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Passion Project: Why a divorce lawyer left career to become a fiction writer

Posted at 7:08 AM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 16:29:12-05

WAUWATOSA — We continue our Passion Project series by showing what a Wauwatosa mother of four left behind after her husband died: her six figure career.

Kelly Dodd Hay shares why she's much happier making less.

From the outside, Kelly Dodd Hay had it all as a powerful divorce attorney, explaining, "I had handled some important cases. I had won a very big case in front of the supreme court."

Her husband balanced their four childrens' schedules as a stay-at-home dad and freelance writer. That came to an end when the melanoma he was diagnosed with more than a decade ago had spread.

Dodd Hay says a lump was found on his chest.

"The doctor had opened it up and the doctors hands started shaking and said, 'This is metastatic melanoma.' All told it was 20 months from when he was diagnosed until he passed away," she said.

She decided to keep up the rigorous pace as an attorney by hiring two nannies. But, they could not fill her husband's shoes after he passed away in 2008.

"I was essentially working to pay people to raise my kids," said Dodd Hay.

It took about nine years to decide she would leave her career altogether. Her colleagues had a different reaction.

"They were like, 'that's adorable we'll see you next week!' I had a very big practice," said Dodd Hay.

But she did leave, and is now a published author of six crime fiction novels she writes with her brother who is in law enforcement.

"It's about a fictitious Milwaukee police detective who solves crime by using modern witchcraft unbeknownst to anyone," said Dodd Hay.

The seventh book she's writing will be based in West Allis.

Julia Fello asked Dodd Hay, "You went from six figures to making less than six figures?" Dodd Hay replied and laughed, "Yes! Oh yes!"

And, she's happier with less money and believes you should always listen to your intuition.

"Don't ever let money be an excuse to keep you from doing what you think is healthier, what you think will make you happier. I gave it up and never looked back."

Dodd Hay remarried in 2012 and has three amazing step children to share her life with.

Book number seven with her brother will come out on Amazon this spring. Click here to learn more.

Julia Fello has many other stories like this in her Passion Project series. This includes a lawyer turned brewery owner, car mechanic turned video blogger, businesswoman turned nun, nurse turned farmer, a woman who left her Amish community to become a business owner and a pediatrician who left his practice to become a priest, and two women left their dream careers to open up their own business.

If you have a Passion Project idea, email us at

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