Why I left the law — short answer

I recently got a two-part question from a second year law student in Florida. Taking a page from Jeremy Blachman, one of may favorite bloggers, who likes to post his answers to such questions on his blog, I’m going to start to do the same whenever it makes sense. I’ve started to get a lot of questions from readers, and I’m guessing that if one person has a question, might have a similar one. Plus, it will share more of my back-story, something I want to do in this blog. And it should give readers an idea of how I feel about the questions I get.

The question was: What prompted you to leave the law after 10 years? I inquire because I am a 2L and would appreciate some candid insight into what I can expect from a career in law. Thank you in advance for your response.

Here’s what I wrote:

What you can expect from a career in the law is an awfully big question and the answer is completely different if you end up working for the A.C.L.U., a small law firm in Iowa, a big firm in L.A., or the federal trade commission in DC. That question is a bit like asking what you can expect from a career in business.

If you tell me a bit more about what you want to do in the law or the kinds of opportunities you’re choosing between, I might be able to shed more light.

As to why I left the law, that’s also not a short answer kind of question. But here are a few reasons.

1. I ended up doing very specialized work that I wasn’t passionate about and after some searching around didn’t feel like there was another practice area that jazzed me enough to try to figure out how to move in that direction.

2. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly drawn to writing. I was reading a lot, taking classes, and the urge to get published was really nagging at me.

When you combine #1 and #2 it was a bit like feeling like your marriage is starting to fracture and then noticing that rather conveniently you were starting to find yourself attracted to an available and willing partner.


Smart "Slash" Thinking (by a reader)

Pre blog-launch, I was communicating with readers mostly by email. Last week, I got this insightful note from a lawyer/educator/writer-editor in North Carolina. With his permission, I’m posting the relevant parts of his note here (he asked for his name to be withheld). Couldn’t have said it better myself:

. . . that thing that made all the difference in this road less traveled (to badly misquote Whitman) was finding ways for each sub-career to “touch” the other. For example, the magazine I edit is a management journal serving the hospitality industry. I teach hospitality law and ethics in the school of business. I practice
business law, and often represent companies in the hospitality industry. I write articles on law and finance for a business audience. The dots connect. All require oral and written expression, organization of ideas, and analysis and research. Advising business owners and managers,particularly those in the hospitality industry, is also a common nucleus.

Upshot: Each activity supports and lends credibility to the other. In total, they provide a livelihood on which I can support a wife, two children in a comfortable middle-class existence.

On the other hand, if the magazine was, let’s say, about wood working, and if I was teaching marketing, practicing domestic law, and writing software technical manuals, I believe my professional life would feel a little disjointed and unfocused most of the time, and my performance in all the aforementioned areas would suffer.

That said, I think synergy is where you find it. I have a friend who is a plastic surgeon and an accomplished fine artist. In my mind, these things cross over in that they share in common the requirements of dexterity and a sense of aesthetics (not bad qualities to have in doctor who redesigns faces).. . .


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