As an unmarried woman tap dancing around 40, timelines are often a topic of conversation. People LOVE to talk timelines at me — baby timelines, marriage timelines, “when will you start acting like a grown-up”-timelines. We make timelines for marriage, kids and the white picket fence. We are acutely aware of the impact time has on our bodies, our skin, and our metabolism.
Our career trajectory has its own timeline and our days are constantly at the mercy of the clock in 6 minute increments. With all this focus on time, we have to take *time* to pause and reflect on all this rigidity.
Are the timelines we adopt in our minds really timelines or are we sacrificing our peace to arbitrary metrics?
Many of my clients speak of a mystical timeline for attorney-success. There seems to be some notion of when we are *most* marketable and when we lose that marketability. This timeline puts pressure on the decision whether to get serious about partnership or begin examining other alternatives.
Practicing law, like all professions, will certainly come with its own unique decisions to be made. Unless utilizing the ostrich approach to your career, you are undoubtedly going to have to decide whether partnership is something you want. You will be exposed to other opportunities. You will likely be courted by headhunters as your skillset is sharpened. You will have choices to make.
But these choices are yours to make. In your own time. As you see fit. PERIOD.
When we acknowledge that we have choices but then pile on arbitrary deadlines, the decision-making process becomes compressed and our emotions become heightened. Your legal career is not borne within some hourglass that tracks your marketability and viability. We are not counting embryos here. You get to decide when it’s time for a change. You get to decide what your path looks like.
There is nothing wrong with never making partner. There is nothing wrong with working at a firm for 9 years and then moving on. There is no expiration on your value and the contributions that you can make. When we buy into the notion that our marketability has an expiration date, we are selling ourselves short. We ignore all that we have learned thus far and make ourselves the victim to some arbitrary standard.
When we buy into beliefs the our choices (our FREE WILL) has an expiration date, we compound the difficulties that are inherent in life. It is hard enough to decide what we want to do with our lives, why add an arbitrary deadline to it?
What I often see are young attorneys who have concluded, after 3-5 years of practice, that they MUST make a decision about what they want long term. They visit with me in hopes that I can provide them with some clarity about the right path for them.
While there are a variety of factors that will play into the decision to leave a firm, expiration of your value should not be one of them.
I have seen senior attorneys, without any book of business, get hired to build their own practice group. I have seen tenured in-house attorneys, practicing 20+ years, return to big law practice. I have seen associates start their own firms after practicing for 1 year. There is no limit on your value and there is no deadline for determining your next step.
If you could believe that you were under no deadline make a decision, what would you do? That is the only relevant inquiry.
If you are investing in some sort of timeline–for your career, your relationship, marriage, procreation–I invite you to explore how that timeline came to be? Is it founded in “good law”? Is it serving you? Don’t let dramatics cloud your judgment and your decisions. This is your life. You get to make the timeline, no one else.
The majority of my clients are driven to find a coach because they are looking to make a change in their career–they are either seeking to show up differently in their current environment or they are looking for a dramatic overhaul. If you are looking to make some changes, schedule a free consult and let me support you in gaining clarity.