Element One: Job choice.
Are you wondering if there is a secret to practicing law successfully with ADHD? Here’s the secret to success: your practice has to be interesting and has to align with your values. Your ADHD brain is fueled by interest–without it, it doesn’t go very far. But, interest alone is not enough. The lawyer with ADHD has to care about what they are doing. If you don’t care about what you’re doing, you might not be able to get going in the morning. For some of us, it’s the intellectual challenge of the work and for others it’s a justice/fairness issue. (Justice sensitivity is part of the package with ADHD) What is it for you? Whatever it is, it has to be there to spark your creative, hard-working ADHD brain. It is essential that you look forward to going to work every day and that means your work must be interesting and meaningful. If you’re bored with your job, you need to change it or think about it in a different way. For some people, their passion is in another part of their life, and they view their job as the bridge or pathway to their passion.
A caveat here:
Because of the way the ADHD brain operates, we tend to do things on an all or nothing basis. In the work context that might look like loving or hating your job because anything in between feels boring. The in between is OK. Look at it this way: if you love what you do, you might have work/life balance issues because you can’t turn it off. You become your job. You are a lawyer. That is bad for you as a person because you have given up your personhood to become a lawyer. Where we want to be is in the middle and practicing law is WHAT you do, not WHO you are. On the other hand, we don’t always have the option of taking an interesting job in the law. Sometimes, we work solely for financial security. In those cases, we may dread going to work every day. We may be bored, burned out or apathetic. Every day is an agony. We feel ashamed like we have let down the other people in our life because we hate practicing law and we’re not very good at it. If that sounds like you, it’s time for a job change.
Element two: Environment
Is your work environment supportive or stressful? Does management provide you with the resources you need to practice law successfully with ADHD, for instance, a quiet uncluttered space to work in? Are your colleagues supportive or competitive? You need a team. Is management part of the problem or part of the solution? Stress will aggravate the challenges of your ADHD. Sometimes, this means you tell your employer or supervisor that you have ADHD. I leave that to your judgment. Some of the big firms have been extremely supportive of the neuro diverse attorneys, and other legal employers have been terrible. Alternatively, you can look at workplace accommodations that lawyers or others have gotten and seek them for yourself either formally as accommodations or simply by asking for them.
Element three: You
Are you dealing with your ADHD challenges? Are you on medications and is the dosage correct? In my opinion, in addition to medication, there are three foundational elements to long-term management of ADHD: taking care of your body (exercise, diet, sleep), heart (connection with others at home and at work) and mind (mindfulness, meditation, yoga). If you aren’t taking care of yourself, your strategies won’t be sustainable in the long term. This is where a coach or a cognitive behavioral therapist can help. As a coach and a lawyer, I work with my clients to develop customized strategies that they can use to deal with their ADHD challenges in the legal profession.