On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer®️ Podcast, we are joined by Jessica Medina, a former Big Law attorney who gave up the velvet handcuffs in favor of following her dreams. The decision was not an easy one, says the Columbia Law grad, because at the time, she also was shackled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. And, she was a single mother of twin babies.
Jessica shares with us how she made it work, and why she chose to become an Accredited Financial Counselor (hint: she wants to teach other lawyers how to free themselves from the Big Law grind and live the life of their dreams).
Jessica shares with us her journey, where it led her, and…
- The importance of finding what you love and following that path
- What she wishes she had known before she pursued a law degree
- A plan for building wealth without worrying about student loan debt
- Why your “why” is so important
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking, powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelmed so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m so excited for you to meet our guest today. So let’s get started. Attorney Jessica Medina graduated from Columbia Law School as a mom of a single mom of twins with hundreds of 1000s of dollars in student loan debt.
Because of her responsibilities and financial obligations, she thought she was shackled to a lifetime of long days and high billable hours at a DC big law firm where she worked. But then she found another path. She’s now an accredited financial counselor who helps other big law associates who want to be free of velvet handcuffs, unburdened from crushing student loan debt, and helps them move on toward a life on their own terms. So welcome to Wealthy Women Lawyer podcast. Jessica, we are so happy to have you here today to discuss this important topic that you and I are both so passionate about.
Jessica Medina: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Davina. Yes, it is a topic that I am very passionate about now, though. I wasn’t always passionate about money.
Davina: Yeah, so tell me about that. What was let’s just start with you were young, how was money discussed in your family?
Jessica: I grew up, I grew up in a pretty much immigrant household. My mother was born in the Dominican Republic. My father, it was born in New York, but he is 100% Puerto Rican. And that’s where my grandparents came from, as well. And money in our house. It was just considered rude and almost superstitious to talk about it. So we never asked any questions, I had no idea what things cost, I still don’t know what my parents made when I was a child. But I know that it was less than I’m eventually ended up making when I went into into the legal field. And that was also part of it.
I didn’t grow up in a home with a lot of college graduates with, you know, highly paid professionals. And so, you know, my track of going to college and then going to law school, and then going straight into big law was very foreign to me and to folks in my family. And so I didn’t really have a lot of points of reference along that route. I did, I kind of bumbled my way along, which resulted in some of what you covered in the intro. And you didn’t mention my $4,000 of Express credit card debt that I also racked up. Because I had no idea what I was doing.
Davina: Yeah, well, listen, I I feel you because I grew up in a household where I call I always say it was unseemly to talk about money, it still is my parents are very private, about finances. And so I relate to you in that aspect. And then, of course, when I went to college, there were credit card companies on every corner on campus, you know, willing to help you get started on your building your credit profile, by just getting their a little credit card. And before you know it when I was an undergrad, I run up all kinds of credit card debt. So I understand all about that.
And then of course, you know, so many of us understand the pain of law school loans and what that can be like. So I think a lot of a lot of attorneys can relate to where you’re coming from with this. Tell me before we dive into kind of your escape from big law, tell me first about your journey to it and your journey of becoming an attorney and, and going down this path.
Jessica: Yeah, I have. It’s such a it’s such a winding road. I remember when I was in high school, I wanted to go into musical theater. I was very interested in drama, I was in choir, I was doing all the things I was obsessed with Broadway. And that wasn’t going to pan out for me. And so in my senior year of high school, I took you know, government like most seniors have to and I became enamored with the law and becoming a lawyer. And I loved the performative aspect of it, I thought, oh, goodness, this is going to be intellectually challenging. And I’m going to get to pretend and show off in a courtroom all day long, because it sounds amazing, because I knew nothing about lawyers other than what I saw on TV.
And so I’ve been crafted my entire life around this dream. And my entire undergrad studies was basically just a stepping stone to law school. I was a poli sci major, which is basically pre law if you don’t have pre law school, and I ended up getting into Columbia. It was the best school that I got into. And because I didn’t really understand any other way to do it. I figured oh, well the rule is you go to the best school that you get into because that you know, I’m a minority. I’m a woman. I’m going to need all of these legs up in the industry because I’m not coming from you know, a lawyer legacy family.
So it was the best school I got into, which means they gave me no money. Right, that’s how it works when you your reach school, right, I was like middle of the pack for Columbia admittance, right? So no money on the table. So I just took it all out because I figured, well, this is how it works, right? You just borrow all the monies, and then you event you pay it off because you become a big fancy lawyer. And so when I was in law school, I was obsessed with, you know, revamping the criminal justice system from the inside out, I was going to be, you know, we’re going to wear the white hat, we’re going to be the compassionate prosecutor that was going to, you know, bring emotion and, you know, reasonableness to the criminal justice system.
And instead, I ended up with a mortgage size debt, I ended up a single mom of twins with that I had my 2L year. And so my trajectory seemed like, gosh, I don’t think going straight into government is gonna swing it, nope. Doesn’t seem viable. Let me take a look at those firms, again, that have been hanging out on our campus. That looks useful. Okay, I think I might be able to survive if I take this route. And that’s where I ended up going.
Davina: Right. And so you had two little they were your children were little at that time, then when you graduated from law school if you had to, in your 2L year, right.
Jessica: Yeah. So they were they were basically a year old when I graduated. I carried them across the stage at our commencement ceremony. It’s an adorable moment. Also, you know, it, this was a culmination of basically the most stressful time of my entire life.
Davina: Right, right. It’s cute in the pictures, and it’s cute for other people. But for you at the time, I’m sure that was represented, that was a really a metaphor for where you were in life. You have two babies strapped your back while you’re walking across graduating, but but a huge accomplishment for you. And so then you found, you wound up going down the big law path. How long did it take you to discover that this just wasn’t gonna work for you?
Jessica: Gosh, so, you know, I, I enjoyed my firm, my firm was great. They actually were one of the most family friendly big law firms in the nation. And so in terms of where I could have ended up, I think I ended up at the best place, you know, for what I needed out of my life. That being said, still big law, right? So really, really hard to balance everything. And, you know, I graduated in 2004. So I thought, oh, okay, fine, I’ll just go for a couple of years. And then I’ll get out and I’ll go to the government, like, I always dreamed I want to be in public service.
And then the recession hit, and nobody was going anywhere. So you know, I was a mid level, this was the golden time for us to be jumping ship and going to actually pursue the legal career that we all dreamed about. No one was going anywhere. I was just happy to have a job, because I was still supporting my family by myself. But also, that was exactly the time that I realized, oh, this is not a long term career.
For me. I distinct, I distinctly remember, and anybody who’s ever been a mid level will understand this. I distinctly remember being in charge of emotion and lemonade, and one of my litigations and it was a it was huge. This was a huge piece of evidence that we were trying to exclude. It was going to, you know, make or break, whether we’d be able to, you know, make our arguments that we wanted to make. And I was in charge of the experts. I was in charge of the drafting. I was in charge of everything. And we won. And I didn’t care.
Davina: Oh, wow.
Jessica: Right? All of the sacrifices that were required for me to accomplish that goal, leaving my kids, you know, at bringing them into the office on nights and weekends to get this work done. You know, just being away from everything in life, pulling all nighters getting all this done. I thought to myself, this should feel way better than it does. There’s something off here. I don’t think this is actually where I’m supposed to be. And that was, and that was, you know, it harken back to oh right, I wasn’t supposed to be here anyway, duh. But also. But also, it’s just hard when that is your day to day and you realize, oh, man, this this trade off is not worth it. How am I going to how am I going to maneuver myself out of this situation that I’ve created? I don’t know about you Davina, but I’m super risk averse. So I didn’t actually do anything then. It took me years.
Davina: I understand. I understand. And I think that that’s the case for a lot. A lot of us a lot of attorneys, you know, and your next step was going to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, and you had to take a big salary cut. And I can imagine that there was some fear around that knowing that you had lost these big law school loans and credit card debt. You had two babies. What compelled you to make that shift, though? What was the turning point for you? Where you just said, this is it? I don’t care how risk averse I am I’m gonna have to do this.
Jessica: Yeah, it was, you know, I think it was the culmination of now having been there for eight years, right in that place that I had never actually meant to be. But also, I think it was, I was literally sitting in my in the managing partner’s office, and we were having the discussion about whether I should put myself up for partner or not. And that conversation was the tipping point, because I had to think, okay, I’ve been here for eight years, am I going to spend the next couple of years now being a junior partner, which is pretty much the worst job in the firm. Right? And so I realized I’m going to miss my entire child, the entirety of my kids’ childhood, because they will be, you know, 11, 12, 13 they’re not gonna wanna hang out with me anymore. These were the years where I was going to make or break, you know, the relationship that I have with my kids. Gosh, I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Davina: Yeah, sounds like. But I think, what goes, what went on in your head is what goes on, in a lot of professional moms, you know, heads, right? People who are out trying to build a professional career and raise their kids. But I think you’re tapping into something that a lot of women feel right? Mothers.
Jessica: Yeah. Oh, for sure. And I feel like I had kind of gotten away with it when they were younger, because maybe they didn’t notice as much. You know, people always say they want to be around their babies, their toddlers, you know, for lack of a better term. They’re like dogs, right? You come back is like, Oh, my gosh, did you just leave? How excited to see you again? Oh, I love you so much, mommy. Right. But when they’re older, they remember and they bring it up to you at the dinner table. Right?
Davina: Right, exactly, exactly. Make you feel about this big right?
Jessica: Oh, it feels very different. And so, you know, I think the the idea that I needed to make a decision, that would basically be the decision for the next several years, right? You don’t put yourself off a partner and stay for a year. That’s not something that you do. It was going to be a commitment that, to be fair, I wasn’t willing to make at that point in my life. And I decided, you know what? No, I gotta go. Because if I don’t leave now, I’m probably never leaving. And if I don’t leave now, I’m going to regret this decision more than staying. So I made the decision. You know, I had had an offer. I had an offer from the SEC at that point. So I was kind of mulling between, do I leave for the government? Or do I stay and try to make partner? And I said, no, I gotta to jump ship. And yeah, then I took a 50% pay cut.
Davina: I bet there were some people that were like, thought you had lost your mind or something. At the big law firm.
Jessica: No, absolutely. And I think it was hard for me too, you know, I think there there is a trailblazing aspect that comes along with being you know, kind of a an associate that carries a bunch of demographic data with her right, I was a woman, I was a mom, I was a Latina, and I was a home grown associate, right. I wasn’t going to be lateraling in as a partner, I was going to show them, I was going to show everyone that you can do this. And you can do it with kids. And you can do it with being the only lawyer in your family.
You can do all of these things. And that was a lot of pressure. And I felt a lot of guilt about turning my back on being able to, you know, break through that that ceiling and break a mold for people coming after me. But at the end of the day, I needed to do what was right for me and for my family. And, you know, I hope that I hope that you know, I mentored enough associates while I was there. Right? You made your impact? Yeah. But I couldn’t I couldn’t let that be the reason that I was going to, you know, live my life a particular way.
Davina: Right. Right. Right. So I I’m sure that took a lot of courage. Tell me about life at the SEC.
Jessica: Oh, gosh, I you know, I loved my work. And my people at the SEC. If there were a perfect lawyer job in the securities arena. This had to be it. I was an enforcement. So, you know, I used to basically do enforcement work on the defense side when I was at my firm, so I just switched sides of the table also meant, that also meant that now I sent out the subpoenas, which was very different than receiving the subpoena. Right? Yeah, the testimony date, I got to run my investigation, which was a level of autonomy that I just did not get to enjoy when I was at the firm, because you just don’t get that on defense side. Right. And so, you know, in terms of work, life balance, you know, interesting cases, amazing colleagues that were so supportive.
You know, all of that was really just top notch and to be fair, you know pay at the SEC is above, you know, more more typical government pay because they’re trying to recruit people right out of the securities industry and, and all of that. So, you know, it wasn’t even like your typical government pay. And so when I wasn’t happy there, I knew there was a really big problem, right? If this isn’t, this doesn’t make me happy. There’s something off. And I think it’s the law.
Davina: Yeah. Wow. So that moment of realization, that’s a big one. Because I, I had that experience, because now I do, you know, coaching, and, and it took me a long time to process that and come to the realization that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my day, all day every day. So what was that experience like for you?
Jessica: I think it was, it was really hard because I had gone to the SEC, and I had basically achieved what I told myself back in high school I wanted to do, right. I was now the white hot, the white hat prosecutor, you know, and I was the one who got to make decisions about how we were going to do on investigations. And what was worthy of pursuit and you know, what was not you know, what didn’t muster enough to actually substantiate a claim.
And all of those things that I had always wanted to do, right, I didn’t, I didn’t enjoy it the way that I thought that I would. And when I looked around at my colleagues, I saw how much they absolutely loved it. They loved taking testimony, they loved going through all of the discovery. They loved the back and forth with opposing counsel, they love the adversarial nature of it all. And I didn’t, and it was draining. And so I was kind of it was basically I was jealous, right of other people? How can they enjoy their job, but how come I don’t? What is wrong with me? Oh, maybe I don’t want to be a lawyer. Oh, no, I’m having an existential crisis.
Davina: Oh, it’s just the worst. And so when you have this, was there something again? Was there a specific moment? Or was it just something that you just started starting to realize over time?
Jessica: No, at the SEC, it was more of a slow burn, I think, you know, I had had this and this impression that, you know, oh, if I just switched my environment, I will enjoy my life more, right? If I just had some more free time, I would enjoy the law. And I proved myself wrong. Right, I ran the experiment, I changed everything about it, it really was the best, the it’s the best opportunity. And it’s such a wonderful environment to practice. There are no downsides to it. And so if I’m not happy in that kind of environment, it’s not the environment, there’s something much more fundamental that is unfulfilling to me. And I needed to do that work and figure out what it was. And its base came down to, oh, I don’t like fighting with people. And I’m in a very adversarial profession.
Davina: Right, right, exactly.
Jessica: I had basically, I’d pinned myself into a corner where my skill set is based on fighting with people all day long. And I don’t get to use my collaborative energy. I don’t get to use my community building energy. I like being a counselor, right? I’m still a counselor, I’m just no longer a counselor at law. That was the part of my job that I loved. And I just didn’t do very much of that in my area of practice. And because I had spent now 13 years in that area of practice, it felt it felt it didn’t feel right to kind of like switch over to a more counselor type legal job. I thought, oh, I got to get out of here completely.
Davina: Yeah. So that was my next question was going to be why you made a decision just to get out there completely, as opposed to saying, you know, well, maybe I’ll go, you know, try a different area of practice where I’m not having to be so adversarial or something like that. But for you, you said, no, I just want to leave it all together. Kind of what went in your thinking, what was it? What was your thinking like about that?
Jessica: I think part of it was probably my own narrow mindedness. Right, and not being exposed to a lot of areas of law where it’s not adversarial. And so, you know, I didn’t do a lot of research into, oh, what other type of lawyer could I possibly be? First of all, I was exhausted. Right. And I think that was that was actually part of that was more motivating to me the idea of not having to do anything that I don’t absolutely want to do. And this was part of my part of my journey, and part of how I kind of ended up in the financial space. Like we were talking about earlier. I didn’t like money.
I didn’t like talking about money for most of my life. But when I was at the SEC, I was literally a financial regulator who didn’t like talking about money. I got so exposed to the industry. I realized, you know, I started to get interested in personal finance. I found the fire movement, the financial limits tenants retire early movement. And it seems like my golden ticket out of the life that I felt trapped in. And so I just started absorbing all of the all of the blogs and all of the writings and just really learning how to manage your personal finances in a way to provide you the most lifestyle freedom.
And that’s what motivated me more than anything else. So I had no idea what I wanted to do with my time, I just knew that I wanted to be able to pick how I chose my time, and I didn’t feel like the law allowed that very much. It was, you know, you basically end up in a practice area. And that’s what you do, you know, for the rest of your career. And all the clients are, are all different, but it’s similar cases are the similar type of matter. And, you know, I wasn’t, I don’t think that I spent enough time really, you know, giving law credit that there could be things that I could enjoy in it. I was like, no clean break, I just want to leave it.
Davina: Right, I think that happens a lot of times with burnout, you know, you get, we get burned out. And we just don’t even have the capacity to think through all of that. I know, for me, that was kind of where I was I just felt overworked, overwhelmed. And I didn’t know I didn’t have I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. And I didn’t there were people available to me, like, I wish I had had me now for me back then, who would have said, oh, you know, they’re here, let’s explore some other options or whatever. Right? And, but it just, for me, it was I went through kind of the same thing. And there’s a lot of just exhaustion and fatigue that come out of it. You’re just like, I just I made a mistake, I need to do something different. Right?
Jessica: When we make decisions from a point of exhaustion, they may not be the best decisions, right? Because that’s the motivating factor. It’s the exhaustion, right. And, and I see this in my clients now too, right? When you make money decisions out of exhaustion. Oh, you may not pick the same thing as you would have.
Davina: Exactly, exactly. It’s not good to make big decisions from such an emotional place. But let’s talk about you, you pursued the financial service. I mean, you were so I guess enamored or it was such a powerful force in you in your life, this fire movement, that it really got you really interested in finances enough to pursue certification and become a certified and accredited financial counselor? What, what made you choose to do that? What about it was like, wow, this is so powerful. I need to help other people with this.
Jessica: Yeah, I think that, you know, watching my own transformation from someone who really didn’t pay attention to her money for so long. I can’t even I have not gone back and looked, it would be too depressing for me to think about how much money I wasted when I was making a lot of it. But you know, when you when you make less, you get a little bit more circumspect. Right.
Davina: Right. Exactly, exactly.
Jessica: That’s a little more discerning. But that was part of it. But you know, I think at the at the SEC, we were regulating a part of the financial industry that I actually was not interested in participating in, right. These are I was investigating, you know, bad investment advisors, people who were stealing people’s retirement, you know, things like that. And that just left a very bad taste in my mouth. But that being said, when I realized the kind of work that I had been doing with my own finances, right, this is, these are personal finance fundamentals, these are the beginning steps that you need to take to begin to build wealth, right, you’ve got to get your budget in line.
You’ve got to start working on paying down debt. You have to work on creating a long term savings goal, and prioritizing all of that in a way that makes sense for you. Those steps, were not anything that, you know, we dealt with at the SEC, it’s totally different areas of financial industry. I wasn’t even really familiar with it. I thought, oh, everybody has to DIY this, right? Like, that’s the only way that you do it. Right. Everybody has to do it all by themselves. They just figure it out. And then eventually they get to talk to somebody to manage their investment.
And so when I found the accredited financial counselor program, I realized, oh my goodness, there are people that help people with this, like I could help people with the very things that I struggled with so much when I was a young professional. This is amazing. This is exactly what I want to do. Because I want to help people who are struggling in the beginning stages, right? I don’t I don’t I don’t want to help multimillionaires manage their multi million. That’s that’s not where my passion lies. I want to get you to the point where you feel like hey, maybe I couldn’t be a multimillionaire now that I got my act together. I could do this.
That’s where I want it to be. And honestly, I didn’t even know it existed. And I can’t tell you how many people say, Does an accredited financial counselor do I didn’t know so I find myself, you know, kind of trying to explain where I fit in the industry. But that’s where it is. It’s the beginning stages, it’s where I think people assume they have to do it all by themselves. And when you have some support, and you have some guidance, it just goes much faster is much less painful and is way more efficient.
Davina: Right? So tell me what you might tell an attorney who’s graduated from law school with 200,000, 250,000, you know, or more in debt. What kind of won’t be like the gold nugget that you would give them to help set them on a better path.
Jessica: So I have three things that I always want to tell, especially my folks who are going into law firms, I think, you know, the advice might be different if you’re going into public service, or if you’re going to a nonprofit or something like that. But a big one for my clientele is prioritizing law school debt above long term savings. I think there’s a lot of advice out there that is not meant for lawyers and doesn’t take into account the special situation that lawyers often find themselves in. It’s one thing to want to pay off the average American $35,000 of student loan debt.
It’s another thing to prioritize $145,000 in student loan debt and make progress on no other financial goals while you are pursuing that. So that’s something that I always talk about my clients where student loan debt fits into their overall financial picture. Because for the vast majority, it’s not your number one priority, you have other things that you might want to concentrate on first. And the second thing has to do with just paying attention to where your money’s going.
Davina: It seems obvious, but to most of us, it’s not so much, right?
Jessica: Right? Because it’s a hassle. And you know, different for better or worse, many of my clients don’t really have, you know, a spend more than they make problem, they have no idea where I make goes problem. And so managing your cash flow in a way that captures the money that you don’t need to be putting towards your present a lifestyle and putting it toward your future is so so powerful. But you can’t do that if you have no idea what’s going on. Right? We have to we have to get in there, we have to take a look.
And then the third thing, I think a lot of people consider big law to be this, you know, like soul sucking, horrible place, you just have to, you know, grin and bear it and get through it. And then maybe eventually, you’ll have something better for your life. But it doesn’t have to be a trap, right? My whole thing is, this could be the golden opportunity that opens up all of these doors for the rest of your life. If we optimize it. So let’s take full advantage of these years, let’s get the most out of it. Because whether you stay or whether you leave, you’re going to be so much better positioned to do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life, if we take advantage of this, as opposed to just bumbling our way through.
Davina: Right, right. So you’re kind of, you’re kind of going back to your former self and giving that that young lady advice. Right? And
Jessica: Oh, goodness, if I could give this speech to myself.
Davina: If we hit we could have done that. Right. But I totally agree with your first while I agree with all of it. But the first one, you know, there’s this kind of a lot of financial gurus will tell you, you know, pay off that student loan debt at breakneck speed. I think so much of that depends on you know, your age, where you are life, when you graduate from law school, and what other kinds of what other kinds of needs you have.
Because one of the things that I have seen over and over again, with paying off debt of many kinds is that with people that I’ve spoken with about it is that a lot of times people get into the cycle of paying debt, paying debt, paying debt, and then running up debt, running up debt running up debt, as they’re paying debt, you know, or after they get paid off, they go and run it back up. And so they spend a lifetime in this sort of cycle.
And don’t start early with saving accumulating assets, saving money, investing money, growing money, putting that kind of money out, you know, putting money away, because, you know, with that amount of student loan debt, you’re talking about years of paying that off. And certainly it’s an it’s important, but it depends kind of I think, on where you are in your life as to what your approach is with it. What do you think, have you do you work with people in their 30s 40s 50s? I mean, who your clients?
Jessica: So my clients really do range. You know, the, my target, my target client, my favorite clients are people who are kind of like me, who feel like they’re trapped in a big law job that they don’t absolutely love and want to get out but can’t figure out how to make them money. work. And so many of them are associates. I also do work with partners who, you know, have made partner in their firm. But now they’ve realized, oh no I don’t want to be a partner. I want to do something else.
Davina: Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Jessica: Exactly. Right, you get you win the pie eating contest, and there’s the pie. Oh, how exciting. But you know, I think all the all the points that you made Davina about being really, really careful about where you are in your career trajectory. And your long term financial trajectory, I think is really important, because for many of my clients, they have a very different income trajectory over their lifetime. Right, a lot of the folks that I work with peak early in terms of income, right, I hope is one day, they’ll be able to take a pay cut, not necessarily have that nice, steady increase in income over the course of their entire career. And so the metrics are different, the strategies are different, right?
And you have to take that into account, when you are thinking about prioritizing debt over long term savings, right? The power of compound interest in both directions, and what is going to be the best strategy for you given, you know, not only your career trajectory, but also what are the financial obligations? Are you going to be taking on? Are you going to be starting a family? Do you want to buy a house? Gosh, I hope you’re not trying to buy one now. Right? Like we’re in the middle of the craziest real estate market we’ve seen in a while.
But understanding all of those things, and taking the holistic approach to your financial picture. And just having student loan debt be one of those things. I think there’s, there’s an emotional, there’s an emotional issue that goes along, especially with student loan debt, the size that lawyers often graduate with, that I always, you know, approach with my clients tenderly, and I want to make sure that’s also part of our analysis.
But if it’s not, you know, if you don’t feel really emotionally strained and stressed out by your student loan debt, there might be other financial priorities that you want to pay attention to, before you attack that right with vigor. But that’s something that we can we can talk about. And there are, you know, there are numbers that will show you which way it makes more sense, in terms of efficiency. But you got to pull that in with your with everything else that’s going on in your life. And I think that’s what’s missing, in all the personal finance guru advice.
Davina: Right, right. Yeah. And, and you make a really interesting distinction in that about the income level, you know, with your attorneys, and you get, especially your your clientele big law attorneys. They’re getting the big salaries. And but there’s only so many years that most people could do that before. They just can’t do it anymore. And so it’s if you can catch those people at that time, and say, here’s a plan that’s going to help you make the most of the money while you’re getting it and set you up for the kind of life that you want long term, you know that there’s a path, there’s a path out of that for people who want the path out of that. Right. So I love that.
Jessica: That’s my whole mission!
Davina: Just summed up in one sentence, right? Well, two or three sentences. Good, good, good. Yeah. So that’s, yeah, that’s what because it is unique and different from most people who work and they advance in a career and they make more money as they get older. And, you know, theoretically, at least, right? And so it’s a totally different way of looking at it. Are there any stories of clients that you can share? You know, sort of how, how this has worked out for some of your clients?
Jessica: Yeah, I have, you know, I’ve been working with financial counseling clients since 2018. But I really focused in on lawyers in, you know, during the pandemic, I saw number one who I loved working with, you know, I love working with people with money, but there’s just I have a very soft spot for lawyers in my heart, I think we, we have kind of rewired our own brains. And so some people don’t like working with us, because we’ve rewired our brains so I love that I can meet them where they are. And I can actually I feel like lawyers are actually underserved in in many arenas, because professionals like they just don’t understand how lawyers think and are a little intimidated with having to work with them. So I love serving this clientele.
But I have, you know, I have examples of clients who have just signed up with me, we had one session and then they quit their job and they started their firm, because it was just it was too exciting and motivating to know that there would be a path right and there would be a soft landing. I always I sometimes put a warning, you know, you know, warning you know, engaging my services may result in immediate departure from job right. The comfort of knowing, hey, somebody has my back, and we’re gonna be able to figure this out cool, I’m out. All right, I have been, you know, on a on a ledge for so long.
But I also want to say, I also have clients, where we go through the process, you know, we do the analysis, we have the deep conversations about what’s really important to them. And we determine, you know what, you’re going to stay in big law a little while longer, because this is serving you in a particular way. And we want to complete that service. Before we make our exit. I was working with a couple, they were they were both highly paid professionals, she was a counselor at a DC firm, he was at an auditing firm, so both, you know, upper strata, right, but also living in the DC metro area. Upper strata of cost of living, and they had three beautiful children. And private school was a really big priority for them.
And I’m talking private school from, you know, elementary, all the way through college, and they wanted to be able to fund that for their children. And so when we did the analysis, I we had a heart to heart and I said, is it more important that you get to leave your big law job? Or is it more important that you get to fully fund your kids private school education. And when the job is framed in that way, it’s easier to have that job, right. It’s easier to go in every morning when you know you’re doing it because you want to put your kids through school, not because you know, you want to get your hair blown out every week.
That’s not why you’re there, you’re there. Because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to satisfy a core value of yours. And that makes going in easier. And so you know, I always tell people, I don’t only help people leave big law, I help people make the decision about what kinds of career and financial moves will best serve them and their values. And we figure out the path that’s going to give them their cake and have them eat it too. And it doesn’t look the same for every person. But as long as your values are being funded, and that part of your life, you know, is a priority. Everything is easier.
Davina: Right? Right. I understand exactly what you’re saying. And I think that’s when I’m working with my clients, who are women, law firm owners, you know, they’ve started their own firm, they’re growing their own firm and, and trying, you know, working to create the wealth for themselves that way. One of the things that the very first thing we start out with why? Why is this? What are your personal goals? Like, why is this important to you to achieve financial success? What are you looking to do with the money, right?
Because money can seem so any discussion of money can seem so sort of esoteric. Right? What like it’s because but when you attach it to what you’re trying to do with the money, you’re why you’re doing what you do. When the going gets hard. You can go back to that, why? And you could say, this is why I’m doing it. And is that and you could check in and say is that still important to me? Right? Because sometimes things change and you go, you know, you think you think well, I want to get a bigger house. And that’s my why. And you start working and putting in long hours and you’re doing whatever needs to be done.
And, and after a few years of this, you know, you don’t have your big house yet. But you check in and you start going, you know, I’ve changed and that big house really isn’t as important to me. Right? So it’s very important for people to you know, understand what their why is that they can go back to it, which sounds like a lot of what you’re talking about when people are making that choice to work to do what is required to work in a big law firm. They’re doing it because there’s something that is so important for them that they want to be able to have that resource to be able to do it.
Jessica: I think it makes the tough days, that much easier, right? Because there are always tough days. And there’s a whole lot when you’re in a big law firm. And they go ministering and row. And so yeah, you better have a really good reason for being there. Otherwise, you’re just going to be resentful, right? And you’re just going to be, it’s going to be even more stressful than it needs to be. I totally agree with you. This is an ever changing landscape. You have to check back in with yourself. Right?
I mean, I had an idea of what I wanted to do when I was in high school. You I never would have guessed that I wouldn’t be where I am now. But every every time I checked in sometimes I made a pivot and sometimes I said no, I’m exactly where I need to be. This is still good. Let’s stay on course. We’re gonna keep going this still make sense? Until it doesn’t. Right and we’re gonna change. Then we’re gonna change. But you got to do those check ins, yeah.
Davina: And just just a little caveat here too. For those. Somebody who’s listening to this who’s who is working big law and they love it. It’s okay. It’s okay. Love it. Like, I mean, you’re you’re talking to two people who look at it differently, probably, but there are people out there who, who are just kind of married to their career, and they love the work. And they don’t, they don’t mind the long hours.
And, and all of that, you know, certainly there are people who do that. And what I try to do with my clients, women law firm owners is to show that there is a way to own a law firm and not burn yourself out on it, there is a way that you can make your money and not be the one doing all the doing. So I definitely am aligned with where you are on believing that there’s more to life than that, that we can have wealth and we can have, we can feel control over and security and our financial situation and still have time to do things besides work.
Jessica: Right, right. Oh, gosh, that that autonomy and control over your time, I think is it’s it’s undervalued when people are deciding what they want to do with their lives, right, and how they want to pursue their career. But once you get a taste of it, it’s so hard to go back.
Davina: I think a lot of people during this past year have discovered that, because so many people were forced to you know, work from home. And it even though our freedom was limited in a lot of ways, because we couldn’t travel the way that we want to and everything. I think there are a lot of people who’ve this year, the pandemic and into 2021, we’re still dealing with it. It’s caused people to really reevaluate their priorities and their lives. A lot of people, you know, have you seen that to be the case?
Jessica: Oh, absolutely. I was just, I was just reaching out to my audience recently, because I, I was getting inundated with folks calling me up, you know, I do an initial console. And, you know, there’s an intake form and people have to answer questions, you know, we want to make sure that we’re going to be a good fit, and that the time is useful for both of us. And I was just getting inundated with people who had so much stress in their answers to the questions. Like we haven’t even talked yet. And they’re telling me how they have to get out of their big law job, they’re having health problems that they thought had gone away, or creeping back up.
And they’re so stressed out, and there’s, you know, everyone is spread so thin, and they’re firm. And I asked my audience that I know a lot of people you know, who are in the lawyer space, and also people who help lawyers, you know, with these types of situations, and there really has been an uptick, especially that kind of, I think it’s spring, people are realizing the world is going is opening back up. People are trying to get you back into the office and bring you back to what you know what life was a year ago.
And after the year that we’ve all had people like, I’m not the same person, I cannot go back to this, right? This, this is just completely stressing me out. You know, nature has changed and evolved, I have changed and evolves, I need to do something different. And so I’ve definitely seen even just most recently, a really big uptick, in in the stress level in the restlessness that people have right now about having to kind of like go back to what they used to do.
And so I’m definitely seeing it like, you know, we saw some of it during the pandemic, but I think it was mixed with so much fear of what was going to happen, whether the economy was going to completely collapse, whether we would ever have a vaccine, things like that. Now that we have some of that comfort, people are starting to, you know, get really stressed out about having to go back to their old lives. And I they want something else.
Davina: Right, right. So what advice would you leave us with today about feeling more confident about our financial life and journey, while also being able to live the life that we truly want to live?
Jessica: You know, I think we touched on it earlier, I think you really need to be very clear about why you’re doing things. And setting that intention is going to give you the motivation, you need to do the hard things. And sometimes getting a handle on your finances is a hard thing, especially if you’ve never done it before. I don’t want to sugarcoat it. You’re gonna have to get in there, right? We can’t just make up the numbers and move forward. You’re gonna have to do some work. And it could be really, it could be really hard. It could be really stressful. I think one of most stressful things for my clients is just tracking down all their passwords to all of their different financial applications.
Davina: That’s true. That’s so true. LastPass people LastPass.
Jessica: Right. But if you have information and you can gather it, then you know what you’re working with. And if your intention is to is to, you know, be more efficient with your money or be able to put more toward long term goals, then you’re going to be motivated to do that hard initial work and figure out a system that’s going to work for you long term. If you need help with that, there’s support out there. But the why has to come from you. And it’s and it’s so important, but it’s going to make all of this work easier.
Davina: Right, right. I do have one last question for you, which is, how has your family responded to this change that you’ve made? And that you’ve gone that, you know, are like, out there openly discussing money?
Jessica: Oh, you know, it’s so funny. My parents actually have, they’ve commented on so my social media, like, gosh, I wish we had known you like this when we were young. We had had your strategies when when we were when we were younger, we would have taught you. Yeah, it’s been great.
Davina: Yeah. So they had to give birth to their own financial advisor is what they had to do.
Jessica: Exactly, exactly.
Davina: That’s great. Well, thanks so much, Jessica, for being here. Tell us how we can connect with you on social media, how we could follow you how we could stalk you. Were we can find you on the internet?
Jessica: Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. The best place to find me is on LinkedIn. I’m pretty prolific on there. So it’s just it’s Jessica Medina. You’ll find me on the probably the only former lawyer turned accredited financial counselor on there. But you can also reach out to me through my website at JessicaMedinallc.com. You can schedule a free consult on there. Like I said, it is a full on conversation. So if you need help figuring out your next best step.
Even if it’s not working with me, we’re going to be able to get you started on that road. So those are the two best places to find me. But thank you so much Davina. This has been such a fun conversation. I love talking about money. I love how you are focusing on wealth for you know, women law firm owners. I think it can be so stressful, but it really, you know, no pun intended, the returns really are huge.
Davina: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Jessica, it’s been my pleasure. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. If you have we invite you to leave us a review on your preferred podcast platform. The more five star reviews we have the more women law firm owners will be able to positively impact. Your thoughts and opinions are so important to us. If you are a woman law firm owner who wants to scale your law firm to a million dollars or more in gross annual revenue, and do it in a way that’s sustainable and feels good to you, then we invite you to join us in the Wealthy Woman Lawyer League.
The league is a community of highly intelligent, goal oriented and driven women law firm owners who are excited to support one another on their journeys to becoming wealthy women lawyers. We’ll be sharing so much in the league in the coming year, including these elusive million dollar law firm framework that until now, I’ve only shared with my private one to one clients. For more information and to join us go now to www.wealthywomanlawyer.com/league. That’s www.wealthywomanlawyer.com/league. League is spelled l e a g u e. We look forward to seeing you soon in the league.