Michael Bryant tells young lawyers not to become “an obsessed-with-success machine” // The Circuit

Michael Bryant
“It’s a bottomless pit”

By Stephanie Philp

On Thursday June 15th, 2017


What: The OBA Young Lawyers Gala
Where: The Gardiner Museum, Toronto
When: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“When I was you I was an obsessed-with-success machine,” began Michael Bryant, former attorney general and current criminal lawyer, in his keynote speech at the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) Young Lawyer Gala on May 30.

He addressed the young crowd gathered on the second floor of the Gardiner museum, sharing the story of his career and giving advice to young lawyers today. “I cared deeply about what other people thought of me,” he said. “And I suffered from a bit of an imposter syndrome.” Bryant described squandering some of his time as a young lawyer talking about what he wanted to be doing instead of just doing it, swept up in the profession’s competitive nature.

He encouraged everyone in the room to think about what they really want out of their careers, warning that blindly chasing success will never bring true happiness. “It’s a bottomless pit,” he said. “You’ll never be satisfied.” Bryant spoke from experience, having gone from the law to politics and back again in the past twenty years. (For a complete look at his controversial career read our exclusive story.)

He suggested pursuing what’s truly important to you. For example, finding clients that are people in need instead of corporations like he did while at McCarthy’s. He quoted poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who urged young poets to “Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”

“Now, I don’t know how many lawyers would die if they were forbidden to lawyer,” said Bryant, “but there are some.” He then said, looking out to the crowd, “If you love what you’re doing in the moment then I think you’re doing the right thing.”

To those with established practises, his parting words were simple: “Don’t talk yourself out of helping people.”

To find out more about the Ontario Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, please visit the OBA website.

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Photography by 5ive15ifteen studio.