Recovering Lawyer, Having Fun: Outside the Comfort Zone

Sometimes, it takes doing something out of our comfort zone to feel alive. That’s true for life in general, and for an alternative legal career search. Taking a risk in life often feeds energy into your job search, via one of those maddening indirect paths.

drawing of daffodils and forsythia

What makes the sun shine for you? Take a risk and find out.

About those indirect paths: We think that we would love for our journeys to be very cause-and-effect. We long for a process in which we can take a step that produces a predictable result. Unfortunately, that kind of world exists only in the delusions of lawyers, engineers, accountants and their sort. What Daniel Pink calls the L-Directed Thinkers.

Like it or not, life ain’t nearly so straightforward; we all have a spiritual dimension that giggles at this quaint idea that our actions always produce knowable cause and effect. Plus, it would be really boring.

Taking risks is why I’ve been getting up early on Saturday mornings (oh, the pain!) this year to facilitate an art process group. I’m not the facilitator because I’m some fantastic artist, but because I’ll push people to try something they are intimidated about. That’s why we’re all there, to push through some creativity fears and see what’s on the other side.

Trying Something Terrifying

Last week, we went pretty far out of my comfort zone, into the terrifying realm of drawing. One of our group members introduced us to image/art journaling. Basically, you start with a thought, a memory, an event, or something like that, and draw an image to illustrate it. The idea is not to demonstrate your drawing chops, but to capture emotions.

On my way out the door to class, I noticed the neighbor’s forsythia had popped into yellow buds overnight. This made me ridiculously happy, because I’m still struggling to accept that at the upcoming vernal equinox, it might still be seriously cold and overcast here. Usually, it’s more like “Oh, the official start of spring, huh? Well, it really started weeks ago. Where are my sandals, anyway?” Except, not this year.

And it occurred to me that most of the early-blooming flowers here were yellow, like the sun. So that’s the thought I went with, when confronted with the awful necessity of drawing something about 45 minutes later.

For me, blank drawing paper is so much worse than a blank writing page. But the same process applies, it turns out: Acknowledge the fear, and then just start doing.

Don’t Start Over, Make it Something Interesting

It doesn’t even matter what you start with, as long as it gets you going. There’s always the delete key, the eraser, or even as a last resort crumpling it up and starting over. I avoid starting over completely, because there’s such value in learning to make the best of what you’ve got. It’s nice to use what you thought was a mistake and make it something interesting in the work as a whole. (And yes, that is a hit-you-over-the-head analogy to careers and life.)

I had zero idea what I was going to end up with when I started my journal page. I had a vague plan, and wasn’t sure where it would end up. And you know what? Even though my resulting journal page isn’t going to get its own show anywhere soon, I am absurdly pleased with it. It makes me happy to look at, and gives me a boost—honestly, that much-maligned warm, fuzzy feeling—to simply know that I did it. For me, it’s totally full of win.

So get out there. Try something fun that scares you, that you aren’t at all sure of the outcome. Give up some control, and get some energy back. You’ll rev up your life, and your career search.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on pursuing their own creative paths and taking the risks to do it. She offers discounted sample sessions so you can see if coaching can help you take some life-affirming risks. Contact Jennifer at to schedule your session today.

5 thoughts on “Recovering Lawyer, Having Fun: Outside the Comfort Zone

  1. Until you explore the land of “I don’t know” the place you are in remains vague. Not knowing is scary at first, but it is the path to discovery. I just wrote an article about how attitude influences discovery. A timid or demanding attitude sees “mistakes,” and a curious, open attitude invites “Aha!” moments.

    • With respect to the coloring book’s “lawyers are important issue”, sometimes, in disability cases, the clients will actually kill themselves the next day if you don’t take their case.

      Sad, but true.

      That happened the very attorney in whose desk I now sit. I think she felt pretty bad about it.

      Note to self: If the prospective client seems to be suicidal, tell them that you will represent them.

    • Yes, for corporate lawyers this is far too close to home–wickedly funny!

      Though as JP notes, *some* lawyers do perform really useful services that help actual people. Sadly, they aren’t given the respect they deserve often enough.

  2. While I dislike practicing law, when met with another witty lawyer joke or with another snarky comment about how lawyers are scum, I’m always tempted to reply, “Fine, but don’t come to me next time you have a problem. Getting sued? Good luck. DUI? Man, that’s too bad. Dress nice for court.”


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