After graduating from UCLA School of Law in 1999, I practiced labor and employment law in California and Illinois, and further credentialed myself by securing my legal license in Florida. Over the course of 14 years, I worked in both large and boutique law firms practicing labor and employment litigation and counseling work for clients in nearly every industry.
A few years ago, I found myself questioning my true purpose and desire. I found the emphasis on billable hours unfulfilling and desired a career that focused on optimal client service. I found myself tired of firm politics and the representation of my position as a worker bee.
I had lost the joy I once felt in my work. I was trapped.
I knew that I had valuable education and training and that my clients appreciated my work ethic, skills and knowledge. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, though, from the daily grind that didn’t reflect who I am or my values.
Faced with reality, I began weighing the decision to walk away from a highly compensated job and the only career I had ever known. I was terrified that my law degree wouldn’t translate into any other career. My fears were exacerbated by naysayers – my family and friends – who repeatedly insisted that law skills weren’t transferrable to any other occupation.
For the first time in my memory, though, I was excited to carve out my own creative and meaningful path. I knew that I could find something better that would allow me to enjoy working with people I respected and with whom I shared a passion.
I discovered my alternative path and happily stumbled into my dream career when I met Konika Schallen, M.D., the founder of Center for Modern Aesthetic Medicine (CMA). Dr. Schallen is unlike any other aesthetic medical practitioner that I have ever known. In addition to being an exceptionally likeable, relatable and compassionate woman, she is a force to be reckoned with in the business world. Dr. Schallen is a scholar, teacher and true visionary who founded CMA to bring the latest and most effective laser applications and related devices to aesthetics of the face and body to her patients.
For all of these reasons, I jumped at the chance to join CMA as Dr. Schallen’s office manager. When Dr. Schallen presented me with this exciting opportunity, I realized that I could reframe the skills and strengths that I enjoyed using as a lawyer – establishing meaningful relationships with clients (now patients), managing and working with a team, organization, writing and editing, implementing policies and procedures, and conducting training – while simultaneously reacquainting myself with my passions for aesthetics and female entrepreneurship.
Dr. Schallen has reaffirmed my belief that I can thrive in an alternative career that capitalizes on my talents and fits my core values. Dr. Schallen has also reawakened my passion for business, beauty and aesthetics that I put aside for so many years. Dr. Schallen is living proof that pursuing your passion can be a powerful driver of success.
I know for many there is hesitation when we realize we are unfulfilled with our career. If you can push past the naysayers and the nagging social restraints, there is a moment of elation when you take the first step toward your new life.
For those that still find joy in the practice of law; who have found a way to live with (or without) the billable hour; who have taken control of their practice and become an empowered player rather than a cog, I congratulate you. You are living the career we all dreamed of. For those of you who feel trapped, know there is a life beyond the traditional practice of law. Karen Stephenson