We see “Lost Pet” posters all the time. Grainy pictures usually of sweet looking dogs or cats pasted into a Word document, printed up and duct-taped to neighborhood telephone poles. Usually there is a big headline (“LOST DOG” or “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?”), a physical description of the pet (Male, 2 years old, Rottweiler mix), a name (“Obie” but also answers to “Tater” or “Daddy’s boy”), a last location (“Last seen near Lake Merced”), maybe a reward ($50) and a plea (“Her family is very worried. They miss and love her very much”).
And as we pass the telephone pole, even in our rush, we may look around and check to see if, by chance, a dog or cat resembling this description is lurking by anywhere. And when of course it isn’t, we imagine a scared little animal running around the streets. We shudder a bit, feel sorry for the cold animal as well as the eight-year old who just lost her pet, and then we walk on, move on. Not much we can do, really.
But there is. While we may not locate the lost pet, we can seize on a valuable babystep to leave the law behind. What the creators of these lost dog posters teach us is how to ask for help. And not just how to ask for help, but how to knock down all of the barriers that we currently place before ourselves preventing us from asking for any help.
Before writing and designing 100 posters, before printing them up at home or running to the neighborhood copy shop, before taping them all over the neighborhood, the family of the missing pet must first make a very difficult to decision: I’m going to ask my community to help me. I’m going to ask people I know, and even people I don’t know, to help me. I’m going to ask privately and I’m going to ask publicly. Their longing for their pet overcomes any personal embarrassment, invasion of privacy or negative stigma that may otherwise accompany a request for help.
Most of us, who long to leave the law behind or long to do work we enjoy or long to not dread Monday or long to just be happy again, need help. That isn’t a bad thing to say. It’s not taboo. Think about it – your clients come to you for help all the time. You help people, that is your job. So rest assured that you, an attorney (a human), too can feel comfortable asking for help when you really need it. And leaving law behind can seem like such an overwhelming, momentous, time consuming, where-do-I-start undertaking, that it is only right to ask for help.
But most of us don’t. We don’t ask for help. We quietly keep doing what we’re doing because we fear ridicule, we fear taking a “risk”, we fear the unknown, we fear we won’t be able to claim a self-identity if we’re not still “a lawyer”, we fear people knowing that we don’t have our act fully together.
And these fears are understandable. But once we take that courageous step and begin to realize that these fears are really just fabrications of our imagination; once we realize that these worries are just devious tools our demon voice uses to keep us down; once we realize that these concerns are as weightless as the air we breathe, then we can take that fantastic and liberating first babystep . . . we ask for help.
It works. I know it does, I’ve seen real lawyers leave the law and begin and develop happy and fulfilling lives doing something else. There is a like-minded community of lawyers and former lawyers out there just like you, who have asked for help and, more importantly, are now here willing to help you.