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Dear Captain

I am a lawyer (not in the US). I’ve been practising for just over a year now, after completing my degree and practical training part-time whilst working for my current firm as a secretary and paralegal for the past six years.

I have always harboured doubts about whether I was cut out to be a lawyer. While I am relatively comfortable with the intellectual aspects of the job (though I am increasingly beginning to doubt my abilities in this area), I struggle with the interpersonal aspects. I am highly introverted, conflict-avoidant, tend to have low self-esteem and generally lack confidence and assertiveness, none of which helps when trying to manage clients, other lawyers and colleagues.

My husband has a good albeit stressful job and earns more than me, but works in an area whose future is uncertain in the current economic climate. We have no debt, no mortgage and no kids.

Emotionally, I have had a terrible couple of months at work. I have made a few serious mistakes, both recently and about a year ago. I am terrified that eventually I will make a mistake that will get me struck off, or worse. I am continually breaking down in tears and feel unable to think clearly or function properly. I fantasise, frequently, about suffering a heart attack or stroke or getting seriously ill just so that I have a “legitimate” reason to quit my job. My confidence is completely shaken. I have had bad times before, but stuck with it because I wanted to finish my degree and get qualified.

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