We are an educated group of people. We know how to work hard and smart. We have the sharp intellect, honed power of persuasion, solid work ethic and network of connections. We are driven to succeed and to help and to grow. We are overly qualified to do just about anything we set our mind to.
There is no better group of people than unhappy, disgruntled, potential-unrealized, not-totally-satisfied-with-themselves attorneys to remake themselves, to change course (altogether or just slightly) in order to help change the world. To change their world and that of others.
And I’m going to go out on a limb now and say that this shouldn’t be optional: Any of us who feel they are not reaching their full potential personally and professionally, have an obligation and a responsibility, to themselves and the world around them, to make a change. We are too valuable of a commodity to languish doing things we do not enjoy and may not be that good at.
There is money to be made. There are non-profits to be formed. There are joint ventures to be created. There are new ideas to be executed upon. There are charities that need help.
As you likely know, Leave Law Behind was spotlighted on Tuesday by the blog Live Your Legend. It was great to be associated with such other interesting and inspiring people, and it really raised the awareness of Leave Law Behind.
So a time for celebration, right? Of course, but it didn’t take long for my happiness to be tempered by that (not-so) little voice in my head. You know the one, the one that feeds doubt, that takes shots at our self-confidence, that limits our growth.
This “demon voice” told me that I didn’t deserve to belong on this list. These people are building schools for girls in Africa and encouraging organ donation. Who was I to think that my little blog Leave Law Behind was special? Who was I to think that I had anything to offer that was unique? I’m not perfect – who was I to think that I could help others? And this voice told me that I was wasting my time, that educated, professional attorneys don’t really need any help.
I’m not sure if this demon voice can ever be completely eradicated. And to make matters worse,
10 Surprising Case Studies of Ordinary People Doing the Impossible
Everyone starts out as ordinary. They do the things everyone else seems to do.
But then at some point they decide that’s not enough. For whatever reason they decide they are going to take a stand and do things a little (or a lot) differently.
It is this decision that turns the ordinary into a living legend.
Then they go to do the things that most people tell them are impossible (aka: the things most only dream of).
Read more at Live Your Legend.
I am honored and flattered that Scott Dinsmore, who runs the very successful, motivating and inspiring blog and community Live Your Legend, has spotlighted Leave Law Behind today in his “10 Surprising Case Studies of Ordinary People Doing the Impossible“.
I have sometimes wrestled with how best to summarize what my mission is with Leave Law Behind, and I think Scott nailed it when he said I’m a “recovering lawyer helping other miserable lawyers find a more meaningful career”. Read more here.
The nine other case studies are all very exciting and worth reading, joining their email least and even reaching out to get involved and inspired:
Benard Didacus Opiyo, who is building a girls only high school in Kenya.
Cory Annis, M.D., P.A., who has started the first virtual doctor’s office and health adviser specifically for entrepreneurs and business nomads.
Justin Miller, who is inspiring 100,000 people to become organ donors
Mark Baeder, who recently left his corporate job and launched a mountain bike guiding and skills training business.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post by a current criminal defense attorney as he looks back on his time in law school and his practice . . . and as he looks ahead to leaving the law altogether.]
I went to law school with a goal, albeit unclearly defined. I wanted to do something good. I assumed I would discover that something somewhere along the path. Shortly before graduating from UC Hastings, however, I found myself disappointed. I was entertaining fewer opportunities than I envisioned when spending beautiful college afternoons cooped up in the local Kaplan study center, preparing for the LSAT.
The underwhelming opportunities weren’t due to a lack of effort or achievement, but rather a want of vision. I worked hard and did well in law school, graduating cum laude. I focused on my grades, all the while struggling to keep school’s competitive, compulsive hubbub at a distance. I figured I would work hard, pay some attention to my career prospects, and the rest would fall into place. I wouldn’t get caught up in on-campus interviews or landing the lucrative post-grad position. I would work hard,
So I hurt my foot this past weekend. While how I did it is not that important (and slightly embarrassing, sprained my foot while jumping into a pool . . . real smooth), what was reinforced is: It is a complete shock to suddenly have something taken away that previously was taken for granted.
While I wallowed in self-pity this week, and found interesting ways to elevate my leg and also type on my laptop, I couldn’t help wishing I could just snap my fingers and have the pain go away.
And here is where it got interesting. I made a deal with myself. I made a list of all the things I promised myself I’d get done, if just please, please, (snap my fingers again) my foot could heal quickly and I could get back to normal. I will begin writing that Leave Law Behind book (that I’ve been putting off for 2 years). I will begin planning for that Leave Law Behind in-person networking event I’ve been talking about for 6 months (but not doing anything about). In short, if my foot will just heal quickly, I’ll stop being lazy. And I’ll stop being scared.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: We are delighted to publish today’s guest post by Katie Slater, former BigLaw attorney, who now runs Career Infusion, a career management firm, for lawyers and other professionals.]
Casey asked me to write a bit about the top five fears that lawyers have in leaving the law. When I first read his request, I actually thought he asked about the top fears lawyers have – period. And when I thought about it, the two are really linked in terms of the chokehold these fears can have on lawyers enjoying their careers and lives.
The homeless-under-the-bridge fear. For example, the top fear that a vast majority of lawyers have is the one I call “homeless under the bridge”. This fear says to you, if you try anything else, you will lose everything, have no money and (in my nightmare) end up homeless under a bridge. One friend says she had her park bench picked out. You get the gist (and I’m sure you have your own unique twist on it). This fear stops lawyers from engaging in different ways in their current job, stops them from trying new things in their job and career,
But there needs to also be the will. There needs to be the execution. It needs to actually get done.
There can often be a lot getting in the way of our will. There are hurdles that prevent us from taking that first step and actually getting stuff done and making progress.
And to make it more confusing, many of these hurdles are unseen. We know we are stuck, but we often can’t clearly identify what is getting in the way.
These murky things can be reduced to a few obstacles. I share them with you now.
– We are actually not compelled enough to leave. We love the security of our current job, the stature it brings and while we complain and may want to leave the law, we may really not mean it.
– We are waiting for others to provide a guaranteed path. It’s easy to wait and see what risks our entrepreneurial friends or big companies take . . . so we can then follow up and fill a job or role once the company has a reached some stability.
– We suffer from the Imposter Syndrome.
Many of us want to leave our law job right now. This is understandable. We are frustrated, not happy, not enjoying our day-to-day. We are not doing what we want.
But we are getting paid. We can pay our bills, we can pay down our student loans (and any other debt), we can hopefully put some away for retirement, we can possibly build up our savings.
As this blog has stated over and over, there is no way around the fact that done right, leaving law behind is a long journey. While the rewards are huge, it’s a process that takes a lot of trial and error and self-analysis. It takes planning and courage and a lot of help.
Which is why a great place to start in leaving the law is to examine how your current job can help you take your first baby step. Besides just paying your bills, your current job can help fund:
– A career counselor (contact me or Jennifer Alvey or Katie Slater)
– A legal job recruiter (ask for Lindsay)
– An independent contractor on elance or odesk who can help you build your first website
Many attorneys I speak with are exploring new jobs and lifestyles. Some want to continue to practice the law, but just need to leave their current, negative situation. Others want to explore non-legal roles that may be more in line with their skill sets. And still others desire a leave of absence or some time off in order to take stock and plan next steps.
Many jump in right away and shift their mind set towards these new jobs, visiting career sites, enlisting recruiters and polishing resumes.
It’s essential to realize that the most important part of leaving law and getting a job you like and enjoy and are good at is not the actual job. Rather, it’s the criteria you use to select and prioritize this job.
There are many elements to consider when looking at a job: salary, bonuses, lifestyle, stature, skills required, daily enjoyment. And of course for many of us, money (specifically, that initial, advertised salary) always forces it way to the top of the list. And that is fine. We all need money, there is not much more stressful than having no money.
But there are more elements to a job than money.