TYLA President's Opinion • February 2024

Who Are You?

Laura Pratt wearing a grey suit jacket over a blue blouse.

“Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)”
—The Who

The Who is an English rock band from the 1960s. It is one of the most influential of the 20th century with its musical and performance elements impacting countless hard rock, punk, pop, and mod bands. While this song is based on a day in the life of guitarist Pete Townshend, I know it best as the theme song from the CBS television series “CSI.” Because the crime scene investigators spent each episode identifying victims and determining “who” killed them, it was a great choice for the show.

Sometimes “who are you?” is a hard question to answer as a lawyer. Imposter syndrome “describes high-achieving individuals who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or impostor.”1 I remember the day I saw an infographic related to imposter syndrome and was shocked that something I had been experiencing had an actual name. It was equally shocking that other lawyers experienced it as well.

As lawyers, we are expected to be organized, devoted, over-achieving, success-driven, and even perfect in an extremely stressful and competitive professional arena.2 Unfortunately, this means we are far more susceptible to experiencing imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome can affect a lawyer’s mental health, his or her representation of clients, professional growth, leadership, and innovation.3

If you are like me and are taking steps to manage or prevent imposter syndrome, you know you cannot just “will” it away. As we work on redefining those mistaken self-perceptions, here’s a few things to try:

  • Normalize imposter syndrome. Talk about it with other attorneys and use that universality to promote your healing.

  • Self-validate your successes. Write them down or say them out loud regularly. I have a corkboard up in my office with cards and mementos from the year that help me visualize my achievements when negative thoughts get too loud.

  • Change your stress responses. There are so many options for you to consider. Things like taking breaks, mindfulness, group therapy, exercise, music, or hobbies can change the way your body reacts to stress in your law practice and can help you achieve more positive responses in the future.

  • Talk to a mental health provider. If you are really struggling, find a counselor to help you conquer imposter syndrome in a healthy and safe way.

Knowing the legal profession is unlikely to become less stressful in the future, equipping yourself to prevent imposter syndrome can be key to enhancing your belief in yourself and your abilities in practice.

Who are you? Well, if you really “wanna know,” you are brilliant, successful, creative, compassionate, and persuasive. After all, you are a lawyer, and you can celebrate that achievement every day.

2023-2024 President, Texas Young Lawyers Association

1. Bravata et al, Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review, 35 J Gen Intern Med 1252 (2019), https://perma.cc/NTS3-FN6W.

2. See generally What Is Imposter Syndrome and How Lawyers Can Get Affected? JD Supra (December 13, 2021), available at https://perma.cc/E8UM-HCQU.

3. Id.

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