Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Lawyers in Transition Toolkit – Part Two Imagining a Life Beyond the Law

lawyers in transition picNow that you’re thinking positively about an upcoming change in your law life, you’re ready to tackle the million-dollar question: what comes next?

Pretend you have a crystal ball. Gazing into it, you can see your life after the law. What does it look like?

If a clear picture comes into focus, congratulations! You’re halfway home. Hit the “print” button on your crystal ball and post an image of your professional future on the wall so you can see it every day. Feel free to tweak it with color and definition as your circumstances change.

But what if nothing materializes? Or what if the future is clouded by doubt and anxiety? No problem. Now is the time for clarity.

You get there by using your imagination.

“Imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions,” said Albert Einstein, who knew a bit about imagining things others thought impossible. “It is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the globe.”

Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Clients

You might find it difficult to play the crystal ball game. You might think the whole exercise is pointless and dumb.

That’s understandable. After all, we don’t take Imagination 101 in law school. And as practitioners, we tend to become linear thinkers. We make logical arguments based on precedent. We proceed from point A to point B. We execute documents exactly the same way every time.

And yet all successful lawyers have powerful imaginations. Consider what happens when we counsel clients. Often they come to us confused, angry or afraid. They might be unable to see beyond their legal dilemma.

Part of our job is to help them imagine a future that is better – or at least more certain – than their present. We offer different case scenarios. We point out the pros and cons. We guide them in one direction or another.

All of this takes imagination.

Imagining Your Next Step

Here are some possibilities for a law life beyond full-time practice:

  • You practice part-time.
  • You quit working and play golf all day.
  • You start a second career.
  • You become of counsel to a firm.
  • You volunteer with Legal Aid and take cases pro bono.
  • You become more active in a civic organization or church.
  • You become an adjunct law professor.
  • You teach a law class at community college.
  • You travel the world with your beloved.
  • You finally get around to writing the Great American Novel.
  • You spend more time on hobbies.
  • You re-introduce yourself to your spouse and make new plans together.
  • You move to a place where you’ve always wanted to live.
  • You buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.

“We have this extraordinary human power, the power of imagination,” says Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element. “We take it totally for granted. Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement.”

Five Practice Tips for Imagining a Great Future

  1. Schedule time for creativity. Imagination is like a muscle: the more it’s used, the better it works. Carve out blocks of time to brainstorm your future. Write possibilities on a whiteboard. Art, exercise and immersion in nature can get the imaginative juices flowing.
  2. Consider the future as a personal reward. You’ve given years of attention and energy to others. Now you can focus on yourself.
  3. Talk to close friends, colleagues or relatives. They may see possibilities that you have never considered.
  4. Watch for health warning signs. If you’re sad or stressed about your future, get help. Turn to BarCARES, the State Bar Lawyers Assistance Program, private counseling or your church.
  5. Be bold. “You must be willing to do something you’ve never done before to get something you’ve never had.” Mary Morrissey

 If you missed part one of the Lawyers in Transition Toolkit series, you can find it here!


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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