Why Being a Lawyer Is Hard (With 12 Examples and Solutions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 18, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Anyone curious about pursuing a career as a lawyer might wonder why being a lawyer is hard. While working to achieve a positive outcome for clients, lawyers may encounter any number of challenges throughout their careers. Learning more about these challenges and how to overcome them can help you determine whether this profession is suitable for you. In this article, we explore why being a lawyer is hard and discover 12 solutions to the challenges that future lawyers may experience.

Why being a lawyer is hard

If you've ever thought about a career in law, you may have wondered why being a lawyer is hard. As lawyers are often required to invest in their cases morally, ethically, professionally, and financially, they can sometimes face significant challenges. For example, opportunities to help a client gain an advantage can come at the expense of someone else's client. And because of the long hours and oppositional nature of the work, the right case might require much of a lawyer's energy, time, and commitment.

12 common challenges that lawyers face

The professional and personal challenges in the legal system may discourage some, but they're also opportunities for lawyers to identify solutions and methods for career advancement. Here are 12 common challenges and solutions to overcome them:

1. Poor public image

While being a lawyer can be a noble, lifelong career, there's a challenging myth that depicts lawyers as dishonest, amoral, and profit-motivated. Even if a lawyer has an ethical practice, they might still be a target of these ideas and negative biases. Some firms or individuals might release public statements addressing the challenges directly and committing to high standards. Prioritizing client satisfaction and developing strong, lasting relationships may help dispel the myth of the amoral lawyer. Firms can also address public distrust by educating their teams on how to address the challenge in their own professional relationships.

2. Changes in law and regulations

Frequent regulatory changes are one reason keeping up-to-date in the legal profession is difficult. Not only do laws frequently change, but the traditional ethics and values of the legal system slowly shift according to policy reform and professional regulations. Global trends, corporate interests, and shifting political attitudes all influence these trends.

Curious lawyers may see the historical contexts leading to broad or narrow regulatory changes and accept them as natural patterns in the legal field. Significant changes might lead to an unforeseen opportunity to switch specializations. For instance, understanding regulatory changes and learning to predict them may develop into a niche career in law.

3. Demand for digital literacy

Despite the fact that technology can make legal services more accessible for clients, the high technological literacy requirements with certain communication systems mean learning quickly is often part of the required skill set for professionals in this field. Clients often expect lawyers to be familiar with the kinds of technology that increase efficiency and communication. This challenge to learn new tools may now be a permanent aspect of a lawyer's job description.

One solution is to seek an education in digital literacy. The Canadian Bar Association offers a series in digital literacy for practising lawyers. Post-secondary institutions also offer program-specific courses on trends and new technologies. Expanding a legal team to include digital experts, or informally collaborating with knowledgeable peers, may also address concerns about technology adoption.

4. Low-cost legal aid

Legal firms have new competition as the number of online legal service providers increases. These businesses attract clients looking for legal advice and other services at a competitive rate. Online legal service providers align closely with the app service market and benefit from the feeling of control and ease that apps can provide.

Educating prospective clients on the benefits and limits of online legal services might help them understand where one profession ends and the other begins. It's still recommended that clients seek professional consultation before they commit to online legal service providers. Creating the expectation that clients can use both services might eventually generate extra business.

Related: The Difference between Lawyer and Paralegal (And FAQs)

5. Outsourcing

International services operating in locations where expenses and regulations are low can also represent a challenge for Canadian lawyers. Foreign legal work may accomplish the same services at a lower cost. The consequence for many firms is a reduction in positions for local professionals. Adopting services instead of competing with them may address this challenge. Legal firms and individual professionals may also choose to leverage international services to streamline their operations and improve efficiency.

6. Law school debt

An education in law can be costly for many aspiring lawyers. Tuition varies depending on the university, but higher educational expense means new lawyers might struggle to plan for debt repayment. The Canadian Bar Association recommends perseverance. Through their online publications and resources, they offer recommendations from lawyers who paid off their debt. For lawyers still in their educational program, grant or scholarship opportunities might also help relieve debt.

Related: How to Get into Law School (A Complete Guide)

7. Establishing a reputation

Maintaining a positive brand reputation is a challenge that lawyers can face at any stage of their career. Social media offers opportunities for attracting clients, but managing an online brand takes time and effort. More recent law school graduates may benefit from deeper emersion with certain online platforms. A skill set in these platforms can help, but an understanding of trends and where to go next might also be necessary. To establish their brand, legal professionals might seek to partner with marketing specialists.

Related: How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Lawyer?

8. Debate

Not all law happens in the courtroom, but when it does, a debate may occur. While some lawyers thrive when tested by the opportunity to debate, this aspect of the role can put pressure on other professionals with different strengths and comforts. To reduce the pressure debate adds to court proceedings, lawyers can identify strategies for relying on the strengths of their case. Researching and documenting the facts of a case can increase confidence and helps an argument pass the analysis of the courtroom. Reviewing the fundamentals of logic and learning when to embellish an argument with emotion may also build strengths in debating.

9. Long hours

New lawyers may find working 60 hours a week or more a significant challenge. Some lawyers might extend themselves beyond reasonable working hours to stay competitive. Others may even be told by their firms to expect long hours as a professional norm. To compensate for long working hours, it's important to prioritize wellness. Learning to say no, maintaining friendships, and routinely adjusting boundaries are all forms of creating healthy limits. Staying active, following a consistent sleep schedule, and eating regular meals can also help manage the challenges of working long hours.

10. Challenging clients

Clients may not always treat their legal representatives with respect. While some clients may be difficult to deal with, increased tolerance for difficult clients can be an advantage in a competitive field of law. Among the many strategies for dealing with challenging clients, reviewing the case and meeting with the client before committing to represent them are among the most important. A lawyer can assess ahead of time if the composure or preparation required to work with a difficult client is worth the stress. Educating clients before any agreements about policies, availability, or special exceptions may also help.

Related: Top 21 Jobs in the Legal Field (With Duties and Salaries)

11. Work-life balance

For many lawyers, professional challenges can sometimes turn personal. The frustration of performing at one's best might lead to a lack of emotional regulation when the workday is through. Legal practitioners without support at home or at the office may sacrifice personal time or professional opportunities out of necessity.

Lawyers may seek to add routine mindfulness meditation during the transition between work and home to decompress from job-related anxiety. Fitting exercise or an enjoyable activity into that transition period might also help reorient the body and mind for personal time. Noticing what chores or tasks aren't getting done and asking the right person for help can also aid in restoring balance.

12. Occupational stress

Occupational stress refers to the sum of all challenges that a lawyer may face during their career. The sheer number of factors in any given case might cause long-lasting occupational stress. Lawyers who address these challenges simultaneously might suffer the compounding sense of stress without understanding where it comes from or how to resolve it.

Psychiatrists, therapists, and consultants can work with firms to address occupational stress. Committing to managing stress rather than hoping to eliminate it is an adaptable, realistic approach. Collaborating with an expert to process the stress, then discussing its causes and considering solutions, is part of a long-term process.

Related: Attorney vs. Lawyer: What's the Difference?

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles