Tackling the Hard Stuff First ...

When I have a pile of items cluttering my inbox, or a long list of errands littering my To Do list, I often find myself tempted to knock out a bunch of easy items and save the laborious, difficult, thankless items for last.

Do you do this?


And if you are thinking about how you will structure your career over the next 5, 10, or more years, then you really should not do this.

To review, my career has been a winding path of 13+ years of corporate litigation, followed by a year in pro bono advocacy, followed by 4 years as the executive of a successful start-up company, followed by a career in publishing with 3 award-winning novels, representation by a top literary agent, a non-fiction book published by the American Bar Association, and a current job (alongside writing) as development officer for a private school.

I was talking to a college student over the weekend at a family party. She expressed interest in attending law school. She asked all the right questions, and seemed genuinely interested in the versatility and viability of a law degree to help her achieve goals she was setting for herself, especially in the Title IX compliance arena. I was impressed. Even more so, when she asked, "Do you think you would have been able to achieve all that you have (professionally) if you hadn't had that substantial legal practice history first?" 

My answer was a quick, "No." And then I qualified with: "At least, not quite this way." And while my path has been far from easy, the truth is, I did the hard stuff first.

Law school and 13 years of grueling corporate litigation were the building blocks for what came next. My ability to negotiate my own contracts and market myself in the corporate and non-profit world stem directly from those 13 years, and if I'm completely honest, from the back-breaking decade I put in at Skadden Arps. The American Bar Association would not necessarily have listened to my pitch for Lawyer Interrupted, without the significant experience I had in a variety of legal and other fields by that point.

So, if you're thinking about how you're going to structure your career path, consider - at least consider - doing some hard stuff first, e.g.,

- Spend some time in private practice, even if you don't want to spend the rest of your career there. Glean the experience that will enhance your pedigree as you take your legal experience on the road later on;

-Say yes to an internship that will garner you tremendous experience even without substantial income and leverage that work into something special with networking connections, and experience;

-Schedule volunteer work in a a variety of fields alongside your day job as you test out other professions, even though you feel like your schedule is already max'd out;

-Stay in a job you don't love for the extra income while you save for the next leg of your journey.

It won't always be easy, but it WILL be easier, if you do the hard stuff first.


P.S. My book, Lawyer Interrupted, topped this recent list of Must-Read Books for all lawyers. Check out the full list here.

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