Why I Left Law
When I left my law firm, I went above and beyond to make it clear to everyone that it was not a result of the hours, the work or the firm. I couldn’t bear the thought of being pitied, for being perceived as a person that was leaving a training contract because they couldn’t ‘hack it’. These feelings were tied up with my distorted view of what it meant to be a success and a failure.
I left law because I wasn’t happy. The hours were hard to deal with, largely because it meant working at my firm suddenly became my whole life, and while I didn’t mind the work, I felt trapped by the prospect of a future that didn’t excite me.
These feelings were compounded by personal factors. My mental health was in a bad state. I was not coping with my anxiety, which was challenging when coupled with the pressures of beginning such an intense career. I felt out of place, in an environment a world away from my own challenging upbringing. I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone about how I felt and I didn’t know how to.
There were also the doubts that I had before I began my training contract. I had buried the question of whether law was actually what I wanted to do, or whether I was driven by wanting certainty, a high salary and a feeling of importance.
I wish I could say I spotted a gap in the market, that I dropped out of law because I had this unique idea for a start-up. But that is not my story. My story is about me abruptly leaving law because I would wake up with my heart pounding, not wanting to get out of bed.
The majority of incoming trainees will go on to enjoy happy, successful legal careers. This is a good thing; I don’t want people to have the experience I did. It was an experience that was a result of many factors, including my struggles with mental health, my upbringing, my personality, as well as problems within the profession.
But I also think it’s important to hear about the less rosy picture, to know that it is okay to begin a career and realise that this profession isn’t for you. This point is not always obvious, and it’s often wrapped up in guilt, fear, a crisis of identity and the trap of the sunk cost fallacy.
I regret how long it took for me to write about this openly, especially when I run a business in the legal space. There is a contradiction that I’m often mindful of: ‘If you left law, why did you create a business advising aspiring lawyers?’.
My goal is to help aspiring lawyers to make more informed decisions about their future. I care about those entering the profession, and I want them to have the resources to be able to think and talk things through, whether they are excited or worried.
This is the power of an online community. No matter how you are feeling, you realise there are people out there who share your concerns. You are not alone. You connect with people who are going through the same scary journey as you.
At no point in time have I ever seen aspiring lawyers share information so openly. In our forum, they think deeply about what matters to them, discussing everything from managing their finances to dealing with anxiety and depression. Soon, our platform will provide support with life skills and mindset, even if they seem broader than the remit of ‘legal training’, because not everyone has the opportunity to learn those things at an earlier stage.
The next step will be for law firms to come to the table. I believe authenticity and transparency will be a competitive advantage in a world where young people think deeply about what is important to them before they make decisions. It’s a world where money and prestige don’t have the same influence they once did. It’s a world where it’s okay to openly discuss the bad sides of law because being honest and vulnerable about the hard stuff is what leads to trust and, in turn, loyalty.
I love how you articulated this Jaysen, it also validates the experiences of a lot of people who may not be able to articulate it or fear brining it into existence with words and admitting where they are.
I am lucky to be in a place where I am finally coming into it and relatively happy/learning the ropes, but similarly have come across way too many peers or friends who are afraid to voice this.
Thank you for creating such an amazing platform, being vulnerable and sharing your vision.
This was excellent, Jaysen.
You've put some very complex thoughts and feelings into simple words. I'm glad you've published this as it will inevitably help a lot of people reshape their own "distorted view of what it meant to be a success and a failure" and navigate some very difficult career decisions.
I've "flagged" this email to re-read again soon.