January/February 2003  Volume 29, Issue 1
January/February 2003
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Editor's Page
Psst! You're in Charge
by Merrilyn Aston Tarlton

My friend Randy had tried everything. He changed his practice focus from litigation to real estate. He tried career counseling. He delved into yoga, meditation retreats and self-help books. He even cut back to working four days a week, until he realized he was working just as hard and merely taking home less money.

Randy was extraordinarily successful, if you count success in dollars. Still, he had this itch that needed scratched -and badly.

Personally, Randy is a delight. Just talking to him makes people feel smarter, taller and better looking. He laughs longer, louder and more joyfully at jokes than anyone else you can name. And people, all kinds of people, are fascinating to him-but no one more so than the person who has tossed aside lucrative convention for some unconventional life choice.

Randy used to make a pastime of interrogating these lifestyle high-wire walkers wherever he found them. "How'd you make the decision? How does your spouse feel about it? Does it work? Are you happy?" He'd quiz the city planner who gave up Christmases to build houses in the Yucatan. The executive who sold his Manhattan penthouse to finance a career guiding Alaskan fishing trips. The bank regulatory lawyer who leapt from a big firm to live on $500 a month while assembling his first gallery show. There was even Randy's favorite novel, something about a man who left on a business trip, charged up his credit cards in cash advances and was never heard from again.

Reading this on paper here, Randy seems pretty transparent, doesn't he? Even the dimmest bulb would quickly tumble to the fact that Randy wanted out. But it wasn't until a series of illnesses conspired to really get his attention that Randy put all the pieces together for himself: He didn't like his life. As he threw his depleted energy into beating a gang of stress-related maladies, a second light went on: The choice was his. He was in charge!

Randy now owns a brew pub in a small town on the coast. It's often foggy, and the clientele consists mainly of stoic regulars. Randy says it gives him time to think. What does he think about? Well, it isn't about how to fix his life … that's all I can say.

Most lawyers aren't seeking a life transition as radical as Randy's. But many do have a sense of dissatisfaction with their lives in the law-be it vague or very distinct. If you've got an itch you need to scratch, you'll find plenty of food for thought in this issue's features. It's pretty inspiring stuff.


P.S. Don't miss Burgess Allison's First Person! You didn't think he'd pass up an opportunity to dis the Bill-meister in the aftermath of the Microsoft settlement, did you?