A main cause of why lawyers remain unhappy is ironically the exact skill that helps us excel as an attorney.
Let me explain.
As you likely know, Leave Law Behind is a community and program that helps unhappy and dissatisfied attorneys find ways to leave the law behind and create new career paths for themselves.
It also contains a huge amount of self-admitted perfectionists, myself included.
I made a typo
You see, while it is rare, every so often I may make a mistake and include a typo in my writing.
No matter how many times I review and re-read my posts, sometimes there is a small grammatical error or some other type of inconsistency.
A few years ago, I saw a typo for the first time right after I hit “Send” on the email newsletter … and published it on Facebook … and tweeted it on Twitter. It was repeated as people forwarded the post along and retweeted. Some readers even emailed me directly to let me know it was there.
My mistake was out there and there was nothing I could do about it.
Find Leave Law Behind on Facebook and Instagram.
There is one lawyer career change question you think you have answered, but you likely haven’t as authentically as you want to. I still struggle with answering it too.
And that question is “What do you want?”
Sure, you have offered answers to this question:
– You want money.
– You want a fulfilling job.
– You want to be popular.
– You want to live a long life.
– You want to be happy.
– You want to be accepted.
– You want love and appreciation.
And yes, these are things you desire or wish to have in your life.
And whether you’ve realized this or not, you likely want all of these things because you think that the having of them will make you feel better and make you happy.
But you still need to shift your mindset and perspective in order to fully understand how to experience and manifest these things you want.
That’s because you (… and me and anyone … ) can’t really understand what you want until you have received and understood that which you don’t want (its opposite.)
And this is true because we live in a world of relativity.
And you adopted these beliefs from other people.
In other words, you think and act the way you do because someone told you to think and act that way.
You were a blank slate when you were born. We all were. And as you grew up, you took on beliefs from your parents and siblings and extended family and culture and city and country and friends and class.
You gained faith and confidence that certain things told to you were true.
Some of these beliefs may contribute to your greater good.
Some of these beliefs hold you back.
For us attorneys who want to leave the law, remember that the source of how you think and live your life came to you from others.
So when you feel right now that you cannot leave the law because you could never possibly make enough money in an “alternative” career to live on, that belief came from someone else.
When you feel right now that your skills allow you only to perform “lawyer” work, that idea came from someone else.
When you feel that stress and working hard and always having to be “on” in case a client needs you,
I was thinking about what we unhappy, disgruntled attorneys want.
We say we want to leave our job as an attorney.
We say we want to never practice law again.
We say we want to never have to deal with our clients or partners again.
We say we want to do something else.
We say we want more money.
But that’s not really what we want.
You want freedom.
You want joy. And confidence. And purpose and meaning. And free time. And friends and warmth. And travel. And being your true self. And doing work that matters. And adding value to the world.
Leaving the law is just a way to get all you really want.
It’s easy to dream about leaving the law … and then not do anything about it, hiding behind your excuses and delays and fears and sabotaging your dreams.
But you are ambitious and smart and can make money and have proven yourself. So why are you still miserable and still unhappy and still practicing the law?
It’s because there is a price to attaining this freedom.
Many of you have spoken with me on the free consults I provide for Leave Law Behind readers and then have moved onto joining the Leave Law Behind Program.
And one of the first questions I ask on these calls is “Why do you want to leave the law?”
This week, I asked that same question on a call to a fellow Leave Law Behind reader and he answered “I don’t want to turn out like my boss.”
It’s a good litmus test. Look at the attorneys around you, the attorneys you work with, especially those a few years and a few titles ahead of you.
What is their health like? Are they enjoying themselves? Do they have the values and principles you want to maintain? Do they spend quality time with their family? Are their priorities in line with yours? Do they work with meaning and purpose?
If not, take this realization seriously, because this is your future staring clearly right at you.
Learn how to overcome your fears to leave the law behind by scheduling a free phone call with me, Casey.
Hey Self, it’s Yourself from 2022.
I know this may seem a little spooky to hear from your future self, but I wanted to let you know that this whole “leave the law” thing really has worked out. We are doing really well right now in our alternative, non-law job. We can’t even believe it’s happening.
Well, we can believe it. Because, we’re living it. It’s been 4 years since you decided to leave the law in 2018 and we wanted to write you this short note to say thank you for the courage to leave.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are not sitting on a beach all day, all year.
It’s not all roses. We don’t just call it in each day.
We work … we work very hard.
And yes … sometimes we work weekends.
And there are still deadlines, and stress, and office politics, and angry customers.
And we deal with a lot of issues and projects that are new to us, so we’re often initially unclear what is the best first step.
And we have had a steep learning curve,
We attorneys have been taught to control as much of our external surroundings as possible. We (try so hard to) mitigate risk, forecast new revenue, identify issues.
But the only thing we can really, truly, fully control in our life is how we react to things. We can control how we feel and how we act and how we respond to external phenomena.
But we cannot control others … other people, other circumstances, other perceptions.
And to try and control these other things will only continue to frustrate us. And it’s this frustration that makes so many of us so afraid about the prospect of leaving the law. We know there are elements of this leave-the-law process that we cannot fully control.
So we don’t do it.
We convince (trick) ourselves to remain unhappy in a misaligned attorney job that is familiar to us, rather than explore opportunities that, while we can’t tightly control, have the potential for growth and purpose.
We have persuaded ourselves that we have no choice.
There is always something we can do
But it’s far from hopeless.
One of the biggest obstacles we face in leaving the law is that we think it is going to be a lot of hard work to do so.
We fear we won’t be able to do this work … so therefore we don’t do anything. We remain miserable in our job as an attorney, but at least we didn’t add more to our to-do list.
What people who successfully leave the law for non-law, alternative careers begin to understand is that there is a difference between hard work … and inspired action.
We all think we work hard. And you do. You make sacrifices. You work long hours. You exert energy. You force yourself to work hard in order to survive.
But when you force yourself to do something, it’s because you feel you should. Because you feel you have to. You have to survive.
But when you make a commitment to yourself to leave the law, you’ve made a pact with yourself to do more than just survive.
You’ve made commitment to go beyond just working.
You’ve made a commitment to not force things any longer.
It’s Thanksgiving, so we’ve likely been taking this time to (as best we can) be thankful for all we have in our life, and to not dwell on what we don’t have, or what we still want.
This can be very difficult to do.
And it is made only more difficult when we think of how we do not like being a lawyer any more.
How can we possibly be thankful for our law school debt? Or that annoying partner in our firm? Or the anxiety of feeling like we don’t really know the law and that we might be a “fraud”?
The martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee said “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
Being grateful for what we have is KEY to living a successful, productive, happy life. It’s KEY to leaving the law. Even when things look bleak for us as attorneys, we need to summon the strength to still be appreciative.
I shot a short video to show how we attorneys looking to leave the law can do just that: http://leavelawbehind.com/how-to-be-thankful-for-our-law-school-debt.
I read an article about a panel discussion at the recent International Bar Association conference in Sydney, Australia focused on what happiness means for lawyers.
The speakers discussed how attorneys can measure their happiness in ways beyond the traditional yardsticks of money and job title and professional stature.
One such new measure is “self-actualization”. One panelist explained further:
“Self-actualization is about achieving your potential, becoming what you want to be, making something of yourself.
I encourage people to aspire to something, and sometimes when I ask lawyers: ‘What are your aspirations? What do your aspire to in your practice and in your career?’, sometimes they really give me a funny look because their practice is all about meeting other people’s expectations.
“They actually don’t have any aspirations of their own in their lives, and I think aspiration is a necessary ingredient for happiness and success.”
Looking back on when I was in the law as in-house counsel, I now realize that many of my aspirations were reactive … about just not messing up: not missing an important element in a licensing agreement,