Friday, January 6, 2012

Why I blew apart my high-paying career to live at 150% of the federal poverty line.

I am a lawyer - a very good one, actually.  And this morning, I had a great career.  This afternoon, I resigned.  At the end of February, I'm done with the full-time practice of law.  And then?  Profit!  Eventually.  The interim step still needs refining. 

Quitting a lucrative career is perhaps not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, if all you consider is my lack of savings and refusal to obtain alternate employment. And the fact that my preschooler requires semi-regular feeding, and my husband currently works at a temporary public-service fellowship* for the princely sum referenced above.  In the meantime, I stay calm by focusing on the fact that this certainly won't be the stupidest thing I ever do in life.  Rooftop unicycling still squeaks out the win (but only because it was a pitched roof).**  I survived that dignity intact, so I'm confident this will work out too.

So here's why I scuttled my career:  
  • Cognitive dissonance of the billable hour.  I love the law, but I hate the business.  Billing services in tenths of hours under rigid billing criteria results in an invoice that implies a false objectivity.  The bills make the work possible, but they are bullshit.
  • Parenting. If you are a mother, and you see your small children only 1-2 hours a day, you are neglecting them.  Even if they are well-cared for during that time, you are neglecting them.  Everyone deserves a mother, and the one my kid has is me. 
  • Appetite for risk. I was initially hired at my firm as a 24 year-old law student, and I stayed for 25% of my life. At some point, you have to decide whether you want a particular work experience to be your “life’s work.”  I decided. 
  • Scalability. Selling time is for indentured servants.  And with the competition for clients keeping rates low, the primary means of becoming “more successful” when your product is your time is to sell more time. Or to lie.  No.
  • Relationship experimentation. I am fascinated by Roissy/Game/PUA theories of male/female behavior, and have been doing experiments to test their hypotheses over the last few years.  I can’t wait to see what what happens to us (inter-/intra-personally and professionally) when we invert our earning status .  Marriage stays interesting when we do interesting things with it.
  • Self-assessment. I’ve led a pretty charmed life, one that includes lots of family and friends who tell me how awesome I am at regular intervals.  I would like to ascertain the extent to which they are blowing smoke up my ass. 

I have no idea what happens next.  This should be interesting!

*I know.  I'll get to that.
**True story, unfortunately.  The unicycle belonged to a yo-yo-er of some renown.


  1. That's pretty much what I did in May 2010. It's been almost two years, and my stomach still clenches when I see old boss/colleagues. So much bullshit, so much stress, and for what? So my kid could get raised by someone else? It hasn't always been easy (the first six months of three were hell) but I never doubted that it was the right thing or that it was better than practicing law. (Well, mostly never.)

  2. These days, who needs a lawfirm? You could set up shop in your house and probably make a decent living working part time. People appreciate a good cost-efficient lawyer, and I'm sure you can build up clientele in little time.

    So many times in my life I've left secure thing to venture into the unknown. It's always worked out. If you're hard-working and are willing to try different things, doors will open.

    Good luck with it.

  3. Marriage stays interesting when we do interesting things with it.

    Love it.

  4. Kudos to you.

    I made a HUGE decision about my career 10 years ago. It resulted in a lot more risk, a lot less compensation...and infinitely more satisfaction with life.

    Life is short.

    Thrilled to hear that you're making smart decisions about how to spend it.

  5. Everything is worth trying once, right? So you tried the house thing, and the job thing. Some projects are still in the works because they were worth continuing - the marriage thing and the kid thing! I definitely like the idea of clearing the "clutter" to make time for self-discovery. What is life if you don't spend any of it on you? Who knows? The job thing might come back around in a new way. Life is "interesting" that way.