My biggest risk was giving up security in exchange for self-direction. In the process, I broke through and found my core, which drives my life and practice today.
Here’s my story.
Notes: This post was written in 2013, one year after I walked away from a six-figure job and launched a solo law practice. Since April 2015, I have been working with clients as a career coach and helping them take their own risks.
When published, this was one of my most popular posts.
One year ago today, I walked out the doors for the last time of a safe, stable and seven-year long job. It wasn’t a bad job, all things considered. I learned a tremendous amount, made some good friends and enjoyed the challenge of being under fire from time to time. There were major and petty annoyances, like any other job, but it was fine. The ubiquitous “fine”.
A Fine Job, not a Great Life
Yet good enough was no longer enough. It simply wasn’t working for me, especially the push-yourself-to-your-limits-each-and-every-minute atmosphere typical of many law jobs, most notably in the finance world. Needs (not wants), from motherhood to health, were screaming to be addressed. I struggled to fit my life around my job, as high-level jobs nearly always demand, instead of integrating the two into a solid whole. I did yoga on the weekends and was stressed out all week. I felt stifled and exhausted, and I could no longer do my best work.
The answer was clear. I needed a way to reconnect with my values. This wasn’t a free-to-be-me, let’s-find-myself goal. Don’t get me wrong, as uncool as it sounds, I have always loved being a lawyer. But I was choking down my own success, not able to chew any of the individual bites. I wanted to taste my life again. I wanted to be the lawyer and person I knew I was meant to be. I only have one life, after all, and it was abundantly clear that I wasn’t living it the way I had always envisioned.
A New Path – Finding My Core
After many months of racking my brain for what environment could better match where I was going (or how to make my job a better fit), I realized that there was no known place to land. At least not with my then-current skills and the common lack of vision among recruiters and HR departments. I could have spent years retraining, but I didn’t have years. I needed to make it happen. Soon. Myself. I needed to craft my own suit rather than buying off the rack. Create my dream job from scratch.
(You have to love stock images. Can you think of an uglier suit than that?)
So I did. On May 1, 2012, I took my biggest risk. With six months of income saved, a supportive family and a walk into the unknown, I started my own law firm.
A year later, with many scrapes and lessons learned, I can report back that my path is not for the faint of heart. Although there is not one day that I wish I was parked back in that chair at my old office, I can imagine many people would. It has been quite an uphill walk, and no one drives by with a golf cart ready to help you up that hill. (Although a few will stop to offer some shade and a cool drink.) It’s character-building at its best. And worth every minute.
We Are Not Alone
I have learned, most importantly, that I am not alone. I have a great support group of clients, mentors, colleagues, other lawyers, small business owners and friends who have helped me visualize what my practice can be and achieve new heights. In return, I do the same for them. I would never have imagined how my world could and did open up after that first step.
After over a decade with corporate law as my core, my practice has expanded organically, largely driven by client needs and my desire to maintain a manageable schedule and grow in measured steps. I was asked by a friend to find a local trademark lawyer, and I ended up with a new client (after hours and hours of study to learn the area). Then a friend of a friend needed help with her non-profit. I am now working with a few key mentors and colleagues to assist her with the tax exemption process and other matters. Still other friends and colleagues, who are parents of minor children, have needed wills, advance directives and guardianship appointments over the past year. Furthermore, artists, knowing my background in the arts, have come to me with questions in that field. These practice areas are diverse and yet related, and my knowledge and experience in each one informs the other.
The Years to Come
I look forward to what the next year may hold in store, as these (now core) practice areas continue to cross-pollinate and mature. As I said recently to a group of businesswomen I know, each new day is like a little present waiting to be opened.
Fast forward to today, one short year from the day I walked out of that safe job and started this journey. My hope for more collaborative relationships and a self-directed, fulfilling future is being realized. I am blessed with awesome clients who have taken a risk in hiring me out of the gate, and I believe and trust that they have been fully satisfied with their choice. I look forward to serving them further and new clients and friends in many years to come.
Anne Marie Segal’s biggest risk was trading security for self-direction. She has taken a further risk to document the decision and process rather than project a pre-approved, professionally-manicured cutout with no personality. (We tend to like our lawyers bland, after all, without any zest or salt.) She’s not that lawyer, and she never will be. Ms. Segal’s clients, who are generally looking for a client-centered relationship – not a didactic, inflexible lawyer with no new ideas – thank her for that.