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December 06, 2022

“I Don’t Belong” — Imposter Syndrome in the Legal Profession


“What am I doing here? I don’t belong.” “I’m a total fraud and, sooner or later, everyone’s going to find out.” Sound familiar? Imposter syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience and accomplishments. While early studies focused on highly successful women, it is now clear that it can affect anyone in the legal profession — from law students to BigLaw executives. Living in constant fear of discovery, attorneys strive for perfection in all they do. Attorneys might feel guilty or worthless when they can’t achieve perfection on the job, not to mention burned out and overwhelmed by their continued efforts. The results can be devastating.

True imposter feelings involve self-doubt and uncertainty about talents and abilities. But what about when attorneys find themselves in an environment where their peers fail to make room for them or imply they don’t deserve their success? Along with the more traditional factors, gender bias and institutionalized racism can also play a significant part in imposter feelings. Even if only perceived, they surely can reinforce the feeling of not belonging.

Join us for this special program led by Brian Quinn, of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc., and learn more about how to overcome this in your own life and how to support colleagues in the legal profession struggling with imposter syndrome.

In addition to a survey of imposter syndrome in the legal profession, Brian discusses a personal story highlighting these very concerns. He shares the impact of the untimely death of his mentor and how trying to “fill his shoes” became more than a job — it took over his life. The consequences were a decades-long effort to cope with and then conceal those feelings with alcohol and drugs. The program’s goals are:

  • Gain a better understanding of what imposter syndrome is, the impact it has on attorneys and the ethical risks that imposter syndrome presents for attorneys
  • Examine the role of gender and racial bias in creating imposter syndrome among members of the legal profession
  • Receive practical guidance for overcoming imposter syndrome
  • Support attorneys battling imposter syndrome

About Brian Quinn

Brian S. Quinn, Esq., is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania who serves as the education and outreach coordinator for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc., a nonprofit Lawyers Assistance Program established in 1988 for the purpose of helping lawyers, judges and law students recover from alcoholism, substance misuse and mental health disorders.

Brian obtained his undergraduate degree in 1970, his law degree in 1973 and a certificate in drug and alcohol counselling in 2012, from Villanova University. A member of the Pennsylvania and American Bar Associations, he has been a private practitioner for more than 45 years, having litigated both civil and criminal matters during his career. Brian also worked in the field of alcohol and drug counseling in suburban Philadelphia from 2011 to 2017, allowing him to gain both practical and clinical experience with individuals suffering from alcohol, substance use and mental health disorders. Brian is a past member of the board of directors of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania and served as a peer volunteer for more than six years prior to accepting his current role as the organization’s educator in 2017. He has written articles and made presentations on many lawyer wellness topics to law firms, bar associations, professional organizations and legal education providers on a state, national and international level.

Continuing Education Credit

This program has been approved only for the following continuing legal education credits:

  • California: 1 participatory hour of competence issues credit
  • Colorado: 1 live hour of ethics credit          
  • Connecticut: 1 reciprocal hour of ethics credit      
  • Delaware: 1 hour of enhanced ethics credit 
  • Florida: 1 hour of general or mental illness credit
  • Illinois: 1 hour of professional responsibility credit; for the mental health/substance abuse requirement
  • Indiana: 1 distance hour of distance ethics continuing education credit     
  • Iowa: 1 hour of attorney wellness credit
  • New Jersey:  1.2 distance hours of credit for ethics/professionalism
  • New York: 1 nontraditional hour of ethics and professionalism credit for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys
  • Pennsylvania: 1 live distance hour of ethics, professionalism or substance abuse CLE credit
  • Texas: 1 hour of legal ethics/professional responsibility credit

An application for approval of this course has been submitted and is pending in the following states: Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington.


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