Who killed your intuition?

 April 22, 2013

By  Casey Berman

Most likely, you did. As did law school, your legal training, and the social mores of the industry.

But don’t despair, it can be revived. I have proof.

Two weeks ago I attended and spoke at the Catapult 2013 conference in San Francisco. It was held by the remarkable Alison Monahan and Lee Burgess of the Law School Toolbox and Girl’s Guide to Law School. (I encourage you to sign up at catapult2013.com for future events they put on). The conference was focused on empowering law students and young lawyers to take control of their careers and think creatively about the future … right up our alley!

One the most interesting panels consisted of practicing lawyers who actually (believe it or not) currently enjoy their job. The panel was so insightful because each shared how long it took, and how much trial and error and experiences and mistakes they had to go through, until they found or landed in the law job they currently like. Many discussed how they pursued and worked in one area of law (litigation or patent law) because they thought it would be a good fit, but that theory turned out incorrect. Each of the panelists had a moment where they said to themselves “What went wrong here?!”

And the answer many of the panelists gave was “I never trusted my gut.”

And a key ingredient of identifying and moving forward with the type of career they would actually like was courageously reviving that source of internal insight to help shed positive light on just which path was the right one.  And which touch questions needed to be asked.  And which difficult decisions needed to be made.  And which hard work needed to be completed.

While they may use a nice mix of analytical skills and professional intuition when representing a client, the panelists all seemed to have only relied on the former when assessing the most optimal career paths or beginning a job search or planning for their post law school career.

Why did they (almost) entirely abandon their intuition when it came to planning their careers? They viewed law jobs almost exclusively through the lens of security and money (and not alignment with their skills and strengths). They viewed law jobs mainly for how they would contribute to their career progress (and not whether they were actually good at the requirements). They considered law jobs for what seemed like the right and accepted path to follow (and not the one they really wanted to do and enjoy).

Many of us lawyers unhappy with the legal profession have put our intuition on the backburner. We don’t often trust our gut, as it’s too emotional and oftentimes untrustworthy. We don’t trust our gut because it can be not-right some times. We don’t trust our quick and ready insights because we feel our law school wouldn’t want us to, our parents wouldn’t want us to, the bills we need to pay wouldn’t want us to. We don’t trust our gut because we feel it’s the anti-thesis of the “safe route”. We use our well-honed analytical skills to find a job that everyone seems to think works for us . . . everyone except us.

It may seem cheesy and irrational and not empirical and without proven precedent and authority, but, as you consider to properly leave the law, do not reject your inner source, your inner guide. It knows you too well to continue to be dismissed.

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