The secret to leaving the law without working hard

One of the biggest obstacles we face in leaving the law is that we think it is going to be a lot of hard work to do so.

We fear we won’t be able to do this work … so therefore we don’t do anything. We remain miserable in our job as an attorney, but at least we didn’t add more to our to-do list.

What people who successfully leave the law for non-law, alternative careers begin to understand is that there is a difference between hard work … and inspired action.

We all think we work hard. And you do. You make sacrifices. You work long hours. You exert energy. You force yourself to work hard in order to survive.

But when you force yourself to do something, it’s because you feel you should. Because you feel you have to. You have to survive.

But when you make a commitment to yourself to leave the law, you’ve made a pact with yourself to do more than just survive.

You’ve made commitment to go beyond just working.

You’ve made a commitment to not force things any longer.

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How to actually be thankful for our law school debt (and other seemingly not-so-good things in our life)

It’s Thanksgiving, so we’ve likely been taking this time to (as best we can) be thankful for all we have in our life, and to not dwell on what we don’t have, or what we still want.

This can be very difficult to do.

And it is made only more difficult when we think of how we do not like being a lawyer any more.

How can we possibly be thankful for our law school debt? Or that annoying partner in our firm? Or the anxiety of feeling like we don’t really know the law and that we might be a “fraud”?

The martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee said “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Being grateful for what we have is KEY to living a successful, productive, happy life. It’s KEY to leaving the law. Even when things look bleak for us as attorneys, we need to summon the strength to still be appreciative.

I shot a short video to show how we attorneys looking to leave the law can do just that:

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We all need to remember this as we leave our practice of law behind

This week’s video was inspired by an email I received from a new subscriber to Leave Law Behind.

She signed up for a free consult with me, and said how excited she was to have found our community.

She told me how she has been trying to change her life, and leave the law, but has had to do it all alone. She’s been unhappy, anxious, regretful, and confused … all by herself.

She didn’t know about all of us. Now she does.

I shot a short video to just let you know, and reiterate, that if you are feeling alone, please realize we are all in this together:

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“Permission to float”

I met with a client last week. We celebrated … she recently left the law!

So great!

But now she was struggling with the (apparent) uncertainty of her new life.

While she loved being away from the grind and the anxiety and the long hours of a lawyer, and she was excited about the new, “non-law” work she was doing now … she still felt she was missing something.

She said she felt like she was “floating aimlessly”.

I told her she now has permission “to float”.

And that floating was actually a good thing, and not to be feared.

I shot a short video to tell you more about what I mean:

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Join us in watching the movie we call your life

The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers.” — Joe Polish, Entrepreneur and founder of Genius Network Interview Series

I write each week because I enjoy it. It makes me feel good.

It’s also become my art form. How I like to express myself.

And writing is also something I do for me. When I write, it’s because I want (or need) to work through an idea. To understand a concept. To grow into something.

And I write because I like to give. People have given to me. And I give to others. This is a better place because we can all receive help and provide help.

And I am proud that the free content I provide is good enough to help many of you leave the law on your own.

So now, let’s think of who you can help.

No, I don’t mean helping the client you don’t align with. Or helping the associate you’re competing with. Or helping the partner you’re actually afraid of.

Working for them is not really help. It’s fear driven reaction.

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In San Francisco on December 4th?

What I have heard a lot from clients, readers and members of our community was the need for a live, in-person event.

A safe place for us to gather together, be with like minded people, learn how to leave the law, and hear stories and tips directly from people who have successfully done just that.

And just like you have fears that prevent you from moving forward and leaving the law … I guess I had a fear or a blocker or … something standing in my way. Every time I would think of planning a live Leave Law Behind event, some invisible boogeyman or insecurity or fear would get in my way.

And so I never planned anything.

No more. I’ve broken free of this fear.

In a few weeks, on Monday December 4th 2017 from 6p to 8p, I’ll be hosting my inaugural Leave Law Behind live event in downtown San Francisco at the historic Shelton Theater.

If you’re in the Bay Area, or you will be, I would encourage you to attend.

I will be coaching you in person how to leave the law.

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The biggest obstacle most of us think we face in leaving the law is overcoming our fear of lack of money.

I just worked on this in detail with a client last week:

  • She is afraid she won’t make enough money to support her family if she leaves the law.
  • She is afraid she will lower her future earning potential if she leaves the law.
  • She is afraid she won’t be able to live her current lifestyle if she leaves the law.

So let’s use this as a moment to take a step back and revisit what money really is.

A long time ago, before we had money, we traded.

I grow apples. My apples have within them the energy from the sun and the energy from my pruning and farming and tending and nurturing.

You’re a carpenter who makes tables. Your table also has the energy the sun emitted to the tree, as well as your energy in crafting and shaping and sanding the wood into a table form.

I need a table on which to now eat my apples with my family.

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The least glamorous, but most effective tool to help you leave the law

The most valuable skill I learned when I was finally ready to leave the law in 2004 was the power of the baby-step.

Babysteps are the best time-intensive-but-still-manageable-build-on-each-other-to-grow-your-confidence-incremental-and-rewarding-forward-moving drivers of progress you can take to effectively leave the law behind for a fulfilling professional (and personal) life.

Babysteps were difficult for me to initially adopt. As an attorney, I wanted to know right now how “it would all turn out”. I didn’t like and wasn’t comfortable with the unknown.

And as a person in today’s day and age, I wanted success now. I didn’t want to wait. I wasn’t comfortable being patient.

This wasn’t a good combination to effectuate change in my life. It wasn’t a good combination to end the dissatisfaction with my job as a lawyer.

But once I became open to using these babystep – again, small non-sexy steps and progress that empower ever growing momentum and confidence and create more and more opportunities – that was the key to my success in launching my non-law, alternative career.

And it’s the success for many people I work with.

I just heard back from a client,

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How I think differently now

I read an article about a panel discussion at the recent International Bar Association conference in Sydney, Australia focused on what happiness means for lawyers.

The speakers discussed how attorneys can measure their happiness in ways beyond the traditional yardsticks of money and job title and professional stature.

One such new measure is “self-actualization”. One panelist explained further:

“Self-actualization is about achieving your potential, becoming what you want to be, making something of yourself.

I encourage people to aspire to something, and sometimes when I ask lawyers: ‘What are your aspirations? What do your aspire to in your practice and in your career?’, sometimes they really give me a funny look because their practice is all about meeting other people’s expectations.

“They actually don’t have any aspirations of their own in their lives, and I think aspiration is a necessary ingredient for happiness and success.”

Looking back on when I was in the law as in-house counsel, I now realize that many of my aspirations were reactive … about just not messing up: not missing an important element in a licensing agreement,

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Why I delayed leaving the law

I stayed as an attorney longer than I wanted to, in part because I wanted to make sure I got a return on my investment.

The investment I made in going to law school and becoming a lawyer.

I felt like I would be giving up if I left the law. I felt I would have wasted all this time if I left. I felt the tuition and debt I took on would have been all for naught.

I know that I spent money and time and effort and ego in becoming a lawyer, and you better believe that I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it that I could. I wanted to continue to practice until I saw this return.

Yet all the while, I did nothing, and I wasn’t happy as a practicing attorney.

It was then that I realized the truth … that it is very, very difficult to know with certainty when this return is or will be realized. Every week, attorneys with 20, 25, 30 years of practice write me to tell me how miserable they are. Isn’t that enough time to determine if the investment has panned out?

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