Ed. note: This is another installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fifth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fifth step attorneys can take to leave the law. (The first article can be found at The First Step in Leaving Law Behind – It’s the Money, Stupid. The second article can be found at The Second Step in Leaving Law Behind – Cut Your Losses. The third article can be found at The Third Step in Leaving Law Behind – Do What You Are Good At and the fourth article can be found at The Fourth Step in Leaving Law Behind – Facing Your Fears.)
As we discussed in the first four articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident and happier.
I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed.
The second step in leaving law behind is about not letting our past undermine our future. More specifically, this step involves resolving any lingering demons law school may hold over your head (squeezing out more of an ROI from my law school “investment”, ensuring my identity is tied to being an attorney, what else would I do if I’m not a lawyer, etc.) that prevents you from moving forward with positive change in your life.
The third step in leaving law behind involves focusing on exploring your Unique Genius. Your Unique Genius is made up of those skills and strengths that come so naturally to you, so effortlessly to you, that you don’t even think of them as a skill. It is upon these skills that you do so well that you will begin to base your post-lawyer life and career. It is with these strengths at which you excel that you will begin to create a life of confidence and self-worth.
The fourth step is all about facing your fears. You can plan as much as you’d like, disconnect from law school and be as self analytical as you want. But nothing will happen, you will never be able to create a new life for yourself unless you face down and begin to manage your fears.
The fifth step? Of course properly leaving the law requires careful planning and courageous self-analysis. It takes a lot of soul searching and internal and external discussions and personal due diligence. But there comes a point when you just need to execute. You just need to get out there. It takes time and patience and courage, but you just need to hit the pavement and begin meeting with people. That is the Fifth Step.
Getting out there can come in many different variations, but it really means reaching out and meeting with other people in order to build sincere connections of trust so these people will help you find opportunities.
Of course, you can apply to jobs online, or get a recruiter to help you. But the purpose of leaving law behind is not just to find another job. The goal of leaving law behind is to create a new stage in your life that makes you the money you need while allowing you the schedule you want. The point of leaving law behind is to find an opportunity you love, so you don’t grow older and regret that you did something wrong. The goal of leaving law behind is to find a career that makes you a lot of money and is also in alignment with your strengths and skills and goals. The goal of leaving law behind is to find a job that makes you feel strong and creates more and more energy, as opposed to sapping you of your vigor.
And one of the best ways to do that is to speak to as many people as you can, in person (say over coffee) for a good amount of time (at least thirty minutes) with a warm lead (through someone you know) with someone who is qualified (they are in a field or have some connection to a field that you think would be a good fit with your Unique Genius).
And the output of these meetings is twofold: To research this person’s life and work – these people (who may not all be lawyers) actually do something you think you may be interested in (business development, marketing, product management, HR, Operations, compliance, technology, investment banking). You want to ask them about their life, what they like, what they don’t, how they like their work life balance, what is the money potential, etc. Instead of ruminating on other jobs in theory, actually use this coffee as a time to gain intelligence about these jobs. You may think you’d like it … but take the time to hear it now from the source.
And second, you want to get some leads. If you like what you hear, then at the end of the conversation (or later via e-mail), see if this person can provide you with the names and contact info of other people who might be beneficial for you to meet. In their industry or elsewhere. The best way to find that right opportunity is to find it through someone you may know or are referred to. And the best way to find that someone is through a friend you are close with.
Easy right? No. But definitely possible.
For those of us who are introverts, lack confidence, feel we have a puny network, don’t know many people, feel we’re worthless, etc., this can be difficult. So, as with everything we do at leave law behind, let’s take it step-by-step.
The first step in getting out there is to begin researching online, probing into your extended network, or checking out LinkedIn, and find someone, anyone, who you think you would like to learn more about and with whom you may or may not be connected. To make this first step easy, start by checking the networks of your friends and colleagues and see if there is anyone in their network you may be interested in meeting.
As a second step, once you have a good idea of who you want to reach out to, email your friend (i.e. your shared connection with this person you want to meet). The goal is to have your friend make an intro, if possible. And to make this easy for you, here’s a sample email you could use in reaching out to your friend who may have a connection with these desired contacts – it’s short and sweet and respects how busy and short of time your friend may be.
Dear NAME OF YOUR FRIEND/CONTACT
I hope you are well. Between you and me, I’m working on expanding my network and exploring some new opportunities, within law and beyond. I noticed some interesting people you’re connected with on LinkedIn – can I send over a few names to see if you’d feel comfortable making an introduction for me?
What do you think?
As Ramit Sethi says, this is a “pre-commitment” strategy – a short email, that doesn’t take long for your friend to read, doesn’t take too much time out of his or her day to review, and most often will result in a higher response rate. (And don’t just send to one friend – send to a number of them, increasing your chances of a response.) If he or she says yes, then you can follow up with a longer email with more detail, like:
Dear NAME OF FRIEND
Thanks so much for your offer to help. As I mentioned, between you and me, I am beginning to explore some new career paths, within law and beyond. I am just beginning the process and exploring what’s out there and I wanted to reach out to you and ask for your help.
I noticed you are connected to NAME OF PERSON YOU WANT TO GET COFFEE WITH. Are you close with NAME OF PERSON? Would you feel comfortable introducing me to NAME OF PERSON? I am very interested in NAME OF PERSON’s space and would like to learn more about what he does. To be clear, I am not searching for a job – just beginning my research on other career opportunities.
If you feel uncomfortable at all in introducing me at all to NAME OF PERSON, I completely understand, and no offense at all. I respect that.
But if you wouldn’t mind introducing me, I would greatly appreciate it. As I know you are busy, I can send you a short blurb that you can then copy and paste into an email to NAME OF PERSON.
Your friend will hopefully make an intro, via email, and then you can reply to your friend and the person you want to meet with something like:
Hi NAME OF FRIEND, thank you very much for the email.
Hi NEW CONTACT, very nice to meet you over email. I am beginning to explore some new career paths, within law and beyond, and NAME OF FRIEND thought it might be good for me to hear more about your experience and what you do.
I know you are very busy, so would a thirty minute coffee or a quick chat at your office work for you. How about 10am on such and such date?
And Remember: You’ll face some no-responses, or some rejections. That’s okay. Baby step after baby step.
This fifth step in leaving law behind provides an easy to follow, step-by-step, warm way to meet new people in order to find an opportunity that meets with your Unique Genius. Networking requires us to get over our aversion to meeting people and it takes a lot of hard work. But it allows you also to put the hypothetical into play.
You’d be surprised how much help you can get once you get out there. As Woody Allen points out, 90% of life is just showing up.
Casey Berman (University of California, Hastings ’99), a strategic consultant, investment banker and former in-house counsel based in San Francisco, is also the founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law.