I am a big fan of the J.R.R. Tolkien books.
I just re-read the classic “The Hobbit”, and it inspired me to shoot a short video about what the hero of the story, Bilbo Baggins, did time and time again … and how what he did is something we all need to do as we leave the law. Watch the video here. I hope you enjoy it.
Are you ready to leave the law? Are you really serious that now is the time for you to explore your dream career?
If so, you have found your tribe.
At Leave Law Behind, we have developed the proven process to find your dream career. Click here to find out how it can work for you.
I recently emailed with a fellow member of the Leave Law Behind Online Coaching Program who is at the exciting stage of identifying and then interviewing for careers out of the law.
She’s building momentum – some of these job descriptions are shaping up to be a fit with her Unique Genius … with her skills and strengths.
But as we reviewed many of these specific jobs, her fears and self-sabotage of the actual change required to leave the legal profession would still arise.
This manifested specifically through her saying “I don’t …“, as in:
- “I don’t think I want to do [“NON-LAW” JOB X] ”, or
- “I don’t know much about [THIS ASPECT OF “NON-LAW” JOB X], so I guess I won’t pursue it” … and on and on.
Fear of change
Saying “I don’t” is a manifestation of our fear of change. It’s a way we think we protect ourselves from the unknown … but we are really just sabotaging our growth and development.
So she and I worked together on some new ways to re-phrase … or reposition … or rethink …
I broke my foot recently. Freak jogging accident. On crutches for four weeks, and then a walking boot for another four. But no surgery needed, and I’m healing well.
And while I can see my injured foot each time I look down, my recuperation has made me think of other injuries we suffer from, but cannot see that easily … many of which firmly get in the way of our path to leaving the law.
There’s a big revelation in the short video I shot this week, and it’s one that you absolutely need to consider and face as you explore leaving the law.
To your success,
We attorneys have been trained to be right.
Whether it’s in a contract negotiation, a trial, an interaction with a law firm partner or advising a client, we are trained to be right.
Doesn’t mean we always come out on top, but we sure do try.
Because being right is synonymous in our eyes with being strong and in control and admired and winning and valued and making it and success.
And that need to be right all of the time continues as we explore leaving the law.
But needing to be “right” as we leave the law can also be one of our biggest blockers to leaving. Because instead of being right about a fact or a point of law or a policy, we instead perpetuate being right about why we can’t or shouldn’t or won’t leave the law.
- I know for near-certainty that I’m not worthy of a non-law job.
- I’m sure I could never do the work of leaving the law.
- I’m 99.9% positive I will never make in a non-law job the money I make now as an attorney.
I was recently interviewed for a book about going to law school and the future of the legal profession in general.
The author sent me a draft copy to review and proof read for my sections.
And as I read more than just the sections in which she quoted me 🙂 I stumbled upon a fascinating 2009 quote from Justice Scalia that I wanted to share with you.
In response to a question about whether the quality of legal counsel appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court was too low, Scalia responded that he felt the opposite … and wondered aloud why so many bright minds were even entering the practice of law. Here’s what he said:
“I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.
“I mean there’d be a … public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?
“I mean lawyers,
Recently I had a government form I need to fill out. I received the notice a while back, glanced at it briefly and then filed it away and put it off until last week (completing it a day before the deadline).
I realized that I took so long to complete the form because I had a number of blockers (or fears) getting in my way:
- I just don’t like bureaucracy and forms and paperwork. It’s just not part of my Unique Genius. I get overwhelmed when I think of stuff I need to fill out. I can say “that’s just me” but really it’s a belief system I have.
- I was annoyed I even had to fill this out. I’m a dutiful citizen, but I still can’t help feel that a government form gets in the way of my work, my family time, and my life. I mean, c’mon, there is too much paperwork in our lives already!
- Also, I don’t like actual paper. I am a digital person nowadays … I was going to have to print up these forms, I would need to write a hard copy check,
My son and I were in line at my neighborhood cafe here in San Francisco when he pulled on my sleeve and told me to look up.
High up on the walls was a large, subtle 180 degree mural of the neighborhood right outside the door: Our area’s hills, valleys, houses, schools, roads. It was beautiful and lifelike and done in such an understated way, that it pulled you in without you even realizing it.
But there was more. If you look very carefully, you can see that the muralist included small phrases and messages and questions throughout the nooks and crannies of the mural. Below the rain gutter of a house. Hidden on a roof.
The one my eyes jumped to was “What kind of stories do you tell?”
What stories do you, unhappy attorney, tell yourself?
What stories do you tell yourself … that keep you in the place you are right now?
- I am [insert religious/ethnic/culture group here] and being a lawyer is just what we do.
- I was a liberal arts major, so I can’t do anything but be a lawyer.
“The ultimate measure of a man or woman is not where he or she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he or she stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
This is one of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes.
It has inspired me to act to drive positive change, for myself and others in my life. It has taught me to embrace the unknown and the uncertain and the difficult as evidence of my growth and progress … rather than to be feared as insurmountable obstacles, barriers or inevitable failure.
Even if our individual goals seem much smaller than those of MLK’s, we can still drive insight from his wisdom.
While you, an unhappy attorney who wants to leave the law, might suffer from anxiety and depression and stress in your work, you actually exist and live and work in a certain level of comfort.
You know what to expect each day. You are making money. You are paying your bills. You have stature in your social circles. You are pleasing the people around you. Things are okay.
Things are not unknown or ambiguous or severely risky.
As lawyers, we cannot fail.
Failing means we forget a precedent. We miss a court deadline. We negotiate poorly. We lose a case for a client.
And as a result, we fear being sued for malpractice. We fear losing a chance at partnership. We fear losing the client. We fear breaching our fiduciary duty.
We cannot fail. It’s part of our job description as attorneys, and it’s become part of our personal psyche.
Failure is now not only an option, it’s a pre-requisite
Fortunately, that is not the case when we leave the law.
We change this belief system. Failure is not looked at as a death sentence, it’s looked at as a learning experience. It’s considered a right of passage, a way to test and experiment, a way to get stronger.
I view failure as just another word for “babystep” to success.
For example, for one of my clients last year, we identified three main job areas that could have been a fit for his Unique Genius (his skills, strengths and enjoyments) and for us to explore.
But the Strategy Consulting lifestyle had too much travel.
If you read Leave Law Behind, then you want to stop practicing law and land a new “non-law”, alternative job.
An alternative job that aligns with your skills and strengths, a job you enjoy and are confident at, a job in which you find meaning and purpose.
But if you haven’t left already, it’s because you’re afraid.
- Afraid that you won’t be able to make enough money in a non-law, alternative job.
- Afraid that you will ruin your long term career trajectory or cap your earning potential.
- Afraid of the general unknown and uncertainty of leaving the law.
- Afraid of disappointing or getting grief from your family and friends and work colleagues if you were to leave the law.
- Afraid that you can’t do anything else but practice the law.
So my promise to you this year is I’m going to help you became less and less and less afraid about leaving the law.
And more and more and more confident about making this transition.
So these big overwhelming boogeyman fears shrink into de-mystified, overcome-able issues that no longer paralyze you to change your life for the better.