You Don’t Need More Passport Stamps

I was reading a new book to my son tonight, “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.” I picked it out mainly because he adores the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, and I figured it would be in the same vein, but with a more sympathetic view of the wolves.

Oh, how marvelously wrong I was. I’ll give you the plot summary.

Little wolves set out to build a house for themselves. They start with bricks. Enter Big Bad Pig, who can’t blow the house down. So he quickly fetches a sledgehammer and knocks it straight down. House #2, concrete. BBP, pneumatic drill. House #3, barbed wire, iron bars, armor plates, heavy metal padlocks, Plexiglass and some reinforced steel chains. BBP, dynamite. Finally, the wolves say, “Something must be wrong with our building materials. We have to try something different. But what?”

And then, a flamingo comes along pushing a wheelbarrow full of . . . flowers.

I’m pretty sure I appreciated this story a lot more than my son.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, save to say it is a fantastic lesson about how useless an arms race is.

And what does this possibly have to do with alternative legal careers? Only everything.

Lawyers, and indeed our whole culture, is steeped in the idea that we must fight fire with fire. Opposing counsel sends out third party subpoenas? We send out even more. Didn’t get the job you wanted? It must be lack of credentials, so you need to go get more.

Please, reconsider. It is possible to become an artist without going to art school, a journalist without going to J-school, a spiritual leader without going to divinity school, an executive without getting an MBA. Of course, if you want to become an MD or a CPA, you are going to need that specialized schooling, for credentialing. But unless you absolutely need a credential to be in a field, you can probably find a way to get to that new career without another expensive stamp on your passport. The stamp is an external validation that you’re qualified.

What you really need to succeed in your new endeavor, though, is internal validation. Internal validation is deceptively simple: do what it is you want to do. Make art, write articles that include interviews, get in touch with your Creator, seek out opportunities that require more than legal acumen.

What do you think you could do this week that would give you some of that internal validation? Drop me a comment and let me know.

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4 thoughts on “You Don’t Need More Passport Stamps

  1. I agree. As arrogant as most BigLaw attorneys are, what we really lack is confidence in ourselves that we can do something different besides the daily grind, the daily conflicts, the daily b.s.

    I think we have a fear barrier. Unlike many other professions, people don’t necessarily go into law out of passion for the law. It’s for money or because they didn’t know what else to do. And once in law school, we just busted ass to get to BigLaw jobs. Once in BigLaw, we just busted ass.

    We never really did any soul searching to find out what makes us happy.

    http://laidoffdiary.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/apple/

    Btw, I’m adding you to my blogroll. I found your posts to be really great.

  2. Some of what laidoffdiary said applies to me, too. I took up law when I was young because I did not know what else to do. I just wanted a degree that will earn for me a ton of money, even though I knew back then that law practice would most probably make me miserable because I don’t have what you would call the lawyer personality. But practice law I did, and I became pretty good at it and even ended up as head of the legal department of a government corporation. Nevertheless, I’ve always been depressed because I’ve always hated the fact that I chose law as a career for me, when other careers would have made me happier.

  3. Well, to the author of this blog, I say thank you for providing some external validation that what I’m feeling I am not alone in feeling. I have been practicing law for 5 years and have experienced a gradual loss of identity, an increasingly pessimistic attitude, and an overall anxiety and sense of hopelessness and pointlessness. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but that’s how I feel. I consider leaving law every day and become very sad because I feel so trapped in it. I often fight back tears at and away from the office about my job. I feel trapped because I have a family to support and I haven’t identified what new position I should seek out or how I’m going to get in the door. I have picked myself up by the bootstraps and “sucked it up” so many times over the last 5 years, but I just can’t find the strength anymore. I have been feverishly looking at graduate programs to get some sort of certificate or degree, but then I read this post and it made me laugh. I would love to hear from other people who have successfully gotten out of the law.

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