NBH 033: Remove the Lawyer Mask

This month, we're talking about Authentic Branding for yourself, for your own practice, and for your law firm. Last week, we talked about the truth about imposter syndrome and why we feel like imposters. And today we're going to talk about the lawyer mask. This is a little controversial. When I talk to lawyers, some of them say, “no, I don't put on a mask. I am myself.” And then other people say, “yeah, I put on this mask, this new persona, when I'm a lawyer, and I'm a different person when I'm not lawyering.”

When I'm saying remove the lawyer mask, of course that doesn't mean that you have to have one. But the idea is to bring some awareness that we may be putting on a different role when we're lawyers. That's fine because, of course, how we behave in the courtroom is different than we behave at home. How we relate to clients is different than when we're in the grocery store. That's fine to have different roles, but what happens a lot of times is we get caught up in compartmentalizing: “this is my lawyer self, and this is my personal self.” There's a lot of tension. There's a lot of burnout that comes from that because we push this persona. When we put on this mask, we are this other person. And we forget who we really are. As we're talking about authenticity this month, I invite you to remove the mask and to see what's under there.

Be aware that we can put on the mask, and we can take it off. We can switch roles. Perhaps our persona or our role in other areas of our life can help our law practice. We can't be afraid of showing ourselves and being our complete selves when we are lawyers. When we try to hide parts of ourselves (let's say a client is telling us difficult story), we put on this mask and this wall because we want to set a boundary. We think it's a boundary, but really it's basically shutting off parts of ourselves. We are doing the client a disservice, because if we're not connecting with them heart to heart, we may miss something that they're saying. We may not want to hear it because we think, “a lawyer is not affected by such things.” But when we are lawyers, we actually bring our whole selves.

That's the Holistic Lawyer. We bring our whole selves to our law practice, to being a leader in the legal profession, with our clients, with our colleagues, in the court, and with opposing counsel. I invite you to take a little peek behind the mask. I know this is a touchy subject right now when we are actually wearing masks in public. Think of that visual, because now we have it. Think of that visual that sometimes we cover up parts of ourselves for safety, to keep ourselves (and others) safe. That's fine. But what can we do to be more authentic? When we remove the mask a little bit, we see what's underneath. We might want to put it back on, but that's the idea. We are whole people and we don't need to create this barrier between who we are and our lawyer selves, between who we are outside of lawyering and when we're lawyering.

Honestly, this whole work-life balance and these divisions only work to a point. Eventually when we grow and become authentic and bring ourselves into our work, there are no lines and everything is an opportunity to express who we truly are. We can only do that when we notice the barriers and be willing to take them off. This is metaphor. You can decide for yourselves what to do with your physical masks.

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