Friday, 22 June 2012

Are You a Trainee Wondering if You Really Want to Qualify?

Are You a Trainee Wondering if You Really Want to Qualify?

So qualification season is drawing near and you’re faced with the question of whether to apply for an NQ position within your own firm. The atmosphere is charged as the trainees vie for various much coveted job offers and people around you are probably saying things like,

Of course you should apply, why would you put in all that work over two years to waste it by walking away?”

You’re far more likely to get a job working with a firm that knows you than one that doesn’t

The law pays such good money, people would kill to be in your position, where else are you going to find work that pays you so well?

Understandably, these sorts of comments are enough to make most wavering trainees stick it out in the law for at least a few years post-qualification; and why not? After all, the law is something you know and that you’re probably pretty good at. Even if you don’t like it, it doesn’t hurt to cash in on the NQ salary for a while and potentially buy yourself some more time, credibility and possible options for the future. On top of that who wants to look flakey/indecisive, disappoint the parents, have to significantly modify your lifestyle, or worse yet, risk leaving and one day have to come back?  There may even be a part of you that wants to prove to yourself that you can get a job with your firm, even if you decide to turn it down. After all, lawyers may be conservative but we’re still competitive creatures by nature.

Sadly, you wouldn’t be the first person to believe that you should stay in the law and you certainly won’t be the last; it’s a path well trodden in a profession that’s rife with conservatism and adverse to risk.

The truth is, it’s all too easy (and common) to rationalize that a year or two is tolerable; at the very least it saves you from making any big decisions now and won’t harm your professional reputation. The question is, how do you avoid 1-2 years turning into 3-4 years, or worse, the rest of your life? What if it was actually possible to take steps NOW to allow you to start earning money doing something what you actually WANT to do?

As I neared the end of my training contract I remember feeling in my heart of hearts that I didn’t want to qualify at the firm. In my intake, I was the sole maverick to venture into the world of legal recruiters and online job applications, hoping beyond hope that a different firm, change in culture, job abroad or bigger pay cheque would soothe my discontent. I figured that a move, even a sideways one would be better than staying where I was. It didn’t take long to learn that this was only a temporary measure for silencing the voice inside.

Whether it’s at the point of qualification or slightly later down the line, if you already know that you want to leave, then what? How do you go about the daunting task of:

·      Trying to identify what you want to do;

·      Take steps to earn a comparable salary to what you’ve been earning; and

·      Finding the best resources to allow you to do it.

The truth is that if you feel unsupported then it makes sense that you would play it safe. Who wouldn’t feel at least a little reluctant to jump a huge chasm without the reassurance of a pretty sturdy safety net? When I reached this crossroads in my life and looked around me for support, the only steps I could think to take were to speak to a careers advisor or attend entrepreneurial expos and small business fairs. I tried both and neither helped me to feel any more confident about what I wanted to do or the steps I would need to take to do it.

For me, the ultimate dream was a big one. I wanted to be able to make all the money I would ever need doing exactly what I loved. I wasn’t even entirely sure what that thing was yet, I just knew that I wanted to be fully self-supporting, independently revenue-generating and not have to rely on permission from someone else to take a day off. I also wanted the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, work when and as much as I wanted and all the while feel authentic in how I showed up in the world. No small ambition.

As things turned out, when I left the firm I trained at, I went to work at a small London office of a US firm for two years, before moving to L.A. to live and work in the international employment team of a US firm for a further two years. It was only when I had achieved my longstanding dream of practicing in the US that I realized that no amount of moving within the law would fill the void; and rock bottom swiftly followed. It was only then that I finally faced my fears and did what I needed to do to get out.

For me it took some serious soul-searching. The notion of being free from the confines of private practice was worth a fair bit on its own, but it was allure of earning as much money as I would ever need doing what I loved that was worth more than anything in the world to me. With my mind made up, I went out and hired a career transition coach.

So, what does a coach do exactly? Here in the UK, coaching is currently one of the lesser known, but fastest growing and most effective modalities for “actualising potential”. Using a combination of insightful questioning, cognitive tools and processes and real world experience, a coach will help you to do what needs to be done to achieve your greatest ambitions. A coach will help you to:

·      Identify and understand your values and what’s important to you;
·      Formulate clear unambiguous goals;
·      Move past the blocks that have kept you stuck; and
·      Co-create a realistic action plan that will take you one step at a time toward the achievement of your goals.

Be prepared that it’s a minimum 3-6 month commitment, and whilst that can seem like a big investment of time and money, it’s worth every penny to know that when you’re ready, the right coach will have your back all the way to the other side. Some coaches even offer bespoke payment schedules to allow you to build up your confidence or get some momentum going in your new venture before you pay. It’s a win-win all round.

I won’t lie, at times I thought to myself, “I can do this by myself,” and on a couple of occasions I tried. I nearly set up my own business on two occasions (one was very nearly a real big money-making prospect), but those efforts ultimately fell by the wayside.  After a few years, I came to accept that deep down, I couldn’t and didn’t want to do it alone.

Now, at my core, I can finally say that I believe in what I do and I’m proud to talk about it; I’m a coach. I help people to live the lives that they want to live and to live them confidently and abundantly. Having benefitted so richly from the coaching process I decided to pay it forwards. Now I love what I do and I do what I love. Ask yourself how many people you know can honestly say that nowadays? Now ask yourself, how much do you want to be one of those people?

To learn more about coaching options and payment schedules that are available OR for a 30min Complimentary Coaching session please contact Anna Margolis at or on 07958 270 452. 

(Live testimonials available by request)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Are You A Lawyer Who Feels Your Talents Are Wasted?

As a child growing up, I had always dreamt of being a lawyer. My parents joked that I came out of my mother’s womb asking probing questions and my childhood bookshelf was littered with John Grisham novels. I had grandiose ideas of advocating class action lawsuits in US courtrooms against morally bankrupt corporations.

I attended the top law school in London and at the age of 24 left law school and joined the top litigation firm in the UK. Whilst I could immediately feel that something didn’t sit right with me, I believed my elders who told me that I was getting the best training that I could get, and that I would be crazy not to stick it out.

After two years, it was clear to me that I didn’t belong in an environment that was predicated on sycophancy, a face-time culture and working for the big corporations (which I had come to learn was far from unique to my own firm). My soul felt claustrophobic. So I took the next obvious, unhelpful, albeit financially prudent step, and went to work for a US firm that paid me more money.

Whilst there I caught the eye of a rival and very reputable US firm and was offered the opportunity to live in Los Angeles for a couple of years working as an international lawyer. I jumped at the opportunity, thinking, “Here it is. Here’s my shot – most lawyers would literally kill for this opportunity.

Less than 6 weeks in, I was already contemplating my exit from the firm. In spite of everything that I’d achieved, life at work was abject misery. I felt like I was experiencing some kind of emotional death characterized by depression and substance abuse. My soul was crying out and it was high time to listen. The problem was, I was petrified because I had only ever known the law.

Winter of Discontent

The potential causes of disenchantment in the law are wide-ranging but the most often cited gripes invariably include: the dehumanizing hours, the despair that comes from generating piles of meaningless paperwork, the yawning gap between our ideals and the reality, the effects on one’s internal compass, the relentless obligations to clients and courts and the tedium of handling other peoples’ problems.

But if so many people are so unhappy in the law what’s stopping them from leaving and doing what they really want?

Among the factors cited in a 2009 YouGov survey for being unable to leave the profession were:
  •                The possible drop in salary – 70%
  •                The affect on the family – 37%
  •                Feeling too old to change career – 27%
  •                The cost of retraining for something else – 26%
  •                Not having the right qualifications for what they really want to do – 23%
  •                Apathy – 17%
  •                The area they want to enter is too competitive – 8%

Whatever the reason given, for many, the crux of the problem is over-identification. Due to the drawn out and specialized process of becoming a lawyer, law is often not just considered a job, but an identity. To make matters worse, the psychology of the profession is inherently conservative and therefore even small changes can evoke a great deal of anxiety in people trained to closely follow the rules.

What many people do not appreciate is how difficult the actual process of disengagement from the law can be. As I discovered on my own journey, the emotions connected to saying good-bye and disconnecting from a regular income do not pass easily or quickly and confusion often reigns. What follows for many is a crisis of confidence, and possibly a period of depression caused by loss of work relationships, prestige, status, the feeling of “letting someone down” and the isolation of going through a process that feels totally out of step with the rest of the world.

Spring Awakening

Whilst it’s no great secret that firms might be best advised to look into ways to better engage their employees (ways that are increasingly being embraced very effectively in other industries) in the absence of a cultural revolution in the city, it’s up to each of us, as individuals, to choose a better life for ourselves.

However, whilst many lawyers are outwardly extremely competent and relatively financially successful, inwardly we can feel a degree of uncertainty about our own decision-making capabilities (born out of analyzing how we managed to get ourselves into such a position in the first place). Whilst we yearn to take the bold step out of the profession and into new world filled with passion, purpose and possibilities, many of us don’t know where to begin looking for the necessary reassurance, practical advice and support.

Deborah Arron (author of “Running From The Law”) offers some advice,

First, unhappy lawyers must listen to their inner voice……..the pivotal point occurs when unhappy lawyers can clearly visualize a future away from the law…….No matter how they handle the financial arrangements, it’s their vision of a more satisfying life after lawyering that keeps them motivated.“

So how does one begin to tune in to this ‘inner voice’ and go about forming a clear vision? For trained and pragmatic lawyers this sort of jargon can sound hokey at best. The answer, thankfully, is both beautifully simple and heartwarmingly effective– find yourself a trained, qualified and experienced coach.

Summer Loving

So why a coach and what does a coach really do? Well, let’s start with what coaching isn’t. Coaching isn’t consulting or counseling. A business consultant will typically use their specific knowledge and prescribe a course of action to achieve an objective. They TELL the client what needs to be done and may even do the work that is required.

In contrast, coaches work off the principle that the clients have all the answers themselves; they just need a little help identifying what they are and putting them into action. Through asking the right, often bold, questions, a good coach will identify the values that drive you, your vision of a fulfilled future and then work with you to overcome the limitations that have, up until now, stopped you from having what you want. They will co-create a detailed action plan with you, then teach you how to access and engage your energy and resources, all the while holding you accountable to your action plan to ensure that you reach your goals.

Put simply, coaches empower clients to create their own customized and personal solutions and become the drivers of their own success. Coaching does not deliver a single solution – it permanently increases the client’s own ability to repeatedly develop their own solutions.

Coaching is also not counseling. Counseling aims to heal mental and psychological issues and often examines PAST events. It usually centers on diagnosing a ‘problem’ that needs to be addressed. In contrast, coaches see opportunities, not problems, maintaining a focus on the current situation and actively developing plans for the FUTURE. Counseling focuses on helping people to live functional lives. Coaching focuses on helping functional people live extraordinary lives. 

Some typically focus areas for career transition and life purpose coaching include:
  •     Financial security;
  •   Work-life balance;
  •     Core values;
  •     Self-esteem; and
  •     Time management.

Whatever your belief, the truth is that the education, training and wisdom that lawyers have at their disposal offer an almost infinite number of employment and self-employment opportunities. A coach’s role is merely to serve as a mirror to reflect back the magnificence of the real “You”, offering support, encouragement and practical solutions every step of the way (e.g. ideas to help you transition or get established on your own) giving you everything you need to turn your dreams into your daily reality. 


It’s fair to say that the prospect of leaving the legal profession can feel much like stepping off the proverbial cliff into an abyss of uncertainty. It is so daunting that many choose inevitable suffering over facing their fears and taking the leap.  But for those who are willing to tune in and listen to their inner voice, a coach can be an invaluable tool on the personal path to freedom and joy. The question is simply ‘How ready are you to explore your true potential and bring your dreams and visions into reality?’

To learn more about coaching options that are available OR for a 30min Complimentary Coaching session please contact Anna Margolis at 07958 270 452. 

(Live testimonials available by request)