“Fashion for passion”. Words which individually, or joined together, are not typically associated with the legal sector.
‘Passion’, or any derivative thereof, features on the list of words scanned by algorithms to eject you from a selection process. Back in 2017 ‘passion’ was already suffering from overuse with an antonym effect. Layer that with Millenials’/Gen Z’s perceived lack of commitment OR more healthy attitude to work/ life balance [delete as appropriate] and signalling passion seems out of fashion. So, if contra-trend, how can " passion" be fashionable?
It turns out this article in the Economist is not about the passion economy, but passion in the workplace (the commitment vs the salacious kind) and more than just being thought-provoking, it made me laugh. The chortle made me want to share the articlefor the sole purpose of spreading the fun. Because I think much of the fun has been snuffed out of the legal sector these days and – so ok, am off on a tangent here – isn’t that a more worthwhile ingredient to resurrect (perhaps, hand in hand with passion)?
The article deconstructs between ‘harmonious’ passion and ‘obsessive’ passion (spoiler alert, one is good and one is bad).So, maybe I’m seeing the wrong kind of people but I can’t say that ‘passion’ - harmonious or otherwise - is the first word that pops into my head when listening to lawyers' narratives.
Perhaps it’s the increase in regulation and admin, perhaps it’s’ the increasing burden that comes with partnership, perhaps it’s the requirement to be a BD focused top lawyer, a collaborative mentor-leader with high personal billings. Perhaps this explains the increasing success of alternative models or the appeal of in-house.
Or maybe it’s a cultural thing (the British don’t tend to speak or exhibit in superlatives) overlaid with a sector thing (lawyers are trained to be responsive rather than reactive) and all that restraint can dampen the ardour. In which case you could argue (ish) that passion is very much present and alive, it just plays out in a different key and is lived rather than articulated. That's what my lawyer husband would argue, certainly.
Of course, there are lawyers where passion is manifest, either in their subject matter (not, admittedly, in Pensions Law but I imagine it is theoretically possible) or in their role, and those tend to end up at the top of the talent pool, wherever they practise.
The article explains that willingness to work longer hours is a sign of commitment = passion. I will leave you to ponder on that one. And apparently employers feel justified in exploiting commitment by encouraging more hours (now there is a thought).
It equally red flags the dangers of confusing hard work with competence and warns against the pitfalls of ‘obsessive’ passion. Lurking under that category lie ambition, desire to be the best or desire to be seen to be the best. That kind of passion is alive and well in the legal sector, the trick is to ensure it helps shape the right kind of behaviours.
We all want a happy, committed workplace. So maybe the challenge is to a) accurately identify passion; b) measure it beyond the working hour and c) add a 'fun index' into the mix. I might experiment with my millennial/Gen Z boys who are far too cool to be passionate about anything other than, perhaps, saving the planet or League of Legends.
There are only so many ways to communicate passion. Widening your eyes and nodding wildly: too weird. Jumping, whooping and sweating: even weirder. Working ever longer hours, on the other hand, is a fairly simple way to show that your commitment is beyond question.