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Above The Law


by Casey on September 30, 2015

Star Wars pic

As I’ve written about before, my five year old son is devoted to one thing in his life right now … Star Wars Legos toys.

These Lego sets and ships he entertains himself with on his play table (and that I help construct) are not that simple to complete. That’s why Lego provides a detailed set of instructions for each ship. These instructions can run over 60 pages and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to complete. The instructions help turn a disparate set of multi-colored pieces into a gleaming, proportioned, fully integrated Lego toy to admire and play with.

It can be a lot of hard work following those instructions to the detail. I feel so accomplished and productive when I’m done.

So recently, I was a bit startled when I saw that my son had partially deconstructed and adapted what I had worked so hard to build, into some crazy, cockamamie ships and sets.

He added Gunguns to the Wookie Gunship. He moved around the trees of the Ewok Village. He had Luke and Anakin both flying in the Interceptor with red (and not the standard green) missiles.

He constructed totally new sets from his imagination: the Ewok-Thanksgiving-dinner-table-speedster, the Gungun-birthday-party-cruiser, the Luke-and-Han-mobile-dragster-lightsaber-fighting-destroyer. These sets were physically unstable, completely un-aerodynamic, and just a hodge-podge of pieces cobbled together.

And he loves them.

It hit me that while I followed the Lego instructions in order to be productive, he ignored the instructions in order to be more creative.


For us lawyers looking to leave, there really aren’t any instructions

As a lawyer, I thrived in building the Lego ships when I had the instructions. The instructions gave me guidance. They gave me predictability. They gave me a visualized end game. They gave me a guarantee.

If you do X, Y and Z, as we tell you, you will, without a doubt, end up with this completed Lego ship.

But in leaving the law, there are no instructions. Sure, there are steps. Sure, there is precedent. But there is no all-determinative, universal set of instructions for each of us to follow in order to leave the law.

And moving forward in the face of this lack of certainty is one of the main hurdles we attorneys face in leaving the law.

The reason there is no hard and fast set of instructions to leave the law is because for each of us, when we begin to leave the law, we do not (and really cannot) yet know what the completed “us” will be.

So, leaving the law is not about following instructions, but more about leading with our creativity.


Yes. Us. Creative.

Here are three ways to find our creativity:

1. Realize that, yes, even lawyers can be creative

“Creative” can be a loaded word, monopolized by the artists and hipsters of the world. We lawyers don’t think of ourselves as being creative.

But being creative really only means being inspired. Inventive. Unique. Resourceful. Consistent. It means doing the work to find what we are good at and enjoy, and then consistently showing up (despite self-doubt and tiredness and embarrassment) and continuing to work on and hone and develop ourselves in order to provide value to others.


2. And one way to find what we are good at is to ask ourselves what we do for free

Whatever we do, or would do, for free, is a tangible example of what we enjoy. And when we enjoy doing something, there is a greater chance we can be creative (unique, inventive, resourceful, consistent) at it.

Where do we volunteer our time? Where does our mind go when it’s not focused on work or anxiety or worry or “I shoulds”?

Let’s say to ourselves the following: Today is a good day to do it. 

What did we think of when we said “it”? Let’s think about that. And do it.


3. And one way to confirm what we are good at is to be conscious of our emotions

We lawyers can pay little attention to how we feel.

To be more creative, let’s think about our emotions. When do we feel good? What are we doing when we feel good? Our emotions are the best, and sometimes the only, indicators of when we are in alignment with what we do best. And when we are doing our best, that is our chance at our highest creativity.

The more we tap into the skills we like and enjoy doing, the more we hone our creativity. And the more we hone our creativity, the more confident we become in our manifestations. And the more confident we become in what we manifest on our own, the less we care or even need instructions.

And think about it … if my son had only followed the instructions, we never would have witnessed the creation of the Jawa-Tatooine-birthday-cake-hyper-speed-sand-cruiser.



by Casey on September 5, 2015


I was on vacation recently with my wife and two kids. And while it does take some time for me to disconnect from my normal life when we go on vacation, we were able to ultimately arrive at a nice and mindful and fun routine.

One way we did so was by catching up on movies (read: Pixar and Dreamworks kid movies) each night. We watched a number of them including Night at the Museum, Planes 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.


He shouldn’t have listened

The main character of Mr. Peabody is a highly intellectual and accomplished cartoon dog that has adopted a human boy, Sherman.

In the movie, Peabody and Sherman suffer the usual suspects: a bully at Sherman’s new school, bad people who don’t understand why a dog would raise a boy, and history and world influencing mishaps while traveling back and forth in their time machine.

It’s the time traveling part that I found interesting and applicable to us.

In one scene from the Renaissance time, Mr. Peabody and Sherman visit Leonardo Da Vinci. Sherman secretly explores Da Vinci’s attic workshop high above the ground, and discovers his early flying machine prototype.

Unbeknownst to Da Vinci and Mr. Peabody, Sherman takes off in the machine, screams, almost crashes, and twists and turns through the air, until he gets the hang of things and confidently and successfully flies around Florence. Sherman’s face is full of joy as he realizes that, yes!, he is flying. He got this contraption to actually fly!

As he zooms over the Da Vinci estate to show Peabody the great news, Mr. Peabody spots him and is aghast. He is mad that his boy took off on his own and he is embarrassed that he may wreck Da Vinci’s machine.

“What are you doing up there?!” screams Mr. Peabody.

“I’m flying!” yells Sherman elatedly.

Mr. Peabody looks furious and screams back: “But you don’t know how to fly!”

“I don’t!?” squeals Sherman.


And with that, Sherman’s face turns sideways, he loses his confidence and he proceeds to crash.


We know how to fly

Whatever we believe will happen, will happen. And the converse is true too.

This can be very difficult for us attorneys to recognize and come to terms with. We attorneys are for the most part empirically based animals. We need to consider as much of the evidence, reason–based arguments and risk factors we can find in order to make a decision. It can be difficult for us to base what we do or don’t do (at work or in life) in large part on what we believe.

But it’s true. When we are told and made to believe that we cannot do something, like leaving the law, then we can convince ourselves we cannot do something.

And so we don’t do it.

But we do know how to leave the law. There are clear steps to take.

First we just need to believe we can leave the law. We just need to firmly believe we can make this life change.

Here are three ways to begin to believe:

1. First off, let’s realize that people who doubt us oftentimes actually just doubt themselves

As we begin to truly believe in ourselves that we can make this life change, we can realize that many others in our life have not made a similar life change (lawyer or non-lawyers), or haven’t thought seriously about this life change, or know they won’t ever have the courage or energy or will to make this life change.

So when we describe to others our anxieties and fears and goals and wishes about leaving the law, many of these people may not be supportive.

That is okay. It doesn’t mean these people are mean or malicious – many of them are likely the ones who care for us the most.

But it does mean that they are likely afraid. Afraid for us to take a risk, afraid for themselves to be left behind, afraid for both of us of the unknown.

We can always love these people, but we cannot take their doubt as fact. It’s likely their issue, not ours.

2. Know that it only takes one first step to begin to believe

Leaving the law is a process of steps.

And the best way to begin to take these steps is to make baby steps – small incremental steps that build momentum and confidence. It enables us to try things, to fail without failing too much and to understand what works, what doesn’t work, what we want and what we don’t want.

There is an established set of baby steps to take:

  • Forecast our money situation and see what we can, and cannot do, financially.
  • Address our identity as a lawyer and explore whether this is an obstacle to leaving the law.
  • Explore our Unique Genius and become very comfortable with our skills and strengths and to which non-legal jobs our skill set can add the most value.
  • Get out there – set up informational interviews with people in the non-legal roles we think we’d like to explore, and learn more about them and find potential opportunities.
  • List the nagging fears that we still have about leaving, and work to overcome them.
  • Throughout it all, train our mind to become more courageous, confident, authentic, sincere, in-tune, dynamic, strong, happy.

Choose one. Do them in order, or in parallel. Try it. Try again.

Email me and tell me what you want to do, and how it went.

3. Realize that belief is a thing

As we’ve discussed, in life and at work, and especially with leaving the law, we attorneys feel more comfortable once we have seen the evidence. We want to see the tangible goods in our hands, we want to see the terms spelled out, we want to see it to believe it.

And if we don’t see “it”, we have trouble believing that “it” is even possible.

So we need to realize that the fluffy, intangible, touch-feely thing called a “feeling” or an “emotion” is actually a “thing”. An emotion is actually “it”.

That’s because when we believe something can be done, when we feel something that grows our confidence, more than likely an emotion has manifested itself in our mind, in our soul, in our gut. And it is there. And it makes us feel good. And it is a thing that exists. It cannot be denied. We just need to recognize it as evidence we are seeking right now.

So when we visualize forward and say and think I have left the law and I have reached my potential and I am happy and I am worthy and I know what I want and I do good work, we also feel a corresponding emotion. Happiness. Contentment. Alignment. Clarity. Confidence.

These emotions are real things. Our belief we can leave is a real thing. Our ability to leave the law is a real thing.


Mr. Peabody … the boy crashed not because he couldn’t fly. He crashed because he was caused to believe that he could no longer fly. Change that belief, Mr. Peabody, and the boy is still soaring …


Identity, money and that novel we all want to write

August 26, 2015

This week, I am very excited to have former BigLaw attorney now author Amy Impellizzeri come by Leave Law Behind to answer a few questions that seem to always come up for many of us looking to leave the law. And Amy is perfectly positioned to help us out. Amy practiced for thirteen years as a corporate litigator […]

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A break

August 17, 2015

On Sunday mornings, I play basketball with a group of 10 to 20 guys at the neighborhood park. They say the tradition goes back over 30 years. And the rules haven’t changed much in that time: 4 on 4 half court, first team to hit 24 points wins, must win by two baskets, no three pointers, […]

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August 5, 2015

My son is five years old and this year he discovered Star Wars. And the main way he enjoys Star Wars is through playing with his Star Wars Lego toys. The Ewok Attack set. The Battle on Saleucami set. The Phantom ship. The Jedi Interceptor. He loves ‘em. And he’s actually pretty good at building […]

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The four things you need to do before applying for the job at the end of this post, or for that matter, any job

July 22, 2015

Last week, I publicly declared that I was a writer. And guess what? The world didn’t end. I wasn’t ridiculed. No one said I was arrogant or pompous or simply mistaken. In fact, I received a lot of supportive emails. I received a lot of emails from attorneys saying they felt like they were writers […]

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The one thing we cannot deny or suppress any longer

July 9, 2015

It was in the garage on a recent Saturday that I was reminded of what I want to be in life. As my wife and I tried to package items to give away or throw away, and as our kids scoured the shelves and bins for old toys they had forgotten but now wanted to […]

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How some leave the law and others do not

June 24, 2015

I was talking with an unhappy and dissatisfied attorney who so badly wants to leave the law but is having difficulty dealing with the pain and shame she regularly feels when she looks back on her time in law school and at the firm. She feels it’s been a waste of time. She feels it’s […]

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Leaving the law is first about arriving back with our self

June 2, 2015

This past Saturday night I wrote. The family was asleep. Asleep. Asleep and quiet. We have a new dog, this great, young, big bundle of energy and the dog was asleep. The house was quiet. I was quiet. Very quiet. And for the first time in what had been a busy week I was really […]

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The key to happiness (and leaving the law) is in helping others

May 23, 2015

“If you want happiness for an hour—take a nap. If you want happiness for a day—go fishing. If you want happiness for a month—get married. If you want happiness for a year—inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime—help others.” – Chinese proverb I received an email from a reader last week. The […]

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