Many of us want to leave our law job right now. This is understandable. We are frustrated, not happy, not enjoying our day-to-day. We are not doing what we want.
But we are getting paid. We can pay our bills, we can pay down our student loans (and any other debt), we can hopefully put some away for retirement, we can possibly build up our savings.
As this blog has stated over and over, there is no way around the fact that done right, leaving law behind is a long journey. While the rewards are huge, it’s a process that takes a lot of trial and error and self-analysis. It takes planning and courage and a lot of help.
Which is why a great place to start in leaving the law is to examine how your current job can help you take your first baby step. Besides just paying your bills, your current job can help fund:
– A career counselor (contact me or Jennifer Alvey or Katie Slater)
– A legal job recruiter (ask for Lindsay)
– An independent contractor on elance or odesk who can help you build your first website
Many attorneys I speak with are exploring new jobs and lifestyles. Some want to continue to practice the law, but just need to leave their current, negative situation. Others want to explore non-legal roles that may be more in line with their skill sets. And still others desire a leave of absence or some time off in order to take stock and plan next steps.
Many jump in right away and shift their mind set towards these new jobs, visiting career sites, enlisting recruiters and polishing resumes.
It’s essential to realize that the most important part of leaving law and getting a job you like and enjoy and are good at is not the actual job. Rather, it’s the criteria you use to select and prioritize this job.
There are many elements to consider when looking at a job: salary, bonuses, lifestyle, stature, skills required, daily enjoyment. And of course for many of us, money (specifically, that initial, advertised salary) always forces it way to the top of the list. And that is fine. We all need money, there is not much more stressful than having no money.
But there are more elements to a job than money.
I was on a Twitter chat on Tuesday run by Alison Monahan with a number of thought leaders in the field (Jennifer Alvey, Heather Jarvis, Katie Slater, Ms. JD and others) discussing the topic of whether in today’s economy law school is still worth the investment of time and money.
Through the wide ranging conversation, we began to discuss what skills it takes to make it in the workplace, either in law or outside of law, and Katie Slater (former BigLaw finance lawyer and now coach who helps lawyers discover the next level in their careers) reiterated a great point: Law school is not necessarily a place of skill acquisition. Rather this is done by actually practicing law in the workplace.
It can be easy for us to expound on the skills we learned in law school: Analytical skills, issue spotting, writing skills, persuasion, interview abilities, and on and on. But we all know that we were not able to apply these with any regularity or professional focus until we actually began working as lawyers. And once we began working,
Last week I took a vacation. Family friends, their kids, my wife, our kids and I enjoyed some sun away from the San Francisco summer fog. Most of our time during the day was spent running in and out of the pools with the kids. And most of our time at night over dinner was spent talking about the kids. The cute things they did when they were babies. The messes they make. The lack of sleep.
And we also discussed the opportunities our children have ahead of them. We talked of their potential to learn and grow and develop.
Which caused me to think about what potential exists for those of us who just don’t seem to fit with the practice of law. As our career options as lawyers begin to harden into shape, as others around us succeed, as our children or nieces and nephews or friends’ children began to grow, it can be easy to wonder if this is all we’re gonna get. We tend to look backwards like the aged (at our unfilled aspirations) instead of forward like children (towards what we have yet to create).
While a generational shift is inevitable and aging has never been easy to deal with,
In many of the emails I receive from lawyers looking to change course and leave the law, there is one phrase that is repeated often: “I had always envisioned getting into _______.” It could be advocacy, policy, public interest law, hi-tech.
But without fail this fill-in-the-blank is not what the lawyer is actually doing now. They are doing something other than what they envisioned they would do.
It’s not the job or position or role that is important to focus on here. Many of us are doing jobs or have titles we never knew existed or could picture ourselves doing years ago.
Rather, what is important to unpack here is that for many of us, we are performing tasks and taking on responsibilities for our job that we never envisioned because many of these job duties are not in alignment with what we are good at and what we enjoy doing and what comes naturally to us.
We envisioned doing something else than what we do now because simply what we do now is not really what we are best at.
Sincerely exploring what this is (not outright finding it necessarily,