Welcome back to Thrillable Hours, my interview series about alternative careers for lawyers. Today’s Q&A is with yoga instructor, self-care consultant and entrepreneur Kelly Newsome, recommended to me by Chris Guillebeau after he read one of the Thrillable Hours interviews. I love that I keep getting emails from people who know of others that might be a good fit for the alternative careers for lawyers series. For any of you who have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to email me at legalnomads-at-gmail.com. It’s been a pleasure to connect with such great people.
But back to another great person: Kelly. We had a short introductory Skype call and happily she agreed to participate in the series. A former attorney who first transitioned into nonprofit work and then a new field of altogether, Kelly has worn many hats with grace and a smile. Her ability to face uncertainty (even today) and remain confident and excited about the outcome is extremely inspiring.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
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Interview with Kelly Newsome
Teaching kindergarden yoga in Candidasa, Indonesia
What made you decide to leave the practice of law and become a yoga instructor? Was there a particular moment that catalyzed the decision for you?
There were so many moments for me, mostly because my process wasn’t linear. Finding my way here, to Higher Ground (pun intended), was an organic, messy process; in less than 2 years, I transitioned from attorney, to nonprofit consultant, to world traveler, to business owner. There were two flashes of brilliance, however, that totally rocked my world:
First, the beginning of my transition out of the law. It was on a Saturday. I was sitting in Central Park, in the grass, under the sun, reading a mission statement from one of my pro bono legal clients about their incredible nonprofit work in Sierra Leone. This was powerful stuff — the cause, the connection, the fire from the people involved — and I needed more of it. It was the moment that I knew something in my professional life had to change, and I had to be of service in a constant, more authentic way. I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t law at first, though, so shortly thereafter, I spent some time as a legal consultant at an incredible NGO. Later, I traveled to Asia, the Pacific and Europe.
Second, there was finding the courage to jump into something else, which I actually got from traveling. I earned my yoga teaching certification pre-travel, while I was still lawyering, and I didn’t think I’d actually use it professionally. So, the thought of starting a yoga business felt like a crazy shift. I had this immense resistance, a fear of failure that probably would’ve paralyzed me in prior years… and then I remembered my travels in Thailand. At one point, I’d been dropped off at a Mekong River port in the north of the country, and I had no idea how to get to Chiang Mai, where I was going. No map, no language, nothing. But I did it. I figured it out. I trusted my instincts and my process and my angels. That moment of that memory, the “come on, really? You made your way through Thailand,” did it for me. I filed my business paperwork the following week, knowing that whatever happened, I’d figure it out.
What do you find most fulfilling about your current job?
I have the incredible opportunity to connect with really special individuals, helping them change and create very big moments their lives. The chance to be a guide and a mirror for someone else’s magnificence and authentic growth is a priceless experience, and I access that on a regular basis.
Kelly on an elephant in Lampang, Thailand
How did your legal education inform the way you see the world today? Do you still identify yourself as a lawyer?
I do identify as a lawyer, though it does seem like a million years ago sometimes. I still maintain my bar memberships, and I’ve always got one eye open for the right part-time gig or volunteer legal clinic that might allow me to use my skill set to serve others. My legal education continues to serve me, technically, in my business matters and negotiations, but it’s my law firm education, specifically — client management, great teachers and colleagues, experience in the corporate setting — that’s helped the most. In the business development sense, being an attorney also helps differentiate me from other instructors, and creates bridges with clients because so many of them are professional women with the same work-life balance challenges I managed during that time.
What do you see for yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I plan to limit my one-on-one client work to about 1/3, and focus another 1/3 of my time to sharing yoga and wellness information with a broad group through writing and workshops. The remainder will go to something else, yet to be determined. I figure that being open and curious led me here, so it’ll probably work again and grow into something stunning. I’m very curious.
Kelly’s meditation class in Battambang, Cambodia.
What do you have to say to those who tell me lawyers can’t have fun?
That they haven’t spent any time with you or me.
Seriously, lawyers do tend to be a hardworking group, and the progression in the legal profession does require an insane commitment. But I think it’s about choices and prioritizing, and many lawyers are so career-driven that they choose work first and sacrifice the rest. It may not feel like a choice, but it always is… and sometimes it’s the easier one. When you’re on a serious career path, having fun is actually hard work. To enjoy a more balanced life while working 80+ hours a week means you’re probably canceling lunch with your friend twice before it actually happens because of a last-minute meeting, or you might not get that delicious, vital sleeping in on Sunday because you’re committed to the soccer league in the park, or you need to find and hire a private teacher to get in that awesome yoga class.
The point is this: it’s not about can’t. It’s about choice. So for those who aren’t in that world, legal workerbees might look like really dull creatures, but we’re not always. And for those in the world trying to figure out how to have a little more fun, it might seem impossible, but it’s not, ever. It might be exhausting, but it is also supremely worth it.
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Kelly Newsome owns Higher Ground Yoga, a yoga-based, boutique wellness practice for busy women in the Washington, DC metro area. Through Higher Ground, she offers an integrative, whole approach to physical and emotional well being, providing private vinyasa yoga, prenatal yoga, “birth day” assistance/doula support and self care consultations that focus on nutrition, relationships and total life management. Learn more, including her philosophies on yoga style, high heels and chocolate cake, at Higher Ground Yoga or on Twitter.