The Second Step in Leaving Law Behind – Cut Your Losses

This article originally appeared on Above the Law.

As we discussed in the first article of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed.

The second step in leaving law behind? Before getting one’s resume ready or applying for jobs or networking, the second step often involves getting over law school. Or in other words . . . cutting your losses. Or to be more blunt: Move on. Stop living in the past. Stop thinking you need to eke out more of a return on your law school investment. Focus on the road ahead.

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How to remove the risk from leaving law behind

I'm going in

 I’m going in.

I spoke with an attorney recently, and we had a great conversation about the issues she faces with the BigLaw firm at which she works. The lack of female attorneys for mentoring. The long hours. The dwindling chances of becoming a partner. Her mild depression as a lawyer. Her unhappiness as a lawyer. The allure of working in tech or marketing (or anywhere else “hip”). The realization that there is a bigger (and more lucrative) world out there than just being a litigator.

It was a great conversation and I’m happy to say that she is encouraged by all of the potential that exist for her beyond the firm and the law.

But she isn’t leaving the law. Nope. No time soon. She’ll be at her firm for a long while. She admitted as much to me.

Why? She feels that leaving the law is too risky. She feels that the potential for some sort of (huge, unmanageable) loss to arise from her leaving the law is too great for her to attempt it. Running out of money. Inability to pay her bills.

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How a lost dog can teach you to leave law behind

We see “Lost Pet” posters all the time.  Grainy pictures usually of sweet looking dogs or cats pasted into a Word document, printed up and duct-taped to neighborhood telephone poles.  Usually there is a big headline (“LOST DOG” or “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?”), a physical description of the pet (Male, 2 years old, Rottweiler mix), a name (“Obie” but also answers to “Tater” or “Daddy’s boy”), a last location (“Last seen near Lake Merced”), maybe a reward ($50) and a plea (“Her family is very worried.  They miss and love her very much”).

And as we pass the telephone pole, even in our rush, we may look around and check to see if, by chance, a dog or cat resembling this description is lurking by anywhere.  And when of course it isn’t, we imagine a scared little animal running around the streets.  We shudder a bit, feel sorry for the cold animal as well as the eight-year old who just lost her pet, and then we walk on, move on.  Not much we can do, really.

But there is.  While we may not locate the lost pet, we can seize on a valuable babystep to leave the law behind. 

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