Are Unhappy Biglaw Lawyers Living a Half Life?

One of the most inspirational and innovative geniuses of our time passed last week.

The news of Steve Jobs’ death made me think about what a profound legacy he left behind and how many of us have secret dreams and desires to leave behind a legacy after we’re gone by which people will remember us.  In other words, we don’t want to simply be here living life, going through the motions, then be gone, and then be forgotten by subsequent generations.

This all may sound a little morbid, but my point is, if you’re unhappy in your job and you are scared of the uncertainty of quitting, think about your life as it is.  How would you feel if you kept working at your job for another 10, 20, 30+ years?  What kind of legacy would you be leaving behind?  Will the world be better off because you have lived? And what about the alternative course?  Could you be making more of an impact and leaving behind a different legacy?

Although many attorneys make a positive impact by engaging themselves in activities benefiting their communities, spending time with loved ones, and providing invaluable pro bono services to people who can’t afford a lawyer, I wonder if some of those unhappy biglaw attorneys don’t feel that they are just living a “half life” – i.e., not fully living the life they want and simply getting stuck in the routines of their lives indefinitely.

If that’s how you feel, I can relate.  When I was in biglaw, I felt like I wasn’t fully living my life the way I wanted to.  I thought about the fact that I have only one life, and that it goes by so quickly, and I realized where my true priorities were.  I felt stuck and depressed, even miserable at times, in my job, but I saw no way out.  I kept asking myself – is this it?  Is this what life is all about?  You struggle, work your ass off, and then die?

I knew there had to be an alternative.  After all, not everybody lives their lives in this way, and in fact, many people I read about found new paths, and were happier and more successful after leaving jobs they were miserable in.  Even though these questions are the questions of the privileged few (many people who have to work to survive in any job they can get cannot afford these existential questions), when you have certain resources to get yourself out of a crummy situation, then do it!  Whether those resources be access to information online, books, $5000 in your savings account, or simply the knowledge that you can do better than you are today, then why not help yourself become a happier person, and maybe help more people along the way?  We only have one life, we might as well live it fully, rather than live only a “half life”.

Since quitting my job, I have had the fortunate opportunity to travel, just as I was yearning to while I was chained to my desk.  I have also started doing freelance legal work, which has surprisingly been extremely rewarding.  I am my own boss, I set my own hours, I work from coffee shops or from home, and I can take vacations whenever I want.  My income is nowhere near where it was last year, but some sacrifices must be made.  I have spent more time with my friends and family.  And most importantly, I am happier.  I am more confident.  I feel free.

And I no longer feel like I am living a half life.


What do you think?  I would LOVE to hear from you!  Leave a comment below and let me know.

If you liked my post, feel free to share it with friends by sending them a link to the blog, and sharing on Facebook and Twitter.


3 Comments on “Are Unhappy Biglaw Lawyers Living a Half Life?”

  1. I hear you. I also left and feel more and more “free” everyday (thought my freedom is constrained a bit by two boys under the age of 3). It is a crazy lifestyle, and it is amazing how many people are unhappy living it. I also thought of this in the wake of Steve Jobs’ legacy.

    Love the blog, by the way, I just found it! How did you find your freelancing work?

  2. Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I found my freelancing work through online resources, such as websites for freelancers.

    You have a nice blog as well. Part of the reason I started mine, like you, was to feel a sense of community of like minded people, and to feel less alone in my isolation while I was still at the firm, etc.

    Your comment inspired an idea for a new post! Be on the lookout. 🙂

  3. JP says:

    I find that working in law at least forces me to get up everyday and do something at least marginally productive.

    I actually find working in law makes me feel more alive than when I was in college and law school, which means that I feel about a negative 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I really and truly despised college. Hated law school a little bit less. I just really dislike practicing law, but at least I obtain money and health care for poor people. So my clients sometimes appreciate me, particularly when I help them solve their homelessness problems.

    Although I get annoyed when they keep calling and complaining about becoming homeless and/or dying. I’m not your therapist. I’m a engineer-lawyer.

    Fortunately, death isn’t something that really bothers me. Now my wife, she gets bothered by death. It’s just a transition, people, not the end of the world. If I thought death actually ended anything, I sure wouldn’t be living my life the way I’m living it.

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