Last week, we discussed why we unhappy, dissatisfied attorneys need to forgive ourselves for all of the things for which we had previously been hard on ourselves.
Our true self is not to be unhappy. Our true self is to be happy and full of self worth using our skills and strengths to add value to others.
It sounds great. And it is really true.
Now let’s act
And we also need to act. We all need to put things in motion, we all need to visualize, we all need to manifest … in order to bring about this true self.
It’s not necessarily hard work. It’s not necessarily work that’ll take forever.
But it is work that takes action … incremental, confidence-building action.
That is where baby steps come in. The “baby step” is the basis of leaving law behind. The baby step is so essential because leaving the law can be so difficult and overpowering and murky. Leaving the law takes internal exploration, courageous action, and consistent follow up. It involves battling self-doubt, experimenting with new ideas, facing risk and creating opportunities. It takes a lot of time. It can be overwhelming. It becomes a second job.
With that in mind, the baby step is a simple, easy-to-do action or task one can take to begin this process. It makes the overwhelming less daunting. It makes the scary less fearsome. It makes the opaque more clear. It builds confidence and shows quick results and grows our courage.
To help you with ideas of where to start, below are 99 very-doable baby-steps you can take right now (right now!) to begin to leave the law.
Do just one or do some. Do the ones that come naturally to you. Let us know any other baby step ideas you may have, either in the comments below or contact me directly. But whatever you do, if you want to leave law behind, take a baby step.
- First, realize that we are not alone. There are many of us attorneys who are unhappy. You are not going crazy.
- Be selfish … in a good way. As we begin to leave the law, don’t think of careers or jobs or money or what others will think. Instead, for the first, or one of the first, times in our life, think of ourselves. Just ourselves. Yourself. Think of what we like and are good at and enjoy and let that inform what we do next.
- Plan our finances. One of the few anxieties worse than hating our job as an attorney is to be anxious and worried about money. Take out an excel sheet (do not just do this in our head or on the back of an envelope) and plan what we can and cannot do financially for the next 12 to 18 months. This exercise will enable us to have a solid idea what our money situation is like (and how this will impact, or be impacted by, our potential leaving of the law).
- Listen to inspirational speakers. When we drive or jog or walk or wait in line, let’s fire up YouTube on our phone and put on our headphones and listen to something motivation. Search for some of my favorites, like Abraham Hicks or Bob Proctor or Wayne Dyer or Zig Ziglar or Law of Attraction.
- Smile when you’re on the phone, with a client or friend or family member. They’ll feel the good energy.
- Be grateful for what we have. I know, I know, we are stressed out attorneys who feel we have little life potential and are not making enough money. But we have a roof over our heads and we’re able to see the sun come up in the morning and we’ve admitted we’re unhappy and we’re beginning to leave the law. When we appreciate what we have, more good stuff will come to us. Really. That’s how it happens.
- Realize we get paid a certain amount of money for the amount of value we are perceived to provide. If we want to make more money, then we need to provide more value, or move to another role that values our abilities at a higher level.
- Reserve our name at godaddy.com (e.g. www.YOURNAME.com) or some variation. Just do it. It’s around $10-$20 a year. It’s a small, easy, entrepreneurial babystep we can do right now. Who knows what type of website we will build in the future.
- Let’s manage our time a bit better. I know how busy we all are, with work, emails, family, commutes. We just need to carve out a few minutes each week to leave the law.
- Do 3-5 informational interviews a month. A month. That’s about 1 a week. We can do that. Let’s get connected to people in jobs we think we might like, that we think might be a fit for our skills and strengths, and then meet them for coffee and see what they say about their work. Begin telling others what we’d like to do . . . and let the power of our connections create great opportunities for us.
- Redo our resume and position it for a non-law job.
- If we need to, let’s hire a resume writer to update our resume. Create a few versions, that position our resume for something in Business Development, In-House, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Teaching. You name it.
- Redo our LinkedIn profile and make it up to date and attractive to potential non-law employers and our network.
- If we really, really need to leave our current law job, let’s do some contract work for a while in order to segue out of the law and still make money.
- Become self-aware about who we are and how we feel. Let’s not deny it any longer.
- Let’s find a therapist or health professional. Many are covered by insurance. It’s a great baby step to talk to someone about our feelings and struggles and hopes.
- Let’s get help from a coach that focuses on attorneys. Contact me or some other coaches and mentors who focus on attorneys like you. Some of my favorites are Jennifer Alvey (based in Nashville), Katie Slater (in Houston) and Kate Neville (In Washington DC). All work with clients nationwide.
- If we feel depressed, we’re not alone. Read this blog for support, insight and resources.
- Stop being a perfectionist about everything. We need to be perfect to be an attorney, but we don’t need to be to leave the law. In fact, leaving the law requires (demands!) we make mistakes.
- Realize that even if we have done everything “right” in life, it might have been “right” for everyone else but ourselves.
- Begin to visualize ourselves interviewing for a non-law job. Start practicing how we’ll respond to non-law hiring managers.
- Do a catalogue, a true audit, of the skills we have. We’ll see that many of the “legal” skills we attorneys have are also required in non-law jobs.
- Gather our traits and skills: Begin to find our Unique Genius by asking our friends and the following questions: What am I good at? What have I always excelled at? What am I known for? What do I enjoy doing? Have our network email us all of these traits that make up our Unique Genius strengths and skills, and just get them down on paper.
- Organize these traits and skills; Just like a research memo, now let’s write the Unique Genius traits out and organize them on paper. Organize all of these traits and sub-traits into a manageable 3-5 buckets, with main strengths (“Insightful”, “Interpersonal”, “Dependable” and so one) and sub traits for each (“Creative problem solver” and “Very good listener ”and “Meets deadlines”). Create a manageable structure of our skills and strengths.
- Read these Traits. Feel them. Digest them. Make these Unique Genius traits ours. Speak them out loud into a mirror. Let’s feel really, really good about them. Sincere about them. Authentic about them. Confident about them. And realize that these skills and strengths we thought we could use only as a lawyer are actually transferable to other types of jobs. Really.
- Turn these 3-5 Trait buckets into a narrative. What is our story? When someone (hiring manager, informational interviewer, friend at a tech startup) asks us “So, tell me about yourself?” or “So, tell me why you’re applying for this (non-law) job?” we can fall back on our Unique Genius traits and say: “I’m so happy you asked …” and jump into our tight, solid, authentic, sincere, confident narrative: “When I think of my skill set, and how I can contribute to this new job, I have bucketed my skills set into the following three traits, which I think are in fairly good alignment with the requirements of this job description. Let me briefly explain …”
- Volunteer. Anywhere.
- Even with your busy schedule, take a class. Acting. Speaking. Writing. Art. Skeet shooting, yoga, mindfulness, basketball. Nothing big, 30 minutes a week. This event takes our mind off of things, like checking our phone email and work. It refreshes us. It lets our mind work to prepare us to leave.
- Be inspired daily by the Notes from the Universe.
- Read some of my favorite blogs, about life, business, leaving law, lifestyles, thinking differently and slowing down: Seth Godin, The Art of Nonconformity, I Will Teach You to be Rich, and Zen Habits.
- Keep a notebook, Word doc or voice notes or use Evernote to track business ideas, story ideas, or other ideas. Get them down on paper. Even the silly ones. It will help us sort out our thoughts, and be great to read later and reflect on.
- Create a group on Facebook, become a thought leader on Twitter or Google +. Make your voice heard about something you’re passionate about and enjoy . . . and guess what? Others will listen. And don’t worry about making money. Just focus on publishing about what you enjoy and what helps others.
- Go to a Meetup. Some will be a waste of time, but others will be valuable.
- Start a blog about anything – make it public, make it private, whatever. Give away free information and help people.
- Write a guest post about your experiences for Leave Law Behind (contact me).
- Write a guest post on other blogs that appeal to you with large audiences
- Yes, that’s, right, you … write a book.
- Begin to feel good about ourselves.
- Start doing something that we really, really enjoy and are good at … for free.
- Help people. How do you define “helping”? Okay, do more of that.
- Envision what is it is like to be a success and happy and self-fulfilled. Take that time to repel the demon voice from your mind and to really enjoy some thoughts of yourself happy and no longer stuck. Begin to visualize what it is like to not be frustrated. Begin to realize what it is like to be motivated to do your work. Begin to realize what it is like to have a healthy, robust, positive sense of self. Get excited again and force yourself to feel good butterflies. Remember what is like to feel positive anticipation.
- Wanting security and stability is what got us here. Begin to explore the mystery and beauty of uncertainty.
- Try to socialize with non-attorneys. Soak up a different outlook on life.
- Talk to a close friend who will keep your confidences and open up and tell them you’re unhappy and just have them listen to you.
- Let’s build a better relationship with money, a positive relationship. Understand that money is not evil. The love of money to the exclusion of everything else can be not so good. But money in and of itself is not evil. Money is just a generally accepted way to exchange things of value. And when someone values what we do, they will give us money for what we produce or for our time. That’s it.
- Having a lot of money doesn’t make us evil or bad. In fact, having a lot of money can make us a force for good. As Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t help the poor by being one of them.
- Put our running shoes at the foot of the bed before we go to sleep so we can’t ignore them in the morning when we wake up. Or get a dog. Whatever it is, create a forcing factor that drives you to exercise.
- If we need nutrition advice, subscribe to my Registered Dietitian sister’s weekly blog newsletter.
- Read Seth Godin.
- Read ZenHabits.
- Write down our fears that keep us from leaving the law. Read them over and over. Realize they actually aren’t that daunting.
- Drink water and fluids. I like soda water.
- Enjoy our friends, for coffee or drinks. Take some time off from the office. Really. Have a good time where we don’t think about work. It’ll refresh us.
- Work smarter, and not necessarily always harder … as a lawyer and as we begin to leave the law.
- Realize there are many ways to make money other than by the billable hour.
- If we’re a genuinely nice, collaborative person, let’s consider leaving litigation.
- Understand that the perfect job for us may not be the first non-law job we get when we leave the law. And that is just fine. It’s a step in the right direction.
- Match the skills of a non-law job we like to our skill set and see if there is a fit.
- Find non-law jobs that need a problem solved. Ask ourselves, can my skill set help solve this problem?
- Meditate for 12 seconds and focus on your breath. Clear our mind. That’s it, 12 seconds, we can do it, we can clear our mind for 12 seconds. We don’t need to be a Zen Master to do so. Then say thank you. For all we have and will soon have.
- Realize that we have enough. Right now, right now, we have enough. We don’t need much more. Feel that we have enough and we will have enough.
- Let’s become familiar with the new jobs that are out there. A lot of new jobs with cool titles and responsibilities are created each day. Let’s research them. Subscribe to Uncubed.
- Don’t think you need to find your passion to leave the law
- If the nightly news is getting you down and making you scared, stop listening to it. The world is actually a nice, great place.
- Realize that as attorneys, we need to learn in our own way how to take a risk. Leaving the law is a risk. Beginning to live a fulfilling life is a risk. But risk isn’t necessarily bad. Having risk doesn’t mean we shouldn’t necessarily do it.
- Tell someone we trust that we’re unhappy being lawyer. Catalogue how this feels to open up. See how this person is supportive.
- Watch Ted talks
- Be prepared to say that going to law school was a mistake. And that nothing is wrong with this.
- Let’s wear our mistakes as a badge of honor. Let’s get into the mindset of many other successful people, who boast of the mistakes they have made, and yet still gotten through it. Read examples here and here.
- Become more self-accountable. Let’s not rush to blame others.
- Give the law a break. What really is making us want to leave? Is it the law? Or is there some aspect about our firm or job that is changeable? Are we giving the law a hard time? Or should we genuinely leave?
- Do a personality assessment.
- Challenge the belief that we can only do “attorney work”.
- Focus on what we want to do and not just on what we don’t want to do.
- Take a sick day and do nothing. Doing nothing is actually something … something we all need.
- Start doing something that we enjoyed doing before we got too stressed and busy to do it any longer.
- If we don’t work in our (non-law) dream industry yet, let’s volunteer in it for now.
- Begin answering questions on Quora – become an expert on something.
- Realize it’s so great that we are striving to be better.
- Think different than before. As Einstein said, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
- The angst we feel in leaving the law is just the sensation we’re supposed to feel when being redirected to something better. It’s like when a cut that is healing begins to itch.
- Perfection is unattainable. And it’s not that great anyway.
- Live your life as the main hero in your own movie.
- We have not lost our potential. We’re supposed to be right where you are.
- Remember, take baby steps.
- It’s not easy, but we don’t want it to be. As Bruce Lee said, Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.
- Cry when we feel we need to. It can feel so good to get it out.
- Envision success. In the privacy of our home, in a dark room, when the family is asleep, imagine the new job, the money, the security, the lack of anxiety, the satisfaction, no longer being a lawyer, imagine it really imagine it and pump our fists and feel the butterflies in our stomachs and yell and scream with utmost joy and exuberance that we have made it.
- Don’t worry about what others think. Yeah, it can be easy to say and hard to actually do. But remember, other people likely aren’t thinking that much about us anyway. It’s mostly in our heads.
- Drop our kids off at their school in the morning. Or pick them up in the afternoon. Get there early or linger a bit and watch them in their class or at recess. Think of when we were younger.
- Understand that we have tons of support and a like minded community out there to help us.
- There are no overnight successes. All people who make it have been acting towards success for a while, step by step.
- It’s not a rush or race to leave the law. It takes some time, it is done authentically, organically, and sincerely. Just because we don’t see it happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t there or happening as we speak.
- Think about how we feel. When we don’t feel good notice what we’re thinking about. Make a note, and then don’t think about that anymore.
- A belief is just a thought we continue to think. It may be true … and it may not. Question our own beliefs. If we think we can’t leave the law, we won’t do it. If think we can, we will.
- Understand that if we want change in our life, we will have to act and make that change. No one else, no one else, will do it for us.
- The purpose of leaving the law is not simply to leave the law. The purpose is to find alignment. The purpose is to find clarity. Alignment and clarity means we are connected with what we do well and what we like to do and from that self-worth, confidence, satisfaction and happiness result.
- Enjoy the trip. That’s why we’re here. We don’t go on a trip just so we can come back home. We go on a trip in order to enjoy and experience the trip. Realize that our life is a trip. With no real discernible end in sight.
What? I like being a surplus, middle aged paunchy, balding lawyer. I am one of a kind and I represent the Underserved! Thank god my law school made me Practice Ready through its Clinic. Clients just throw big coin at me when I mention Penoyer and International Shoe. I can join 92,000 of my closest colleagues in Illinois!
It’s not a matter of leaving the practise of law behind when because you’re a minority (and being misperceived as the minority that the world despises the most) and female, you were never able to get IN to the legal profession in the first damned place. Problem by now (15 years later) is that my “terminal degree” is the J.D. and until I get a PhD in Mathematical Computational Biophysics (in some country where I won’t go further into debt to obtain it, like France or Finland or Belgium) it will continue to be, chronologically at least, my “terminal” degree. If I just “leave it off” then since it was, after all, 15 years ago, then it as well as all my other degrees, vanishes into the “that was more than 10 years ago, what have you done lately, nothing?! Thanks for stopping by!” round file.