Why These Former Lawyers Decided to Join the Guided Track [TFLP196]

In today’s episode, Sarah is wrapping up the summer series where she asked questions of some of her clients, who shared their personal experiences. Previous episodes have asked about myths, advice for the person they were five years ago, and much more. Make sure to catch up if you want to hear from people who have utilized some incredible resources The Former Lawyer offers. 

This episode focuses on the Guided Track. This is a small group program within the Collab. The group of eight lawyers max meets for ten weeks and works through an action plan that follows the Former Lawyer Framework. In addition, there are some other tools included, like CliftonStrength workshops. 

These clients share their experiences and why they think someone should join. The Guided Track happens twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. 

Why Join the Guided Track

Extra Conversations and a Non-Judgmental Environment

The first client participated in the Winter 2022 group. They describe their experience as “nothing short of incredible.” It provided self-affirmation, especially with the value and strength assessments. Sarah has a non-judgmental approach and allowed this client to be very open. After each meeting, they felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. 

It helped to know they weren’t alone in their thoughts about the legal profession. The conversations with the Guided Track helped them articulate their reasons for leaving. The program provided tools to make a concrete change and take small steps that turned into big steps. 

Strengthening Support 

The second client echoed the positive response to the Guided Track. They were part of the summer 2022 group, and give this group credit for them leaving law practice and moving on to a much better career. The program provides access to many resources, but you’re in a small group setting and can collaborate and get validation from everybody. 

The support in the Guided Track was really strengthening. It helped them figure out what to do next. Hearing others going through similar situations was helpful when they needed to move on. 

Small, Intimate Community

The third client was also in the summer 2022 Guided Track group. They joined while also prepping for a wedding; a lot was happening at the same time. This program helped them reflect on life and what they wanted it to look like rather than their work identity. 

For them, the best thing about the Guided Track was the community. It was intimate and small and acted as a support group at times. The people who have gravitated towards the Guided Track are uniquely supportive because they share certain experiences in life and careers. The law can be isolating and is often full of gaslighting and unwillingness to address problems. 

The community of people is exploring questions similarly to each other. They can understand where you’re coming from and be incredibly empathetic to some of the obstacles you face. With the small group, there is also a level of accountability. This client understands their own challenges to complete things when there’s no deadline, so for them, joining the Guided Track provided structure and accountability. 

Empowering When Searching for a New Career

The fourth client found the Guided Track when they felt stuck and down. They had already made the decision to quit their job without a new one lined up. The Guided Track provided a framework to make better career moves. They referred to the program as a “spring in my pursuit of living authentically.” 

There was a level of trust among the group members, and so many shared experiences and empathy. It was incredible to have a group of dissatisfied people who were choosing to do something about it rather than just accepting being miserable. The small group size allowed people to dive in deep and really discuss the homework each week. The Guided Track allowed this client to move forward confidently and optimistically into a new career path. 

The Structure of the Guided Track

The fifth client was already part of the Collab when they joined, but they were struggling to move forward in the steps. The small group meetings with Sarah and others held them accountable for moving forward through the steps. It was helpful to have structure and be able to discuss the information covered with others that were in a similar headspace. 

The group also allowed this client to compare their results from the Enneagrams and the Clifton Strengths with others. It helped them understand their own results when talking it through with others. Learning more about the way they work and parts of their personality helped them view new things as strengths and build confidence for their next chapter.

Join The Guided Track

Thanks to the clients who have shared their personal experiences throughout this series. Make sure to listen to the previous episodes if you missed any. If you’re interested in joining the Guided Track, join the small group to help you find your next steps.

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.

Today we're wrapping up the summer series where you're hearing directly from my clients about their experiences going through the process of figuring out what it is that they want to do that is not practicing law and their experiences in the Collab and the Guided Track. In particular, today the episode is going to focus on the Guided Track because a new Guided Track will be kicking off a little bit over a month from now.

For those of you who aren't familiar, the Guided Track is essentially a small group program within the Collab. You join the Guided Track, it also means that you become a member of the Collab. The Guided Track is a small group that is max eight lawyers. We meet for 10 weeks, weekly, you work through an action plan to move you through The Former Lawyer Framework within those 10 weeks.

There are also some other things included including the assessments that I recommend that are paid are included for you as a Guided Track participant. We also have a half-day CliftonStrengths workshop, which I will talk more about in an episode in a couple of weeks that can help you figure out, one, how to present yourself in terms of nonlegal skills and strengths in your resume, but also just how to recognize what things are actually the best fit for you.

The Guided Track is a really special experience. It's truly one of my favorite things to do. I'm so excited for you to hear today from clients of mine who have participated in the Guided Track. They're going to be sharing today what their experience was like in the Guided Track and why someone should consider joining.

I'm sure after listening to those responses, you probably have some sense of why I love running the Guided Track so much and why it is such a special program. At this point, I only run two Guided Tracks a year. I run one in the fall and one in the spring.

The Guided Tracks are capped at eight people. This one that we’ll be enrolling in a month or will start in a little bit over a month on September 19th is capped at eight people and then I will run one in the spring, enrolling probably January, February.

If listening to these responses made you go, “I think the Guided Track might be the right fit for me,” you want to go to formerlawyer.com/guidedtrack. You can see all the information there. You can see how to enroll. Just as a reminder, when you enroll in the Guided Track, you immediately get access to the Collab. That is also something that is included in your participation.

I just want to say, again, to each of my clients who participated in this project, thank you so much for your vulnerability. Thank you so much for your willingness to share. Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with you. It is truly an unbelievable honor. It is not something that I take lightly. I'm so grateful for you and the work that you have done to move yourself forward and to become a former lawyer. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Okay, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. I will talk to you next week.

Client 1: Sometimes it's hard to put into words how incredible the Collab and specifically the Guided Track was for me. I took part in the winter 2022 Guided Track because I knew that I needed the accountability and really the kick in the butt to complete the Collab steps.

I also wanted the extra conversations and support of the Guided Track group. But really, my experience was nothing short of incredible. It was very self-affirming, taking the tools, the values assessments, and the strength assessments I think was very self-affirming for me, and being able to discuss the implications within the Guided Track group too. They're very enlightening as well, and really being able to have those tools then to carry with me as I make a career transition.

Sarah, also her incredibly non-judgmental approach is basically life-changing for me. I think being able to be very open with your takeaways from the different assessments, why you became a lawyer, why you want to leave, Sarah is incredibly non-judgmental, and I just can't quite put into words what this entire program has meant for me.

I think I left each session and really each step in the Collab feeling so much lighter. There was just this huge weight that was taken off of my shoulders. I think also knowing that I was not alone in what I was feeling with still being in the legal profession, helping me to the Collab helps me to articulate why do you want to leave and what also I would bring to another career or job.

I think too, for me, before joining the Collab, I knew that I needed to make a change, but I was spinning my wheels, if you will, because I did not know really where to start and did not have really the tools. The Collab gives you to make concrete changes and take small steps that turn into big steps to make a change, to make a positive change, and really gives you the support I think of a community that speaks the same language of having gone to law school, having worked in the law, and wanting to leave.

You don't really need to explain yourself, I think, which is very helpful when you're trying to figure out a transition and figure out where you want to be, where you have been. I think as opposed to trying to make the transition on your own, the Collab really gives you the tools and the support needed in a very non-judgmental but also just a complete understanding of where you've been and where you want to go. I only wish that I had done it sooner.

Client 2: I cannot say enough good things about the Guided Track. I thought it was a phenomenal experience. I did it in the summer of 2022 and really credit it with my eventually leaving law practice and moving on to a much better career for me.

I think it gives you the best of everything that Former Lawyer has to offer, the best combination of all of Former Lawyer’s attributes. You get the access to the Collab, you get some individual attention because you're in a small group setting, and at the same time, because you're in a group, you get that camaraderie, that collaboration, the validation and support from everybody in there with you as you share experiences and work together to figure out what's next for each of you.

I found the support that came from that to be really strengthening. It was a huge help to me as I figured out what was next. Just to hear everybody going through such similar things to me, reacting to the similar situations in similar ways made me feel like I wasn't alone in this and made me feel all the more confident that I could eventually move on and find something that was going to work better for me.

I joined the summer 2022 Guided Track I think at the very deadline, the very end of the deadline for when you can join and I'm so glad I did because it was a life-changing experience. I'm so glad I did it. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Client 3: I joined the fall 2022 Guided Track, which was a particularly hectic time for me as I was getting married almost, smack dab in the middle of a Guided Track. But I think that the Guided Track coupled with this life milestone really let me reflect on my life and what I wanted my life to look like rather than my work identity.

The best thing about the Guided Track is the community. It's small, it's intimate. It's a support group at times, and you just meet the loveliest people who are going through something similar or even very different than what you're going through. But it's a lot of I think people who understand better than friends, family members, or really many nonlawyers or even other lawyers. This community of people who have gravitated towards the Guided Track can be so uniquely supportive.

I think it's a particularly important community to be a part of if you're considering leaving the profession. Law can be a very isolating profession, full of gaslighting, censorship, and an unwillingness to look in the mirror and acknowledge some of these deeply institutional flaws. I think law chooses to instead blame those in the profession who don't outright subscribe to that culture.

It was amazingly validating in the Guided Track to hear from the smart, kind, compassionate, wonderful lawyers across different practices, locations, work environments, and career levels. Sometimes it was people sharing the exact feelings that I had, which was very validating, and sometimes it was really different feelings that I had, which also gave some really wonderful perspectives.

I think about one of my cohort members a lot, just this incredibly lovely guy who wasn't in an extremely toxic environment like I was, but he just wasn't finding purpose and meaning in his job and he wanted something more fulfilling.

Hearing from him and being this another member of the Guided Track and supporting him to seek meaning in his career was such a transformative experience for me. That just learning that a job or profession doesn't have to rise to the level of unbearable abuse to be worth leaving and seeking purpose and meaning in your daily life is enough.

I would say the biggest reason to join the Guided Track is really just for this community of people who are exploring questions in a similar way to you and can really understand where you're coming from and be very empathetic to some of these existential questions that you'll likely have.

I would say also, the Guided Track, compared to just the Collab, really gives this community and really also gives this level of accountability in a way that the Collab does but not quite to the same level. I would say that the Guided Track is really just this extra support group and deadline-imposing, more classroom-type of experience.

For me, that was particularly useful because of my personality and who I am. I am not great at just completing materials when there aren't deadlines, and when there isn't group accountability and so for me, it ended up being really, really pivotal to join the Guided Track because I wasn't completing the materials just in the Collab. So I'm very, very glad that I joined the Guided Track.

If you're someone who really benefits from talking with people face to face, you really want that small classroom or support group type of environment to be able to share and hear perspectives from others. You're also the type of person who would prefer to go to a group exercise class as opposed to going to the gym yourself because it has that additional layer of accountability. I would highly recommend that someone consider joining the Guided Track.

For me, it was essentially life-changing because I had been one of those many, many people who just Google alternative careers for lawyers, and that's when I found Former Lawyer, the podcast, and the Collab and I'm so glad that I was part of the Guided Track. It really allowed me to have the rubber meets the road, to move in a forward direction, and really feel like I had a whole group of people who had my back while I was doing this, while I was really exploring what I wanted my life to look like. I heavily consider anybody who wants that level of support, join the Guided Track.

Client 4: I found out about the Guided Track when I was frustrated, depleted, and distressed by my work situation that had me Googling things like alternative lawyer careers and leaving legal career, which led me to Sarah's website. Reading Sarah's blog and listening to her podcast was really validating and encouraging.

For the first time in a long while, I felt like there was the possibility to pursue a different path, that I was not stuck accepting a career trajectory that was so out of sync with who I am, and one that already had taken a huge toll on my physical and mental health.

By the time I signed up for the Guided Track, I had already made the decision to quit my job without a new one lined up, a scenario that Sarah has written about in her blog. I did not have the time, energy, or mindset to look for a new job and I knew that at that point, I needed the framework that the Guided Track was going to provide to make better career moves.

Joining the Guided Track was a springboard in my pursuit of living authentically and it has been deeply empowering. I found a group of people who understood the nuances and reality of legal practice. There was a level of trust in the group due to our common experiences with work and the fact that we all were dissatisfied and were choosing to do something about it rather than just accepting being miserable and unfulfilled at work.

That really facilitated a level of trust and genuine support that made me feel very seen and understood. The small cohort size allowed for enough time for folks to delve deep into discussing the homework that we had been assigned for the week, as well as to get to know the group members well enough to give and receive honest and well-thought-out feedback.

I particularly enjoy the values, Enneagram, and CliftonStrengths sessions that we had. By the time the Guided Track concluded, I felt equipped to navigate the professional world with a deeper understanding of myself and a framework for determining what environments and opportunities are the right fit for me.

It's allowed me to move forward confidently and with an optimistic outlook. Your job should not make you physically sick. It’s not normal to have emotional breakdowns due to work. You should feel safe and supported in your workplace. It is not a personal failing if you feel like your career, which you've worked hard for, feels out of sync with who you are.

If you are at the stage where you know in your gut that something's not right, if you can't stomach the idea of decades more on the path that you're on right now, I highly, highly recommend joining the Collab or the Guided Track. But you better watch out for that paradigm shift and how you make choices because it's surprisingly empowering and freeing. Thank you. Thank you, Sarah.

Client 5: I had a really fantastic experience in the Guided Track. I joined the Guided Track after I joined the Collab because I was looking for a more structured way of moving through the framework and I felt that having these weekly small group meetings with Sarah and other people would really hold me accountable to actually keep moving through the framework.

I joined the Collab initially, and I was trying to work my way through the framework. But I just got stalled. I felt like I was stagnating. There are parts of the framework that were a little bit more difficult to work through than others like the finances piece, the informational interview piece, I thought they were just easier knowing than feeling like doing it to tell yourself, “I'll just get to it next week. I'll get to it next week,” then next week becomes the next four weeks, becomes the month, two months, but I just felt like I wasn't doing anything so I signed up for the Guided Track and I got exactly that accountability and everything and so much more.

I had such a good experience in the Guided Track. You really get to know the people that are in your cohort. You really get the sense that you're not alone in this process because there are not only so many people in the Collab, but here are five or six other people who are sharing the details of their experiences and their process with you every week.

You can raise things in the group, you can talk about things, and a lot of times one person will say something and it'll feel like, “Oh, my gosh, I totally understand exactly what that is.” Even if the experiences are different, everyone's there for each other.

The other piece that I really enjoyed with the Guided Track I think I was missing when I was moving through the frameworks was doing all of the different assessments like the Enneagram, CliftonStrengths, and having the half-day CliftonStrengths workshop, and just seeing, discussing your results with everybody else seeing how everyone else thought about their results, what people's different Enneagrams were, what their CliftonStrengths were.

Especially the CliftonStrengths, it made me feel very seen. The CliftonStrengths picked out parts of the way that I work and parts of my personality and categorized them out front as strengths, but never what I have ever thought of them as strengths. In fact, based on my experiences in Biglaw, and just what other people are telling me, the things that they plucked out as strengths and gave me vocabulary and words to describe them, people were telling you were actually negative things.

It's perfect for people who want a firmer hand on the experience of moving through the framework for people who want to have that accountability, have that intimacy, of being able to discuss your problems, the challenges that you're facing with a group of people every week.

For people who really want to have that support system every week as they move through the different aspects of the framework, like I said, I was on the fence about joining the Guided Track, but it's probably one of the best decisions I've made.

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