Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Seven Years Practicing Law

Filling out the form to change my status to an inactive lawyer was hard. In fact, I cried when I put the stamp on the envelope and put it in the mail.

It has been surprisingly easy, however, to put that whole phase of my life behind me. It was less than two weeks ago that I put that letter in the mail, but it feels like such a long time ago that I was ever a lawyer. I have no regrets for where I am now, but I also have no regrets for my seven years practicing law.

When I practiced law, I made things happen that were important to someone else, and that's a powerful feeling. Also, it just feels good to be a part of figuring out a solution to something challenging - it's a zone, and it's a high. If you're a runner, it's the same as that feeling you get when you never want to stop. If you're a soccer player, it's like the feeling that you get when you score a goal. If you're a yoga person - hell I have no idea what that feels like. I once had a yogi tell me that my tense aura was more than he could work with.

As a lawyer, my life revolved around billable hours and trying to give my son undivided attention. That was it. My husband (who should be sainted) and our together time, or my alone time - nonexistent. My justification was that I was making enough money that I would be able to write a check for my son's university, even if he decided to go to the most expensive one, and that we would be set for retirement. So, yeah, I was basically living for days that, theoretically, I might never see at the expense of the day that it was.

That treadmill doesn't have to be every lawyer's reality. I had a boss who, after he laid me off, admitted that he didn't think anyone could really be a parent and a lawyer. And, God love him, he recognized it but didn't try to mediate that - he just worked me harder and harder and harder under increasingly tight deadlines and demands. On the other hand, I had previously worked for a guy who made it a priority to make sure that all of his associates took time for their families and their hobbies. It was during that time that I developed a killer tennis serve and would cook my husband breakfast.

I loved practicing, even at the treadmill place (and pace), even through all the noise caused by all the egos (including mine). I would do it again. I would do it differently. And it would not have been my choice to quit practicing. That choice was made for me and I only went inactive after a year and a half of looking for a legal job and not succeeding.

Yet I am incredibly happy not practicing. I have days now that I enjoy instead of days that were all just a preparation for some future day. I no longer hang out with my son or my husband for 15 minute increments before I get back to my client issues and billable hours. I know that I will be working as many if not more hours setting up and operating the franchise. However, I just have to believe that serving dessert lends itself to a whole different mental mindset and well-being than the multi-entity reorganizations and professional corporation work that I used to do. There's going to be a little bit more of me left over at the end of the day. And I can still live practicing law vicariously through my favorite law blogs.


  1. I could have written this post. I, too, cried when I went inactive. I get that. I am glad you are happy with your life now, and have time to stop and enjoy the pace off the treadmill.

  2. I never went active. I did a lot of soul-searching and realized that, after working in law firms for 9 years and going through law school, it wasn't the life for me. So, I'm now leaving my current law firm, where I would've been welcome as an associate if I took the bar, and am heading out to be something less glamorous but more work-life balance oriented.

    I do regret, however, that I haven't been able to do pro bono work on the weekends. But just because you can't do pro bono work as an attorney doesn't mean you can't volunteer your time and effort.

    I'm glad that you had seven years of wonderful billable hours, great challenges, and helping people. I hope you enjoy your non-legal years to the absolute fullest. :)

  3. Your career sounds exciting. But I'm your new life sounds exciting too. Congratulations on moving on.

  4. I read this post about eight times and found something new to relate to each time. I think part of the trouble is being surrounded by people who live the same life and pretend they're ok with it. I'm off to read your post for the ninth time (and hopefully do some reflecting) :)

  5. When I sent my form in, I couldn't find any Forever stamps. I ended up mailing the bar my inactive form with Yoda stamps. I'm afraid/think my membership file must have a red flag on it now.