This blog post Overcoming Inertia originally appeared in the September/October 2017 Newsletter for  

I recently spoke with a reporter who was trying to shape a “you against them” story about my business, WILL – Women Interested in Leaving (big) Law, and firms.

The reporter asked, “While firms are trying to keep women, your service helps them leave?

Yes,” I said, “And they are not mutually exclusive!”  Creating work-life balance, addressing implicit and explicit sexism, and promoting women, are critically important for the legal profession.

Helping associates and others who want to leave is also vital. Honest and transparent conversations about career desires may be increasing, but are rarely part of firm cultures. In the absence of candid discussion, by their 7th or 8th year, many ambivalent associates feel pigeonholed, isolated and unsure of their transferable skills.

Some reasons lawyers remain, even while deeply conflicted, include: mistrust of firm resources, believing they are indebted to a partner who has championed them, and money concerns. Perhaps most importantly, they can’t yet answer the question, “What would you do instead?”

All this combines into a recipe for debilitating inertia, which may go on for years. In the case of one of my clients, seven years.

What can you do if this resonates?

  • Leverage Your Assets:  Very few lawyers leave quickly or hastily. You are risk averse and measured. Use your talents to your advantage.   Pick two qualities that have helped you as a lawyer, and become conscious of them as your strengths. Maybe you are ultra-responsible, a quick learner or a high achiever. Put those to work for your career transition.
  • Tune into Your Curiosity:  Every time you hear that whispering voice saying, “Come on, we’ve got to get out of here,”  or “I’m bored and want more meaningful work,” do not dismiss it as rash or crazy.  Listen and take it seriously.
  • Believe You Can:  What would you tell a dear friend if they were in your shoes? Would you tell them it’s okay to leave? Now, tell yourself that.  Give yourself permission to leave.  Take a class or talk to someone who might be able to help you.  Treat yourself to a coach or a course to give you structure, accountability, and tools for success.

The reporter’s story hasn’t run yet, and I have no control over it.  But you have control over the story you tell yourself – essentially – your thoughts & beliefs.   Which of the tips above could you use to take control over what you can?

Addendum: After this blog ran in Best Friend at the Bar, the story in Bloomberg did run!  Here’s the link.  I’d love to hear what you think!


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