An Investment - In Perspective

I speak to a lot of lawyers looking to transition from the practice of law, and recently I’ve realized that the most important message for those transitioning professionals is not that transition is indeed possible, but rather to manage the expectations surrounding the transition. 

Here are some common responses I hear when I tell my story - now with the perspective of a decade away from the practice of law - nearly a decade since I last worked at Skadden Arps. 

There’s got to be an easier way to make a living.

I just need to find a job where I can replace this salary.

I’d rather do anything than what I’m doing now.

I’ve always wanted to write a book! Maybe I’ll quit and write my story. 

All of these are understandable responses, but I’m careful to caution: transition from the practice of law is possible, probable, and rewarding. But it’s not easy and it’s not an overnight solution.  Otherwise half of the practicing lawyers who want to transition? They’d have already done it.

Carefully planning your transition while you're still practicing law allows you to invest in your future. Yes, in the literal financial sense. But also by investing in perspective.

I left the law almost a decade ago. I’ve worked as an executive for a start up company, worked as a freelance writer, speaker/educator, written five books, and worked in fundraising and development for a private school. I’ve loved every minute, and I’ve always had a self-sustaining income cobbled together from my various gigs, yet in any given year, I’ve never replaced my annual salary plus bonus from my Skadden days. 

I have a coveted literary agent and publishing house, but it took me four years after transitioning to get both. 

Since the publishing industry is even more cutthroat and unpredictable (in many ways!) than the law, I’ve always written alongside other day jobs to make publishing a palatable and viable career option.

I have friends in publishing who have often asked how I keep my head on straight while working in the volatile publishing world - and I always point to my legal career as my foundation. During my 13+ years of practicing law, I invested in my future, and I have the savings cushion to show for it. But I also invested in something just as important - perspective. And you can too.

Take the time while still in your legal career to evaluate your needs and priorities. 

Do you value a high salary over lifestyle? 

Do you value the prestige of working for a large law firm, or would you rather more autonomy? 

Do you value a shiny office with a view and reimbursed supplies, at the expense of the flexibility of working from home?

If the former choices match up with your value set, then you might want to consider whether transition is really for you. At this time. 

But if the latter choices appeal to you, then acknowledge the trade-offs. Invest. Reflect. Manage your expectations before you jump.

And reap the benefits of your investment, including in perspective, when you leave. 


P.S. Check out my Open Letter to My Future Writer Self published by Women Writers Women's Books.

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