Why Knowing Your ‘Why’ Changes Everything

“What do you do as a lawyer?”

“I argue for a living.”

“Why do you do that?”


“To save the world.”

There is a running joke about how lawyers are the only people who meet crying people and make them cry even harder after giving them a solution… and the bill.

Jokes aside, I’ve asked many friends and colleagues this age-old “why did you become a lawyer?” question, and in essence, most of the answers, whether in long form or short form, serious or candid, have boiled down to this one thing – a genuine desire to help people. At least, most started out that way.

Whether they’ve been in the industry for a long time, or are aspiring lawyers dreamy-eyed about the future – in the fields of dispute resolution, family law or corporate practice, the starting point converged at this a longing to help others with their problems with practical solutions.

Purpose-Driven Leadership as a Buzzword

Most of us want work that’s meaningful: We want to feel that our jobs make a difference to other people and that we are contributing to the greater good. Mark Twain once said these wise words, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I couldn’t agree more.

If we zoom out, we’ll see that in the past decade, there’s been an explosion of interest in “purpose-driven leadership”. Academics, business experts, and even doctors make the case that purpose is a key to great leadership and the key to better overall well-being.

Easy to Say, Harder to Do

Despite this growing understanding however, a big challenge remains. Research by Harvard Business Review seems to suggest that few leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose, and even fewer can distill their purpose into action.

Passion Flows Out of Purpose

Are you passionate about your work? You don’t need to be curing diseases or saving endangered species for your work to have meaning. Most of us won’t qualify anyway! But all of us do work that impacts others in some way. When we know that what we do matters, it becomes a potent force driving us and the people around us forward for good.

Rediscovering your Work-Love

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you started out well but you’ve lost your sense of purpose along the way. Rekindling it ought to be your top priority. It’s not enough to find that sense of purpose once; we need a continual rekindling through the different seasons in life. Because people change. We all change and evolve with life.

So, why did I become a lawyer?

I chose to become a lawyer for two reasons. Having come from less than ideal circumstances I wanted to make a name for myself and I felt I owed it to myself to test my own limits and grow. Add to that mix an undeniable inclination to help others out of complex and unfair situations, you can say I was funneled into this path.

There are days I lose sight of the “whys” in the midst of the “do do do”, but I have strategies for reconnecting. For example, I take my annual retreats to reconnect with my “whys” because I know that much of life flows out of this inner conviction and so I do it for the sake of those I help and those I lead… and I encourage you to do the same too.

Sincerely yours,  

Stephen Le, Lead Litigator