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Feeling Like A Failure

When it dawns on lawyers that practicing law may not be the right career fit, it’s common for a sense of failure to take over their psyche.

If you’re feeling like a failure, I promise that you are not alone.

I know that because it happened to me. I also know that because so many of the lawyers who contact me tell me they feel like failures for this exact reason.

Or they say they’re afraid to explore a career change from law because doing so would make them feel like a failure.

Either way, you are not alone if you’re feeling like a failure.

you are not alone

My Career Journey

I went to law school because I was interested in working in the music business. I’d been advised to get a law degree because contracts play such a huge role in the entertainment industry. With the plan to become a music lawyer, I entered law school.

My summer associate job in a record label’s legal department in New York City taught me more than anything I got from a classroom. But it also helped me discover that law practice wasn’t my right career fit.

Haggling over where commas went in a document felt too far removed from the art form I was passionate about. The work simply wasn’t consistent with how I wanted to spend my time.

This realization felt like getting hit by a bus.

It called my professional identity into question. It called my entire future into question.

I Felt Like I Had Failed

“What will my peers from law school think if I don’t even practice law? What will my family think? What will old friends think?”

“How will I make enough money to survive if I don’t practice law?”

“Will I have to start at the bottom as if I’m fresh out of undergrad?”

“What kind of job am I supposed to get if I do something other than law?”

“How can I make my law degree work for me so I can get something out of that investment of money, blood, sweat and tears?”

“How am I going to explain this to employers? Am I damaged goods now? Is anyone going to want to hire me?”

These are the thoughts and fears that spun around and around in my head!

Sometimes, a false sense of confidence would take over.

“I have a law degree! Of course the nonlegal world will want to hire me.”

I learned the hard way that the seas did not part for me simply because I had a law degree!

That was yet another slap in the face that led to feelings of failure.

If You’re Feeling Like A Failure…

Please realize that there’s a big difference between being a failure and not being in the right career fit. Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned!

Don’t think something is wrong with you.

You have plenty of successes to be thankful for. You’ve already done and achieved some great things in your life. Remind yourself of those things when you’re feeling down.

Plus, you are more than just your accomplishments or your work.

And, like I said above, you are not alone. I talk to lawyers every day who are feeling down on themselves because law has turned out to be the wrong fit.

The number of lawyers who leave law further proves this point. An American Bar Foundation study published in 2014 found that 24% of surveyed lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 were no longer practicing law by 2012.

leaving law study

The reality is that when the practice of law is dragging you down, that does not mean you’re a failure as a lawyer. Similarly, when you don’t like what you’re doing all day at work, that does not mean you’re a failure as a person.

Instead, it means that the role you are currently playing at work doesn’t let you exercise the things you’re good at or the things you like doing.

So stop beating yourself up.

Sure, sometimes you get used to a certain level of misery and take comfort in your complaining. We all do. It’s easy to stick with what feels familiar.

But at the end of the day, you have a choice. You can stick with the status quo and wallow in your misery. Or you can seize the present moment and take action to get yourself to a happy place.

How To Stop Feeling Like A Failure

I know it can feel overwhelming, or even impossible, to tackle something as big as your career path. Especially when you’ve invested so much time and money to get to where you are.

But when you let someone else in to discuss your feelings, the overwhelm will diminish.

When you allow someone to help you break down the journey that lies ahead into digestible chunks, it can all feel more doable.

When you engage in honest self-reflection, you can determine what you truly want and what you have to offer.

how to stop feeling like a failure

I know from experience that when people press pause and take a good look in the mirror, their sense of well-being improves and they can find more meaning in their lives.

I know all of this thanks to my experience navigating my way into the music industry, where I ultimately was getting hired to use my law degree without having to practice law.

I also know this because I experienced it all again when shifts in the music industry led me to seek a career change. Wondering how I could possibly fit my background into something new left me again feeling like a failure. But after extensive research, self-reflection, and working with career counselors, I found a new career fit. I became a legal recruiter.

Today, I get to see the transformation in lawyers firsthand when I guide them through high-level self-reflection in my JD Refugee® class.

Help Is Here

To help you get unstuck, I created a video presentation called “How to Transition from Law to Fulfilling Alternative Careers.” You can learn more about that by clicking here.

I look forward to helping you. Feel free to contact me any time you have questions.

Related Posts:

Ask These Questions Before Exiting Law
Tired of Lawyer Stress and Anxiety?
Popular Careers For Lawyers Beyond Law Practice



Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.