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How to Break Up With Limiting Career Mindsets and Embrace the Pivot

Sigalle Barness went to college hoping to become a writer. 

When she graduated, everyone around her was asking how she would make a living writing, so she decided to go to law school and represent writers instead. 

In 2010, she graduated from Cardozo Law in the middle of a recession

There were no intellectual property jobs. There were no jobs, period. Everyone was struggling to figure out what they needed to do. 

Sigalle took a low-paying job in landlord tenant law, despite having student loan debt. A year later, she switched to working for a firm in tax lien foreclosure. 

But she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was not what she originally set out to do. 

Up until that point, Sigalle didn’t have mentors in the law. She had friends, but not really a community. The biggest influences in her life were her parents, who had immigrated to the US and didn’t want her to have to face the financial struggles they did. Making enough money to support herself had always been priority number one in their eyes. 

But Sigalle knew that if she wanted a change in her life, she was going to have to start thinking differently. 

She had to think deeply about where her thoughts were coming from, what was informing the decisions she was making, and how she could change some of those things to find the fulfilling career she’d always wanted. 

Sigalle started to think outside the box

She looked for jobs that weren’t in the legal world, but were adjacent options. Through her own research, she discovered there were a lot of ways she could use her legal degree and follow her dream of writing. 

She started looking at various legal publications and education companies until eventually she found Lawline. 

From the beginning, Lawline was different. They were very upfront about their core values (totally uncommon during that time). They talked about growth and wanting everyone to have a voice. These were all things Sigalle was looking for, but wasn’t getting. 

At first, she got a lot of pushback when she talked about leaving the law. People said things like, “You spent so much money on law school and now you're gonna leave the practice? You’ve only been practicing for two years. What are you doing? This is a huge mistake.” 

But for the first time in a long time, she said, “No. This is what’s right for me.” 

She knew she wanted things to be less about money and more about what she needed to feel fulfilled. 

She leaned into questions like, “What is my core instinct telling me? Where along the lines did I not listen to it and how do I make sure that I learn from that now?”

Sigalle has now been at Lawline for eleven years. Her current role is the chief storyteller, where she uses her love of writing to help them be one of the top providers of online legal education and professional development training. 

What I love about Sigalle’s story is her willingness to be open-minded, ask herself some honest questions, and pivot when needed. 

Many of us come out of law school on one path, going one direction, with no one to tell us there are other options.

If you’re sitting at a job that does not feel aligned to you, here are some important questions to start asking yourself: 

What are your core values? 

What is important to you? 

Why did you start this career to begin with? 

Once you're clear on your values, then you can start taking action steps. But unless you let yourself ask those questions, you're not going to allow yourself to think outside the box. 

Your law degree is like this powerful tool that you can use to do all kinds of things. 

If you need help answering these questions, there are so many places you can go for counsel. Find a peer, mentor, or coach who understands what it’s like to be in your shoes. 

Pull on your connections. Who is doing what you want to do? Who do you know that’s working in an industry you’re interested in? What questions do you have? What other information do you need to know? Who can you go seek counsel from?  

Time is the one resource you can’t get back. Don’t spend it in a job that’s not fulfilling you or allowing you to be the person you want to be. Life is too short for that. 

I believe in you, my powerhouse friend. 


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