Above the Law

Leave Law Behind is a blog and community to help unhappy and dissatisfied attorneys find ways to leave the law behind and create new career paths for themselves. It’s an active community that comments on blog posts, emails me each week and interacts with each other.

It also contains a huge amount of self-admitted perfectionists, myself included.

You see, while it is rare, every so often I may make a mistake and include a typo in my writing. No matter how many times I review and re-read my posts, sometimes there is a small grammatical error or some other type of inconsistency. In my most recent instance, I saw the typo for the first time right after I hit “Send” on the email newsletter … and published it on Facebook … and tweeted it on Twitter. It was repeated as people forwarded the post along and retweeted. Some readers even emailed me directly to let me know it was there.

My mistake was out there and there was nothing I could do about it. I should have taken the time to re-read the post more carefully before sending and publishing. I was kicking myself for not being precise enough in my proofreading.

The typo was out there in the emails and inboxes of my audience, but at least the one thing I could still do was to log into my WordPress blog account and change the mistake in the post itself on the site. I at least still had control over that.

So I logged into WordPress, and scrolled down into the window that displays the content of the post, and as I was about to correct the incorrect word, it hit me. It hit me how crucial and revealing this typo was. It hit me how this typo was a perfect example of the progress I myself have made in leaving the law. It hit me how I was never going to correct this typo.

As lawyers, we want (and need) everything in our work to be perfect, or as close to perfect, as possible: As part of our job, we need to make sure our work product represents our clients and our firms in the best and most accurate way possible.

And on top of that, as individuals we are often perfectionists: We are compelled to review and double check and triple check and quadruple check and make sure we have it (whatever that is, at work or in our personal life) right and correct before we do anything next.

But when we explore leaving the law behind, we don’t need to be perfect. We actually don’t need to be anywhere near it. What we do need to be is flexible and open and courageous and honest and receptive to change. But we do not need to be perfect.

And really, to properly leave law behind, it can backfire on us to be, or aspire to be, perfect. When all we seek is perfection, when all we seek is for a guarantee, this often means that, in reality, we end up not doing anything at all, or anything different. We do not start. We do not take a baby-step. We do not experiment. We do not consider. We do not network. We do not risk being wrong. The risk and hard work required to take that first step are often perceived as too high a hurdle. I can’t leave law, I won’t be any good at it, so why should I try, or It’s really just so hard to leave the law, or I know what I want to do in my dreams, but I only want to try it if I know I’ll succeed at it. So we keep doing what we’re doing, and we keep getting what we’re getting.

Those of us that seek perfection seek completeness and flawlessness. When we properly leave law behind, we, rather, aim to incrementally and gradually and sincerely build self-confidence and self-worth and meaningful relationships and growing income and passionate lifestyles and happiness.

So while I always endeavor to produce well written, engaging, grammatically correct content, I left the typo in the post. It’s still there, and it will always remain there. While the post is not perfect, it is published. And shared. And read. And hopefully helped. And for me, the post’s existence is important, not it’s perfection. It’s evidence of how I didn’t sit on it and re-read it over and over again until I didn’t do anything at all. It’s evidence that I acted. It’s evidence that we can be far from perfect and still succeed at our wildest dreams.

Casey Berman (University of California, Hastings ’99), head of strategy for a San Francisco based technology company, investment banker and former in-house counsel, is also the founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law.