What’s Your Identity?

by Pamela Taylor-Barnett


The newlawyerlanguage ‘About’ paragraph says ‘We fashion much of our professional identity on observations of established lawyers.’  This phrase, ‘professional identity’ though… what does it really mean?

One definition of ‘identity’ defines – ‘The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known’.  So, if we try to define ‘professional identity’, we could ask ‘What are the characteristics by which you, as a professional lawyer, want to be definitively recognizable or known?’

These characteristics might include a raft of skills, expertise and specialisations, but also behaviours. What is the professional identity that you want others to recognise, and that you want to recognise yourself by?

I don’t think this can be answered without thinking about your interests and personality.  And then also considering your limitations. Limitations – a broad term. What are your home commitments?  What are your work obligations?  What are the commitments you need to make to yourself, your own health and wellbeing? How much stress can you handle? And what type?  What resilience and perseverance strategies do you currently have? What can you do to improve these, and thus impact the ways you are recognised by other lawyers, clients and yourself?

Small characteristics can make a large impact on your professional identity.  Organisational skills, how much you keep your word, whether you speak up (and how you articulate yourself when you do) – all impact on your professional identity.  But all this might be gloss, until you answer questions about your interests, personality and especially your limitations.