What his mother said when he told her he wanted to leave law school

 December 11, 2017

By  Casey Berman

I spoke last month at an event at my alma mater, University of California, Hastings College of the Law here in San Francisco. The event focused on highlighting for students across the Bay Area what alternative careers can you do with a JD.


After the talk, I answered questions from many students. A 1L, who is an undergrad math major, loves to code in his free time and, deep down, wants to become a software engineer, told me his dream job is to work at Twitter or AirBnB right down the block.

But he ended up going to law school because it felt then that law school was the right and responsible thing to do for this life. He said a JD is like a “pseudo MBA” and with his student loans, he can (for the time being) afford to live in San Francisco.

He followed up with me via email and described how anxious and confused he felt remaining in law school. In theory, he liked the idea of getting a JD, but he didn’t really feel the degree was aligned with what he wanted to do in life.

When I asked him why he doesn’t drop out of law school and find a coding or software job (which was becoming increasingly apparent a job he was qualified for), he said I’m afraid of disappointing my family if I just leave law school right now. I am a first-generation college student. I feel they would be happier if I told them about this if I were on the cusp of getting a programming job.”

Listening to his ego, but he’s ignoring his soul

I told him that staying in law school will surely bring him stature and a professional identity and possible job security, but I encouraged him to think of the financial cost (future law school loan debt) and opportunity cost (three years out of the Bay Area job market) he’ll have to endure.

I also asked him to consider what was driving his decision to stay in law school: His ego (which is fear based, which wants you to just be safe, which encourages you to avoid risk, which looks for the sure thing, which wants you to please) or his soul (which is confident, which is about alignment with what you enjoy, which has faith in the process, which celebrates the unknown).

I also told him Live your life for yourself. Be selfish, in a good way. Your mom will still love you. She’ll actually admire you more for doing what you want to do.”

What or who is holding you back from leaving your practice and creating the life you want?

One of the biggest fears we have in leaving the law is our fear that we will disappoint those close to us. That we will let people down. That we will run the risk of social disapproval.

But we only have so much energy in this life, in each day, and I encourage you to care for yourself, and not about what you think others care about.

  • Sure … the partner you work for will be disappointed that you’re leaving the firm and rejecting the “team”, and may even give you a big guilt trip when you give notice, but he or she will get over it, and will want you to send him new clients and business.
  • Sure … your mom or dad will worry their hearts out, and force you to reconsider and stay in the law, but once he or she sees the success you attain in the non-law world, they’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner.
  • Sure … your attorneys friends will tell you you’re crazy to leave your secure lawyer job, but once they realize you’re no longer working every weekend in your new non-law job and see your new found confidence, and motivation, and ambition, they’ll ask you how you did it.

Oh yeah, our 1L friend? He emailed me back …

“Thank you for the reply. It really helped me; I’m dropping out of a law school! My family is supportive of me doing this, which makes me happy. There are some people and career counselors who tell me that having the JD has benefits (a degree showing you understand how to read and analyze the law), but I do not feel like it’s worth it to pursue. It feels like an ego thing, like you said. It kept feeling like a more toxic thing to pursue.

Thank you for the help. I’m going to get on with pursuing programming.”

If you want the same kind of help to leave the law and pursue what you really care about, click here so I can talk in depth with you about the course and program I’ve created to help you find that non-law job and begin to reduce what’s toxic in your life.

And if you are ready to take an easy, risk free step right now, sign up for the course for a trial period (scroll down to the bottom).

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