How I Made a Career Pivot From Solicitor to Artist

By May 25, 2018For Talent

I’m Laura Steerman, a 35-year-old Irish artist of baby ultrasound scans. I live in Dublin, Ireland with my husband, 3 kids and cat. My background is not in art at all. I’m an energy regulation solicitor qualified in Ireland and New York with a Masters in Law from a top US law school (Northwestern Law in Chicago), which I achieved when I was 23 yrs old.

Since I was a child I’ve always loved art and crafts. Yet at the age of 18, I began a joint business and law degree in University College Dublin. Naturally, as a teenager, I was undecided about what exactly I wanted to do with my life.

The Celtic Tiger was beginning in Ireland and I don’t think I had the self-awareness at the time to really ask myself whether I was pursuing a living or a life.

While I was studying law in America, I lived a stone’s throw away from the Art Institute Of Chicago and spent time gazing at great works of art between law classes and exams.

Having undertaken a legal internship at Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago (a legal aid clinic dedicated to providing affordable legal advice to artists of all kinds), I was inspired by the clients’ passion pursuing their creative dreams. I’d leave work buzzing each day after meeting some fantastic musicians, artists, sculptors, chefs and writers and learning about their work.

I became more comfortable on the solicitor side of the table, in the suit with the framed law degrees behind me giving advice to other entrepreneurs. They had a vulnerability, took on risk and were following their dreams which all seemed rather daunting to me until I grew more self-aware and resilient over the years.

I never had ambitions to be a partner or head of in-house legal. I don’t think a career in regulatory law fully satisfied my creative side and at the end of each working day, I inevitably felt like something was lacking from it all.

You’ve probably heard of the quote, ”The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”  After a decade as a lawyer, I think I’ve found my purpose in motherhood and creating paintings for people.

I began by painting my own daughter’s scans after several reduced movement scares. I’ll never forget the first one. I was home alone and after a long day working as an in-house attorney at Ireland’s National Energy Regulator, I treated myself to a nice big slice of cake after dinner with a hot cup of tea.

I was 30 weeks pregnant and should have been feeling regular movements of my baby in the womb, and thought I may not have noticed movements throughout the day as work was busy. However, after food, sugar and the warm tea, I felt nothing. I tried an ice cold drink of water and moving about. Still, I only felt the slight weight of a buoyant baby rolling about in my belly.

After calling the midwives, I went straight to my national maternity hospital for assessment. Those few seconds after they apply the cold gel to my tummy seemed to last a lifetime and I was petrified with fear that something had happened my baby. Within seconds, a smile emerged across the sonographer’s face and she turned up the volume on the machine so I could hear the galloping thud of my baby’s heartbeat. All was ok.

I think that moment has stayed with me over the last 7 years as one of those poignant turning points. Like many times in my life after an emotional, happy, sad or difficult experience, I found myself drawn to creativity. It felt natural to take out my paints and start painting to soothe my soul.

Friends started to ask for paintings and then their friends did. I think every woman goes through a similar emotional, physical, mental and spiritual rollercoaster during pregnancy and then parenthood. Each person has their own reason for wanting their baby’s scan to be painted.

Before long, it became evident to me that working as an attorney was relatively devoid of any such meaning and I was becoming unhappy. Certainly, being an attorney paid the bills but doing these baby ultrasound paintings feeds the soul. 

I’ve recently handed in my resignation, quit law and look forward to staying home with my children and painting these baby ultrasounds for clients. It’s the right time for me to look outside of the career box and pursue a dream of being more present with my family and painting. It’s certainly a daunting decision to take, but I believe regret would be far more frightening if I didn’t go for it. Life is just too short to not live fully and be innovative with your creativity, time and ideas.

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