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).
Last week I had a great conversation with an attorney who I had worked with to leave the law. He is about to begin working at a small tech start up.
While he was dissatisfied at his firm job and wanted a completely new space in which to work and was excited about this new non-law job, what was most interesting and ironic about his transition was that as he came closer and closer to leaving the law, and more and more excited about the possibility to do something new, he also found it harder and harder to let go of his identity as a lawyer.
It was difficult for him to accept that he wouldn’t be working (or viewed by others) as a lawyer … in the traditional sense.
We feel that there is still an allure to being a lawyer. We feel being a lawyer shows people that we are smart, that we make money, that we have control, that we can be trusted and relied upon.
We feel it commands respect. We feel it shows we have our act together.
So when we actually leave the law and begin to call ourselves another title,
As I’ve written about before, my five year old son is devoted to one thing in his life right now … Star Wars Legos toys.
These Lego sets and ships he entertains himself with on his play table (and that I help construct) are not that simple to complete. That’s why Lego provides a detailed set of instructions for each ship. These instructions can run over 60 pages and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to complete. The instructions help turn a disparate set of multi-colored pieces into a gleaming, proportioned, fully integrated Lego toy to admire and play with.
It can be a lot of hard work following those instructions to the detail. I feel so accomplished and productive when I’m done.
So recently, I was a bit startled when I saw that my son had partially deconstructed and adapted what I had worked so hard to build, into some crazy, cockamamie ships and sets.
He added Gunguns to the Wookie Gunship. He moved around the trees of the Ewok Village. He had Luke and Anakin both flying in the Interceptor with red (and not the standard green) missiles.
I was on vacation recently with my wife and two kids. And while it does take some time for me to disconnect from my normal life when we go on vacation, we were able to ultimately arrive at a nice and mindful and fun routine.
One way we did so was by catching up on movies (read: Pixar and Dreamworks kid movies) each night. We watched a number of them including Night at the Museum, Planes 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
He shouldn’t have listened
The main character of Mr. Peabody is a highly intellectual and accomplished cartoon dog that has adopted a human boy, Sherman.
In the movie, Peabody and Sherman suffer the usual suspects: a bully at Sherman’s new school, bad people who don’t understand why a dog would raise a boy, and history and world influencing mishaps while traveling back and forth in their time machine.
It’s the time traveling part that I found interesting and applicable to us.
In one scene from the Renaissance time,
This week, I am very excited to have former BigLaw attorney now author Amy Impellizzeri come by Leave Law Behind to answer a few questions that seem to always come up for many of us looking to leave the law.
And Amy is perfectly positioned to help us out. Amy practiced for thirteen years as a corporate litigator at Skadden Arps in New York City. She left the law, became a start-up executive and now is a full time author.
Her most recent book is a non-fiction piece, Lawyer Interrupted, published through the American Bar Association. I was honored to be interviewed by Amy for the book, along with others in the space like Liz Brown and Marc Luber. It’s an extremely informative, well written and entertaining description of what it takes to leave the law (buy the book).
So, without further ado, let’s ask Amy some of our pressing questions!
How can an unhappy attorney “give up” all they worked on to become an attorney (law school,