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What keeps you practicing

I came across this interesting post from Beyond the Underground, What Do You Like Best About Being a Lawyer?

What do you like best?  What keeps you practicing the law?

  • Helping people?
  • Helping the underdog?
  • Fighting for a cause?
  • The intellectual challenge?
  • Being a source of advice and counsel?
  • Being a vehicle for change?
  • Knowing an area of law really well?
  • Enjoying the stature of my position?
  • Making money?

If you don’t like practicing the law, or don’t like being in the firm, or wish you had more personal freedom, could you still achieve some or all of the above even by doing something else?

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Bridge the unknown

At first, it can be very hard to leave the law, or continue to practice law and leave your current job.  The unknown is very hard to grasp and confront.

So how do you bridge that gap?  How do you get the wheels started on a new career, on a new day-to-day schedule, on a new you?  One way is contract legal work.

Now, before you succumb to the traditional reservations about contract work (the work is not stimulating, it will blemish my resume, I can’t stoop that low), do note that along with all of the major shifts in the legal industry, contract legal work is becoming its own practice area.  As an example, my friend Onna Young (whose coaching practice Life After Debt is a must for anyone wrestling with debt issues) forwarded me a Meetup group in Los Angeles of contract attorneys.  They meet once a month, share stories, a drink and referrals.

And with today’s technology, being a contract attorney is much more than working in your pajamas from your dining room table with a Yahoo or Hotmail email address.  Today, you can so easily throw up a nice looking site,

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The antidote to feeling overwhelmed

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by trying to make it to the gym a few times a week or trying to get the kids out of the house to school in the morning or returning phone calls from college friends or managing multiple brief deadlines or . . . or . . .

So it can be extremely overwhelmingly to even consider completely leaving law behind, or even leaving the firm behind or just modifying how you practice law.  The long term goals, the time it will take, the discipline and courage needed, the urge to procrastinate, the obstacles to overcome . . . makes you tired and overwhelmed just thinking about it.

This is where babysteps come in.  Babysteps are the antidote to being overwhelmed.  I am very happy that my good friend Aaron Ross, founder of Pebblestorm (“Make Money Through Enjoyment”) has reintroduced this trusted (but oft ignored) practice of taking one step at a time.  Don’t let the seemingly gargantuan tasks of leaving law, or recreating your practice as you’d like it to actually be, paralyze you:  You don’t need to get everything done tomorrow. 

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I feel bad

I went to law school and I wish I hadn’t.

I have thought that before.  I wonder how many others have as well.

But it really does no good to feel badly about our decision to go to law school and choose law as a career.  What’s done is done.  We are now . . . right now . . . yup, right now . . . living our own life movies.  We are the star in the movie called our lives and the audience is watching, has paid a ticket to watch, and is on the edge of its seat to see what we do next, how we face our challenges and come out ahead and be cool, or rich, or happier, or more free, or . . .

Nor does it help to think of what you could have done differently.  It’s 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 – do I apply to law school . . . or apply for that sales job at that little tech company Yahoo or Google? (or for more recent graduates, YouTube, Twitter or Zynga).  I can’t, and I won’t, beat myself up (anymore) over the fact that I chose to go to Hastings because it was closer to my house .

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The coolest thing

What was the coolest thing you did today?  Close a multi million dollar deal?  Score a huge new client?  Make partner?  Have your picture in the paper?

If any of the above happened to anyone in the last few days, please let me know, as I’d love to just hear the story.

For the rest of us, who didn’t have an outsized business success or make a bucket load of cash or party with their favorite celebrity recently, the art is in finding coolness in your normal day activities.

Like your commute – you may drive or bus through a particularly nice or interesting part of the City that tourists flock to but you take for granted.
Or your work – you may have written that last document in no time on a cool looking, lightweight netbook that you later sent to your Dropbox folder and accessed even later on your iPhone for a quick review while ferrying home on the Bay.

Or your down time – maybe you had a nice drink at a cool bar wearing your favorite suit and tie or outfit and just felt like a bad ass.

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Thinking (or not thinking) critically

For many of us, we may not have spent the time thinking critically about why we wanted to go to law school, and what it entailed to be a law student, and a lawyer.  We oftentimes didn’t, really, critically think about whether it was the best choice for us (myself included).  Many of us are more likely to spend more time researching the purchase of a TV (or a netbook or a piece of clothing or something more exciting) than we will critically thinking of our career or graduate degree choices.

I know, because I didn’t think critically at all about my decision to go to law school.

I went to UC Berkeley.  I studied abroad for my junior year and returned to Cal my senior year, with no clue as to what I was planning for post graduation.  Being Jewish, with a slight aversion to blood, a knack for public speaking and an attorney grandfather in my past, I chose law school as my post graduation path.  In order to not interfere with my studies or life too much, I grabbed the nearest law school review magazines and applied to the schools that were (i) the most highly ranked in light of my GPA and LSAT (ii) in cities I liked (iii) also the choices of my buddies. 

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Why did I go to law school?

Quick, raise your hand if you thought critically about your decision to go to law school.  If you did, please comment below and let me know what your process consisted of.

For the rest of us, who came up with one (or a variation) of the following reasons?

– Needed structure at that point in my life
– Don’t like blood.
– My father/mother/grandfather was a lawyer.
– I always wanted to be a lawyer.
– My ninth grade civics teacher said I was a good speaker.
– Growing up all of my friends and family said I should be a lawyer.
– I always thought being a lawyer was cool.
– Perry Mason.
– LA Law.

Does it still apply?

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Why leave law behind

As the title of this blog (and this site and the whole practice) suggests, we’re going to explore and discuss some reasons for, and ways to, leave the law behind.  Leaving certainly means different things for different people:  for some, it can mean leaving the grind altogether, resting on savings to catch one’s breath and then pursuing business and personal activities that more align with your passions and enjoyments.

For others, it can mean leaving certain portions of the law behind that are just not enjoyable or that productive.  Like leaving the firm grind.  Or getting out of (or back into) public service.  Or creating a solo practice with a specific focus . . . which lets you work from a cell phone and laptop (or netbook or iPad!) from anywhere.  Or creating a non legal business that builds on years of experience in the legal field.

Whatever the case may be, we’re going to discuss it here.  We’re going to delve into some issues that need exploring . . . that many attorneys and law students may not have asked themselves.  We’re going to hear from practicing attorneys their thoughts on what they like and don’t like about what they do day to day. 

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Leave Law Behind was featured on the front page of The Recorder

Read more at The Recorder or below.

The Road Less Traveled

The Recorder

By Petra Pasternak

July 16, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Long before the recession killed the job market, Casey Berman realized the law wasn’t for him.

Having launched a number of companies already — and sold one — now he’s launching another: a consultancy called Leave Law Behind through which he’ll hold the hand of disillusioned lawyers who want to start their own business.

On Tuesday night, the 1999 Hastings College of the Law graduate pitched an alternative path for J.D.s at his alma mater

“Tonight’s not about making a million dollars,” Berman said to a gathering of about 25 people. What it was about: transitioning to your own business, one with low overhead and a predictable monthly income, all while “doing something you love.”

Berman, a San Francisco native, said he first realized he was feeling like a cog in a wheel while working in house for Workshare, a local technology company. “I wasn’t feeling cool,” he said. “I wasn’t liking my day–to-day.” The money was there,

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