in On Leaving Law

Why It Was Difficult to Leave Law

Without a doubt, leaving law was a very difficult thing to do. About several months before I pulled the trigger, I kept thinking about what my exit strategy should be, but I had no clear plan.

I was bored, miserable, and depressed. I wanted to do something else.

I kicked around the idea of maybe just joining the military as JAG or as a linguist, but given that at the height of the recession, all the attractive MOSs were impacted, I couldn’t just waltz right into it. Moreover, I didn’t know if I was ready to make a multi year commitment then.

The one half lie that law schools tell you is that you can do anything with a law degree, that you’re precluded from nothing. Practically speaking, how that works out is that all you’ve been formally trained to do is just practice law, nothing else. The notion that a lawyer is not a layperson (for some reason, this word now sounds offensive) is likely what caused the disconnect to see what other professions I was able to fit into, or a profession I’d naturally be good at from my preexisting skills (this exact assumption that you fit into things is also part of the problem).

To illustrate, shortly after leaving law when I began exploring careers, I met an ex-litigator who now worked at my undergraduate university as an administrator. We commiserated about litigation, and she sensed that I needed direction of sorts as she had been there herself years ago. We spoke about how she ended up at the university. She didn’t set out to become a university administrator of course, it just eventually happened through her connections in the midst of raising kids, and taking a year off after leaving law herself. So that happens to ex-attorneys too? That you just get there when you get there? That you eventually get good at what you do?

After hearing about her story of just having things fall into place, I recalled the my non-lawyer peers who just ended up being successful through having things fall into place with hard work, connections, and time. In my mind, I was so wrapped up in the identity bit as a lawyer that I couldn’t comprehend that people generally in one respect or another arrive at their destinations either through detour or without planning at all.

That hoop jumping is not required.

This is why leaving law was so difficult. All along, I was simply looking to see where I’d be a perfect fit (where I was actually a perfect fit probably didn’t align with that I wanted to be a perfect fit), but what I should have been doing was looking to see where I can just start to make some initial progress, then work on “perfection” later.

Here’s a basketball analogy for this: Just start putting points on the scoreboard first, then you can concentrate about winning the game.

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  1. I launched my blog today (www.codemonkeyintraining) to track my progress transitioning from attorney to programmer. An hour later, I saw your interview with Zach Abromowitz on Twitter. You’re my hero bro.

  2. You know what’s funny? I read your message to Jeff Atwood the following year as I was making the transition. So, your story has been part of my journey.