Three years ago, I made the decision to stop working full-time as an attorney. I was a plaintiff-side employment discrimination lawyer for a progressive, trailblazing law firm. It was a small firm that advanced the rights of workers both in and outside its walls. My boss, Lindy, the firm’s founder, was a friend and mentor who encouraged my success and invested in me as an attorney and mother.
I had a lot of things going for me as a lawyer and working parent. I had support at home, support at work, and the respect of a legal community that recognized my contributions around workers’ rights.
I regularly presented at continuing legal education courses on the topics of pregnancy, disability, and lactation rights throughout Western New York. I co-chaired the Working Parents Committee for the local chapter of my State Women’s Bar Association (WBASNY). I traveled throughout the United States for additional employment rights education and training.
I was an ambitious overachiever who loved spending every spare minute working.
I worked tirelessly for my clients. Representing employees who suffered discrimination in their jobs was a real, tangible way I could help people.
My clients were regular, hardworking folks. Some had advanced degrees. Some did not. Some made six figures. Some did not. They were parents and grandparents with children’s faces on their keychains who sometimes needed to run down and feed quarters into the parking meter if a meeting ran long.
No matter how stressed life as a full-time lawyer made me, the fact that I was in someone’s life helping them reassured me.
Somewhere between 2016 and 2017 that changed.
The stress of practicing law mounted. While I loved my firm and my clients, much about legal practice left me cold. The arcane march toward an ever-elusive concept of justice contributed to my unhappiness.
While part of me loved the pomp and formality of law, another part of me grew ever frustrated with the rigidity of it. Many of my clients suffered great trauma in their jobs and having to explain that their devastation needed to check certain boxes to fit the law’s protections felt unfair at best and draconian at worst.
I loved succeeding for a client in a win or settlement agreement, but I hated the adversarial nature of the process and the effects it had on parties to a case.
Meanwhile, while my passion for the legal process faded, my outside interests grew.
It was around this time that I started freelance writing, a little at first and then a little more. I wrote about work and motherhood mostly, publishing several pieces on Scary Mommy my first year writing.
At the time, my husband was a physician in residency with a fellowship still ahead of him. We had one toddler and planned on growing our family soon. We frequently discussed my increasing frustrations with the law and my desire to be home more with our son and future children.
We came to the agreement that in the summer of 2017 I could take a career break—not a full stop on working, but enough to slow down and recalibrate.
I pitched my plan to my employer who agreed to let me change status with the firm from associate attorney to “of counsel.”
Then, in the summer of 2017, I reduced my firm status and drastically cut my hours as an attorney.
That summer, I became pregnant with twins, and that fall, while staying home full-time with my oldest child and working part-time on appellate cases, I began taking on additional work as a freelance writer.
Using my portfolio of articles published on Scary Mommy, I landed a contributing writing position with another media platform writing about career advice and workplace rights.
Around this time, I also decided to launch a blog, The Mom at Law.
Originally founded as a creative outlet sharing my life as a mother and lawyer advocating for other mothers in the workplace, The Mom at Law quickly became a global sensation.
For two years, I leaned into my experience as a workplace rights attorney and working parents advocate, publishing over 140 bylines on the topics of motherhood, career, and the workplace, and creating an international online community over 150,000 strong.
Now a mom of three, I continued taking cases on a per diem basis with my law firm. I dove further into my freelance work, gaining experience as a copywriter, content creator, and social media strategist for small and large brands alike.
In the beginning of 2020, I pivoted again, leveraging my decade of education and experience in career and workplace rights into a career and workplace strategy business.
Despite having much guilt early in my career break, I now see the incredible value in my choice. Allowing myself time away from a career where I felt burned out and frustrated allowed me to explore and gain experience in new career areas.
I see now how my alternative legal career path makes sense for me.
I am still helping people.
When I provide employment-related education, guidance, and training as a workplace consultant, I am working to prevent the harm I saw inflicted on so many of the plaintiffs I represented.
As a career coach, when I help a client strategize a new career path and believe in their ability to succeed, I am giving someone the courage to live up to their potential and break free of the barriers that have held them back—perhaps that have even kept them in a toxic job they hate.
I am still a lawyer.
I still occasionally work in an advisory capacity. I still attend continuing legal education courses both for the CLE credits and to keep abreast of changes in the law.
Although I’m not practicing law full-time right now, I still make a difference, and best of all, the work I am doing feels true to myself.
I have a flexibility and a capacity to make change that is just as powerful as the work I did as an attorney.
Only this time, there is no fight.
There is no opposing counsel actively working against my efforts for justice. The progress I am after does not lie in the hands of a judge or jury but rather in the people and workplaces I am hired to guide and educate.
For me, the work I do feels like the best of both worlds, a way to create change, inspire, and remake lives and workplaces from the ground up.
I would never have made it to this place without taking stock of my goals and trying something new.
My career break from law ultimately launched my career.
I became known globally for my career and workplace expertise. I acquired new skills in writing, marketing, and advocacy. I stepped away from the guilt, leaned into my strengths, and found my true calling—and best of all, I am now helping others find theirs, too.