It is easy to find a message from somewhere in our culture celebrating “being different”.
Celebrities and star athletes and politicians all interest us because of their public uniqueness. At a high level, we shower praise on those courageous enough to go for their dream, to fight back for what is right, to do what they love, to make good money, to stand out, to act crazy, to speak their mind, to say what we only think, to break barriers, to fight the system, to drop out of school or the rat race, to do the unthinkable, to be funny or coarse, to push boundaries, to be eccentric, to be themselves.
Be the same
But at our level, our day-to-day, in-the-grind, working-as-an-attorney level, we are often conditioned to be “the same”. To blend in. To think like all the others.
This programming can come from our upbringing. Or from our schooling. Or specifically from law school. Or from the other attorneys we work with and around.
But since we are unhappy attorneys, we are different. We feel different.
We feel unfulfilled practicing the law. We want to do something else.
It is raining very hard. It is very quiet and so I can hear what seems like every rain drop on our roof and windows and balcony. It is very quiet because it is Saturday night and it is dark out and my children are asleep and my wife is asleep and the dog is asleep.
A big storm is passing over California. All week. We have had years of drought, so we all rejoice when we have wet winters.
But actually the television weather people don’t seem to be rejoicing much – they only gloomily talk about how there may be flooding and downed trees and power outages and food shortages. I prefer to listen to the rain and be thankful that we now have water.
I wondered a lot about what I was going to write this week, and so I ended up not writing much. I wondered and wondered and wondered. I wasn’t getting anywhere in my mind wondering so I didn’t even start writing. And that’s how I got to watching the weather on television.
I didn’t write because I didn’t have anything to write.
I have spent a lot of time during the holidays going to new movies with my two kids. As with many of you, we like to go to movies to have fun, to be distracted, to laugh as we relive the stories later on and to be inspired by how the characters overcome obstacles.
We can use the same idea to help us battle the obstacles many of us face in leaving the law … except this time, we are on stage.
When you envision your life as a movie, with you the hero or heroine and main star and an audience of ticket payers watching your every step and listening to your every line, you allow yourself the excitement and freedom to enjoy every minute of your life, and to find the courage to perform feats most people wouldn’t.
Stuck in traffic commuting? The audience is watching you look cool with your elbow hanging out the window listening to tunes.
In the middle of a stressful settlement meeting? The audience is rooting for you and on the edge of its seat to see how you will perform.
Hesitant to make a dramatic life choice?
One of the major obstacles to leaving the law is our need to be perfect. Our need to not make mistakes.
I shot this short video for you (it’s 3 1/2 minutes long) delving into this fear we have of imperfection, and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
Celebrate the mistake
Of course, as a practicing attorney, we need to be perfect (or close to it). We have our fiduciary duties, we have judges to impress, counsel to oppose, clients to serve. We need to be perfect or close to perfect, and that is part of the job.
It’s also a main source of all the stress and anxiety that we feel as attorneys. There isn’t much cushion to make a mistake as we practice law.
But in leaving the law, it’s actually quite the opposite. In leaving the law, in being in a non-law job, and in succeeding in the world out there, making mistakes is welcomed.
Making mistakes is often celebrated.
Making mistakes is recognized as necessary.
I’m always on the lookout for stories from the Leave Law Behind community, of people first realizing they want to do something different to those people who take that first step and actually leave and do something else.
Here is the story of Joseph Castelli, a Leave Law Behind reader, who recently left his BigLaw job doing M&A. He asked me if he could share how he just left the law.
Here it is. I think you’ll find it insightful, actionable and inspirational. I did.
The decision to leave my six-figure law firm job didn’t come quickly. But as I looked down into my desk drawer, I realized I had to do it. Lined up neatly were orange prescription bottles of Adderall, Xanax, Effexor, and various headache medicines. I had the Adderall to wake up in the morning, the Xanax to relax at night, and the Effexor as a backup if I had to stay all night at the office.
I knew the statistics. Lawyers suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse at higher rates than most professions. I could see it around me;
I shot this short video for you (it’s less than 5 minutes long) describing how I found what I’m good at and my Unique Genius is in alignment with the new podcast I’m launching (click here to sign up for free) …
… and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR UNIQUE GENIUS
As you may know, one of the most important parts of leaving the law behind is exploring our Unique Genius. And I put together this blog post to tell you a story of how I’ve continued to find out what I’m good at … what skills and strengths I excel at and enjoy doing.
In the past, we have gone to school and looked for jobs and planned a career based on criteria not necessarily in alignment with who each of us really are as a person. Our consideration in large part might have focused on money or security or stability or because our parents told us to or something else.
I shot this short video for you (it’s less than 3 minutes long) describing the best advice for leaving the law …
… and if you prefer reading, I jotted below some of the points I talk about in the video.
Recently my family and I attended a fantastic free science fair event at the baseball stadium at which the San Francisco Giants play.
We were part of a group of thousands of people on a sunny Saturday, getting to not only play and run around on the baseball diamond, but also to participate in tons of science experiments and activities set up on the field and throughout the stadium: Local companies, museums, science institutes and non-profits set up tents and stands educating us all about insects, chemical reactions, robotics, the environment, physics, curing diseases, traveling to Mars and more.
The best advice
One of the participatory exhibits about gravity encouraged my daughter and me to hook a small “ship” made of wooden popsicle sticks powered by a rubber band wound propeller to a thin plastic zip line a few feet off the ground and watch it go.
Last week I asked readers to schedule a time to speak with me. To talk about anything – to vent, to ask questions, to brainstorm next steps.
I’ve spoken with many of you. It’s been great. I hope I’ve been able to help, and I know I’ve learned so many insights from many of you.
And I wanted to share with everyone the three main, consistent themes that have surfaced in these talks.
For those who prefer auditory learning, I shot at the above short video for you (it’s short, just a bit over 3 minutes).
And for those of you who would rather read, I continue in more detail below.
We are not alone
So many of us looking to leave the law are battling with anxiety, self doubt and the fear of the unknown.
We are kicking ourselves for going to law school and doing work we don’t like. We feel we have wasted our time, our potential and our money. We don’t feel confident anyone else will every hire us.
And we feel we’re the only ones struggling with this.
We think a lot about leaving the law. But our actions may not match our thoughts, aspirations and hopes.
The good thing is we have our kids around us. Or people that look up to us. Or a conscience that keeps us honest.
These are great forcing factors to help us model the life we really want to live, and not just the life we think we should live, or the life we think others want us to live.
I shot this week’s video to talk to you about how a BigLaw attorney left the law to follow what he enjoys, and how his relationship with his kids really helped push him through his doubts and worries.
Click the below player to watch the video.
I hope you enjoy the video, and please leave your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to contact me directly.
Interested in my one to one coaching? Click here to schedule a free consult to talk to me directly to learn if the Leave Law Behind coaching is a fit for you.
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I love hearing stories from the Leave Law Behind community, of people first realizing they want to do something different to those people who take that first step and actually leave and do something else.
Here is the story of Chris Keefer, a Leave Law Behind reader, and former Indiana based attorney lawyer who recently left the law and went back to school to pursue his dream of sports management. I think you’ll find some very actionable and motivating pieces of advice from Chris’ experience.
It all started the evening of October 31, 2014. After a week-long highly contentious jury trial with nearly every trick thrown at us, we anxiously awaited while deliberations took place. After the verdict was read in our favor, the excitement subsided much faster than it ever had before. I would have the weekend to recuperate, but would soon have to return to battling with partners for resources on other pending matters, to say nothing of the battles with opposing counsel in those matters. After nearly 16 years, the practice had become less and less about helping clients start and grow their businesses,