Monday, March 20, 2017

Pulling a Geographic

There’s a term that people in AA use called “pulling a geographic,” which describes the process of moving to a new place looking to escape one’s problems. It’s criticized by some because, as the saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.”

But sometimes, pulling a geographic can be just the ticket.

Take Daniel Bailey, a 2010 law school graduate who knew early on
in his career (like, the sixth week of his 1L year) that he didn’t want to be a lawyer; he wanted to be a businessman. He didn’t drop out, though. He graduated and set up his own practice for a year and a half before pulling up stakes and moving from Texas to Colorado to start his own business. He credits the move with helping him transition from lawyer to entrepreneur.

It got me thinking about my own transition out of the law. It wasn’t intentional, but a few months after quitting my firm job, my husband got a job offer that required us to move across the country and it couldn’t have come at a better time. There’s something about being in a new place surrounded by new people and a different cultural climate that opens up possibilities. Or maybe escaping the expectations of friends and loved ones is the key. At any rate, I’m not sure I could have stayed out as long as I have if we hadn’t moved to California.

Any other former lawyers or aspiring former lawyers who moved to make it happen? I’d love to hear your stories!

By the way, if you read my blog and you’d like me to keep posting, please leave a comment (even a quick “keep posting” will suffice). It’s hard to tell if anyone still reads my blog because the spambots have taken over my stats.

As always, thank you for reading!


  1. Keep posting. Also, I understand that "pulling a geographic" was helpful for Vietnam veterans who were addicted to opium; returning to the States broke it.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment! I will keep posting. :)

      I'd never heard of the Vietnam thing. It makes sense. A friend of mine is an alcoholic, but he managed to stay sober while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I'm sure there's a connection between a new environment and breaking bad habits (like practicing law). I'm going to keep my eye on Daniel Bailey to see if his bacon idea takes off or what...

      Thank you again for reading!

  2. As an attorney who has practiced (both at a law firm and in-house) for the past 15 years and is now finally accepting the fact that I have no drive or passion for this line of work, please keep posting. I want to make an exit out of the practice, but really have no idea what to do. Lots to think about and figure out.

  3. Please keep posting. I'm actually a California lawyer who is seriously considering leaving the profession and moving, so your blog and this post in particular is helpful to me.

  4. I really enjoy your blog and identify with your story. Keep posting!

  5. To anyone looking through these posts, wondering whether leaving the law can really be done, let me (briefly) share my story with you.

    I practiced as an attorney for about nine years, receiving a grand total of one raise between 2008 and 2017. It actually took me two separate jobs to fully de-couple from law (I moved from the public to the private sector before getting out entirely), and a significant amount of savings to make the jump. At first, I thought I could go into another practice area, but found the idea of spending months looking for work while dealing with billable requirements too demanding.

    Ultimately, I quit without another job lined up. It was terrifying and liberating at the same time. It took nearly six months to find a non-lawyer job, but I was fortunate enough to find work at a public agency analyzing legislation and proposed regulation. There ARE jobs out there which benefit from your experience as an attorney, but you need to keep your eyes open and your options as broad as possible.

    In the end, it took more than 190 applications and more than twenty interviews all across Northern California to land the job, but it was worth it. More than worth it. Although I don't make quite as much money (about 20 percent less), I clock in at 8 and clock out at 5. No billables. Nobody yelling at me, nobody crying over missed deadlines or syntactical errors in filed papers. No stressing over the firm's bottom line, no flogging questionable cases or settling to meet budgetary constraints.

    I fully recognize the difficulty many in this situation feel: having children, a mortgage, social expectations, et cetera. I was lucky (?) enough to be single and not a homeowner at the time I made my decision, but the stress of the unknown and the pain of watching your savings dwindle is real. It's still worth it if you really are unhappy practicing law. The world is such a large place and, in my opinion, your notion of self as 'attorney' is as ephemeral or as real as you choose. Nobody else really cares whether you're an attorney or not. Neither should anyone who truly loves you, and not the image of who they think you should be. It's not easy, and it's (mostly) not very fun, but I say again, it's worth it. My family tells me every time we meet how healthy I look, how much happier I sound. For the first time in a decade, I'm in a position where I can believe them. I've been able to re-connect with my family and, moving closer to home, can be there for them as they age and grow to need me more. This alone is worth more than any fear of 'capping my lifetime earnings.'

    Leaving the law didn't solve all of my problems. In fact, dealing with less money was more problematic on a mental than I thought it would be -- it turns out I care a lot more about how much I have when I don't have quite as much. But if you ask yourself why you care so much about having more, about having the best, you may find you don't really know, and perhaps that you don't really care. You've just managed to become a miserable person wearing a nice suit.

    You can take or leave what this anonymous commentator has to say, but know that I've been there and done that, and wish you the serenity I know you deserve, whether in the law, beside it, or out entirely.