As a young securities lawyer, Kim Allman often felt unfulfilled by her work.
“I felt like a lot of what I was doing was making rich people richer, which was never what I wanted in my life,” she said.
But the path out of BigLaw seemed uncertain. She didn’t know if she wanted to move to a smaller law firm, a different practice area, or a new career altogether.
“I was like, I have to make a change, I have to do something, this isn’t working for me,” Allman said. “But there’s that sunk cost. I’ve already put so much into this, why would I do something that you don’t need a law degree for?”
But Allman made the switch. She went to school for financial planning, and is now a senior director of community development banking at Capital One.
“I’m working to help low-income people and other populations who might not be represented,” she said. “I no longer have a crazy schedule, and I get to just do really cool work.”
Allman shared her story on during a Sept. 26 panel event hosted by More Than Esquires Network and moderated by Elena Deutsch, a career coach who specializes in helping women leave Big Law.
More Than Esquires Network was founded in 2016 by friends Blessed Dele-Michael, a compliance consultant, and Nneka Norville, a corporate social responsibility director.
“We are lawyers who transitioned to other careers and kept meeting people who were like-minded but also in secret,” Norville explained to Bloomberg Law. “It was like a secret society. So we decided we wanted to take it out of the shadows and talk about how you do it right if you are interested in transitioning.”
Dele-Michael said the network is also a response to the changing business of law—the rise of legal technology companies, lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs, and young lawyers’ focus on quality of life.
MTEN hopes to attract attorneys “committed to attaining more from their careers through exploring professional passions beyond the practice of law,” according to their website. The network currently has approximately 1,000 members, according to Dele-Michael.
Another woman on the panel, former Orrick associate Anushila Shaw, told audience members about the steep cultural barriers she faced when she left her legal practice to become a fashion photographer.
Shaw said her parents, who both work in finance, didn’t understand her decision at first. “Becoming a financial services lawyer was not falling very far from the tree,” she said. “I have Asian parents, I’m a single child, it’s all on me.”
As an associate, Shaw spent hours watching YouTube videos about photography while doing document review. “But it never seemed like a real job that people do,” she said.
“My parents always impressed on me that art is great but it’s something you can do on the weekends,” said Shaw. “Little did I know that I wouldn’t have any weekends.”
But after a few more years, she noticed her job was taking a toll on her health. She took time off to travel, started selling photographs, and realized it could be a career.
Shaw, Allman, and the other panelists all said they valued their time in BigLaw, and none of them regret becoming lawyers first.
Shaw said many of her fellow photographers struggle with the business side of their work, but for her, it hasn’t been an issue.
“I have a small business,” said Shaw. “I had to think about what corporate structure to use, I keep accounts, I deal with contracts almost every single day, every time I create a photo I create a piece of intellectual property that has to be licensed, I deal with business development.”
The founders of MTEN said that’s the kind of story they’re hoping to share.
“When we started, people said, ‘I wish I had something like this in law school, so I knew what my other options would be with my JD degree” Dele-Michael told Bloomberg Law. “We’re here to give a platform to our members who are doing more with their JD.”