“The ultimate measure of a man or woman is not where he or she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he or she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
This is one of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes.
It has inspired me to act to drive positive change, for myself and others in my life. It has taught me to embrace the unknown and the uncertain and the difficult as evidence of my growth and progress … rather than to be feared as insurmountable obstacles, barriers or inevitable failure.
Even if our individual goals seem much smaller than those of MLK’s, we can still drive insight from his wisdom.
While you, an unhappy attorney who wants to leave the law, might suffer from anxiety and depression and stress in your work, you actually exist and live and work in a certain level of comfort.
You know what to expect each day. You are making money. You are paying your bills. You have stature in your social circles. You are pleasing the people around you. Things are okay.
Things are not unknown or ambiguous or severely risky.
Hey Self, it’s Yourself from 2022.
I know this may seem a little spooky to hear from your future self, but I wanted to let you know that this whole “leave the law” thing really has worked out. We are doing really well right now in our alternative, non-law job. We can’t even believe it’s happening.
Well, we can believe it. Because, we’re living it. It’s been 4 years since you decided to leave the law in 2018 and we wanted to write you this short note to say thank you for the courage to leave.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are not sitting on a beach all day, all year.
It’s not all roses. We don’t just call it in each day.
We work … we work very hard.
And yes … sometimes we work weekends.
And there are still deadlines, and stress, and office politics, and angry customers.
And we deal with a lot of issues and projects that are new to us, so we’re often initially unclear what is the best first step.
And we have had a steep learning curve,
As lawyers, we cannot fail.
Failing means we forget a precedent. We miss a court deadline. We negotiate poorly. We lose a case for a client.
And as a result, we fear being sued for malpractice. We fear losing a chance at partnership. We fear losing the client. We fear breaching our fiduciary duty.
We cannot fail. It’s part of our job description as attorneys, and it’s become part of our personal psyche.
Failure is now not only an option, it’s a pre-requisite
Fortunately, that is not the case when we leave the law.
We change this belief system. Failure is not looked at as a death sentence, it’s looked at as a learning experience. It’s considered a right of passage, a way to test and experiment, a way to get stronger.
I view failure as just another word for “babystep” to success.
For example, for one of my clients last year, we identified three main job areas that could have been a fit for his Unique Genius (his skills, strengths and enjoyments) and for us to explore.
But the Strategy Consulting lifestyle had too much travel.
One of the major obstacles you may have in leaving the law is your not-so-healthy relationship with money.
- You feel money is scarce and fleeting.
- Or you’re afraid it will leave you.
- Or you think it’s hard to earn.
- Or you feel you’re not worthy of a lot of wealth.
- Or you feel weighed down by your student debt.
Or you may have been programmed growing up that money is the root of all evil.
It’s actually not.
Money is actually the root of all good.
Money is what builds roads and erects churches and schools and buys food and saves wildlife and creates new innovations and empowers charities and pays people’s salaries and elevates grassroots campaigns and empowers you to be the best you can be.
Money is just energy that can be used for fantastic good.
What is evil is not money, but the love of and desire for money … at expense of all other things (this is from which greed, power, and excess originate).
So as we leave the law,
If you read Leave Law Behind, then you want to stop practicing law and land a new “non-law”, alternative job.
An alternative job that aligns with your skills and strengths, a job you enjoy and are confident at, a job in which you find meaning and purpose.
But if you haven’t left already, it’s because you’re afraid.
- Afraid that you won’t be able to make enough money in a non-law, alternative job.
- Afraid that you will ruin your long term career trajectory or cap your earning potential.
- Afraid of the general unknown and uncertainty of leaving the law.
- Afraid of disappointing or getting grief from your family and friends and work colleagues if you were to leave the law.
- Afraid that you can’t do anything else but practice the law.
So my promise to you this year is I’m going to help you became less and less and less afraid about leaving the law.
And more and more and more confident about making this transition.
So these big overwhelming boogeyman fears shrink into de-mystified, overcome-able issues that no longer paralyze you to change your life for the better.
Originally published on December 15th, 2017 on Above the Law’s Career Center.
So many of us attorneys do not like the practice of law. You suffer under the anxiety and boredom and repetition and isolation and stress of being a lawyer.
But you still don’t leave the practice behind. You don’t make that career shift. You don’t change your life for the better.
It’s mainly because of the crippling fears that keeps you locked in a paralyzing figure 8 cycle of hating your current lawyer job, but not moving to something new because of your overwhelming fear of the unknown and erroneous belief that you cannot do anything else but be a lawyer.
You are afraid. So you wait. You procrastinate. You delay. Even though you cannot ignore the burning desire to leave the law and do something else.
I know that fear very well. It crippled me until I finally left the law behind in July 2004.
Below are the three main ways these fears manifest themselves, with some ideas on how to overcome them:
Fear #1 Fear of making less money and capping our lifetime earning potential
Most of your fear that keeps you from leaving the law revolve around money.
There are thousands of people who subscribe to receive this weekly email.
Many of you are using the Leave Law Behind Coaching Program to empower yourself to overcome your fears of leaving your practice and to find that “non-law”, alternative job and change your life.
You seriously want to leave the law. You feel very out-of-sorts and not right as an attorney. You want to achieve a life of alignment and purpose and confidence and happiness.
Happiness is a result of the process
Those of you using the Program want, in large part, to be happy. And as we work together, you are beginning to realize what “happiness” really means, and that, as author Mark Manson (who I’m reading a lot of now) says, happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self.
But becoming who you really, really, really should be is not always seamless. It’s not always guaranteed. It’s not always perfect.
But it is meaningful. It is thoughtful. It is growth. It is development. It is sincere. It is authentic. It is strength. It is what you are here to do.
And this growth and satisfaction happens to you when you begin to have faith in yourself and take real substantial steps to leave the law,
I spoke last month at an event at my alma mater, University of California, Hastings College of the Law here in San Francisco. The event focused on highlighting for students across the Bay Area what alternative careers can you do with a JD.
JD = MBA?
After the talk, I answered questions from many students. A 1L, who is an undergrad math major, loves to code in his free time and, deep down, wants to become a software engineer, told me his dream job is to work at Twitter or AirBnB right down the block.
But he ended up going to law school because it felt then that law school was the right and responsible thing to do for this life. He said a JD is like a “pseudo MBA” and with his student loans, he can (for the time being) afford to live in San Francisco.
He followed up with me via email and described how anxious and confused he felt remaining in law school. In theory, he liked the idea of getting a JD, but he didn’t really feel the degree was aligned with what he wanted to do in life.
About twenty attorneys just like you showed up last night here in San Francisco for the first Leave Law Behind live event.
Munching on Mediterranean food and sipping wine in a historic subterranean theater, we had a two hour coaching program going through each step to leave the law.
And throughout it all, we faced, discussed, wrestled with and reduced the main thing blocking us from leaving the law behind: Our fears.
So many fears …
- Fear of going to a “non-law” job we end up hating
- Fear of entering a non-law industry we aren’t good at
- Fear of making less money and capping our lifetime earning potential
- Fear of disappointing our friends and family
- And the big one … the fear of the unknown
Afraid of the unknown. Not being able to 100% fully control our fate.
We are afraid. So we wait. We procrastinate. We delay.
I know that fear very well. I resolutely determined that I wanted to leave the law in April of 2003.
When I was practicing law as in-house counsel at a technology company here in San Francisco, our VP of Sales and I spent over a month negotiating a very large licensing deal with our soon-to-be biggest client.
The VP of Sales brought in the sales lead. I did all the heavy negotiation-and-contract-drafting lifting.
When the deal closed, the VP of Sales earned a $75,000 commission payment (on top of his already healthy base salary).
In appreciation of the work I did for him, the VP of Sales bought me an iPod, with “Thank you” engraved on the back.
It was 2004. And iPods were very big back then.
But, it was an iPod. He got $75,000, and I got an iPod.
Now, do not confuse me for begin ungrateful. That’s not the point of this post. Rather, this experience got me thinking. While I was appreciative of the gift, and of course appreciative of the salary I already received to do my job … it opened my eyes only further to the multitude of ways you can make a lot of money in this world. To the multitude of careers out there in the world.