One thing that is holding many of us back is that we think our skills only enable us to be lawyers.
We have uncertainty around how we can actually use our legal skills in a non-legal job. We don’t know which skills are transferable.
And this makes us feel that what we know is only applicable to being a lawyer. And some of us don’t feel proficient at being a lawyer and so we doubt how we can be good at anything else. We can’t imagine someone outside of the law paying us money to do non-legal work. We struggle with trying to find what type of non-legal career is best for us, and our skill set. We feel like we’re backed into a corner.
And since we feel the pressure of supporting our family, or feel we are older and lack much more potential or we are just plain risk-averse, we want to leave but we can’t take a chance until we feel more confident that our skill set is valued outside of the law.
Let’s take a step back
This will always be a hurdle if we accept as true the following syllogism:
- A Lawyer’s Skillset Can Only Be Used To Practice Law (Major Premise)
- Our Skillset Is a Lawyer’s Skillset (Minor Premise), ergo
- Our Skillset Can Only Be Used To Practice Law (Conclusion)
But this isn’t true. This Major Premise is unfounded. Here’s why:
1. Our current skills set is in demand across the world. A lawyer’s skill set, what we are good at, what we excel at, what we are confident at (client management, writing clearly and persuasively, distilling complicated concepts into understandable explanations, meeting deadlines, issue spotting, being diplomatic, handling multiple types of personalities, putting out fires) is required in many, many types of job outside of the law (I have written about some here).
But many of us have so little real life exposure to non attorney roles. We don’t know what types of jobs and careers exist beyond transactional jobs or litigation jobs or law professor jobs.
Let’s learn. Let’s see what’s out there. Let’s get out there. Let’s do some research. Let’s do some informational interviews. We’ll only continue to be stuck, and do ourselves a disservice, to assume that our skills are suited solely to be an attorney.
They are not.
2. Finding which skills are transferable shouldn’t be our main focus. Let’s not worry too much right now about how best to transfer our legal skills to a non-legal role. That’ll come later.
Now, let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s take some time to focus on our Unique Genius.
To enable this to happen, practically speaking, we need to keep our job so we can keep the money coming in and we can pay our bills.
With that said, then let’s carve out the time (which I know, can be hard to do, but make time) to, for once, focus the spotlight on ourselves. We need to authentically understand what we enjoy and what we are good at. We need to like ourselves again. We need to create confidence within ourselves. We need to create opportunities that result in validation.
Let’s be selfish, in a good way.
3. We actually have more skills than we think we do. When we take the time to really explore our Unique Genius, when we ask our friends and family and colleagues the tough questions (If you had to compliment me, what would you say I do well? What would you come to me for advice about? What do you think I might even do for free?) we receive honest answers from people who know us well. Honest answers with real actionable traits for us to begin to work with.
And while these answers may confirm a lot of what we think of ourselves, we can often be surprised by how much broader our skill set is. When we take the time to explore our Unique Genius, we begin to realize that there are more strengths to us than we have thought.
Focus on what we can control
When beginning to leave the law, it’s of course difficult to know with a high level of certainty which of our skills will be valued by a non-legal job. It’s almost impossible to know.
So let’s not think (read: worry) about that for now.
Instead, let’s focus on what we can find out: Exploring, developing and coming to terms with the skills we actually have. I am certain we’ll be pleasantly surprise.