David Lat takes five with The Ex-Lawyers Club to reflect on his career after the law. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Life for a lawyer who leaves the law is…a blank slate. This is both a good and a bad thing. An ex-lawyer speaking on a panel about career alternatives once said something like, “The good news is, you can do anything with a law degree. The bad news is, you can do anything with a law degree.”
2. The hardest thing about being an ex-lawyer is…having to explain to your parents’ friends at holiday parties why you left a (relatively) secure, well-paying job for something that offers much less pay and prestige (at least early on).
3. The best thing about being an ex-lawyer is…reduced anxiety. Legal work is difficult, and mistakes can have serious consequences for your clients. It’s so liberating not to have to worry about how some error of yours — a misplaced comma in a contract, a case you left out of your brief — could result in your client being liable for millions of dollars, or going to prison, or worse.
4. The primary misconception of ex-lawyers is…that we weren’t good at the practice of law — that we couldn’t cut it, as some of your past interviewees have written. Many of us were perfectly good (or even very good) lawyers; we just discovered other things we’d rather be doing.
5. The main difference between my life now and my life as a lawyer is…I get to express my individuality. As a lawyer, it’s not about you; it’s about your client. As a writer and a blogger, on the other hand, I’m allowed and even encouraged to bring my personality to bear and to let my creativity shine through.
David, with lawyerly precision, wished to note: I may not be an “ex-lawyer” in the most technical sense, since I still maintain my law license and handle the occasional legal issue for Breaking Media, the company that publishes Above the Law, the legal blog I founded. But I spend only a small portion of my time on legal work, so I definitely have the ex-lawyer sensibility.