It won’t take long for you to scan those around you and feel you are in what seems like last place. Some lawyers you know are partners already, some are in-house at awesome tech companies, some have phat houses, some have so much in their retirement fund, some have established their own firm already, some have more and more and more . . .
We think of our age and marvel at how old we are. We sigh and get down and we ask “Is this it?”
The answer is “Yes”.
But let’s change the tenor and shift that question into a bold declarative statement: “This is it!” You are looking at it, your life, no one else’s. And while we may wish we made changes or did things differently 5, 10, 15 years ago, it won’t help to think that way. Let’s act now.
But that’s easier said than done. There is not much more stressful than that lingering feeling that we are not living up to our full potential. That we are making some money doing something we just don’t like or don’t feel good at. And we often need to act when we most want to resist it.
A favorite blog of mine is the The Minimalists. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are both former professionals who left the corporate track and now write about how to do and strive for more in life by buying and wanting less. In their post from this week, they talk of how being anchored is a truism that may not make much sense any longer for many of us: “An anchor is the thing that keeps a ship at bay, planted in the harbor, stuck in one place, unable to explore the freedom of the sea. Perhaps we were anchored—we knew we weren’t happy with our lives—and perhaps being anchored wasn’t necessarily a good thing.”
Going through college and law school, I often aspired to being “anchored”. It was considered a compliment. It meant that I had my head on straight and that I was focused on the right path, that I wouldn’t stray. To take it further, it meant that an education and profession based in the field of law would lead to success.
I’m realizing that many of my individual needs and motives as well society’s expectations that originally anchored me in the career of law now do not really have my personal happiness,
Leave Law Behind! An Interview With Casey Berman
I recently had drinks with San Francisco native Casey Berman who is the founder of Leave Law Behind, a consulting practice that helps lawyers who are sick and tired of the industry break away and start their own businesses. Now how cool is that – fewer lawyers and more entrepreneurs…brilliant!
I never understood why so many people can’t stand lawyers until I had to hire one myself. Talk about getting ripped off. I think it’s fantastic that Casey found his calling away from law and is now doing so many more fulfilling and exciting things. And now on to our interview!
Read more at Untemplater.
Of course some are better at it than others, because they’ve been improvising longer at that particular job or role than you have. But they still are making some of it up as they go along.
One fear of leaving the law is that we will find ourselves not being of service to anyone. We fear that we won’t be able to help anyone in something other than the practice of the law.
And that’s true . . . initially. Of course, to begin with, we’ll be starting over. But you are more than just a lawyer. You are analytic and disciplined and reliable and trustworthy and intelligent. Give yourself a little more time in a new field or space and you’ll also be flexible and broad-minded and influential.
You’ll wonder why you every thought you could limit yourself to the law.
It cuts both ways.
If you are dynamic and interested and motivated and courageous and helpful, continue to build and develop and grow and share and stay the course.
If you are anxious and frustrated and complacent and fearful and deskbound, you have two choices: To use today to go deeper and to find purpose and self-expression. Or to continue to exist on the surface of your professional identity.
You know how the latter will turn out. Just look at what you did today.
That is our job or maybe it’s our career path. But being a lawyer is really just a label, not an identity. It’s easy to confuse the two.
We like this label because it’s a nice, convenient way for us to tell a story about ourselves, one that we can accept and impress others. It’s a nice, convenient way to avoid going deep and finding what we enjoy doing, what skills we are really good at, what we really want to do with ourselves. To do so would be productive and satisfying and refreshing . . . but first would require hard work, admitting mistakes and defining ourselves in a different (initially uncomfortable) way.
And that’s the beauty of leaving law behind. We can define ourselves in a different, likely more accurate and motivational way. That is different than labeling. It’s deeper.
As Zig Ziglar says, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why recommend it daily”
To leave law behind, and to continue to grow and develop in the way you want, you have to continuously find motivation in this hectic world of ours. Some easy ways to do so are:
1. Say thank you. Out loud, out the window, in your head, as a whisper, wherever. Being thankful, anactually saying it out loud, reminds us of all we do have and can do, even when we feel daunted or down or uninspired.
2. Realize that you are your own startup. Even while you hold down your current job, when you think of yourself less like a cog in a wheel, less like a dispensable associate, less like just an employee, less like just another guy, and more like a CEO of a start-up business (you), a growing entity with your own financial statements and R&D Department and Executive Team, you realize that every company (very company!) has to start small and that you’re right on track.
3. Write a manifesto. While a fancy sounding word, all this means is taking a public step to tell the world what you are about and what is important to you.
To leave law behind, you need to plan. Plan, structure, blueprint, prepare. Following your passion, doing what you love, leaping and the net will appear – all nice, and true and ideal and possible . . . with lots of planning.
When planning to leave the law, focus on four main questions:
1. Why am I doing this? Again, let’s make sure you are being true to yourself and not fooling yourself and really exploring leaving law for the right reasons. And not because you may find yourself in a bad patch or because it seems all of your friends have gone in-house lately or because you feel it’s no longer cool to be a lawyer. The critical thinking must continue.
2. Who am I doing this with? Talk to others. To those that this decision would affect. It’s your life and your passion and your goals of course, but they may be shared by others, or others may be affected by them.
3. What resources am I doing this with? Besides health issues, there is no anxiety more difficult, gut wrenching or harder to take than that related to money .
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.