The Lawyer’s Compass: Loyalty – Ignore Its Power At Your Peril
And all shall abide by these three fiduciary duties: full and frank disclosure, duty of care and loyalty; but the greatest of these is loyalty.
While it doesn’t have the ring of one of the most often quoted lines in the bible: “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” It’s at the heart of what we do for our clients.
It’s also at the center of our personal lives. The loss of loyalty is a fatal flaw in any relationship — including ourselves.
What would your life feel like if you had no friends or family who were loyal to you? All those times that you pushed yourself beyond what you’d ever done because you had at least one person who believed in you, who helped you see what you can really do.
Loyalty is powerful because it allows us to transcend what our eyes see, our ears hear and our logical mind understands.
There’s a mystical element to loyalty that allows us to move beyond what we thought, and imagined, was possible. We tap into a force that goes beyond our senses and intellect — surpassing our ordinary understanding.
Here’s what I mean:
In September of 1997 I walked away from a financially successful practice at my dad’s office because I was profoundly unhappy being a lawyer. When I left I didn’t have a job and I was uncertain if I wanted to continue practicing law. One month later my wife and I decided to move to Portland with our two little girls.
Once the decision to move was made, I started the process of looking for work. It was the journey of 39 lunches. I took 39 lawyers to lunch searching for the perfect law firm to land.
It wasn’t easy. Even though I knew I’d made the right decision, there were times of deep doubt where I felt like taking whatever came my way in order to have a paycheck. I hadn’t worked for five months and our savings was quickly disappearing.
Truth be told, without my wife’s support, I would’ve caved. It was her belief in me that kept me going. It was her seeing and wanting the right place for me that helped me be strong and keep going to find that perfect place that I knew existed. Her loyalty helped me to keep faith in myself. Her love allowed me to transcend the storms of self doubt.
Four months after my first interview, I found where I belonged. I’m still there.
How does self loyalty apply to our work?
Being loyal is equally critical in terms of my relationship to work. It’s not my job’s responsibility to advocate for my best life, that’s my job. I may work for a place that cares about me, but unless I’m loyal to my best life as it relates to work, the risk of work running over my life increases — and so too does my justification and acceptance of it.
Growing up with a father who was a trial lawyer, I met lots of attorneys who worked themselves to the bone — virtually holding their lives hostage to the practice of law. While they were successful at what they did, they failed to be equally loyal to other valuable relationships.
The lack of self loyalty is what allows the practice of law to not only run over our lives, but those we’re closest to as well.
We’ve been given the keys to living a profoundly meaningful life through the three fiduciary duties we owe our clients. But all of that knowledge, training and expertise will fail without loyalty.
Loyalty to yourself never comes at the expense of another. It’s not a competition that if you get yours, someone else doesn’t get theirs. It’s complementary, not competitive.
What does self loyalty feel like? Remember a time that someone was loyal to you or a specific time when you were loyal to another person or idea. See if you can capture the essence of loyalty for yourself.
Who is the one person you count on to help you be loyal to yourself?