Once we have determined that leaving the law is for us (click here for the first step), the greatest danger is sabotaging our enthusiasm before we can even begin to leave. As we pump ourselves up about the potential for new opportunities and satisfaction and happiness and money in our future, we can often get bogged down in thinking about the past . . . in particular, in thinking about our investment in law school and our long standing identity as a lawyer.
Let’s first begin with law school. We went there. We studied. We got through it (somehow). We spent a lot of time and effort and money to gain that JD. Throw in the Barbri courses and the anxiety over the bar exam and now our yearly bar dues and it’s easy to see that we have invested a lot. Makes us think . . . I’d hate for all of that to go to waste. Makes us think . . . Well . . . maybe we should just stick with this law thing after all.
Next, our identity as a lawyer. Being a lawyer still carries a certain status. We’re respected, intelligent professionals. And many of us have internalized this higher societal standing, we’ve made it part of who we are. We think that if we can’t call ourselves a lawyer, we’ll be an empty shell. We won’t know how to describe ourselves. We won’t any long be better than the rest of the general public.
With this in mind, we need to realize that this stage can often be a threshold moment in leaving the law behind. Many turn back at this point. Many lose their momentum. Many take the safe route. Many turn to continuing what they already know. They back down in large part because it takes courage to repurpose the investment made in law school. It takes an audacity to search for a new identity, one that combines stature and money along with happiness and satisfaction.
The trick here is to be honest with yourself, through three simple steps:
First, write down all of the reasons that drove you to attend law school.
Next, write down all the ways that your self-worth is currently boosted by your remaining a lawyer.
Then critically look at what you have written and determine if these justify the satisfaction (or lack thereof) you continue to gain from practicing the law.
If not, then continue to pursue leaving it.