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.
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When considering to leave law behind, we’re going to try a lot of new things. Once we build up the courage, we’re going to try and set up informational meetings, we will interview for other, exciting job opportunities, we’ll potentially partner with other solos to create our own firm. There are a lot of new things we will try.
And there is a lot of rejection we will face. Some people won’t want us. They won’t want to accept us into their club, they won’t want us to be their partners, they won’t want us to participate in the profits, they will turn down our book idea, they will not visit our new website, they won’t refer work to us, they won’t think our new consulting firm will add value. They will reject us.
And it hurts. It can be crushing. And unfortunately, there is no way to avoid it.
But fortunately, there is no way to avoid it. Rejection is an essential piece to our success. It protects us from areas we shouldn’t pursue, reveals to us other paths, highlights what we could have done better to prepare and shows us what other opportunities are out there we may not have known about.
It’s Wednesday. We’ve made it. Remember that anxiety and nervousness we may have felt on Sunday evening about what we had to do, what we had to face, what we had to get through on Monday and Tuesday? It’s Wednesday and we’re still around, so we must have done something right. And likely what caused those big fears in our gut on Sunday (and Monday) turned out to not be that bad. In fact the meeting or phone call or document or presentation or news we feared probably turned out okay (or even fairly well) or taught us something important or made us better or just wasn’t a big deal.
In order to leave law behind it’s very important to realize what strengths, skills and experiences we possess today. Not what we had in the past (that we can learn from) or what we want in the future (that we can create). We are often so concerned with what we have not accomplished so far or what we need to get done next, that we do not see that many of our previous wishes and goals have already been granted and achieved.
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Consumption of information can be fun, educational and motivating. We read blogs like this one, view videos, listen to music. This passes the time, provides entertainment, stems boredom and enhances ourselves.
One thing consumption is not . . . is creative. Creation occurs when we put our mind to work to produce something, to produce something for ourselves to reflect on . . . or for others to consume (and possibly buy or share or promote). As such, a major tenet of leaving law behind is to consistently promote our own creation. In other words, we can’t leave law behind, fully or partially, without create something else to focus on, something else to market, something else to monetize.
What you create is up to you – new ideas, brainstorming sessions, now job possibilities, unique career paths, hobbies, random thoughts, actual pieces of writing, business plans, forecasts, side businesses, new ventures. This creation comes about through many forms of activities, and many are simple and almost without cost – staring out the window, going for a walk, talking with a friend, uninterrupted, sincere thinking, consistent jotting down of ideas, planned productive story/blog writing.
There is one cost: In order to create,
This coming Monday, February 6th at 6pm Pacific at the Book Passage at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, please join me as I interview Deborah Schneider, Esq., co-author of Should You Really Be A Lawyer? The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During and After Law School (click here to buy the book on Amazon).
If you are, or know of, a prospective law student, a current law student or a lawyer who’s wondering (a) if they should become, or remain, a lawyer and (b) what they should do with their life, this event shouldn’t be missed.
We’ll discuss how aspiring and practicing lawyers can learn to make better career choices that will lead them to work they love, and answer your most vexing career questions. Whether you’re thinking about law school, currently in law school or practicing law, this program will help bring clarity to any current career confusion.
Once again, the event is scheduled for Monday February 6 at 6pm at the Book Passage at the San Francisco Ferry Building, where Market Street meets the Embarcadero (map).
Leave Law Behind is back, after a bit of an extended holiday. When we last spoke in the Fall, we heard a lot about “giving thanks”. Blogs, books, social networks, the media – there were reminders, advice and lists of how to be more thankful, more appreciated, more self-aware of what we have. This of course is appropriate for Thanksgiving time.
And this is appropriate throughout the rest of the year. Throughout the rest of our day-to-day lives. And it’s essential if you want to leave law behind.
Now, let’s be real – it can be difficult to be thankful and full of appreciation. Even in our relatively privileged lives, the forces around us are replete with examples of what we don’t have yet, of what we are not yet, of what we have yet to accomplish. This makes it very easy to focus on the gaps we have: It’s easy to dwell on the fact that we haven’t yet made equity partner . . . and not beam with pride that we are a long way from that nervous, law school graduate we once were years ago.
And giving thanks is not just a fluffy,
There is no doubt about it, when we leave the law, we mess something up. A lot of stuff. We miss the boat on some things. We are too early with others. We will never understand how this-and-that works. We’ll feel that we are becoming short on cash. We’ll suffer from self-doubt. People we admire and love may think we’re crazy. We will miss the structure and stature of the firm life.
We won’t be perfect.
But no one is. We weren’t when we began the law, and we definitely are not now, especially when branching out into a world of the unknown . . . and full of potential. And you don’t need to be perfect or wholly ready to leave the law. You just need to be honest (with yourself) and courageous (to take a babystep).
Leaving the law behind is a messy and anxious and unnerving act. It’s also thrilling and relieving and eye-opening. Let’s not let our consistent need for perfection and validation get in the way of creating our path to happiness and self-worth.
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It can be very difficult to escape the fact that our society ranks an individual’s success almost exclusively on the basis of fame, fortune or power. The more you have, the more successful you are.
You don’t need to look far to see how this is reinforced time and time again. It could be the recent Super Lawyer rankings. It could be that profile you read of the guy who was #7 at Facebook or #4 at Mint or #12 at Google. It could have been the Vanity Fair New Establishment list. It could be the recent eulogy of the maverick football owner or brilliant tech visionary.
Making money and gaining influence are great things. But as we focus exclusively on fortune, fame and power, something always has to give (and this is usually our time, our health, our relationships, our happiness.)
As we leave the law behind, or leave our current practice of the law behind, we are provided with a great opportunity to find the time and space to land on other lists: Top Parent, Top Spouse, Top Friend, Best at Just Chillin’,
We work for money. We need to pay our bills and support our families and live the good life we strive for.
We also work to be recognized. We have spent a lot of time and effort becoming a lawyer, and while a salary is a good reflection of our worth, a kind word goes a long way as well. It just feels really good when you are recognized.
A lot of our unhappiness comes from simply not being appreciated. At the highest levels, this manifests itself in being passed over for partnership or required to take a reduced (or stick with an un-changed) salary. More day-to-day, this unhappiness and reduced confidence is often marked by silence, specifically the lack of unprompted feedback from clients, colleagues and associates. Sometimes you wonder How the hell am I doing? Sometimes you just want someone to say Real nice job, I love how you handled that.
Of course, the appreciation will come. And do not lament the dearth of compliments now; just know that the gratitude is likely there . . . and the public recognition is right around the corner, from someone important,