Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Reasons Aren't Quite As Inspiring as Karen's

I read Karen's post this morning at Chookooloonks about the reasons she left her law career and changed her life. It is titled "the reveal". I have nothing quite so eloquent or dramatic to disclose about my own decision to leave the practice of law after 10 years but I still saw much of myself in the her words. These in particular:

Why I practiced law for as long as I did:

  • After working that hard on both making it through law school and passing the bar exam, it seemed a shame not to use the degree and the license.
  • Despite the bad rep lawyers have, I liked that people assumed I was smart because I was a attorney. I'm not proud of this, but there it is. I also liked proving that not all lawyers are jerks, and would often find myself going out of my way to do so.
  • I loved drafting deals. I really loved it. I didn't so much like reading contracts, and I could take or leave the negotiation part of a deal, but the crafting of a document that was easy to understand, and captured the intents of both parties? I loved that. I like to think I got pretty decent at it, too.
  • I had some success in my law career -- I traveled around the world, I received promotions and recognition. I admit receiving accolades was pretty intoxicating, regardless of how I felt about the actual work.
I could have written the first two bullet points myself. When I was deciding whether to quit, I struggled with the fact that I spent $85,000, three years of law school and two bar exams in two different states to be an attorney - and now I was willing to just walk away from it. Like Karen, I never had a passion for the law. I was a litigator - strange for a non-extrovert and avoider of conflicts. I struggled with dealing with clients and their near-constant complaints and problems. I hated to be the bearer of bad news, even when that news was beyond my control.

But I loved doing the research, crafting the legal arguments and strategies, pouring over boxes of documents and organizing them (and my thoughts) for briefs, depositions and trials. And I was good at that. I received 10 years of compliments. I became a partner in my firm. It was nice - even if I didn't love what I was doing.

I know that relatively few people actually do what they love for a living and I would have (and still could) practiced law for a long time if need be. But at some point, I realized that I didn't financially need to AND I was missing out on some irreplaceable time with my kids. Their teachers and classmates' moms knew my aunt (my wonderful child-care provider) much better than they knew me. And maybe my kids knew her better too.

Ultimately, I realized that I wasn't doing the best possible job as a mom or a lawyer and I hated that. The obvious choice was my kids. I was (and continue to be) infinitely lucky to have the choice.

Fast forward two years after my "retirement" - I had two more kids (twins) and an atrophying brain. Via a story too long to tell here, almost by happy accident, I happened upon a writing opportunity for a legal blog. I started getting paid to write about the law, explaining it in simple terms to laypeople. And I loved it.

I've done many different kinds of writing since that first gig but much of my work has been writing about the law. I enjoy it. I feel like I use my education and my experience to do something I really, really like. And I get to do it from home, with my kids, on my own time.

Now, writing's not replacing my attorney income by any stretch of the imagination but it has provided a nice supplement for "extras." And I'm exercising my brain, engaging with adults and enjoying myself.

As I sit here in my driveway, soaking up sun and watching my two-year-old boys play, I know that I made the right decision for us. Okay, maybe the title to my post is inaccurate. Karen's choice to quit practicing to follow her heart in creative endeavors may be inspiring - but my four little reasons for quitting are equally so.


  1. Very inspiring! I am new to your blog via Chookooloonks and I am looking forward to reading more. Choosing to spend these precious days with your kids is a choice you will never regret. I put my life as a potter on hold to raise and homeschool my 2 kids. I'm an old mom - married almost 20 years before the kids arrived - so I occasionally feel anxious about the limited time left to me (after kids are grown), my declining energy level, etc. But posts like yours remind me how right my decision was to devote as much time as I could to my kids. (not that I need a reminder - I count my blessings everyday!)
    Soak in the sun, and soak in all those wonderful memories you are making with your little ones. Time goes by so quickly. Your reasons for quitting your law practice are equally inspiring, indeed! Thanks!

  2. Kate, this made me choke up a little. I'm still figuring out which parts of my work I want to keep versus turn away from in the future - and I'm just hoping I have the opportunity to pick and choose to some extent. I remember that summer when I watched G while you were at work during the days, and I thought to myself, "wow, I could never be a stay-at-home mom cause I need more adult conversation and interaction. I would drive myself crazy!" So I love that you are able to find a balance of using your intellect and having these adult kinds of things to do during the days - but also get to be with your kids.

  3. Yes, my sister, they are. Way to follow your dream, man.