An Attitude Revamp (or, How to Get Your Groove Back)

fiji birthday drinkOn Tuesday, we talked a bit about how there will be numerous times in a person’s life that you realize that you are, perhaps, a bit off track from where you would like to be. Maybe you wake up one day and realize you own nothing beyond dowdy suits, Mom jeans, and pajamas — a wardrobe revamp is in order. Other times you wake up and realize it’s your attitude that needs an adjustment. There are different varieties of this. The two big ones that I’ve seen involve a realization that perhaps you’ve been phoning it in for far too long, either because you were dealing with a personal issue (planning a wedding, having a baby, dealing with a sick parent, etc, etc) or because you just aren’t engaged in your job anymore. Other times, you realize that it’s your job that makes you unhappy; you may suddenly feel that you’ve been beaten down for so long that you don’t even remember the last time you felt calm, fulfilled, and at peace with the world.  This is a type of burnout that can happen with any job, but I’ve seen it especially with those professions — BigLaw, I’m looking at you — that consume most or all of your waking hours for years at a time.  Sometimes the right answer might be to just suck it up, deal with it, recognize the commitments you’ve made and the value of what you’ve got.  Other times, a vacation can help — but you can’t solve every problem by a week or two in a tropical locale.  (Pictured: fiji birthday drink, originally uploaded to Flickr by mjecker.)

For my $.02, the first situation is the better of the two — you still intrinsically like what you do and where you are, but you just need to reengage with the job. Some ideas for that:

  • Revamp your routine. If the first thing you do every day at the office is surf the web for two hours, stop that — don’t even turn on your computer if possible. I recently read about someone who “turned the mouse off” during work time to cut down on distracted browsing; you can also just put your mouse out of reach, turn it on its back, or unplug it.
  • Restyle your office (or move offices, if possible). It’ll make you feel like you’re at a new job again.
  • Reengage with your profession again. Attend a thinky seminar or conference, and really listen — take notes as if your life depended on it. Take some time to apply what you’ve learned to your current job (and, perhaps, to your boss’s job). Set up a meeting or write a memo if you come up with tangible ideas as a result.

The other main kind of “attitude revamp” I’ve seen people need is when your job makes you miserable — perhaps even your profession — and you can’t easily get a new job (or a new profession). The only thing, in my experience, that I’ve seen work for this is to reconnect with some older, core version of yourself from the time before The Job. For example, maybe you were on the swim team in your youth — and you can just rejoin an adult swim club that does drills and the like. For me, I found myself in this situation a few years ago, right after I’d missed my best friend’s wedding to do a doc review — and the only thing I could think to do to reconnect with ME again was to take a humor writing class, which I hadn’t done since I was 17. I signed up at Gotham (with the very excellent teacher Sara Barron) and realized in pretty short order that a) I could write something other than a law brief, and b) I was kind of good at writing, as well as giving other people in my class useful feedback on how their own stories could be better. As soon as I reconnected with the “me” I’d been when I was 17 — full of hope and ambition and sarcasm — weirdly enough, good things started to happen. I met my future husband later that month. I got on a much better project at the job, working closely with a lawyer I truly admired, about two months later. I decided to start this blog about four months later. None of those things had anything to do with my rediscovered humor writing skills — but so much to do with my rediscovery of me, the person I’d been before I’d spent nearly 15 years throwing myself into school and work.

Readers, what are your tips for getting your groove back? What other major attitude revamps have you been through?

Comments

  1. Agreed that this is so well-timed. Have any of you reached the level of career discontent where you wonder if you could be fulfilled by ANY job? I’m a young-ish associate and have gone through the schooling, the job search, the baptism by fire, the allnighters, all the hoops, and have come out successful but absoluuuutely hating it. My colleagues are respectful, encouraging, and appreciative, the money is great, the advancement opportunities are there, and I dread going to sleep every night knowing I have to go back the next morning. I come from a very working class family and am stunned by my own lack of appreciation for my good fortune after working my butt off to get here.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is, have any of you overachievers made it to an objectively great place, only to realize that you want nothing to do with not only your own career, but with any all-encompassing career? At this point I can’t even picture my dream job — I feel like all my happiness and fulfillment comes from my relationships outside the office. I’ve been working hard not to take this experience for granted, but it’s tough.

    • This. Totally in the same place. You’re not alone in your feelings — though I wish I had a good answer! I know I’ve gotten to a bad place when I can’t get out of bed in the morning (I am usually a chipper early riser) because I can’t bear the thought of going into the office.

    • I read a great book a few years ago: Midlife Crisis at 30. The title is kind of a misnomer because it really isn’t about a typical “midlife crisis,” it’s about exactly what you’re saying: getting to a point where you realize you’ve followed all the unwritten “rules” and gotten all the anticipated rewards, and you should be happy, but you don’t like where you are. The best part of the book is in the back, they interview a bunch of very successful 50-something women about where they were at 30, and the answers are all over the map. Some were stay-at-home moms. Some were in completely different careers. Some were unemployed. The lesson was, you don’t have to have it all figured out at age 30. There’s still plenty of time to seek fulfillment and meaning and be successful wherever that leads you. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. It’s out of print but you can still get it on Amazon:
      http://www.amazon.com/Midlife-Crisis-30-Changed-Generation/dp/1579548679/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280445403&sr=8-1

      • Thanks for the recommendation, I just ordered it! And thanks to you both for the kind words. Having put myself through college and law school through some pretty thankless, miserable jobs, I can recognize my complaints for the first-world problems that they are, but it’s still really difficult to appreciate a great career that feels so ill-fitting. It’s almost worse that so many of my former classmates would be thrilled to take my job — I feel ungrateful. Perspective is definitely the solution — it’s so hard to remember that this will just be a line on a resume one day!

    • I have been there and have started to see what the other side might look like — in my case, changing practice areas to move away from litigation and into something that’s not litigation. I’m getting an LL.M. (and I’m really enjoying being in school again) and recently was surprised to find myself wanting the kind of respect and high-status position in a law firm that I felt I’d jettisoned from my life wish list several years ago. (As in, “I just want to be happy, and I’m not interested in putting in the hours and work and suffering it will take to get a prize I don’t think I want.”) That said, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing one’s efforts on having a happy life rather than a prestigious, high-paying, even intellectually stimulating job/career. A job can be just a job — something that pays the bills — while you get your life satisfaction elsewhere. You just have to know (or figure out) where you get your greatest happiness, and come up with a job that will pay the bills but give you enough time to do what makes you happy. Not that easy in this economy, of course.

      One last thought — when I read your comment I immediately thought of Gretchen Rubin, who went to Yale Law and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — and then realized she didn’t really want ot be a lawyer, though she was quite good at it and had worked very hard to get there. Her blog is called The Happiness Project, and she now has a book out called the same thing. While I liked the book, I found the blog posts about career and her own path even more interesting. Good luck — you are not the only one.

      • Really interesting to hear about your feelings after stepping away from the firm. I know I would miss the autonomy that comes with firm practice (in terms of being the one who decides when and how you will finish what needs to be done — I love telling my colleagues when I am taking a day off rather than requesting a day off). I hope you can strike a great balance post-LLM. I will definitely check out that website, thanks! Who knew that contentment would be such hard work?

        • Really, who did know that? I share your sentiments of feeling ‘ungrateful’ – given that so many people (young, middle-aged and even ‘old’) can’t find work in this *generally miserable* (sorry, I meant to say “challenging and interesting”) profession. I try to remind myself that I am VERY fortunate to have more work than I can shake a stick at, and get paid well for doing it, and have relative flexibility about when I am doing it (but NOT that it must get done, generally in some form of ‘NOW’). I spend lots of time trying to talk people out of choosing law as a profession…but I am basically stuck with it, and as my wonderful (happy to be a lawyer) husband reminds me, it IS the best ‘non-sh*t (read: not manual labor) job we’ve ever had. I dunno. I would just like it better if there weren’t so many artificial deadlines and just plain mean/unreasonable people.

        • Oh, actually, I’m still at the firm in the litigation department — just not on partnership track any more. I was deferred on the partnership decision two years in a row, and then decided to go of counsel rather than trying again in year three. I cut back to an 80% hours load (with almost exactly 80% salary and all the same benefits, plus profit-sharing I wasn’t eligible for as an associate). This helped in every possible way, and is what has enabled me to stay there for three more years. I only figured out the LL.M. tax path as a possibility a little over a year ago. I’ll finish the degree this December, so I’m just starting to look seriously for a new position now (since my firm doesn’t have a department that does what I now really want to do). But I would have burned out completely (and probably burned some bridges) had I not made that shift.

          That might be one option for you to consider — buying yourself some of your time back, essentially, to give yourself the time and mental space/energy to figure out which parts of your job/career you like and which parts you’d rather jettison completely. When you’re working BigLaw hours it’s incredibly hard to figure out — or remember — what it is that would make you happy, because you’re just trying to get through it. You might find you actually enjoy parts of what you’re meant to be doing for your job if you don’t have to bill 2000 hours a year.

          Every firm is different, of course, and some may not allow this. It may also depend on what year you are, how much key people respect your work and want to keep you around, etc. And I’m thinking it’s probably one of those things that’s pretty irreversible . . . but on the other hand, if you’re miserable enough that you dread mornings (I have definitely been there!) it might be worth that trade-off.

        • South of Houston :

          Thank you so much for sharing how you feel, C2. I feel like I could have written your exact same original post about my own feelings (though I work in finance, not law) and the worst part is the guilt about seeming ungrateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had (which I’m really not), and the feeling that somehow I’ll lose who I am if I get off the ‘track’ that I’ve set up for my life. I also wonder whether I’ll ever be able to find a job/career that works for me. I wish I had some great advice for you, but unfortunately I haven’t figured things out either… however, it feels really good to know I’m not the only person feeling this way. Best of luck with finding a balance that works for you!

          Also, I’m somewhat new to this blog and I am so impressed with the kind and supportive comments that I’ve been reading here. Such a big difference from many other blogs out there where people (esp. women) are tearing apart other peoples’ choices… truly refreshing!

          • Every time I post here I have that very same thought — can this really be the same internet as the one filled with the malicious loonies on other blogs? This topic is a perfect example — I am so thankful for everyone’s thoughtful, encouraging perspectives. And I’m glad you found your way over here, South of Houston!

            Also, in one of those the-universe-is-trying-to-tell-me-something moments, amid this discussion and my ordering an armload of reevaluate-your-career books per everyone’s suggestions, our firm paid out our annual productivity bonuses today, and I got horribly, horribly shafted. I just watched a year of dedication to something I hate get undercut to an insulting degree, and I almost feel lucky, because that last thin thread just broke and I think this may be the kick in the pants I need to follow through on all these doubts. So thanks to everyone for making me feel not-crazy, and here’s hoping we can all find some peace and balance.

    • Yes–I gave up i-banking and an Ivy MBA to return to a lower paying career, and EVERYONE I know thought I was crazy, except my closest friends, who thought it made total sense. I didn’t want to be a banker or a trader. I had those jobs and was miserable. I was qualified for them, worked really hard to get them, and then when I was there, hated the jobs and nearly everyone I worked with.

      You have to know yourself. If what you are doing isn’t fulfilling, ask yourself why. Do you need more/less people contact? Do you want to help people but your job is too corporate? Do you want to reconnect with a “life” that you don’t have time for? Figure out what’s missing and what type of jobs offer what you want. Talk to people. Dare to dream. Figure out how to transition. There’s an amazing book called “The Authentic Career” by Maggie Craddock. Find it, read it.

      Another good one, just in terms of getting the creative juices flowing, is a Po Bronson book. It’s called “What Do You Want to Do with Your Life” or something similar. Anyway, good for brainstorming.

      You will find your bliss. It’s OK to walk away, but try to pay most of your student loans off first!!! :)

      • What was the “lower paying career”? I’m exploring various jobs to do with an MBA… I’m curious where you are now. Thanks!

        • You’ll probably laugh, but….sr corporate paralegal in biglaw. I like law better than numbers, have tons of deal experience and was a legal assistant prior to b-school.

          I am sure many of the attys think that being a paralegal would be awful, but it’s not if you are a senior. You get paid well (at least six figures), have junior folks to do the truly grunt work, get to leave at a decent hour most of the time, and do interesting work. I love it.

          Again, cringeworthy to many of my MBA friends, but they hate their consulting jobs. I’ve had “prestige” jobs and hated them, and I am over what other people think. I like my life. And I actually work at a very well-regarded firm (in the legal world) so it’s all really in the eye of the beholder. I still get to work on big deals, which I like, but don’t have to be an excel monkey or deal with evil banker-types too much!

    • Yes. I am about to start my third year in Biglaw, went straight to law school from college and have had no other full-time job, and now am feeling like the only job that would make me happy is something that my law degree would be completely useless for — teaching, being a fitness instructor, being a stay-at-home mom, etc.

      My former law school classmates all get it — none of them are happy in their Biglaw jobs — but my parents, who are usually very supportive, can’t seem to be there for me with this. This makes me feel like maybe I am just being a whiner who doesn’t like to work in general, but I can’t imagine that everyone feels this bad about the activity that they spend the majority of their adult life doing!

      Talking with one of my friends about this recently, I told her that I feel like I’ve been trying to “show everyone” for my whole life — and now I’ve reached this point where I just. don’t. care. anymore. I just want to be happy, and stress-free!

      My student loans and mortgage make me feel pretty trapped, but I am trying to figure out how I can make a change while still taking care of my financial responsibilities. I will definitely check out the books recommended here. It is very helpful to hear that other people have the same feelings and to see what they’re doing/have done about it!

    • C2 I think you have my life. I think often (daily) that I won’t be happy in any profession. I also come from a very middle working class family and thought I was doing everything I was supposed to do to get ahead in life and I suppose in many ways I have. But I’ve consistantly hated this profession and now its gotten to the point I fear I’ll hate any profession so I might as well stick it out (for the next 30+ years) at least I know what form of hell to expect here. And yes, I’m thankful, have a lot, better off than a lot, blah, blah, blah…I am greatful just not happy.

    • This. I was just telling my fiancee this morning how I fear if I kind another job I will still be miserable. I’ve had several thoughts lately that maybe I just wasn’t “cut out to work” or “cut out for the corporate world” or “cut out for finance.” I don’t know what it is exactly, but one part of my job I just don’t seem to be meshing with.

      Like you, I feel extremely selfish. My job is pretty cushy compared to a lot. It pays well, I get loads of vacation. It’s just that I go back and forth between being miserable to the point of crying in the bathroom and to enjoying it.

      Don’t have an answer, but am enjoying this thread and everyone’s responses.

  2. All great ideas! A book club was good for me, as was volunteering at the preschool in church on Sunday (I got to watch my own daughter with 10 others!). I think I’ll take up piano again, I miss it… Oh, and I LOVE singing in choirs. Now my mind is thinking of all the possibilities. Thanks, C!

  3. Honest question. How hell-ish are BigLaw hours your first year in? I’m dating someone who I generally have to initiate contact with, and who I see about once a month. He blames work, but I am beginning to wonder… Then again, we seem to enjoy the time we spend together. So is it that bad?

    • Anonymous :

      The hours can be bad, but if he doesn’t prioritize you now, he’s not going to later either. Time to move on.

    • Yes, it is that bad. And likely to stay that way – so consider whether that will work for you.

    • It varies by firm and by department – I’m a lawyer working for a firm that doesn’t value personal time (actually had a partner tell me he only bills half time for the hours where he’d “just be spending time with the family otherwise”), and my fiance works for a law firm that has a much more 8-5:30 schedule, with people working from home at night. As the person who always has to cancel engagements due to sudden work “emergencies” (blech), and who comes home exhausted and depressed, the best I can tell you is to talk with your guy. Ask him whether he sees this work level continuing, whether he likes this lifestyle, and where he sees his life in 5 years.

      Personally, I’m putting in the hours now so I can walk away from it and take a less-demanding position once my student loans are paid, or so I can go part-time once I have kids. It sucks now, but I’ve got a plan and that keeps me going, and my fiance (sort of) understands. See what makes your guy tick, and figure out whether you can operate on his timeline. If not, get out.

    • Yes, if they can’t manage their time well or don’t prioritize time with you, it will be bad. At BigLaw there is always something else that could be done. If the person is a gunner or gets a sense of self importance from how much they work, this likely won’t go well.

    • Thanks for the advice ladies. It definitely helped to give me some perspective, particularly since I’m not in the legal field. I think I’m going to follow Emily’s advice and feel out what his career plans are. Thanks again!

  4. Book recommendation: The Power of Full Engagement.
    http://www.amazon.com/Power-Full-Engagement-Managing-Performance/dp/0743226755/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280446971&sr=8-1

    I just finished reading it. It talks about structuring your life around rituals to ensure you’re sleeping, eating and exercising enough, and connecting to your values to make sure your life is going in the right direction. Highly recommended.

  5. Anonymous :

    I’m being “anon” for this one, because I’m calling someone out. I got into a “hate my job and go home and cry every night” funk one time because (1) my assignment sucked, and (2) I dealt daily, nay, hourly with a Nasty Hateful Coworker. For some reason he was the head man’s golden boy, so I didn’t feel I could complain. I thought, a lot, about quitting. But I decided that I liked my work, generally speaking, and it was just the details that were ruining it for me. My plan, which I executed faithfully, was to keep my head down, in terms of the co-worker, ignoring his constant sniping, put-downs, corrections and criticisms (and no, his work had NOTHING to do with mine, and in fact I was senior to him) and simply do my work without comment or interaction with him, and do my work very, very well, throwing myself into it 100%. A few years later, there was a new head man, and nasty co-worker is seen by this person for what he is, and I got a new assignment – the best one in the office. This is not the best plan for everyone or every situation, but it sure worked for me.

  6. Perfect post for today for me! My slumps come in waves and I got hit by a big one this week, not sure why. Things like making lists of what you accomplish, focusing on small goals, and making time to exercise (much as I hate to admit it) have really helped me. Problem is, sometimes I get so low I just don’t even care enough to try to feel better. One of my professors actually noticed I was down last semester and reached out to me (and I am so, so grateful). We had a conversation about losing the will to feel better and what came out of it was the realization that, hey, you might as well try — because what else are you going to do? Also, in desperate times measures like using leechblock or forcing yourself to wkr away from your computer can help cut back on the slacking; in fact when I first tried to post this, leechblock kicked me off and I had to get back to work for an hour.

    Now for a thread hijack – since I’m slacking and in a slump today ;) – I have my heart set on a cordovan leather tote/shoulder bag for interviews. I haven’t found ANY in my price range (max 200 for the perfect thing) that I like that are new but I did find the perfect one in a vintage shop for just $40!!. Problem is it has a few scuffs. Anyone have any luck refurbishing cordovan colored bags? OR, any sources for a new cordovan colored bag? BTW, LL Bean’s “cordovan” is NOT really cordovan, I am disappointed to say. Cordovan is the rich deep burgundy you sometimes see in men’s shoes. TIA and keep your heads up ladies!

  7. I admire the moms out there who have dealt with work-life balance- that’s an area I’m scared of as haven’t gotten there yet.

    I had a bad attitude because I hated my previous jobs. 3 years ago I decided (with husband) to move to cities (NY to Seattle) for quality of life reasons. At that point, I did a big career evaluation- what I thought I liked, wanted, was good at, what was reachable, etc. using existing tools including the awesome book ‘official guide to getting a job’ or something close to that. The assessment gave me clear results with a few pathways. I picked a few steps to take on (certificate degree, conferences, networking, joining nonprofit Board, serving as expert on international committee, etc.) and started doing them, while also taking a job I didn’t like in Seattle. After 2 1/2 yrs of plugging away at these things on the side of unhappy work life (but bearable and decent), I landed my dream job and am now overjoyed with my work situation. It took a lot of discipline and there were many days where I wondered if I’d ever make the transition, and didn’t feel like doing the extra stuff for free after long work days. It worked, and now I am exactly where I want to be- and on the right path going forward.

    I also felt blah in my personal life during that time. I took up a hobbie and made an amazing group of friends through it (salsa dancing, but we also hike and do lots of other activities together now). This has been an absolutely wonderful aspect of life in many ways. Physically good for me, a total contrast from work life, release, and getting to know a group of fun, diverse international people in my town. It was hard at first, because I would literally go out alone to dance events and felt pretty alone/stupid. But that only lasted a few months.

    I found that talking to husband and friends really helped on the career transition, as well as taking a little notebook to chart out ideas, note progress, etc. Not every trail leads to gold, it’s trying as many as you can handle strategically and being diligent.

    If I feel like my attitude is slipping at work, I like to take a mental step back and think about how a classic consummate professional would act. Not whiny/gossipy- in charge, not over eager- not weird, is competent and confident. Etc.

  8. The most important thing I’ve learned in trying to revamp my life, even with small changes, is that time is finite. Sounds like a given, of course, but I was slow to figure it out.

    If I want to add something – more sleep, 30 minutes of yoga, time for an extra cup of coffee, whatever … I have to remove something else to make that time. If you’re already over-scheduled, trying to add one more thing, even something you want/need, can make a bad situation worse.

  9. I got laid off from a medium sized law firm in a medium sized city that I loved in early 2009, the height of the Great Recession. In desperation I took a Biglaw job in NYC. I hated it. HATED IT. I tried to tell myself to be grateful to have a job at all given the economy, but that just made me feel more trapped than anything else. Hours, hours, hours, nasty miserable people, weekends ruined with no notice, a complete and utter disrespect for associates… I was miserable. I stopped caring about what I wore to work, even to the point where Corporette would make me sad because I couldn’t rally any interest in looking nice at work because I hated it so much. I tried to reconnect with myself by doing things I loved before the Biglaw job, like cooking and running, but I just didn’t have time for them. And recognizing that I did not having time to do the things I loved when I actively wanted to be doing them just made me more miserable.

    So… I quit! I searched for new jobs like a maniac, lying and sneaking away for interviews, and finally landed a new job at a little firm back in my favorite medium sized city. I’m currently sitting in my NYC apartment surrounded by moving boxes. I’ve already bought a bunch of new clothes (and finally dry cleaned and pressed the ones that were so neglected), spent a lot of time reading women-in-business books, and started training for a triathlon. Just leaving all that nastiness behind me has let my authentic self flood back into my body and I’m excited about my career again.

  10. It’s great to recapture an interest you have given up in order to practice law. Sometimes this takes very little time each day – I am now practicing piano again – Chopin – find my hands have “grown” (looser ligaments?) and I can play better than before.

    Another good one is to do over all or part of the house or apartment – this is exciting – you can get good results with very little money if you find good workers – entertaining is more fun after you redecorate. I am talking about color – color – color.

    Buying clothes is a quick high, but it’s a high that goes away very fast.

  11. housecounsel :

    “Buying clothes is a quick high, but it’s a high that goes away fast.” It has taken me forty years to finally figure that out.

    Great topic, informative and helpful string of responses and a fantastic, supportive group of women. I wish you were all in the offices next to mine.

    (In-house counsel and mom of three kids)

  12. Thread Hijack! Hopefully people are still reading this from yesterday.

    I was hoping you guys could give me some advice on how to deal with a co-worker that needs an attitude adjustment. This co-worker tends to say snide comments and really blunt to the point of being mean comments and in my honest opinion has no right to do so! Not that it is an excuse or anything, but co-worker isn’t even a respected person in the office at all (for quality of work), which to me, and this might sound bad, actually makes it worse. Co-worker likes to throw around insults like “yah, well you are not being productive when you worry about that so maybe you should just move on already (in a very blunt mean tone)” or “I don’t really think you know what you are talking about”…comments like that which basically say “I think you’re an idiot so I’m just going to pretend I’m better than you”.

    I’m a new associate at my firm (so is co-worker but he/she is looking for, and will likely take, another job in the near future) so I don’t want to rock the boat but at the same time I don’t want to be disrespected by someone. I know it’s not just me because co-worker does it to everyone; I even heard an intense argument over the phone with a landlord that was NOT appropriate for the office!

    Help?

    • There is probably someone who knows a better way to deal with this, or even nip it in the bud? But, whenever I have to encounter/work with nasty people, I remind myself, over and over, that it is because they are so unhappy, and usually insecure about their own value/worth, that they are driven to insult and/or be otherwise mean to other people. That their comments are not really about my lacking as a person, but their own. Maybe try to pity them or feel sorry for them. Maybe try to smile and be kind to them as often as possible. And when they make comments like that, try not to be too sensitive. What they say can only hurt you if you let it. Remember that what they say does not count. They are losers.

  13. One resource I recommend for those unhappy w/ BigLaw: Monica Parker’s book The Unhappy Lawyer”. She also has a website called leaving the law. I’ve not worked w/ her personally, but have heard her speak, read the book, & worked through the exercises. She’s gone through much of what’s been discussed here & gives a good framework for deciding what you want to do.

  14. I just started reading “4 hour work week” and while some of the suggestions are not realistic, his perspective about work is really refreshing. It’s made me think about what I want out of life and how work fits into that, instead of the other way around. Definitely read it if you get a chance and need a break from the unending hamster wheel.

  15. Biglaw Refugee :

    To the anon dating a lawyer: for most of us, the hours are bad, but not bad enough to prevent us from taking fri and sat nights off. We also usually have time to send a few texts or emails every day. If he does not contact you most days even when you don’t contact him, and you’re not seeing him most weeks (if only to veg out in front of the tv) then he probably isn’t that interested. Unless he is preparing for a trial in the next six months or working on a really big merger, the lack of contact is not due solely to his work schedule. I’d back off and if he doesn’t respond by paying more attn to you, move on.

  16. Sisters on Corporette, thank you! I really needed to know that I’m not the only one going through these work slumps. I’m currently working in state government; between layoffs, budget cuts, furloughs, pay freezes, unproductive workers with less responsibility making more than me because they’ve been there forever, and an unwillingness to look at innovative ideas to save money and therefore provide better services to the public have sent me into a major funk.

    I think it’s time to do a reassessment of what I really want to do with my life. I’m 32 and have only been in government three years, so a career change isn’t out of the question. Any suggestions on books to help a person figure out what they “really want to be when they grow up?”

  17. Tax Lawyer :

    Very elitist post. “Re-connecting” with a biglaw job? I am an attorney and CPA in Baltimore, with 17 years experience in corporate/transactional, tax and estate planning experience. I also finished in the top 5% of my class, admittedly at a non-top 14 school, which was the only one I could afford to attend in the evening program, after working 8 hours per day at a regular accounting job nearby.

    I started at a biglaw firm, but DC changed its rules and required 5 years of practice to waive in, and since I had been building a client base, the idea of me not even being able to be listed on letterhead, or signing my name to a cover letter, forced me into a small-law job in MD.

    After taking a Miami real estate 1031 exchange management position, I was feeling very optimistic. Until the bubble burst, and there were no real estate gains to be sheltered from income tax. So I moved back to Baltimore, and have been unemployed for 11 months.

    I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for any biglaw associates who don’t enjoy their workloads or the mindlessness of their assigned tasks. Let them try $15/hour document review in a small basement, with their cell phones confiscated on entry (God forbid if a family emergency occurred), no internet access, and no health insurance.

    What I really don’t understand though, is why corporate America is not hiring these excess attorneys to fill management slots. They have been proven ambitious, intelligent and hard working. I find that having a law degree on my resume actually hurts my employment prospects, rather than helps them. Why this attitude?

    If I had just graduated law school, and not spent so much time working for firms, then I would have the option of omitting any legal experience, and would likely be more attractive to employers. But I have been practicing law for too long to call myself a “consultant” for 10 years–I have to show that I was employed as an attorney, and it detracts from my ability to get hired in a non-legal capacity.

  18. Grooveless :

    I want my life back, not just my groove! A number of years ago my biglaw husband had a complete mental and physical breakdown and hasn’t worked a day since. I work 40hrs per week as Corp Counsel near to home and take all responsibility for mothering (2 girls 15 and 11), housekeeping, grocery shopping, school visits etc plus regularly entertaining clients family and friends. He plays golf most days and has taken on some journalism from home. His depression is isolating and all pervasive.
    However he is now having an affair .
    Found out yesterday…I’m in the office today. Does anyone have any ideas about how I should deal with this one…because I’m feeling pretty grooveless!

    • Grooveless – ouch, I wish I had the words to comfort you but I’m speechless.

      I don’t know you or anything about you except for the few things you just posted here but know that you are deserve more and you are worth it. Decide on your expectations and go get them – there is such a thing as being too nice and supportive.

      Good luck.

    • Oof. I’m so sorry. I think an ultimatum and some self-assessment is in order.
      First, the affair. If you’re interested in salvaging this relationship (which I can’t tell if you are – there’s a healthy amount of disdain in your post, which is understandable and you don’t have to stay with him), you tell him that you are aware of the affair, you are hurt and angry and you ask him if he’s interested in saving your marriage and never seeing the other woman (or limiting contact, if seeing her is inevitable). If his answer isn’t a resounding and immediate yes to making your marriage work, then be concerned. Most people will say what they need to in order to get out of a sticky situation, but unless he’s willing to break it off immediately with the other woman, that’s bad. (Happened to my best friend – her ex husband kept saying he was sorry and saying he’d leave the other woman, but he eventually chose the other woman.) Sometimes infidelity is just a way to feel alive again, and getting caught and confronted is all it takes to stop the other relationship altogether.

      Ask him what he wants out of your relationship and your family. And feel free to drive home that you know he’s depressed and unable to work, and that you were as supportive as you could be, but that he’s overstepped the bounds of what you will tolerate and is setting you up in his daughters’ eyes as a doormat. I’d calmly detail the sacrifices everyone has made for him, and tell him that all you expected in return was for him to make those sacrifices that he was capable of making (going to get treatment, taking meds, staying faithful, trying to be as productive/helpful as his mental health allowed).

      Now then, to you. Examine what has happened to you and to your interaction with him in the past several years. It’s very possible that you’ve done nothing wrong. Or it’s possible that in taking over the household and serving as caretaker, you’ve become more his mother, and less his wife (understandable, esp. in his condition). The cruddy thing about that is that he can come to regard you like a teenager views his mother – a person who takes care of him, goads him about doing work or his health, and acts like the “adult”, making the family work , being unfun. Has he become your third child? ny marriage is hard, and humans (despite our best intentions) seek out the things that feel new and different and make them feel alive. That’s hard in any long-term marriage, esp. one where the dynamic between partners has been so skewed. There is a lot of infidelity, and it’s not insurmountable – a lot of people just get caught in a bad situation. But I would stop parenting him – unless he needs you to do things for him (i.e., he can’t drive). Tell him that you married an adult, and that you will help him with the things that he cannot do on his own, but otherwise, he’s resourceful and can find a way to accomplish the rest. While you did just find out about the affair, you sound as if you didn’t respect him much before, and he probably resents you (and wants to act like an entitled child).

      But give serious thought to whether this is something you want to salvage. If you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best, and you need to set a good example for your girls. That isn’t necessarily staying together for the kids.

    • Oh no…I am so sorry. But frankly, you are being a bit TOO nice to him. You’re doing everything though he had the breakdown several years ago? You just need to assess what things you can or can’t live with (infidelity and abuse of any kind top my list) and then take it from there. Thankfully your kids are atleast of an age where they don’t need care/baby sitting!

  19. Texan_in_NY :

    Wow – this post really hits home.  I recently up and left a BigLaw job in Texas and moved to NYC.  I was so done with it all that I left without a fully fleshed out plan. For now I am doing part time legal work with a law school friend and focusing on pursuing my longtime pipe dream of becoming a writer (actually taking classes from Gotham as well).  The feeling of freedom from the soul suck of BigLaw is exhilarating, but I must admit that I feel a little lost now having so much free time on my hands. An extreme measure – yes – but I haven’t regretted it for one second.  

  20. I recommend having major surgery. There’s nothing like it to turn your world upside down.

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