What’s keeping us from leaving the law?
I know, I know … we have a lot to do. We’re not sure where to start. We don’t want to tell anyone we’re unhappy. We don’t know of any jobs that pay as much as we make now. We don’t know who outside of the law would hire us. We have no time. It’s a lot of work.
These, and many others, are the hurdles we face to not take action to leave the law. We have the motivation and the desire and the aspiration to leave … but not the drive to actually act.
We feel this way because we view leaving the law as a chore. An obligation. A necessary evil. Something not fun. Something we have to do.
But it becomes a lot easier to act when we look at leaving not as “we have to” but rather as “we get to”.
Thinking that “we get to” leave the law means it’s an opportunity to change our life. It means we can regain a level of control over what we do day to day in a way we have not experienced in a long time. It means we can take the time to, for one of the first times in a while, look inward and find who we are.
It means we are thankful for where we are in life, notwithstanding all we may not like about life.
Here are three things we all can do right now to align with this idea that all of the hard work it takes to leave the law is actually something we “get” to do, and not something we “have” to do:
1. Say it. Write it. Say “I have the opportunity right now to leave the law” out loud. Write “I have the opportunity right now to leave the law” in ink on a piece of paper.
Read it. Hear it. See and listen to what we have written and the commitment we have made to ourselves. Just start here with making this statement a part of our life.
And by saying this, we will have gratitude for our position in life, and when we have gratitude for where we are in life (meaning even with all we don’t like, we can still sincerely say “thank you!” for where we are) then we focus more on what we have in life and less on what we feel is lacking. And when we focus on what we have in life, we get more in our life.
2. Make leaving a regular event to look forward to. The main way to get better at writing is to sit down and write. The main way to get better at basketball is to play basketball. The main way to build a relationship with our children is to be present in mind and body with our children.
And so goes it with leaving the law. The main way to get better at leaving the law is to focus some time on leaving the law.
Make it an event for us. Put it on our calendar.
Carve out 30 minutes in the car during the commute. Take 20 minutes before bed (right after that last work email). Spend 15 minutes during our work out. Or spend a full hour when we have to come into the office on Sunday.
Look forward to it. Make it an event. [Schedule it on your calendar and email me a picture at email@example.com. The first two readers that do get a free 30 minute mentoring call with me.]
3. Take action … one step at a time. Once leaving the law becomes an event on our calendar, let’s take that time to take action.
We can’t do it all at once. We don’t understand a semester’s worth of Torts all at once. We don’t bring in a client, research their case, write a brief, litigate it, and settle it all at once.
These all take time. We take baby steps along the way. We learn. We let things digest. We build momentum.
And the same goes with leaving the law. Let’s take one step at a time.
- Forecast our money situation and see what we can, and cannot do, financially.
- Address our identity as a lawyer and explore whether this is an obstacle to leaving the law.
- Explore our Unique Genius and become very comfortable with our skills and strengths and to which non-legal jobs our skill set can add the most value.
- Get out there – set up informational interviews with people in the non-legal roles we think we’d like to explore, and learn more about them and find potential opportunities.
- List the nagging fears that we still have about leaving, and work to overcome them.
- Throughout it all, train our mind to become more courageous, confident, authentic, sincere, in-tune, dynamic, strong, and happy.
One we focus on what we have, we begin to concentrate less on what we are lacking.
And when we focus on what we have, we begin to realize that we now have a unique opportunity to change our life.
And once we realize we have a unique opportunity to change our lives, leaving the law becomes something we want to do, not something we feel we have to do.
And when it becomes something we want to do, we make the time. We make the effort. We do the work.
What’s keeping us from leaving law? Nobody wants to hire us.
I spent nearly 5 years sending out resumes and talking to recruiters. I even hired a “career consultant” at one time, wasting nearly $3K. The conclusion I’ve reached as a result of all my efforts is that most of us cannot leave the law, not without something along the lines of “divine intervention.”
The problem with lawyers like me is that we did not attend an “elite” law school and did not work at a “prestigious” law firm. Sure, I was steadily employed for well over 10 years at small and mid-sized firms, but that just doesn’t cut it in this day where the market is saturated with law school graduates.
Sadly, I have reached the conclusion that the skills acquired in law school and during legal practice just aren’t all that valuable at all. Writing, speaking, analyzing–these are things most highly educated people can do. So, what the hell is so special about us?
If lawyers are successfully able to leave the practice of law, it’s because of their Harvard education or because of their years at Skadden, or because they clerked for Justice Sotomayor. The mere practice of law won’t amount to a hill of beans, unless perhaps your client was the NFL or some such mega-organization.
Thus, I have decided (after much debate) to return to graduate school and seek some additional skills before it is too late. I’m in my early 40s and financially secure, so I’m fortunate enough to have this option (something many of my cohorts do not). This is not some early mid-life crisis, but rather a decision I’ve reached after several years of frustration and setback.
I should also point out that I attended a respectable law school currently ranked at about #60, and I graduated from a top 25 undergraduate university with a double science major. I even passed the “dreaded” patent bar with no experience in patent law. So, although not a genius, I’m clearly not stupid, and I certainly am very hard working.
Frankly, there is no logical reason why me and so many of my cohorts (some much more accomplished than I am) are having these types of problems finding work. Unless, my original hypothesis about the worthlessness of the law degree is correct.
Hit the nail on the head with that comment. In the same situation and have followed the same five years / thousands in “consultants” searching here (just a mere 8 years more in the practice than you). Today you can’t even get past low-level HR screener employees’ “key word” searches in many instances just to get the foot in the door to be able to tell your story and show. And if you do, you still get kicked out of the prospective lists of candidates with the hiring manager’s expectation that, because you’re a lawyer, the salary demand would be too high (no matter what preemptive caveat on that issue you put in a cover letter).
Great comments. Spot on. Even with a “prestigious” law firm on your resume, you are likely out of luck. Just getting a response at all is tough.
@Mike — good point.
I happen to know of two Harvard Law graduates that got spit-out of big law firms, and are now doing rather trivial work. Again, both are smart and hard working, yet still they can’t find better jobs.
Anyway, I just read that matriculations to law schools have dropped by about 18,000 in just 5 years time. That more than anything else evidences how worthless legal training has become.
If you can go back to school or enter some sort of apprenticeship, I say do it. Some of us are unable to do so due to life obligations and/or debt. But if you can, take the leap now before it’s too late.
I’m quite sure this approach perfectly fits you and other similarly situated individuals, but its not for everyone. I must walk a different path; one upon which you did not tread step by step.
Your first step is to, “Forecast our money situation and see what we can, and cannot do, financially.” Well, my forecast calls for pain — financially speaking, I can do nothing and cannot do anything. That said, after reading my response, I’m sure you will recognize your grammatical error and refrain from such mistakes in the future. Your natural tendency to effectively communicate is difficult to notice among your overflowing phrases, but you have talent. I can help.