Do you want to quit your job as a lawyer? Are you worried that it’s not okay for you to quit your job as a lawyer? Do you worry that quitting your job or leaving the law entirely means that you’re a quitter?

Most lawyers think that quitting things is bad and wrong.

On episode 046, I shared why it’s okay to quit being a lawyer, and why quitting being a lawyer could be the best thing for your career and your life. I’m also offering some specific reasons that could make quitting being a lawyer the best decision for you.

Mentioned in this episode:

Resources For Lawyers Who Want To Quit:

Episode transcript

TFLP 046: It’s Okay To Be A Quitter

Intro: 

Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Cottrell, and on this show I interview former lawyers to hear their inspiring stories about how they left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love. Let’s get right to the show. 

Sarah: 

Hello, everyone! This week on the podcast we’re talking about another myth that keeps lawyers stuck in their jobs. And that is the myth that if you leave the law that you are a quitter. 

This particular myth can show up in a number of ways. It can show up when you think about actually leaving the law. It can also show up when you think about, for example, going from a more “prestigious” job to a less “prestigious” job within the law. 

Here’s what is underlying that entire thought process, at least in my experience. Most people who choose to go to law school grew up with this idea of like, when you start something you stick with it. And when you put your mind to something, that means you should do it. When you’ve committed to doing something, you need to follow it through. And those messages, those ideas are good in many ways, right? 

But the problem is that it gets twisted, right? So the idea that you should stick with something and not quit just because it’s hard is a good guideline. But it is not a good rule to follow when you’re talking about what you are going to do with the rest of your life for the most of your waking hours. 

A lot of us took this guideline that “Sometimes things are hard and just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that you should abandon it,” and have turned it into this rule of, “Well, I’ve started doing this thing and therefore I cannot stop doing it no matter what effect it is having on me.” 

I think a lot of us who went to law school sort of internalized this idea that if we are unhappy, if we are having a hard time—you know, all of those things that we’ve talked about even in other episodes in this series—that that doesn’t really matter, you should just keep going. But that’s not actually true! But there is something inside a lot of us who went to law school, who became lawyers, that tells us that if we leave the law that we’re quitters and being a quitter is bad, and being a quitter says something about us in terms of our moral fiber.

And these sorts of messages that are often running in your subconscious—you’re not necessarily thinking about this on a conscious level—really sabotage your ability to figure out like, “Is this really the thing that I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now? Does this really even align with my values?”

And here’s another problem with this way of thinking: it doesn’t allow you to make a change when you get more information. So for example, if you’re like me, and you went to law school straight out of undergrad, so basically decided to go to law school when you were what? 19, 20? Go to law school, graduate, you start working, and you’re now in your mid 20s, late 20s, 30s, 40s. Wherever you are, you have a lot more information about what it is like to be a lawyer, right? Because you actually are now a lawyer. 

But we somehow feel like we are wedded to the decision that we made with much less information, when we were far less mature, when we didn’t know what our life was going to look like. And yet there are so many of us who think that we can’t take that new information into account because that would mean that we are being a “quitter.” And that’s negative, that shows that we don’t, like, stick with what we start, etc. 

I know that there are so many people out there who are having this same experience. And so here’s what I want to say to you. One, it’s okay to be a quitter, you should quit some things! This idea that you should never quit is illogical, right? For all of the reasons that I’ve already talked about. Because if you have more information, if your circumstances change, if your priorities change, if the facts change, if the situation changes, like all of these reasons that you might have… Or even forget anything changing, just you went into something and realize you didn’t have enough information at the time and thought you did, and now you have a different understanding of whether something is a good fit for you. All of these are good reasons to quit and do something else. 

Honestly, in that situation, not making a change—despite everything that you know, despite the wisdom that you’ve gained, despite your experience and your knowledge—that is the thing that doesn’t make much sense, right? 

And so, if you’re in this position where you’re thinking, “Well, I can’t stop doing this because I can’t be a quitter, because being a quitter is bad.” And I should shout out to one of the former guests on the podcast, Goli Kalkhoran, who has a great podcast called Lessons from a Quitter, which is all about this exact idea that in fact, you should quit things that are not working for you and learn how to find things that work better for you. So check that out if you haven’t. 

Anyway, don’t let your mistaken belief that quitting something makes you a moral failure or just a failure in general, keep you from figuring out what you really should be doing. Because the reality is that quitting is not a bad thing. Stopping doing something that doesn’t work for you is, in many cases, the right thing to do. Yet somehow we’ve internalized this idea that it’s the wrong thing to do. And that is a myth that will keep you stuck, that will not allow you to move forward and figure out what is really going to work for you. 

So I hope this was helpful. If this is something that you have struggled with, I obviously understand and I’ve been there. I would really encourage you that if you are thinking about what to do next and you’re not really sure, please come check out the Former Lawyer Collaborative at formerlawyer.com/collab.

The work that we’re doing inside there is helping lawyers like you figure out: 

  • What is it that they really want from their career? 
  • What type of career really would work for them? 
  • What is it that they want from their life? 
  • And how do they move towards that? 

And we’re talking about all the way from mindset stuff to really practical things like what kinds of jobs exist, how to put your resume together to get a job, that isn’t a legal job and everything in between. So I would love to see you inside formerlawyer.com/collab.

And I will talk to you guys next week! 

Outro: 

Thanks so much for listening today. I absolutely love getting to share these stories with you. If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the show, and come on over to formerlawyer.com to get even more support and resources in your journey out of the law. Until next time, have a great week!