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How to Share Your Harvest in Uncertain Circumstances

Brendan Ryan

If this is a time of year when you like to share what you’re grateful for, it may feel difficult to uphold tradition amidst the disruption we’ve all felt in 2020. If you find yourself experiencing this, we have some thoughts to offer to the community of legal professionals for whom we’re so thankful.

How we’d love to stick to the script and publish another annual Thanksgiving-themed piece such as “How to Describe e-Discovery to Your Family Over the Holidays” or “Escape from the Office (and e-Discovery) This Holiday Season.” But that would feel strange, if not tone deaf (though you should definitely open that second article in a new browser tab now and pretend the escape is from your home “office”). We’re more inclined to be introspective these days.

The global pandemic and the personal, social, and economic challenges that have swirled around it have forced even those of us privileged to be least affected to dig deeper than ever to find things that inspire hope and resilience. This is especially true in the face of an unpredictable economy and a stressful career.

A good place to start is to take some time, right now, to remind yourself why you do what you do.

A paycheck is important, of course, and it may be the means by which you give (as much as you’re able) to others and fulfill a mission of service. But it isn’t everything. Those in the legal and compliance fields know that there are other—likely way easier—professions that would check that box. But you choose to be here, in this field. So what is your career purpose?

If you haven’t seen it before or in a while, be the 15,771,164th viewer of Adam Leipzig’s TEDx Talk, “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes.” Leipzig provides a simple formula that may help you articulate your purpose. It’s essentially this:

  1. Who you are: _____
  2. What you do: _____
  3. Who you do it for: _____
  4. What those people want or need: _____
  5. How those people change as a result: _____

Filling in the blanks shouldn’t require that you pull up your resume. That’s just a shell, anyway. And it doesn’t call for a search for that elusive passion we’re all supposed to have. The answers to these questions should be the ones that come to you without having to think too hard or analyze too much. And since they will probably change over time, rest assured what you write down right now needn’t be a lifelong contract with yourself.

By conducting this exercise, you can give yourself a primer on the good that you do for others—and the good you want to pursue.

We can’t ask you to do this without giving an example, so I’ll go first. I lead the partner marketing team at Relativity, and that gives me immense joy and pride. But when the busy days start to blur and the Zoom fatigue sets in and the priorities pile up (there is so much more that we can be doing!), any line of work can start to feel like just a job. So what is my purpose?

(1) My name is Brendan, and (2) I bring marketing expertise to (3) legal service professionals (4) who need our consultation (5) to grow their businesses.

That makes me feel good. Really good.

Your purpose is outward-facing. It’s about other people as much as it is about you. Realizing that—or realizing what you want it to be—can be powerful. This activity of reflecting and refocusing, while sometimes uncomfortable, can be positively transformative—and what you learn will be useful when the challenges inevitably pass.

When the season of giving coincides with a time of scarcity and distance, the conditions are great for despondency. So taking a moment to recall what the world needs from you may unlock your motivation to get to it.

Even if it doesn’t feel like much right now, you have something to harvest worth sharing. That’s something to be grateful for.

The General Counsel Report 2021: Rising to Today’s Challenges and Building Resilience

Brendan Ryan was Relativity’s senior manager of partner marketing.