The Pernicious Cycle That’s Trapping You In Your Job As A Lawyer [TFLP 119]

This week, I want to talk to you about the pernicious cycle that is trapping you in your job as a lawyer. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone but if you are someone who’s feeling trapped in your job as a lawyer, then I’m going to guess that this cycle is part of why.

By far, when my clients come to me to work with me, this is one of the things that they talk about the most as what ultimately pushed them to find some support and accountability around their process of figuring out what they want to do that isn’t practicing law.

This is something that I experienced 100% when I was practicing law as well. It comes up all of the time. So, read on to learn what this cycle really looks like and how you can break it to finally get out of your soul-sucking job as a lawyer. 

What Does The Cycle Trapping You In Your Job As A Lawyer Look Like?

Let’s talk about what this cycle is. This pernicious cycle starts with realizing that your job as a lawyer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s look into it a bit deeper. 

The First Stage: Realization

Here’s how things start. You’re a lawyer, and you are slammed on a massive deal or a huge case. You’re super stressed and things are generally really unpleasant. You’re feeling super overwhelmed, but you also have a very distinct sense that you are unhappy in your job as a lawyer.

This is not sustainable. You cannot continue to do this. You tell yourself, “Okay, as soon as things let up, I will start trying figuring something else out. I will start looking for something. I will do something because I need to make a move. I cannot stay here.”

You’re in that intense period, you’re feeling those feelings where you know like, “This is not for me,” but you’re overwhelmed. Your time is literally taken up with so many other things, that you can’t really do anything else, including trying to figure out what’s next. That’s the first part of this cycle.

Second Stage: Negotiation

As things calm down, you start to think, “Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe I should keep doing this for a little longer.” There are lots of reasons why you might want to do that, whether there’s a potential bonus on the horizon or something else.

Maybe you think “I’ll give it another month or year”, or some of some deadline that makes sense and because things are calmer. Because you aren’t feeling that intense frustration, exhaustion, and overwhelm, you basically talk yourself out of it.

Then, something else happens, and your job gets really intense again. Another deal, another case, someone files a TRO. There are all kinds of things that can make our lives unpleasant as lawyers, so fill in the blank there with whatever it is for you.

Now, you don’t have time, you don’t have the space in your life to be thinking about doing something else. You’re like, “Why didn’t I figure something out when I had the time? Why did I talk myself out of it? This is terrible. As soon as I have time, I’ll do something about it.” And basically, the cycle just repeats over and over until you finally leave your job as a lawyer.

How To Break The Cycle With The Help Of Former Lawyer

I already shared last week about what you should do if you are in a position where you really know, like, “Yes, I do actually want to get out of this job this year.” If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, definitely go back and listen to that because that will give you a place to start if you’re wanting to stop this cycle and get out of your job as a lawyer.

But I just wanted to talk about this cycle by itself because it is so common. I see it so often. I experienced myself and I know it feels a little bit like quicksand. It’s so easy to get sucked into the cycle.

I think that there is power in just naming the fact that it happens in describing it and for you, in recognizing, “Hey, this is happening. This is going to continue happening unless something changes, basically unless I change to do something to pull myself out of this cycle.”

What I would love for you to do after listening to this episode is just reflect on whether this cycle is at play for you. I know that this is a cycle that keeps so many people feeling trapped in their job as a lawyer, and my goal for you is that if you do not want to be a lawyer anymore, that you are able to break free of it.

A big part of that is just recognizing that this cycle is happening. And, if you need some help in finding a new direction, you can join my free master class The Simple 5-Step Framework To Identify An Alternative Career (That You Actually Like!).

The Former Lawyer Framework

Another way to break this cycle is the Former Lawyer Framework. I’m going to be running a guided track through The Former Lawyer Framework inside the Former Lawyer Collaborative. What does that mean? Basically, that means that we’ll be going through the curriculum that forms the backbone of the Collaborative.

It’s a five-step process that moves you from “I have no idea what I want to do” to “I know what I want to do. I know what direction I need to go in. I’m figuring out how to get there.” The guided track is essentially going to be a 10-week process where I walk you through the framework, step by step.

I highly recommend you jump in now. Especially for those of you who are really wanting to leave your job as a lawyer this year or if you are anticipating making a move early next year, this is a perfect timeline for people who are in those positions

If you have any questions, as always, you can email me at [email protected] So, head on over. I hope to see you there!

Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Cottrell. I practiced law for 10 years and now I help unhappy lawyers ditch their soul-sucking jobs. On this show, I share advice and strategies for aspiring former lawyers, and interviews with former lawyers who have left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love.

Hello everyone. This week, I want to talk to you about the pernicious cycle that is trapping you in your lawyer job. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone but if you are someone who's feeling trapped in your job as a lawyer, then I'm going to guess that this cycle is part of why because by far, when my clients come to me to work with me, this is one of the things that they talk about the most as what ultimately pushed them to find some support and accountability around their process of figuring out what they want to do that isn't practicing law. This is something that I experienced 100% when I was practicing law as well. It comes up all of the time.

Let's talk about what this cycle is. It goes something like this. Your job is a lawyer and you are slammed. You're on a massive deal or a huge case. Things are really busy. You are not sleeping. You're super stressed. You're having to cancel plans and not see people, and just things are generally really unpleasant. You're feeling super overwhelmed but you also have a very distinct sense that you are unhappy. This is not sustainable. You cannot continue to do this. You tell yourself, OOkay, as soon as things let up, I will start trying figuring something else out. I will start looking for something. I will do something because I need to make a move. I cannot stay here.” You're in that intense period, you're feeling those feelings where you know like, “This is not for me,” but you're overwhelmed. The sense of your time is literally taken up with so many other things that you don't really have the capacity to do anything else, including trying to figure out what's next. That's the first part of this cycle.

Then things calm down. When things calm down, you originally were telling yourself like, “Okay, as soon as things calm down, I'm going to figure this out because I cannot do this anymore.” But as things calm down, you start to think, “Maybe it's not so bad. Maybe I should keep doing this for a little longer.” There generally are lots of reasons why you might want to do that, whether there's a potential bonus on the horizon or something else in terms of like, “Oh well, I think I should stay for another X number of months or another year,” or some deadline in your mind that makes sense and because things are calmer, and because you aren't feeling that intense frustration, exhaustion, and overwhelm, you basically talk yourself out of it. This is how many of my clients describe this experience. This is certainly how I would have described it myself. You talk yourself out of needing to leave with some combination of like, “Maybe it's not that bad,” etc. until something comes up and your job gets really intense again. Another deal, another case, someone files a TRO. There are all kinds of things that can make our lives unpleasant as lawyers, so fill in the blank there with whatever it is for you.

Now, you don't have time, you don't have the space in your life to be thinking about doing something else. You're like, “Oh, why didn't I try to figure something out when I had the time? Why did I talk myself out of it? This is terrible. As soon as I have some time and this period that's really bad is over, and I'm not feeling so overwhelmed, then I'm going to do something about this.” Then that period ends and you second guess yourself, and you talk yourself out of it. Then you enter a period of overwhelm and you vow that you're going to get out, then that overwhelm ends and you start to second guess yourself. I know that this is a cycle that so many of you are experiencing because this is something that I experienced. Like I said, more than half of the people who I work with mention this as one of the key things that has kept them in the past from making progress.

Hey, it's Sarah. I wanted to let you know that I'm going to be running a guided track through The Former Lawyer Framework inside the Former Lawyer Collaborative. What does that mean? Basically, that means that we'll be going through the curriculum that forms the backbone of the Collaborative called The Former Lawyer Framework. It's a five-step process that moves you from “I have no idea what I want to do” to “I know what I want to do. I know what direction I need to go in. I'm figuring out how to get there.” The guided track is essentially going to be a 10-week process where I walk you through the framework, step by step. The goal is to create some additional accountability and structure for those people who like having deadlines essentially. The way it's going to work is we will have homework or a set of the exercises or the framework that you're going to be getting through each week before that next week's call, then we'll get on the call, ask any questions that you have pertaining to that work, get any help that you need around whatever issues are coming up, then the next week, we'll do it again and we'll do it again, all the way through to when we will have moved through the whole framework. If having this experience of having a guided-track sounds like what helps you stay on track and get you where you want to go, then I highly recommend you jump in now. Especially for those of you who are really wanting to either make a move by the end of this year or who are anticipating wanting to make a move early next year, this is a perfect timeline for people who are in those positions, so go to formerlawyer.com/collab. If you have any questions, as always, you can email [email protected] The address once more, the url is formerlawyer.com/collab. I hope to see you there.

I already shared last week about what you should do if you are in a position where you really know, like, “Yes, I do actually want to get out of this job this year.” If you haven't listened to last week's episode, definitely go back and listen to that because that will give you a place to start if you're wanting to stop this cycle. But I just wanted to talk about this cycle by itself because it is so common. I see it so often. I experienced myself and I know it feels a little bit like quicksand. It's so easy to get sucked into the cycle. I think that there is power in just naming the fact that it happens in describing it and for you, in recognizing, “Hey, this is happening. This is going to continue happening unless something changes, basically unless I change to do something to pull myself out of this cycle.” What I would love for you to do after listening to this episode is just reflect on whether this cycle is at play for you. If it is, if you want to continue allowing the cycle to repeat and repeat or if there's something that you want to do to change it. Because I know that this is a cycle that keeps so many people feeling trapped in their job as a lawyer, and my goal for you is that if you do not want to be in your job as a lawyer, that you are able to break free of it. A big part of that is just recognizing that this cycle is happening. Thanks so much for listening. I will talk to you next week.

Have you watched my free masterclass, The Simple 5-Step Framework To Identify An Alternative Career (That You Actually Like!)? In this master class, you'll learn the proven framework that I use with all of my clients to help them identify an alternative career. You can watch the masterclass right now, just go to formerlawyer.com/masterclass, sign up, and get the link to watch. Once you've watched, message me or email me and let me know what your biggest takeaway was from the class. I would love to know.