After she realized the legal profession was a not a good match for her, in fact that she'd rather be shot than spend the rest of her life practicing law, Deborah SmithDouglas walked away from that career and turned more attention to her spiritual journey. A longtime resident of Santa Fe, she has written The Praying Life and coauthored with her husband Pilgrims in the Kingdom.
To learn more about her decision to shift away from the law, listen to this interview by Judy Alexander from University of California at Irvine. Douglas talks about how one of the steps towards her current vocation came from her love of poetry; she studied Gerard Manley Hopkins and doing so lead her to the Jesuit way of praying. Balance in life was part of what drew her to the Rule of Saint Benedict and she contrasts balance with what she learned as a lawyer. Douglas also describes the importance and inspiration fiction* has been for her, and about trusting one's "uh oh feelings." Teachings come to her from unexpected places and activities in life; she tells us about wisdom that came from a homeless man at Denny's in Kansas. The many gems in this interview also include her ideas about the value of gratitude, of looking back to find life's lessons in retrospect, and of what she learned from the law that she now uses in her work.
Christy Cassisa, JD, is the co-director of University of California at San Diego's Workplace Initiatives, a part of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. Click to read a blog post (UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness blog) in which she summarizes many of the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.
Note: Don't be confused by his home page where it says "Check out our recent blogs... ." There is only one blog; the page is pointing you to posts in the plural, not blogs. Just one blog, but it is one worth checking out.
When Corwin Levi was practicing law, he would use Post-It® Notes to remind himself of what else he wanted to do in life. At some point, the reminders were so numerous that he decided to pursue a different path and he quit full-time law. Click to listen to him talking about his career decisions (video from Bloomberg Law). View his art here. Here's a blog post about a charming workshop he did with kids showing them how to use both words and pictures in their art (A Second Look). And see more of his art here; aren't the drawings he created in the margins of his law school notes wonderful?
Levi, who entered law school after completing an MFA in painting at Temple University, is the first to admit that the intersection of words and images in his own life has led him down an unorthodox career path.
Long before becoming a full-time visual artist, Levi was taking intricate, visually stunning law school notes at U.Va. Levi was awarded a solo show based in part on the artistic merit of his law school notes, though it was U.Va.’s law library that first exhibited his notes as artwork.
I have to say my law school notes were not "stunning." Yours?
Before I moved to Santa Fe, I met with many New Mexicans in the fields in which I practiced, including both law and mediation. One of the people I met with was Barbara Levy. She was a lovely person and we maintained contact until I left New Mexico. In the intervening years since I left, she (now calling herself Miryam) moved east and studied to become a rabbinic pastor!
Miryam is now back in New Mexico, Santa Fe to be exact, and working for the Jewish Family Service of New Mexico. From Abq Jew:
Miryam leads a monthly group in the art of sacred Hebrew chanting in the style of Rabbi Shefa Gold. Her personal meditation and chanting practices provide the foundation and strength for her compassionate caring for others. She loves making art - particularly collage and altered books, freestyle dancing, and visiting with the sandhill cranes that winter over in the fields along the Rio Grande corridor. Miryam will expand the chaplaincy work currently done in Santa Fe hospitals, and plans to start a Santa Fe Grief and Loss Group.
Click to read the rest. Much has changed since she and I left the Land of Enchantment to follow new paths, and recommit to some old ones, too.
FAST COMPANY: What prompted you to leave law and take a chance on something as crazy as writing books for teens?
DAYNA LORENTZ: After finishing law school at Fordham, I started working at Debevoise & Plimpton, a great international law firm doing criminal defense and product-liability litigation mostly. I did that for a couple of years and then got a clerkship in federal court. One of my co-clerks was this incredibly smart, talented guy who would get to work in the morning and read all the circuit court opinions that had just been released, the SCOTUS blogs about all the clerks working for the Supreme Court justices, and stuff like that. He had this intense passion for being a lawyer. He was in his element--you could just see that. And I remember talking about this with a friend of mine from college who was also a law clerk. She said, “You don’t need to be like that to be a lawyer.”
But I felt that if was going to be a lawyer, that’s the kind of lawyer I wanted to be. I want to be a person who’s getting up in the morning and is psyched. The law is a fantastic place for people who want to be doing that, but I realized that what I wanted to be doing was telling stories. I had been doing some writing on the side, but like many people, I had convinced myself that this wasn’t something I could do as a real job. But now I started pursuing it more seriously--going to workshops, taking classes, trying to understand what was going on in the industry.
The movie tells the story of a single father, Aaron Roberts, who destroys his life in an instant, in an accident portrayed as a culmination of stress and sadness. Roberts was driving while intoxicated and ran a red light, leading to a crash that claimed the life of the other driver. He ends up in prison and his daughter becomes a ward of the state. The prison walls become a metaphor for the confining boundaries we build in our minds and from which, the movie suggests, we must all try to escape if we want to be happier and reach our full potential. As Roberts gradually transforms his outlook inside the prison cell on the movie set, the experts tell the rest of us how to do this in a more metaphorical sense.
The post continues:
The film ... invokes a good deal of science to back up the simple, uplifting argument that we all have the power to change our lives by changing our own minds. The message is not unlike that of many life coaches, but the arguments are more subtle and interesting than the platitudes I usually hear. Here are some lessons the film extracts from the science ... .
Because I am curious, I will probably view the movie. Even if it turns out to be too New Agey for me, I certainly will enjoy the location: Old Main Prison of the New Mexico State Penitentiary . I've already blogged about the prison, and lived near it for a number of years. It's a spooky yet enchanting, even captivating, site of confinement. Seeing the prison will be worth the ticket price.
Susan Cain's forthcoming book shows some signs of being a hit. It is ranked high on Amazon before it has been released (approaching the top 100 today), and, in my little part of the world, there is a long waiting list for it at Denver Public Library.
Before I became a writer, I practiced corporate law for seven years, representing clients like JP Morgan and General Electric, and then worked as a negotiations consultant, training all kinds of people, from hedge fund managers to TV producers to college students negotiating their first salaries. My clients have included Merrill Lynch, Shearman & Sterling, One Hundred Women in Hedge Funds, and many more. I went to Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
From all this you might guess that I’m a hardcore, wonderfully self-confident, pound-the-table kind of person, when in fact I’m just the opposite. ...
I am a modern day Lawrtist™ ...you know, artists who have previously been lawyers (quite different from “artyers,” those wacky characters who start out as artists and end up as lawyers.)
I say “modern day” because really there have been so many great Lawrtists™ before me…Cezanne, Matisse, Degas, Kandinsky…just to name a few. Admittedly, very few of them actually practiced law and perhaps only attended law classes because their overbearing fathers made them. Still, it cannot be denied that there is a wisp of a Socratic thread that firmly connects me to those outstanding artists and I will take inspiration from that. Plus, I feel certain I am the first Lawrtist™ to have a blog.