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West Kraemer On: Why I Left Law And Why You Want To Leave Also (Even If You Can’t Articulate The Reason)

 May 21, 2020

By  Casey Berman

ISSUE

If 90% of what you’re doing with your week has nothing to do with what actually drives you, you’re gonna have a bad time. So, if you’re a lawyer and your practice of law is completely divorced from the values that drive you, you’re going to be unhappy with what you’re doing.

RULE

We’re all driven by certain ideas that are called values, and the misalignment between your values and your job is why you want to leave law. 

If you want to know what your professional values are you can answer the following two questions:

  1. What result do you want to drive by your work in your career?
  2. Why do you want to drive that result? 

ANALYSIS

The reason I left law is that my answer to those questions no longer aligned with what I was doing in the legal field. The misalignment of what you’re doing and your values is why you want to leave law as well.

That’s because a misalignment between what you want to be doing and what you’re actually doing is heartbreaking. If you want to help protect the rights of artists, and you got into patent law because you want to help creators profit from their creations, but you’re just suing chemical manufacturers on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, with the only result being that your boss gets slightly richer every time you bill and hour, you’re going to feel like your life is a waste.

When I entered law, it was because I wanted to prevent the genocide my relatives faced in World War 2 during the holocaust from happening to anyone else ever again. In college I had seen in history classes that Nazis were prosecuted in the aftermath of those wars, and I saw that international tribunals were put in place to prevent these atrocities from ever happening again.

So, the result I wanted to drive was preventing genocide by becoming a prosecutor and working my way toward a position at one of these international courts. The reason I wanted to drive that result was my family’s experience during the holocaust. 

The disconnect between my values and the actual experience working in law came when I saw the nuts and bolts of how things actually worked in the prosecutor’s office. Put bluntly, prosecutors nation-wide are evaluated on how fast the spin the wheel to send black and brown people to prison, and seeing that up close showed me that by becoming a prosecutor, I would not be advancing the cause of justice.

Unlike a lot of lawyers, I chose to leave law when I saw that my values no longer aligned with my practicing of law. If you find that there is a misalignment between your values and what you actually do all day, you should leave too.

A counterargument for this may be that the difficulty of the profession is what drives people away. But that’s not it. You can do something difficult all day long if it aligns with your values. You don’t want to leave law because it’s too hard. Lawyers are not afraid of hard work. For example, lawyers in the grueling public defender’s office might get burned out after a few years of doing their difficult jobs, but they stay for as long as they do because their practice ultimately aligns with their values. 

Lawyers stay with hard jobs when those jobs align with their values. They leave when those jobs have nothing to do with what drives them.

We don’t want to leave law because practicing it is hard, we want to leave because our practice doesn’t align with our drive.

CONCLUSION

The disconnect between my values and what I would be doing as a lawyer was ultimately why I decided to leave law. It’s why people at law firms feel completely alienated from their work and want to leave. 

If you were ever looking for the reason you wanted to leave law, but couldn’t articulate it, here you go: the misalignment between the values that drive you and what you actually do all day is the reason you want to leave law behind.

I’ll leave you with these two questions:

  1. What result do you want to drive by your work in your career?
  2. Why do you want to drive that result?

A Note About The Author 

After leaving law several years ago (read his story here), West Kraemer entered the digital sphere, initially in coding, but quickly transitioning into the business side of things. After several years in digital marketing at a few different companies, he has recently started his own digital marketing and branding company, Stand Out Professional Branding - click here to learn more

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