Career transition and how to begin an alternative law career
Are you an unhappy attorney struggling to live the life you truly want?
Do you feel like you're hopelessly trapped in the practice of law?
Are you not clear on the next steps you can take to leave the law and find an alternative career that you like (or even love)?
Rest assured, you're not alone.
You likely Googled "alternative careers for lawyers," "non legal jobs for lawyers," "second careers for lawyers," "jobs for lawyers who don't want to be lawyers" or some other similar search term, hoping for some guidance, support, and clarity.
No matter what you searched for, you've landed in the right place! That's what we do here at Leave Law Behind - we help lawyers who are not happy with the practice of law to explore pursuing a different, "non-law," "alternative" career path.
We will discuss in this article how you can take your first steps out of the law. We will also highlight and prepare you for some of the challenges you will encounter as you begin this process.
And to be clear, we are not asking you to make a drastic change right now. We are not asking you to leave the law tomorrow.
We are only asking you to take one small step to know more. One small step to see what's possible for you. One small step to become the person you likely had in mind for yourself before you took the LSAT.
Are There Really Second Careers for Lawyers?
One question you may ask at this point is some variation of "Are there really, truly good alternative jobs for lawyers out there that might be the right fit for me?"
Or you may ask, "I am just an attorney - how could I possibly land any one of the non law jobs for lawyers?"
The skepticism is understandable, but we'd question how beneficial it is to. This skepticism originates in belief systems you have bought into throughout your life. Belief systems that you accept as self-evident, but upon deeper review, could be holding you back from your ideal life.
Debunking these non-beneficial belief systems and myths can set you free to pursue the career and life you wanted for yourself before you decided to become a lawyer. In short, you have options. There is hope. There is opportunity out there. For example, at Leave Law Behind, we have identified and curated over 112 "alternative" jobs that align with and call for your "lawyer" skills and strengths. Over ONE HUNDRED "non-law" jobs for lawyers like you looking to leave the law.
And these are not fluffy, pie-in-the-sky, not-really-attainable, need-to-go-back-to-school-to-get-a-degree jobs like "computer engineer" or "data scientist" or "forest ranger." These are real-world jobs we have identified, which you have the background and experience to apply for now (more on that below).
Before we dive into how your "lawyer" skills can fit these careers, let's first take a moment to uncover and become very clear on the REAL reason why you are unhappy practicing law.
Have you ever loathed being an attorney so much that you said out loud or to yourself:
"My anxiety level is through the roof!"
"I am not cut out to practice law!"
We consistently hear comments like this from the 3,000+ members of the Leave Law Behind community – how either anxious, burnt out, or just flat out unhappy they are practicing law.
One Leave Law Behind reader wrote to us recently that he was burnt out because of the "unpredictable hours" and that lawyers have the management skills of "toddlers."
You know that you're unhappy as an attorney. And there are several reasons you'll point to as the source of your unhappiness. Some of the obvious ones on the list are:
- You don't like other attorneys;
- You don't like your clients much;
- Your lawyer work feels like it is non-stop 24/7;
- You don't have any free time;
- You have no quality time with family, spouse or your kids;
- You don't have the time to go to the gym, exercise, or take care of yourself;
- You feel that there is no creativity in the law;
- You hate the whole idea of billable hours;
- You hate that you're working more than 2,000 hours a year.
At Leave Law Behind, we call these reasons the "Usual Suspects." I'm sure you're nodding your head with us as you go down this list. And we're sure you could add more annoying, frustrating, unhappiness-producing reasons you experience day in and day out as a lawyer.
These are all clear, valid reasons to point to as the cause of your unhappiness as an attorney.
And We'd like to surface another, more fundamental and core reason why you don't like being an attorney.
It took both of us many years to find out exactly why we didn't like being attorneys. It took us a while to uncover what exactly was the root cause of our unhappiness with practicing the law.
And it isn't until you also understand what this core reason is that you can then indeed be honest with yourself, free yourself from the weight of your attorney job and begin to leave the practice of law for what we call an "alternative career for lawyers."
And once you find this out, it can serve as the driver and accelerator for you to leave the law for a lawyer career change you find stimulating, meaningful, and lucrative.
The Challenges of Landing Non Legal Jobs for Lawyers
Leaving the law behind is not as hard as you may have imagined. We have helped hundreds of attorneys to make this positive transition in their life.
But we'd be remiss if we didn't reiterate that finding a non-law job for lawyers is not without its challenges to overcome. Uncertainty and the general unknown of it all can scare you off. Fear of failure, embarrassment, risk, and ridicule from your friends, family, and colleagues can stop you in your tracks unless you know what these challenges are and how to overcome them.
While that may sound daunting, it isn't. Over the past decade, we have become the career transition coaches that attorneys across the globe trust. And we've experienced, documented, and taught thousands of attorneys just like you how to overcome these fears and move forward in your life.
We've detailed for you below in this article the top 3 challenges you're facing right now in making this change, and provide you with actionable steps you can begin right now to overcome them.
These findings come from all of the research and work we've put into our Leave Law Behind online coaching course and monthly live training and career transition coaching we do for our members. We've identified over 25 of the top obstacles lawyers run into on their paths out of the law. As you do the inner work to overcome these challenges, you'll see you have everything you need to leave the law in a logical and structured way.
Now, let's dive into overcoming some of the challenges getting in your way!
The Top Three Challenges You Face in Leaving the Law
Challenge #1: Overcoming the belief that you will make less money out of the law and will cap your lifetime earning potential:
When it comes to money, you feel that if you were to leave the law for an "alternative" career, you would not make as much money as you do now as a lawyer. And so you worry and become anxious that you cannot pay your bills, handle your expenses and cover your law school debt payments.
Ergo, you do not begin on your path out of the law that you desire. You let this perceived money challenge keep you stuck.
But this belief you have around money is just another myth. The idea that you can't make as much or more income out of the law as you can as an attorney is a massive illusion that the Leave Law Behind graduates prove false time in and time out.
Understand this - we coach our members not to leave the law until they have a job offer that pays them what they need or want. As you fine-tune what we call your "transferable skills," and as you get your "non-law" job resume in a good spot, and as you increasingly learn more about the alternative jobs for lawyers that you are a fit for, you then realize that there is so much opportunity out there for the skills and strengths you possess.
This realization, which you will get to when you join us in our course, is such a pleasant, weight-off-your-shoulders surprise. You have no idea yet! As we mentioned earlier, there are over 100 jobs that we have cataloged in the Leave Law Behind course that align with the expertise you bring from your years of practicing law.
You may fear that if you leave the law, there will be a ceiling on your lifetime earning potential. You know how you can estimate what you will make over the next 20 to 30 years if you remain a lawyer. But you don't have the same insight into an "alternative" career. You might even think that you will make less if you were to leave the law.
And this leads you to think that an alternative job salary will not let you keep up the same lifestyle you're used to. This scares you. You feel you won't be able to pay your current bill, save for retirement, or afford college for your kids.
That's the part of financial fear you let yourself go down.
This makes sense. Money is a very personal, worrisome taboo topic for many of us. Here are some ways for you to overcome these money related challenges and fears:
First, the leave the law process does not involve putting you into financial jeopardy. We encourage our Leave Law Behind course members to begin to leave the law while they keep their current lawyer day job, so they can continue paying their bills and enjoying their current lifestyle. I know you're busy at work, but when your desire to free yourself from the lawyer grind outweighs your excuse not to move forward, you then find time each week to work on leaving the law, and within a few months, you'll have gained the momentum to create a new life for yourself out of the law. This happens time and time again with our Leave Law Behind course members.
Second, it bears repeating that there are so many other ways to make money in the world beyond the billable hour: your initial salary, any bonuses you can earn, commissions, licensing, equity, profit sharing, passive income, joint ventures, and many more.
Third, lawyers don't make that much money. I know that may sound strange, or not what you've been taught to think. But a 2014 NALP survey found that $62,000 is the annual salary for half of all US lawyers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a lawyer is $144,230 and the median salary is $120,910. And BigLaw salaries overall aren't as high as they traditionally have been (see Biglaw Investor for a great analysis of lawyer salaries).
And once you do begin to leave the law, and begin to research "alternative" careers in-depth, you'll find that many of these "non-law" jobs your skillset is a fit for all pay well into six figures. Jobs like Account Management and Project Management and Business Development and VP Operations and Head of Logistics. And many Leave Law Behind course members gain not only a well-paid salary but also bonuses, stock options, and many perks and benefits.
There is a great, wealthy life waiting for you once you commit to leaving the law. Don't let this idea that you cannot make money block your path to your ideal self. It is just a story you continue to tell yourself, and it turns out to be false! You never know unless you start on your path out. When you join us in the Leave Law Behind online coaching course and monthly trainings, you will have access to hours of recorded exercises where we teach you precisely how to have a different relationship with money. Go from lack conscious to prosperity consciousness with the inner work we can help you with.
Challenge #2: You think you need certainty and require the need to control everything in your life
Lawyers are over the top when it comes to trying to control our lives. You know this all too well. You fear what you are not able to control. You're afraid of what you don't know. You push away anything that you are uncertain of, and avoid these things at all costs.
This belief system can spiral out like this:
"When I leave the law for an "alternative" career, I fear that I won't be good at that job, and soon I'll get fired by this job and I'll have burned all of my professional bridges, and I'll then be a source of social disapproval and mockery and I'll lose all of my money and then my spouse will give up on me and will take the children, and my family life will fall apart and I'll suddenly then lose my home and I'll end up on the street and I'll die alone, cold, miserable and forgotten."
I (Casey) have taken our clients through this same (somewhat exaggerated) hypothetical at my Leave Law Behind live events and with clients. Everyone, myself included, sheepishly nods their heads to this: "You read my mind ... this is what I fear as the worst."
You can leave the law so there is nothing to be afraid of. You can let go of control. We have our course training set up, so there is a tremendous amount of certainty, and we hold your hand (virtually) and walk you through step by step how to do all of this. We set it up so you can relax, do all the steps in each module, one by one, and have the possibility of creating a career you could really enjoy (or even love!)
Challenge #3: The idea that if you leave the law, you'll disappoint all of your friends and family
This third challenge holds so many of us back, and is so loaded with emotion, family dynamics and guilt and power struggles that it can often be the most difficult to unwind.
This is just another myth! You think your family and friends will judge you harshly for leaving the law. You may think something like the following:
- If I leave the law, I am afraid I won't please everyone in my life that I'm used to pleasing;
- I'm afraid of disappointing my mom and dad;
- I'm afraid of my attorney friends mocking and abandoning me;
- I'm afraid of making people I care about mad;
- I am afraid that if I leave the law, I will disappoint those close to me and whom I care about;
- I'm afraid that if I stop practicing law, all this work and time and money and effort to be an attorney will have been wasted.
Even though you know your life is to be lived for yourself, you likely stay in the law for other people's reasons. Guess what?! It is your life! In the Leave Law Behind course, we teach you how to succeed at these conversations with your loved ones. We make it easy, and painless. We show you how to do this from the heart, and not your ego-mind.
Everyone to whom we teach this comes back to us and says that there were no issues talking to their family and spouse when they use our heart-based techniques in the conversation. Honesty is the way to go here. Most, if not all, of your network, friends and family will be completely accepting of your choice to leave the law, since it is your right to be happy!
Leaving your practice of the law is not that big of a deal! We all make things more complicated than they need to be. You can leave the law and be excited about your career!
And Casey wrote an article with some depth here as a contributing writer for Above the Law, the leading news website about law, law schools, the legal profession, and career change. Click here or on the headline below to read this article "The Three Main Fears That Keep You From Leaving The Practice Of Law."
Lawyer Career Change
It turns out, most unhappy lawyers are looking at their situation all wrong. The one barrier in the way between you and your ideal "alternative" job out of the law is the doubt that you can overcome these challenges. These doubts are reasonable, and if you don't have the solutions to these challenges, they will stop you cold. And the good news is that this is avoidable - we can help you let them go and overcome them ALL.
For anyone wanting to make a career change, this can be a tricky proposition. But it doesn't need to be! You are not alone; we have done all the heavy lifting for you in our course. Our work is just for you, just for unhappy lawyers. Who would have thought there would be an entire coaching course just for unhappy attorneys. You are in the right place at the right time in your life.
You don't need to make this difficult, because we have made it easy for you.
Here are the two main reasons why it isn't as hard as you think to find your "Second Career":
First off, the experience and skills you bring from our profession are in huge demand in jobs out of the law.
Think about all that you regularly do in your role as an attorney:
- You speak and communicate clearly
- You listen well
- You show empathy
- You are the "adult-in-the-room"
- You write persuasively
- You "connect the dots" for people and clients to see a desired future state
- You strategize
- You manage large projects (and lots of them)
- You meet deadlines
- You meet budgets
- You present to high-level stakeholders
- You upsell clients
- You put out fires
- You are the psychologist for your clients
- You drive new business
- As well as many others not listed!
Casey has written about your "transferable skills" as an attorney in much more detail as a contributing writer for Above the Law, the leading news website about law, law schools, the legal profession, and career change. Click here, on the headline below, or the graphic below to read his article Seven Skills Attorneys Have That The Rest Of The World Would Die For.
What you do well is not just useful and needed to practice law. This experience can be translated and utilized in the universe of jobs that have nothing to do with your law license or being a lawyer.
Take inspiration from one Leave Law Behind course graduate, who left behind his estate planning law practice to become the Senior Director of Gift Planning at a top-ranked university in California:
"The Leave Law Behind course helped me realize that my background was not specific to the law or even one aspect of the law but was general and exciting enough that non-law employers would be interested in my candidacy. And they were interested! I had several interviews for roles I assumed I had no business being considered for - roles that required 5-10 years' experience in fields and professions I had never even been near. But I felt confident about who I was and they took me seriously. I landed a non-law job that I'm excited about."
Casey has written extensively about how you are a fit for "jobs for lawyers who don't want to be lawyers", as a contributing writer for Above the Law. Click here or on the headline below to read the article Nine Non-Legal Jobs You Can (Really, Truly) Do With a Law Degree.
Second, You can learn what you don't know very quickly
Sure, if you were to leave the law for a new "alternative" career, you would not be 100% proficient in all the required skills for that job from the beginning.
And that's perfectly fine, because as an attorney, you can ramp up on learning very quickly.
This reminds of how Gabe Rothman used the Leave Law Behind course to find his "alternative" career (see his LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gprothman).
Gabe was in construction litigation here in San Francisco and was not enjoying being a lawyer (read: he hated it!)
Gabe was an associate at a construction litigation firm. Through the Leave Law Behind course, he began to understand what he was good at (what we call your "Unique Genius"): Gabe loved to create and maintain procedures and processes. He enjoyed mapping out the steps to attain a particular goal, and getting clear on all of the "if A, then B" steps.
He let this skill set inform the jobs he began to research and apply to. He focused on software consulting roles. He landed an interview with Blue Wolf, a system integrator that aided companies in launching their recently purchase instances of the Salesforce solution.
The Blue Wolf executives loved Gabe's interpersonal skills, his quick thinking, and they understood how his "attorney" skills could be transferrable to the consulting role for which they were hiring.
But their one objection was that Gabe did not know anything about the Salesforce platform.
As we taught him in the Leave Law Behind course, Gabe didn't try to argue this point away. Rather, he acknowledged it, and instead focused on the strengths he gained in law school and as an attorney. Gabe pointed out how he had passed the California state bar on the first try, with two months of prep time, a bar exam that has a pass rate of only 40%, and is one of the most challenging to pass. He assured the Blue Wolf executives that he could become proficient in Salesforce in a month, and close to an expert in three months.
They hired Gabe. Gabe loves his new career. Be like Gabe!
As an attorney, you are always being called upon to learn quickly and become an expert on a new fact pattern or case or transaction. Outside of the law, you can learn any new industry and subject matter quickly. So many of our graduates tell us this over and over again!
"Jobs for Former Lawyers" - Your Path to Becoming a Former Lawyer!
We want to help guide you. Here are your next steps:
We practiced law, and we know how it feels to be you. As we mentioned before, you think the experience you have as a lawyer means you cannot do anything else. This is not the case! All you have to do is begin the process, and we are here to help. Take the next step!
And as mentioned earlier in this article, we are not asking you to make a drastic change right now. We are not asking you to quit your job today. We are not asking you to leave the law tomorrow.
We are only asking you to take one small step to know more. One small step to see what's possible for you. One small step to become the person you likely had in mind for yourself before you took the LSAT.
We will see you on the other side. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Nothing to lose but your unhappiness.
Studies show that over 56% of lawyers are frustrated with their careers.
"But," you may ask, "how can I know I'm leaving my law job right?"
Or "How do I create a new resume?" "How do I make enough money in a non-lawyer job?" "How do I get over this negative feeling I'm a quitter?"
We have written other articles and resources that can help you on your path out of the law. Five of our most popular and helpful are: