Giving up Law?
Giving up Law?
There's always More to Law...
Job dissatisfaction is notoriously rife in the legal profession. Although law, compared with other professions, gives a high element of job security, the long hours, gruelling work load, lifestyle sacrifices and job pressure force many to review their career choices.
For lawyers trained in a highly structured, hierarchal environment and given the funding, time and efforts invested, the prospect of leaving the profession can be extremely daunting, if not unfathomable. However, for every action there is a reaction, and if overall job malaise prevails, then choices, and sacrifices, have, inevitably, to be made.
Firstly, it is important is assess why you are having doubts. Remember, you made a career choice when you were in your much younger and, ultimately, you are not that same person with the same dreams and aspirations. Given the extensive training and amount of time before qualifying and working as a lawyer, you may have simply got ‘lost’ in a tide of examinations, training contracts and paperwork and, once at the other end, realised that you had no real opportunity to ascertain whether the legal profession was right you. It may also be that you simply went along with what was expected of you and, given the rigidity of the legal profession, found that you were neither suited in temperament nor natural ability once you were in your job for a number of years. Now that you are older, being conditioned to perform a certain way is no longer a way of life.
After careful thought and consideration, many practicing lawyers find that it is not actually the legal profession that they are discontent with but, moreover, the area of law in which they work. If you, for example, hate writing the memos and briefs necessary to litigation, then perhaps you are most suited to corporate law. Evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and, most importantly, which aspects of the legal profession you find most interesting. Based on this, a more rational, informed choice can be made which, ultimately, could lead you towards a position within law more pertinent to your skills and interests.
• Do you really dislike the practice of law
• Which aspects of my job are making me most unhappy-is it the long office hours, lifestyle sacrifices or living and working in a large urban environment?
• Can I combine my practice with raising a family?
• Is there some way to combine my practice with my other interests?
• Do I give up the practice of law entirely?
• Am I more suited to the creative or corporate world?
• Do I want to be my own boss, or do I enjoy working in a team within a structured environment.
• Do I just like the prestige and pay packet or am I genuinely interested in law?
• Am I a risk taker, or do I enjoy security?
• Where do I want to be in ten years? Is my career pertinent to my life plans?
• Am I doing this for myself or for those around me?
There are, of course, lawyers who find that they were never intended to be lawyers in the first place and bow out gracefully through the back door. Understanding why you are unhappy with you career choice will help you to come to terms with your insecurities and free you from the guilt and doubt associated with life-altering decisions. Ultimately, this will help you to review, systematically and logically, the viable options available to you.
So what’s next?
Once you have filtered through your motives behind your decision, the next step is to apply a series of questions which can point the career-compass to an area which more fitting to you and your needs. Unfortunately, there are no set work options for non-practicing lawyers, but the good news is, is that there’s a wealth of material and resources that will help you along the foggy path to career nirvana. The world of non-traditional/alternative career has developed into a veritable industry, ranging from books to websites to specialised career consultants that will help you down the long and winding road.
You may already have an idea of what you want to do, in which case count yourself very lucky- you are in a better situation than most career-changers. But if leaving the legal profession means braving the howling winds of career purgatory, then rest comforted by the fact that you’re highly employable and desirable on the job market. The training and skills you’ve gained whilst in the legal profession are transferable to many, alternative areas of work and, rest assured, your assets will not be undervalued by future employers.
Legal expertise will certainly set you apart from other candidates, whilst arming you with a gamut of unique skills and knowledge. Although there is no ‘magical list’ of jobs most suited to lawyers, the following job titles held by lawyers may serve as means for brainstorming.
Transitions of lawyer turned… are endless but, to narrow it down and, hopefully, give you a spark of ‘get the hell out of there’ inspiration, many of your peers have gone to work as:
• Career Councellor
• Certified Financial Planner
• Commercial Real Estate
• Corporate Trainer
• Contract Attorney
• Department Store Buyer
• Events Coordinator
• Executive Director
• Investment Banker
• Jury Consultant
• Law Librarian
• Law Professor/Tutor
• Legislative Analyst
• Management Consultant
• Legal Software Developer
• Legal Consultant
• Legal Headhunter
• Real Estate Developer
• Restaurant Owner
• School Teacher
• Social worker
Remember, an old dog can learn new tricks so never feel that, without your secure job title as a practicing lawyer, you’ll be thrown to the lions. Rather, look on your past as a ticket to a brighter, happier future. If it’s just the money and top-of-the-career-ladder prestige of law that keeps you in the office until silly o’clock, then ask yourself this- Would I marry someone just because of their wealthy or social status? Of course not. You’re not married to job and if you’ve made your choice, then career divorce can be significantly less traumatic, and painful, than any nuptial agreement.
The following resources can further help you:
Advice from the professional…
Simon Broomer is a qualified career development and job hunting professional. He has assisted hundreds of individuals from different
occupations, age groups and backgrounds. Prior to establishing
CareerBalance Simon worked with three career management consultancies.
Do you think that there has been a recent increase in job dissatisfaction within the legal profession or is it more a case of career changes not being ‘the done thing’ in the past?
Probably no more than in the past – it’s just that people feel able to talk about it more openly. Most of us will make several job or career changes during our working life, and we are regularly reviewing our career options. We want more choice and control over what we do, whom we work with and how we work.
How old, on average, are the legal professionals that turn to you for advice?
For women it can often be from the late twenties to the mid and late thirties. Working as a full-time lawyer is very hard to combine with motherhood and looking after a young family. For men it can be from the late 30s to the mid forties. These are CareerBalance’s observations from our clients, and there are many exceptions.
Is there any career in particular that former lawyers are drawn to?
No. Lawyers can be drawn to all sorts of careers. Some of these are based on what they would have done if they had not become a lawyer, and others on the new and more appealing opportunities they see outside the legal profession.
As an ex-solicitor you obviously made the career change yourself. What are your clients’ main motives for leaving law?
The past ten years has been a boom time for lawyers. However, it is not a uniform profession. The work, conditions and earnings of the City lawyer are very different to those of solicitors in large and small firms in London and in the regions. They can be worlds apart.
A lot of the kudos and respect from clients has gone. Long hours, increasing workloads and demanding clients are factors. So are the pressures of running a business. Some have lost interest in or a belief in what they are doing. The values and ideals which led them to becoming lawyers have gradually slipped away. Other lawyers are not always the easiest people to work with.
What advice would you give lawyers leaving the profession?
Take careful stock of your reasons for changing to a new career. Is it to do with the nature of the work or the conditions of work? If the latter then a move to a different environment or leaving private practice for an-in house or business role may be the answer.
Your legal qualification, and the skills and knowledge you have developed are valuable assets in the job market right now. So before considering a change in direction explore the many different possibilities where you can use your legal experience. There are huge variations between in-house roles across different sectors and organizations. Finally, with lawyers commanding greater salaries it may be hard to match your earnings elsewhere.
How can career-advisors help?
At CareerBalance we are objective, confidential and very experienced. We understand the career issues facing lawyers and the opportunities available to them across the job market. We are not into helping you jump straight into a new career. We help you to look carefully at their motives, needs and goals and to properly explore the different options open to you – inside and outside the law. We then work with you to reach an informed decision on your next career move and to plan your longer-term direction. Once you know what you want to do next we support you in marketing yourself effectively and to find the opportunities which will give you the job satisfaction, development and rewards you are seeking. This can include going freelance or setting up a business of your own.
Further Resources. www.careerbalance.co.uk
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