Are Unhappy Biglaw Lawyers Living a Half Life?Posted: October 10, 2011
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.
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