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.

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Detaching from the Outcome

thailand buddha wat phra keo

Detaching yourself from the outcome is a great way to release your any frustrations, anger, or bitterness you might be harboring. What I mean by that is, you can have goals and strive for certain ambitions, but you shouldn’t become too attached to their outcomes.  This is because even if you achieve the outcome you are seeking, it will not drastically change your happiness levels (beyond the initial feeling of elation from the accomplishment), but if you do not achieve that outcome, it could become a great source of unhappiness and frustration.  Instead, try holding a space to welcome and be open to these outcomes occurring, but not in a way that makes them the end goal.

There is a saying that happiness is a journey, not a destination.  I believe in that 100%.  I also have a personal mantra that helps me deal with situations where unexpected things happen and I feel thrown off balance.

My personal mantra is:

“Whatever happens is for the best. Whatever doesn’t happen is for the best.”

Do you meditate or have a personal mantra?  I would LOVE to hear from you!  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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Why Passion is Important, Especially During a Bad Economy

I absolutely LOVE this quote:

“Passion is not a luxury that needs to be jettisoned in tough economic times. It is the most essential force a person can bring to a challenging job market … not only because we tend to do our best when we’re passionate about what we’re doing, but also because passion is what inspires a person to keep pushing to find a way forward, no matter how tough the circumstances.”

– Lane Wallace, The Atlantic

Read the original article for more on why you need passion for your career here.

I find this article especially useful for new law grads that are having a tough time finding a job, and are maybe questioning whether they are really passionate about Read the rest of this entry »

Words of Wisdom by Rumi

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”


Dealing With Rejection

Sweet Sorrow

I remember when I was desperately seeking my way out of big law, I was searching for and applying to jobs pretty much every single day.  I was rejected countless times, but I kept trying because I knew there might be other jobs out there that would be a better fit for me, and for which I would be a better fit.

I did not receive any response to 98% of my job applications.  I finally received a response, and it was from my dream company – Google!  They wanted to do a phone interview with me.  I was absolutely floored that they even considered my application considering the number of applications they receive every day!  Apparently I made the first cut, and I thought I was on the right track.  Google was the light at the end of my big law tunnel and I was going to do everything I could to get that job.

The phone interview went well, and I was invited to the Google campus for an in-person interview with 3 attorneys on Google’s legal team.  I was ecstatic.  Researching, studying and preparing for this interview became my full-time job.  I couldn’t have done anything more to prepare for that interview.

But when it came to interview time, I was challenged by the questions the attorneys asked me.  They asked me to answer hypothetical questions that I would most likely have to deal with if I worked as a member of their legal team.  I tried my best to answer the questions in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, but the interview was definitely the most difficult interview I’ve ever experienced.  That being said, I thought I did fairly well and expected to hear a positive response.

So when I heard back from the recruiter that they decided to pass on my application because of my lack of experience, I was devastated.  I felt rejected.  My way out of big law felt closed off yet again.  I started criticizing myself for not being able to make that amazing opportunity a reality.  I became even more depressed when I had to go to work the next day, knowing that my stay there was once again indefinite, and my dreams of presenting my (already drafted) resignation letter to my boss saying I’m going to Google came crashing down.

Looking back almost a year and a half after that experience occurred, I can see that perhaps life was trying to lead me away from the law.  Maybe, I was starting to realize, there was an alternate career path that was awaiting me that would allow the space for a greater contribution to others and to the world than the law ever could.  And if I had obtained that job at Google, I might not have ever pursued that alternate path.

When life deals us blows, most of us have fear-based reactions and start being hard on ourselves, and then try to numb the pain through drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or other means. This is not a healthy cycle.  I’m sure many of the new law grads can relate, given the horrible job market and the number of rejections they’ve probably received for their applications.

A better way to deal with rejection is to trust that it might be a sign that something is not the right fit for us, and maybe we need to take the road less-traveled instead.

We also have to be proud of ourselves for putting ourselves out there, even after countless rejections, instead of taking rejections personally.  Every time we think we fail, it actually means we are on the right track, because we are putting ourselves out there and trying to change the things that aren’t working in our lives.

If you have friends that are unemployed law grads or if you know a lawyer seeking a way out of big law, please send them over to the blog, and share this post on Facebook and Twitter using the buttons below!  I’m sure they would appreciate it.

For the Unemployed Law Grads: Stand Out from the Pack

With the surplus of lawyers, and the limited number of legal jobs available, many law graduates are having a hard time finding work.  Even free work.

The situation doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon, either.  So with thousands of dollars, if not over a hundred thousand, of debt, what’s an unemployed law grad to do?

My suggestion is this: find creative ways to stand out from the pack.  It’s the only way.

First, you have to be clear on the types of jobs you are targeting.  Employers can smell generic cover letters and emails from a mile away.  Narrow down your search to no more than 10 employers at the beginning. You can always try other employers at a later time, but at the outset, start with 5-10.

Then, find a way to grab the employers’ attention that is totally different than what other applicants are doing.

For example, watch the video above to see how one job applicant found a job using Google.  There are other ways of doing this as well.  For example, you can buy a targeted ad on Facebook for people who work at a certain company and let them know that you want to work there too.  Read about how other people used this method to find jobs here.  The point is not to copy these exact tactics, but to think creatively and do things that other people most likely haven’t tried.

Trying these methods won’t cost much of your time or money, but the potential benefits you can get out of it (e.g., a dream job at one of your favorite organizations) are well worth the investment.

Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  So, try a new method outside of sending resumes and cover letters in response to Craigslist ads.  See if you get different results.   And, if you do find a job using creative or unconventional methods, please share your story with me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at escapefromthelaw [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

If you have friends that are unemployed law grads, please send them over to the blog, or share this post on Facebook and Twitter using the buttons below!  I’m sure they would appreciate it.

Thinking About Quitting Big Law? Read On.

Watch this video to learn how the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, decides on whether to take risks in his career and his life.

This method of thinking is essential if you ever want to live a life of no regrets because it brings you back to your core values, and the type of life you want to live.  It also helps you make the necessary, and often exceedingly difficult, moves that are required to get you from where you are to where you would like to be.

Watch the video and leave a comment below letting me know what you thought about it.

I would love to hear from you!

How do you make important decisions?  Have you ever used the Regret Minimization Framework? If so, what sorts of decisions did it lead to? Do you have any regrets in your life?