About a week after my interview at Makers Academy I’m jogging back to the office from the gym, still sweaty despite showering. The phone rings and its an unknown number. I answer. It was Makers Academy and they offered me a place on the course.
Now I had to do some thinking…
Up until now I’d been so set on my decision to take a sabbatical from the law and learn to code, however, when faced with the actuality of being offered the thing I wanted I started to get cold feet.
Would I enjoy the course?
Would I regret leaving the law, even if temporarily?
Would I miss the lawyer salary (the answer to this was, and still is a resounding YES but I’ll work back to or beyond that salary someday!)?
Would I find the course too hard?
Would I lose interest in coding if I was doing it intensively?
… and so on.
Eventually I exhausted my soul-searching capabilities and my girlfriend’s patience. I finally handed in my notice to my boss.
Disclaimer: my girlfriend has dutifully put up with my pontificating about leaving the law and endless self-pitying about lawyering and deserves a big medal.
I’ll be leaving my Big Law job on 15 April 2016 and starting the pre-course for Makers Academy on 25 April.
Scary. Why’s it scary?
1. Law has been my life for the last 10 years
I’ve worked at my law firm for nearly 5 years. I trained there for 2 years and worked post-qualification for nearly 3 years in the firm’s banking and entertainment legal teams. It’s all I’ve ever known post-University. If you add to that the 5 years of study at university and on the LPC that totals 10 years of law, either studying or practising it.
2. Being a lawyer was my first “proper” job
Being a lawyer is also my first job (aside from my crummy student jobs like working in bars and call centres), which I surprisingly discovered had an emotional significance to me!
3. I genuinely enjoyed my job despite the stress
I’ve made many great friends, have been fortunate to work with some of the smartest and funniest people I’ve ever met and have enjoyed amazing opportunities such as secondments to Hong Kong and to a major investment bank. I genuinely miss working there (apart from the all-nighters, Blackberry and sleepless nights). I learnt an incredible amount, developed as a person and achieved my goal of working at a top flight law firm.
4. As a lawyer I’m hardwired to be doom and gloom
As a lawyer I’m hardwired to think of every worst case scenario and steer my clients away from such possibilities or design safeguards to protect them should the worst actually happen (99% of the time the worst never happens… which can make 4am negotiations with the other side’s lawyers about such stuff rather demoralising…). I can’t shake that pessimistic explanatory style of thinking that lawyers are so good at (for a great article on lawyer psychology read this).
Note: subsequent to writing this post I’ve written more about this issue. You can read my thoughts here.
5. Salary and security
Oh and let’s not forget… I’m giving up a very well paid and super secure job to be unemployed for the 5-6 months from April 2016 onwards without another job lined up, tech, legal or otherwise!
6. No mortgage, no kids
I have no mortgage and no kids. I’m 28. If I don’t take a chance now I’ll wake up aged 35 or 40 kicking myself that I didn’t take a punt on a passion while I still could.
7. In the end, it’s my life and it’s now or never
Deciding to leave was a massive decision for me – I agonised over the decision almost daily for weeks on end until I finally thought, “It’s my life” and that it’s “now or never”…
This is how I made peace with my decision:
- I’m thought out: I’ve been agonising about whether the law and/or Big Law is “for me” and whether I should, at the very least, take time out to explore whether I can find any grass the other side of the fence that is greener. Taking 5-6 months away from the law to do something else, especially something constructive like skill acquisition, can only do me a world of good whether or not I ultimately go on to work in tech.
- Objectivity: Whatever happens I’ll put some space between myself and the law, which will hopefully allow me to be objective about my next major career decision: whether to return to the law (I’m keeping an open mind as I do enjoy practising law but have had issue with the dismal work/life balance) or do something else.
- New and marketable skills: I’ll have acquired a new and highly marketable set of new skills that might lead to a new and exciting career, whether that’s exclusively in tech or in some new field, perhaps the emergent LawTech sector?
- Perspective: Even if I return to law, I will do so feeling more settled having taken some time away and tried something completely different. If the grass isn’t greener on the other side, at least I’ll know for sure! In that event, I’ll be a better lawyer for it, fully committed to my original calling.