To leave law behind, you need to meet with people. Other people are the best way to find out what we want to do with our life, and then help us find the resources to get there.
Of course this sounds obvious, but to leave law behind, we will need to branch out in ways we likely can’t conceive of now. We need to be open and honest with our tight circle about our goals and needs and aspirations, so those that care about us can begin to brainstorm and network for us. We need to plan to have coffees and “informational interviews” with at least 8 to 10 new professionals, lawyers, business people, sales people, engineering folks, local politicians and other contacts each month in order to build a valuable support web of like-minded people. We need to be confident and not desperate to find a job. We need to gather information and make an informed decision. It will take a while (6, 9, 12, 18, 24 months) and won’t happen overnight . . but we have the time. Build it organically and correctly and the opportunities will come into clear view.
Before we get into the details of how to execute on this plan,
Once we have determined that leaving the law is for us (click here for the first step), the greatest danger is sabotaging our enthusiasm before we can even begin to leave. As we pump ourselves up about the potential for new opportunities and satisfaction and happiness and money in our future, we can often get bogged down in thinking about the past . . . in particular, in thinking about our investment in law school and our long standing identity as a lawyer.
Let’s first begin with law school. We went there. We studied. We got through it (somehow). We spent a lot of time and effort and money to gain that JD. Throw in the Barbri courses and the anxiety over the bar exam and now our yearly bar dues and it’s easy to see that we have invested a lot. Makes us think . . . I’d hate for all of that to go to waste. Makes us think . . . Well . . . maybe we should just stick with this law thing after all.
Next, our identity as a lawyer. Being a lawyer still carries a certain status.
The first step in leaving the law behind is to determine whether we really want to leave the law behind. Sounds obvious, but the main gist here is that we often think we want to leave the law, feel unhappy practicing the law, feel we need to make a clean break. And we think all of this without critically thinking about all of this.
Just like many of us who went to law school on a whim, or because it seemed natural, or because that is just what we did, or without thinking much of it, many of us consider leaving the law without critically thinking about whether that is the right idea. We are unhappy or unsatisfied or beaten down or low on self-worth. So our natural instinct is to want to move onto something new, whatever it is, just something new.
Initially when leaving the law, we need to determine if we should (i) leave the law altogether or (ii) just practice the law in a different way. This is the first fork in the road we face.
So if we truly do want to leave law altogether, we need a plan.
It takes too long. We think, or we know, that it will just take longer than we are prepared to endure for us to leave the law behind and find an exciting job, create a new venture, or pursue small baby steps on the side that lead to more happiness, satisfaction, enjoyment and money.
We want our happiness, and our passion, and our new skill set now (or close to now) because we aren’t happy with what we are currently doing. But the thought of branching out into the unknown, into the less secure without a definite timetable is scarier for many of us than just to keep doing what we’re doing.
Yes, leaving the law will take a long time. The same, if not longer, than it took us to get where we are now. There really is no way around that. But the secret is not to feel like we are branching out into the unknown or the less secure. The secret is to have a plan. A plan we’ll begin sketching out in the next post.