8 things I wish I knew when I decided to leave the law

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This blog is almost four years old. The spirit and adventure of Leave Law Behind began in 2004, when I myself left the law for good. And it started to really take shape in earnest in the summer of 2009, when I was asked by the career services office of my alma mater, UC Hastings, to participate in a speakers series around “alternative legal careers”.

2009 was deep in the recession, and what I thought would be a lightly attended affair turned out to be an almost packed room. To prepare, I had put together a short slide presentation called “Leave Law Behind” (my wife’s idea). I spoke of the issues that caused me to want to leave the law, the ways I built up my personal courage to do so, how I actually took that first step and my exploration of my own Unique Genius. I gave some pointers and ideas of next steps. I spoke with people one-on-one for almost an hour afterwards. The pain and anxiety and desire to leave the law were palpable in that room. I knew there was a need here, and I wanted to help. Leave Law Behind was born. It wasn’t long before I began working with my first clients and publishing my first blog post.

Looking back at that first blog post now, while the perfectionist in my would like to re-write it and edit it more carefully, I think the spirit of Leave Law Behind remains consistent from then to now: To create the motivation, pointers, support and community to inspire and guide any unhappy and dissatisfied lawyer to leave the law for a path more in line with his or her strengths, skills and enjoyments.

And while this has been a ten year plus journey for me, and continues to be an adventure, it has enabled me to reflect a lot … and specifically on what I wish I had known as I took that first step and then went through the ups and downs of leaving the law. Here are eight things I have learned through this process:

  1. Leaving the law takes a lot of work. There is no easy pill to swallow. It requires hard work, and smart work. And a lot of repetition and practice. And persistence. And drive and motivation and the ability to mitigate and reduce self-doubt while developing and growing one’s self-confidence.
  2. It will hurt. There will be some pain (I’m nervous to network). There will be regrets (Why did I even go to law school?). There will be embarrassment (Wow, and to think I thought all this time that I enjoyed writing …). There will be second thoughts (Why am I doing this?).
  3. It takes a lot of courage. Leaving the law means we’ll need to face things that scare us: Managing our money situation, exploring our strengths, admitting our weaknesses, networking with new people, creating something unique and previously unheard of. And we shouldn’t want it any other way, because by leaving the law we are essentially telling the world we want to grow, and wanting to grow means we want to face what scares us and nonetheless persist and succeed.
  4. The non-legal world isn’t all roses. There are stress and anxiety and learning curves and bad managers in the non-legal world too. Just by leaving the law doesn’t mean that we will rid ourselves of all that ails us now. But if we do leave the law properly, we will likely find a job or a role or a path that is in alignment with our skills and strengths. And as such we’ll enjoy this job and be motivated and hopeful. And when we’re happy and motivated and hopeful we can generally handle (even celebrate) stress and anxiety much more successfully and constructively.
  5. It also takes time (as it should). Leaving the law is a journey. It requires us to try things. It requires us to make mistakes. It requires us to move beyond our comfort zone and into areas and to ask questions that can make us uncomfortable. And all of this takes time.
  6. It requires us to confide in people: Leaving the law can’t be done alone. We need to ask for pointers and advice and a shoulder to cry on. We need to talk out our fears and our anxieties and our doubts.
  7. But it doesn’t take forever. It can be done. There is a structure. There is a precedent. There is a helpful community out there. There are actionable steps to take to leave the law. It is possible. And once you create the momentum for change, then change happens.
  8. We will never be the same. Once we begin in earnest to leave the law, we will be different than we are now. And often times, we become that person we aspired to be way back when we first took the LSAT – cool, engaged, challenged, growing, dynamic, hopeful.

That’s what Leave Law Behind is all about: Practical dreamers who want to work hard and smart and follow a proven structure and explore their strengths and be open to new ideas, while reinventing current ones. It’s an exciting place to be. I’m happy you’re here.

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4 thoughts on “8 things I wish I knew when I decided to leave the law

  1. Casey! I was at that Hastings event as well, I’m pretty sure, talking about freelancing!

    So we HAVE met before #Catapult2014!

    (and necessity is the mother of all invention, huh? 🙂 )

    Marina

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