It’s true that when you see that opportunity, you need to grab it
And it’s also true that good opportunities (real quality occasions to grow and prosper and develop) often present themselves only a handful of times in one’s life.
And it’s also true that these fantastic opportunities don’t just show up out of nowhere. And particularly for an attorney that is unhappy with his or her practice of law, and wants to explore moving into something else, these (mainly) non-legal opportunities that we lawyers are well suited for (the compliance manager with the promising start up, the teaching job at the university, the HR role at the Fortune 500 company, the copy-writing gig with the legal focused publication, the COO role with the marketing firm, the in-house counsel role for the tech enabled services firm, the campaign manager role for the up-and-coming politician, the policy wonk with the think tank, the VP of Biz Dev role with the global manufacturing firm, the consigliore to the C suite, the well-spoken blogger, the detailed SaaS project manager) present themselves after we have done a lot (a lot) of hard, smart, and courageous work.
This work manifests itself in many (very non-sexy,
1. You need to do it yourself. While preparing for finals, I often deceived myself into thinking that I was actually studying, when all I really was doing was sitting through a study group or copying someone else’s notes or buying packaged outlines. While I thought I was doing the work for the exam, I was only going through the motions. I wasn’t doing the hard work, I wasn’t digesting the information, I wasn’t familiarizing myself with the case law, I wasn’t understanding exactly what the professor wanted.
The same goes with leaving law behind and making this life transition. You can read as many self-development blogs or buy as many coaching books or listen to as many inspirational quotes as you want. But until you actually begin the hard work of changing your current situation (assessing your money status, exploring your unique genius, getting over your fears, actively networking) your progress and results will likely be limited. No one can leave the law behind for you.
2. It takes a lot of hard, incremental, focused work. In law school, successfully cramming for an exam in the final weeks of the semester was almost impossible (trust me,
I received a lot of good emails from readers after the “What to Consider When Considering an In-House Counsel Position” article was published last Friday in Above the Law (thank you). Many were interested in the leave law behind coaching services. Others wanted to know more about what it meant to be an in-house counsel. And still others asked for my thoughts about a real life job decision they were about to make.
And as I read through the emails (and I replied to them all) I noticed a consistent theme, particularly from those in the latter group about imminent job and career decisions to made. I noticed that many were planning on making decisions (leaving the law, taking a break from it all, jumping to a new job, quitting the firm job, planning a job search) without really considering whether this new decision would be a fit for their individual strengths, their passions, and their interests. They are not thoroughly and properly planning to leave the law. Rather they are contemplating moving from one thing they don’t like (the firm) to a new thing . . . without spending the time and the personal due diligence, to vet as much as possible whether this new thing has a high potential to turn out to be a good thing.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post by a current criminal defense attorney, and frequent guest blogger on Leave Law Behind, as he details his ongoing experience in identifying those skills and strengths at which he excels and enjoys, what we call one’s Unique Genius.]
Over the course of time that I’ve contemplated leaving law practice—four years or so—I’ve read a lot about making the transition. Invariably, commentators tell you that the first step is self-assessment. This sure seems like a logical starting point. How better to avoid ending up in another unfulfilling, if not loathsome, job than to take the time to unearth your true strengths and interests? Indeed, many of us dissatisfied lawyers regret that we didn’t undertake this introspection before diving head-first into law school. Had we done so, the thinking goes, we wouldn’t now be in this professional dystopia.
In addition, for my money, I think unsatisfied lawyers need to cut themselves a little slack. Sure, most of us would have benefited from a little more reflection. But, that’s only half the equation. The other half is seldom acknowledged in my experience: expectations of the legal profession.
Last week, we had a great Leave Law Behind event, and I want to sincerely thank everyone who made it. The event was hugely inspiring for me personally, and I promise it will be the first of many engaging, fun, interesting and productive live events to help our community grow, get to know each other and assist each other in exploring and finding meaningful professional pursuits, within the law and out of it. I will soon be posting the presentation online for everyone to review and comment on.
We spoke a lot about our Unique Genius – what this really means, how it helps in leaving the law, and some ideas on how to really explore what it is, for each of us. As you likely know, one tenet of Leave Law Behind is to identify your strengths and skill sets that you are so good at, that come so naturally to you, and use these as a foundation for exploring opportunities and channels to leave the law. In other words, be conscious of incorporating into your job those skills that you are good at, that you are strong at, and that are in alignment with what you enjoy.
I was on a Twitter chat on Tuesday run by Alison Monahan with a number of thought leaders in the field (Jennifer Alvey, Heather Jarvis, Katie Slater, Ms. JD and others) discussing the topic of whether in today’s economy law school is still worth the investment of time and money.
Through the wide ranging conversation, we began to discuss what skills it takes to make it in the workplace, either in law or outside of law, and Katie Slater (former BigLaw finance lawyer and now coach who helps lawyers discover the next level in their careers) reiterated a great point: Law school is not necessarily a place of skill acquisition. Rather this is done by actually practicing law in the workplace.
It can be easy for us to expound on the skills we learned in law school: Analytical skills, issue spotting, writing skills, persuasion, interview abilities, and on and on. But we all know that we were not able to apply these with any regularity or professional focus until we actually began working as lawyers. And once we began working,
You may remain a (disgruntled) lawyer due in (very large) part to the (ostensible) prestige and status (you think) it carries.
One of the major surprises you will find in leaving the law behind is the ability to satisfy your ego doing something else you actually enjoy, are good at and that comes naturally to you.