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.
Originally published on December 15th, 2017 on Above the Law’s Career Center.
So many of us attorneys do not like the practice of law. You suffer under the anxiety and boredom and repetition and isolation and stress of being a lawyer.
But you still don’t leave the practice behind. You don’t make that career shift. You don’t change your life for the better.
It’s mainly because of the crippling fears that keeps you locked in a paralyzing figure 8 cycle of hating your current lawyer job, but not moving to something new because of your overwhelming fear of the unknown and erroneous belief that you cannot do anything else but be a lawyer.
You are afraid. So you wait. You procrastinate. You delay. Even though you cannot ignore the burning desire to leave the law and do something else.
I know that fear very well. It crippled me until I finally left the law behind in July 2004.
Below are the three main ways these fears manifest themselves, with some ideas on how to overcome them:
Fear #1 Fear of making less money and capping our lifetime earning potential
Most of your fear that keeps you from leaving the law revolve around money.
There are thousands of people who subscribe to receive this weekly email.
Many of you are using the Leave Law Behind Coaching Program to empower yourself to overcome your fears of leaving your practice and to find that “non-law”, alternative job and change your life.
You seriously want to leave the law. You feel very out-of-sorts and not right as an attorney. You want to achieve a life of alignment and purpose and confidence and happiness.
Happiness is a result of the process
Those of you using the Program want, in large part, to be happy. And as we work together, you are beginning to realize what “happiness” really means, and that, as author Mark Manson (who I’m reading a lot of now) says, happiness is the process of becoming your ideal self.
But becoming who you really, really, really should be is not always seamless. It’s not always guaranteed. It’s not always perfect.
But it is meaningful. It is thoughtful. It is growth. It is development. It is sincere. It is authentic. It is strength. It is what you are here to do.
And this growth and satisfaction happens to you when you begin to have faith in yourself and take real substantial steps to leave the law,
About twenty attorneys just like you showed up last night here in San Francisco for the first Leave Law Behind live event.
Munching on Mediterranean food and sipping wine in a historic subterranean theater, we had a two hour coaching program going through each step to leave the law.
And throughout it all, we faced, discussed, wrestled with and reduced the main thing blocking us from leaving the law behind: Our fears.
So many fears …
- Fear of going to a “non-law” job we end up hating
- Fear of entering a non-law industry we aren’t good at
- Fear of making less money and capping our lifetime earning potential
- Fear of disappointing our friends and family
- And the big one … the fear of the unknown
Afraid of the unknown. Not being able to 100% fully control our fate.
We are afraid. So we wait. We procrastinate. We delay.
I know that fear very well. I resolutely determined that I wanted to leave the law in April of 2003.
This week’s video was inspired by an email I received from a new subscriber to Leave Law Behind.
She signed up for a free consult with me, and said how excited she was to have found our community.
She told me how she has been trying to change her life, and leave the law, but has had to do it all alone. She’s been unhappy, anxious, regretful, and confused … all by herself.
She didn’t know about all of us. Now she does.
I shot a short video to just let you know, and reiterate, that if you are feeling alone, please realize we are all in this together: http://leavelawbehind.com/what-we-need-to-remember.