One and Done: Why I (Probably) Won’t Write Another Book

LAL3DAt my library’s Local Authors Night last night, someone asked what my next book would be about.  “One and done,” I replied.  When I tell people there will be no next book, I don’t mean to sound churlish.  Am I not grateful for the wonderful comments and kind emails I’ve been getting from readers all over the place?  I am.  Isn’t it wonderful to see my book in Barnes & Noble and on library shelves?  It is.  Aren’t I glad I pushed through the experience of writing the book, even though I had two part time jobs at the time and a four year old daughter?  Oh yes.  But being an author isn’t what I envisioned when I was just a voracious reader, just last year.

Even with the wonderful publisher I have, and the talented marketers I work with, spreading the word about Life After Law has largely been my responsibility.  Writing this blog, writing guest posts for other blogs, helping reporters appreciate the huge range of non-legal careers ex-lawyers can succeed in, and speaking all over the place has been my privilege.  But, to be honest, it isn’t always a pleasure.   I’m half-way between Introvert and Extrovert on every Myers-Briggs test I’ve taken.  And successful authoring requires a good deal of self-promotion, which rubs me the wrong way in terms of my nature and my acculturation.  I know I “should” Lean In, and Take the Lead, and speak up for my work.  This isn’t a new lesson; I realized half way through my Big Law career that this is not a meritocratic world, and that women especially should speak up for themselves – carefully – to get the credit they deserve.  I can self-promote in some circumstances, but not on a sustained basis.  Even now, 20 years into my professional life, I find it easier to advocate for someone else than for myself.

The whole point of writing Life After Law was to encourage people to find work they love, work that fits their talents and interests, and to dare to leave behind the safe misery that so many people – lawyers especially –  experience in their careers.  As I tried my best to follow the great advice I’ve been given about book promotion, I realized that I was ignoring my own advice about joy at work.  While I love my new full time teaching job, my part-time self-promotion job is much harder because it goes against my nature.   Now that I realize how integral this post-writing part of the process is, and how uncomfortable it is for me, I can think more critically about whether to do it again.

Readers, have you thought about writing a book?  Have you done  it?  Was it what you expected?  Please let us know below.

 

 

 

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From Lawyer to Professional Foodie

_MG_7351WB from above with straw shortcakeOne of my favorite kinds of Life After Law stories is the “law to food” transition.  When I left Big Law, I thought seriously about starting a food tour company, since I loved sharing cool new food finds with friends.  I also thought about working for Whole Foods, for entirely different reasons.  Although my own transition led me elsewhere, there are many true, inspiring stories of lawyers who made the switch into foodie careers, including:

* Valerie Beck, who left corporate law to work for Mary Kay and then to build an empire of chocolate walking tour companies, including Chicago Chocolate Tours and similar operations in Boston and Philadelphia.  I admire Valerie not only because she channeled her love and encyclopedic knowledge of chocolate into a career that fits her outgoing personal style, but because she gives back in so many ways.  She helps other women entrepreneurs through her WIN network, and partners with a different charity in every city she tours in.

Warren Brown, pictured above, who left government practice to bake cakes and became a hugely successful entrepreneur.  Warren is the founder of CakeLove, the popular cupcake bakery chain around Washington DC, the author of several cookbooks, and a former Food Network star.  His most recent success is Cake in a Jar.  I had the chance to taste some of this amazing stuff in the development stage, and the buttercream frosting literally made me swoon.

* Shannon Liss-Riordan, who hasn’t left law per se, but who is balancing her career as one of the most successful wage-and-hour litigators in the country with a sideline as co-owner of the Just Crust, a cooperatively owned pizzeria in Cambridge, MA.  The Just Crust rose from the ashes of the Upper Crust, a pizzeria chain that she successfully argued was underpaying its workers and which subsequently filed for bankruptcy.   I find it especially wonderful that Shannon is running a restaurant when she has built her career by ensuring fair treatment for restaurant and coffee shop workers.

* Robert Rook, the lawyer who founded the Emack & Bolio’s ice cream empire in Boston.  Rook represented rock and roll musicians, and worked closely with the homeless on the side.  He named his “hippie” ice cream chain after two of his pro bono clients in 1975.  My advice for first-time visitors to E&B is “peanut butter oreo.”  You won’t be sorry.

Readers, have you left law for a food-related career?  Are you thinking about it?  What kind of foodie life after law do you want for yourself?

Valerie and Warren are among the 30 ex-lawyers profiled in my new book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have.  Get your hard copy or e-copy now!

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Your Life Begins Where Your Comfort Zone Ends.

Leap-of-FaithBefore I figured out my post-law life, going to law school alumni events made me queasy.  Thank goodness I got over that, so I could bring you some of the wisdom I heard last weekend at the Harvard Law School alumnae fest that happens every five years.  My favorite panel was one of two called “My Brilliant but Unusual Career” (seriously, they had so many interesting non-lawyer alums that they needed two panels).  Here are some useful sound bites.  All quotes are approximate – I didn’t have a proper recording device.

Sarah Hurwitz, a speechwriter for the First Lady, on risk:  “When you think about risk, think about it in a big way.  Think also about the risks of staying where you are, which can be just as scary.”

On looking down the road to determine whether you should change direction: “If I keep on the path I’m on, I’m going to end up somewhere I don’t want to go.”

On the importance of competing for jobs even when you are not the perfect candidate: “People make impressive narratives out of the half -mess that is their lives.  Be wary of being overly impressed by anyone.”

Susan Estrich: On her path from presidential campaign manager to tenured Harvard Law professor to LA lawyer: “Life is a series of decisions and most of us don’t have complete control over all the factors that go into those decisions.”

Silda Wall Spitzer: On the discomfort of leadership: “If you have never been in a position where you’re afraid, where you felt like you had to fake it until you could make it, you haven’t pushed yourself into a real leadership position.”

Jamienne Studley:  On choosing what to do when confronted with multiple interesting opportunities:  “At a number of my pivot points, I’ve tried to ask, ‘what a the chances that something like this will only exist today?’ I’ve tried to do the things that might not be available later.”  Also, “resilient is maybe more important than smart.”

If you, like me, have ever felt uncomfortable about drawing on your network, alumni or otherwise, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to reconsider that reticence.  You’d be surprised at the number of people outside of the competitive law firm environment who enjoy mentoring.  Many people like to help other people just as much, and maybe more, than getting help themselves.   Even law school alumni can help you move outside of law, as these panelists did.  Your own networks include people who can offer this kind of guidance and the connections that will help you figure out and succeed in your own life after law.  Connecting with potential role models may give you the confidence you need to take your next step toward a better-fitting career.

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Closing the Post-Law Gender Gap

One of my wonderful new colleagues at Bentley sent me this NYTimes piece on the comprehensive efforts to help women students and faculty do better at Harvard Business School.   These included placing stenographers in classes to help uncover perhaps unintentional gender bias among professors in who they called on and coaching women students to raise their hands more assertively in class.  This got me thinking about whether certain law schools (you alumnae know which these are) should try something similar.  This might benefit graduates who go on to non-legal careers as well. 

In interviewing over a hundred former lawyers for Life After Law, I noticed certain differences between women’s and men’s post-law experiences – a qualitative gender gap.  For example, women generally face fewer social repercussions when they leave big firms in the context of having kids than men do, so they find it easier to leave firms without a clear sense of their next professional step.  But are they more inclined to leave in the first place?  (My guess: oh yeah).  Do they have different assumptions about what they can do next?   Does what and how we learn in law school affect our divergent career paths?

We all know the stats about women lawyers in firms, including the persistent fact that women make up 50% of junior associates but only 15-18% of equity partners.  But maybe we can come up with ideas for potential law school reform by extrapolating from our own collective experiences about the post-law gender gap.   Here are some of my personal data points:

  • I found it easier to leave a high-paying, high-status law firm partnership than some of my male colleagues who were equally unhappy because I had a broader personal definition of success.  By the time I left, I no longer thought that money would buy happiness for my family or myself. 
  • Taking my wildly generous 12-week maternity leave created a meaningful space away from the firm.  While I didn’t come up with any great new career ideas on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, I did come to believe that some kind of non-legal career was generally possible and increasingly appealing.  Weekends and vacations had never created enough time for that to sink in.
  • I wasn’t great at firm politics when I practiced law.  I understood that mentors and sponsors could make a difference, but my male colleagues seemed to fit right into the system while I was still studying it.  It wasn’t until after I left my big firm that I learned to network effectively.  If I had understood the process and power of networking earlier in my career (say, in law school), I might have made partner sooner than I did. I also might have left sooner than I did. 

Readers, what would you add to this list?  Has your experience in law, and/or leaving law, been affected by gender?  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Do you think law schools should be re-engineered in any way to reduce gender bias?  Let’s talk.

Photo courtesy of MadameNoire.com

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Life After Law Book News

It’s almost here! The final copies of my new book, LIFE AFTER LAW: Finding Work You Love with the JD LAL3DYou Have arrived at my house last week and are coming your way later this month. The book officially launches September 24, and you can reserve your copy at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. LIFE AFTER LAW profiles thirty former lawyers who have moved into a variety of more rewarding careers and provides practical, JD-specific advice based on their experiences and my own. It’s the perfect gift for unhappy lawyers (do you know any?).
It’s been gratifying to see so much enthusiasm about the book already. Publishers Weekly chose LIFE AFTER LAW as one of its featured fall publications. LIFE AFTER LAW has been mentioned on WSJ.com, ABAJournal.com and several other websites. My advice on “faking it at work” while planning a career change appeared recently on Above the Law.  The Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association chose it for their limited “recommended reading” bookshelf, along with Lean In.   I have also been interviewed on podcasts including Happy Go Legal, Quitlaw.com, and JDCareersOutThere.
In the coming months, I’ll be speaking more often about LIFE AFTER LAW. I hope you can join me or listen in on these dates:
September 17: I’ll be live on CBS Radio with the Career Coach Caroline Show
September 19: I’ll be on Bloomberg Radio’s live broadcast from Boston
September 27: Along with Elizabeth Warren and Susan Cain, I’m speaking to Harvard Law School alumnae from around the world at Celebration 60
October 3: I’m speaking at Harvard Law School to all students and Boston-area alums
October 17: Speaking to the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association in Boston
November 7: Please join me for breakfast at the Harvard Club of Boston’s Author Series
You’ll also be able to read about me and LIFE AFTER LAW in upcoming issues of ABA Journal and California Lawyer.
Now, where do you think I should be?  I’d be grateful for your suggestions – please send them to me at lizafterlaw@gmail.com.  And thank you so much for reading!

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Ex-Lawyers Make Excellent Leaders.

kripalu

Picture courtesy of Kripalu.com

The recent news that a former lawyer has become the CEO of Kripalu (the Berkshires haven for many unhappy lawyers and others) put an extra spring in my bakasana. Things got even more exciting when I read the press release in detail. Kripalu cited David Lipsius’ “training as a lawyer” first on the list of “qualifications that make David the right person to lead Kripalu into the future.” It’s so nice to see “training as a lawyer” recognized for what it so often is: training as a leader. Lipsius didn’t come to Kripalu from a BigLaw corner office, but from NBC, where he had been a VP in charge of operational and creative divisions, and on the senior team of the Today show. As it happens, Lipsius replaces another former lawyer, Richard Faulds, as Kripalu’s CEO. According to Kripalu’s website, Faulds “joined Kripalu’s residential ashram staff after several years of working as a Legal Aid attorney, and became Kripalu’s legal counsel in 1989.” Don’t you love stories of lawyers who run away to the ashram?

This got me thinking about other ex-lawyers who run major institutions. As a new-ish business law professor, I’m especially interested in ex-lawyers running universities. The president of Bentley University, Gloria Cordes Larson, is my favorite example, and not just because she is a great boss. President Larson’s career has run the gamut of public policy and government work, from developing geriatric service programs to managing consumer affairs policy to putting together the Boston Convention Center, an enormous undertaking. Although she tells me that former lawyers make up a small minority of university presidents, they’re especially effective in that role.   Other ex-lawyers running universities include President Clayton Spencer of Bates College (Yale Law School, 1985) and President Kenneth Quigley of Curry College (Villanova Law School, 1982).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that ex-lawyers make superb leaders. After running some case teams, many partners prove to be excellent managers (and I know that many other partners are terrible managers – I mean, I know).  Leadership requires not only vision and tenacity but the kind of analytical skill and ability to build consensus that lawyers often develop as their careers progress.  Those skills are enormously transferrable.  My hope is that more lawyers will take their leadership skills beyond the case team and into an organization they are passionate about.  David Lipsius makes an excellent role model.

Readers, who are your favorite ex-lawyers in leadership?  Maybe this one, or this one?

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When Should You Pay for Back-to-Work Training?

When you’re thinking of leaving the law, or have already left, it can be hard to start making the changes and connections that lead to your next career without some external help.   At the same time, the cost of a conference, program or counselor to help focus your search can seem stunning, especially in light of the prospective dip in income that often comes with leaving law.  It’s an awful lot of money, you might say to yourself.   How do you know when to justify that expense?

Let me help you with that justification.  We collectively spend a fair amount of money sending our kids back to school each fall.  We want to give them all the equipment they need to do well.  Why shouldn’t we invest at least as much time and money in whatever “equipment” we need to do well ourselves?

But where should you spend that money?  My view is the trainings that are most worth investing in are those that provide practical, tested advice, equipping you with the tools and information you need to make an effective career change.  Bonus points for those that give you the chance to network with employers you might like.

One conference I particularly recommend is iRelaunch’s Return to Work, coming up in NY on October 2.  From the keynote through the workshops, the emphasis is on specific resources and tactics rather than generalities.  There are career assessment workshops as well as opportunities to focus on networking and self-marketing.  One session focuses on developing the elevator pitch, training participants to talk succinctly about their experiences before and during their career break, and their career goals.  The conference is lead by Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Rabin, true experts in relaunching careers (and excellent mentors to many former lawyers).  You can learn more here.

When I was professionally clueless, I found it hard to justify paying for any kind of training or conference that might have helped my transition.  That, in retrospect, was short-sighted.  When I finally had the “a-ha moment” that got me out of my post-law rut, it was because of a conversation at one of those conferences I ponied up for. That eventually led me to the great job I have now as a tenure-track business law professor.

Now that back-to-school sales are flooding our in-boxes, it’s a good time to consider some back-to-work investing for yourself.   If we can buy our kids new laptops, clothes, furniture and otherwise equip them for their academic future, doesn’t it make sense to spend – wisely – on our own professional futures as well?

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