I am a lawyer because I suffer from imposter syndrome

Jon Hyde

Jon Hyde

Jon Hyde works part-time as a solicitor in professional indemnity in the City with DWF Law LLP. He has recently completed an LLM and is keen to explore how Christian faith should shape legal practice. Jon is an active member of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, particularly involved in their work among students and young lawyers.

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What does a lawyer have in common with Moses?  Probably not the classical long beard (although they might), or a staff for impressing clients and opponents with neat tricks (although that would be nice).  Look closer, though, and you might see more similarities than are first apparent.

In particular, lawyers may suffer from “imposter syndrome”.  Professor Richard Collier of Newcastle Law School discussed this in June 2019 in research into anxiety and wellbeing amongst junior lawyers.  One of his key findings was about the particular personalities of those who chose to enter the law.

Professor Collier found “frequent reference” to character traits among lawyers like “imposter syndrome”, and the view that “many” lawyers were “insecure overachievers”.  Furthermore, Professor Collier remarked that law firms might seek such personalities, “driven by a need to exceed expectations”, who have been encouraged in such behaviour by their experiences of education and work.

The picture, then, is complex but let’s think for a moment longer about imposter syndrome.

It can be described as the feeling that you are an imposter in your legal practice, not deserving of your place and less talented than everyone else. Fearful of being found out as a fraud, you work especially hard and strive to overachieve in order to stay in the game and not be found out.  It’s a powerful driver, but one that is desperately toxic.  It is also one that is biblically untrue.

Which brings us to Moses in Exodus 4.

In the previous chapter, Moses was called by God to lead the deliverance of His people from Egypt.  In response, like a good lawyer Moses has some questions and concerns about God’s plan.

First, Moses is concerned that no-one will believe him or listen to him (Ex 4:1).  God reassures him with some impressive signs using Moses’ staff (Ex 4:2-9).  So Moses moves to Plan B, and points out that he is not very eloquent (also an important skill for lawyers) (Ex 4:10).  God replies that He created mouths and will teach Moses what to say (Ex 4:11-12).  Desperate, Moses finally gets to the point – he wants God to send someone else (Ex 4:13).

We may sometimes feel like that as lawyers.  Do we think that others are more impressive, or eloquent, or able than us, and so better suited than us to legal practice?  Law can be a hard and highly competitive career, so such feelings are understandable – as perhaps was Moses reaction to his call!

But therein lies the key – Moses was called to the work God gave him.  Therefore, that work did not rest on Moses’ ability or achievements.  Instead, God promised to go with Moses and enable him to complete the task he had been given.  Moses did not need to feel inadequate, or afraid that others might think him ill-suited for his work.

Similarly with us, we do not need to feel like imposters.  If we are faithfully seeking God within the law, we need not be afraid of being found out.  There are no accidental Christian lawyers, so we can trust that God is calling us into the law.  That being the case, He will go with us and provide what we need, as did with Moses and has done for His people throughout the ages.  We still do our best, but for the pleasure and glory of the One whose work we are seeking to do – we have nothing to prove.

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