How To Find Work You Love - An Interview With Liz Brown

Liz Brown is an expert on alternative career options for lawyers and the author of the best-selling book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have. She is a frequent speaker and writer on career change whose advice has appeared in the Atlantic, Slate, Wall Street Journal, ABA Journal, Corporate Counsel, and New York Times. A former litigation partner, she is now a professor of business law at Bentley University, near Boston, Massachusetts.  Liz is also the former Executive Director in Boston of Golden Seeds, the largest source of angel funding for women entrepreneurs. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and has practiced law in San Francisco, London, and Boston, advising senior executives at Fortune 500 companies on legal strategies and managing multi-million dollar cases from inception to successful resolution.  

Liz Brown is an expert on alternative career options for lawyers and the author of the best-selling book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have. She is a frequent speaker and writer on career change whose advice has appeared in the Atlantic, Slate, Wall Street Journal, ABA Journal, Corporate Counsel, and New York Times. A former litigation partner, she is now a professor of business law at Bentley University, near Boston, Massachusetts.  Liz is also the former Executive Director in Boston of Golden Seeds, the largest source of angel funding for women entrepreneurs. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and has practiced law in San Francisco, London, and Boston, advising senior executives at Fortune 500 companies on legal strategies and managing multi-million dollar cases from inception to successful resolution.  

A few years ago, you left your job as partner at a leading international law firm to become a professor of business law at Bentley University. What inspired you to leave your previous role?

My career no longer fit who I was, yet it consumed most of my waking hours. I loved being a lawyer when I was young and snarky, but in my 30s I no longer wanted to fight all the time. I wanted to spend more of my time building something I could be proud of rather than tearing down my opposing counsel. That said, it was absolutely terrifying to think about leaving.

What do you think initially impacted your decision to become a lawyer? Would you say that this was an important factor in your decision making?

Initially, I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to use my persuasive skills to effect justice and advocate for people who needed it. I had no idea how most large law firms worked, never having known any lawyers and mostly having just watched them on TV. To be honest, I was also attracted to the salary because I had grown up without much money. As it turned out, the money never made me happy, but it did allow me to buy myself a lot of material consolation in my few off hours.  

You now work in a completely different sector as a professor. How did know that this was the job for you?

I tried it out by teaching one course as an adjunct professor, a position that is fairly easy to get in the United States because so many universities use them to supplement their full time teaching staff. I loved it right away. It was, and remains, incredibly thrilling to get up in front of a class and teach them how law works, in terms that anyone can understand. Most of my students are studying business, so I keep everything practical and straightforward. It allows me to use the counselling and presentation skills I developed as a lawyer, but in a much more rewarding and flexible setting.

It’s not that hard to truly love your work, if you know how to reframe the skills you like using and if you can find a way to use those skills for and around people who value them.
— Liz Brown

Did you face any challenges or difficulties when you changed your career?

Oh, so many of them. The first was a loss of identity while I was figuring out what to do next, which didn't happen immediately. More importantly, I had no idea how to change careers, which happens to a lot of lawyers. I had no role models, or guideposts as to how to make a graceful and successful transition to a career that would stick. That's why I wrote my book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have, and it's why I counsel people individually now. Life After Law is the book I wish I had had when I was changing careers.  

What would you say is the most important lesson you have learned since switching to a different role?

It's not that hard to truly love your work, if you know how to reframe the skills you like using and if you can find a way to use those skills for and around people who value them. There is a proven method to finding work you love and that method is not rocket science.

What three tips would you give to individuals that would like to change their career but do not know where to start?

First, pay attention to what you do every day, or every few days, that gives you a personal sense of satisfaction. What are you really great at, and what do you enjoy being great at?  It's often not what you are primarily paid to do. Second, start thinking about what other careers might allow you to use those skills. Just keep a list of possibilities, and people and fields you would like to learn more about. Third, let your friends and family help you make connections with people who may be able to open doors for you. As an introvert, I found networking mind-numbingly difficult to do at first, but I figured out a way to make it practically painless, and it made a world of difference to my own career transition. 

How can people find out more about you?

Please take a look at my website or my author page on Amazon, where you can grab Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have, in pretty much any format.  I always love to hear from readers!

Get some more practical tips on 'How To Find Work You Love' at our next class on Tuesday 18th July. RSVP here.