For this Thanksgiving week podcast, Sarah is sharing the three reasons why she’s grateful she made the choice to stop practicing law. Many lawyers who are considering making a change spend so much time thinking about everything that could go wrong. It’s a big decision, but it’s also really important to think about what has led you to this moment and think about what you’ll gain.
Getting Out of the Lawyer Bubble
The first reason is something that Sarah talks about a lot on the podcast. She was able to get out of the lawyer bubble. While working in a law office, she was constantly surrounded by lawyers. Everyone around her had a similar way of viewing the world and work. All of the opinions on what work was good and important were similar. People all had similar drive and motivation.
Once you get outside of the lawyer bubble, it’s not hard to realize that the view isn’t necessarily true. The rest of the world operates in a different way than lawyers. It’s a great change of perspective. And if you don’t want to be a lawyer or aren’t a good fit, being stuck in the lawyer bubble just exacerbates that sense that something is wrong with you. Once you step outside, things become clearer.
An Exercise in Self-Trust
The process of leaving law cultivates self-trust because you are beginning a journey to figure out what you should do next. You’ll explore interests and skill sets. Law schooling and professions have a rigid structure, and you’re conditioned to look for external sources to tell you what’s next. You might be in a position where you’ve never developed the ability to trust yourself. This is a muscle you can develop with some practice.
When Sarah left Biglaw and eventually law entirely, it was a real exercise in trusting herself. Most people around her thought it was a ridiculous decision, and she had to learn to listen to herself and quiet those other voices. She followed her intuition and learned to trust herself and her judgments.
Once Sarah tackled this with her job, she could apply this trust to other parts of her life. She could listen to what her mind and body told her and know she supported herself. Accepting the idea that just because she could work in a big law firm didn’t mean that she should.
More Authenticity in Life
Sarah talks about living an authentic life on the podcast often. There are many ways where a person’s profession pushes them to create a facade. People are constantly trying to appear a certain way. Since leaving the law, she has learned that everyone has needs and weaknesses. It’s OK to acknowledge those things and not hide them. Many lawyers feel shame in admitting their faults, and that’s not great for your mental, emotional, social, or physical health.
Sarah is able to be authentic with her interactions with the world now and acknowledge her needs. Leaving law allowed her to see herself as a whole and not just as a lawyer. By understanding this, it was easier to find her next moves and determine how she wanted to show up to the world.
Is It Time to Make a Change?
If you’re a lawyer who wants to move on to something else, you are not alone. There are many great reasons to leave the practice and make a change that will improve your life. Make sure to check out all the resources included in the Collab.
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.
Well, it is Thanksgiving week here in the US, which is where I live. I want to talk to you this week about three reasons that I'm glad that I left the law, three reasons that I'm grateful that I left the law. Part of what I want to talk about this is it is so easy, if you're a lawyer who's thinking about doing something else, to think about and focus on all of the things that could go horribly wrong, like the parade of horribles.
Of course, you want to make a thoughtful decision. That's part of who you are as a lawyer and as a person. But I think it's also really important to think about some of the things that you will be gaining because so often when we are sort of stuck in that sunk cost fallacy, it's because we are thinking only about the things that we might lose and not the things that we will gain.
Today, I want to tell you three things that I'm grateful for, three reasons that I'm grateful that I left the law, and the first one is something we talked about in the podcast quite a bit, which is getting out of the lawyer bubble. I am so glad that I got out of the lawyer bubble.
Especially when I was working at the law firm, it was so easy to feel like the way that people who I was around all the time because of my job all day every day who are lawyers primarily, the way that they saw the world, the way that they thought about work, and what kind of work you should do, what work was good, what work wasn't good, the degree to which they cared about prestige, all that, it really feels like that is how the entire world is.
Until you get outside of the lawyer bubble, it is very hard to see that that's actually not true. The entire world does not think the way that lawyers think. Of course, I still have many good friends who are lawyers, and the biggest challenge with a lawyer bubble is that if you're someone who doesn't want to be a lawyer or for whom being a lawyer is not a good fit, it just exacerbates that sense that there's something wrong with you. It exacerbates that sense that you shouldn't feel the way that you do, that making a change is unrealistic, or that you don't have any other skills, which of course, is an extremely common experience for lawyers where they might be doing something else.
The first reason that I'm glad that I left the law is that I got out of the lawyer bubble and having the perspective of you no longer being in the lawyer bubble has been very helpful and served me in so many different ways.
The second reason that I am grateful that I left the law is that my decisions, as I made my way first out of Biglaw, and then ultimately out of the law entirely, was a real exercise in trusting myself.
I know we talked about this in the podcast, and it can maybe sound a little like woo-woo or whatever. But the reality is that if you're a lawyer who's working in a job that isn't a good fit, and you want to do something else but you don't know what you want to do, which the vast majority of people who I work with, they're lawyers who are like, “I do not like what I'm doing and I have literally no idea what else I would do,” if that's you, then a huge part of your journey/process to figure out what you should do next is going to be cultivating a sense of self-trust.
Because of the way that our profession is structured and the way that our schooling is structured, we are conditioned to look to external factors or external authorities to tell us what we should do next, what the right move is, what the most prestigious thing is, all of that stuff.
The reality is that if you are someone who either has not developed your ability to trust yourself because you've been in circumstances that have conditioned you otherwise, or if you're someone who is in the process of trying to learn how to trust yourself, the reality is that you essentially have to start practicing it in order to develop that muscle.
I know that for me, taking the steps to, for example, leave my Biglaw job when most people, certainly most people of the firm thought it was a ridiculous and incomprehensible decision, really helped me to learn how to listen to myself, to trust that I could trust myself, and to see that part of what comes with learning how to trust yourself like the action, the practice, the doing of something where you're following that intuitive sense of what is the right move for you, is also learning that even if everything isn't perfect after that, even if that decision doesn't pan out in the way that you want or whatever, that you ultimately will still be able to move forward and continue to make decisions.
I think that action of actually doing something, actually taking action in a way that was congruent with what I knew to be true at the law firm that it was like, “Biglaw is not for me and I need to get out, and ultimately, practicing law is not for me and I need to get out,” that expands into so many other areas.
Because there are so many other parts of your life, if you're a lawyer, where there's a pretty good chance that you maybe aren't listening to yourself in the way that you need to in order to really support yourself, your mental health, and all of those things.
For me, really accepting “Just because I can do this just, because I can work this Biglaw job, just because I can practice law doesn't mean I should, and if it doesn't feel like the right fit, I'm going to do something else” really helped me to cultivate the ability to trust myself that has now expanded into all sorts of areas of my life and ultimately, has helped me to become a more compassionate person, both with others but also with myself.
The second reason that I'm grateful that I left the law is that it has taught me how to trust myself. The third reason that I'm grateful that I left the law is that it has allowed me to live and act in a more authentic way.
This comes up on the podcast all the time. But of course, there are ways in which the profession pushes people towards creating a facade. Some of that is in the professional sense of especially if you're a trial lawyer, you are going to put on a presentation essentially for a judge, for a jury, or both, and that also can leak over into other things.
I know you've heard guests talk about this where they felt like, especially in their law firms, people were constantly trying to appear a certain way, we're worried about not looking a certain way or looking a certain way depending on the situation, and also very disincentivized from showing any sort of need or weakness.
I know for me, one of the huge lessons of just the last couple of years, and certainly since I left the law in 2018 has been that everyone is human and has needs and weaknesses. The more that you feel like you have to hide those things or those things are shameful, because certainly many lawyers, especially lawyers in Biglaw, are trained to think that having needs or having weaknesses is somehow shameful or maybe there's something wrong with them, and that is not a good way to live.
That is not good for your mental health. It's not good for your physical health. It's not good for your emotional health or your relationships. For me, being a lawyer, again to go back to the whole like just because you can doesn't mean you should, being able to be authentic in my interactions with the world and also being able to acknowledge the needs that I have, the weaknesses that I have, that has been such an important part of my life in so many ways.
I know I talk about therapy all the time on here, and how important I think it is. But I think one of the huge things for all of us who have become lawyers, especially those of us who want to leave but are feeling like there's something wrong with us for wanting to leave or that it takes a real toll if you are someone who's in a job that is such a bad fit for you but you really feel like you need to not show that to people, I know that for me, leaving law really allowed me to even just understand who I am as a person apart from who I was as a lawyer.
So many of my guests have mentioned the identity piece feeling like, “Who am I if I'm not a lawyer?” For me, leaving law helped me answer that question, helped me see myself for who I am as a human as opposed to just as a lawyer.
In turn, that has been really helpful for me in terms of knowing the things that I want to do next, how I want to show up in the world, and all of these other things that we don't always have a chance to think about when we're in a work situation that is requiring so much of us and is requiring us to show up in a way that is so different from how we might otherwise show up.
I am, among other things, infinitely grateful that I do not have to write response letters about [insufficient] interrogatories ever again because that, my friends, is just the worst. I mean, there are a lot of things that are the worst when it comes to lawyering but that is a particular one that really just sticks out to me, because, and I know I've talked about this in the podcast before, there's conflict for a purpose, and there's conflict that feels purposeless, and for me and my personality, that type of thing felt like purposeless conflict.
So three reasons that I'm grateful I left the law: one, getting out of the lawyer bubble, two, learning to trust myself, and three, being able to be authentic. All three of these things have infinitely improved my life. I'm so grateful that I am able to share these things and all the things that I share on the podcast with you. Because I know that so many of these feelings are so common. So many of these struggles are so common.
If you're a lawyer who wants to be a former lawyer, I want you to know that you're not alone. There are so many benefits to getting out of practice and making a change that works better for you. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you who listen to this podcast. I'm so grateful that I get to make this and share it with you. I'm so grateful that you are listening today. That's all that I have for you right now. I'll talk to you next week.
Thank you so much for listening today. If these stories are making you go, “I think the Collab is something that would be a good fit for me or would be helpful for me,” we would love to have you join us. You can go to formerlawyer.com/collab and see all the information and the enrollment information, 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.
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