Right now, what value do we (unhappy, disgruntled) attorneys provide?
A lot actually.
We have specific knowledge (case law, what a client can do, what a client cannot do), we provide strategy (how to approach and navigate a case, what damages to ask for, how to best negotiate), and we ensure execution (getting documents drafted and finalized). And on and on.
People (partners and clients primarily) value all of this that we do.
Partners value it because the client has paid them to get all of this done and if they didn’t have us to do it all, they would have to find time to do it, or not be able to do it at all (and then have to forfeit the client’s money).
The client values all of this that we do because they need all of this for some important reason (to grow their business or personal situation, to protect their business or personal situation, to plan for the future, etc.)
And because we provide value for doing all of this, we are paid by the partners (from the client’s money) for the time it takes to do all of this.
Two people I recently worked with have just now left the law for alternative, non-law jobs that are in real good alignment with their skills and strengths and enjoyments.
Needless to say, when they told me they had received and accepted the job offer, I was ecstatic. They were ecstatic. It’s why we do this.
One comment jumped out. Constructing her Unique Genius narrative, one student told me, was how she was able to gain real momentum and confidence in leaving.
Once she felt good about her narrative, based on her Unique Genius skills and strengths, she could finally talk about herself (to friends, family, at informational interview coffees, in hiring interview meetings) with confidence, pride and clarity.
To put it another way, she said she could finally talk about herself without worrying she sounded pitiful or, alternatively, like a conceited *$&(%^$#.
Unique Genius, a refresher
One of the main tenets of Leave Law Behind is to not worry first about finding a non-law job, or what title our non-law job should have or what salary the non-law job should provide or what stature this non-law job carries with it.
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.
Lately I’ve received a lot of emails from younger attorneys, maybe just a year or two out of law school, who already know they want to do something else, but have no idea of what to do next.
Here is the story of West Kraemer, a Leave Law Behind reader, Florida attorney and recent ex-lawyer and newly minted programer and entrepreneur. He has some personal experiences I think you’ll find very interesting and actionable.
I left law behind to become a programmer, making websites and pursuing my dream of one day becoming an independent entrepreneur.
There are a few lessons I took from my transition that I would like to share, which would have smoothed my transition had I known them at the beginning of this process. I hope these lessons can help your transition go as efficiently as possible as you begin your process of leaving the law as well.
I constantly receive emails from many of you. Many of them are emails simply saying thanks.
You thank me for starting this blog. It has helped you leave the law, it has helped you feel not so alone, it has helped you to motivate to make change, it has helped you to take a first step.
I love getting these emails.
And the one thing I love as much as getting the emails is replying to these emails with my own thanks.
I thank you for taking the time to thank me.
I thank you for taking a baby step to just send me a note.
I thank you for providing me insight into your own personal situation.
I thank you for having the courage to ask for help and advice and where to go next.
I thank you for reading what I write, and commenting on it, providing me feedback, suggesting new ideas, and sending me resources and news for me to follow.
I thank you for being on the cutting edge of what’s possible for us unhappy,
Last week we discussed specifically how we can get over our fear that we can never make as much money in a non-law job as we do now as an attorney.
We now know that as we explore and identify and become comfortable with the skills and strengths we have that make up our Unique Genius, we then are in a great position to align with a job whose requirements call for these skills and strengths. This in turn then allows us to take the first step to professional alignment and clarity and happiness.
And we can make good money doing it.
To give this a bit more color and context, I thought today, it might bode well for us to get a handle on what money really is.
A very quick history of money
In short, money is a physical medium of exchange. We people can conveniently, reliably, and securely use money to acquire something (a product, a service, a set of labor, an experience) that we value.
A long, long time ago, before the invention of money (and yes,
One of the biggest hurdles we face in leaving the law is money.
Some of us make a lot of money as attorneys. Some of us do okay, and are able to pay our bills and our student loans and get by. And others of us are out of a job, or jumping from contract gig to contract gig, and money is a major source of our anxiety.
And whatever the case may be, we are unhappy or dissatisfied or out of sorts and want to leave the law but we feel that we can never make enough money if we were to leave and take a non-law job.
What we really make
According to the New York Times, first year BigLaw associates make around $160,000 a year.
According to CNN.com, most of the rest of us make $62,000 a year.
And in conversations with many of you, the salary figures are all across the board.
And so are our expenses – we have student loans of $100,000 to $200,000, mortgage, rent, kids’ college tuition, car loans,
Last week, we discussed why we unhappy, dissatisfied attorneys need to forgive ourselves for all of the things for which we had previously been hard on ourselves.
Our true self is not to be unhappy. Our true self is to be happy and full of self worth using our skills and strengths to add value to others.
It sounds great. And it is really true.
Now let’s act
And we also need to act. We all need to put things in motion, we all need to visualize, we all need to manifest … in order to bring about this true self.
It’s not necessarily hard work. It’s not necessarily work that’ll take forever.
But it is work that takes action … incremental, confidence-building action.
That is where baby steps come in. The “baby step” is the basis of leaving law behind. The baby step is so essential because leaving the law can be so difficult and overpowering and murky. Leaving the law takes internal exploration, courageous action, and consistent follow up.
I began law school in the Fall of 1996 here in San Francisco.
Around that same time here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Netscape went public (1995), Yahoo was founded and began hiring (1995), and Google was founded and began hiring (1998).
I can’t tell you how many times I have thought to myself why in the heck did I go to law school when I could have gotten a job, any job, any entry level job (and stock options) in one of these companies and made my riches by the time I was 27.
Like many of us lawyers who strive for perfection I was very hard on myself for not excelling in this thing called life. I would rip my insides up, compare myself to others who did “make it” and wish I had taken another path in life that didn’t involve going to law school.
But I don’t think this way any longer.
I forgave myself
I don’t think this way any longer because I forgave myself.
More specifically, I let go of feelings of resentment I had towards myself for things I had done,
While many of us want to leave the law altogether, some of us still want to consider finding a way to practice the law in a non-traditional, temporary, or part time way.
Those of us who are Moms and Dads want to know how to do this in order to be more present with their children. Those of us who are sick or disabled want to know how to do this in order to find ways to work that meet our special needs. Those of us who are just burnt out with the BigLaw lifestyle and want to leave the law want to know how to do this as a way to segue out of the law without losing a steady stream of income.
But for many of us, there has never been a real good fit between what we are looking for in an attorney job and lifestyle and what the current set of firms and organizations out there provide.
This is changing.
There are now many more alternatives. To help us understand the new companies and entities that are popping up to provide lawyers and clients with a new way to do and receive legal work,
Lately, I’ve been working through how to deal with fear.
In our lives as people in general, and as attorneys in particular, we face a lot of fears.
Some we share with most everyone else (fear of physical pain, of losing a loved one, of trying new things, of falling into depression, of loneliness, of embarrassment).
Others are more specific to us as attorneys (fear of making a typo on a brief, of making a mistake in front of a judge, of being incorrect on the legal precedent, of getting turned down as partner, of being sued for malpractice, of not being able to make our law school loan payments).
And we have many, many fears when it comes to leaving the law (we’re afraid we won’t be able to convince someone else to hire us, we’re afraid to tell our firm we actually want to leave, we’re afraid we won’t be able to say we’re really a lawyer anymore, we’re afraid it won’t be easy, we’re afraid we will be ridiculed and doubted).