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?
I started keeping a journal ever since the big earthquake hit San Francisco in 1989. Watching the fires in the City on television, my grandmother said, You should write this stuff down. So I started writing stuff down. I’ve kept a journal ever since.
And especially throughout law school.
As a 2L struggling in CrimPro class, I wrote that “my confidence was running on fumes”. I understood Due Process in theory, but the rest of the class was really difficult for me: The Exclusionary Rule, the exceptions to it, Herrera, Miranda.
I was lost.
I felt like a fraud.
My confidence was running on fumes.
But I took comfort in the fact that while I wasn’t excelling at law school, people told me that being a lawyer was much different. That law school really didn’t teach you real life practices, and once I became a working lawyer, I’d find my groove.
That made me feel better. I was resting my future on that.
But when I became a lawyer, now doing in-house software licensing, this lack of confidence didn’t subside. It actually became more severe,
“Yeah, it’s okay, it’s not horrible, it’s alright, I mean . . . it’s cool.”
You may think of yourself as a great, fun, generous, exciting person.
You may consider your job as an attorney, however, to be just okay. And since you spend a good part of your life at your job, if your job is just okay, then it may be safe to say that a good part of your life is, likewise, just okay.
Imagine your eulogy: “He/She was such a great person. Miss him/her so much. His/her life? Well . . . it was . . . okay, yeah, not horrible. I’d give his/her life a 5.5 overall. Maybe a 6.”
If you’re ready to make your life great, please explore the consulting I offer to help you land that non-law, alternative job.
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My 7 year old son and 10 year old daughter are so curious and inquisitive. Exploring, asking, wondering, probing, arguing.
It got me thinking that I have let my curiosity lapse.
Of course, I’m 43 years old and know more than they do.
But this isn’t about me knowing more than my children, so I don’t have to be inquisitive.
Rather, it’s about how we attorneys have been trained to forgo the curiosity that drives our personal creativity and wonder, and replace it with what makes a good lawyer: risk aversion, persuasion, diplomacy, attention to detail.
I encourage you to reactivate your curiosity. It’s key to leaving the law.
That’s what I talk about in today’s video (it’s short, a bit over 4 minutes):
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I went back and looked at the work I had done with all of the people that I have helped to leave the law.
They were once in your position, only dreaming of quitting their attorney job, and then we began working together and they transformed their life.
Like the 40 year old mother of two who transitioned from her government litigation role and become the director of Operations at a technology company.
Like the unhappy career BigLaw litigator who shifted careers and become the editor and team leader of an intellectual property periodical.
And what struck me was while all of these unhappy attorneys were diverse in so many ways, there was one particular trait they all developed.
That’s what I talk about in today’s video (it’s short, a tad bit over 3 minutes):
And PS If you stay til the end, you’ll hear a special announcement which can really kick start you to explore leaving the law.
Click here to learn more about how you too can land your first non-law, alternative job: http://leavelawbehind.com/land-alternative-non-law-job-coaching
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I was answering a question on Quora yesterday and I saw a heartbreaking essay that an anonymous member wrote about how he or she hated being an attorney.
Beginning at 6.30a each day, the writer detailed minute by minute, hour by hour, the tasks he or she had to complete along with the anxiety, stress, boredom and sheer hopelessness he or she felt until collapsing into bed at 2am.
What struck me was how out of control this person felt.
The writer’s day was controlled by the client, the senior partner and deadline after deadline.
But there was one area I saw where he or she had an opportunity to reclaim a very important sense of control.
That’s what I talk about in today’s video (below):
Click here to learn how to leave your law practice behind and get that first “non-law” job interview.
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We’ve accomplished a lot of difficult things in our lives as attorneys.
We scored well on the LSAT.
We passed our law school exams, and then the bar.
We’ve done the hard legal research, we’ve written the lengthy briefs, we’ve drafted the detailed agreements and we’ve argued persuasively against opposing counsel and before judges.
And for many of these tasks, we wished we could have just snapped our fingers and had this work drafted, proofread and completed.
But since there is no magic bullet, we did the next best thing – we tried to get leverage in some way. We got study guides or got the help of a tutor or joined a study group or fired up Lexis or pulled in an associate to help us.
But leaving the law is different. It’s hard to motivate to leave. It’s hard to admit we want to do something else. It’s so hard to change.
How to get leverage to leave the law
Leverage is the use of something else in order to gain the maximum advantage.
It’s why the Phoenician sailors began to use the wind and the Egyptian pyramid builders used levers and pulleys.
My 7 year old son is a smart kid. His teacher said he’s very academically advanced and is very passionate about the subjects he likes, such as math, endangered species, fantasy stories and farming.
But she also said that when he is faced with a new, challenging or unclear task, his motivation drops dramatically.
My son will say he doesn’t want to do such-and-such challenging task because he is tired or bored or hungry.
But his teacher observed that my son likely opts out of attempting such-and-such challenging task so as to avoid failing at it.
Does this sound like you?
We all know that we perfectionist attorneys are afraid of making a mistake, especially in attempting to leave the law behind for an alternative career.
We do not want to fail. We may not have faith in ourselves to follow through. We do not want to disappoint others.
We want to please people. We’re ambitious. And we likely haven’t even thought there could be a future beyond just being a lawyer.
And so we don’t act.
But success in leaving the law is not about being perfect.
Yesterday, we talked about the mistake of omission … the mistake we make by not doing something we know we should do.
Another way of saying this is you do not act and live and model a life that lets the world know the gift you have inside of you.
You do not take the time to build the courage to find the best way for you to add value to others.
You do not take the time to be the leader and teacher you can be.
Years ago, Henry David Thoreau put it this way:
“Most men [and women] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
More recently, motivational speaker Les Brown pushed us by saying:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step,
This week I want to focus on something that prevents so many of us from leaving the law … and that is the fear of making a mistake.
A mistake is traditionally defined as an action or judgment that is wrong or misguided.
We do or think of something, and if it isn’t successful, or not validated by others, or doesn’t make enough money, ugh, we made a mistake.
The fear of a mistake is what prevents us from taking any steps to leave the law and positively change our life.
It’s what causes the paralysis that makes us remain unhappy attorneys.
Warren Buffett’s mistakes
But Warren Buffett surfaces a different definition of mistake.
When asked “What is the biggest mistake you have made?” the greatest investor of all time said that some of his biggest mistakes were the times he decided to not act at all.
While sitting on the sidelines has its merits at times, my interpretation of his comments is these are the times his soul told him to make an investment or to reach out and connect with someone or to try something,