One of the hardest parts of a career change for lawyers is that it is an identity change. We are talking about an emotional attachment – not a business one. Remember the line from, “You’ve Got Mail” when Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan, “It’s not personal, it’s just business” and Meg Ryan says, of course, it is personal to her. Her business is her, they are interchangeable! This is exactly why it is so difficult for lawyers to leave the law.
No matter how much we might know deep down that we really should do something else, it is so scary to think about a completely different life. When we think about introducing ourselves as something other than a lawyer at a cocktail party, it is unfathomable! I know that I hung my law degree high and proud when I first left the law. I wanted everyone to know I was indeed a lawyer, even if I was now a career counselor too!
So, how to you go about leaving the law with this huge obstacle in the way – this huge obstacle – called your ego! Well, the first thing I teach is to get some distance. It is very difficult to find a passion when you are immersed in the world of lawyers. The best thing to do is to get some new friends. Or if you have non-lawyer friends, hang out with them more.
You may be tuning out your gut. If you allow yourself to open up and be open to new ideas, opportunities will come to you. In fact, they already do come to you but you do not see them because you are not open to them. “Following your gut” is a skill that all people own, but it is similar to a muscle that needs to be exercised or it will atrophy! This muscle may be a bit flabby on youand need some working out.
Your assignment is to practice following your gut on small things in your life, including what to wear, where to eat, what invitations to respond to (yes and no), etc. Don’t think, just decide and move on. Scott, my husband says, “STICK AND MOVE!” No more “paralysis of analysis”, (or at least no more of it in your personal life).
Sign up for a class or pursue an interest that is not related to practicing law at all, but you have had a long standing interest in. Even if it might not be something you could make a living doing, go ahead and sign up! Most of the time we lawyers spend so much energy building up this image that we know everything and are perfectly in control of every area of our life. This is partly because the cost of hiring a lawyer is quite high, and we simply can’t let our clients know we have any insecurities or might have to look something up (god forbid). But the unintended result of this behavior is that we lose touch with our gut and put an enormous amount of weight on the title, “lawyer”, and we are particularly bad at being “new” or asking for help.
This can be a big stumbling block to leaving the law. That is, we are sure that in order to find a career we can be passionate about, we will first have to be a newbie and that is so painful we would rather plug away at a career that is slowly killing us. But, by taking a class in something you will decidedly NOT be good at, you are flexing that muscle. In that process, you will learn that it isn’t so bad to be new, it is actually liberating to ask for help, it is fun to be outside of your comfort zone and you may actually meet some new people and enjoy yourself!
Extra Credit: When you get there (to the class you are taking or however you chose to fulfill the assignment), be open. You can’t sit there with a negative attitude and think, “I have heard all of this before”, or “this better work”, or “I have tried everything and this stuff doesn’t work.” By acting and thinking like this, you will be actually blocking yourself from any of this working. What are you waiting for? Remember, your time is now! This is your turn to be happy, to be passionate, and to live life to the fullest.
Live your Life’s Career!
Jennifer Loud Ungar