Why law school might have been a mistake

Last week, I wrote a guest post for Above the Law’s Career Center, about why I went to law school.

It was a personal piece … about how I didn’t really think critically about going to law school, and how I’ve resolved lately that going to law school could have been a mistake.

And many of you have written me and asked whether I can do more videos, in addition to writing the weekly blog post. I love the idea! I’m going to do more videos, and I’ve decided to record my kick off video about this topic for the Leave Law Behind community.

Click the below player to watch the video (which I recorded from my home). I hope you enjoy it, and please leave your thoughts in the comments below or contact me directly.

 

Need more support in leaving the law? Check out the new Leave Law Behind self-paced, online course.

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We’ll know it when we feel it

The hurdle so many of us run into when trying to leave the law is that all we have known ourselves to be in recent years is an unhappy, unfulfilled, not-the-best-but-not-the-worst lawyer.

What we in essence have been saying to ourselves is “Because I have been an unhappy lawyer, I still am an unhappy lawyer.”

“And I may always remain an unhappy lawyer.”


This logically doesn’t make sense

We know things change all the time. Nothing is set in stone.

So why are many of us so set in the stone of lawyer drudgery, non-mentoring partners, little professional training, stressful fiduciary duties, anxiety ridden deadlines, money issues, and overwhelming amounts of work?

Because we think our past has everything to do with our now … when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

We cannot constantly focus our mind on all of the active, negative thoughts we have about our career as a law student and lawyer. Just because that is who we are now doesn’t mean we therefore still need to be that way, or still need to think that way or will always be that way. Continue Reading

Miserable?

What if I told you that 10 years from now, your life would be exactly the same? I doubt you’d be happy. So, why are you so afraid of change?

– Karen Salmansohn, Author

 

The fact is, many of us are totally miserable being lawyers and want to leave the law so badly … but we just don’t know how to.

Some of us are restricted by limiting beliefs that make us feel that our self worth is tied to being a lawyer …

Some of us are held back by our caring about the opinions of others, and not wanting to rock the boat or go against the grain …

Others of us feel we can’t afford to do so …

And some of us feel we cannot do anything else but be a lawyer … even if that means we remain an unhappy one …

… and many of us worry about our inability to leave the law and the possibility that we’ll continue to live a miserable life.

So we have 2 options:

1.

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Leave the law behind. Are you ready?

 

It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

E.L Doctorow, American Novelist

 

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from Leave Law Behind readers is “What is my next step”?

Now, we’ve taken some steps to get to this point:

We have found the courage to admit to ourselves that we’re unhappy.

We have found the time to google search “unhappy attorney” or “JD alternatives” or any of the other terms that led you to this blog and others.

We have found the time to read and sometimes we’ll muster the honesty to email in and tell me your story or inquire about coaching or just to vent (I read every email).

And what we’re after is the next step. “Where do we go? What should we focus on? Where should we turn?”

 

A guiding light

Many of you have asked me to create an online course to help us all leave the law behind,

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What a playoff basketball game and leaving the law have in common

This past Saturday night my Golden State Warriors played a playoff basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And I was a nervous wreck watching it, yelling at the TV when the Warriors messed up, pumping my fist when they scored … all the while in a burger restaurant with other people, my wife and my two kids.

And I felt I had good reason for my anxiety. The Warriors played inconsistently – leading in the first quarter, missing many shots in the second quarter, losing by 5 at halftime, committing bad turnovers, playing out of synch. It was hard to watch.

I was at my most nervous when the Warriors were losing 94-87 with only 5 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game. With the Thunder’s Steven Adams at the line for his second free throw, I clenched my fists and let out a muffled scream.

My 9 year old daughter finished her bite of burger, looked at me, and asked me “Daddy, is this fun for you?”

First off, it’s always hard to take when your children are smarter and more mindful than you are.

But second,

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My struggle with finding what I am good at

 

Our Unique Genius is something I like to write about a lot.

Our Unique Genius are those skills and strengths and enjoyment that come so naturally to us, so authentically to us, so easily to us that we don’t even think of them as a skill. We just do them.

Unique Genius is something I am always working on for myself. It’s something I am always talking with my coaching students about.

It’s something that is the crux of leaving the law: Instead of pursuing jobs and a career based on not-the-most-fulfilling reasons (money, status, title, security, what other people think is right), we can use our Unique Genius to help inform and identify a more authentic and aligned and happier career path and job search.

For me, throughout my life I have kind of had an idea of what I was good at (speaking, writing, interpersonality).

But, admittedly, I never had a firm grasp on what it was. I didn’t ever think that critically about it.

And that’s because I didn’t really need to think that much about it –

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How I shed the blinders that were keeping me from leaving the law

I love hearing stories from the Leave Law Behind community, of people first realizing they want to do something different to those people who take that first step and actually leave and do something else.

Here is the story of Alexandra Devendra, a Leave Law Behind reader, San Francisco, California attorney and former BigLaw lawyer who took the steps to leave the law and just recently formed her own consulting business. Alix has some personal experiences I think you’ll find very interesting and actionable.

 

BigLaw Blinders

For me the biggest obstacle to leaving the law was what I call the BigLaw blinders. Even though I knew I wanted to change careers, it was hard to even imagine what else I might do.

Working with Casey helped. A lot. His process for discovering your Unique Genius helped me understand what my skills and interests are, and I began to research different jobs and careers that might be a good match for me. I also followed his advice and started keeping a journal, where I jotted down ideas that eventually developed into what I’m doing now: legal design.

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How to repair an unhappy attorney

We had a fanciful bowl that my wife loved, a red and orange and yellow glassblown design all swirled together, that featured prominently on a shelf in our kitchen. It had a small bowl-like cavity in the middle surrounded by a flat decorative ring-like exterior.

It was much, much more artful than useful. In fact we never used it at all. But it was very nice to look at.

So needless to say my wife was very disappointed when I broke it about a year ago.

I attempted to move this beautiful glass piece without completely drying off my hands, I lost the grip and the bowl clanged on our counter top and broke into three pieces. My wife shot me a very disapproving look before she banished me from the kitchen and began to clean up and mourn over her favorite dish.

It was the last I saw of it.

Until last week. We bought our son a small fish for his birthday this year. Last week I found him and my wife cleaning out the fish’s small tank on the kitchen table. And while the tank was being cleaned,

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The main fear preventing us from leaving the law

We want to know what non-law job we will get. We want to know how it will all work out. We want to know how and when we’ll be happy.

We need certainty. We’re lawyers, and we are naturally (or we were trained to be) risk averse, and we have people in our life who may not understand why we would want to leave, and we have student loans we need to pay down and we can’t risk time without a salary.

And if we can’t find out what our future holds for us now, right now, then we don’t know, we’re just not sure, maybe we won’t do this whole leave law behind thing after all.

We want certainty.

 

But let’s look at this another way.

What if in the beginning of an engagement, our clients came to us and said:

“Will this plea deal get done? And if it does, what will I be able to do?”

“Will I get custody, and if I do, will it be full or partial?”

“Will we sign this agreement? And if we do,

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This is really key

Each week I receive emails from Leave Law Behind readers. Some are interested in coaching, some have questions about that week’s post, and some just want to share their journey and be heard. I read and respond to every email – it’s one of my favorite parts of this job.

One reader recently wrote in to tell me that she is exploring leaving the law because she just doesn’t know who she is helping. She does not have a particular connection to the client. She does not have a particular connection to the firm’s partners. She can’t pinpoint who she is actually helping with her work. And if she is helping someone, she doesn’t know exactly how. She doesn’t see the good in what she does. She doesn’t feel appreciated.

 

Help others

It got me thinking about one of the major mindshifts, one of the major keys, to not only leaving the law, but to living a meaningful, wealthy lifestyle.

And that is to focus on helping others. To do something, create something, sell something, that can help people at scale (help many people) or in magnitude (help at least some people in a significant way).

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