Last month on my way out of a CLE at the federal courthouse that was very well-attended by young lawyers, I looked at an empty fishbowl that was intended to be a drawing for a gift card to iTunes, courtesy of the event's sponsors. I dropped my business card into the fishbowl. There lay my card, all by itself. I expected to be a guaranteed winner.
It was only a few years ago at around this usually delightful time of the year that I contemplated leaving the profession altogether. I did not know what I wanted to do next, but I knew it was not what I was doing at the time. I wanted to do anything else. Anything.
I was a frustrated lawyer. I was frustrated with the work I was doing -- work that I felt no attachment in performing, and work that I felt no accomplishment in completing.
I also was frustrated with the amount of money that three years of law school cost me. It did not appear to be giving back to me anything close to what I had hoped for, both financially and emotionally. That was depressing.
The questions I pondered at night were not whether I could assist this client who needs my help, or what my next career step as a lawyer would be. Instead, my mind was filled with what appeared to be never-ending doubt. I asked myself, "How did I get myself into this situation?" "Am I ever going to be able to recover?" and "Was going to law school the worst decision of my life?"
All of this had nothing to do with my job at the time. I liked my job, and was performing well in certain capacities. Every day, I went to work. Every so often, I made some clients happy. Once in a while, I made my bosses happy.
I also received a paycheck every two weeks. While by no means was I able to save money because of my student loan debt, the income was enough so that I could take my wife out to dinner and to see a movie once in a while. At the same time, I had enough money to pay the bills every month.
Things could have been a lot worse, too. I recognize that life was, overall, pretty good. But life professionally was not great, or at least as good as it could have been. The fact that I did not know what, or whether, I could do anything about it frustrated me.
Something about my path was not sitting well with me. I was being led by a random series of events and choices I made based upon whatever options were presented to me at the time. And as a result, I was not performing to my potential. I knew that, and it left me puzzled.
I needed to take control of my life professionally, so that when choices needed to be made regarding my future, the options presented to me were a direct result of my efforts and more consistent with my wishes and desires, not just a bunch of job opportunities that happened to present themselves at the time I happened to be seeking something new.