I love reading the submissions I receive from Leave Law Behind readers through the confidential survey we have on the site. It is a great way for readers to send me anonymous thoughts and ideas and feedback and to flat out vent. And I find it an extremely valuable insight as to what the community is thinking – I always stop what I’m doing when a new one arrives.
One recently caught my eye. To the question “What challenges are you facing in leaving the law behind?” a reader answered that he or she is having a lot of trouble in deciding and determining exactly what career to move to once he or she leaves the law.
And I know this reader has voiced what many of us think: If I only knew what I wanted to do, if I only knew what I was good at, if I only knew what new professional area would be a good fit for me, I’d leave the law right now.
Before we do anything, we lawyers want it all figured out.
That sounds great, doesn’t it?
But that’s not how it works.
And that’s due in part to a prevalent issue we have in starting to leave the law: We struggle with the disconnect between how we lawyers think (risk averse, fear of the unknown, stuck in our ways, prioritizing security) … and how leaving the law can actually turn out to be (full of unknowns, full of risk, and full of creativity and exploration and adventure).
So … it would seem that our status quo mindset and the inherent chaotic nature of a life change are complete opposites and don’t seem to fit at all.
So how do we make these fit so we can make a needed change? Here are three helpful ways of thinking that can reconcile these seemingly incongruent factors so we can better prepare to leave the law:
1. Realize we are going to keep our day job. We worry a lot about money and how we will support ourselves once we leave the law. But what we need to realize is that leaving the law is a second job we take on. We’re not quitting our day job just yet.
This viewpoint enables us to not have to stress out about how we’re going to pay our bills. No matter how much we may not like it, we do not want to quit a stressful, unhappy job as an attorney just to be put into a stressful, anxiety filled spot worrying how to pay our bills.
And while taking on a “second job” of leaving the law can at first be overwhelming, with patience, diligence, and motivation, we find the free time and energy to do it.
2. Realize we are about to enter the unknown and that we will be just fine. Leaving the law is unique and new for each person. It is full of surprises, new people to meet, new skills to optimize, new opportunities, new failures, and new tests.
This is very scary.
And also very exciting.
We mainly perceive the unknown as scary because we’re just not comfortable with it yet. As a wise sage one said, Today is the Tomorrow we feared Yesterday. And guess what? Today turned out just fine.
The unknown will come soon enough, and we will see that we can handle it very well.
3. Realize that there is a structure to leave the law. While whatever will happen to us and whatever opportunities will be created by us is unknown at this point in time, the steps we will take to leave the law are not. They have been done before.
First, let’s focus on our relationship with money and plan and forecast our finances responsibly.
Then let’s really explore our identify as a lawyer and what might be keeping us tied down to remaining as an attorney in our mind and soul.
Then we will explore our skills and strengths (Unique Genius) to inform what jobs and roles we should research, assess and pursue in alignment with what we’re good at.
Fourth, will then work on mitigating the nagging fears associated with leaving the law.
And finally, we will then plan next steps for matching jobs and roles to our Unique Genius traits, and networking and “getting out there” to find a new role in our life.
Gain focus, momentum, courage. Opportunities will arise. The unknown will soon become the familiar. Rinse and repeat.
It’s funny, but once we realize that there is no way to have it all figured out … we then are closer to having it all figured out.