have made and may we all be busy and happy engaging in what the law is essentially all about:  doing justice.

We hope you have enjoyed our weekly series on 12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law. Judge Carl Horn wrote this as part of his book, Lawyer Life: Finding a Life and a Higher calling in the Practice of Law, published by the ABA in 2003. Horn’s focus was on the individual choices lawyers can make in their personal and professional lives for better satisfaction in our profession.

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