This episode is a follow-up to Sarah’s previous conversation with Jamie Spannhake. Jamie is a Former Lawyer Collaborative member who left the law in October 2021 after 17 years of practice.
In this episode, Jamie talks about what she’s done over the last 12 months since leaving the law and some of the lessons that she has continued to learn. If you want to experience the same thing, Sarah will start a new round of the Guided Track in February to help you figure out what you want to do outside the law.
When you join the Guided Track, you get access to everything in the Collab, including the community, weekly calls, and an action plan that guides you through the Former Lawyer Framework. This cohort will only take six lawyers, secure your spot now. Enrollment closes on February 17, and the course starts on the 20th.
Now, let’s get into the conversation with Jamie!
Wrapping Up at the Firm She Worked
Jamie was a partner at the law firm, so wrapping up was a long process. She was expected to transition her clients and other partners’ clients that she serviced and handle some client relationship management. Lastly, she needed to find a lawyer to do what she did at work and help them transition into the role smoothly.
She handed in her notice in May and was determined to leave the law by December. It was easy to drop litigation work in June because the firm had a lot of litigation attorneys. However, by September, she still had cases to sort out, which was problematic because she started looking for a new position immediately after dropping her notice and got a job as a writer. That new job was to begin in September.
Although it was rough, she managed to work it out, even though her firm wasn’t letting her go easily because they needed her. Eventually, she wrapped up at the firm and focused on her new job as a writer at the beginning of October.
Deciding to Leave the Law
For Jamie, it was important to be clear on what she wanted. For example, her new job wanted her to start by August, but she knew that wouldn’t work and negotiated beginning after Labor Day. So, what could have been a two-month overlap ended up being one month. It was hard for her to leave the law without something else to look forward to.
It can be hard for lawyers to decide that they will do something else and like it because leaving the law can be prolonged based on different issues. That was why Jamie joined the Former Lawyer Collaborative.
She needed support to stop talking herself out of leaving the law and taking the new job. It would have been easy to return to the firm, but having the new job meant that people expected her to show up and work. That also helped her keep moving on.
The Year After Leaving the Law
A year after leaving the law, Jamie is still going through the exciting and interesting roller coaster of figuring out what she wants to do.
Now she works as a writer for a small entrepreneurial company that offers continuing education for psychiatrists and psychologists. It has been a great experience as she sees how a small company’s environment differs from a law firm. Working at a small company is more open and allows mistakes. Everyone can express their ideas and be sure they will be tried.
It is a refreshingly different environment. Initially, the company wanted her to do a 40-hour work week, but she negotiated for remotely working 20 hours. She chose to work remotely because the office was over an hour away from her house, and she wanted time to explore other options. It also allows her to do freelance writing for a marketing company that does social media, blogs, and websites for law firms.
Apart from her work as a writer, Jamie has been teaching undergraduate business law courses as an adjunct for Southern New Hampshire University through their online university program. She also coaches and speaks to lawyers while working as the event planner for her daughter’s school’s annual fundraising event.
Jamie works 40–45 hours per week and makes less than she did as a lawyer, but she is much happier.
How Jamie Spannhake Feels in Her New Job
In the first conversation with Jamie, she spoke about making over $100,000 a year while working 20 to 30 hours weekly. Although the work was flexible and she mostly worked from home, she still didn’t like the job because it was emotionally draining. It was hard to bring herself to work, which was contrary to her values.
Now, although she works more hours, it doesn’t feel so much like work because everything is so interesting to her. As a lawyer, she used to think of how she needed to make more money and spend it on things that would make her feel better, but now that she isn’t working as much, she realizes that she does not need as much to make her happy.
Jamie understands the fear that most lawyers fear about moving to a new environment and not loving everything about their jobs. She reckons there will be people at the new jobs that they won’t like, but how issues are handled will be different.
For example, people working in an entrepreneurial company like her will be encouraged to do things differently. In her case, she started with program writing for the company before it paid for her training to start writing for social media and work as a social media manager. She got the chance to learn on the job and was allowed to make mistakes.
That helped her feel empowered because everyone was working towards a common goal of company success, unlike how she felt at the law firm.
What Being a Part of a Team Looks Like
Unlike law firms, where working in a team feels like the firm’s overall success is more bound up in individual achievements, working in a great team means everyone works together to improve how the company does things.
Jamie can confidently attend to stuff outside of work in the company where she now works because she knows someone will cover for her. The team is full of people in a relaxed environment with a common goal and no competition among the employees.
That feeling of togetherness provides a level of security that eases the burden of constantly having to keep up with things. Now, she can rely on others because she knows that the work structure makes room for that.
Shifting into a New Work Culture
One thing that surprises Jamie a year after leaving the law is that people at her job take the weekend off. For example, they were asked to ensure they watched the first part of a program by Friday because they wouldn’t be logged in on Saturday and Sunday to watch others.
The company understands that people who work hard can take weekends off unless an emergency arises. That is different from firms where it was assumed that lawyers would be working on the weekend and had to be available when things came up. The work culture is so cool that Jamie went on vacation for two weeks without taking her computer or sending any emails. For the first time in 20 years, no one asked her to do anything.
On that vacation, old habits kicked in, so she often felt irresponsible for going away without her computer. There were no expectations for her to do more work, and she didn’t feel like she was not doing enough or fear that she was letting her colleagues down, all of which she often felt at the law firm.
The new work culture showed her that she could care a lot about work and do great work that she enjoys without feeling like a bad person when she needs a break.
Answering the Money Question a Year After Leaving the Law
Like many lawyers who have left the practice, Jamie knows how scary it can be to leave the law because of money worries.
In her opinion, one of the best places to start is to figure out how much money is needed to service necessary bills like groceries, housekeeping, car maintenance, etc. It is also important to figure out expenses that can be dropped. That meant letting go of her house cleaner because she realized she didn’t need the service after all. Apart from the house cleaner, she also realized she didn’t need as much to be happy.
She also started saving money and clearing her debts while thinking about transitioning. She advises taking care of bills likely to eat up available funds before transitioning. Former lawyers who no longer earn as much as they used to should create a budget and start spending based on their new earnings, preferably before leaving the law.
In her experience, Jamie didn’t start budgeting before she left the law. Instead, she focused on saving and cutting back on her spending, so for the first six months, she did not have a budget. For example, she didn’t budget an amount that fit her new expected income for eating out so that she would quickly get used to the new income.
It is also important to know that lawyers are smart people with skills and resources that can help them figure things out. So, even if the new income is not enough, it is possible to solve that by looking for other sources of income that fit available skill sets. However, once basic needs are met, one can be happy.
Leaving the Law is Possible
For Jamie, being in The Collaborative taught her that being unable to leave the law for so long was more of a failure of imagination and vision on her part than anything else. She did not believe in herself or her abilities to do something different. Knowing that helped her make changes and focus on things that could help her leave instead of on what made leaving the law impossible.
If you are also in this place of struggle, the Guided Track can help you.
The Guided Track course gives you full access to Sarah Cottrell and all the previous resources in the collaborative, including the Former Lawyer Framework. When you take the course, you also connect with a community of former lawyers and aspiring former lawyers who are ready to walk the journey with you.
The next cohort is open to six lawyers, who will join Sarah on a weekly call for ten weeks after the orientation call. Apart from the group calls, where this small group of lawyers will meet and talk about what they’re working on and ask their questions, you also get a 30-minute one-on-one call with Sarah that you can use whenever you want during the Guided Track.
Also, you will get some free personality assessments recommended in the framework, like a free CliftonStrengths 34 Report and a half-day virtual workshop with a certified CliftonStrengths coach. This workshop is a favorite of past participants of the Guided Tracks because it is incredibly helpful in helping you recognize your skills and talents while providing the language to talk about yourself and your work to a non-legal employer.
Remember that enrollment ends on February 17th, and the course starts on February 20, so get it now.
Connect with Jamie Spannhake
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. I am really excited to share with you my conversation, my second conversation with Jamie Spannhake. Jamie is a member of the Former Lawyer Collaborative. You will hear her share some more specifics about that, but to give you a broad overview, she practiced law for 17 years. She left the law fully in October 2021. This episode today is actually her second episode on the podcast because she shared about her experience in the Collab and her move out of the law in an episode that released in the summer of 2021. Definitely go back and listen to that episode if you haven't.
Today, Jamie is catching us up on what she's done over the last 12 months since leaving the law and some of the lessons that she has continued to learn. I think this will be so helpful. I also just love the window into the experience of the Collab that this will give you. So without further ado, let's get to my conversation with Jamie.
I am super excited to let you know that a new round of the Guided Track is going to be kicking off in February. So if you've been thinking about working with me to figure out what it is that you want to do that isn't practicing law, now is a great time. First of all, what is the Guided Track? The Guided Track basically takes the Collab and everything that you have in the Collab, the community on Circle, the curriculum The Former Lawyer Framework, all of the replays of the various events, panels, workshops that we have had in the Collab, etc., so it takes all of that. In addition to that, what you are doing is you are going to be working with a small group of lawyers.
This round is capped at six lawyers. What we're going to be doing is we will meet weekly for 10 weeks. We’ll first have an orientation call, then we'll meet weekly for 10 weeks, and you will be following an action plan that I've created to help you move through the Former Lawyer Framework in those 10 weeks. We'll have weekly calls where we will meet and talk through what you've worked on that week, what questions have come up. As a member of the Guided Track, you also get a 30-minute one-on-one call with me to use it whenever you want during the Guided Track.
You also get some free personality assessments that I recommend in the framework. You also get a free CliftonStrengths 34 Report and a half-day virtual workshop with a certified CliftonStrengths coach. This workshop is a favorite of past participants of the Guided Tracks. It is incredibly helpful in terms of understanding what you bring to the table, in terms of both soft skills and talents. It also provides you with a lot of language and ways to talk about who you are, the way that you work, and why a non-legal employer should think about hiring you for their role.
If you're someone who wants that weekly accountability, that small group support, the ability to get on live calls with me and a small group of other lawyers to talk through all of these things as you're working through them, what you are looking for is the Guided Track. Go to formerlawyer.com/guidedtrack and you can sign up there. Enrollment closes on Friday, February 17th, and we get started on Monday, February 20th. The calls will be at 8:00 PM Eastern on Mondays starting February 20th and will run through Monday, May 8th. If you want one of these six spots, go to formerlawyer.com/guidedtrack.
Hi, Jamie. Welcome back to the Former Lawyer podcast.
Jamie Spannhake: Hi, Sarah. So good to be here.
Sarah Cottrell: I am really excited to be doing this second episode with you. For people who are listening who haven't listened to your first episode, scroll back in your podcast player, and do that in the intro, I'll tell you what episode number that is and where you can find that, but Jamie is a member of the Former Lawyer Collaborative and she is back one year basically since fully leaving. Why don't you introduce yourself, Jamie, and we'll go from there?
Jamie Spannhake: I am Jamie Jackson Spannhake. I am now a former lawyer. I practiced law for 17 years and I officially left around October 1st of 2021.
Sarah Cottrell: Okay. One of the things we were talking about before we hit record is that the goal for this conversation is to give people the real real “This is how it really is” and I think one of the things that come through on the podcast, but I also just want to make sure people hear, is if you are not happy in the law, it is worth it to find something else and it also can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. I think anyone who tells you, “No, it will be all sunshine and roses,” or “No, it will be all doom and gloom,” either extreme is probably inaccurate.
So, Jamie, where do you want to start? Because I know when we previously talked, it was the summer of 2021, you'd given notice but you hadn't actually left your firm yet, so do you want to talk a little bit about the actual wrap-up to start, and then we'll go from there?
Jamie Spannhake: Yes. That's a good place to start. I'm laughing because the actual wrap-up was like on and on and on the way it seemed like because I was a partner in my law firm, so I had to transition my own clients and I was servicing other partners' clients, so that was work that had to be transitioned. Then there was a lot of relationship management with clients that had to be handled, and add to that that I was the only attorney in my firm who did certain things admitted in Connecticut [inaudible]. It wasn't as simple as just “Oh, and now I'm going to hand this over to my partner,” it was “Let's find someone who can handle this and then transition them.” It was all process.
I gave notice in May and said, “I'm going to be out and done and not practicing law by the end of the year, December of 21.” I stopped litigation work because we had lots of litigation associates that we could transition work to pretty easily. I stopped doing that in June but then July went by, August, and September was almost finished and I wasn't out of all of my cases yet. That was particularly problematic for me because I started looking for work as soon as I gave notice for being a writer and I got a job much more quickly than I thought I was going to. I started my new job at the beginning of September.
Sarah Cottrell: So basically, you had two jobs?
Jamie Spannhake: I was trying to wrap up my law practice and leave the law while I was starting a new job for a new company as a writer. September was rough but it all worked out. My firm wasn't letting me go easily partly because they didn't want me to go, and partly because they needed me, but eventually, I was able to wrap all that up and then focus on my new job at the beginning of October.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's really interesting because this has come up with multiple clients and people I've interviewed for the podcast who were partners in their law firm in particular. I think it's a really important thing for people to think through if they're thinking about transitioning to something else because I think sometimes people have this sense of “I need to wait until I'm basically out the door before I start thinking about other things,” but especially if you're a partner, especially depending on the size of your law firm, the size of the practice, how many associates you have, so many different factors, more often than not, it is more of a process like you're describing.
I think that sometimes people don't think about that in terms of “Okay, what can I get started in terms of figuring out what's next as I'm working through this process, recognizing I'm not going to give a traditional two weeks notice?” kind of thing and at the same time, I think the flip side is I know that there are many people who are partners in their law firm who see this prolonged thing and almost like they don't like what they're doing but the thought of that is also not appealing so they feel stuck in the sense of going through that process feels like a lot. Can you talk about those two sides of that coin?
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. I think the first thing I would say is it's helpful to be clear on what you want. For example, this new job that I got, they wanted me to start at the beginning of August and I knew there was no way I was going to be out of my firm by August. So I negotiated to start after Labor Day. What could have been that two-month overlap ended up just being one month. But when I think back, it would have been nice to have had a break between the two. But at the same time the flip side of that, and I think this is a little bit of what you're getting into, is that it's really hard for some people, and it was for me, to cut the ties and leave until I had something else on the horizon.
It was easy for me to say that I'm going to leave in May and give myself a runway of time to do that, but it was nice, and difficult, to have the overlap transition period so that I never felt like I was hanging on to nothingness.
Sarah Cottrell: I think the other thing that can be helpful, and this came out in what you were saying and this is something I've heard from multiple partners, it's like almost having the other thing is like “No, really, I'm going to do this other thing and now I'm going to like--” because there often can be maybe a prolonged process of extricating yourself depending on the various factors that you have going on.
Jamie Spannhake: I'm nodding my head. You can't see me but I'm like, “Yes, yes, that's exactly it.” Because we talked about this last time I was on, the last time we spoke on the podcast, which was that one of the reasons why I joined the Collaborative was because I wanted to stop talking myself out of leaving the law and having that new job that I already accepted was like my insurance policy because my firm would have gladly been like, “Oh, you changed your mind. Great, come on back.” It would have been seamless. Having that other opportunity already there and having people that were expecting me to show up and do work was a good insurance policy for not going back on what was right for me.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. That makes total sense. Okay, so October of last year, you were out of your firm, you were in the new job. Can you tell the listeners just a little bit about what your last year has looked like work-wise?
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. It's been really great because I am still figuring out what I want to do and that's a bit of a roller coaster but also very exciting and interesting. I took a job as a writer for a small entrepreneurial company that offers continuing education for psychiatrists and psychologists. It's all online. So it's been great being in that company because really seeing how a small entrepreneurial company works and the work environment is so different than a law firm because it's like, “What do you think?” “Well, let's try it. Let's see if it works.” “Oh, it failed. Okay, well, that's not what we want to do.” It's just like, “It's okay to make mistakes. It's great to have ideas,” and then have people be like, “Yeah, we'll try it.”
It's so different that it's refreshing. At the same time, I'm doing that for about 20 hours a week because they wanted me to be an employee working 40 hours a week and I said, “No, that doesn't work for me,” and so I'm doing 20 hours a week remote. They wanted me to come into the office which is over an hour from my house and I didn't want to only be able to do this one thing because I'm still exploring what I want to do. I'm doing that 20 hours a week. I've also been teaching business law to undergraduate students as an adjunct for Southern New Hampshire University through their online university program. That's all from home. It's remote work.
Then I am doing coaching and speaking on my own for lawyers. Then I took a job as the event planner for my daughter's school for their annual fundraising event. I'm doing some freelance writing for a marketing company that does law firm social media, blogs, and websites. That's a bunch of stuff but all of it works out to be about 40-45 hours a week. I’m working more than I was working as a lawyer and making less money and I'm so much happier.
Sarah Cottrell: It's amazing. I was going to say I'm sure people listening are like, “Oh, that sounds busy.” First, can we talk a little bit about the difference between doing this kind of work that is not legal work like the quality of the work or how the work feels to you versus how doing legal work felt?
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. When you listen to the last time I was on the podcast, people will hear that I had the best legal job. I was working 20 to 30 hours a week, making still over $100,000 a year, not working that much, very flexible, mostly from home and I didn't like it still even though it was like the best legal job ever because it was so emotionally draining to me because it felt contrary to my values a lot of times and I wasn't able to bring my whole self to work. Now even though I'm working more, all of it is interesting to me, it doesn't feel like work so much, it feels like, “Oh, I get to sit down and write,” “I get to sit down and plan this thing,” or “I get to come up with a social media plan for this company that I'm working for.”
I really enjoy that and partly because I haven't done it for that long. It's still really new and interesting to me. One of the things that I was thinking about was as a lawyer, I felt like I needed to make more money because I needed to spend more money on things that would make me feel better. Now that I'm not spending my days doing things that ultimately drain me, I don't feel like I need as much fluff, I don't know what the right word is but I don't need to buy as much stuff, do as much stuff to feel good.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, I literally was just talking with the lawyers who are in the Guided Track that's going on right now last week about misery spending and how it is a very real thing where your brain is basically starved for dopamine because of the situation that you're in. It's very consistent. I hear this from people all the time. They move into something else that is more enjoyable for them, less soul-crushing, and they realize that there were these things they were spending money on that they don't actually really need just to not feel so blah.
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah, that's right.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, Okay. The other that I think would be really interesting to just have you share a little bit more about is you mentioned how the environment at the small entrepreneurial company that you're working at as a writer, how different that environment is, which I think would be really interesting to talk a bit more about because it's so common that people are like, “But would it really be different somewhere else? Isn't this just what it is to be an adult with a job?”
Especially if they're in the law firm context, there's often this sense of “Oh, it's just a complete pipe dream that it could potentially be better somewhere else or different.” I've talked with so many people now who have made moves to different environments and they're like, “Whoa, it is so different,” but it's hard sometimes to communicate that to someone who's had this experience in the legal profession for so long that it's like the lawyer bubble is the only thing that we know. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. I think part of what people are thinking is true in the sense that you're not going to love everything about any job. There are going to be people at your work that you don't like. That part, those generalizations may be true, but the paradigm of the industry or the way people handle issues will be very different usually in a different industry or environment. One thing that comes to mind first when you ask me this question is that in an entrepreneurial company like the one I'm in, people are encouraged to do things they've never done before.
If you are hired like I was hired as a writer, I did some straight-up program writing for them to start with and then they said, “Do you want to write for social media and learn how to be a social media manager? Here's some training that you can take that we've paid for you,” and learning as you go and making mistakes as a way to learn how to improve as opposed to getting in trouble, I don't know what the right phrase is, for making a mistake at work, it's hard to put my finger on the psychology of what's different in the environment other than everyone's working toward a common goal of making this company succeed. Maybe the difference is that in a law firm, it's about individual clients so it doesn't feel so cohesive.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's interesting because this is a conversation I've had with multiple people recently, especially people who have left firms for something else. I've had multiple people describe to me, “Oh, in this new environment I feel like we're actually all working towards a common goal,” which sounds weird because, especially in a law firm situation it's like the people you're working with, at least on any given case or deal, you are working towards a common goal, but I think part of it maybe is that the success of the overall firm is much more bound up in individual successes in terms of how particular cases or deals go or who's bringing in what business versus, like you said, the overarching mission of just improving the way the company does whatever it is that the company does overall.
I know multiple people have expressed to me that they never really felt like they were a part of a team or a team effort in the way that they feel now working in a different industry not long.
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. That's a good way to put it too because I've noticed that if I need to not be in the office because I have a dentist appointment or something, there's no like, “Oh, well you better find someone to cover for you.” It's like, “Oh, okay, you cc me on all the emails and I'll handle it till you get back.” It's a team of people with a common goal with no competition between the employees too. Maybe it's like that if you're in-house. I don't know because I've never been in-house. But in a law firm, it's like law school where yeah, you all have this common goal but you're really also competing against each other, and there's not any of that, it's much more relaxed.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, and maybe there's also a level of security in the sense of “we're all in this together” whereas, especially as partners at a law firm, you're in it together but in the sense of “you need to keep up your ‘end of the bargain.’” There is a sense in which you maybe can't rely on other people in the same way and not like, “Oh, because they're bad people,” I mean maybe they are, there's also that possibility, but just structurally, it's not because they're bad people, it's just because of the way that the work is structured, in most situations, I think as a partner, you are it. Also, I think your own fortunes can stand or fall even if the firm is doing amazingly well. You might, for whatever reason, be having a rough time and so there isn't that sense of “we're all in this together.”
Jamie Spannhake: Yes, and it feels, in this new environment, much less compartmentalized between workers.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, and it sounds like one of the things that we talk about on the podcast is being human is normal like, “Oh, you have a dentist appointment,” that's normal. That's not a horrible inconvenience that you need to pay penance for or apologize for. It's just like of course, you have a dentist appointment because you're a human being who goes to the dentist.
Jamie Spannhake: Right. Here's an example. On Friday of last week, there was an email that said, “We really want you to watch this program and see how they are launching this program to learn if there's something that we would like to adopt like they are doing,” and the email said, “And make sure you watch the one today on Friday because the other two are on Saturday and Sunday and you won't be logged in.” I was like, “Oh, right, because people take the weekend off and they don't work.”
Sarah Cottrell: It's a crazy concept.
Jamie Spannhake: I was like, “Yes.” The culture was just more accepting of “You come to work, and you work, and you're a worker and you're a good worker and you work hard. If there's some emergency, maybe we might ask you to do something but we're going to assume that you are not going to be working on the weekend,” rather than “We're going to assume that you are working on the weekend so if anything comes up, you better be available.” It's just such a different culture.
I know there are other jobs where you're expected to work on the weekend but for me, my experience as a lawyer, that was the work that required that. This past August, I went on a vacation for two weeks and I didn't even take my computer. I didn't send one email. No one asked me to do anything. It was amazing. It was the first time that's ever happened in 20 years.
Sarah Cottrell: That is amazing. Because I'm sure other people in other fields probably are like, “Yeah, you went on vacation,” that's literally the definition of what you were doing, but if you're a lawyer, almost universally across the board, for the most part, it's like, “Wait, you went on a vacation and you didn't have your computer?” It's very hard to imagine how different it can be.
Jamie Spannhake: Right. It's funny that you are pointing that out because even as I was saying that I was like, “Is that irresponsible of me to have gone on a two-week vacation and not taken my computer?” I mean old habits die hard. I'm like, “Really? I did. I don't know, is that right?”
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, no. It's so accurate. It's such a paradigm shift that I think sometimes it's hard to express it. I think some lawyers probably hear us talking about this or hear me talking about this thing and think, not making things up, but it doesn't feel real because it is such a different experience. It's so sad I think that in the legal industry, being able to take a vacation is like, “Oh, that's just a ridiculous thought that anyone would be able to do that.” The fact that that is I think the default way that people would think, hearing us talk about this is itself a symptom of one of the many things that is so problematic with the way that we practice law.
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah, absolutely. It's really hard to try to be different when you're surrounded by that expectation because you want to be a good lawyer, you want to be a good employee, you want to be supportive of your colleagues. But the expectation is so unreasonable that no matter how much you do, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough because the expectation is so high.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, and there's this almost level that somehow you're lacking morally if you want to take a vacation that's actually a vacation and is a break from work. Do you know what I mean?
Jamie Spannhake: Yes. I just had that feeling when I was saying it now and I haven't been practicing for a year and no one at my job now had that thought toward me. It was just me.
Sarah Cottrell: Right. Like, “Oh, maybe I'm not committed enough,” this is the twisted logic that we get in our brains because of the way that the environment is and I just think that's so important for people to hear. There is another way to be where you still are a person who cares a lot about your work, does good work, and does interesting work but where you don't feel like you're a bad person because you want a break.
Jamie Spannhake: Right. I hope that is changing in the legal industry. I hear that in some places, it is. It's not happening fast enough if it is happening. Maybe for the people that decide to stay in the legal industry, if they can be part of that change, that would be really great.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, 100%. Okay, so let's talk about a piece of thing that I think is really significant because it's one of the things that people think about the most and you've touched on it a little bit, but of course, the number one thing that people tell me, whether it's someone who I'm working with, someone in the Collab, or even to someone on my email list who's a listener to the podcast, almost always, one of the big concerns in making a change out of legal practice is the financial piece. People have different reasons for that and there are various factors.
I know that you know that I'm not one of those people who's like, “Who cares about the money? Just do what you love,” because here in the real world, we all have obligations, and Jamie, I know that you're a single mom, so can you talk a little bit about that piece of thing, how you've navigated that? And maybe just give people some ideas about how they can think about that aspect of the process because it is an important one but I think it can sometimes loom so incredibly large.
Jamie Spannhake: Yeah. There are so many different things to say in answer to that question. I think one of the best places to start, not to finish but to start, is to figure out how much money you need to make to keep your house, buy your groceries, and still have a car and figure out what you can let go of. One of the things that I miss the most is my house cleaner because I’ve decided to give that up for the time being to be able to do a lot of the other things that I still want to do, so getting really clear on how much you need I think is really important. Because I think what most people end up finding, and this is the conclusion that I came to as well, is I don't need as much as I think I do, especially when you're not misery spending, which we were just talking about.
Then while you are thinking about transitioning or before you leave, really saving money and making sure that you don't have debt that's going to eat up your funds whenever you decide to leave. Because for most people, you might leave a job and go into a new space that also has a great salary but I'm guessing that for most people, they end up doing something that pays less because they love it more. When that is the case, it's really important to budget. If I could redo the last year, the thing I would do would be to start budgeting before I left and start spending on what I expected to be my new income before I left.
Because what I did was I saved up money, I did cut back on spending so I could save up money so I had a cushion. So that while I was figuring out and building up my business and sources of income, I would have savings to supplement to cover everything. But one of the things that I didn't do that well was cut back on my spending so that for the first six months, I was spending without budgeting. Maybe I was spending too much on eating out, for example, rather than budgeting an amount that fits within my new expected income so that my savings would last longer and I would be accustomed to the new income sooner rather than later.
But having said all of that, I think it's also important to know that we are smart people with skills and resources and we figure it out. If you are not making the income you want, you figure out what you can add as far as a source of income. You figure out what you can cut as a source of expenses and to really get away from that black-and-white thinking of “This is my lifestyle. This is the way it must be and I must make this amount of money to be happy.” When our basic needs are met, we can be happy. We don't have to have all of the fluff all of the time.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. To your point, it's like a very personalized calculation which is part of why people need to really look at it for themselves because different people, there are different things that are going to be essential. Even just like do you have kids? Do you not have kids? Do you have pets? Do you not have pets? Just all of the things, I think a lot of the anxiety for people can often come from the fact that they have this idea that finances are a big piece of it but it's this nebulous idea, like you said, it's not necessarily actually a detailed consideration of like, “What am I spending? What might I not spend in another situation?” getting your hands around that.
I think also for people, often people are trying to do that calculus before they even have really any idea of what direction they want to go career-wise. I think one, I tell people, “If you do have a lot of concern about it, get specific.” Like you were talking about, Jamie, but then also recognize that I think sometimes, people are afraid they're going to forget about the financial piece like, “Well, if I just think about what is interesting to me and what I want, somehow I'm going to forget that I have these financial obligations and then be like, ‘Whoops, I left my job for this thing that maybe doesn't work,’” and the reality is figuring out what you want and then figuring out the money piece of it, you can do all of that but doing it in the right order gives you that ability to think through what it is that you want to do. Sometimes the financial concern almost keeps people from even thinking about what it is that they truly want to do.
Jamie Spannhake: That's right. I think you're right. You need to figure them both out but you don't have to figure out the finances first before you decide what you want to do, but you have to figure it out eventually so that you can make it work. But I think they can be two separate analyzes that we can figure out separately but then make them both work.
Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think so often, I have had the experience working with someone where they ultimately don't necessarily have to make as many adjustments as they might have anticipated on the front end, but you can't know that until you're farther into the process.
Jamie Spannhake: I think it's particularly challenging whenever we leave the law for freelance positions or if you're starting your own coaching practice or something, and because you go from this place of salary to income, that can be scary when you have bills. But it can totally work. We just have to believe that we can figure it out because we can.
Sarah Cottrell: Yes, absolutely. Okay, Jamie, is there anything else from your year of being a former lawyer now that you would like to share that you think people should know or anything like that?
Jamie Spannhake: I would say that I think what I learned through the Collaborative and then what has us, and it has been true this past year, is that for me, not being able to leave the law for so long was more a failure of imagination and vision on my part than anything else. I think that was grounded in not believing in myself and my abilities to do something different. When we know that that's the underlying issue, then we can make changes to those things that can enable us to leave rather than focusing on all the external things that we think are making it impossible for us to leave.
Sarah Cottrell: I love that. That's so good and it's so true. I really appreciate you sharing that because you've lived it and I really appreciate you coming on the podcast for a second time to share where you are now and just all of the things. Thank you so much, Jamie. I really appreciate you sharing more of your story with us today.
Jamie Spannhake: Thank you for letting me share it. I hope that people find that helpful and inspiring to help them be able to do what they need to do for themselves.
Sarah Cottrell: Oh, and let's just say if people want to find you online, where can they find you, Jamie?
Jamie Spannhake: I'm on LinkedIn a lot at Jamie Spannhake. I also have a book and I offer coaching and programming for attorneys. That's on my website at jamiespannhake.com.
Sarah Cottrell: Awesome. Okay, thank you again so much.
Jamie Spannhake: Thank you.
Sarah Cottrell: Thank you so much for listening today. If these stories are making you go, “I think the Collab is something that would be a good fit for me or would be helpful for me,” we would love to have you join us. You can go to formerlawyer.com/collab and see all the information and the enrollment information. You can enroll there and join us in the Collab today. I'll see you there and I hope you have a great week.
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