Leaving the law is first about arriving back with our self

 June 2, 2015

By  Casey Berman


This past Saturday night I wrote. The family was asleep. Asleep. Asleep and quiet.

We have a new dog, this great, young, big bundle of energy and the dog was asleep.

The house was quiet. I was quiet. Very quiet.

And for the first time in what had been a busy week I was really able to pause and think. I put on music that helps me think. I breathed in and out calmly and had a cup of hot tea and enjoyed the solitude and I thought. I thought and reflected. It was nice.

I walked softly around the house and looked out the window towards where the ocean would be and all there was was black sky and incoming fog, San Francisco fog, grey, fast moving, windy, chilling summer fog, coming off of the ocean and making scary whistling sounds, and whipping down our street and thrilling me with its force and numbing the City with its chill.

I walked down the hall and put the heat on.

And the heat came on and I relaxed and I thought and I tried hard to put these thoughts and ideas together into something worthy, something interesting, something I liked.

My mind strayed and moved around and then would come together with something seemingly interesting, but then would fade away and disconnect. Frustrating to try and put something together and it not “click”, at least not click right away.


Why we really don’t want it all now

We unhappy, dissatisfied, unmoored attorneys want “it” to click, we want the aha moment, we want an answer.

But thoughts, and life, and answers, don’t often just click.

And it’s not supposed to click. It (thoughts, life, paths, journeys, work, purpose, change, leaving the law) is spread out over time because we really don’t want it to click (happen) all at once.

We think we do. We think we want it to just happen right now.

We want the guarantee that if we leave the law we’ll get that cool job.

We want the guarantee that if we leave the law we’ll be able to make as much as we make now as an attorney.

We want the guarantee that if we leave the law we’ll be happy and satisfied.

We want the guarantee that we won’t be afraid.

In short, sure we will leave the law, we say, … if we can be certain that we’ll get that something else.

But since that guarantee is often hard to manifest, we don’t feel safe leaving the law. We’re afraid of what can happen if it all goes wrong. We’re afraid of the unknown. So we don’t take any steps to leave.


And this fear is real

We can’t see it or taste it or touch it, but we can feel the fear, it has manifested in our emotional state. We can’t deny it.

But this fear also can be productive. Fear guides us by showing us the disconnect between what we desire to do (leave the law) and what we have (bogusly) convinced ourselves that we cannot do (I can’t ever leave).

I don’t have it now, we say to ourselves, so therefore I can’t ever have it.

This matters more, we say to ourselves, so I’m less capable.

In other words, when we feel this emotion of fear, this is telling us that we have a desire we are denying because we have convinced ourselves we can’t do it.


But we can

So let’s now focus on emotions that help convince ourselves we can meet our desires.

Abundance and un-limitedness and confidence and gratitude and worthiness.

And we can feel these emotions when we explore and focus on what we do well and what we enjoy and what value we can bring to the world at large. And these positive and productive and motivational emotions manifest over time and build on each other and become strong. And this reduces our fear and increases the momentum.

And that means that leaving the law is about arriving, but not initially at a job or a career or more money or happiness.

Rather, leaving the law is first about arriving back with our self.

Everything else will come in due time. It really will.

And my music ends and I hear the bedroom door open and I’m startled and I look and my eight year old daughter comes into the room and she is tired and says she is scared and cannot sleep and I want to tell her it’s just the wind, it’s just the whistling of the wind, and that there is no reason to be scared, go back to sleep, but then I remember that she is afraid and there is fear in her and that fear is real and it is there and I hold her hand as we walk back to her room and I tuck her into bed and flip over her pillow to the cool side and as she closes her eyes I tell her a story of an all knowing owl that lives in the tallest and strongest tree of a well lit and safe and fun forest where the owl flies all day in the sky and drinks from the cool stream and eats candy whenever it wants in its nest and doesn’t need to take baths and loves its dance class. And she is not asleep yet but I know she is no longer as afraid.

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  1. Beautifully written, Casey. Your soulful words inevitably bring me to tears. Thank you for all you do and all you bring to us.

  2. As a lawyer who quit law too. I could tell that law firms are the ultimate school of life. People like to talk about how money does not lead to happiness and all that platitude. But high-stressed and zero-happiness legal environment teaches you it is real.

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