While there may be a number of factors that keep us from leaving the law, one dominates: Fear.
While we toil at a job we don’t like, and dream of more freedom and satisfaction elsewhere, we also craft in our mind terrifying, gut wrenching scenarios we fear would occur if we were to leave the law, scenarios that scare us into staying put right where we are.
It could be that quake-in-the-boots talk we fear one day having with the managing partner when we plan to leave the firm. It could be that keep-me-up-all-night anxiety we fear worrying about how we will ever pay the bills once we are on our own or practicing in a different way. It could be that what-will-they-say-and-think insecurity we fear about how others will view us once we have left the law.
Whatever it is, the F-word and our imagination are a combustible mix, preventing us from taking the first step to explore leaving the law.
To beat this fear, we only need to take one step, a small step, an under-the-radar, actually-easy-to-do baby step, to begin the process. And before we know it, we’ll have taken many little baby steps,
We all have goals and dreams. Short term (win the motion) and long term (become financially independent).
However, when you are only focused on the specifics of “how” these goals and dreams will come about, you can lose focus on the ultimate desired result. When these goals don’t happen exactly as we had planned or in the time frame we had scheduled or with the people we now know, this makes us anxious. We get bummed out. We re-think our plan. We doubt. We second guess. We lose concentration, motivation. We get bogged down.
To leave the law, don’t worry if the next baby step you take is going to bear tangible fruits. Don’t be on the constant lookout for immediate results. You will get to where you want to get – it may be through an alternate channel or on a different schedule or with the help of someone you have yet to meet. And over this time, this goal may change and ultimately look completely different than you had originally envisioned.
When you don’t worry about the details of the “how”, you get to focus on living the dream.
You provide value now, as a lawyer. You guide clients, you assist colleagues, you affect policy.
And even if you feel dissatisfied with the practice of law altogether, or just with something specific about how you do it day in and day out, you still likely have the moments of joy and satisfaction that come with providing value to someone. It brings results, it feels good, it validates.
Yesterday, in a great post, Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity (a web site and blog that aims to help people live unconventional lives and make money online) writes how providing value is really the same as just helping people. “Value means helping people,” he writes. “Provide something valuable and people will be eager to support your work.”
With this in mind, to leave law altogether, or just markedly change how you currently practice it, take a small baby step and just focus on how you create value. Or, in other words, just focus on how you help people.
Because the skills you use to help people through your practice of law can likely also benefit a larger audience beyond it.
[Thanks to Julie Samuels for the idea behind this post. Julie is one of those lawyers-who-left-law-as-she-knew-it-behind-and-took-an-alternative-route-and-now-loves-what-she-does. Follow Julie on Twitter.]
The best and brightest apply and attend and graduate from law school. We are well-educated, well-meaning, articulate, creative, interpersonal, motivated, savvy and effective.
So it can be quite ironic that once we begin to practice law, much of what we are good at can often not be utilized to its fullest . . . if at all. What we do each day can in large part be disconnected from the skills we excel at.
As (South Park) Johnnie Cochran implored in the famous Wookie Defense, that does not make sense.
There is a major disconnect. Our skills are being misallocated.
Click here and let’s discuss your first baby step.