Should I Quit Law and Follow My (Real) Dreams?

Law Firm 10 Columns, Featured Lawyer, Law Firm 10, Lawyer 6 Comments

Dear Law Firm 10:

My 13-year career as a tax attorney has been moderately successful, but when I look back at my career, I become depressed. What have I accomplished? What impact have I made? Nothing of much significance. So the New Year’s resolution I’m considering for 2013 is this: to find a career that is more fulfilling. If I commit, I’m worried that I risk giving up a secure job and income. Am I fool? Should I just be grateful for what I have and suck it up?


Look, there’s a difference between being grateful and being happy. If in fact you feel “depressed” when you think about your career, then it’s safe to assume you’re unhappy. That’s not to say, however, that you don’t appreciate what you have (the fact that you’re torn about this and engaging in analysis along these lines is strong evidence that you don’t take your situation for granted). But you can’t spend your life settling for unhappiness simply because it looks like you have a great, lucrative career that plenty of other people would be happy with—because you’re not those other people. You’re you. And you’ve hacked away at it with moderate success for 13 years, but your instincts are telling you that something is lacking. You’re only a fool if you ignore your gut feelings despite having recognized them.

As an initial matter, you’re actually more evolved than 87% of the world because you actually possess the ability to intuit your own dissatisfaction. I’m digressing here, but I’m convinced that people adore the constant, mindless distractions of texting, email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram because it allows them to successfully block out that nagging sense of existential dissatisfaction that everybody has. But here’s the problem with ignoring those vague feelings of dread that crop up from time to time. If you ever want to have the life that you DESERVE, and if you want to end up in the places you were MEANT to be in, then you MUST be cognizant of the things that make you feel depressed and take action accordingly. Unless you deal with that shit, make tough decisions (and act on them), and ultimately embrace change when it’s time for it, you’re going to end up like everybody else, living a life of quiet desperation.

So here’s what you need to do, if you want to balance your desire of finding a fulfilling career with your fear of foolishly squandering an otherwise comfortable professional situation: take stock of your current finances and pay off any outstanding credit card or student loan debt that you have (if any). Once that’s done, take the leap. I can’t underscore enough how important it is for you to follow through with this resolution, especially since I know there is a risk averse tax attorney dwelling within you. I’m sure you could find mildly positive things to say all day long about your current career on a “Pro” and “Con” list, but the one thing you definitely CAN’T say is that it fulfills you and makes you feel like you’re making a difference. In which case, the only other thing I need to tell you is, good luck finding a job that fits the bill. Trust me, you’ll regret staying put far more than you’ll regret having jumped ship, irrespective of what you encounter afterward.

Post image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  • Paul H. Burton

    It’s all a journey, so the real question is whether the journey is any fun (or rewarding or successful or whatever descriptive term you want to place here). I spent eleven years practicing law in one form or another – firm practice and in-house counsel – before running away to the circus. That circus as the dot com world, the year was 1999. Six years (and thousands of long hours) passed before I reinvented myself again into a time management consultant – primarily to which industry? You guessed it, the legal industry.

    Three completely separate careers in the span of fifteen years. Today, I’m still involved in the dot com and very busy with my seminar business. Both are satisfying/challenging/rewarding/etc. in their own ways. In fact, one of the greatest things about the seminar work is that I get to spend time with lawyers – a population of people I’ve always enjoyed even if the work we do isn’t always the most exciting.

    So, my advice on the notion of pursuing your dreams is this: Start. Nothing happens until you start.

  • Hank

    Hey, this tax dork has a job and he’s getting paid. A lot more than many other attorneys. Who cares if he’s not fulfilled? He’s able to pay the rent, isn’t he? And what will fulfill this a-wipe anyway? And since when does one take advice from someone who is a “law firm 10”?

    Where I come from, law firm 10’s are real world 5s or 6s. Unless this tax a-wipe wants to get fulfillment elsewhere without regard to consequences, I recommend he use this advice. Keep your job, keep getting paid, and if you want fulfillment, get a cute broad to bang 2x a week with your excess cash. A-wipe!

  • large firm survivor

    I quit my job at a 400+ attorney firm over 20years ago. I never regretted it. I don’t regret it now. You could not pay me to return to that “life.” I have been in private practice since then. Earned a lot less money. Had a lot more free time. Had a lot more fun. Helped a lot more people. I actually have friends, hobbies, and time for the people I love.

    But, I don’t think changing jobs alone is what yields satisfaction. That alone is “an inside job.”

    Good luck.

    • Evan

      Yea, right. I would never leave a steady paycheck.

      • Joe

        Because it’s all about money, bro.

  • Anniken Davenport

    For an alternative, consider writing. We are having a contest for legal professionals at Valhalla Press. Submit your best work of 5,000 words or less and you could win $500 plus an ereader and publication. It could be the start of a new path.