Lawyers Hoping To Be Hit By A Bus Isn’t Normal, but Not Uncommon Either with Kelcey Baker [TFLP236]

In today’s podcast episode, Sarah is chatting with Kelcey Baker, a returning guest. Their conversation reviews why it isn’t normal to want a break from work so bad that you think about getting hit by a bus. Yes, that’s a common expression within lawyer networks. There is a trigger warning because the conversation dives into narcissism, abuse, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. It’s an important discussion if you’ve ever had thoughts like this flash through your mind.

Is it Normal to Want a Break This Bad?

This conversation is a follow-up to a previous episode where Sarah and Kelcey discussed the experience of being a lawyer. There was so much content about desperately needing a break at all costs. They both had the thought, “I want to be hurt just a little bit.” There’s an idea that if there were a minor accident that would require two weeks of rest, it would give you a break from emails, phone calls, and work pressure. It’s wild, but both Sarah and Kelcey admit to having these thoughts and not considering whether it was normal. 

Looking back now, it’s easier for them both to review these times with more perspective. Kelcey remembers making these comments in passing, seeing the horrified looks on others’ faces, and instant worrying about her well-being from friends who weren’t lawyers. 

Most people dream about vacations to get a break, but with lawyers, vacations are rarely a complete escape. Something always comes up, someone always needs you. Getting a break in law is virtually impossible. 

Craving a break doesn’t seem crazy to anyone, but having thoughts as extreme as this is significant, and you should take notice. When Kelcey was practicing law, she wasn’t suffering from textbook depression and wasn’t clinically diagnosed. She wasn’t going to therapy, so she wasn’t understanding her thoughts and feelings. 

How Lawyers Get to This Mindset

Getting to the mind space of considering injury a logical way for a break means that lawyer brains have worked through the logic and determined this is the only scenario in which they will get a break. 

Control plays a big part in this mindset. Lawyers work so hard to be in control, so it feels like the only way to shut off their brains and phones is for something out of their control to happen. It’s some outside force intervening on their behalf. This allows them to have a break without admitting that they are exhausted or burning out. Kelcey also remembers wanting to be laid off at one point because then she would not need to be the one to walk away. Many people internalize the idea that “you can do anything you set your mind to.” But they carry on without acknowledging how it makes them feel or impacts them. 

Dark thoughts like these are not uncommon with lawyers. It’s a red flag that this environment is not good. When you’re in it, it might not seem so dark, but it shouldn’t be normalized as just “part of the lawyer experience.” These thoughts can evolve into more serious thoughts of self-harm. 

The Environment is the Problem

Society should be addressing the environment that is allowing these feelings to develop and not be resolved. Instead, there’s so much focus on the people who are experiencing these thoughts. Law firms tend to push associates to focus on their resilience and try practicing mindfulness instead of addressing the real underlying issues. 

Sarah has seen it many times: Someone acknowledges the systemic issues but then turns to the person struggling and gives them advice on how to fix themselves. This is a fundamental misapplication of the solution. Grit and resilience are not the problem. Instead, lawyers have an overdeveloped sense of grit and resilience and feel it should have no limit. 

Many lawyers tend to assume that the problem is self-inflicted. The default is to assume that they are the weak ones and that others aren’t feeling the same way. People are not blaming the environment, they are blaming themselves. It’s a classic symptom of a narcissistic system. With systems like these, you’re conditioned to believe that any distress you feel doesn’t count. 

The fact that people believe they need to be hospitalized to deserve that level of care is not normal. It’s not normal to feel this way, and it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you; it means there is something wrong with the situation you’re in. It’s time to change your environment. It’s easier said than done, but the best thing to do in a dangerous situation is to get out. Humans are not meant to be under this kind of stress. 

Final Thoughts

If any of this sounds familiar, therapy is a great option. Sarah always recommends it, even if it doesn’t sound like your current feelings. It’s one of the best ways to care for yourself. Therapists can help you work through your emotions and recognize what’s healthy. You can also find information on how to leave the law with the free guide: First Steps to Leaving the Law.

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.

This week my client Kelcey Baker is back on the podcast and we are talking about why it is not normal if you would like to be hit by a bus just a little bit so that you can get a real break from work.

This is a common experience that lots of lawyers share and Kelcey and I started talking about this when we were recording the last episode that she was on and decided to make this a whole separate episode because there is so much to say about this topic.

Content warning for this episode, there is a discussion of narcissism, narcissistic abuse, self-harm, and suicidality. If any of those things are triggering for you and you need to give it a pass, feel free and tune in next week. But otherwise, here's my conversation with Kelcey.

Hey, Kelcey. Welcome back to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Kelcey Baker: Hey, Sarah. So good to be back.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, so Kelcey is here because—as you know if you listen to the podcast—we recently had a conversation where we talked about the callousness of law firms and their response to the struggles and mental health issues that are, in many ways, created by the nature of the environment.

Kelcey and I were talking off-mic. One of the things we started talking about as we were talking about this whole circumstance was the experience of being a lawyer and feeling like, “I would like to get in just a little bit of a car accident,” or “I would like to be hit by a bus but not in a very serious way, just enough that it would give me some break.”

Now, this is an experience that I definitely had when I was working at the law firm. Kelcey, was this an experience that you had as well?

Kelcey Baker: Yeah. I think that's a good way of framing it is just, “I want to be hurt just a little bit.” I think the biggest way that we can define this feeling just to set the framework I guess for the rest of our conversation is we want to be hurt just enough so that we get a break from work, specifically from having to be a lawyer.

Like, “If I could only get hit by a bus and it would put me in the hospital for two weeks and I wouldn't have to answer any emails, but I would survive and I would be fine and it wouldn't affect the rest of my life, that would be great.” That's the general definition of the feeling that we're talking about.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. The thing that is wild about this is—and I know, Kelcey, that you had a similar experience—but this is something that I experienced and I honestly didn't give a lot of thought to like, “Is this good? Is this bad? Is this normal?” It was just like a passing thought.

However, with time and perspective, I can now look at this and see like, “Yikes,” but also having now talked to so many lawyers for the podcast and the people who I work with, I know that this is a very common experience. It is disturbingly common that lawyers will mention that this is something that they have thought about.

The point being that it's not just you and me, and this is part of why we want to have this conversation because there are probably a lot of people listening who are like, "Oh, yeah, I totally have thought about, could I just get hit by a bus a little bit?"

Kelcey, I know that you have some experience talking to you including nonlawyers, about this type of thinking. I'd love for you to share that because this is so common, I think honestly, it's in a way been normalized in the profession.

Kelcey Baker: Yeah, I think it has been normalized. I had certainly felt this way when I was practicing. I remember thinking at the time, “This is just part of the profession. This is just what goes along with the job.” Of course, we feel this way.

I certainly remember speaking to friends, including those who are lawyers, and just explaining, “Yeah, I kind of just wish I could get in a car accident so I could get a break or I could just get a appendicitis so that could stop having to answer emails or turn around cases per the deadlines.”

I remember saying it a little offhandedly because it felt very normalized and I was met with just horrified looks on their faces and just this utter concern and worry for my well-being which seemed odd to me because it felt like a very normal thing.

That was probably the first indication I had that this is not a normal way to feel, that people don't feel this way, and this is actually a very messed up way to feel about things.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I was talking to someone a while back and I was saying that it’s very telling that it’s not like, “Oh, I would really like a vacation.” I mean, I also would have really liked a vacation, but at least in the context of Biglaw, a vacation was never really a vacation. Because there was always something that someone needed or whatever and being truly disengaged was not actually acceptable.

It wasn't just for people who were junior. It was the culture, you knew that the partners that you were working for were going on vacation and then spending time working. I think that is part of the genesis of this thinking because it is so normal for a person to want a break from work, yet you're in this environment where truly getting a true break is virtually impossible.

As a result, you do have this, “How do I get a true break?” This is the kind of thing that we perceive more in that situation as being the way to get that. I just want to be clear that this is so common. Some people might be listening and think, “Oh, well, if you are experiencing clinical depression or something like that, this is ‘normal’ within that, but otherwise not.”

Yes, it's completely possible that it may be true for some people. But I think one of the reasons that I wanted to have this conversation is that this is something that many people think about who aren't necessarily otherwise, experiencing something that is particularly diagnosable.

I think it often flies under the radar as this is something of significance that should make you sit up and take notice, especially, if you don’t, like you did, Kelcey, mention it to someone and have that response of like, “What?”

Kelcey Baker: Right. Yeah, and in my experience, I was not diagnosed with any sort of clinical depression. I was not suffering from what would be seen as textbook depression. So that type of thought I didn't pick up on that as anything weird or anything having to do with depression and at that point in time, I was not going to therapy, so I didn't have any way of understanding that these kinds of thoughts and feelings were normal or were not normal, felt normal to me, but was in reality not normal.

I think you touched on a really good point that I think the real meaning or reasoning behind having these thoughts is I want to be able to actually disconnect from the work, from the toxicity, or from the pressures or demands of this type of work.

Because you're right, even when you're on vacation, you are still expected to be on, whether that's online, whether that's available by phone, I can't tell you how many times a partner would call in from their flight to Hawaii on vacation with their family on a conference call because that's just what's expected. You are not really ever meant to fully disconnect from your work, even when you're supposedly on vacation.

I think the reason why these thoughts for so many people, not just me, so many people have gone to the extremes of being injured and being in the hospital is that our brains have logicked out that that's the only appropriate scenario where we'll actually get a break, where it will be socially acceptable within the context of being a lawyer to not have to answer our work emails or pick up our phone.

We need to be hospitalized. I think that's where a lot of the thoughts go is, “How can I get injured or sick enough to where it's not really threatening my life and it's not, putting my life in any true danger on a long-term basis, but it's going to be severe enough that I can actually disconnect.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think, and this is something that I know that you mentioned when we were talking about this before, Kelcey, but I think part of that is this sense of like, “I can never admit that this is too much for me. Because admitting that this is too much for me is a weakness and that's bad”—this is the internal dialogue to be clear—“I actually think it's a weakness, and that's bad.”

Many lawyers were those people who were told like, “Oh, just do your best.” The way that they internalize “just do your best” is literally go until you cannot go anymore.

Kelcey Baker: Right.

Sarah Cottrell: That's, I think, part of what drives this kind of thinking because there is this sense of like, “It is weak to just want to break. It is weak. Just wanting to go on vacation and not be connected, be truly disconnected, I can't want that. So what is the scenario where basically I can get something akin to that that is outside of my control that I don't have to feel like I am responsible for making it happen or for admitting that I need it?”

Kelcey Baker: Absolutely, and I think the control piece that you said is such an important aspect of why so many lawyers have these kinds of feelings because a lot of these thoughts are, “I wish I could get hit by a bus or a car, or I wish I could get appendicitis.” These are things that are out of our control.

It's some outside force intervening on our behalf to be able to give us a break from the type of work, but it's not requiring anybody to say, "I can't do this. I need a break," or "I'm overworked," or "I'm exhausted," so in that respect, that's why I think it feels so appealing, such an extreme thing is actually being wished for a little bit, because it does take that burden of agency off of us in that we don't have to be the ones to admit to ourselves or others, “I can't keep going at this rate,” or “I'm burnt out,” or “I hate this,” whatever it might be.

Even before I quit my Biglaw job, I had a similar type of situation where I was hoping I would get laid off. I was hoping something else would happen, so I wouldn't have to be the one to walk away from that type of paycheck.

I wanted the agency taken off of me where there was some other intervening force and I wouldn't have to be the one who say, “I don't want this anymore.” Because even saying, “I don't want this,” even though it's not quite the same thing as saying, “I can't do this,” but just saying, “I don't want this,” even that in itself felt, in a sense, weak.

In the context of Biglaw especially, because that's the thing that you're supposed to want the most. You're supposed to want to work at an Am Law 100 firm. You're supposed to want to have that huge paycheck, the prestige, and everything else that goes around with it. So to say, "I don't want this," that's seen as “What's wrong with you?”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I mean, I think that for so many of us, we internalized in a very toxic way this idea of like, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” There's sort of this idea of you just decide you're going to do it and then it doesn't matter how it feels or how it impacts you or really anything else, you do the thing that you set your mind to. I think that for so many people who became lawyers, they are the type of person where there is no out from that, right?

Kelcey Baker: Yeah, gifted kid shout out.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I was going to say gifted/neurodivergent/any of those things. The other thing that came to mind as you were talking is there are so many things under the surface that can impact this sense of, “I can't say I need anything, I can't admit it's too much.” A lot of it, not to just continually harp on the issue of therapy, but it's pretty much inevitable, there are so many things that underlie your inability to say, “I need something,” or “I can't do this,” or “This is too much.”

A lot of it for many, many, many of us is that we, on some level, believe or have been conditioned to believe that we are not valuable unless we just continue and that our approval or even love is conditioned on being the person who doesn't quit.

Kelcey Baker: Yeah, absolutely. To throw back to another conversation that we had, what kind of system is conditional love? It requires an acceptance of the rules of the game and can result in highly abusive and toxic behavior that we see in both familial and business relationships. That would be narcissism.

So, it happens. It all translates and comes back into what you said, Sarah, when we feel like we can't ask for things, isn't that just a classic symptom of a narcissistic system? You are not allowed to ask for your emotional needs to be met in any way in the narcissistic system, or your physical well-being in some more extreme cases.

The same is true even in an illegal environment. If you are in a narcissistic system with an employer relationship, you are still not allowed to ask for your needs to be met. Like we've talked about in previous conversations when you are conditioned in that way to where that almost seems normal and you know inherently because the situation seems familiar, that you are not allowed to ask for any sort of assistance, accommodation, or a break.

Then what are you going to do? You're going to hope that a bus hits you. That's how you're going to get your break. That's how you're going to get your needs met.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I think the degree to which having these sorts of thoughts is a red flag, even just to tell you this is not a good environment for me, I really don't think it can be overstated. The fact that this is such a common experience, like I know you, Kelcey, mentioned that you found an article where someone was talking about this being a common experience of lawyers.

I also remember several years ago, when I was researching for the website, finding an article with a therapist or psychiatrist who works with lawyers who talked about this is something that comes up frequently, and lawyers often don't realize that having like, “Oh, if I could just be hit by a bus a little bit,” having that sort of thought is highly concerning as opposed to just par for the course of being a lawyer.

Kelcey Baker: Yeah, highly concerning. It's a dark thought. I think when you're in it and you're just looking for that relief, it doesn't feel that dark. You will probably say at the beginning of this episode, but again, a little bit of content warning here, but it's a slippery slope between wanting relief in the form of spontaneous appendicitis, and then eventually really considering other more serious forms of self-harm, which for some people feel like may be the only way to get relief from that.

It's a very serious thing, wanting to be hit by a car and be put in the hospital for two weeks is one thing, but if you are not able to get yourself out of the situation, or you are having these kinds of thoughts, it feels likely, if not inevitable, that those thoughts are going to evolve over time and become some really serious thoughts of some self-harm.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I think part of why this doesn't raise red flags for people is that for many of the lawyers who have these sorts of thoughts, it is very securely in the, "I want this to happen, but I don't want there to be any lasting harm," so they don't see it as thinking about self-harm. By “they” I am also talking about myself in this context when this was happening. They don't think of it as self-harm because they are very careful in their own mind saying, “But I don't actually want to be harmed. I just want to be harmed a little bit.”

Kelcey Baker: Exactly. Just enough, just enough. When I was saying this to my friends casually offhandedly, like, “Oh, I would be pretty great if I could just get appendicitis and be in the hospital for a week or two and then be fine, but I would get that time away,” at the time being like, “What, why are you guys looking at me? I've just said something really dark,” and it's because I did just say something really dark.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I mean, on this, I talk about therapy all the time, but for real, if you are someone who has this experience, please, please, please, see a therapist, please.

Kelcey Baker: Or even if you're not, see a therapist.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah.

Kelcey Baker: Just plug for everybody to see a therapist.

Sarah Cottrell: Just in general. Are you a listener of the podcast? So you should be in therapy?

Kelcey Baker: Are you a lawyer? You should be in therapy, whether you listen to the podcast or not. But if you're listening to us today and you're not in therapy, may we recommend therapy?

Sarah Cottrell: Yes, 10 out of 10, recommend. Okay, Kelcey, what else do you think people need to know or hear about this other than just the baseline like, “This is actually not normal, and this means something,” and it means that you are not in an environment that's good for you?

Kelcey Baker: Yeah. I think the environment piece is the next important thing to talk about because it's the environment that really allows for these kinds of feelings to grow and not be resolved in a lot of cases.

Maybe the only resolution for people, certainly in my case it was, is to get out of that environment. So, I could go on a very long rant about why this is the environment's problem, and that I really think that the only thing that's going to prevent this from happening at this level of occurrences in lawyers is probably a change in the system itself, which we all know is really hard to do and feels very unlikely, especially anytime soon.

I think that in so many other podcast episodes that you've done where you've talked about how things aren't talked about in law firms, that you can't complain, you can't show weakness, that everything is meant to just seem perfect, and wonderful without any systemic issues being addressed both in law firms, I think within the profession of law generally.

But I remember reading an article and hearing interviews with a lawyer back when I was having these feelings. This was years ago. Then even a few years ago had seen an article saying, “Hey, if you're feeling this way, it's not normal. A lot of lawyers feel this way.” Here we are in 2024 and it's still happening. People still feel this way.

I think that the answer proffered by law schools and law firms and the legal profession at large is, “Well, just focus on increasing your grit. Just focus on being more resilient. How about you just do some yoga, meditation, and mindfulness?” That somehow breathing a little bit is going to fix the issue rather than addressing what kind of environment is causing people to feel this way.

Maybe we should take a look at the environment itself and not the people who are experiencing the effects of it.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I mean, this is often the issue with advice about burnout in general. I know that we've talked about it on the podcast before, but probably unsurprisingly there are a lot of things that piss me off when I see them related to lawyers and advice being given to lawyers.

But one of the things that I find to be the most enraging is when I see someone who is acknowledging some of the systemic issues that we're talking about, to your point, they're saying, “I know you feel this way,” or whatever, and then ultimately it's turned around into what boils down to, “Here's the way to fix yourself. Here are all the things that you should be doing that you're not doing.”

To your point, Kelcey, it's like a fundamental misapplication of the solution because it's basically suggesting that grit, resilience, mindfulness, scheduling, productivity, and whatever are the things that are missing that are causing this kind of reaction, this “I wish I could get hit by a bus” reaction.

Just at this point having practiced law for 10 years, having interviewed so many people for the podcast, and working with hundreds of lawyers, grit and resilience is not the problem.

In fact, the problem—and this goes back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of being able to admit that you need things or that something is too much—the problem for many lawyers is that they have an overdeveloped sense of grit and resilience where it's like they think it should have no end, they don't think that they should have human limits.

I mean, I certainly didn't think I should have human limits when I was practicing as a lawyer. I've talked about that on the podcast before and you can listen, if you don't know my story, you can go back and listen to the episodes where I talk about it.

But being able to be resilient and to just grin and bear it, that is generally most lawyers' default. That is actually not the problem in terms of, “That needs to be fixed.” That is often what is leading to these kinds of thoughts and feelings and this inability to let yourself be human.

Kelcey Baker: Absolutely. Like you and I talked about in other conversations, by having this already developed sense through probably some sort of emotionally unavailable narcissistic system that it both primes you and can make you more resilient, but also therefore more sensitive to the effects of when you're experiencing it again in a different context than interpersonal.

I was just nodding emphatically through everything that you were saying because it also makes me so mad when the answer—and I say this with silly air quotes—“the answer” given is, “Well, have you considered that your individual lawyer who is feeling this are problem?”

My response would be like, “Well, that's gaslighting.” By saying, “We're not the problem. The long work hours are not the problem. The billable expectations are not the problem. The ridiculous client cases and expectations are not the problem. Having questions about the ethics of your co-workers is not the problem. Having to work insanely long work hours, and lack of sleep is not the problem. Have you considered you're the problem that maybe you just don't have enough grit?”

That is kind of a classic abuser turning it around on the abused and saying like, “Well, maybe you just can't handle it.”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. “Why are you so sensitive?”

Kelcey Baker: “Why are you so sensitive? Why can't you just handle it? All your other co-workers are handling it?” I don't really think that all their other co-workers are handling it. That's the messaging that's given again, to isolate your experience, to make you feel you're the only one feeling this way which prevents you from seeking out any help because then you think, “It's just me. It's not the system. It's not the environment. It's me. I'm the problem.”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I mean, for many lawyers, I feel like assuming they are the problem is the default setting. Do you know what I mean? I think that's part of why when I see certain types of advice being given to lawyers around this stuff, it's so galling to me because people are already assuming that they are the problem.

The fact that they wish they could have appendicitis and get a break from work is like it’s something deficient about them, it shows that they're weak and they just need to get stronger. Or they just need to be different. Or they just need to life-hack their way out of burnout.

First of all, we know that that's not a thing, that's not actually how it works. It's not that you can't do things to support yourself. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that there's nothing that anyone can do, but the reality is that if we tell people, "Oh, this is the response you're having and it's probably because you're just not doing it enough, or not doing things in the right way," that also is a classic abusive like, “Oh, well, if you did it this way, or you said it this way, or you did this thing, it would be different, or I wouldn't respond this way and whatnot.”

Just thinking about it and thinking about lawyers feeling, again like you said, like they're the problem in this kind of circumstance is just so horrifying.

Kelcey Baker: Yeah, and again, to say that you just need to life-hack your way into not feeling like this, or really, the messaging is you just need to life-hack your way into being able to endure the type of abuse you're being put through, how many of us have planners that we've bought at the beginning of the year thinking this was going to really be the year that we used them properly and then we didn't?

We still felt the same because we were still in the same environment. You can't life-hack your way out of a toxic work environment. The life hack is to quit. That's how you life-hack your way out of that.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. Well, and honestly, I think this again goes back to our conversation about narcissism. So many people who experience narcissistic abuse have been conditioned to see abusive behavior as a very narrow set of things.

It's essentially like, “Oh, well, I'm not being hit.” The idea of emotional abuse is often, many people who have experienced narcissistic abuse or grown up in narcissistic systems, essentially feel like they should be able to take endless amounts of shit so long as it's not directly life-threatening.

When you end up in a system like this, that sort of conditioning is extremely problematic because you feel like any distress you're experiencing, if it's not physical distress, doesn't count. That's why people end up thinking, "Oh, I just wish I had appendicitis," or "Oh, I wish I just was a little bit hit by a bus," because in your perspective in the way that you've been conditioned, that physical distress is the only thing that actually warrants care.

Kelcey Baker: Exactly. That you have to be hospitalized for something in order to feel like you deserve that level of care. I think it's really difficult for people, even those who have experienced emotional abuse in either a parental, familial, or romantic relationship, I think it's really difficult for people to understand that your employer and you is also a relationship.

I think that so many people, myself included for a long time, thought, "Well, a relationship is between people. That's not how it is between me and my boss or me and my supervisor or me or my employer." It's absolutely a relationship and can have all the same negative dynamics that an interpersonal relationship can have.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I know you've talked about that before and I think that it's such an important thing to emphasize because so many lawyers in this circumstance just feel like even when they try to sort of have some self-inquiry into why is this happening, ultimately, for them, it just circles back to, “Oh, it's something about me. There's nothing here that independently could be causing this.” But in fact, there are plenty.

Kelcey Baker: Right.

Sarah Cottrell: Kelcey, what else, if anything, do you think people need to know about wanting to be just a little bit hit by a bus?

Kelcey Baker: I think the most important thing is it's not normal to feel that way. That doesn't mean that there is something inherently wrong with you. That means that there is something inherently wrong with the situation that you're in.

Whether that means that you need to change your environment or try to have other additional systems put in place to help yourself, things like therapy and different situations work best for different people, for me, I needed to extricate myself from a law firm environment.

I know that's easier said than done for a lot of people. But if you are in a dangerous situation, generally the best thing that you can do for yourself is to get yourself out of a dangerous situation.

I know that it seems very hyperbolic to call it a dangerous situation. But like other conversations that you and I have had, Sarah, we have seen the terrible tragic consequences of individuals who are in this profession and have ended up losing their lives. It can be a dangerous situation.

If time goes on enough, humans are not meant to be under such intense periods of stress. When you don't have the proper support, it doesn't matter how much grit you think you've built up. We are human and it's okay to be human. Eventually, there's a breaking point for all of us.

It's different points for different people, but we will all hit that breaking point at some point.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, and I think, just to amplify your point, feelings are data. So many of us as lawyers are like, “I feel this way about whatever, and I shouldn't feel that way,” or like, “There's something wrong with me.”

Feelings are data. Feeling like the only way that you can get a break from your job is to experience some minor to median physical injury, I would encourage people who are listening to just think about that as a piece of information that has meaning.

It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. It doesn't mean you're weak. It just means there is something in your environment that is causing this. What is that? Again, a therapist can be very helpful when trying to excavate, “What is this telling me about myself and my situation?”

Anything else, Kelcey, before we wrap up?

Kelcey Baker: Just, again, plug for therapy, overall plug for people to take care of themselves. The most helpful piece of advice I can give anybody when thinking about themselves in the legal profession is just context shift. If the things that you're feeling and experiencing were applied to an interpersonal relationship, would you find them problematic? If so, they're problematic. It doesn't matter that it's in a law firm.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. Just because you can tolerate an extraordinary amount of garbage doesn't mean that you should.

Kelcey Baker: Right.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. Because a lot of us are highly conditioned to tolerate pretty much an infinite level of emotional distress and that is not the choice that you have to make. Kelcey, I really appreciate you coming back on the podcast and talking about this.

I think it's just so important because it's so common. I really hope that there will be lots of people who hear this conversation and know, like one, they're not alone, but also, they can get support, and they deserve support.

Kelcey Baker: Absolutely. Yeah, whether it's with the Collab, and I highly encourage people to look into The Former Lawyer Collab, because there are a lot of us who have gone through very similar feelings and experiences, and it can be so helpful to know that you're not alone, but just take care of yourself and build up your community. Don't let yourself stay isolated.

Sarah Cottrell: Thanks, Kelcey.

Kelcey Baker: Thanks, Sarah.

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 Until next time, have a great week.