[Reader’s story] The real life guide to living your dream

I love hearing stories from the Leave Law Behind community, of people first realizing they want to do something different to those people who take that first step and actually leave and do something else.

Here is the story of Chris Keefer, a Leave Law Behind reader, and former Indiana based attorney lawyer who recently left the law and went back to school to pursue his dream of sports management. I think you’ll find some very actionable and motivating  pieces of advice from Chris’ experience.

 

It all started the evening of October 31, 2014.  After a week-long highly contentious jury trial with nearly every trick thrown at us, we anxiously awaited while deliberations took place.  After the verdict was read in our favor, the excitement subsided much faster than it ever had before.   I would have the weekend to recuperate, but would soon have to return to battling with partners for resources on other pending matters, to say nothing of the battles with opposing counsel in those matters.  After nearly 16 years, the practice had become less and less about helping clients start and grow their businesses,

Continue Reading

Real life stories of lawyers who have left the law

brown_liz

When Casey asked me to write a blog for Leave Law Behind, I asked myself what would be most helpful to the LLB community. Having interviewed hundreds of former lawyers, and profiling 30 of them in my book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have, I thought it might be helpful to offer some specific, practical, realistic advice on how to leave the law for a more rewarding career. I hope these guidelines will help get you through what is rarely a simple or straightforward process.

First, let me tell you a bit about me. In 2009, I was a partner in an international law firm and had been in private practice for a dozen years.   Although I enjoyed law at first, as my 20s became my 30s, I found litigation more and more draining. It took having my daughter for me to finally take a somewhat blind leap out of my firm. Despite being miserably sleep-deprived, my maternity leave was the most fun I had had in years. As I developed my new career after a few false starts, I learned so much from interesting ex-lawyers all over the country that I decided to write the book I wished I had had when I was trying,

Continue Reading

If you are a lawyer battling depression, you may want to read this

Dan

My friend, Dan Lukasik, who runs the Lawyers with Depression website, asked me to post some information on his up-coming webinar “Getting Work Done While Depressed”, coming up on Friday, February 7th, 2014 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Here is more from Dan.

======

If you’re a lawyer that struggles with depression, you’re not alone.  Studies show that lawyers suffer from depression at a rate twice (20%) that of the general population.  When put in perspective, that means that 240,000 of this country’s 1.2 million lawyers are struggling with depression right now.

These findings are not about sadness, the blues or even burnout, but true clinical depression.  According to the Mayo Clinic, to be diagnosed with major depression by a health care professional you need to have some of the following symptoms most of the day, every day:

Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness

Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters

Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex

Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much

Tiredness or lack of energy,

Continue Reading

Nine Non-Legal Jobs You Can (Really, Truly) Do With a Law Degree

Many of us unhappy attorneys are tired, exhausted and frustrated with the practice of law. We are confused as to how, after all of the work we did in law school, all of the loans we took out, all of the hard work we did as an associate attorney, we now sit 3, 5, 8, 12 or more years in and wonder “I’m not happy. How did this happen?”

So, we decide, yes, we want to leave the law behind and do something else. We want to find another job that pays well, that provides us with meaning and self-worth. And we are encouraged by that oft repeated advice “You can do anything with a law degree.”

And so we begin to think of other things to do, anything. But soon, this optimistic phrase that is supposed to encourage us can actually begin to stress us out. First, it’s human nature, that if we have too many choices, it can be difficult to choose just one. We waffle, we are indecisive, and so instead of relishing the vast opportunity of choices a law degree and legal training put at our disposal, we often times become paralyzed by these potential choices.

Continue Reading

Why lawyers shouldn’t try too hard to get over their fears

[This post originally appeared on the site and blog Lawyers With Depression]

Many of us attorneys suffer from fear. Our fears can get in the way of just about anything and everything. They can get in the way of our dreams and goals and big plans. They can also get in the way of our daily productivity and our basic tasks.

For both attorneys looking to leave the law and do something else, and those lawyers who want stay in the law and improve their practice, our fears are often our greatest obstacle to moving forward and making progress.

There are many specific fears we can suffer from:

– I’m afraid that I’m not reaching my own potential
– I’m afraid of what I’ve become
– I’m afraid I don’t have a life any more
– I’m afraid I don’t see my family as much as I want to
– I’m afraid of that pain in my chest, and that anxiety in my stomach
– I’m afraid that I’m so unhappy
– I’m afraid I’m a fraud and everyone will soon find out
– 

Continue Reading

Ditching the Suit: From Corporate Law to Online Startup

I remember the exact moment I realized I wasn’t happy practicing law. I was sitting in my office on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for the phone to ring. The partner I worked for had made it a habit to ask me to come to the office on weekends and wait for him to call. It was a very nice and spacious office above the 30th floor, with a view of downtown Manhattan and the Hudson River. The visitors’ chairs were nicer than any chair in my parents’ house in Brooklyn or any chair I could have afforded before or after going to law school. The large wood desk conveyed prestige and expertise. The bookcases contained very impressive leather bound books that I was yet to read. The view of the Freedom Tower construction was spectacular.

It wasn’t easy for me to make it to big law. I wasn’t born in America, my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my law school education, I didn’t go to an Ivy League undergraduate school, and English was not my primary language. I had many excuses I could have made for myself, and many that I did make. Everyone was so proud when little old me,

Continue Reading

One clear reason that I knew I wanted to leave law behind

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is a guest post by a current technology transactions attorney and first time guest blogger on Leave Law Behind.  Here, he tells us how and why identifying a specific reason that he wants to leave law behind has been helpful in his transition.]

In my journey to leave law behind, it has been helpful to identify and constantly remind myself of the concrete reasons why I want to leave. Of a few that I’ve been able to ascertain, one obvious example is a mismatch of my personal values with those of most in the legal profession.

I parted ways with a small boutique law firm a while back. Although I wasn’t fired, the separation was very difficult. For a period of time after I left I placed a lot of the blame on myself and even began to question my competence as a professional.

A few months later I continued to reflect on the situation, still uncomfortable with how things had ended. I recalled that while at the firm we frequently received junk mail for various CLE offerings. The other attorneys would joke about how uninteresting these offerings seemed to them while I got really excited reading the pamphlets and thinking about learning something completely new and different.

Continue Reading

The Third Step in Leaving Law Behind – Do What You Are Good At

This article originally appeared on Above the Law.

As we discussed in the first and second articles 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 is about not letting our past undermine our future. More specifically, this step involves resolving any lingering demons law school may hold over your head (squeezing out more of an ROI from my law school “investment”, ensuring my identity is tied to being an attorney, what else would I do if I’m not a lawyer,

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

A proven guide to landing that first side gig

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is another guest post by a current criminal defense attorney, and frequent guest blogger on Leave Law Behind, as he details his ongoing experience in leaving law behind.  Last time, he talked about identifying those skills and strengths at which he excels and enjoys, what we call one’s Unique Genius.  This time, he tells us how landed an awesome side gig.]

It’s been about four months since I had a breakthrough in my quest to change careers: I landed a part-time, freelance writing gig with a legal information website.  Yes, I still have the same full-time job, and no, I don’t know what the next one will entail.  But, bearing in mind that a career transition is often a gradual process, I’m grateful to have gained some traction.  Here’s how it happened.

Thinking about my Interests

Though I haven’t necessarily found my “one true calling”—if there really is such a thing—I’ve long known that I like to write. I especially like it when I’m not responding to a sharply worded letter or burning the midnight oil to finish an opposition brief. So, a while ago I decided that,

Continue Reading