The way we are thinking about our time in law school is keeping us from leaving the law

 March 29, 2014

By  Casey Berman


For many of us, no matter how unhappy we are as an attorney, or how little hope we have, or how much confidence we lack, or how little satisfaction we get, we still can’t leave the law. And we can’t leave the law due in large part to our past investment in law school.

Law school was such a big commitment in our lives. It was a long, serious portion of our lives. It was an expensive portion of our lives (which we may still be paying off). It was a defining moment in our lives.

And we want a return on this investment and commitment. We want to prove that we did the right thing. We don’t want to admit that the time prepping for the LAST, and those three years of going to law school, and the time spent prepping for the Bar was some kind of mistake.

But it might have been. It just might have been. If we’re unhappy practicing law and we want to leave, then, yes, in hindsight, going to law school might not have been the right thing for us to do. We possibly should have done something else.

But this is okay. For those of us who are ready now to commit to leaving the law behind, one of the early steps in doing so is to be honest with ourselves about why we actually went to law school. As we become more honest with ourselves about the real reasons we went to law school (cultural reasons, to avoid a job search, my family wanted me to, I wanted job security, I wanted to change the world for the better, It was the right thing to do, I always wanted to go to law school, I’m not sure really …) it can become clear that law school may not have been the exact right decision for us.

And this can actually be a huge weight off. If it turns out that the commitment we made to go to law school sincerely isn’t the commitment we should have made, then why let this misaligned past commitment inform our present and future. It doesn’t make sense to remain an unhappy lawyer now and in the future because we once went to law school in the past.

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  1. This was avery insightful article. I am encouraged. Still paying off law school loan though, but I am encouraged nevertheless!

    1. Thanks Marcir. And encouragement is a huge part of the process.

      And now act … what baby step can you take now?

  2. This mistake analysis has been one of my biggest hang ups. Regardless of whether it was or was not a mistake, I still know how unhappy and dissatisfied I am with the law. And I have years of evidence and a monthly payment reminder of it as well. The outcome of the analysis doesn’t change the present state of unhappiness. So if I were my own client, I would advise myself to set it aside and instead use an actual problem solving analysis that generates viable solutions.

    1. Hi Michelle

      Agreed. In my words, I call that acting. Take the time to just take some small baby steps of action to gather momentum and try new things. Nothing risky, nothing life changing, nothing expensive. Just some baby steps to get you going.

      Thanks for the comment!

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