I made a big decision last week to resign from my job as a family lawyer and to leave law behind.
I have been going back and forth in my head about sharing this decision and my reasons why because I’ve been worried about judgment and criticism. Although I know first hand that raw honesty comes with some negatives — judgment being one of them — I also know that it can be a powerful tool to help others and that’s why I’ve decided to be vulnerable and share this with you all.
I’ve wanted to be a lawyer most of my life. I can’t really explain why but I think my own life experience of my parents divorcing, an unstable upbringing, exposure to family and domestic violence and wanting to help people through a very difficult time in their life all fuelled my passion for law. I’ve worked really hard to get my law degree — in the end it took me 8 years from start to finish with a couple of detours along the way. Like so many, I’ve made lots of sacrifices to become a lawyer. I haven’t travelled much because I was so busy working to pay my bills while I studied and I haven’t done a lot of things I’ve wanted to because I’ve been so busy working and studying.
A wise friend recently pointed out that when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer — I didn’t know what that really meant and she is so right. Being a lawyer hasn’t been what I had hoped it would be and a few weeks ago I reached a low point where I realised I had to take big action.
I was heading home on the bus after a challenging day and I started to cry. I tried to stop but I couldn’t. I tried to awkwardly wipe my tears away in case anyone noticed. I felt so ashamed. Here I was — with my dream job, an EOI on an apartment (which is what I’ve been working towards for the past 2 years) and yet I was still so miserable. I remember not wanting to go home that night and just wanting it all to stop. Feeling that way hit me like a freight train. I’ve overcome some pretty big things in the last couple of years — leaving a toxic relationship with almost nothing, having to cut my Mum out of my life to protect myself, losing my Brother after seeing him fade away in palliative care, losing my first law job thanks to Covid…and yet in this moment where the outside world would think I had so much to live for — I felt like I had no reason to keep going. I had to take time away from work, which I felt so guilty about, and I stayed in bed for four days, feeling completely paralysed and helpless.
I’ve since ridden this awful rollercoaster for the past few weeks — some moments I feel really alone, like I’m a burden on the few people who are close to me and like I’m a complete failure. In other moments I feel hopeful it will all work out, confident in my abilities and a sense of bravery and courage to keep going.
My experience is that the pressure and weight of the work of a junior lawyer is a lot. So is the expectation to blur the line between work and your personal life and to constantly prove yourself and that no matter how much you give, you are still probably not giving enough. I know I’m a resilient person but it has been too much for me. I think that the legal profession has made big steps but there is a still a long way to go. It’s a culture that rewards being overworked and underpaid as a junior with the promise of a brighter future if you push through. It’s a culture that rewards those who are willing to make sacrifices and all of the women in law who inspire me have had to make sacrifices that I’m not sure I could make if I were in their shoes. I’ve come to realise that I don’t want to sacrifice my mental health and wellbeing to be a lawyer and that if that’s the price I have to pay, it’s simply too much.
I’m still riding this train of uncertainty and fear and questioning whether things will fall into place and whether I will ever find true happiness. I feel like I’ve spent so long searching for it and I’m still completely lost. However, I know that if I want things to change then I have to make big decisions. I have to be brave. For me that means leaving a career I’ve worked hard for, that has become a huge part of my identity and step into the unknown with the hope that I’ll find what I’m looking for.
I’m proud of myself that I followed my dream to become a lawyer. After all, I did it. That’s something that no one can take away from me and something that I hope will help me on my new career path. I do believe that you learn something from every experience — good and bad — and I’m taking that with me wherever I go next.
While it’s been hard to accept that being a lawyer isn’t for me, not because I’m not a skilled lawyer or passionate about it but because the price tag is just too much, I’m so grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had. I’m grateful for the inspiring people I have connected with and while It’s not the right profession for me, I know there are some amazing people in it.
I don’t know what’s next but I do know I’m going to fight really hard every day to show up. I’m going to survive the hard days where I feel worthless and I’m going to revel in the days where I feel courageous and full of hope and purpose. One day at a time because I’m not ready to give up just yet.