Season 1, Episode 010

In this episode of Legally Blissed Conversations, we are joined by Amy Impellizzeri, a reformed corporate litigator, former start-up executive, and award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Amy walks us through her journey from a burned-out attorney who took a sabbatical, then extended that sabbatical and started writing, and then became an award-winning author.

She is a frequently invited speaker in writing and transitioning lawyer networks. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, The Glass Hammer, Divine Caroline, ABA’s Law Practice today, and more. She is a Tall Poppy Writer and the 2016 President of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Shownotes

Website: https://www.amyimpellizzeri.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shopfunder/

Twitter: @AmyImpellizzeri

Instagram:@amyimpellizzeri

Transcript

DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases, it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Suzi: If you’re listening to legally bliss conversation, this podcast reclaims and rewrites the stories female attorneys have been told about how we should practice law for our businesses, treat our clients treat ourselves and craft our identities as female attorneys. We’ll hear inspiring stories from current and former female attorneys, the ones who question the stories they’ve been told the ones who aren’t afraid to live boldly and step into their own power. We’ll learn from women who defined success on their terms. Through light hearted and curious conversation will impact the challenges these inspiring female attorneys have already navigated so join me on this journey. You’ll be empowered and ready to rewrite a completely new story about what is possible for you. I would love to welcome Amy and Pillsbury. She is a reformed corporate litigator, a two year DC federal court clerk, a former startups exec and award winning author. After spending a decade at one of the top law firms in the country, Amy left to advocate for working women, eventually landing at a VC backed startup company hybrid her, named by Forbes women as a top website for women while writing her first novel, lemongrass hope, which was named a 2014 indiefab Book of the Year bronze winner in romance. I love that okay. Just law your romance. Her sophomore novel secrets is the world of worry dolls, was an editor’s pick in Ford reviews magazine. Her newest novel, I know how this ends has been called perfect for fans of This Is Us by book tribe. Amy’s first nonfiction book law you’re interrupted was published by the American Bar Association in May 2015, and has been featured in the atlantic.com above the law, ABC 27 and more. Amy is a top copywriter past president of the women’s fiction writers Association, and a contributor to she is fierce in women writers, women’s books, Amy’s essays and articles have appeared in the Huffington Post Writer’s Digest the glass hammer, divine Caroline de bas law practice today in skirt magazine among more. So Whoa, okay. I have to ask you. Well, first of all, welcome.

Amy: Thank you. Thank you. That was very beautiful. Listening to that laid out like that. So I very much appreciate that.

Suzi: That’s amazing. I’m so impressed. And when I heard you listen to you on podcast, a podcast in the past? It was a wake up call podcast. Yeah. Oh, yeah. It was so good. I was like, Oh, my gosh, like, I love story. And I’m very curious. Like, I would love to know, where do you get your inspiration?

Amy: So yeah, it’s it’s funny, because I, you know, I was a corporate litigator for 13 years. But I always say I was always a writer. So I was as a little girl, I was, I always was, I had a lot of diaries, I had journals lined up on my bookshelf, I was always narrating the room when I’d walk in, like I was a writer. But I also was always going to be a lawyer, I knew that about myself. And so when I started college, I was writing, I would still be filling those journals, I was taking creative writing classes. And I was also on my path to become a lawyer. And I, I actually got some advice for good or for bad. I’m not really sure how I feel about it now. But I had a friend who was already in law school, he was a couple of years older than me, and he had already gone to law school, and he came back to visit us in college. And he said, to me, Amy, you can’t do both. Like you have to pick you have to decide whether you’re a creative writer, or or a lawyer. And he said, You know, when you write, you’re not gonna be able to write in your own when you’re, if you’re a lawyer, you’re not gonna able to write in your own voice, you’re gonna be writing in your clients voices. And so you really have to pick one. And so I, you know, boxed up all my creative writing, I put everything in a box, literally, and put it away for a long time. And I went to law school, and then I and I worked in the law for many years. And I took that path of not writing in my own voice. And so all these things were happening to me over the years. I don’t know how much you know about my story, but I was. I lived in New York during 911 and then also the was a presidential plane crash on my corner two months after 911 that I survived. And so I’m these things were happening. And also, my law career was, I was working in a very big law firm, there was a lot of drama in my law career, both in the courtroom and outside of it. And I was, all of these things were happening. And I had no voice to sort of work through them express them. And certainly the plane crash was a big, pivotal moment for me. I really, I continued, I stayed, I stayed in the law. And I stayed in New York for many years after that I didn’t leave the law for many years after that, but as soon as I left the law, I left for what was supposed to be a one year sabbatical. Now over a decade ago, and when I left, I really didn’t have a clear plan, except that I was going to do a lot of things that I wanted to do. And I was going to really spend the year like exploring and I was going to write. And as soon as I stepped away from the law for like, a minute, all of the things that had been happening to me, since I last box boxed up, my writing sort of started to manifest themselves on the page, really. And so that is my long way of saying My inspiration comes from, from living. And from a long from a long time of ignoring my voice, and, and, and reclaiming it. And it’s taken me really, truly like a decade to reclaim it.

Suzi: Wow. So let’s say that you were in the position of the guy that you were talking to, yeah, that hey, you know, let’s say listen, young aspiring lawyer came up to you and said, Hey, like, I love writing. But I want to be a lawyer. What advice would you give her right now? You know, now?

Amy: Yeah. So I would say what I do say option, which is do it on the side. So if you really want to go to law school, and you really want to be a lawyer, do it, do it. Do it for the right reasons. I’m always very cautious about people who say they want to go to law school, if they don’t have a reason why. But do it go to law school, but don’t give up the writing. Don’t give up the art don’t give up whatever it is. That’s your creative outlet. Don’t give it up? For two reasons. One, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to give up a whole part of yourself. But to the law is actually people I was under this misconception for a long time I thought the law, I tell the story. I worked at Skadden in New York. And at the time, I worked at scat and for 10 years at the time, my tenure at Skadden. We were in the Conde Nast building, which is the same building that houses like Vogue offices and all the, you know, Vogue magazine conglomerate. And so those were on one side of the office at the building, and the law firm was on the other side of the building, and you would literally every morning walk in and I would do this exercise, I would stand back and watch the tide of people. And the lawyers would you could clearly visibly see them walking on one side. And the beautiful people were walking on the other side. And I and I would tell you, I would stand there every single morning and think to myself, I want to be with the beautiful people like I want to be there. They were creative, they were fun. They were enlightened. They were working hard, right? Like I’m not under any illusion of like what they were doing. But I had this idea that you had to be one of the other. And so after I left the law, I figured out that actually the law does attract so many creative people, and then doesn’t necessarily give them an outlet for their creativity. So I often tell people by having a side artistic venture, even if it doesn’t lead to a, you know, a paid gig or a self subsidizing gig, to have that creative outlet on the side will help fuel the legal career if indeed that is where you’re meant to be. So I you know, for me personally, I’m a big person for not looking back. It’s definitely I don’t have any regrets about boxing up the writing. I’m so because I found it again. So I’m so grateful that I found it again. I would have lots of regrets if I had never found it again. But But I would I do encourage people to not give it up entirely. It’s not necessary.

Suzi: So why do you think that attorney gave you that advice?

Amy: I mean, I think he was trying to be helpful. He was in law school. He wasn’t practicing yet. He was in the throes of it. He was feeling very overwhelmed. And he was giving me very specific advice. And in the context of I was I was taking this American Lit class Ask and I got to see on my Lolita paper, I did not understand Lolita in the same way, my American law professor understood Lolita, and I still don’t understand the leader in a lot of ways most people do. And, and I was like saying to him, oh my gosh, you know, I gotta see, I’m never gonna get into law school I can’t write. And he said to me, whoa, whoa, whoa, you have to give up this idea that you can do both. And so I extrapolated it into this, like, you know, big monster missive. But the truth was, he thought he was giving me good advice. He was, you know, saying like, You got to pick one. He felt very singularly focused. He was in law school. And he was not the right person. That’s the problem. He wasn’t the right person for me to be asking advice of at that time. And so internalizing the advice he gave me was potentially dangerous. But thank goodness, it all worked out.

Suzi: The advice is to be very careful about where you get your advice. Yes. Be careful. Right, like, consider your sources if someone is like struggling in the throes of their first year of law school?

Amy: Yeah, no. That’s not the right. That’s not the right source of advice.

Suzi: Yeah, you do that, right. Like you you’re in college, and you look at someone who’s in law school, and you’re like, oh, no, they’re shit, right? They know what’s going on.

Amy: And even somebody who’s new to the practice, who’s still finding their way, um, you know, is is not necessarily going to have all the, all the answers, and no one person has all the answers, right? So it’s about taking collective experience. And it’s about following your own gut too. And it’s about following your own your own path. Every we all have, I used to say I have a very untraditional, you know, unconventional path to publishing. But then I learned that everybody has their own paths of publishing, it’s all very unique. And so then I really under start to understand in a very concrete way that we all have our own universal path. Right. And you have to be more, I have to be respectful of that.

Suzi: Right? Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s a good thing to think about. Whenever your opinions differ from other people’s especially like when it comes to politics, like, you never really know what someone else’s past experience has, you know, have been the teachers that they’ve had in their life, or anything like that. So I think it’s definitely something to take into consideration. Yes,

Suzi: I’ve learned that too, with writing because my, I find that people receive, you know, books, I mean, I mostly write fiction, right. And so people receive the fiction with their own viewpoints, right. So they bring their own viewpoints, and they bring their own perspectives. And then people will have varying, you know, perspectives, or varying takes on what I’ve written on what this, you know, they’ll they’ll, they’ll sort of like project a backstory into a character I never even thought of. And it’s been a really like, an interesting lesson and empathy for me to understand how everyone brings their own perspective, to story and to storytelling. And it’s, and I tell the story, but then people interpret it and receive it in as many individual ways as there are readers. And I have found that actually, an incredibly rewarding and also challenging part of the publishing process. 

Suzi: Yeah. And that’s kind of analogous to what you were talking about a minute ago, whenever you wrote the paper on the Lolita and you got to see on it. Yeah, right. Like it kind of comes full circle. But you see that you’re like, well, maybe I should have gotten an A and that professor. I want to get that Professor a see his interpretation. 

Amy: Right. So yeah, he had a totally different experience to that point than I had. And so we brought we both brought competing interests and perspectives to that point. He was one of the one in charge of the grades.

Suzi: Have you sent him any of your published books?

Amy: That’s very funny. I have not I actually do have. I did I have kept in touch with other professors over the years, but he’s, like, get every one of your books tie? 

Suzi: pretty bow.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting. Yeah. I actually never thought of doing that until just now. 

Suzi: So thanks to you for thinking about you. I was, you know, talking about you the other day and our differences on Lolita. And I just wanted to, you know, certainly the books I’ve published, just kind of curious, like, have have you published, like, seeing your name out there or anything, but I’m just curious, you know, but I was thinking about you. So.

Amy: Yeah, it’s pretty I think about him a lot. He thinks about me, not at all, and I’m sure he’d be very interested to know how much I think about him. Yeah.

Suzi: Yeah, I have. I look back at undergrad and I have a few professors that really resonated with me and probably not a great way. Right? And I think about them a lot. It’s really funny because I feel like that that like one person in particular, I look at him and I think he had such an impact on my life trajectory. And he probably has never played this even though I exist. Like, I was one of the hundreds of students I’m sure he’s ever had, you know, if not 1000s. And so, but it’s interesting how that how that happens. But so i Okay, so you’re at Staten. So were you there all of your, your 10 years.

Amy: So no. So yes, I was there for 10 years, but I actually, so after my clerkship after my federal clerkship in DC, I then actually went to a boutique firm in New Jersey, I It’s funny, I was not going to practice in New York, I was going to stay in Philadelphia. And I’m from Pennsylvania, I was originally going to practice in Philadelphia. So I took the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bars because I was going to be in around Philadelphia. And then, as luck would have it, I ended up moving to New York. There was man involved, of course.

Suzi: I mean, it happens, the best of us.

Amy: Yeah, it does. So um, so I moved to New York and I, but I wasn’t born in New York. So I had, but I was born in New Jersey. So I was commuting out to New Jersey, I got this job with a boutique law firm out there. And it was a fabulous position. I was there for three years. And it was a litigation firm. I was in court all the time. They only hired law clerks. But it was a firm in New Jersey. And I was living in New York, and I was commuting out of New York. And so I started to get courted by Scadden. And I decided to jump ship. And I remember when I went to the hiring partners, office and my old firm, and I said, I was taking this job and scan and he said, You are going to hate it there. And I was like, Why? Why would I hated it scan. And he was like, You’re a litigator, and you are gonna hate it there. And it was funny. I mean, there were a lot of red flags, because here I was, I was interviewing scattered. But I was trying a case of my old firm. And I’d have to schedule my interviews around like depositions and trial days. And I remember the attorneys, this can be like, your, your what your main core, your main deposition, but aren’t you like a second year associate? Like I don’t understand. And I didn’t think to myself, like, wow, that’s kind of a red flag, you know. And so, I left, right. And all of a sudden, here, I was scanning, you know, the expectation was that I was going to be like, locked in a room doing document, review and document review. 

Suzi: So they had to

Amy: I was, I mean, I was too, I was too young to know what I didn’t know. So I when I took the job, I said, Oh, yeah, I would love to be part of the I was joining the mass torts litigation department. And I said, I would love it. And just FYI, one thing, I’ll do anything, but one thing I won’t do is duck. And in hindsight, was so arrogant, but um, and they were like, oh, so they didn’t assign me to a document review. They assigned me with some associates and a partner who were doing a lot of briefing, and that’s what I did. But you know, my days of being in court every week were over. And, yeah, and so I did eventually work my way up to doing expert work. And I did a lot of expert depositions. And I was part of a trial team. But you know, I wasn’t in court the way I was in the past. And, and it was intellectually challenging work. And it was interesting work. And listen, nobody was more surprised than me that I was there for 10 years. But it was, you know, it was everything. The storybooks tell you it is I mean, it was there was a lot of drama, and I was sleeping on my floor. And I always had a change of clothes in my office, and I slept into my desk, because my, my office was, the lights were motion censored and I would sleep under my desk so that I can turn the lights on in the middle of night, and I could get a couple hours of sleep. I mean, it was, it was all the things that you think it is. And the people were, they were they were all the characters and all the stereotypes of all the people and and, you know, then I started having kids, which was like, unheard of.

Suzi: Yeah, how does that go over? Like, I just want all normal human experience. I want to have a baby, right? And you’re thinking,

Amy: I hid it for a while. Like I did that? Well, I heard that I was pregnant for a while. And and then I had someone confront me. I had a partner confront me, he said, I’ve noticed you are not sure I’ve noticed you’re not using artificial sweetener in your coffee anymore. I don’t know if you’re pregnant. Yeah, I mean, this wasn’t like 1902 by the way.

Suzi: You can see my face if you’re only listening to the podcast. I can just I don’t know what to say like pick my chin up off the floor.

Amy: I made that then I made the very arguably question suitable decision to continue working after I had kids and I kept saying, I’ll figure this out. I’ll figure this out. I still wanted to work. I took long I banked all my leave, and I took long like six to seven months maternity leaves. I had three kids while I was working at SCAD. And that was more that is more outrageous than any verdict. Words fun, I promise you. And so each time I had a baby, I kept it. I kept it a secret, really. And I just kind of banked My, my, my sabbatical, my nuts, my SPAC My Leave time. And then I would tell them basically on the eve of leaving, and there was no maternity, baby tomorrow. No, there was like, there was literally no maternity pay, there was no written. Like, there was no I went, I did go to a partner on the side and negotiated a part time schedule, which was basically me being in the office for days working from home three days, it was very much like keep this on the download. Don’t let anyone know you’re doing this, I would have you know, I’d be in reviews with the partner. And he’d say, You’re doing a great job. Nobody would ever know you have kids. And you’re doing a great job. Yeah, I mean, I would have no pictures of my kids in my office. You know, the dads would be talking about going to baseball practice, whatever. I mean, if I had a kid with an earache, I would tell them that I was bleeding that i That’s why I was home. I mean, I would never, I would never say I was home with a sick head. And I tried to I tried to not be home with a sick kid. But, you know, occasionally I had to, and yeah, I mean, it was really barbaric. And, and I and I ended up leaving my my three kids were five, three, and one when I finally threw in the towel for my sabbatical again. I said, I’m gonna Yeah, they were little. And I said, I’m gonna, I’m going to take a one year sabbatical, I’m going to take a deep breath. This is things have gotten a little out of control. And my husband at the time was in. He was in his residency. Yeah, he was I had put him through medical school. And he was he was not a partner in the process, right. So he had his own thing going on. And, and he was in his residency at the time that I left, he was actually just starting his fellowship at the time I left and it just was like a good segue for, for me taking a year off to regroup. And the idea was, I’m just gonna regroup, we’ll see. We’ll see where we are at the end of this year. How can I make it work? Am I do I miss it? Can I make it work in other way? Is there some is there something else I can do with my law degree, which was something I really had never thought about? I mean, as you know, it when I was in college, I gave up everything for law school, right? That’s the only thing I was ever going to do was practice law. So but as I got away from it, I It wasn’t until I left that I started to understand what happened was, I was doing some writing, I was doing some work for the startup company that I had discovered. And like kind of I’ve met, the woman who was president of the startup company had been a former magazine editor in New York. And I was just doing like a little writing for her on the side, in addition to a lot of other projects that I was doing. And then when I started to understand and they didn’t need a lawyer, they had a venture capital firm behind them and their own legal counsel. But the creative team could not talk to the legal team. And they kept saying to me, Oh, we every time we asked the lawyers for something, they say no, can you like help us get to ask them for something and say, Yes, yeah. And so I became the translator between the liaison, right? Yeah. I was like, Oh, well, you have to because you’re asking for this. You can’t say it like this. You got to say it like this. And then you know, like, oh, I said, you then you get the same result, different words. It’s all good. And so that’s how there’s actually like other things I could do besides practicing law that are so fun. And so I did, I ended up working for that company. I ended up at the end of the year, taking a job with that company and and extending my sabbatical to a three year leave of absence.

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Amy: I was working on a book on the side, which I didn’t leave the law to write a book, but I was had this idea for a woman at a crossroads in her life questioning, like every decision she’d ever made, not surprisingly, that that would be there.

Suzi: But I told him, based upon.

Amy Impellizzeri:Right, I was telling it, it was it was, you know, not autobiographical, I was telling him the context of this like love story. And I started to think, Wait, you know, I’ll just work on this on the side, you know, as sort of a creative outlet. And eventually, after a couple of years, I decided to pursue publication, but and then I left the startup company, but it was just, you know, it was one of those very interesting, I was open to things that, and then I was, you know, I was open to things as they presented themselves I, I was able to take advantage of them. But I didn’t even really understand what was possible, until I actually left law, which is what a message I give to a lot of would be transitioning lawyers who were like, I want to leave, I want to do something else. But I have no idea what and what on earth could I do when I leave? And I always try to explain to people, first of all, think about it, like, explore it on the side. That’s a big dream of mine. But also until you leave, you don’t actually even understand the world, outside of these walls. 

Suzi: And so you know how amazing it is outside of the law?

Amy: I don’t know any, I don’t know any. I always say like there’s no transitioning lawyers always say their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner. Unless there’s one demographic that that will express some regret. And it’s always people, usually women who have left to become full time caregivers who haven’t left to be caregivers alongside somebody else who have left to be full time caregivers. And I my hypothesis that as seems to hold up is because a lot of those women have been pushed out too soon. And if you’re pushed out too soon, you will have regrets. Because you should you should leave on your own timeline.

Suzi: Yeah, as you said, your decision, like, is it your decision at that point, right. It’s like, and I didn’t leave to be a full time caregiver.

Amy: But had I but had I left to be a full time caregiver. I think I was on my timeline. Like I think I did leave on my own. I left at the time that I was ready. But if you if you don’t, if you don’t leave on your own timeline, then you then you have regrets. And so I often tell people like don’t leave, don’t run out the door. You know, just like at its worst, like, Wait, take a beat. Yeah. And and cultivate your exit strategy, because running out the door too soon will lead to regrets. 

Suzi: Right. So sure. I like that cultivating an exit strategy. So when you took your sabbatical, you weren’t necessarily cultivating an extra, an exit strategy.

Amy: Now. Now I was winging it, for sure. Yeah. So I was just of the mindset that I would spend one year doing things that I wanted to do, and I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to do. I was like, I only have a year. I don’t know what’s gonna happen at the end of this year. And I gotta make a count, right? So I didn’t read unfinished books that I didn’t love. I didn’t finish meals I didn’t love. Like, I was just like, we’re gonna only do things we love, right? Love that. I did, right. And I did a lot of advocacy work. And I worked for non I volunteered for a nonprofit, and I did some pro bono work. And I was doing writing for this startup company. And I was doing all of those things. And then and for some, like freelance writing, like nonfiction writing, and then, at the end of the year, I sort of was like, let’s see what rises to the top. And what rose to the top was the work that I was doing with the startup company, because it had legs. And it was interesting to me. And it was allowed me to continue writing, which I found, which, as I was like, reclaiming that part of me. I was discovering that that was definitely something I didn’t want to give up again.

Suzi: Hmm. So how did you tell the firm?

Amy: Well, I first I told them that I just wanted to turn it into a three year sabbatical. And, um, you know, and then I just sort of like, sent him an email saying no.

Suzi: Big deal. Yeah.

Amy: But at that point, it was just like, it was a long goodbye. It was a long goodbye. I mean, when I when I left for the sabbatical. I remember somebody’s like, I remember saying my goodbyes. And I remember a couple people saying to me, well, you’ll be back in a year. And I remember thinking to myself, I don’t know if I will, but you know, I sort of like left it open. And so yeah, so it was a long goodbye. And then by the time I said goodbye, I was ready.

Suzi: Okay, so this is this is, I love this. I love the idea of of taking a sabbatical. And I always tease that I was at a bigger firm for it wasn’t technically big law firm. But I was at a bigger firm for years. And I wanted to take a sabbatical, right, because I needed clarity. I felt so I felt like I was drowning, right, like, and this was, like, probably 2000, around 2009 2000 times after that I kept mine. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, it was after the recession, and part of me was kind of like, I guess, kind of during the recession, and part of me was like, can’t take a sabbatical. Like, I’m lucky to have a job right now. Like, I’m seeing people get their walking paper, you know, like, I’m seeing this happen every day, like, I need to stay here. So at that point, I couldn’t even like, really like for me to entertain it, it just seemed comical. But you managed to make this happen. And I want to know, like, how can other women make it happen for them? Right? Because I want them to be able to if they think that having a taking a year sabbatical would be a really good idea in terms of like getting clarity and where they are, they should have an opportunity, and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. To scan it already has something kind of in place for that, or how did that. 

Amy: So I took so they don’t except that they they had a temporary window which I’d climbed through. So what happened was during the recession, instead of other firms were laying off and scan decided as a PR move, instead of laying anyone off, they would offer this sabbatical, and you could apply for it. And you were guaranteed your job back at the end of the year. And but you had to apply for it. So I when I saw this come across my inbox, I thought this was you know, divine intervention. And I immediately applied for it. And I was immediately denied because I was told, Well, that isn’t for you. This is for the m&a attorneys who have no work, right? So all the m&a attorneys, I was a litigator litigate, litigation is impervious to economic decline, right. So we were still busy. But all the m&a attorneys were sitting around with empty inboxes. And they were nervous about their jobs. And so when the sabbatical was announced, and when it was announced that they weren’t going to do layoffs, they were gonna do the spackle. None of the m&a lawyers applied for it, because they were like, oh, okay, we’re gonna sit here and do nothing for a year. And we’ll be fine. And, and all the litigators applied for it. And so they were like, no, no, no, no, not you guys.

Amy: We met everyone else. But you know, you can’t take it. And so I did push back. And I did tell the head of my department, I said, you know, it was supposed to be open to everybody. And I really want to take this year, and so only a year. And what they ended up doing was because so many litigators applied for it, and no m&a attorneys, they ended up restructuring. And they ended up moving the m&a lawyers into litigation and giving the the litigators who are applying for the sabbatical. Yeah. And they there was this hope that people would self select out in the thick everything would read, you know, fix itself so that they wouldn’t have to actually lay off and, and I think that worked. I think it worked. So, so yes, and no, so I took advantage of something that was available to me. But I do recommend people try to negotiate, even if not a year, at least six months sabbatical. And mine was partially subsidized, but obviously it saved the firm some costs. So you have that, you know, that leverage, and that negotiation point, some time off, save the firm’s of money. And also the it was called sidebar. Plus, that’s what they call this sabbatical program. And it was a big PR thing. And so I often tell people to like, if you can get some press and get some media exposure for your firm, allowing you to explore this, you know, something else, it benefits the firm too. So those are the things that I sort of often tell people to try to use to negotiate because, yes, you can explore other things and your weekends off or your big kids fancy vacation time that you never use and never take. But the most productive time off is is trying to do like a six month one year sabbatical and and listen, in the context of a sabbatical there’s relatively low risk as long as you negotiated you know, an end date and that you’ll come back at the end of that year. Or that you have the ability to come back at the end of the year. Right it becomes a lower risk alternative for you and and I do think it gives you the freedom Um, I do think it gives you the true freedom to truly explore so yeah.

Suzi: And it’s not during maternity leave. 

Amy: Yeah, yeah, no right. Right. I was not on maternity leave. 

Suzi: Yeah. This is not attorney leave.

Amy Impellizzeri: There was no, there was no, there was no exploring exploring side gigs when I was on maternity leave Exactly. You know, show your point that, oh, it’s at a time of economic challenge. is the worst time to ask for a sabbatical? Maybe not right. Maybe it’s time to tell the firm Hey, you know, maybe you’re grappling with hiring decisions, maybe you’re grappling with laying off decisions, take a beat allows the, you know, allow, offer, you know, three to five sabbatical positions in the department or whatever, and allow for people to possibly self select out and possibly recharge, and that’s only, you know, saving the her money and then hopefully, more productive down the road.

Suzi: Yes, if you’re totally exhausted, if you’re burnt out, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or if you feel like you just need to, like get some clarity in what you want to do going forward. I think it’s so challenging to do that when you’re kind of like in that daily grind of being a lawyer and wearing that hat. I mean, because your needs, your personal needs are not necessarily first, you know, especially when you have children and you’re working in big law.

Amy: I do think that we have this, this vision of ourselves as being so utterly replaceable, indispensable when we work in law firms, and it’s the culture. It’s not unfounded. We are treated like that. In many ways. The reality is you’re not as dispensable as you think you are. Right. It costs them more to hire somebody new and onboard somebody new than it does to just bring you back after a short sabbatical.

Suzi: So remind them of that, even though they will have forgotten it. But I think this is a really good point, Amy, that you as a lawyer in your firm, you have more leverage and bargaining power than you realize. 

Amy: Yeah, I definitely did not feel that way. I felt I felt freakin lucky. Like I was like, Well, I felt like a cog right there. Back to kind of what you’re you were saying about being indispensable. I felt like a cog, but then I felt like a pretty lucky cog. Keeping the wheels going. Right. And so it’s about, well, Louisville wasn’t really impacted by the recession as heavily and as quickly, right, as New York, right. And so all the firms were kind of, yeah, yeah, we were like, the old trickle down effect. Right. But, but yeah, I mean, a lot of those big firms are scrambling our call that now. And I think now what, you know, we’re not seeing well, this is actually interesting. I’m not familiar with whether or not these firms are doing sabbaticals right now, because I know that, you know, the economy is a little. I don’t want to say it’s bad. It’s kind of kind of weird right now. Right? Like, maybe that’s the word. Yeah, it’s a little uncertain. So, you know, if you’re thinking about wanting to take a sabbatical, it does sound like, you know, it could be a good time to broach the subject with your firm. Yeah. And to really understand that you do have bargain, you have more bargaining power down a fan.

Suzi: Yes. 

Amy: You know, it’s not, it’s not the best idea to run out the run out the door with no plan B, at your worst possible moment, right? For a lot of reasons for for your own personal morale and emotional reasons. For your networking, your future networking reasons, right? You want to leave those all those those bridges intact, and those doors open. And so the sabbatical can be even a good way to sort of like do a softer goodbye, right? Leave for a little bit, come back, make sure that the relationship you know, see what’s out there, sort of start to put together strategy come back and then leave on your own terms you know, a little bit down the road with those relationships intact and and your emotional energy restored a little bit yeah, because you’re gonna need it even when you’re on a sabbatical right? 

Suzi: For sure. 

Amy: Yeah. 

Suzi: Then you’re it’s good to like leave and be in a positive mindset and making decisions from a positive mindset right rather than kind of being at your lowest point upset freaking out overwhelmed and then making decisions those are not good places to be making decisions from right.

Amy: Right. You don’t want to make decisions from a point of desperation or fear right so it’s another reason why you also want to cultivate your the financial you want to work On the identity issues and the choice issues, and you also want to cultivate the financial peace, right? So you want to save some money, you want to redefine your relationship with money, I always say to people like, there’s, you can actually live on less money than you think you can, because you are. There’s a whole category of expenses that falls away, when you leave a job, you hate this whole self soothing category, that just falls away right and have to go out to dinner every night. And it’s gonna expensive vacations, I have to buy myself expensive handbags or clothes and spa days, like there’s just a whole category of expenses that fell away that I had no idea was even spending money on. So there’s that. But you do, you have to redefine your relationship with money. Because you know, the billable hour method makes you think you’re worth a certain amount of money. And so you think if I leave the law, I have to make that much money or I have wasted something or I’m not worth it. So you have to work on all of those pieces. And then you have to have a little bit of money set aside so that you don’t have to operate from fear and desperation.

Suzi: I think it’s really interesting that you mentioned the self soothing, I have that I have two notes here specifically from another the other podcasts that you’re on, and the one is sabbatical, because it was like, I really want to talk to you about sabbatical. Because I think that that is something that’s so interesting, and I just admire you so much for doing for kind of taking that leap, right. But kind of a softly like you were Yeah, I admire you for that I want to other people to kind of consider that as an option, right? Like, if anything to plant a seed. And then the other note I have here is self soothing, because I kind of forget about that. But I do remember, you know, even at the when I was you know, at a bigger firm, kind of doing the same thing, right? It’s like, oh, God, like, you know, I need to call this therapist.

Amy: Well, not about giving up your therapist when you leave a lot. But I always say, your therapist, and don’t give up your childcare actually, when you leave a lot like that was expenses are important, but But it’s true, what you say, like you just, there’s this, there’s this notion of like, well, I am making this money, I’m going to spend it on myself, I’m gonna spend it on things that you you don’t need to do that when you’re not in a place that you hate or a place that where you’re miserable. You don’t necessarily need to, you won’t need as much. You won’t need as much, right, you won’t need as much therapy and you won’t need any retail therapy. Maybe not any. But you know, it’s so funny, because I did not realize I was in a pretty deep self soothing space. 

Suzi: Really, until I heard you talking about that. And those watch. Like, I think that I was probably doing a lot of that. And I think that I was probably spending a lot of money unnecessarily. You know, and I don’t know if it’s like a type of like, validation is like self doubt, like, I am so unhappy in this career, you know, or like, kind of my day to day that but I can go do this thing, like look like I can go do and I’m in control in this area, because I can remotely get a flight to New York tomorrow, or like, you know, that kind of stuff. So, yeah, absolutely. 

Amy: It is about regaining control. Absolutely. Because we feel so helpless. And we feel so when we’re in a we feel like we’re just heading down a path that is being decided for us, instead of us being in the driver’s seat. Yeah, we just looked for other means of control. I mean, that’s how, you know, eating disorders and substance abuse and other you know, really traumatic things started happening in in the law and other areas where people are feeling those those same emotions.

Suzi: Yeah, and where else do we see it more than any play? I mean, big. I see it so much. Yeah. So I’m curious what I want to be mindful of your time. This has been so this has been amazing. I’ve loved getting into your brain. What? What’s next for you? Next projects are already working. Are you are you writing today? Yeah, so So I know a Pennsylvania day. 

Amy: You know, actually snow days are my favorite days to write. So two big things are happening this year, which feel a little like full circle moments for me. One is that my second nonfiction book is going to be released I’m working with a co author on a book called How to leave the law and Liz Brown who is a Harvard law graduate but Bentley She now teaches business law at Bentley undergrad. She wrote a book called Life After law around the same around the time that lawyer interrupted but right before lawyer interrupted came out because she actually wrote the foreword for life for lawyer interrupted and for Last time, there weren’t a lot of people in this space talking about like successful transitions. And so we were always kind of running into each other and, and as the years have gone by, we’ve talked a lot about writing follow ups to our respective books. And then we decided to collaborate together. So we’re, we’re writing a book called How to leave the Lord’s almost, we’re heading into our editor next month, and it’s coming out. Hopefully, like later this year, we just have just had our cover actually, it’s going to be revealed soon. So I’m excited about that. Yeah. And that feels good. But the other really big full circle moment for me is that my next novel is coming out. It’s the first in a series and it’s my first true legal drama, and I never wrote legal drama before I wrote. I have one book that was sort of marketed as a legal thriller, but it has a courtroom scene in the beginning, it really is a psychological suspense novel. And so this is my true first legal drama. It’s definitely a courtroom. Drama at the at the intersection of its I, I call it the intersection of courtroom drama and psychological suspense. So it’s still suspense, which is a favorite genre for me, but, um, you know, it takes it’s definitely a courtroom book. And it’s about a former lawyer who goes back to the law, for one case, only to defend the woman accused of murdering the lawyer’s husband. And so yeah, and so there’s reasons that she takes on this defense and, and she has secrets of her own, and it’s called In her defense. And it’s the first of our legal series called The river’s edge law Club series. The idea is that it’s a fictional town. It’s, it’s, it’s a town that is supposed to be a commuter town to Manhattan. So it’s close enough to Manhattan to have all of that fun to it. But it’s a small, it’s a town that’s impersonating a small town, basically, it has a main street and has all the trappings and like visual markers of a small town, but it’s not really because it’s a commuter town to Manhattan, right. So it’s small enough that everybody should know each other’s secrets, but they really don’t. But at the center of this town is a law club. And it’s called the river’s edge law club. And it’s like a country club. Except it’s not it’s a country club for lawyers, right. And so like, other towns have, you know, they’re known for their biotech industry, or they’re known for their, their, you know, retail flagship, but this town is known for its lawyers, and it’s got this. Yeah, it’s got this law club. And that’s where all the backdoor deals happen. And all the you know, corruption gets swept under the carpet and the judges have lunch, Martini lunches there, and the women aren’t necessarily always made to feel welcome. And so the series will be each student series will feature a different unlikely heroine sort of exposing corruption and backdoor politics in this town. But it will kind of a back and forth from it’s like, kind of like a, like I said, it’s a fictional town, but it’s sort of almost meant to be like a Hudson Valley, New York town. And so it moves back and forth between River’s Edge and Manhattan. And I’m really excited about it. So in her defense is coming out this May. And you know, I used to when I would go to book clubs, or when I would go to book parties, people would say to me, why don’t you write legal fiction? You were a lawyer for so long. And I used to always say, Well, I was a corporate litigator, and like, not the sexy kind of law, right. So but as time has gone by, and I started to think more about my time in the law, and how like, the themes that I worked on, and how, and how those years sort of impacted me, it has found its way into my writing. So yeah, so on the same year, that my book, How to leave laws being published, I’m also publishing my first legal drama, which is going to be kind of, it’ll be interesting. It’ll be interesting to see if we are long. Yeah, I’m excited. So so it’s a bit in her defense is available for pre order right now. It will be out in paperback, audio and, and ebook, May 3, so yeah.

Suzi: Okay, amazing. So let me ask you this, where can people find you in addition to being on Amazon, if you just go to Amazon search for Amy and Pillsbury? You can find her you can follow her author. There’s like a little follow next to her next year name. So where else can people find you?

Amy: My website, if you go to Amy and Pallas airy.com You will, and you can sign up for my newsletter and then you’ll get alerts for when my books are coming out when the pub date hasn’t been announced yet for how to leave the law. But as I said, In her defense, the pub date is May 3, but there are also going to be advanced copies of both books available and if you sign up for the newsletter, then you’ll find out how to sign up for chances to get advanced copies of those books. 

Suzi: So that’s amazing and can’t wait to see like the TV drama that is made on in her defense like I can I can see it now. Okay, so who? Like in your book? Okay, who would play your main character?

Amy: Oh, gosh, that’s so interesting because I actually have a reviewer, a favorite book blogger of mine. And she whenever she reads the books, my book or any book, she always does like a fictional cast. So yeah, I know. So I’m always interested to see how people pass my book. I don’t know the mate. So the two characters are Ingrid Alario is the lawyer who is a former lawyer who comes back and her client is Opal Rowan and I. They’re both. They’re both very. They’re both very interesting characters to me, but also very diametrically different. And so I don’t know, I have to think about it a little bit. Actually, that’s funny. That’s something I’ve thought about who would, who would play them? Certainly not me. And we’ve the end this series, even though it’s ironically, a legal drama series is probably the least. All of my other books, I always say like before this, my first five novels said end to end were like my memoir right there. I write fiction, because I’m not brave enough to write nonfiction. But they were very personal, right. They were very personal stories. They were not autobiographical, but they were very personal. But this series, ironically, even though it’s legal job, I think, is probably the least personal, most imaginative effort of mine. So I think that’s why it’ll be there’ll be interesting to see how people receive them.

Suzi: I think that’s amazing. And I, I’m gonna go pre order your book when we go ahead. Awesome. That’s amazing. I’m so excited for you. And I will put a link to your website in the show notes. So I’m gonna wrap this up. But I want to thank you so much for being here. And I know told me at the beginning of the of our conversation that you get your inspiration from living life, so go out and play in the snow.

Amy: Yeah, yeah. And you do the same. Thank you for having me. This is wonderful. I think it’s wonderful you’re doing and I wish you all the best.

Suzi: Thank you so much for hanging out with us today on legally bliss conversations. If you love this episode, and you want to hang out with other inspiring and light gold female attorneys, be sure to join the legally bliss community at legally blessed.com And be sure to follow me on Instagram at Susie Hixon. See you next time.

The Journey from Corporate Litigator to Award-Winning Author with Amy Impellizzeri

amy impellizzeri

Mindset, Podcast