I speak with a lot of unhappy attorneys who want to leave the law.
Some are just in a momentary bad phase and are really meant to be lawyers.
Others are not so sure, and want to remain as lawyers for some time more, to test it out a bit.
And some are so unhappy they are dying to leave the practice of law behind right now.
In working with these groups, there are three surefire signs that you shouldn’t stick around any longer and you may want to consider leaving the law now.
1. You’re bored practicing the law.
Don’t get me wrong, in our fast paced world, where we have little time to think, being bored sometimes can actually be a good thing: it lets us ponder, reflect, take a breath.
But it’s not good to be consistently bored at our job that takes up one-third to one-half of our waking hours.
Being bored means you likely don’t care about the job. It means you find the job of an attorney to be dull, uninspiring, uninteresting, tedious or monotonous. This results from not being connected to the clients,
One of the first questions I ask people who call me to leave the law is “Why do you want to leave the law?”
And if the answer isn’t convincing, I won’t work with them to leave. Rather, we’ll focus on reexamining why, whether and how they could remain as a practicing lawyer.
That’s what we touch on in Episode 4 & Episode 5 of our Love or Leave the Law Podcast.
We focus on how law can, yes, be an amazing profession. We return to our roots, and discuss what made us go to law school to begin with.
We talk about how to re-energize our practice. How to assess whether our strengths and skills are a true fit with practicing law.
We touch on how to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and how we can really use creativity as a lawyer in many ways.
And most of all, we lay out the work to do, so if we do want to leave the law, we’re positive it’s the right decision for us.
If you’re deciding whether to leave the law …
Three things I’m excited about and wanted to share with you all:
1. I’m planning on doing a live event in San Francisco soon. If you’d like to be one of the first to pre-order tickets, Contact Me and I’ll put you on the list.
2. Love the article “How to Navigate a Career Change” a LLB client who left the law for technology just sent in, to share with you the Leave Law Behind audience. The part around how being older can really be an advantage really resonated with me.
3. Want to take a babystep to leave the law? It’s easy – schedule a free 15 minute time to speak with me. We share experiences, we discuss tips on how to leave, and most of all, you’ll realize you’re not alone 🙂
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For many of the clients I work with, leaving the law is not in question: They are so unhappy, unfulfilled, and burned out that there is no question they want to leave. We focus on moving forward to do so.
But others of us aren’t so sure. We find a lot we don’t align with in the practice of law, but there is a lot that does: We may be legal subject matter experts, or just need to refresh the types of clients we work with or need to make more money.
That’s why Adam Ouellette, a Florida licensed attorney, and fellow Leave Law Behind reader, author, and speaker and I have created the podcast called “Love or Leave the Law”. It’s a point/counterpoint format, where we discuss how to (re) love the law again … or find ways to leave it.
And the podcast is inspiring unhappy attorneys just like you to not feel so alone, and to begin to act … which is why Adam and I began the podcast in the first place. One listener wrote in recently to tell us
“Over the weekend I started checking out the videos and listened to the first session of the Love or Leave the Law podcast.
I made a typo in a blog post a few years back, and a number of readers noticed it. They took the time to email me and point out the error I made. It bummed me out that whole day, and as you can tell, I have not forgotten about it …
I may have left the law, but I still battle with the lawyer’s perfectionism. I still bristle sometimes at “constructive” criticism. I still have areas of me that want to be perfect from the outset. I still don’t want to fail.
And the advice many “experts” or motivational speakers give on how to handle failure often isn’t that helpful: embrace failure, failure is the first step to success, you only know what you want from failing, and on and on.
Sure, make sense. But it’s still general, nebulous advice that can be difficult to get our arms around.
And this advice doesn’t lessen the blow at all. Failing hurts. It’s hard to be comfortable with. We lawyers instinctively want to avoid it.
Two kinds of failure
But recently, the value of failure became more clear to me.
I remember asking a client who successfully got an informational interview lined up with a tech CEO how he was able to call the busy CEO and get to talk to him and get time on his calendar.
“I called him” was my client’s response.
He just did it. He called the CEO.
He didn’t let his fear or anxiety or risk of embarrassment make him hesitate or back away from the task at hand.
The Five-Second Rule
It reminds of a great TedX talk from Mel Robbins, CNN correspondent, life coach, motivational speaker and law school grad. In it, she expands on her popular Five-Second Rule.
The Rule says that anytime you have an idea that seems like a sure thing, act to advance it within five seconds. Don’t hem and haw, don’t hesitate, don’t not-act.
Act within 5 seconds. Make the call. Raise your hand. Click the button. Write down the idea.
Something. Do something within 5 seconds of the idea, but just don’t do nothing. Because science has proven that if you don’t act within 5 seconds,
I took Tax Law as a 2L.
I struggled. I was a liberal arts major in undergrad, and was not used to doing problem sets. The professor was renowned, but I was intimidated by him and never went to office hours to improve.
And plus, Tax is just really hard.
I had ignored my homework, so I arrived at school early one morning to get it done before class. I plopped down in a chair at the school cafe, opened up my book, took out the worksheet, and continued to feel totally stumped …
… until I saw a fellow Tax classmate at a nearby table. He sat in the front row, was focused throughout class, answered most questions and was the resident Tax class expert.
He also was a really nice guy. And when I asked him if he had a few minutes to help me with the homework, he happily obliged. He explained the concepts to me clearly and with his help I got them done in less than fifteen minutes.
Wow, I said to him, thank you. If I may ask, how did you get so good at Tax?
I watched a video recently of actor Will Smith speaking about his first sky diving trip.
He talked about how he only agreed to go sky diving after being forced into it over dinner and drinks with a group of friends. They all wanted to go, he didn’t want to be the only one not to go, so he said he was in. Peer pressure even works on famous celebrities.
But he was very afraid of jumping out of the plane.
He was too afraid to sleep. He was too afraid to eat.
The fear was a feeling caused by his belief that jumping out of the plane was going to put him in danger. It was going to cause him pain. Or loss or death or whatever else bad …
The fear of course only grew as he entered the plane. As they climbed to 14,000 feet. As the door opened. As the wind rushed in. As he stood at the edge of doorway.
And then he was pushed.
And as he dropped out of the plane … he said it was the most exhilarating experience he has ever had.
I think you’re going to like one of our recent podcast episodes at “Love or Leave the Law“.
As many of you know, Love or Leave the Law is a point/counterpoint format, where Adam Ouellette (a fellow Leave Law Behind reader, author and founder of www.EsquireAcademy.com) and I discuss how to (re) love the law again … or find ways to leave it.
In this recent episode, we focus on the major obstacles that we unhappy attorneys face in leaving the law.
Deciding to actually leave the law can be a watershed moment in an unhappy attorney’s life. But it also is just the first step of many. In this episode of Love or Leave the Law, Adam and I begin discussing the underlying fears that serve as the main obstacles to leaving the law: The Fear Of the Unknown, the Fear of Risk & Failure and the Fear of Social Disapproval.
I hope you enjoy.
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What’s very unique and strategic about the Leave Law Behind Program we teach, and also somewhat frustrating and drawn out for my clients, is that we do not right away focus on what new (non-law, alternative) jobs to pursue.
Strategic … and (initially) frustrating
This approach is unique and strategic because we want our job search to first be informed by our Unique Genius.
We do not just want to go from one job we don’t like (lawyer) to another job, that may sound kind of interesting, but which we may also not really like that much.
We first need to focus on gaining a deep understanding of our skills and strengths and enjoyments, our Unique Genius, and then let this sincere catalog of what we’re good at inform the next steps we take.
Takes some time and introspection, but almost guarantees we end up focusing on jobs that we really like and that align with our skills.
But this approach can also be frustrating. We attorneys want to know right now what this process will result in. We want to know right now how the end game will play out.