One of the biggest hurdles we face in leaving the law is money.
Some of us make a lot of money as attorneys. Some of us do okay, and are able to pay our bills and our student loans and get by. And others of us are out of a job, or jumping from contract gig to contract gig, and money is a major source of our anxiety.
And whatever the case may be, we are unhappy or dissatisfied or out of sorts and want to leave the law but we feel that we can never make enough money if we were to leave and take a non-law job.
What we really make
According to the New York Times, first year BigLaw associates make around $160,000 a year.
According to CNN.com, most of the rest of us make $62,000 a year.
And in conversations with many of you, the salary figures are all across the board.
And so are our expenses – we have student loans of $100,000 to $200,000, mortgage, rent, kids’ college tuition, car loans, and on. Even if we make a “larger” salary, it goes fast. And if we work on our own or in a small firm, revenue can be cyclical – there are good times and there are not-so-good-times.
And through it all, we want to leave. We want to be happy, we want to feel worthy, we want to feel our potential somewhere else.
But we don’t because we don’t think our skills are a fit for non law jobs, and by extension we don’t think we can make a good salary not practicing the law.
Actually change that: We don’t really take the time to find out what jobs we can actually be a fit for in another industry, and as such we don’t see that there are a lot of good salaries we can make in a non-law job.
Let’s correct these misconceptions.
What we can do outside of the law
First, we need to realize there is a lot of value we lawyers can bring to a non-law job.
We are great at Client Management. We are proficient at Upselling. We of course are great at Issue Spotting … a skill needed in every industry. We Write Clearly and Persuasively. We have Interpersonal Skills and are collaborators and team players (skills often times not optimized at a firm). We can Put Out Fires and be Diplomatic. We Distill Complicated Concepts into Understandable Explanations. We are Dependable and Disciplined and can go the extra mile … we get the Work Done on Time.
These skills are in demand.
What we can make in a non-law job
So second, while in truth it may be unrealistic to say that we can do anything with a law degree, there really are many concrete, real life, non-law jobs out there the responsibilities of which are in alignment with these legal skills we have and can provide us with the career path, financial incentive and professional satisfaction in alignment with our personal and professional goals.
For example, a Non-Profit Executive can make upwards of $150,000 a year.
Human Resource Directors can make between $80,000 and $125,000.
A Vice President of Operations can make over $200,000 per year.
The national average for a Vice President of Business Development salary is $165,000.
People in Corporate Development start out making $90,000 to $110,000 and Vice President and C-level positions can pay in the $500,000 to $1 million range.
Project Managers make close to $100,000.
Some people are even making $100 an hour driving for Uber.
Of course these figures may vary. But the point is for us unhappy, dissatisfied, looking-for-more attorneys to realize that there is a lot of money to be made at a non-law job.
Let’s be courageous. Let’s be smart. Let’s do our research. Let’s take babysteps. Let’s take (calculated-but-not-that-big-so-it-won’t-really-hurt-us-if-we-fail) risks.
There is an abundant life waiting for us. Let’s not let a perceived lack of money get in our way to create a great life for ourselves.