Welcome back to Thrillable Hours, my interview series about alternative jobs for lawyers.
I first met Karen during the World Domination Summit, in 2011. We sat next to each other by accident, quickly figuring out that we were both former lawyers, sarcastic, and speaking at the event. Whereas Karen was already a nationally-recognized speaker, photographer, and author, I was about to do my first ever keynote and was shaking in my boots.
Karen put her hand on my forearm and looked me in the eyes. “Jodi,” she said, “Come on. You GOT this.” I felt nothing of the sort at the time, but her confidence in my ability to get up and talk to 500 people helped me as I staggered onstage.
In the years since we met, Karen has continued to inspire people with her lyrical storytelling and incredible photos. She also published The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit, and in November her next book, Make Light: Stories of Bright Sparks, Slow Burns & Thriving Out Loud comes out. Make Light tells the stories of people who change the world through their drive to create something different.
If all of that weren’t enough, Karen also runs the award-winning site Chookooloonks, has continued to speak around the world, receiving due recognition for her work.
Karen’s vivacious spirit is a force to be reckoned with. Her answers about jobs for lawyers, leaving the law, and advice for those who want to do the same, all below.
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Alternative Jobs for Lawyers: Q&A with Karen Walrond
What made you decide to follow a less conventional path than typical law school graduates? Was there a particular moment that catalyzed the decision for you?
Honestly, I didn’t follow a less conventional path — I had a long career (15 years!) as in-house counsel in the oil & gas industry, specifically related to software. And to be honest, my time in law was priceless. Not only did I learn a lot about the substantive practice of law, it taught a lot about myself: specifically, I learned that I really love public speaking, and I really love writing. When I left my practice, I knew that whatever I did would involve a lot of both.
What do you find most fulfilling about your current job?
There are so many things that I love! I love the creativity: I love that everything I do involves a combination of communication and imagery, whether I’m writing a book or giving a keynote. And because I talk a lot about self-determination and the power of inclusivity and diversity, I love that many of my clients are lawyers, particularly leadership conferences for women attorneys. Since I’m still enamoured with the power of the legal field to change the world, I’m thrilled that I still get to be a part of that.
Do you have any advice for professionals who are interested in leaving conventional private practice in North America but concerned about what life after law looks like?
I’ve found that the beauty of having a law degree and law experiences is that it’s so broad, and that allows you to create a career for yourself that perhaps hasn’t ever been thought of before. It requires some creativity and innovative thinking sometimes, but the possibility of crafting a career that is tailored to your gifts and your skills is limitless if you have a legal background.
I think taking some time to be really introspective, and literally identifying (a) what it is you love about the legal profession, and (b) what your gifts are, and becoming really clear on both of those things are a great starting point for determining how to market what you can give to the world.
How did your legal education inform the way you see the world today? Do you still identify yourself as a lawyer?
I absolutely still identify myself as a lawyer — why wouldn’t I? The law is an honourable profession: I’d argue that almost every civil right you hold dear was won for you, in part, by a lawyer.
I worked hard for my degree and my license, and continue to work hard to keep my license active. I recently signed up to volunteer with the ACLU. I’m committed to helping lawyers — currently the most depressed, over-medicated profession in the US, by the way — take control of their careers, remember why they became lawyers in the first place, and do enough self-care that they can continue to change the world in the best ways they can.
I love being a lawyer. I just don’t practice traditional law.
What do you have to say to those who tell me lawyers can’t have fun?
I’d say they have a pretty narrow definition of what it means to be a lawyer. ;)
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