How an ADHD Diagnosis Changed a Career Path with Lauren Ascher [TFLP174]

On the Former Lawyer Podcast, Sarah is chatting with Lauren Ascher about how an ADHD diagnosis changed a career, prompting her to make the career change from law to mental health work. After ten years as a lawyer, Lauren is back in school, getting her master’s in mental health counseling. She is also working as an ADHD executive function coach. After our episode with Annie Little a few months ago, many listeners have reached out about undiagnosed ADHD, so read along and listen to the podcast to learn about Lauren’s experience as a former lawyer.

Getting Through Law School With Undiagnosed ADHD

Lauren went into law school with a vision of her future self in a career that didn’t even really align with who she was. How does that happen? She had a lack of identity throughout those formative years. There were a lot of misunderstandings about what it was to be a lawyer. She wanted financial security, prestige, and the ability to help people. 

Growing up, Lauren faced a lot of uneven and unpredictable performances in school. When she took the LSAT, she did shockingly well and took that as a sign that law school must be the right path. She had excellent reading comprehension, writing skills, oral presentation abilities, verbal discussions, and logic. Law school was enjoyable, and she enjoyed all the coursework but had no idea what it meant to be a lawyer in practice. 

Lauren followed the crowd when it came next steps after graduation. Everyone was doing the early interview process to get hired at a big law firm as a summer associate, hoping to become a first-year associate from there. This was the best path to get experience and a decent paycheck after school, and she planned to move to public interest later.

Trying to Find the Best Fit in the Legal Field

After law school, Lauren jumped into a job at a large law firm in New York City. It took a while to determine what was expected and how to perform. Senior associates were so busy, and she struggled to stay afloat. You have to learn based on the assignments you’re given and the minimal feedback you receive. It was so hard for her not to have direct instruction.

She loved the people she worked with at the firm, including her best friend from law school, but it was so challenging. The first big mistake Lauren made shook her to the core. It’s such a high-pressure, high-stakes environment, and she had a lot of anxiety. She wanted approval badly but only received instructions once and couldn’t bounce ideas off anyone.

An opportunity came up for Lauren to do a clerkship in Philadelphia. This was a great way to leave the firm for something equally prestigious. This was a fantastic experience for Lauren. She was able to get re-centered with tasks that were more similar to law school. The judge was supportive and smart. Once this was over, she stayed in Philly and found a job at a boutique litigation firm. It felt a bit like a roller coaster again, where some things went great, and others were difficult. This all shifted when she had her first child.

Lauren’s life shifted when she had a baby. She wanted to stay in the legal field but felt like she needed to find something more aligned with her time and availability. This was the perfect time to transition to the public interest side she was initially interested in. She found a position as a supervising attorney for a non-profit legal services agency. Lauren supervised other attorneys and pro bono case managers for four years and didn’t practice law herself. It was a great fit until she had her second child and felt like something was still missing.

An ADHD Diagnosis Changed a Career Path

Lauren left her law job right before COVID forced everything to shut down in March 2020. Her first child was diagnosed with ADHD, and her child psychologist suggested it would be helpful if Lauren were home more. Nighttime routines were a struggle every night, and she struggled to find a balance between work and family.

During COVID, Lauren was grateful to be able to navigate childcare and schooling without having to worry about working simultaneously. By November 2020, she was starting to think about her return to work. She knew she wanted to rejoin the workforce but didn’t think she could return to a law firm. Around the same time, her mother was diagnosed with ADHD. This is very typically intergenerational and genetic, but Lauren had a neuro psych done with no diagnosis after her daughter was born. 

Lauren decided that fall to return to school for psychology and therapy. She had originally shied away from this because the introduction class as an undergrad had over 200 students, but now she was accepted into a master’s program starting in January 2021. When she began classes, she wanted to follow the lead of her classmates, who were all working in the mental health field in some capacity already. She looked into ADHD coaching, and as soon as she began training, she had pretty much self-diagnosed herself. She found a psychiatrist right away and got on medication. The coaching program introduced her to an entire community, and she felt like the lights came on for the first time.

What is ADHD Coaching?

While studying for her master’s, Lauren began ADHD coaching. This practice doesn’t require a license or certification. It’s simply a life coach focusing specifically on the ADHD brain. If you’re looking for your own coach, it’s important to do some research or make recommendations because of the looseness of the requirements to become one. Therapists cover their area, but sometimes it’s hard to people to figure out the right strategies, put them into place, and hold themselves accountable. That’s where a coach comes in.

People with an ADHD diagnosis need to understand that they are not doomed with poor time management skills for life with no options for help. An ADHD coach can help them find a path to success and help them understand that there’s no shame in this.

Undiagnosed ADHD in Law

Each person is so unique, and especially when you have ADHD, it can be hard to find the right fit in terms of a job. You need the right level of motivation, urgency, and interest. With ADHD, people are very sensitive, and the mind-body connection can quickly lead to burnout. Stress is overwhelming for everyone but can be especially tough for those struggling with ADHD. Some lawyers love pulling all-nighters, working on tough deadlines, and barely getting any sleep. Lauren knew that she could not handle that. She needed self-care and time away from the office. She tells many of her clients that you need to be able to recharge your brain somehow to refocus. 

Lawyers might find themselves in positions where they are comparing themselves to their colleagues. Some people love working under the wire and thrive in that environment. If you aren’t like that, you might feel shame when putting yourself next to your peers. It’s important to remember that the human brain is so unique in each person. 

In this case, Lauren learned that she has high sleep needs, which don’t jive with a law office’s typical demands. She had to work really hard to accept that she needed to put her phone and computer away and have enough time to unwind in the evenings, or she would be deprived of the sleep her body (and brain) needed. Once she had children, there was just no way for her to physically continue working the required hours and be present at home.

Advice for Lawyers Who Might Be Struggling to Keep Up

Lauren’s advice was for people who feel like the legal field isn’t the right fit, take the risk and take action. She’s on the other side of that experience now and doing work she loves daily. She wants everyone to know that you can love what you do and feel fulfillment. 

If you want to learn more about Lauren, you can visit her website at She also writes a blog on Psychology Today about ADHD with tons of great information and has her own podcast, The Wavy Brain, which is all about neurodiversity. And if you’re a lawyer trying to figure out your future, take a look at The Former Lawyer Collab.

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. today we are continuing our series with former lawyers turned therapists with my conversation with Lauren Ascher. Lauren is in a master's program to get her degree in mental health counseling and one of the reasons that I'm really excited to share Lauren's story is she made the decision after 10 years of practicing law to go back and get this counseling degree and in the process of getting that related to it tangentially, she both decided to get certified as an ADHD coach and learned that she has ADHD.

She has the experience of being late diagnosed with ADHD, which I know there are many of you who have either had that experience or are potentially considering whether that might be a situation for you. this conversation with Lauren covers all of those things and I can't wait to share it with you so let's get right to it.

Hey, Lauren. Welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Lauren Ascher: Thank you. It's so exciting to be here.

Sarah Cottrell: I am really excited to talk with you. For the listeners, Lauren and I connected some months ago and she is a former lawyer on the way to be a therapist, and as everyone who's listening knows, this is part of a series that I'm doing with former lawyers who are therapists or on their way to being therapists because it's something that a lot of lawyers think about doing. But, Lauren, can you just introduce yourself briefly and let people know who you are, and then we will go straight into talking about your story?

Lauren Ascher: I am Lauren and I am a former lawyer. I worked as a lawyer for 10 years. I am now a student in a master's program for mental health counseling and I am currently working as an ADHD executive function coach for adults.

Sarah Cottrell: We'll definitely talk about the ADHD piece because we've actually had a lot of conversations around that here. When we're recording, we're recording in December of 2022 and this past summer, I released an episode with Annie Little talking about ADHD and lawyering and the response from that episode has been huge. I literally hear from multiple people every month who say they listen to that episode and basically realize they had ADHD and went and got diagnosed.

We can talk more about that as we get into your story because I know that is something that for a lot of people who are listening is very relevant. If you're listening and you haven't listened to that episode with Annie, definitely go back and listen because it'll give you a lot of background and context about the specifics of ADHD.

But, Lauren, let's start where we normally start on the podcast which is how did you decide to go to law school?

Lauren Ascher: Such a funny question. What was I thinking? What was going through my head at that time? A lot of really misguided thoughts were going through my head and I had a lot of misunderstandings about what it meant to be a lawyer, practice law. I guess an overarching theme for my whole life is a lack of identity, not really knowing who I was, what my strengths were, what my weaknesses were.

Because I think like so many people with neurodiversity, I was not diagnosed, I just had this feeling that I wasn't good enough and I had to just constantly keep up with everyone else. there wasn't even time to consider do I like this subject? Do I not like this subject? What do I want to do with my life? It was just like go, go, go, try to be as good as everyone else, get as good grades as you can, and people please.

I had this vision of my future self in my career that did not actually line up with who I was in reality at all but yet I kept working towards it anyway. I see it with a lot of my clients. I think it's very common because if we really don't like ourselves very much and we feel a lot of shame and self-doubt, why should we take the time to think about our strengths or how could we take the time to think about our strengths? That's not something that would naturally occur to us if we're constantly feeling bad about ourselves and having low self-esteem.

I think I just had this vision of what a successful career would mean for me and that included financial security and prestige. the other big piece for me is helping people. I really did want to make a difference. I wanted to give access to legal services to people that couldn't afford it. I wanted to make the world a better place, it's so cliche, but that was a big piece of my motivation as well.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's so interesting because one, this theme of wanting to help people comes up over and over and over with people on the podcast and also with the lawyers who I work with where people choose to go to law school, that's often one of their driving motivations and then they find themselves in the profession and realize what they're able to do as a lawyer isn't really fulfilling them in terms of feeling they're able to do that in a way that feels meaningful.

But then also, and we can talk a bit more about this, but one of the things that have come up with people and that I talked with Annie on the episode about ADHD, one of the things we talked about is how there are so many lawyers who have ADHD and undiagnosed ADHD or some other form of neurodivergence, and it's very common that they are high achievers, they work super hard, and yet they feel like they're not good enough because they've been told either there was this message of so and so is bright but doesn't apply themselves or they find that they're constantly waiting to the last minute to get things done because, of course, we know that that's part of how the ADHD brain works. But lawyers internalize it as “There's something wrong with me that I can't do this thing unless I do it this way that feels really bad to me.”

Like you said, I think there is this barrier to thinking about instead of this feeling of, “Oh, who am I? And let me figure out how that works,” it's this constant need to prove yourself basically. It sounds like that's what you experienced as well, which is just incredibly common for people, especially who are undiagnosed.

Lauren Ascher: Yeah, for sure. For me, it came from my uneven performance and unpredictable performance from a very young age in school and then up through when I worked as a litigation associate at a law firm, I would do really well with certain things and really poorly with others and it felt very unpredictable.

I did not understand why and it just felt like, “Okay, something is just wrong with me and I don't get it,” instead of looking at it like, “Okay, these are my strengths and these are my weaknesses. Why are these weak points for me? What can I do about it? How can I compensate? How can I strategize?” I didn't understand it so I felt very ashamed.

Sarah Cottrell: Well, I think there's this broader issue, especially in the legal profession where people look and see, “Okay, these are the ways I'm supposed to be. these are the characteristics that get praised and rewarded,” and no real consideration is given to “Do I want to embody those characteristics? Are those things that are my strengths or do I have other strengths?” There's this sense of “Well, I need to be that specific person and if I'm not, it's because I'm a bad person who's not trying hard enough,” essentially.

This is all I know getting towards some of the later parts of your story, but it sounds like the reason that you went to law school is the reason that a lot of people go, which is this idea that this is a good path toward a respectable, secure career, and also the wanting to help people but not necessarily with “Oh, and I really know that I am a good match for the specific environment and tasks that I’ll ultimately be in as a practicing lawyer”?

Lauren Ascher: Right. the other big one for me, which I'm sure is so common, is that I was very good at reading comprehension, I was a good writer, I was good at oral presentations, verbal discussions, processing, arguing, and logic. then for me, I've always had this erratic performance and struggle with test taking in particular and I did really well on the LSAT, which was shocking to me.

I suddenly felt like, “Okay, maybe this is what I'm supposed to be doing.” I had no concept of whether what I performed well in the LSAT with was actually going to be part of being a lawyer, I thought it must or there must be some connection there. I really loved law school. I enjoyed doing the reading. I liked briefing cases, I liked the class discussions, and again, thought, “Okay, this must be the right fit because I'm enjoying it and I'm good at it,” but I really did not know what it meant in practice.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. For some people who went to law school for some of the reasons that you've talked about, they get there and they have this sense of “Oh, this might not be the best fit,” but generally, we ignore that and continue going along.

But it sounds like for you, you had the experience that many people do have, which is really liking the intellectual experience of law school, which is so interesting because as anyone who now practices as a lawyer knows, there is very little relationship between what law school is like and what legal practice is like.

Can you tell me how you decided what it was that you wanted to do when you graduated from law school?

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. I knew so little about being a lawyer. No one in my family is a lawyer. I didn't have people that I could talk to about the day-to-day practice. I did have mentors, people who were friends, and parents who I could talk to but I basically just followed the crowd. I went to a very prestigious law school and it felt to me like almost everybody was doing the early interview process of trying to get hired at a law firm as a summer associate and then trying to get hired as a first-year associate after that summer so I just followed the crowd.

Although I did still want to make a difference and pro bono work was really important to me, I did know that eventually, I wanted to do public interest work if possible, but I guess I bought the party line that working at a big law firm is the best experience, you'll make good money, you'll learn tons of different skills, you get amazing training, it'll look great on your resume, and it'll be a launching pad for whatever you want to do in your career next so I went down that path.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. tell me about that experience when you started at the firm. Were you like, “This is great. I'm on the path,” or were you like, “This is terrible,” or somewhere in between?

Lauren Ascher: I was like, “What is this? What is happening?” I'm trying to wrap my head around what it meant, what my job expectations were. It took me a while to understand what was expected of me and how to perform. It's hard because I don't know if I'm alone in feeling this way but there's no manual, you have to just learn based on the assignments that you're given and then the feedback that you get on those assignments and also just what you pick up along the way.

Maybe some people are better at getting those nuances than I am but I struggled not having a lot of that direct instruction on a high level having to figure a lot of things out for myself. I felt I was floundering a lot but the people I worked with were amazing. I will say I joined a law firm that still to this day I think is just full of awesome, awesome people, really fun, interesting, personable, cool people honestly, that was huge for me because I'm such a people person.

I'm so extroverted, it helped me a lot to really like the people that I was working with. My associate class and one of my best friends from law school worked with me and that part was really fun. the people were great, the work was varied, and I didn't ever really know what was going to come across my desk and my performance was very uneven. Sometimes I would do a good job and sometimes I would struggle and it felt unpredictable and scary.

I remember the first time I made a mistake, it just shook me to my core. I did not see it coming. I hadn't ever experienced messing up in a professional setting like that. It felt like such a high-pressure, high-stakes environment, and it was, it was one of the worst feelings I've experienced. there was a lot of anxiety there. I did not want to mess up again. It was tough. I stuck with it for two years and then realized, “This stress is too much for me, this is not the right environment for me.”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. It's so interesting because there really is this expectation in much of the legal profession that essentially, you'll never make mistakes but then to your point, there's also frequently not a lot of instruction or training as to how one does not do those things. Even if there were, we're still human beings, people are still going to make mistakes because they're humans. I think it just creates enormous stress to be in a situation where you basically feel like you can't be human.

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. Now I get it. I look back at myself as a first-year associate getting instructions from a super busy senior associate who was so intimidating and I wanted approval from so badly. I'm sitting there and my face is turning bright red. I'm wondering if I'm writing down the right things or what she's thinking about me. I'm just caught in this place of total anxiety and panic. I'm not focusing on the instructions at all. She is way too busy to ever repeat them so once those 10 minutes are up in our office, I'm expected to just run with this assignment and understand it.

I'm the only one doing it because it's a tiny little thing and I'm not working with anyone else so I can't really run my ideas by anyone. Everyone is swamped with their own work. then I either get it right or I get it wrong. Now I would know that that's not a great way for me to process instructions.

I missed a lot because I was really scared and I couldn't focus a lot of the time. Now it makes more sense to me but in the moment, it just felt so overwhelming and I felt so deficient, “Why can't I just get these instructions right the first time in these 10 minutes, get it done, move on, it should be so simple?”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. When you were sharing that story, I was thinking just from what I've learned about how ADHD brains work. You can't just dump out a bunch of information on someone that ultimately leads to a conclusion, at least this is my understanding and you can correct me because you are the expert, but there needs to be some structure that someone who has ADHD needs to know where to put the information that you're giving them, otherwise, it's just spilling out a bunch of Legos on a desk.

Lauren Ascher: Exactly.

Sarah Cottrell: And being like, “Okay, you see what this makes, right?” and you're like, “I do not see what this makes. What are you talking about?”

Lauren Ascher: Right. I went into the practice of law with no context because I knew so little. I think for some people, they come in with more context and so it's easier to put the Lego pieces in place, or maybe whatever case they're on, they're able to get the context through that. But I couldn't get a grasp on that higher-level structure.

Sarah Cottrell: When you were thinking about leaving the law firm, at that point, were you entertaining any possibility that maybe you didn't want to practice law or was it really just “I don't think that I want to be working in a law firm setting”?

Lauren Ascher: It was the law firm setting piece because I couldn't even allow myself to think that all that money that I had spent on law school, all that time, all that effort, all of the successes I had achieved so far could be for nothing. I couldn't even fathom that thought so I definitely still wanted to stay in the legal field. It was still really important to me to save face and leave the firm in a way that was “prestigious” or made sense.

I was able to get a clerkship and so that was a wonderful way to leave a law firm job. It's going in-house. It just looks good for the firm, looks good for you, makes sense. It's a great opportunity for everyone. Everyone's happy and I got that clerkship in Philadelphia where I was originally from. My hope was that practicing law in Philly would be easier and gentler and I just would do better at it than in New York City where I was practicing before and where I went to law school.

That was what I decided to do and I figured it would give me time to figure out my next steps, that I would still work as a lawyer but I'd have to figure out my next steps. the other message I got when I was deciding to go to law school is there are so many different things you can do as a lawyer. I had this sense that, “Okay, there's still a lot of different possibilities for me. I can find a job that is better suited to me within the legal field.”

Sarah Cottrell: Okay. You went to do this clerkship and then how did you decide what you wanted to do after that?

Lauren Ascher: My clerkship experience was amazing. I worked for such a supportive, wonderful, smart judge and I loved it. It re-centered me and it was more similar to law school where I could do a lot of reading, writing, and processing at my own pace and running ideas by other people, my co-clerks, and the judge. It gave me my confidence back like, “Okay, maybe this really is something I'm good at and it was just a firm experience that went so wrong. Let me try another firm.”

Of course, a big part of that was also the money. Near Philadelphia, there's a pay cut but I thought that maybe if I go to a smaller firm, I'll still be able to make decent money and have a prestigious job that I'm proud of that's stimulating but it will be easier and more at my speed. So I tried again and I went to a boutique litigation firm. It was better but I still continued to struggle.

I did really well with certain parts of the job and struggled with others. I had my first child while I was there and that sent everything into a tailspin because I had so much less mental energy to devote to my work. Whereas before, I could just stay up late, compensate, and get stuff done. I couldn't anymore. I had more limited time and energy and it felt like I was working so hard to be really mediocre at my job.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. As someone with two young kids, it totally makes sense. It's like adding on an additional job basically. Okay, at that point, were you still like, “I probably just need a different legal environment”?

Lauren Ascher: Yeah.

Sarah Cottrell: Perfect. Tell me about that.

Lauren Ascher: I was still committed so then I decided, “Okay, now I'm going to maybe try for my dream job in the public interest legal field and maybe that will be the answer. It's okay to take a huge pay cut.” I'm getting more used to the idea of not earning law firm money and finding a different role than a litigation associate and I started looking at the public interest job world in Philadelphia, which is not very big and there were not that many options but I did land an amazing job as a supervising attorney for a non-profit legal services agency that really was as close to my dream job in the legal field as I could ever get.

I worked at that job for four years and it was awesome. I actually was not practicing law myself. I was not doing direct legal services. I was supervising other attorneys and what we call pro bono case managers and I was overseeing a lot of case management. I was on the management team and doing a lot of higher-level strategizing and planning and we were providing access to legal services to people who couldn't afford it.

I felt very fulfilled. I felt comfortable. I was working with like-minded people. I was working in a more interpersonal setting where I had a lot of contact with other people, which was great. that was awesome but it was after four years of that when I had a second kid, I still felt I was working so hard and at the end of the day, something was still missing. It was not what I thought it would be.

That was when I really had to accept that this field is not right for me necessarily because I have gotten this “dream job” and still something is missing.

Sarah Cottrell: Can you tell me a little bit about the timing of realizing that and also deciding that you wanted to pursue a career as a therapist and then also your ADHD diagnosis? Can you talk a little bit about how all of those things wove together?

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. they wove together in an interesting way. I bet this will resonate with a lot of people listening. ADHD is very intergenerational and genetic and so my first child, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD around this time. She was always a high-needs kid and parenting was a real struggle for me. I struggled with postpartum also. Parenting with ADHD is not easy. Parenting a child with ADHD is not easy. Put them together and it's really, really hard.

We had been seeing a child psychologist who was helping us with our daughter and she actually said to me, “It may be helpful if you are home more and working less.” What was really tough for us was the transition time when I would get home from work and we'd have to transition to bedtime and it would just turn into four hours of screaming, tantruming, and disruption dysregulation.

It was so hard for me, it was so hard for her. We just were dying. It was awful. I was really shocked to hear that but thought, “You know what, that could be the right thing to do.” I was very sad to leave my job but decided that I had to do it for my daughter. then COVID hit right at that same moment. It was the next week that COVID started and I found myself home with both kids and was really glad I was not trying to juggle a job on top of the virtual school and all of that stuff.

Then as COVID went on and I wasn't working, I started thinking, “I do want to work again. It's important to me to have a career and I would like to work outside the home but I don't ever want to be a lawyer so what am I going to do for the next 20-plus years? I gotta figure something out.”

I should add also my mom was diagnosed with ADHD around this time. I still didn't think I had it and I had actually had a neuropsych done that did not diagnose me with it right after my daughter was born when I was feeling lost and wondering why I was performing unevenly at my job.

That neuropsychologist did tell me I had a lot of the same traits. I struggled with executive function, had some learning disability but did not give the label ADHD so I did not look into ADHD until my daughter got the diagnosis. Anyway, I decided to just go with what I loved, which was always psychology, therapy. I had gotten scared off from doing it during undergrad because the intro to psych at the school I went to was this huge class of 200 people all based on one test.

I was terrible at taking tests. It felt too sciencey. I assumed I couldn't do it and talked myself out of it. that's probably one of my biggest regrets and so I thought, “Okay, I'm just going to do this now.” I'm very lucky in that I have a very supportive husband in particular and family who said, “Go for it. Yeah, do it. Don't wait.” I had always thought in the back of my mind, “Oh, I'll do this as a second career maybe when I'm 50 or something,” and then suddenly realized no I don't want to wait, I want to do it now.

He really helped me start looking into programs and figuring out how I could make this happen. this time period, March 2020 is right when COVID got intense and the lockdown started, I left my job in February 2020, March 2020 we were all at home. By the fall of 2020 November, I applied to a master's program in mental health counseling that I got into that I started the next January. I would say it was pretty much a full year.

Sarah Cottrell: Got it. In that time you had, well, I guess no, you had the original neuropsych when your daughter was born and that was the one where they were like, “No, you have all of the traits but you don't actually,” anyway, then when did you actually learn that you did have ADHD?

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. Sorry I stopped a little prematurely. I forgot the bigger point of the story. Yeah, I went back to school for mental health counseling and I knew enough about myself at this point to know that I needed to be doing some experiential learning. It was not going to be enough for me to sit in class and learn about counseling and theory. All of the other students doing the program with me were working jobs in the mental health field, I wanted to as well.

So I looked into coaching since it was something I could do before I got licensed as a counselor and someone said to me, “Well, you should look into ADHD coaching because there's a huge need for that,” and I started looking into it and that was when the aha moment hit. It was like, “Wait a second, I definitely have this. this is definitely me,” and then everything went from there.

I found a psychiatrist who diagnosed me and put me on medication for the first time. I enrolled in an ADHD coach training program where I was connected with other people whose brains worked like mine. For the first time in my life, I felt this incredible sense of community and being seen and understood. then I started learning about it and about the coaching process and everything changed. It was like the lights went on for the first time and everything started to make sense.

Sarah Cottrell: It sounds like you originally decided that you wanted to go back to school to get a mental health counseling degree. It wasn't specifically related to ADHD coaching, it was more “This is an interest that I've had since all the way back in undergrad that I didn't pursue for reasons that maybe I’ll look back [on].” There were things working against you doing that, but it was not that you didn't have the interest.

You got into the program, you were doing that whole trajectory, your daughter had been diagnosed with ADHD so you had an interest in ADHD and then basically when you actually got into the program to train to be an ADHD coach was when you were like, “Oh, wait, this actually is me,” contrary to previous conclusion.

Some people might be listening and they might be like, “Okay, but what is ADHD coaching?” They either might have ADHD or they may not and I would imagine that a lot of people don't necessarily know exactly what that might involve, so can you talk about that a little bit about how that works for people?

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. Coaching is different from therapy. You can do it without an official certification or a license. that being said, there are a lot of people doing it and so it's important to find a very good training program or a very good coach who's actually well-educated if you're looking for a coach for yourself.

ADHD coaching is life coaching with a specific focus lens on the ADHD brain and executive function pieces. I think it's particularly powerful because therapy has its place and, of course, is super important, but for people with ADHD, it's really sometimes hard to figure out the right strategies that work, put them in place, have accountability, and have the space and time to verbally process with another person that really understands them.

Coaching is really I think very effective and powerful and it can be about any topic. It could be something interpersonal, relationship-oriented, or something that has to do with emotional regulation. It can be work-related, it could be I want to organize my closet and I can't get started. It's very client-centered and client-led. the goal is to make the client's life easier, in some way, bring more ease into their life.

I think it's really nice that it's present-focused and practical. While it may touch on, of course, things from the past or things that are problems or obstacles, it has a very positive strengths-based lens to it that I think is helpful for helping people move forward, see new possibilities, and really imagine new things for their lives.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think one of the things that I've observed is, so I was born in 1983 and I grew up in the era where the idea of what ADHD was this very limited, like little white boys who are bouncing all over the place in the classroom basically and that was pretty much the extent of what I would say was the lay understanding of ADHD and there are so many different ways that it actually manifests.

I find that for many people, especially people who are late diagnosed, especially lawyers who are late diagnosed, they're lawyers so they're high achieving, they've looked really incredible things, they've worked super hard, but often they've spent their whole life being told you're not working hard enough. Basically, the trace that they have because of their ADHD is being shamed and moralized.

I know a lot of people who in school assessments would be told, Oh, you're so smart but you're lazy,” essentially. this moralizing about things like task initiation and an executive function that we now know are, for many people, quintessential parts of how their experience of having a brain with ADHD shows up.

I think that for a lot of people, and you can tell me if this has been your experience, but getting diagnosed and then being able to put those supports in place help take that shaming moralizing piece out of it.

Lauren Ascher: Oh, yeah. But that's very hard to do and it takes a long time. that's a process. But yes, just the idea that you can learn executive function skills because you can, you are not doomed to have poor time management forever or to act impulsively when you get upset and overwhelmed by rejection or a bad emotional experience, that is really liberating and not talked about enough and hopefully is changing so that this can become more normalized.

Because people are left just feeling a lot of shame and feeling deficient that they don't somehow magically have those skills, that they should have just been born with them or picked them up along the way. When they don't have them, they assume, “It must be a defect in me.” But that's another huge part of coaching is these are skills that can be learned and honed. For me, that was really powerful.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. the other thing I wanted to say, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, Lauren, but one of the things that I have noticed is because the legal profession is such a high-stress profession and you have all these people who are constantly in fight or flight mode and then you're someone with ADHD who, because of the dopamine situation, needs cortisol and adrenaline to task initiate, I've found that there's this sense that I should be getting better at handling these things over time.

But in fact, because of the nature of our physiology and what large amounts of cortisol and adrenaline do, it can actually basically wear you down over time and then people start to feel like they're becoming less and less able. They don't understand why and it creates its own spiral.

Can you talk a little bit about that? I'm specifically thinking now of people who might be listening who may be undiagnosed and who might be experiencing that type of thing because I find that many people who reach out to me, that is a piece of their story.

Lauren Ascher: Yeah, for sure. Everybody is so different and when I think about right fit for somebody with ADHD in terms of job, I always think about it has to be the right amount of interest that they have in the job and then the right level of motivation, urgency, stress but in a more of a positive sense of the word. You need that perfect fit because people with ADHD are very sensitive and the body-mind connection is very real and so burnout can happen very quickly.

It can be really intense and it's so hard for us to motivate ourselves to do work that we're not interested in. Stress causes such overwhelm that it actually can shut down the brain and it can have so many negative ramifications. Everyone is different and I think it's just so important to find that right fit for you.

Even as you're talking, I'm thinking about people I worked with who loved that looming deadline, pulling all-nighters, not getting any sleep, ordering takeout, and just hyper focusing on what they had to get done and then getting it done, that was awesome for them. Some people love that. For me, it would kill me. Self-care is such a huge part for me. I need the sleep, I need time to rest, I need time away from the office, I need the decompression.

When you're working so hard at something that's so hard for you, you just get depleted so much more quickly if you don't re-energize yourself. It's like your empty cup, you have to fill up your cup because otherwise, you're just operating from a point of depletion and burnout. Like you said, it's going to get worse and worse and harder and harder but it's just so different for everyone.

I think for some people, stress is a good thing, deadlines are a good thing, and the cortisol can be a good thing and for other people, it's not. It can really vary depending on the work environment and whatever the topic is that you're working on, how much interest you have in it. But in my mind, I think of it as just a balance and how important it is to find that right fit and then to fill up your cup when you're depleted.

You have to do the things that get your brain offline and get you to this point of reset because otherwise, you're not going to be able to recharge your battery and regain your focus. You're just going to be in depletion forever. taking the time, which so many lawyers don't want to do and law students don't want to do, when I say the word self-care to clients, I can see [inaudible] clients shut down, like, “Please don't tell me to sleep more, please don't tell me to meditate or do yoga. No, I don't have time. I have to achieve.”

But it really is unfortunately the reality that if you don't do those things to shut off the stress in your brain, you will not recharge your brain to be able to refocus again. It's different for everyone I think.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think one of the things that can make a difference in how people think about it is recognizing, to your point, we're talking about physiological things, a lot of times people, a lawyer will look at someone else who's working in a similar job, maybe has a similar ridiculous schedule and they look at that person and they think, “Well, that person seems to be doing fine but I feel totally burnt out,” and all of these other things and again, there's this moralizing around it like, “Well, if I just tried harder, if I was a better person in some moralistic way, then I could be that way.”

But the reality is that so much of it is physiological, what is the makeup of your individual brain, what is the makeup of your individual body? I think as lawyers, it's so hard—I know this has been one of my, and I know I've talked about this on the podcast before but one of the things that I have had to learn as an adult is that I am a human being, which means I have limits, I have different limits than every other human being, and it's not good or bad, it just is.

I think as lawyers, we often feel like we're supposed to be transcending our physiology, transcending all limits, mind over matter, we should just be able to be robots. I think a lot of the work of working with, especially a population like people with ADHD is helping people see that being human is not a bad thing.

Lauren Ascher: Yeah. The perfect example of that for me has been sleep; accepting that I have high sleep needs, I need a lot of sleep. Okay. that is a fact and that is not good or bad. that is just my reality. Now I may need hours more than the person who's working in the office next to me and again, that's just a fact.

When I was able to just accept that, lean into that, and be like, “Okay, I really gotta be strict about when I put my phone away and when I go to sleep and I have to leave events so that I get home with enough time to unwind because otherwise, I'm up too late, then I'm anxious about being up too late, and then I wake up in the morning and I just feel crazy,” it has a real physiological effect on me.

After having kids and being up at night with kids, it was just compounded. I actually really feel depressed when I don't sleep and I did not want to accept that. For me, that was something that was so hard to come to terms with as just an objective fact. It felt like I should be able to push through it. Everyone else does it, everybody has kids and stays up all night with them, everybody pulls all-nighters at these jobs. Why can't I do it? Why do I need weeks to recover after it? But yeah, just accepting our human limitations that are based on our physiology and who we are can be really hard.

Sarah Cottrell: Yes. I can remember, both of my kids were relatively “good” sleepers. I'm using air quotes because they still were babies who got up in the night. I also am someone who needs a lot of sleep and very quickly, if my sleep schedule was disrupted, I would feel despairing.

Again, I had this sense of “But my kids are good sleepers. I should be fine because I had this friend who this is their situation with their kid who doesn't really sleep and this other friend and they're doing fine. Clearly, I'm just being a giant baby.”

First of all, that's the lawyer mind, the lawyer way but also just recognizing this is not helpful and whatever it is, whether it's just a different type of sleep need, there are no misery olympics. I think as lawyers, often it's like, “Well, I don't have it as bad as that other person so I shouldn't be struggling in any way at all,” and that's not true.

Lauren Ascher: Yep.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, Lauren, as we're getting to the end of our conversation, is there anything else that you would like to share that we haven't talked about yet?

Lauren Ascher: No. I guess I would just want to encourage people that are feeling the legal field is not the right fit to take action and take the risk. I know it's easier said than done but now that I'm on the other side and I experience doing work on a daily basis that I love, I just want to shout it from the rooftops, tell everybody I come across that it is possible to love what you do in such a deep way that you really look forward to doing work every day and you just enter a place of flow. You're just in it.

When I'm working with a client, the whole world falls away and I'm just completely present. My brain is working in a way that is just good for me, plays to my strengths. I really enjoy it. It's so fulfilling to help people in that way. I've really found my right fit and I hope that people listening can find that for themselves because it is possible, it does exist. You may not know it until you're almost 40 years old and suddenly starting a new career but don't give up because it really makes life so much better I think.

Sarah Cottrell: It really does. It's so true. Okay, Lauren, where can people find you and connect with you if they want to find out about the experience of going back to school to get a counseling degree, have questions about your ADHD coaching, or anything else, where is the best place for them to go?

Lauren Ascher: My website probably is the best place. It's You can read about coaching there. Also I have a blog through Psychology Today celebrating ADHD that has some good information, and in particular about law students with ADHD and some strategies that may help people in law school. that's where.

Sarah Cottrell: Awesome. We will definitely put the links in the show notes so people can just scroll in their podcast player and click the links if they want to find you.

Lauren Ascher: Can I say one more thing?

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, please do.

Lauren Ascher: I am launching my own podcast with another ADHD coach named Lindsay. We met in our coach training program, it's called The Wavy Brain and it's launching in January. It's going to be all about the intersection of work-life neurodiversity, opening up conversations, trying to get rid of the stigma, having real talk about all the things we just talked about and how it plays out in people's personal lives, careers, parenting, etc. I'm really excited about that.

Sarah Cottrell: I love that. that is literally exactly the kind of podcast that I want to be listening to and we will update if you're listening to this after the fact, we will update the show notes and the blog post for this episode with the link to that once that podcast is live.

Lauren, thank you so much for joining me today. I feel like there are a million more things we could talk about but no one wants to listen to a five-hour-long podcast so thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing your story.

Lauren Ascher: Thank you. this was so fun. Thank you so much.

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, and you can enroll there and join us in the Collab today. I'll see you there and I hope you have a great week.