Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty if You Hate Being a Lawyer [TFLP223]

Today’s podcast topic was sparked by a recent call for the Guided Track Sarah is facilitating this spring. This program is designed to assist lawyers in navigating their career paths and offers a safe space for self-reflection. It helps individuals determine if leaving the law is the right choice for them and guides them toward their next steps. The program fosters a close-knit community where participants can share their experiences, exchange ideas, and support each other through the process, providing a sense of camaraderie and accountability. 

The discussion centered around a common yet often unspoken experience of guilt when one doesn’t enjoy being a lawyer. This feeling of guilt can be pervasive, making one feel like they’re complaining, even when they perceive their situation to be better than others. Sarah has talked about this before on the podcast, so obviously, it’s a topic that comes up often and is important to re-address.

When Sarah was working in Biglaw, she realized that maybe this was not the right place for her to be, but it brought up so many feelings of guilt. She felt like she would like it; she was good at it and spent a lot of money to get where she was. It took a lot of work to understand those feelings and put them aside.

None of that matters. The time you spend feeling guilty and second-guessing your feelings doesn’t serve you. If you don’t like it, that’s it. It doesn’t say anything about who you are and is not a measure of your mortal worth. When you don’t enjoy the parts of the job that come with being a lawyer, it doesn’t mean you don’t like working hard or that you’re lazy. It simply means that you don’t enjoy being a lawyer. 

Just let go of the guilt—you don’t need to carry it. The job is not something to feel guilty about. It’s just not the right fit for you. The quicker you can accept that the quicker you can move forward. Don’t waste your energy, and enjoy the freedom of letting go of that emotional baggage.

If you feel stuck and are ready to take action toward leaving the law, join the Former Lawyer Collab. Join Sarah on the next Guided Track and participate in group discussions where you can connect with others experiencing the same things.

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 actually had a different topic planned for the podcast today, but I'm in the middle of running the Guided Track, the spring Guided Track right now, and we had our second call last night. One of the things that came up on that call is something that we've talked about on the podcast before and comes up all the time with lawyers who I work with, which is this sense of feeling guilty because people don't like being a lawyer, this sense of guilt for being a complainer or this idea that essentially you don't have it as bad as someone else so you shouldn't feel the way that you feel.

I know that I've been talking about this for a long time because it's certainly something that I experienced and I know it is something that many of the people who I've worked with have experienced as well. But the thing that's so interesting is I was looking at my photos on my phone and I found a video that I made and posted to Former Lawyer social media four years ago today.

The whole video was about this exact thing, this sense of guilt that people feel when they don't like being a lawyer so I wanted to share the audio from that video because it honestly was a little bit surprising to me how similar what I shared then is to what I still share now when this topic comes up.

It was just such a good reminder, first like having the call last night and talking about it with the Guided Track small group and then finding this video, just like such a good reminder to me that we each have our different reasons why you might be thinking about leaving the law or why it might be difficult, but there are these baseline issues that so, so many of us run into, and in many cases, feel like we're the only one having that experience.

The audio you're about to hear is short, but I recorded it four years ago talking about this exact topic that we were talking about again last night. I think it's really important to hear if you're someone who's thinking about leaving because realistically, this is probably an experience you're having as well. Here is Sarah from the past with a brief message to you about feeling guilty about not liking your job as a lawyer.

Hey, everyone. It's Sarah from Former Lawyer. I'm hopping on here just to say that if you are a lawyer and you don't like your job, stop feeling guilty that you don't like being a lawyer.

When I was working at a Biglaw firm and was starting to realize like, “Maybe this is not what I want to be doing,” I dealt with so much guilt. Like, “I should like this. I'm good at this. I spent all this time and money getting here. Look at all these other successful people who seem to like it. I should be like them,” blah, blah, blah, like all this stuff.

It doesn't matter. If you don't like it, you don't like it. It doesn't say anything about you as a person. It's not some referendum on your mortal worth or whether you like to work hard. I mean, I cannot even tell you, and I did this as well, how many times I would tell people, “It's not that I don't want to work hard, it's just that I don't like being a lawyer.” Like, “Okay, yeah.”

People tell me that all the time, “Oh, here are all the terrible things about my job as a lawyer.” I'm like, “Yep, yep, yep, yep, all of those things are terrible. Those are all terrible things about being a lawyer, especially a lawyer at a Biglaw firm,” then they feel like they need to tell me, “But I don't mind working hard.”

Yes, you don't mind working hard, you don't believe the lie that you not liking your job as a lawyer, especially if you're a lawyer at a big firm, is like somehow because you're lazy. Because that's really like the underlying fear that I feel like I had and that I see other people have, like, “Oh, someone's going to think I'm lazy because I don't like it.”

No, you just don't like it because it's kind of terrible and the system is dysfunctional and the people can be not great, and yeah, you don’t like it. That's totally fine. It's not some kind of moral failing, okay? I know I'm basically repeating myself, but I'm repeating myself because I know there are tons of you out there who are going to see this video and you are dealing with this exact feeling.

You feel guilty because you don't like being a lawyer for whatever number and variety of reasons. I'm here to tell you that that's just wasted energy. Just let go of that feeling of guilt. I realize it's not that easy. This is one of the many reasons I recommend therapy to not just lawyers, but everyone, but especially lawyers.

Just let go, let go of that guilt. You don't need to carry that guilt. It's not something to feel guilty over. It's not the job for you and that's okay. I think the quicker that you can accept that, the faster you will move forward into something that works for you. One, I want you to have that freedom of just letting go of that emotional baggage, that boulder of guilt and shame that you're carrying. I also want you to get out and do something that works better for you.

If you can let go of guilt over the fact that you just don't like your job, you can move forward that much faster. Let me know if you've had this experience. I know that there are many of you that have, and I know that I did. Drop a comment, shoot me a note, and I'll talk to you guys later.

Are you sick of just thinking about it and ready to take action towards leaving the law? Join us in the Former Lawyer Collab. The Collab is my entry-level program for lawyers who are wanting to make a change and leave the law for another career. You can join us at formerlawyer.com/collab. Until next time, have a great week.