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The Path Not Intended

by Carolyn Elefant on October 26, 2008 · 4 comments

in Encouragement, Finding Your Passion

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One thing that you probably don’t know about me is that when it comes to driving, I’m hopelessly and completely directionally impaired.  On foot or bike, I can navigate easily virtually anywhere under the sun, but somehow, finding my way to a new location while driving at high speeds and trying to avoid an accident utterly confounds me.  These days, Mapquest and GPS make navigating a little bit easier, but even so, they’re not fool proof as I learned last week.  While driving from the TF Green Airport to Roger Williams Law School in Bristol Road Island, I encountered road construction that distracted me from my designated exit.  Since I was in a hurry, I had no choice but to continue on and put my faith entirely in the GPS.

But as I berated myself from my carelessness, I  noticed that the road where I’d landed wasn’t all that bad.  In fact, with its panoramic views of bright blue water and blazing autumn  leaves and classic New England architecture, this winding road turned out far more relaxing and scenic than the one I’d left.  Ultimately, the road flowed almost seamlessly to the law school campus, and I arrived just a few minutes later than I’d originally anticipated.

Since my return, I realized how much our careers in the law resemble my trip.  Like me with my maps and GPS, we can plot and plan and chart a course to success.  For some, that plan entails moving seamlessly from top tier law school to biglaw, while for others, it may involve opening a practice the day the bar results arrive in the mail.  Yet bumps in the road – a layoff, inability to find clients in a coveted practice area, or doubts about our talent – throw us of course and leave us searching for a new plan.  Instead of panicking and desperately trying to stick to the script, why not take a few steps down a new road?  Perhaps that means taking a CLE on a practice area that  you never before considered or accepting a referral in a matter that sounds intriguing but that you’ve never handled before.  Perhaps it even means exploring opportunities like starting a firm (if you’ve just been downsized) or taking a look at joining up with other lawyers at a firm, if you’ve been exclusively solo.  Because at the end of the day you’ll find that no matter what path you take, you’ll discover you’ve arrived, and that you’ve enjoyed the journey more than you ever imagined.

For more on this theme, you can read one of my favorite pieces, The Accidental Practice, about how “The most wild and amazing successes of a solo’s career often come by sheer accident.”

  • http://www.probablecause.us Rick Horowitz

    Beautifully written. I couldn’t help but worry, though, over the image it evoked of driving my own practice along a cliff overlooking the ocean….
    My experience, by the way, was opening my office BEFORE the day the bar results arrived in the mail.
    Chutzpah? Nope. Fear of starving. ;)

  • http://www.probablecause.us Rick Horowitz

    Beautifully written. I couldn’t help but worry, though, over the image it evoked of driving my own practice along a cliff overlooking the ocean….
    My experience, by the way, was opening my office BEFORE the day the bar results arrived in the mail.
    Chutzpah? Nope. Fear of starving. ;)

  • Devin Dingler

    This posting and the link to The Accidental Practice hit me right between the eyes. For some reason I always seem to need permission to try something new or take a different approach and this was it.
    I have always seen my natural curiosity and ability to find interest in just about anything as a liability (ie, “why can’t I just focus on a specialty like everybody else”) but now I’m actually excited about finding opportunities in new areas. This could be fun!
    Thanks for everything you do Carolyn. It matters.

  • Devin Dingler

    This posting and the link to The Accidental Practice hit me right between the eyes. For some reason I always seem to need permission to try something new or take a different approach and this was it.
    I have always seen my natural curiosity and ability to find interest in just about anything as a liability (ie, “why can’t I just focus on a specialty like everybody else”) but now I’m actually excited about finding opportunities in new areas. This could be fun!
    Thanks for everything you do Carolyn. It matters.

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