The Seismic Shift
A Gonzaga Law School professor of mine had been a litigator, and later he became a teacher. In the brazen fashion of a 22-year-old who had no idea how offensive a question could be, I asked him after class, “How could you have ever have given up litigation just to be a teacher?”
He patiently replied, “Well, Tammy, when I was a litigator, I really, really wanted to win. As the years went by, and I became more successful, and my reputation grew, things evolved. I no longer really wanted to win; I simply did not want to lose. And there is a chasm of difference between the two.”
I just nodded politely. I had no idea what he was talking about.
I had a fire in my belly that had been stoked since I was 15 years old; I wanted to be a litigator, I wanted to be in the courtroom, and I was all about winning, all the time.
Somewhere around year 15 of practice, I began to understand what my professor meant. I had worked hard, developed a winning trial reputation, possessed a modest client base and was helping my law partner with hers, but I was dissatisfied. By no means was I “going through the motions,” but that “eye of the tiger” I had since age 22 was no longer my driving force.
My angst was not necessarily due the legal profession, the clients, or the cases – it just was what it was. I still didn’t want to lose, and I worked hard to make sure I didn’t, but I no longer had the innate, visceral desire to win.
Please, please hear my words: When your passion is quickly waning or gone, screw up the courage to do … something … else.
I didn’t find that courage for a few years. I kept telling myself that the practice of law consisted of hills and valleys, and I was just in a valley. But, my health continued to decline. My body was telling me what my conscious mind would not tell itself; the career was taking its toll, and it was time to re-tool and re-focus. By no means was it going to be easy, as I had known little else for my entire life, but it had to be done.
For my well-being, both physically and mentally, it was time.