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.
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.
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.