How the Former Lawyer Collaborative Helped Angelica Pedraza Transition to Nursing [TFLP168]

This episode features Angelica Pedraza, who has eight years of experience working as a commercial real estate lawyer in Biglaw, Midlaw, and a boutique firm. Angelina has been a lawyer for eight years but has decided to leave the field to become a nurse. 

Angelina gave notice at her firm in October of last year after joining the Former Lawyer Collaborative in May. In this episode, we learn about her journey and how she plans to change careers. 

If you’re reading this and want the resources, courage, and support to make the kind of change she did, you can get all these by joining the Collaborative’s Guided Track course. Joining the course gives you access to all the resources in the Collaborative and the Former Lawyer Framework that detail how to make that transition. Apart from these, you also get access to a community of lawyers who will join a weekly call with Sarah to provide support. 

Enrollment closes on February 17th, as this cohort starts on the 20th

Now, let’s get into the conversation with Angelica.

Getting into The Legal Practice

Angelica went to law school thinking she would be a criminal prosecutor. Growing up in a law enforcement family, she was eager to serve her community. Two years into law school, she did an externship at the U.S. Attorney’s office and realized she didn’t want her career success to be based on people’s bad days. 

That realization made her feel lost because she had gone into law school single-mindedly and never considered other options. Since she was already in her third year at Columbia Law School, she felt that she could take the summer to work at a firm and gather some money while figuring out what to do with herself. She thought about what she would do if she worked at a big firm and weighed several options. During that process, she removed the possibility of being a litigation attorney because she hated doing research and writing at odd hours but considered working in the corporate world. She did an elimination process where she considered her best and worst options were in corporate. That path led her to work in corporate real estate. 

For eight years, she dealt with the reality that she was unhappy practicing law but thought she would feel happier if she moved to a firm in New Jersey. Then came COVID, and she moved to Denver. The office setting was no fun because she hated sitting behind a computer screen for long periods without human interaction. That was when she thought of joining a boutique firm. She liked the idea because it would be a smaller firm doing community partnership development. 

Angelica genuinely thought that joining a small firm would solve her problem, but less than three months in, she called her partner mentor to say that she didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. 

After that conversation, she opted for reduced work hours. Still, after joining the Former Lawyer Collaborative and working through the Former Lawyer Framework, it became clear that she had been searching for happiness in a career that didn’t make her happy. She finally admitted to herself that she needed to find a way to be satisfied, and that was not in the law. 

Realizing that Law Was Not Enjoyable

The outcome of the call with her partner’s mentor was that she should take on reduced hours because she may be overwhelmed with her kids, one of whom has special needs. She also had multiple partners call her and advise her to stick it out and give it a year or two to fall into the rhythm. 

But, at that point, she already knew that she had been unhappy for years, and it was clear that nobody was listening to her. While she said she was overwhelmed and unhappy, the people she talked to were only looking for ways to fix things because they couldn’t fathom that she would feel like that after investing time, money, and energy into her career. 

Since no one understood her and was going to support her, she started looking for support elsewhere. After googling and spending a lot of time on LinkedIn, Angelica came across the Former Lawyer Collaborative and saw a post that spoke to her situation. 

From there, she realized that she wasn’t the only lawyer who felt like that and that other people got it. That gave her the confidence to talk to more lawyers, and she was surprised to hear that many of them had similar feelings. They, too, wanted to leave the law but weren’t sure if it would be a long-term career for them; they weren’t sure if they wanted to stick around to make partners or if they wanted to move on to something else.

Deciding to Leave the Law

After realizing that the law was no longer fun and she could leave, one thing that spurred her to take action finally was that she finally paid off her student loans last year. She had always told herself to work hard to pay off her student loans so she could do whatever she wanted. Then she realized a year later that she was still not doing what she wanted and was unhappy. 

Angelica also felt she was teaching her children that it is acceptable to continue working in a job they disliked. Interestingly, her husband is a lawyer who loves his profession, and when he would excitedly talk about his work, she could not relate to that.  

She juxtaposed their reactions and saw that she needed to get out because she did not feel as fulfilled as her husband. It was also difficult to talk about her feelings with other lawyers because she felt insensitive to their efforts and sacrifices. 

Joining the Former Lawyer Collaborative helped Angelica with this situation because it gave her access to other people who didn’t know what to do next but had the framework to help them think through it. She was scared that the next step wouldn’t bring her happiness after having moved from one form to another in search of it. 

But she went into the Collab ready to thoughtfully highlight her strengths and skills and the work she wanted. Angelica knew that the work of introspection was important because if she had done that years ago, she would have known that being a lawyer was not her dream. 

Enlarging Her Vision to Pursue a Nursing Career

When Angelica joined the Collab, she thought her vision was too small. She wanted something easier to transition into. Before joining, she spent hours scrolling through Linkedin looking for roles that felt easy to jump into or were traditional and fit her skills. 

That is why, for her, the true value of the Former Lawyer Collaborative was that it encouraged her to think about what wasn’t working about practicing law before deciding what to do next. That forced her to look at things for what they were and avoid jumping into another job that would only leave her feeling miserable. 

As she moved through the Collab, did the assessments, and listened to all the podcasts, she started to see what other people like her were doing differently and where they were in their lives. She was forced to blow up her search and felt like the walls around her vision were coming down. She decided to start on a clean slate and asked herself what she would love to do next if school or nothing else mattered. 

The skills and personality assessment tests kept pointing to nursing, and she thought that was crazy because that would mean going back to school. However, she held on to her promise to start on a clean slate and Googled “from lawyer to nurse,” and one of Sarah’s podcasts showed up in search results. 

Listening to that episode felt different because she could relate to everything that was said, and it felt like it was meant to be. After listening, she connected with a nurse anesthetist and started doing informational interviews like the Collaborative recommended. She spoke to about 15 nurses before concluding that nursing was for her. 

Afterward, Angelica enrolled in a certified nursing assistant class at her community college. She felt she needed to dip her toe in the water before making a big leap. She was so excited to attend her classes that everyone in her family could see the difference between the days she had class and the days she had to work.

Having done clinical rotations and worked with patients, Angelica could see that although nursing is entirely different from being a lawyer, it was exactly what she wanted to do. Thanks to the Former Lawyer Collaborative, she had support at different parts of the journey.

The Financial Struggle of Leaving the Law

Like many lawyers who wish to leave the law, Angelica can relate to putting off plans until certain financial milestones have been reached. She was, quite frankly, scared to walk away from a career that made her good money and provided stability. 

It wasn’t until she took time to look into nursing that she realized that, because there was a shortage of certified nursing assistants in Colorado, she would be paid to go to nursing school and work part-time with health institutions. 

She didn’t even think of that as a potential option because she felt she didn’t have the time, and it was easy to say that she would focus on it after paying off her student loans. In reality, she was stressed out and didn’t want to take the time to stop or make the jump sooner or at least explore possible options. 

Even after she was ready to transition out of the law, the fear of upending what was stable or trying to do something new still had her bound. As a mom of two young kids, it was easy to be focused on taking care of everyone else except herself, but she had to. After communicating that need to her family, her husband had to change jobs to make more money so she could pursue her new path. 

Moving on After Leaving the Law

After deciding to leave the law, Angelica also needed clarification on what to do next. It was hard to tell herself to slow down because she wasn’t in a toxic work environment from which she needed to get away immediately. It was hard to tell herself that she needed to take time to introspect and think things through without jumping into the cycle of updating her resume and preparing a cover letter.

Looking back, she thinks her confidence as a person grew through that process because she told herself that it was okay to feel unhappy as a lawyer. She could confidently tell others that although she didn’t know what she wanted to do next, she knew that it wasn’t against the law. 

It was important to sort that out because it helped her focus on taking the next steps. Even if it took her minutes or weeks, it was a welcome step in moving forward. Permitting herself to take things at her own pace instead of what the world expected felt good and was a needed change. 

Inside the Former Lawyer Collaborative

Like any online course, Angelica understood that she could choose the most helpful things in the Collaborative. 

For example, she didn’t join the live calls because she was worried that if she joined the collaborative circles, she wouldn’t get a clean slate to make the best decision. However, she was able to do some contemplating and introspecting by reading the Collab circle posts because it gave her a sense of what people were doing or considering. 

Angelica made that distinction because she wanted her choice of what to do to be based on her desires and not what people thought was best for her. She knew she couldn’t learn better in a live call setting and chose to focus on other aspects that would be helpful for her. 

She admitted that when she first started, she was skeptical about joining because the welcome portions of the course felt fluffy. But, having gone through more parts of the course and putting in the work required, she has been able to frame her journey and force herself to keep moving toward her goal. 

For her, being able to think things through to decide what would work and what would not work was important. Even though not every part of the framework helped in that regard, she thinks that others will find them helpful because she also found pieces of the framework that laid the groundwork for her to think about things differently. 

When she joined the Collab, she thought she would just take a few tests, listen to a few podcasts, and then just know what to do. But she realized it wasn’t that simple, and she needed to think through what had worked, what hadn’t worked, why she stayed in the law for so long, and why she went into it. 

She didn’t just get a list of careers that she could pursue; the beauty of the Collab was that it guided her thoughts into deciding the next move beyond what was fast and easy. 

How to Leave the Law

If you are trying to leave the law, it is vital to know that you are not alone in the process and need an open mind. Angelica could never have thought that process would lead her to the nursing profession, but she challenged herself to start in a clean state, and she did that.

Starting with a clean slate can be difficult when you are doing it alone. That is why you should plug into the community of people like you who want to transition out of the law or have transitioned. Joining a community like the Former Lawyer Collaborative can boost your confidence because you will see other people who understand your journey and are doing things similarly.

Taking the Guided Track course is a great way to get into the collaborative. This course provides weekly accountability through small group support and access to live calls where you can talk through things as you work through them.

Apart from the support and community, you will also get access to all the resources in the collab, including the Former Lawyer Framework that guided Angelica on her journey of transitioning out of the law.  These resources include free personality assessments, a free CliftonStrengths 34 Report, and a half-day virtual workshop with a certified CliftonStrengths coach to help you realize what you bring to the table and how to talk to non-legal employers. 

This round is capped at six lawyers, and enrollment ends on February 17th. Weekly live call sessions start on February 20th and run for ten weeks after the initial orientation call. You also get a 30-minute one-on-one call with Sarah that you can use at any point during the Guided Track. Remember, you can get one of those slots and start your journey to happiness by joining The Guided Track.

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.

I am incredibly excited to share my conversation with Angelica Pedraza with you today. Angelica is a member of The Former Lawyer Collab and she joined back in May of last year. She gave notice at her firm in October. We talk all about that, what she has decided to do now. There's so much goodness in this episode. I literally cannot wait for you to hear it so let's get right to my conversation with Angelica.

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 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

Hey, Angelica. Welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Angelica Pedraza: Hey, thanks for having me, Sarah.

Sarah Cottrell: I am really excited to talk with you and have you share your story. I'm sure it'll become apparent shortly why that is but why don't you start just introducing yourself to the listeners?

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah, sure. I'm Angelica. I was a commercial real estate lawyer in Biglaw, midlaw, and in a boutique firm over the last eight years and have decided to leave the law. I actually gave my notice about a month ago to my firm and I'm no longer with them. I'm pursuing a career transition into nursing.

Sarah Cottrell: Super exciting. Angelica is a member of The Former Lawyer Collaborative, which is why she is here today. She wrote me an email, I want to say basically a little over a month ago to tell me about the different realizations that she'd had. Angelica, when I got that email, it's just so exciting to see people really being able to get clear on what it is that they want to do. Because I can remember as a lawyer just feeling this “I don't want to do this but I do not know what I want to do.”

Why don't we talk a little bit about your story and then also for people who are interested, you can also share a little bit about what your experience was/is like in the Collab and all those good things. You laughed as you described doing work in different types of firms and I also did, so let's start just a little bit there and say that often people make those moves because they're like, “This doesn't seem like the right fit. Maybe it'll be a better fit over here,” and then it's like, “This doesn't seem like the right fit. Maybe it'll be a better fit over there.” Was that part of your experience?

Angelica Pedraza: Absolutely.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, can you talk a little bit about that?

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. That was neat to a T. Just for a background, I went into law school thinking I was going to be a criminal prosecutor. I grew up in a law enforcement family and that’s how I really thought I would serve my community. Then I did an externship in law school at the U.S Attorney's Office and I just came to the realization halfway through law school that I did not want my successes in my career to be based off of people's worst days and so I really felt lost two years into law school and was like, “Well, what do I do now?” because I had literally gone to law school with that single solitary purpose and had not thought about any other options.

I felt myself trying to figure out what to do in my third year of law school. I went to Columbia Law School, they push you to go a certain way and so I had already summered out of firm because that's what's largely supported when you're a law student and so I had had that experience, me thinking, “Oh, I'll just use this over the summer to make some money, but ultimately, I think I want to go in a prosecution.”

I had actually summered at a firm after 1L and 2L year, and so through that process had gotten to meet a lot of different people. I was looking around and trying to figure out, “Now that I'm not going to be a criminal prosecutor, what do I do with my life?” It was a process of elimination as opposed to picking something that I felt called to. It was “If I'm going to be at a big firm, because that's probably where I'll end up, what do I want to be doing at two o'clock in the morning if I find myself in the office with a partner telling me I need to get something done?”

I said, “Well, I don't want to be doing research and writing because I think my brain will not function at two o'clock in the morning to be able to do that.” So I knocked out litigation and then I looked in the corporate world and I said, “Okay, I think my brain can survive at midnight as a Biglaw lawyer young associate doing corporate work. But what is it that I want?” So I looked at all the corporate departments and said, “Okay, what can I potentially have the best quality of life in, in a sea where pretty much no one's going to have a good quality of life? What is the best of the worst?”

That is how it ends up in real estate which is not an inspiring story at all but the reality of how I ended up there. Then I said, “Okay, well, now that I'm in real estate and this is what I've chosen, is there a way that I could find something to give back to the community within real estate with the skills that I learn here?” After my first few years, I said, “Okay, well, what if I make my end goal getting into community development and working on real estate projects that are community-oriented?” That's what I was trying to get to in the end goal.

I did get there in my boutique firm but pretty much spent eight years after making the decision to be a real estate lawyer, being like, “Okay, I'm really unhappy. Maybe if I move to a firm in New Jersey as opposed to New York, I'll be a little happier because there'll be better quality of life.” So I did that. Then I was there for a long time, COVID happened, we worked remotely, I moved to Denver, and then I did not do well. I was already not good in the office setting in general. I didn't like being behind a computer screen a lot and not interacting with people, but then we went remote for COVID and that was really hard for me.

Then I said, “Well, let me try and move to a boutique firm where it'll be smaller, it'll be here in Denver, and they are doing that community partnership development work.” At that point, I had been a lawyer for long enough that I could find a good spot at a boutique firm and I thought, “Oh, my goodness. This is going to be the answer to all of my desires for my entire career. I'll finally be happy.” Then I showed up and I think it was not even three months in, I picked up the phone and called my partner mentor and said, “I don't think I want to be a lawyer anymore.”

I just finally let it out and then we had a conversation and I went on reduced hours. It became very clear to me once I started doing The Former Lawyer Collab and working through the framework and everything that I had really been searching for happiness in a career that I wasn't happy, and in general, just the ins and outs of being a lawyer and no matter what group I was in, what work I was doing, or what firm I was at, I wasn't happy with the work and being a lawyer and it wasn't like I was going to find happiness pretty much in the career.

That was hard to get to and I felt like I needed to tick all these boxes and try all these things so that I could maybe try and find a way to be happy and then finally had to admit to myself that it's not in the law.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about that because I think so many people, so many lawyers have that sense of “Almost like I'm not allowed to want to leave until I've done X number of things or ticked boxes.” It always is more than whatever they've done thus far. Also, I completely relate 100% to be clear. This is not like, “Oh, other people experience this.” At what point in the process of the timeline that you were talking about did you join the Collab? Was it after you'd called your partner mentor to tell them, “Hey, I really don't want to do this”?

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. I had that call of my partner mentor and the outcome was, “Okay, let's put you on reduced hours because maybe you're just overwhelmed with kids.” Because I have two young kids. I have a special needs kid and so it's a lot. That was the outcome of that conversation and I had multiple partners call me and try to say, “Just stick it out. Give it a year or two and you'll fall into the rhythm.” But at that point, I had already been years in the making of thinking I'm not happy.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I was going to say you’re like, “I’m doing this for seven years. I'm pretty sure if that was going to happen, it would have happened.”

Angelica Pedraza: Yes. After that, it was pretty clear to me that no one was hearing me. What they were hearing was I'm overwhelmed, I'm unhappy, but they were hearing that they could do something to fix it and I was very clearly saying, “I don't think I want to be a lawyer anymore.” Nobody was supporting that, not in a negative way but it felt like in their minds, they couldn't fathom how after investing so much time, money, and energy into a career, I would just, especially at my age because I know I'm still in my early 30s, be like, “Oh, this is not what I want.”

It just felt like that didn't resonate with anybody and so then I was like, “Okay, nobody within my legal world is going to help support me so I need to find something else to feel like a support system, to feel like I'm not alone.” It started with Googling and spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. I think one of the things that really sold me on The Former Lawyer Collab was are you just spending incessant hours scrolling through LinkedIn hoping that something will click and be like, “This is it. This is what I was meant to do”? It was like, “Yes, I've spent the last several months doing that actually.”

Sarah Cottrell: Like, in fact, yes, that is literally exactly what I'm doing.

Angelica Pedraza: That's so much for me and I was like, “Oh, wait, I'm not the only person.” Because when you have that conversation with people at your firm and no one really gets it, you feel like, “Am I alone? Am I crazy for feeling this way?” and so yeah, The Former Lawyer Collab is really helpful for that. That initial support of feeling like, “Oh, I'm not the only person who feels like this and I'm not crazy.”

It actually gave me a lot of confidence to bring this up with other more junior associates and lawyers that I knew who hadn't been lawyers for very long and was surprised to find out that there were a lot of my current and former co-workers who since had similar feelings, no, not necessarily that they wanted to leave the law but that they weren't sure if it was going to be a long-term career for them, they weren't sure if they wanted to stick around to make partner or if they wanted to move on to something else.

That was nice also that it gave me the confidence to talk to people I knew in real life and find out that the same conversations that were happening in the Collab could be done in real life with some other people.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think it's so interesting because it's very common that we each feel like we're the only one who feels this way and maybe there's something wrong with us because everyone else seems to be okay with this. Even though statistically speaking, we know there are lots of people, lots of lawyers who are having a very similar experience, but I think actually seeing that, actually seeing like, “Oh, there are other people. There are actually real other people,” and also people in so many different areas of law, like you said.

You got to the point where you realized, “Oh, it's not just the particular place or way of practicing. I don't actually want to be a lawyer.” Which was interesting because you said that doing some of the work in the Collab really brought you to that point of really, it sounds like, embracing that. But at the same time, you had to make the jump to join us and do the work in order to get there. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because for a lot of people, there's that question of, “Okay, but at what point do I actually take action towards actually figuring this out?”

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. A few things spurred me on. One was, like I said, those calls with partners after I expressed that I was unhappy and feeling like no one fully got it, but there are a few things like I paid off my student loans last year and I had always told myself to work really hard to pay off your student loans so that then you can do whatever you want. Then I realized a year later that I still was not doing whatever I wanted. I was unhappy. That was part of me being like, “Wait, why am I still doing this?”

I have two young kids and it started becoming really evident to me that I was showing them that it was okay to be in a career I didn't like. For some people, they don't have another option and they have to work to make money to do things but I'm very fortunate that my husband is also a lawyer and he actually likes it. Actually, I think that's when the light clicked for me because he would come home excited to talk about, “Oh, I'm working on a case and I got to write a motion to intervene on this and I'm so excited about it.” I would just look at him like he had three heads and I was like, “I've never been that excited coming home from work on the things I'm working on.”

That juxtaposition for me was really a hard pill to swallow because it was like, “Oh, you can be happy as a lawyer.” He really does, he loves it. Even when we're just hanging out, going to happy hour, and grabbing some drinks, he just wants to really think about statutory interpretation and I'm like, “You are such a nerd.” I think that is actually one of the hardest things for me to grapple with is that, like you said, you spend so much time being like, “How is anyone else happy in this?”

It was hard for me to be like, “But there are people that are happy in this.” Because it’s so hard for me to understand because I've quite frankly never really been happy as a lawyer, that for me to think that there are actually some people who do enjoy it and that's great for them made it hard for me to be like, “Oh, then it's difficult to know how to interact with lawyers because you don't know if they're happy or unhappy and you don't want to offend them when you say that you're unhappy because you know how hard they have worked and their former colleagues, current colleagues, or that kind of stuff.”

It has just made a lot of these conversations difficult because you want to express your own unhappiness while still supporting other people who actually enjoy it. But I think that was when the light turned on for me. I'm just seeing my husband come home, be happy, and really enjoy it. Even when he is stressed out, even when he has deadlines that he needs to get to, he still finds it interesting. It gives him this energy. I've never felt that with my career. That's when it was like all those factors combined that I was like, “Okay, I feel like I need to start looking.”

Then I went into “But what do I do next?” I have no idea what to do next and that's why The Former Lawyer Collab resonated so much with me because it was like, “Come join a bunch of other people who don't know what to do next, but also here's a framework to think about what to do next.” I've been really weary about this step because it feels like, “Oh, well, I moved from one firm to another, from one group to another trying to find happiness. What if this next step doesn't bring me happiness either and what if I make the wrong choice?”

I went into it saying, “If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right and I'm going to take my time and be really introspective.” That's really what sold me on The Former Lawyer Collab because it's like I need the ramp to say, “Okay, you're really going to think about this in a structured way. You're really going to think about why the law hasn't worked for you. You're really going to think about what it is that are your strengths and the skills you want to be working on and the kind of world that it is that you want to go into every day when you go to work.”

I didn't want to be in a place where this next step is also not the right step. Maybe it's not, maybe I have five different careers but I just felt like with all my other moves, they weren't done with as much introspection internally because I think that if they had been, I probably would have made the decision to not be a lawyer a long time ago.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think that's so helpful for people to hear. I don't know how it was for you but I know for me when I first started thinking, “I don't know if I actually want to do this forever,” the thing that really seemed so significant to me was “How do I convince other people, other jobs to hire me for something that's non-legal? And basically, how do I cram my skills into basically just figure out how to find something else that I am qualified for?”

I basically tell people now that's almost the least important part of it in the sense of once you know what you want to do, there are all sorts of ways that you can position yourself for a particular job, talk about your transferable skills, and all of those things. But if you are just looking for something that matches your skills, for a lot of us, that's just what we did, that's how we got into law school in the first place.

We were like, “I'm smart and I do these things well. Oh, wow, that's a good match basically,” and we didn't do this, “Who am I? What do I actually like to do? What is my personality? What are my strengths and what will allow me to invest in my talents as opposed to essentially trying to make myself be the kind of person who likes being a lawyer?”

Angelica Pedraza: Yes, no, totally. That resonates so much with me and I think even in the email that I sent you, when I first gave notice and I was telling you how excited I was, I said when I first started out, my vision was too small. I think that was to me the real true value that The Former Lawyer Collab brought me because before I joined The Former Lawyer Collab, I spent hours scrolling through Linkedin looking for things that at least I felt would be easier to just jump into very quickly, like leave the law and just jump into this really quickly, like operations or project management, or all these things that are more traditionally like, “Okay, you can make the case that the skills are transferable. It'll be a little bit easier.”

But what The Former Lawyer Collab forced me to do in the first few modules was to stop before even thinking about what to do next and think about what is it about the law that's not working. I think that was the most powerful module of all the modules that I did because it forced me to sit down and write like, “Okay, I don't like that when I leave for vacation, I know that I'm going to have a pile of work or I might not even be able to take my vacation without checking my phone constantly. I don't like the billable hour. I don't really do well personally being in an office nine to five sitting behind a computer screen. That's very draining for me.”

All of these things that as a lawyer didn't work for me and yet because I was trying to just jump into something where I thought my skills fit would have had the same problems: project management, operations. That's when I was like, “Wait a minute, let me stop because if I just do that, if I just look for somewhere where my skills will be easily transferable, I can jump to really quickly, and it'll be an easy sell, I'm just going to end up in the same place. I'm going to end up unhappy because all those things from the law that don't work for me are also in those jobs.”

That really forced me to just blow up my entire search. I remember going to my husband and saying, “That's it. All the walls are coming down and I'm going to start from a fresh clean slate. I'm going to tell myself if school didn't matter, if nothing else mattered, what would I want to do next?” That's when I kept moving through the Collab and doing the personality and the skills assessments after I had already made that decision that I was truly going to go into it with a blank slate and think about what were the jobs that yes, had the skill set that I could bring into it that I felt good with, but also that supported me in having the life that wouldn't have all those things that didn't work about the law.

That took a long time and a lot of work. Honestly, I felt a little untethered and crazy because it just felt like, “Well, I'm starting from scratch. I don't even know what I'm going to do.” That's when I dove into the treasure chest that is all the podcasts in The Former Lawyer Collab and what other people do. I just listened to them day and night pretty much and I would just hear people talk about their experience about what a typical day looks like, how much writing they're doing, how much researching they're doing, or how they're interacting with people.

After going through the skills tests and the personality tests, nursing kept coming up, nursing kept coming up and I thought it was crazy because I was like, “Nursing's going to make me go back to school,” and then I had to keep telling myself, “Remember, you said you're going to start from a clean slate.” I thought I was absolutely insane but I hadn't gotten to the nursing podcast yet in The Former Lawyer Collab. I didn't even know it existed and so I just Googled from lawyer to nurse and of course, one of your podcasts is the first thing that comes up and it's you talking to, I think his name is Hector, and it was just so different than any other podcast I had heard.

All the other podcasts I was like, “I don't think that’ll work for me. I'm not so sure.” But it just felt so right and I was like, “No, yeah. I think this is what it's meant to be.” So then I listened to that podcast. I know a nurse who's now a nurse anesthetist who is friends with someone I went to college with. I connected with her. That's when that piece about doing all these informational interviews was really helpful from The Former Lawyer Collab. I talked to 12 or 15 different nurses. [inaudible] nurses, labor and delivery nurses, emergency department nurses, ICU nurses, and I was just like, “Yeah. I think this is for me.”

Then I decided to enroll in a certified nurse aide class here at our community college just because it's like before I make this leap, I want to dip my toe in just a little bit and make sure that I'm really happy with this. Everyone in my family could notice a difference when it was a day I had CNA class versus a day that I was going to work because I was just so energized and so happy.

I'm now at the point where we've done clinical rotations and so we've been with actual patients and it's an entirely different world from being a lawyer but that's exactly what I wanted. It was a crazy journey but there were so many different parts of The Former Lawyer Collab that supported me in different portions of the journey. That's why I wrote you that email that was just like, “Oh, my gosh. I feel so happy now to not feel lost.” I did feel lost for so long. I'm just really excited.

Sarah Cottrell: I love that so much. Can we go back to one thing that you mentioned, which I think is really important for people to hear? You're talking about how you had told yourself “I'm going to pay off my student loans and then I'm going to do something else and then I can do whatever I want,” and then it was a year later and you were like, “Oh, wait, I haven't actually done anything else.” The reason I think that that's a really important thing to highlight is that for so many people—and completely understandably, I completely get this—one of their big concerns, when they're thinking about leaving, is the financial piece because they have student loans.

I think often people can even get into this space where they're like, “Well, I can't leave yet because of my student loans,” and don't recognize that one, there might be work that they could be doing as they're moving along to set themselves up to know what they want to do, but then two, I think sometimes people are in situations where they might have options and it can be easy to tell yourself “The reason I'm not leaving is because of my loans.”

But actually, there are often other things in addition that are holding you there and so it can be really helpful for people to try to disentangle from that and figure out what else is going on. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think that would be really helpful for people to hear.

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. I think it's easy in retrospect to say, “Oh, I was waiting until I paid off my loans and I told myself I'll do whatever I want afterwards,” but the reality is that for me, I'm a first-gen college student, first-gen lawyer, this is a career making really good money as a lawyer and frankly I was scared to walk away from that. Could I have done it sooner and financially we probably would have been fine, yeah, probably. But I was more scared of leaving something that felt so stable but that stopped me from really looking at what I could do at the same time.

I was on reduced hours for the past three years since my son was born and it wasn't until I looked into nursing and really took the time to look at it to say, “Oh, this CNA program, for a lot of people who go to nursing school, they work as CNAs first, and it's a part-time six-month course. In Colorado now, it's paid for. There's such a shortage of CNAs that the state will pay for you to get that certificate. It's not a high-paying job, not anywhere near what it was to be a lawyer but now if I decide to become a CNA and I work at one of the major health institutions, they will essentially pay for me to go to nursing school if I continue working with them part-time.”

There are all these things that I didn't even stop to think about as potential options or opportunities because I also felt like I didn't have the time and so it was just really easy to make the line in the sand of like, “Oh, I'll focus on this after I pay off my loans because then I won't have that burden on me,” when really it was I was busy, I was stressed, I didn't want to stop to take the time, and I probably could have made the jump sooner, I probably could have at least started looking at what my options were and thinking about what I wanted to do sooner. But in a lot of ways, it is an easy checkpoint in your mind.

But then even after I was done, it was like, “Oh, I have two young kids. The fear of upending what is stable and trying to do something new is really hard.” I'm also a mom and like most moms, it's easy to take care of everybody else and harder to ask for what you need and so it was really easy for me to say, “Okay, I'm going to be the main breadwinner and I'm going to take care of everybody.” It was really hard to say to everyone in my family, “Hey, I need something different now. I need to be able to pursue something different. My husband had to change his job to be able to make more money so that I could pursue this path too.”

It's hard to ask for those things I think when you're used to working really hard and being the main breadwinner, having the prestige, or always being the one on the go, and to let those things go to say, “Okay, I need time to focus on myself. I need time to think about what I really want and I need the support of other people,” I think that's hard for some people. I know it's hard for moms generally. It's hard for me. I'm Hispanic so I have the added cultural layer of that as well. I think truly, that's probably what held me back more than necessarily the loans or the other things.

Sarah Cottrell: Honestly, I think that's true for most people. This is why I really wanted you to speak to this, I think there is this just security, there's the fear of the unknown, all of these things that I think for many of us, those are the real things that feel really daunting. Even when you have a giant amount of student loans and it's going to take a while to pay them off, if not like you're going to have them forever depending on your situation, the loans, while they're a real thing I think can camouflage and mask all of these other things that can be much trickier to work through than just the dollars and cents of it all.

I think everything that you said about how hard it can be to ask for help, especially if you're a parent, and all of the other factors, I think those things honestly for the vast majority of people who I have worked with or just talked with who have gone through this process, those are the bigger things. It's really easy to think, “Oh, I'll pay off my loans or I'll hit whatever financial milestone and then I'll know what to do next,” and the reality is unless you already have a very clear idea of what's going to be next, you aren't going to hit that point and be like, “Oh, now I know what I want to do and I've worked through all of the things around my identity of being a lawyer and all of this other stuff that requires, in some cases,” like you said, “it's pretty significant work.”

You said it took you a long time but I was thinking back to when it was that you joined. I want to say it was early this summer, is that right?

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. I joined I think around May and then I gave my notice in October. That's really not a long time in the grand scheme of things. I know that there are actually some Collab members who take a lot longer to decide what they want. But I think that when you first make the decision of “I'm going to leave the law,” it feels like then you're just like, “Okay, now what do I do?” It feels really hard to tell yourself to slow down because, and you talk about this too, there are some situations where you need to leave right away where it's a really toxic environment, you need to go somewhere else, and then figure out what to do.

But I wasn't in that situation and it still felt like it was like, “Okay, I've told the world now that I'm unhappy as a lawyer and I need to do something about it.” To tell yourself that you're just going to take a breath and really be introspective and thoughtful about it, the hardest thing for me was that I really did force myself to not jump into updating my resume or trying to put together a draft of a cover letter just because I feel like that's the type A people that we all are, and to say that I don't want to be a lawyer was also to prepare for people to ask you, “Then what are you going to do next?”

To feel like you needed to have an answer or to say, “I want to do this or do that,” it didn't feel like especially if you were going to be telling other lawyers that you could say something without having the next step. I think that my confidence as a person grew tremendously through this process because I told myself it was okay and so when I would talk to other associates and be like, “I'm unhappy as a lawyer. I don't know what to do next but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be a lawyer for very much longer,” they'd be like, “Oh, I get that. But what else is there?” was their response. I'd just be like, “I don't know but there has to be more to life than this.”

Sarah Cottrell: You're like, “Literally anything else.”

Angelica Pedraza: Right, so when you're first starting out, I think that there is just this innate feeling like you need to figure it out right away. Like I said, as a type A person, law school was always in the card for me. When I was like in sixth grade, I said, “Okay, I'm going to go to college, then I'm going to go to law school, and this is what I'm going to do,” so it's really, really hard when you've lived your life that way to then be like, “Oh, I don't know what I'm going to do next.”

There is this natural feeling that you need to figure it out really fast. I know that because I've seen the posts in the Circle from other Former Lawyer Collab members and it does take a lot of people much longer. But when I got the green light to go on reduced hours at the smaller firm, I was just like, “Well, okay,” and so I've spent a lot of time when I wasn't working being like, “Okay, I need to focus on this.”

That's not going to be the case for everybody. I think you talked about this also in some of the modules that it's like maybe one week, your progress is just sitting down for 20 minutes and thinking about something. Maybe another week, you have four hours to devote to it.

Maybe some weeks you have no time but it's all forward progress. I think that even just that permission to take it at your own speed, whatever it is, felt really good as opposed to what it feels like you get from the general world which is like, “If you're telling people you don't want to be a lawyer, you may not want to be a lawyer after you've invested time, energy, and money into this career, then you must know what you want to do next, right?” I think that was really helpful to just have the permission to go as slow or as fast as each individual person needs.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think you're right, there is that pressure. When you were talking about how your impulse is just like, “Okay, I don't want to leave. I need to update my resume and apply for a job,” I don't know if every lawyer feels that way, but I certainly was like, “Yes, that is exactly how I felt.” Pretty much everyone who I've ever worked with was like, “Yes, I was on LinkedIn. I was applying to things that weren't practicing jobs that I didn't even really think I wanted but it was just not a lawyer job,” and that sense of urgency just being able to throttle it back a little bit I think is so helpful, so I really appreciate you sharing that.

The other thing I'm wondering if you could talk about briefly is when I talk about the fact that there's this curriculum inside the Collab, the framework, I think different of us have had different experiences with various online courses and whatnot. I think there are some people, and I completely understand this, who are like, “Okay, but at least part of what the Collab is, in addition to community piece and other types of support, is essentially this curriculum, this course,” and some people I think would say, “Oh, well, can I really get what I need from essentially a course?” Can you talk about that a little bit?

Because you've mentioned frequently the modules, what's in the modules, and all of those things and so I just think it would be helpful for people to hear because I know that there are some lawyers who are like, “This seems like it could be helpful but also I'm not sure about the limitations of doing it this way.” Any thoughts that you have about that I think will be really helpful for those people in particular.

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. This is true of any online course, I think a lot of it is what you make of it. Like any online platform, you have the ability to pick and choose the things that are going to be most helpful for you. I said this to you in my email, as part of being in the Collab, you have these live calls twice a month, and you've had them every month since I started and you have not seen me at one. That was a really intentional decision that I made because I was really worried that if I joined some of the Collab Circles, it would be harder for me to have a really blank slate and make the decision that was best for me if it felt like a lot of the other Collab members were trying to jump into careers that were very similar to being a lawyer.

Based on the Collab Circle post, I got my community that way and was able to get a sense of what people were doing, contemplating, or thinking about and I just needed this space to be really introspective for myself. Because I feel like a lot of my decision to go into law school and be a lawyer was based on other people's views of me and other people's influence. To me, it was like, “Okay, I want to focus on myself.”

Some people learn better in the live call setting, and that's great too but I knew it wouldn't work for me. But then what that meant was that I really focus on the things I thought would be helpful for me. I will say that when I first started, you go through the welcome videos and welcome portions of it and you're like, “Okay, some of this sounds fluffy, I don't know. Is this going to be helpful?”

But then when you actually start drilling down and you actually do have to think about very specific things, if you really take the time, like I said, that question of take five minutes and write down without even second-guessing all of the reasons why the law doesn't work for you, those kinds of exercises are really important framing for this journey and I think that realistically, I don't know in what other avenue or arena I would have been able to do that to force myself to take that time to really non-critically like there's nobody else in the room with you, it's just you, and you were guiding me through the process but in a very open-ended way with just enough bumpers there to keep you moving along, I think personally that was very helpful.

I really truly don't know what other format you would be able to find that support in. Trust me, because I spent a lot of time Googling trying to figure out what to do next, and so talking to other lawyers is hard, like I said earlier because they're either happy or they're not happy and the people who aren't happy usually just want to make a jump to something else.

But if you really want to be thoughtful about what you're going to do next and you don't just want to say, “Okay, what can I do quickly and what can I move on to next?” knowing that that probably isn't going to work out the best for you when you need something like this to really give you that framework to think about what you're going to be doing next. Like I said, not all of the pieces of the framework were pieces that I thought would be necessarily helpful for me, and they may be helpful for other people, but those pieces that were helpful for me really laid the groundwork for me to think about this totally different than what I came into it thinking like.

I thought when I first started the Collab, “Oh, I'll take a few tests and hear a few podcasts and oh, then I'll just know what I want to do.” It's not that simple. It really does require a lot of thinking through what has worked in the past, what hasn't worked, what's kept you being a lawyer this long, why you went into the law.

It's a lot more complicated than just a list of careers that you could move into after being a lawyer, which is what I initially thought would be helpful, but in reality, looking back now, I would have laughed I think if I started this program and someone told me, “You're going to end up after deciding that you want to go into nursing.” I would have been like, “There's no way.” But I think that that's the beauty of the program of really making you think really hard about the next move and not just being like, “Oh, what can I do fast and easy?”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's so interesting that you said that at the beginning about some of this sounds like, I think you said fluffy because I in general would not describe myself as a very woo-woo person and it's not that there is a ton of that thing in the process per se, but I think often when people hear me talking about some of the more reflective pieces, they think, “Well, but what about redoing my resume and all these other things?”

Again, like I said earlier, to me it's like, “Yes, there is stuff about that and you will have support with that,” but to me that is eminently more doable and easier than actually figuring out “Do I actually want to be applying to this job that I'm applying to? Is there a good chance that this job will actually be a good fit for me?” Doing the work to figure that out is I think much more difficult, and like you said, is that process of needing to be reflective.

Angelica Pedraza: Well, I think that's part of it. You jump into this you're like, “All right, tell me the answer. Tell me the secret. What do I do?” Then you realize, “Oh, this is really about a process to make sure I make the right decision next.” I think that that's really important to know. It's not like you jump in and it's like, “Oh, this is going to be the perfect job for you. Hand it to you on a silver platter,” it's really a lot of what you make and the time that you take to think through a lot of these things and these questions.

I think that that's so valuable because I don't think that oftentimes we are challenged to think in that way and I think it's much easier to just be like, “Okay, well, just tell me what I need to do and I'll do it,” as a supposed to stopping to think for ourselves about what it is that we want and need.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think also it equips people to have the tools like it's a repeatable process and you can apply it in different areas of your life as well. If you go to someone and they just tell you, “Well, this is the thing you should do next,” well, then if you ever want to do something else or you're trying to figure out some additional tweak, you then need to get that answer from someone external to you again.

I think as lawyers, we often have become, because of the fact that there are so many people become lawyers, it was like this external process of, like you said, people telling you what you're like, developing the skill of actually being internally aware and understanding yourself is something that you then take with you, not just from this process but that is a skill that you have forever. It is so helpful.

Angelica Pedraza: Yes. I will say that it's actually come up again just in my nursing process now because I'm wrapping up my CNA and doing my student clinicals and then the next question is, “Well, okay, what do I do next for nursing school? Do I take my prerequisites and apply for an accelerated nursing program? Do I work and go to school part-time so they can pay for school? Do I do some combination of the two, get my associate's first, and then work as an RN while getting my bachelor's?”

There are so many different avenues going into nursing after this career change that I'm having to apply a lot of the same things I learned in The Former Lawyer Collab about laying out all my options and thinking through what would work for me, what would not work for me, and why one would work over the other one. I do think, like you said, that there are a lot of skills that you learn from going through this process and being really thoughtful that you can then apply to other decisions that you have as you continue along in your career.

Sarah Cottrell: I love that so much. It makes me so happy. Okay, Angelica, as we're getting to the end of our conversation, is there anything else that you would like to share with people who are listening either from your story, something about the Collab, or anything else, anything that we touched on today or something else you think people should know?

Angelica Pedraza: Yeah. I think I really want to stress to people that they're not alone in going through this process and I would just challenge people to keep a really open mind. Like I said when I started, I would not in a million years have thought that my ultimate decision would have been to go into nursing. I just really want to challenge people to think really thoughtfully about what they want to do next and not just jump quickly because they think that that's the easiest thing. Because that's where I was when I started this and I'm so happy that I didn't do that, that I took my time, and really tried to go through the process even though I was very antsy to get through it.

I'm just so excited about what's next because of that and I want that for everybody. I hope that people realize that if they keep an open mind and they put in the work to really be thoughtful about it that they have the opportunity to have a similar outcome. But also that Sarah, you're very responsive. I sent you an email when I first started about who I was, what I was going through, and what I was looking for and you responded. I sent you an email when I ultimately gave my notice at my law firm and you responded and were very excited for me.

I would just tell people that the Circle is another great thing to get connected and plugged into other people who are going through the process, to just find that support because it can feel lonely even though you're not the only person who feels that way. It gives you a lot of confidence in making this next decision and working through this stuff if you feel like there are other people who get it and who are out there who are saying similar things as you.

Sarah Cottrell: I love it so much. Oh my goodness. Okay, well, thank you so much, Angelica, for sharing your story. I really appreciate you joining me and just letting people know about your process. I think it's going to be really helpful for a lot of people.

Angelica Pedraza: Awesome. Thank you, Sarah, for having me.

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 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.