Notice that the rope that says "GUEST ONLY" is open, telling you that you're allowed to take these steps.
One of the biggest mental and emotional hurdles facing many lawyers, especially new ones, is money stress.
Once upon a time, when I was less than one year from having passed the bar, I was in Sears trying to buy some cheap suits so that I would have something to wear.
Not Nordstrom. SEARS. Like, where you buy a lawn mower.
Just one suit plus one thrift store blazer in my wardrobe was not getting me by. I tried on several suits in the junior's department, you know, those polyester ones. They fit ok and looked acceptable. Most of all, they were what I believed I could afford at the time.
I picked out two that would work and stood in line. When it was my turn, the retail clerk asked me if I wanted to open a Sears credit card. Well, my parents had a Sears credit card since forever, so this was probably a smart thing to do. Right? I gave them my information, and they declined me. Multiple times. In front of everybody standing in line behind me. It was humiliating. I recall it had something to do with my income not being enough. But I was....a lawyer.
What does any girl do? I called my mom to complain. She couldn't believe it either. I had good credit. I was current on my student loans. It wasn't like I was trying to buy a house. What was the deal?
I gave up without my cheap suits and left. Then, for the next couple of years, I regularly visited the Salvation Army, hoping the my benevolent unknown twin, the rich doppelgänger, would have donated some nice stuff. I regularly found quality pieces there that fit well, and cooked up a whole story in my brain about my "rich doppelgänger" who got bored with her clothes every month and donated them.
In any event, I enjoyed my resourcefulness, but this was NOT what I thought my life as a young lawyer was going to be. And it wasn't just about the clothes. It was a lot of things that felt so far out of my control -- and were so far from what I was told they would be.
Many of us go to law school on the dazzling promise of a better life, a life with more influence and financial security than that afforded us by just a four-year degree.
For many of us, it is felt as the golden ticket out of the working class. For many others, it seems it is just our fate as members of the Gen-X or Millennial generations to need expensive higher education in order to continue the middle-class standard of living we had as kids.
So...we strive to get good grades in undergrad. We strive to get into the best law school we can afford, and do what it takes to prove ourselves worthy of remaining there. We compete for class rank, and try to get the best job someone will give us.
We keep striving, and get very used to the underlying not-enoughness as an emotional default setting.
And then as soon as we pass the bar and start working, many of us find that the do-good stuff we really want to do pays less than the evil corp stuff the other kids are doing. But we find we are spending the same money to keep up, to go to CLEs and networking events and live in the same expensive neighborhoods. Our colleagues in big law may look more fancypants but may not actually be any better off, with their larger car payments and more expensive wardrobes.
We wonder if we will ever pay off the student loan, or buy a house. We feel guilty about spending the money on a facial, or a delicious meal out, or a pair of shoes that puts a confident pep in our step. We then get into a very self-defeating thought loop where everything we do to take care of ourselves, invest in ourselves, or enjoy life becomes another count in the indictment against ourselves that we rattle off in our minds every morning, noon and night. Thoughts like:
And sometimes, these thoughts flash by really super fast before we are even fully aware of them, like stealthy product placements in movies and TV.
But the end result is a feeling of powerlessness that colors all our choices, actions, and inaction.
If, despite all the feel-good memes we like and share, our primitive brain still thinks we're screwed no matter what we do, we won't invest in ourselves.
We will buy the cheaper suit that fits weird and falls apart after one season, and carry ourselves differently when we wear it.
We will resist signing up for a personal trainer for our physical health, or a personal coach for our emotional management, and tell ourselves it is because we "can't afford it."
We'll prepare our own taxes.
We won't go to the conference where we could meet the people that could help us make our practice take off, because the hotel is too expensive.
Or we'll book a cheap Airbnb the night before a big out-of-town deposition to save money, and end up getting only three hours of sleep because it smelled awful and we had to leave and it took two hours to find a hotel. And end up NOT saving money. (Not that I've ever done that. LOL.)
And worst of all, we might take a shitty case for a client we don't like, because we're afraid the next dollar isn't coming our way. (A wise man once told me, "you're better off going fishing." He knows fishing isn't my thing, but he made his point.)
We're like, "I paid for law school, and I'm still paying for it, and that's it. I'm cut off." And every time we pass up an important opportunity to invest in ourselves or just really enjoy something simply because of money, we strengthen the self-limiting neurosynaptic pathways in the brain until they become like a four-lane freeway.
Our reptilian brain tells us that we are doing the "responsible" thing by cheap-assing it, but our evolved brain, our pre-frontal cortex, tells us that maybe this is "penny wise and pound foolish." You know -- sabotaging ourselves.
And we keep sabotaging ourselves because underlying all these responsible-sounding, "realistic" thoughts is a lack of belief in ourselves.
"Is she serious?" you may be asking yourself. And thinking: We were the first women in our family to graduate from law school. Or, perhaps even the first to graduate from college. We got good grades, passed the bar. Of course we believe in ourselves, don't we?
The truth is, if you feel like there is something you need, but you can't afford it, it is because you are not yet believing in yourself enough. You are still believing, to some degree, that the value you get out of something is not wholly within your control.
I will say this another way. Many of us who achieve great things, like graduating from law school, passing the bar, and getting a job have just assumed that reaching those milestones would create our results. That's often how it's packaged and sold to us. This is difficult for many very earnest hard workers to hear, especially because so much of life is set up that way: "get good grades, and you'll get into a good school. Get a good rank, and you'll get a good job. Etc. Etc."
They say "jump", and we ask, "how high?" And when we do that, but then are a loss as to why we aren't financially successful, or happy, or clear on what's next, we feel betrayed -- by The Man, or the Boomers, or God/the Universe, or how our law school was marketed to us.
I want to reassure you that it is human to feel betrayed, angry, stuck, scared, and all the other feels. You have followed the syllabus they handed you, the same one they handed me too, yet if you are still reading, maybe you are not where you want to be.
The good news is that you can change this.
But it will require you to think about yourself differently from the ways you have thought about yourself that got you this far.
The beliefs that made you a good student and nail your interview -- basically, beliefs about being good at meeting standards set by others -- are not the beliefs that are going to fuel actions that solve your personal, professional or financial disappointments. (Otherwise, you would have figured it out.) That's why learning these emotional and self-belief skills is ironically often hardest for women who were strong students and good test takers.
So, I'm inviting you to take the first step on that staircase by asking yourself these questions in your journal:
This is going to provide you a wealth of insight! In Part Two, I will highlight several Flower Essences that address the money, scarcity, and self-belief issues from a vibrational standpoint, best used in tandem with the thought work. Stay tuned.
In my time as a solo lawyer, I’ve talked to lots of young lawyers and new solos on how to succeed and maintain inner peace in what is perceived as a dog-eat-dog profession.
Some of them are dying to start their own practice, but they’re so worked up about what they don’t like about their current gig that they can’t get started with the new solo gig.
I launched my own practice in October 2010, around the same time I gave notice to a former employer. Whether you’re taking the leap into entrepreneurship or interviewing with other potential employers, this is the advice I have: get peace and clarity before you give notice. Be sure you're running TO something, not AWAY from something.
Look deep into yourself and know why you want to peace out of this job. Are you running toward a vision of your career, and this next job or new business is going to be aligned with that vision? Or are running from something? Clues that you are running away include feeling under-appreciated, unfulfilled, angry or prone to complaining. Spend some time writing it down and get really clear.
So let's say you journal about this, and after spewing lots of complaints onto the page, you realize you are definitely trying to run away from something. OK, don't kick yourself for it. It's human.
Being super clear on what we do NOT want is a necessary step up the emotional scale toward full conscious awareness of what we DO want, and why.
So, the first step toward making peace with the reasons why your current situation sucks is to write it down and become fully aware of it. Don't let it just be background noise in your brain.
There are a number of techniques for taking the sting out of each of your complaints or negative thoughts that I'll address in future posts. (If you want a preview of one method, please just sign up for my list at the contact page, and I'll send you the little mini-workbook I created for you.)
Once you know what your true motivations are, now you can form a vision. List out everything that you learned and gained from the old job that will be useful in the next job or your new business. Even if it feels strange, find a few reasons to be thankful for the old job that you're about to leave.
After that, you'll be feeling a little more peaceful, and so focused on your next steps that your announcement that you're leaving will be fueled by positive energy and you won't be likely to burn the bridge. You never want to burn a bridge (or be the first one to light a match), because your old supervisor and colleagues may be your first source of new client referrals or you may run into them in court or business dealings.
Like my grandmother used to say, "kill them with kindness." No matter what "they" did to you, or what jerks they are, if you can set a tone of professionalism and grace in your notice, it will pre-pave better interactions with these people from here on out. And you'll be so busy shining in your new venture that before long, they won't rattle you anymore.
Not only does this process make for a smooth transition within you and around you, it will help you get up to speed in your new job or business because you have spent quality time on your positive vision for it.
Now go get started on that vision!