Many of us attorneys suffer from fear. Our fears can get in the way of just about anything and everything. They can get in the way of our dreams and goals and big plans. They can also get in the way of our daily productivity and our basic tasks.
For both attorneys looking to leave the law and do something else, and those lawyers who want stay in the law and improve their practice, our fears are often our greatest obstacle to moving forward and making progress.
There are many specific fears we can suffer from:
- I’m afraid that I’m not reaching my own potential
- I’m afraid of what I’ve become
- I’m afraid I don’t have a life any more
- I’m afraid I don’t see my family as much as I want to
- I’m afraid of that pain in my chest, and that anxiety in my stomach
- I’m afraid that I’m so unhappy
- I’m afraid I’m a fraud and everyone will soon find out
- I’m afraid that I don’t really know what I’m doing
- I’m afraid to work another Friday night
- I’m afraid that I will fail
- I’m afraid I’ll be sued for malpractice
- I’m afraid I’ll be disbarred
- I’m afraid I’ll miss a very important deadline
- I’m afraid I won’t make partner
- I’m afraid to take a risk
- I’m afraid everyone will laugh at me
- I’m afraid I’ll get my bar license stripped away
- I’m afraid to leave the law
- I’m afraid that if I leave the law, I’ll be different than all of my attorney friends
- I’m afraid I won’t be able to make as much money as I make now
- I’m afraid that I cannot do anything different than the practice of law
- I’m afraid I won’t be able to convince someone else to hire me
- I’m afraid to update my resume
- I’m afraid to tell my firm I want to leave
- I’m afraid I won’t be able to say I’m really a lawyer anymore
- I’m afraid I’ll have to find a new identity
- I’m afraid it’ll takes a long time
- I’m afraid I’ll have to face some difficult facts about myself
- I’m afraid it won’t be easy
- I’m afraid I will be ridiculed and doubted
- I’m afraid I will make mistakes
- I’m afraid to put myself out there
- I’m afraid of approaching people and networking
- I’m afraid of throwing my whole legal career away
- I’m afraid if I keep doing what I’m doing
While many of us view fears as something to be overcome, a major element of success and personal development and growth is the realization that these fears never really go away. They are always with us. The secret is not in necessarily extinguishing them, but in mitigating them.
So how do we do this?
A Strategy: It can prove beneficial to not to try and get rid of our fears, but just to lessen their impact on us over time. We attorneys can spend too much time trying to eradicate our fears, but since these fears (and new fears) will always crop up, that can often be a losing battle. When we try to eradicate our fears, it means we sacrifice the time and energy we could be using to do something else productive: grow our practice, network, explore our personal strengths and skills, interview for other non-legal jobs, volunteer, start that side project. We get consumed or paralyzed from doing what we need to do to grow and prosper.
We have to learn and change and grow despite fear, not in its absence. We need to develop and become more confident and courageous in parallel with mitigating our worries.
A Tactic: Once we realize that success involves mitigating fears, and not necessarily eradicating them, then the next step is to plan how best to act in the face of worry and anxiety and dread.
Slowly. Try something, see some results, chip away at the fear, and then keep at it. And this means using Baby Steps.
The Baby Step is a simple, easy-to-do action or task one can take to begin this process. It takes time and isn’t very glamorous. But it makes the overwhelming less daunting. It makes the scary less fearsome. It lessens the paralysis. It builds confidence and shows tangible results and grows courage.
In real life, this means anything. It can take the shape of volunteering somewhere that you feel passionate about it. It means starting a blog or a website about a topic you love. It means honing your public speaking skills so you can network and interact with people better. It means reaching out to someone you trust to discuss your feelings and thoughts.
As you embrace your fears and take baby step acts, you gain momentum. As you gain momentum, you weaken the hold fear has on you. As you weaken the hold fear has on you, you grow your confidence. As you grow your confidence, you increase the likelihood of doing something you excel at and enjoy. As you increase the likelihood of doing something you excel at and enjoy, you can come face to face with happiness and self-worth and purpose and contentment.
Casey Berman graduated Hastings in 1999 and after a few years in the legal field left law behind to create a number of different enterprises. The Hastings career services office asked him to speak about his professional experience in branching out from the law in July 2009 during its summer speaking series. After speaking to a packed room of lawyers and law students, Casey hatched another business idea – Leave Law Behind. Check out his insightful blog and the services he provides lawyers at
Casey holds a BA in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley and a JD from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He is licensed by the State Bar of California and holds the Series 7 and 63 security licenses.