How you can tell if staying in (and not leaving) the law is actually best for you

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Leave Law Behind is a blog and community where we support each and share ideas of how we can leave the law. As I mentioned in a recent comment to a reader, that’s because many of us have realized that we do not want to be lawyers any longer. For many of us it was a mistake to go to law school in the first place. For many of us, our skill set is not in alignment with the role’s requirements.

Many of us are not confident in what it takes to be a lawyer. Many of us are not capable in, nor do we enjoy, managing the anxiety and responsibilities and duties that being a lawyer requires. And our working environment in reality does not allow us to find or create paths to lead a career in law that we would like. And the legal jobs that we might enjoy are few and far between, or we feel intimidated even applying to them. In short, for us, the law isn’t fun, it won’t ever be, and we need to change.

But what if all of this talk about leaving the law actually isn’t right for you? What if staying in the law is actually the right path for you, no matter how unhappy, unconfident or unworthy you feel right now as a lawyer? What if you were correct when you applied and went to (and even enjoyed) law school? What if your Unique Genius is in line with what a lawyer can and does do? What if the fastest path for you to happiness and self-worth and satisfaction and growth is to stay in the law?

This is a point a reader made last week, and it’s a great one. While many of us know that the law isn’t for us, there likely are still many of us who aren’t yet ready to dismiss the law. We may just find ourselves in a current funk … or in a bad work environment … or in the wrong practice area.

There usually comes a threshold moment, that fork in the road, where you have done enough work, enough hard work, enough analysis, enough self-reflection, enough Unique Genius exploration, enough honest talks with family and friends and trusted ones that you can make a confident decision to go one way or the other.

And as you do, a major step in leaving the law is actually critically assessing whether you should stay. And it may help to keep the following three points in mind:

1. Try not to make the law a scapegoat. While it is very easy for us to get down on the law, we need to be careful to not necessarily blame it for all of our woes. One exercise to always go through is to really analyze why we went to law school and what we enjoy about our work as attorneys. These are questions we lawyers don’t often ask on a regular basis. Once we really think about it, we may be surprised by how many things, big and little, we do like about our job.

2. Critical analysis is needed. As with any major decision, we need to spend some time thinking about it. Real, honest-to-goodness, frank assessments of what our strengths and skills are, what our enjoyments are and how we’d like to grow as a person and professional. All to often, though, we don’t. Ironically, it can be very easy to make knee jerk reactions about major life decisions. It might be a shame to put a lot of energy into leaving the law, if really our energy should be focused on fixing our place within the law.

3. There are happy lawyers out there. There are lawyers out there who enjoy their job. While they deal with many of the same issues you might, they find satisfaction in their work, excitement in what they do, financial incentives in their job and see a path for growth. Many of them have been in the space you are – down, unhappy, not growing how they wanted. So they changed things. They moved jobs. They took on new roles (not necessarily lateral moves). Of course confidentiality can be an issue, but meet them. Grab coffee with them. Be as honest as you can, tell them you’re just not connecting as a lawyer right now, and pick their brain on what they do that makes the law a place for them to stay and thrive. I’m sure many will be happy to help.

For those who have done the work and are ready, leaving the law can be a glorious, satisfying, and enriching path. I have done it, and I’ve worked and spoken with others who cannot imagine going back to the law. There is a structure and a path and a model to leaving. You can do it.

And for others, staying in the law, and changing their specific situation, can be equally fulfilling.

Either way you’re in store for some positive change.

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2 thoughts on “How you can tell if staying in (and not leaving) the law is actually best for you

  1. I see another permutation to this topic as well. There are lawyers who question whether or not to leave law behind, even though there may be opportunities as a lawyer to use our Unique Genius, but other factors still make staying in the law seem disagreeable. I may be met with plenty of lawyers and non-lawyers alike who think that I have a talent for the law, but the shifting and changing of the profession are not worth it. I don’t feel “flow” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it. The difficulty then comes with being met by others who disagree or judge because of all the work it takes to be a lawyer. And even worse so are the questions we pose to ourselves in a personal cross-examination. This blog addresses all those issues and provides a space to be open-minded to leaving OR staying the law. I am grateful for this space, the suggestions, and the perspective, even if I do not always agree. The fluidity of and allowance for differences is, at its essence, a key part of the discussion of to leave or not to leave the law.

  2. My personal thoughts on this material are that it’s well-written, intelligent and easy to understand. I appreciate this kind of useful information, especially when it is this good. Thank you.

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