I'm doing my last day of calls for work. I'm still going to be doing some work for the firm, but this is my last real day.
It's surreal. Nothing is different, or special. Just the end of one career and the start of a new one.
I feel like I want to cry.
I remember the start of law school. I remember thinking I'd be a lawyer for the rest of my life. I remember looking forward to wearing business suits and heels and briefcases and, basically, pretending to be a lawyer. I remember being so proud of my profession and completely identifying my worth by it. I enjoyed saying I was in law school, and later, that I was a lawyer. I liked that look that people got of raised eyebrows and a little intimidation.
I remember telling lawyers I knew personally that I was going to law school. I remember every single one of them urging me to take a year off, or choose a different profession, instead of going to law school. I remember thinking that odd, because I was going to change the world, save humanity, and be perfect and have status and prestige.
But those lawyers knew. They knew what I now know. Lawyering is depressing and hard and thankless. And the people, the kind of the people that lawyering attracts are people who like to argue and fight and win at all costs. The best kinds of litigators are the biggest assholes, because they get a charge out of it.
I don't think I ever liked arguing in person. I did like arguing a point on paper. But I never wanted to rise to the level of jerk that, really, I needed to be. As I progressed, over 16 years, well....I just didn't see the benefit of it. It's so sad and depressing. People who need lawyers, even people who need lawyers who have money, hate to hire them. So that lawyering for me is not just about fighting the other side, but fighting your client to get them to understand they need you. Private practice - I've actually gotten a lot of clients and I realized why this week - because I don't care about their problem and don't want them to hire me. I have unintentionally played hard to get and THAT, that is how I snag them. Isn't that a sad job to have?
And working all the time. You know how many hours lawyers typically work in a year? 2400 is a low estimate. That's BILLED time. And without weekends, that's about 8.6 hours a day BILLED. And no one bills every second they are at the office - it's impossible because you can't bill a client for saying hi or eating lunch or checking in with your spouse or going to the bathroom or drinking coffee or surfing the internet. If you billed 8.6 hours in a day, you're probably AT the office, away from home, 11.5 hours a day. Again, that's assuming you never work weekends, and I have NEVER met a lawyer who doesn't work weekends. And you never see your family, are constantly stressed about clients and work and money, and no one likes you.
My mother, the German native that she is, has said I have wasted the last 16 years. (I did not inherit my emotional intelligence from her) I don't think she's right. Because everything I do right now, the sum total of me, which makes me want to be a teacher and which I think will help me be a great teacher, is the culmination of all of my experiences being a lawyer.
I hate when people say "this is the end of an era." Well, guess what, today represents for me, the end of an era. I'm still licensed, I still have clients, I still work for the firm - part part time. But my identity is changing. My insides are different somehow, and they've been different from that hungry new lawyer circa 1997 for a while now. And acknowledging the change is daunting.
I have another friend who thinks I'm running away from being a lawyer. Believe me, this thing I'm doing, it is not cowardly. Changing one's career at age 42 may be unwise and silly, but it is also rife with fear and lack of security. Basically I am scared to death.
And I'm going to step off the cliff anyway.