How (And Why) Navneet Mann Left The Legal Field For Coaching [TFLP144]

On the latest episode of the Former Lawyer Podcast, Sarah spoke with Navneet Mann, a former lawyer and listener of the podcast turned professional coach! She has her own practice, helping lawyers and other business professionals with business and mindset coaching. Navneet joins the podcast to talk about deciding to leave the legal field for coaching.

In this conversation, they talked about many different topics, including law firm abuse, the lawyer identity obstacle, and so much more. 

Keep reading to learn all about Navneet’s journey in the legal field and how she turned it around to become a business and mindset coach!

Navneet’s Journey To Law School

Navneet’s journey to law school, even though she knew she wanted to go to law school as a child, wasn’t a straight track. As an adult, Navneet had internal fears (which she later realized were limiting beliefs) about becoming a lawyer. Deep inside, she didn’t know if she had what it took to work in the legal field, so she had other jobs. 

Before law school, Navneet had multiple other careers in marketing and business advising. Her favorite part of being a business advisor was working with people. She felt like she could help them in a bigger way if she had more exposure and a different type of education. 

That’s when Navneet revisited her dream of being a lawyer. She had big dreams of helping many people and becoming a lawyer for the UN. When Navneet got to law school, it wasn’t what she expected. She went to school in England, and while the experience was amazing, it wasn’t what she thought she would be doing. She was even told by a peer that the legal field wasn’t a good fit. 

She thought solicitor and corporate work would somehow be fun to pursue. It was totally different than practicing as a lawyer for the UN, and she wasn’t super excited about it. But, it would be a good next step to where she wanted to go. Navneet needed to prepare herself and get herself in a position where she was an attractive candidate for that career. So, she went home to Canada, where she had to do a series of qualification exams to convert her degree, and began looking for jobs. 

Law Firm Abuse 

Before getting called for the bar, Navneet had a terrible experience of law firm abuse. She was working with the owner of the law firm and hadn’t completed something that he wanted her to. While talking to him about it, he got so angry that he smacked Navneet in the back of the head, leaving her in complete shock. 

This was her first experience working in the legal field, and she was shattered. Navneet couldn’t believe that she had worked so hard to work in the legal field, and this was happening. Rightfully, Navneet walked out. She wouldn’t tolerate abuse from anyone. However, her experience of law firm abuse left her afraid to find another firm to go to. After that, she didn’t know what to expect. Colleagues had said that this is how some partners are and that she just experienced something extreme early on in her career.

Internally, Navneet’s mind and body carried her law firm abuse for a long time. But, she had to follow the next steps to getting called to the bar. She had to finish her articles to move forward, which meant she needed to find another law firm. Navneet was cautious in choosing the next law firm, picking a small boutique litigation firm instead of going corporate. She stayed there and was inspired to pursue litigation.      

Rethinking The Legal Field 

Not long after taking the bar, Navneet was starting to rethink whether she would work in the legal field forever. In the beginning, she enjoyed it. But eventually, the days would begin to drag on, and she woke up with no excitement to start the day. That’s when she started to think, “This isn’t how it should be.”

Navneet worked in corporate jobs before, so she knew that it wasn’t normal for her days to drag on like that. But, once that moment hit, it stuck, and she continued to experience it. Deep down, she knew the legal field wasn’t the right fit. But, she began to think, “Maybe this isn’t so bad.” So, she looked into other law firms without thinking of something outside of the legal field.

Before deciding to pull the plug, Navneet tried her best to make the legal field fit. She was committed to trying out a few different firms before landing in more of a general practice. However, Navneet experienced emotional and verbal harassment, which caused her to leave and take a break from the legal field.  

Taking A Break From The Law 

In 2018, Navneet took a break from working in the legal field. For the first time, she had time for her thoughts and to rediscover who she was and if the law was right for her. This was when she was first introduced to her next career, even though she didn’t know it yet.

Navneet was desperate in trying to heal herself after her experiences in the legal field. She needed to understand why she hated something she had worked so hard for. At first, coaching was just a healing mechanism, but it soon turned into a way out of the legal field. Coaching was a way she could help people in much better ways than practicing law. 

She hadn’t quite decided to leave the legal field, but this was the first time she hadn’t worked in years. Navneet’s identity was tangled in being a lawyer, so she almost didn’t know what to do next. 

So, she started searching for a job that parallelled the law. She even worked with recruiters, one of which made her think about whether this was what she wanted to do. After second-guessing herself, Navneet decided to give the law one last try. 

The Lawyer Identity Obstacle

When Navneet finally left the legal field, it was 2021. She loved her firm and the people within it, and her hours. She finally reached the stage where she thought, “This is what practicing law is supposed to be like.” But, it still wasn’t what she wanted. 

Then, the problem was weighing out on such a prestigious career. Navneet was a lawyer. It was part of her. Her friends would introduce her as “the lawyer,” and her parents were so proud. How was she going to break it to them that she was leaving?

When Navneet realized that her values misaligned with what she was doing, she felt like a fraud. This was a powerful feeling that finally enabled Navneet to leave. It was more important to honor her feelings than to hold onto the lawyer label. 

So, after discovering coaching, Navneet decided to get certified as a personal coach and start her own practice. Since then, she’s revamped her coaching practice to focus on business and mindset coaching for business professionals like lawyers, accountants, and other people in the finance industry. 

Biggest Misconceptions That Lawyers Have About Running A Business

Often, lawyers see running their own business as something foreign or too difficult. They feel like a burden and lose confidence in making a change. Navneet’s advice for those people is to start recognizing who they are. Yes, it can be scary to make the jump and fear that you’re no one aside from being a lawyer. But you are. 

Another big obstacle that lawyers face when they want to leave the legal field to start a business is the need to have everything figured out before making a move. The truth is that entrepreneurship can be messy, and you’ll likely never be completely prepared. 

Navneet asks her clients, “If money wasn’t an issue and you made the same income in every single job you can think of, then what would you be doing?”. Give yourself some time and space for that process because that question will give you the answer you need to break out of the legal field to pursue something that will actually make you happy.

If You’re Ready to Leave The Legal Field for Coaching, Trust Your Gut

When faced with a big decision like leaving the legal field, sometimes lawyers tend not to trust their guts. They forget to acknowledge how intelligent and resourceful they are. Navneet’s number one advice to all lawyers is to trust their gut. 

How sure does someone have to be to get out of an unhappy situation? Stop spending time and energy on something so draining. Get comfortable with the unknown, and live in a more fulfilling way. 

If you need some extra help in leaving the legal field or finding an alternative career, consider coaching. Former Lawyer’s new 1:1 Coaching is now open for a very limited number of clients. For 12 weeks, you get to work with Sarah one-on-one, so you can get the help and support you need to finally get free of the legal field and see how many options you really have.

Connect With Navneet:

Website

Email 

LinkedIn

Instagram 

TikTok

Sarah Cottrell: 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. Right at the top of the episode today, I want to remind you that I have started working with a very small number of people for a one-on-one career coaching. Typically I am only starting one client a month just because of my schedule and the other things that I have going on, but if you are interested in working with me one-on-one, if you've thought about getting a career coach to help you figure out what it is that you want to do that is not practicing law, and if, for whatever reason, The Collab, the group program setting is not the right fit for you, then this could be a really good option.

The super high level details are we work together for 12 weeks, we meet once a week, and in between our meetings, you will be doing various exercises and other things to uncover who you are, what your values are, what it is that you want to do, learning more about potential options, and figuring out how to execute a career change. If that's something that sounds interesting to you, if you are interested in working with me one-on-one, go to The Former Lawyer website, the Work With Me drop down there has an option for one-on-one and you can see all the information and book a consult call with me there if you decide that might be a good fit for you.

Today's podcast episode, I am sharing my conversation with Navneet Mann. I don't want to spoil the conversation too much, but I will just say that Navneet started listening to the podcast when she still was a lawyer and now she owns her own business. We talk about a lot of really important things in this episode including some of the really problematic ways in which abusive behavior is normalized in the legal profession, among many other things. I am excited for you to hear this conversation. Let's get right to my conversation with Navneet Mann.

Hi, Navneet. Welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Navneet Mann: Thank you so much, Sarah. I'm so happy to be here.

Sarah Cottrell: I am excited to hear your story. I think today I saw on LinkedIn a post that you put up about crying at your job frequently, and by your job I mean your previous job as a lawyer, so I know that that's something I feel very strongly about so I'm excited to talk about all the things. But let's start with you introducing yourself to the listeners.

Navneet Mann: Yes. Hi, everyone. My name is Navneet Mann. I go by Nav. I am a former litigator and now am an online business and mindset coach.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. Where to even begin? Let's start where we usually start which is why did you decide to go to law school?

Navneet Mann: Oh my goodness. I was going over this question in my mind so many times, Sarah, because it's so multifaceted. I grew up in an Indian household. My family were immigrants from India. I think a lot of immigrants often have that mentality that their children should be successful and for them, success usually means like doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, like you have to have these prestigious jobs. That was definitely an underlying factor in terms of the careers I felt like I would choose.

Then the other part of that was I always was interested in helping other people. I think many lawyers can probably relate to this but I was always the person that my friends came to or other people came to for advice or help. I think I liked playing that role. Naturally, I ended up selecting law school. My family often told me that I talk a lot and I like to argue so I'd probably make a good lawyer.

Sarah Cottrell: Oh my goodness. It's classic.

Navneet Mann: Exactly. I was like, “All right. Why don't we try this?” That's what led me down that path originally.

Sarah Cottrell: Correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like for you, it was more like you appreciated the vision of what law school would enable you to do. Because some people go to law school thinking like, “I just love constitutional law,” that was me so, and then you realize like, “Oh, wait, almost no one does that,” it's a whole thing. Can you tell me, when you got to law school, was it what you expected, was it not what you expected? Were you like, “This is great,” were you like, “I've made a terrible mistake,” how did you feel?

Navneet Mann: My journey, even though as a kid I knew I wanted to go to law school, it wasn't actually that straight. Prior to law school, I've actually had multiple other careers. I worked in marketing. I also worked at a national bank. I did business advising prior to law school. As an adult, I think I had my own internal fears which I later realized were a lot of limiting beliefs about myself becoming a lawyer. I deep inside didn't know if I had what it took in terms of going to law school and all of that, so I did all of these other things prior to law.

Then in my job as a business advisor, what I loved doing was working with people. I felt like I could help them in such a bigger way had I had more exposure and different type of education. That's when I revisited my dream of being a lawyer. My idea in my head was really big. It was like, “I'm going to help so many people. I'm going to be a lawyer for the UN, and do all of these amazing things.” It was just a huge vision, partly from what I saw on TV, but partly just in my own mind.

When I got to law school, it was just a lot more theoretic, not really what I was expecting. The experience was amazing but just not what I thought my day-to-day would be like. I actually remember one of my law school peers on the first week or two. I didn't even know him. He looked at me, he goes, “Oh, you're not meant to do this. You're not going to work for someone else. You should probably just work for yourself.” I was like, “What? How do you know this?”

Sarah Cottrell: Was that something you had ever thought about yourself?

Navneet Mann: My parents had dabbled in entrepreneurship growing up so I did think about it in the back of my mind, but I didn't ever imagine starting a law firm. I just didn't even know what that entailed so I put that way back somewhere locked away and I didn't really think of it again until obviously more recently.

Sarah Cottrell: Can you tell me a little bit about why you think that person said that to you and if you think that that was an accurate perception on their part?

Navneet Mann: I thought about this multiple times after the fact. I think a part of it is that I don't really conform very well and I do have a lot of opinions so my family was right about that. I’m not necessarily the type that's going to fit into a box, and I think a lot of times in law firms and in the practice, we are meant to stay within these four walls and do things just in a certain manner. You don't always have the freedom to make certain types of decisions or share certain types of opinions.

A lot of times, you are just towing the line and it is up to generally senior counsel, the partners, or things like that. There isn't a lot of autonomy in certain jobs within the profession. I think it was probably just the fact that I had a lot of opinions. I was outspoken, in a respectful way I like to think, but he probably picked up on that.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, it's so interesting. I think you're right there is a lack of autonomy in honestly the majority of legal jobs, but then also there is this—this is something I talk with my clients about often—the legal profession tends to be very rigid. Once you are in a certain practice area, for example, a lot of lawyers will be like, “Wait, you want to do something else?” In ways that I think it doesn't happen like that in a lot of other professions.

Also, I think there are a lot of people who are attracted to law because they are those rule follower types. I very much was a rule follower type where it was like you learn the rules and then you follow the rules. That's one way of approaching things but it's not the only way, but I think because law school attracts so many people of that type, someone who is less prone to that, I would imagine, stands out, and in my opinion, in a good way because I think a lot of this rule following and rigidity all goes together. It's part of why the profession is the way that it is.

Navneet Mann: Yeah. I completely agree with you. I don't think I saw it for what it was when I was on the outside. I actually thought that law would attract more people that were like me in that way, I guess, if we're talking about the rule followers and the non-rule followers. Because I figured it's such a high level in our society in terms of how we get to uphold the law and help give people a voice and help protect people and help interpret the law.

It's just such an important job, although, of course, we are not the courts and we're not the judges, but I thought that it would be more open to different interpretations, things like that, and I think that is why I stayed in it so long doing litigation is because I was able to interpret things differently and help my clients in a unique way.

But in terms of what you say, I did see that there was a lot of rule followers in that way, and I'm not trying to be offensive by any means, but I think the system is created to attract those people, groom those people, and keep them where they are. There's a lot of fear around, like you said, the rigidity. There's so much fear around even making parallel moves. People will be miserable, absolutely miserable in their job, yet they feel, “Oh, if I leave this even for a different area of practice, I have to start all over, basically my life is over.” It is so catastrophic to start all over.

Whereas I don't like following this whole society standard of what my life should look like and I feel like we become so indoctrinated with all of these steps that we're supposed to follow in our society. You get an education, even when you're in elementary school, you better do really, really well, like, “What the heck?” There's so much pressure.

Every single step of the way, you have to do really, really well because we're all being groomed to get into a good college or university and then do well there so you can get a really good job, and then do well there so you can move up in that job. It's all mapped out for you. There's so many of us, including me and you that are like, “Wait a second, what if you get to that top of that ladder and now you're just not happy, then what do you do?” Because society doesn't give you a blueprint after that.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, no, 100%. I think that there really is this experience that you're so trained to be living and working for the next thing. I think it also makes it easier—certainly I'm speaking from my own experience here—it makes it easier to ignore the fact that maybe what you're doing presently isn't good for you, isn't a good fit because you're so focused on, “Well, but I'm doing this so that this other thing in the future,” and then when you get there you're doing that, so that this other thing in the future. It makes it really hard to say, “Okay, but what is happening right now? Do I like this? Is this okay? Am I okay?” It completely pulls people out of being able to be in the present.

Navneet Mann: Oh, my goodness. You said it so well. We are always living for the next thing. People put so little weight on their present moment. Even if they are miserable, they think it's only temporary, they ignore the fact that, “Oh, wait a second, one step ago, two steps ago I was also miserable, so is it possible that the next step may also feel this way? Maybe I'm just perpetuating the way I feel.” It's almost like if I don't open that door, then I don't need to see, I don't need to face what's actually happening so we are willfully blind essentially when it comes to that, at least the satisfaction piece for so many people.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. No judgment because I've been there, but I think it is something that so many lawyers experience. So you're in law school, you have this experience early on where someone recognizes, “Hey, maybe this is not going to be the thing that,” I don't know, I guess almost like you don't fit the mold of a lawyer is the vibe of the comment which that's a whole separate conversation that could be had, but did you feel throughout law school, was that a sense that you had or were you like, “I'm here. I'm doing it. I'm going to go to whatever job post graduation,” how were you thinking about it as you move through?

Navneet Mann: Originally, I was a little offended by that comment but we'll get to that after because I had another person make a similar comment to me afterwards. But as I'm in law school, I enjoyed certain aspects of it, I enjoyed obviously certain courses, I enjoyed being with my colleagues. I ended up joining more of the student body types of groups and things like that, but I wasn't really sure I think what the trajectory of my actual career was going to look because I had done business advising, I have a business degree prior to law, and I was really just in that world.

I thought I would go into solicitor and corporate work and that would somehow be fun for me, I don't know, it was totally different than me being that big lawyer for the UN in my dreams. But that's what I was thinking, but it wasn't that I was super excited about it, it was more just what you just described like, “Okay, now that's the next step. Now I need to start preparing or getting myself in a position where I am an attractive candidate. That's what I can go into because I'm supposed to now do that.”

I'm from Canada so we've got the articling system here where you have to, after law school, go and do a year of article. I was preparing mentally about, “Okay, where could I do that?” and all of just the logical next steps without really feeling excited or thinking too far into the future.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, that makes total sense. There are two directions that we could go. One is I'd love to hear, because you mentioned there was someone else who said something similar later on, and then also just sharing a bit more about how you specifically ended up with the job that you ended up with when you graduated, so which one of those would you like to talk about first?

Navneet Mann: Let's go with the second one first because the other one will come within the story.

Sarah Cottrell: Perfect, let's do it.

Navneet Mann: I actually went to school in England. I got my degree there and then I came back to Canada and we had to do a series of qualification exams basically to convert the degree. I had done that, and while I was doing that, I worked at a law firm and I actually had a terrible, terrible experience at this law firm. Again, probably because I didn't fit the mold and I wasn't just a yes-sir-yes-ma'am type of person. I won't say too much but it was not a really good setting, not very professional.

I ended up with the lawyer that was the owner, I hadn't completed something that he wanted me to complete, so this is, mind you, I've graduated law school, I'm not yet called to the bar, it's this in-between period of time. It's my first experience at a law firm so I'm just telling him, “Oh, I didn't know you wanted me to do that.” We're just having this conversation and he got so angry at me for not completing this task that he literally took his head and smacked me in the back of the head. I was in complete shock, Sarah.

Right now my stomach is dropping just thinking about that moment. Here I am, this fresh graduate and I'm sitting inside of a law firm which is supposed to be this prestigious place and so sacred and all of these things, and now this is what's happening within the four walls of this firm. That was my first actual experience working in a law firm. I was just shattered. I couldn't even believe that this is what I had worked so hard for and now this is what's happening.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, it's traumatic.

Navneet Mann: It was so traumatic. There was a series of things that followed that moment, but of course, I walked out and I was like, “I'm not going to do this. I'm not okay with this type of abuse or any type of abuse” essentially. I left but then to answer your question about how I ended up in the first position, well, now here I was, almost afraid to even go into a law firm. I wasn't even sure what to expect. I had heard colleagues talk about the fact that partners are like this or like that and I think I just experienced something quite extreme right from the get-go.

I ended up really being careful in terms of choosing the law firm. Instead of going into corporate, I ended up at a small litigation, a boutique litigation firm to do my articles eventually. That's where I stayed for the beginning of my career and that's what got me into litigation.

Sarah Cottrell: First of all, I am so sorry that happened. Second of all, I think that it is sadly extreme but not as extreme based on many of the experiences that I've heard about from other lawyers as it should be. It makes total sense that when you have an experience like that to then turn around and be like, “Okay, I'm just going to put myself in another situation like this,” your nervous system is like, “What are you doing?”

Navneet Mann: Yeah. I think internally, my body and my mind obviously carried that for a very long time. I was ashamed to talk to anybody about it because at the time, one of the lawyers that worked there, he said, “Oh, well, do you really want to be that person that goes in and sues another lawyer? This is a really small community, people are going to hear about this.” It just got in my mind. You end up just dealing with it internally by yourself for so long and just carrying this shame I guess with you, even though it's not my fault obviously, but it was just such a strange experience.

I'm a pretty strong headed person. I had never experienced anything along those lines in my life, so I did go through some of the things that were available to me in terms of reporting this and things like that, but like you said, naturally, I need to follow the next steps to even get called to the bar. I have to finish these articles, I need to move forward. I just spent six figures on my education, I didn't want to just let it go at that point. I got myself into another firm. Nothing like that happened again, I'll just preface this.

Sarah Cottrell: It's a very, very low bar.

Navneet Mann: Yeah, exactly. “Oh, okay, you're not going to abuse me, that's great” to like, “This is a great place.” But that's what was happening I guess in the background, but definitely I think my mind, my body, everything carried that shock for a long time.

Sarah Cottrell: I would love to know at that point coming out of that firm, had you liked the work, for example, that you were doing? Did you have this sense of, “Oh, I could like this, just not at this place,” or when you reflect on it, do you think like, “Oh, yeah, it just wasn't a fit for me overall”?

Navneet Mann: The original place, it was a little mundane. It wasn't necessarily something that I was excited about. But I think sometimes it's also because of the way things are run or the type of work that you're given. I really did take that situation, I said, “Okay, this is an anomaly. I'm not going to allow this to shape my entire opinion about the profession or the type of work that's available to me.” That's why I went into the next place.

Then I was doing civil litigation, personal injury type of work at the next place. That was good in the beginning because you get so much court exposure and you're doing the thing that you imagined in your head, but it is so different than what I thought it was going to be and it just became so cookie cutter, so mundane, and I found myself just being bored and not excited.

Right from the beginning of my first actual law firm after being called to the bar, I was already starting to think like, “Oh my god, can I do this for the next 30 years of my life? Is this it?” Those thoughts had already started to formulate at that point.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, and just briefly for people who are listening who aren't familiar with the way things work in Canada, this is my understanding, you can correct me if I'm wrong. You graduate from law school and then you essentially find an articling position for a year which is where you are not yet called to the bar, it's a year-long audition almost, and in theory, everyone gets offers by the firm at the end of the time but in practice, that is not always the case.

That's pretty much all that I know about that system so if there are other things that you think people listening should understand about that in order to just understand the context, please fill in the gaps in my ignorance.

Navneet Mann: No, that's absolutely it, Sarah. Every firm does it differently but essentially, you're training to be a lawyer and you're working under a mentor. Somebody has to take you under their wing and show you the rope. That's the in-between process. When you complete that year, which includes training within the firm and also a course within the law society, when you complete that, then you get your stamp of approval and you get called to the bar, so it's about a year.

Sarah Cottrell: Got it. You're working at this small litigation boutique, pretty quickly it sounds like you're like, “Oh, this is not that interesting.” Can you tell me were you aware and thinking regularly about the fact that it wasn't a fit for you or was it more like you had this sense of dissatisfaction but you were feeling like, “I need to make this work”? Does that make sense?

Navneet Mann: In the beginning, I was okay with it because it was all new, shiny, and exciting and then it gradually I think just started to feel the days would drag on, I'd wake up feeling just not excited to start my day, waiting for the day to end, just staring at my computer screen half the time, living for my lunch breaks. That's when I started to think, “Okay, well, this isn't how it should be.”

Of course, I had worked professional jobs, corporate jobs before so I knew that that's not necessarily normal and your day shouldn't drag on like that. Once that moment hit, it stayed with me and I did experience it pretty regularly. I knew that it wasn't the right fit but that place was just a pretty easy place to be in terms of there was autonomy there and it was a little bit more of a relaxed environment.

I had heard some of my colleagues and my peers say that they've been in really intense environments and, of course, I had just come from this crazy experience, so part of me was like, “Maybe this is the best of all evils. The worst thing is I'm just a little bored or I'm just not that into it but maybe it's better than what's out there.” I think that's what made me stay and I think that it's getting comfortable.

Many people experience just this comfort and we convince ourselves, “Maybe it's not so bad.” But the only alternatives I was really thinking of were other law firms out there. At that moment, my mind had not expanded enough to even think that maybe there's something else I can do completely.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's so interesting because I've had multiple conversations with people in the last couple of weeks where unrelated conversations, lawyers who are still practicing and the same phrase comes up over and over again which is people essentially thinking that maybe they're just being unreasonable and the grass is always greener on the other side, but maybe it isn't actually better elsewhere. It sounds like that for you is a big part of your story as well.

I know it's true for a lot of lawyers where either they compare their experience to a previous experience, they compare their experience to someone else's experience, or just because their current experience isn't that great, they just assume like, “Well, it's just not great everywhere and there aren't better options.”

Can you talk to me about how far into your experience of practicing at that firm did you start thinking, “Oh, maybe there is something better and maybe it's something that is more than just going to another firm, maybe it's doing something else entirely”?

Navneet Mann: Yeah. At that particular firm, I just thought, “Oh, maybe it's just this type of practice. Maybe it's just the fact that I don't really like PI that much or it's too cookie-cutter for me. Maybe all I need to do is just change areas of practice.” Before I decided to pull the plug, I really tried to make law work. I worked at a few different firms in different areas of practice really trying to find the right fit. I was committed to making it work.

I think I worked there for a couple of years and then I moved on to an area a law firm that again was a boutique firm but it would allow me to do different types of law practice. They had a more general practice so I would get to touch on more of the business and corporate files and all sorts of different interesting things. I did that for a little while. Then there was a whole host of things wrong with that boutique firm and I ended up leaving that practice.

Oh my goodness, my journey is so crazy there. I experienced more emotional and verbal bullying and harassment there and it was a really, really toxic situation. The firm I think ended up basically falling apart soon after but I ended up leaving because I was so stressed out, I was so unhappy at a place where I had chosen to go there and I was like, “Oh, crap, not again.”

I left there and then I actually took a break from law. This was 2018. For the first time I was like, “Okay, I think I need to take a break a few years after I started practicing really just to gather myself and understand whether this is really for me.” Because now this is technically my third law firm, but second after being called to the bar. It wasn't what I wanted, I was so unhappy and it was seeping into so many different areas of my life and I just felt like I was losing myself. I ended up taking a break.

That was actually the time that I found coaching. We can go back and forth at the details there, but I ended up finding it because I was desperate to heal myself and understand what was happening to me and why I was so unhappy. I had just never experienced anything so low in that way, especially after I had spent so many years and so much money investing into this career. I found it first as a healing mechanism for me. Then when I got deeper and deeper into it, I realized, “Oh my goodness, there is an avenue here for me to help people in such a bigger way that I didn't even know existed before.”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I find that a lot of lawyers went into law in the first place because they really wanted to, like you said, help people in a very direct way and then they find that they're not really able to do that. It's not as much part of the profession as I think it's often perceived to be. There are a lot of people who I work with who end up thinking about moving into something that does involve more directly working with people because that's what a lot of people who went to law school were hoping to do in the first place and just the reality of how legal practice is, it actually is not really structured to work I think in the way that many people envision it to be.

So you found coaching or a coach and you were processing some of the experiences that you had had. At this point, what was your thought? Was it like, “Okay, I'm going to take a break because this has been really ridiculous, this experience thus far”? At that point, were you thinking, “I'm going to figure out what I want to do” or was it more like, “Oh, I'm going to take a break to give myself some emotional space and then go back”? What were your thoughts at that point?

Navneet Mann: I think at that point I hadn't quite decided, but it was the first time in my life since I was 12 or 14 that I had been unemployed. I was just processing what the heck happened, like how at this juncture could I be sitting here not working and just staring at my blank white walls every day? It was just a lot to take in. I think even just from a personal or ego standpoint, like, “How can I not be working? How can I not be happy? I'm so resourceful. I’m so this. I'm so that.” There's just so much to process and unload there.

I think my identity had become so intertwined with being a lawyer and having that status that I wasn't quite ready to let go of that. I didn't really know who I would be if I wasn't a lawyer or what is going to be next for me or did I make a huge mistake. I didn't really want to go down that path.

I started to search for jobs. I was almost trying to get jobs that might be parallel to law, like something that would allow me to use my law degree but not practice law because I think the practice of law became synonymous with this deep level of stress and anxiety for me. I was like, “Oh, what else can I do with this?” I spent a lot of hours researching like “What can you do with a law degree?”

Sarah Cottrell: It’s like alternative careers for lawyers.

Navneet Mann: Yeah, exactly, you know the drill. I did that for a long time. I worked with recruiters. I went far down the path of interviewing for a couple of different jobs. Then one recruiter who was a former lawyer herself had a discussion with me. She asked me, “Are you sure you're ready to leave this career? You could be a good fit for this other job but I don't want you to regret leaving law because you've only practiced a few years. Are you sure?”

At that point, when this recruiter is having this conversation with me, and she was very kind coming from a really caring place, I couldn't answer that question with confidence which is I think what made me think that, “Okay, maybe I'm going to regret leaving if I leave at this point. Maybe I'm not ready to leave. I need to give it another chance.” So I did. I gave it yet another chance. You know the story. It obviously didn't work out. A couple years later is when I felt more confident pulling the plug.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. Tell me about that. It's interesting because so many people who I talk with are in that place of they really think it's not for them. There could be some lawyer job somewhere that might not be terrible. They aren't quite sure what it is. I think a lot of lawyers, and I was in this position as well, struggle with this feeling of like, “But how do I know?” Even the question that you were asked like, “Are you sure? Have you given it enough time?” These sorts of questions.

I would love to know, do you have any advice for people who are going through a similar experience who think they know but they're not sure they know and they're not sure how sure they need to be to be sure that they know?

Navneet Mann: That's a fun game we like to play with ourselves when we don't really trust our gut and we don't trust what's actually happening inside. You said something there about there might be some lawyer job out there that might make me happy or it might not be terrible. I think yes, there might be but there also might be a thousand other types of jobs that would actually make you happy, so you don't have to just live in this “I'm not miserable place”, you can actually be fulfilled.

I think we forget to look at the flip side and we really forget to acknowledge how intelligent and resourceful lawyers are. You went through law school, you've got a lot under your belt already, and there are so many things that you can do with the skills, the experiences, and the knowledge that you have.

In terms of advice, I always like to say to my clients too, “How sure do you need to be? Do you need to be 100% sure or 90% sure or 75% sure? Because that bar is always moving for you.” You're spending a lot of time and energy being in this place of limbo, being so unsure, and that time could be spent actually exploring different avenues and different options that could actually make you more fulfilled and could still make you a lot of money.

I think there's this myth that lawyers make so much money, and I don't want to give that up, but we really forget to acknowledge the hours that we're spending to earn that income. Yes, on the surface, it looks like a lot of money, but you're working twice as much as the average person. It's ridiculous. We don't always take that into consideration as if you're breaking it down by hour, no you're probably not really earning that much.

Honestly, we all know that money cannot be the only deciding factor because if it is, then you're really trading in something else, you're paying for it with your health, with your mental health, your relationships. There are so many other things that take a back seat if you are so fixated on just earning the most income in your law career or being married to the status and things like that.

It's hard to say one piece of advice for somebody that is here or thinking about it but I think maybe looking at your life from different perspectives and saying, “Okay, well, yes, I can go into a different law firm but what does the rest of my life look like in terms of my relationships, my health, my hobbies, or anything outside of work? Do I have a life outside of work? Do I enjoy that life outside of work? What other options could be available? What else do I see?” Things like your podcast, Sarah, it shows so many different layers of what is possible for people. I think we just forget that because we don't want to look outside of what we know because the unknown feels so scary.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think to your point that you mentioned a couple of minutes ago, it's so easy to have your identity wrapped up in “I'm a lawyer”, and that means certain things about me and it's prestigious and people think it's impressive. That is very common, it's trained into us by the profession and the way that the profession operates.

Can you talk a little bit about that? Because you said that that was at play, you went to this final firm and eventually you got to the point where you were like, “Okay, actually, yeah, I'm ready to leave.” Can you talk to me about that process and how that happened for you?

Navneet Mann: Yeah. I left law last year in the fall of 2021 fully, but the last place where I was was actually a great firm. No complaints, I had autonomy, I managed a team, I made really good money. I got to check out in the evenings. I didn't have to stay on. I think in my experience, I got to that place where I was like, “Oh, this is how it's supposed to be,” and maybe had I experienced that in the very beginning of my career, things could have been different, but I still realized that that gut feeling inside of me was still like, “This isn't what you want to do. You're still compromising. You're still giving something up.”

So then it became about me having to weigh this out with this prestige, this identity of being a lawyer. It's easy when you go somewhere, you introduce yourself as a lawyer. In fact, my friends would introduce me as the lawyer and you end up enjoying that to an extent. My parents were so proud, “Oh, our daughter is a lawyer.” I felt like I was letting down so many people just by pursuing what I wanted, which actually at this point still wasn't even really crystal clear. I didn't know what this other life was going to look like.

But I had to really sit with that and realize (a) nobody's ever going to take away my education or my experience. A lawyer is a lawyer as a lawyer, I still have my degree, I still have my accolades, I still have that experience. I thought what was more powerful than me holding on to this identity of just the label was me being able to walk away from that. You being able to look at yourself and say, “No, because there's something more important in my life and I'm not willing to sacrifice my joy and happiness just to have this label” felt a lot more powerful and I felt like that was a decision that I was making and I can stand by that.

I think to me, that was more important to honor how I felt rather than hold on to the label. Even now, people will still refer to me as a lawyer. I always feel like I have to add the asterisks, “No, but I'm not a practicing lawyer. I can't give you any legal advice.”

Sarah Cottrell: Terms and conditions apply.

Navneet Mann: Please read this. But you don't realize that your identity is not your job, your identity is who you are, it's your values, it's what you stand for, it's so many things. Your job is just one little blip, it's just an experience, it is not your identity. When I realized that what I stand for and what my values were were not in alignment with what I was doing, I felt like I was being a fraud in my life.

I was not honoring who I really am and what I'm here to do and to do something bigger, and like you mentioned, to help people in a more direct way, I wasn't doing that because law is so bureaucratic and I realized law was more about filling the pockets of the firm, it was more about the billable hour, it was more about how many clients I signed, it was not about the end result and helping this person on a personal level.

When I realized there's this huge mismatch with who I really am inside and what I stand for, that's when I think it got easier to release the fact that the law is not my identity. My identity is so much bigger than that.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think that is so important. It's really important and it can be really difficult. You left this past fall, tell me what you're doing now.

Navneet Mann: Yes. In 2018, when I found coaching is when I started to get certified as a certified professional coach. I had completed that while I was working and started a coaching practice back then. Now what I've decided to do is revamp my coaching practice. I now am a business and mindset coach for career professionals.

I work with a lot of lawyers and accountants and people in the finance industry, people that are feeling the same way that I felt are looking to transition out of those careers but are really just afraid to make the leap. I help them start online businesses so they can supplement their income and be able to make that transition with confidence. That's what I'm doing these days.

Sarah Cottrell: What do you think is the biggest misconception that lawyers have about running their own business?

Navneet Mann: Oh, man. First of all, when I saw the firms that I worked at, I think, “Oh, my goodness, lawyers make terrible business people. What are you doing?” I think some of the misconceptions that people end up having is it is foreign, it is so difficult, I'll never figure it out. I think that they put it on a pedestal like it is something that is so difficult to figure out. There are just so many things. That comes up quite a bit.

Like you said in the very beginning of this episode is that “I don't know what to do next” so they feel like, “Well, I don't want the burden of running a business. I don't even know what I want to do,” so they don't feel confident in that decision of making the change. But I'd say bigger than that, the misconception is just that it's really difficult, it's really complicated. I won't know how to do it so it's just easier to work for someone else even though they're not happy there and don't have the autonomy that they want.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think it's so interesting because so much of it too is based on knowing yourself. It was my experience and I know this is the experience for so many lawyers, that they really are in a place where there's this sense of like, “I don't know who I am apart from this.” For anyone who's listening and is thinking like, “Well, that sounds appealing, but I wouldn't really know where to start,” I just think the most important thing is to start to recognize who you are, who you are as a person, like Nav was saying earlier, apart from your job. I think that can feel scary because sometimes it feels like, “Am I a person apart from my job?” But you are.

Navneet Mann: I really do agree with that. I think one of the other things that comes up quite a bit is, “Oh, I need to have it all figured out before I even explore the next thing. Oh, I need to do all the research. I need to figure out all the steps. I need to know exactly how I'm going to run a business before I ever step into that world.” You and I both know that entrepreneurship can be messy and there's no such thing as knowing every single step before you start, it's just not possible. You just don't know what's going to come up, but you can be prepared, of course.

A part of that preparation is really taking yourself through a methodical process and being able to understand who am I, what's really not working here, what is the disconnect, what do I really need, what is my greater vision for my future? A question I often like to ask is “If money wasn't an issue and you made the exact same income in every single job you can possibly think of, then what would you be doing?” I'm willing to bet, most of your listeners are not going to say, “Yes, this is what I would do. I'd still be a lawyer because I'm so darn happy doing this.”

Sarah Cottrell: It seems unlikely just statistically speaking. As we're getting to the end of our conversation, is there anything else that you would like to share that we haven't had a chance to touch on yet?

Navneet Mann: No. I think we've gone on a whole journey on this conversation, touched on more than I was expecting to touch on, but I think all I would really say is just oftentimes, we know deep inside what is right for us and whether we are in alignment with where we're supposed to be or not, so just don't ignore that nudge when you feel it. Explore it a little bit even if it's on your own. The more we ignore that, the stronger it becomes and it's going to show up anyway.

If you're feeling something might not be right, then I invite you to just explore what that is and what the disconnect is and then take it from there. Everything doesn't have to happen overnight and things are not so black and white where you just can say, “Today I'm a lawyer and tomorrow I won't be.” There is a process and it's okay to give yourself that space.

Sarah Cottrell: Yes, 100% I'm nodding. No one can see me but that's what's happening. Nav, for people who want to connect with you, work with you, reach out to you, where can they find you online?

Navneet Mann: Yeah. Feel free to reach out to me on my website, it's navneetmann.com. You can also email me at [email protected] I also live on LinkedIn and Instagram quite a bit, and TikTok actually, so if you just search my name Navneet Mann, you will find me on there. I'm wearing a yellow shirt for anyone that needs to know. It's always yellow.

Sarah Cottrell: I like it. It's a signature color. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you sharing your story.

Navneet Mann: Thank you, Sarah, for having me. This is great.

Sarah Cottrell: Thanks so much for listening. I absolutely love getting to share this podcast with you. If you haven't yet, I invite you to download my free guide: First Steps to Leaving the Law at formerlawyer.com/first. Until next time, have a great week.