[This article originally appeared on Above the Law]
The only thing standing between you and your dream job is you.
If you are a lawyer who is unhappy practicing the law and wants out, you likely still hesitate to make a career change because you fear that you will have to throw away all the hard work you’ve done in law school and as an already practicing attorney be forced to “start over.” This fear stops you from even exploring an “non-law” career.
The only thing standing between you and your dream job out of the law is a set of myths, doubts, worries and fears that are normal … but crippling. But the good news is, also totally avoidable.
As a lawyer looking to leave the law, you’re actually primed to go beyond these fears and make an upwards move into other careers.
Other careers and jobs that feel like a true fit to you. That let you leave the office at 5pm and enjoy your weekends. That surround you with supportive people. That are collaborative and creative. That make you wonder why you did anything else.
Here are three reasons why you’re more ready to leave the law than you may realize:
Reason #1: You already have the skills that are in demand and transferable to an “non-law” job
What you do well doesn’t only apply to practicing the law. These skills you have are in demand in non-law careers. They are what we call “transferable” skills.
I know, I know. The skeptic in you wonders what these skills are. Well, let me list some of them for you:
- Speak and communicate clearly
- Listen well
- Show empathy
- Be the “adult-in-the-room”
- Write persuasively
- “Connect the dots for people to see a desired future state
- Project manage (a trial or a deal just a “project”)
- Meet deadlines
- Meet budgets
- Present in front of high level stakeholders
- Upsell clients
- Put out “fires”
- Be a client’s “psychologist”
- Drive net new business
… and much, much more.
(And please note that just because these come easy to you doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. Just because an athlete or a celebrity makes what they do on the field or the stage look easy, do we dismiss their performance? Not at all. The same applies to us lawyers looking to leave the law.)
All of what you do day-to-day is in demand in the universe of “non-law” jobs.
Jobs like Chief Operating Officer, and Account Manager, and Chief of Staff and Business Development, and Marketing and Sales Optimization, and Organizational Effectiveness and Chief Culture Officer (and many more) are all roles that your skills can be a fit with.
For example, let’s look at some of the requirements from a job description for a Chief Operating Officer (a job an attorney like you can be very well suited for) that I pulled from a posting online from a very reputable company.
The below left-hand column lists some of the responsibilities of the role. The right-hand column matches your specific “transferable” skills that can meet this requirement:
|Some of the responsibilities of the COO role are:||Your skills and strengths that align with the responsibilities are:|
|Set comprehensive goals for performance and growth||Outstanding organizational and leadership abilities|
|Establish policies that promote company culture and vision||Excellent interpersonal and public speaking skills|
|Oversee daily operations of the company and the work executives||Aptitude in decision-making and problem solving|
|Lead employees to encourage maximum performance and dedication||Empathy and the ability to motivate|
|Write and submit reports to the CEO||Executive stakeholder communication, advisory and presentation skills|
|Manage relationships with partners/vendors||The ability to negotiate, strategi and build alliances|
Of course there may be more requirements, and they can vary from job-to-job … but when you match your skill set to this COO role as an example, one message becomes resoundingly clear:
Your skills are a fit with a “non-law” job.
Reason #2: What You Don’t Know, You Can Learn Very Quickly
Now, let’s be real. If you were to leave your law practice for a new “non-law” job, you may not know everything you may need for that job on Day 1.
And that’s fine, because as a lawyer, you can learn things very quickly. Ramping up and becoming proficient on something quickly is part of what we attorneys do.
This reminds me of a story from one person who used Leave Law Behind to leave the law, Gabe Rothman.
Gabe was in construction litigation here in San Francisco and was not enjoying being a lawyer.
Through Leave Law Behind, he began to understand what he was really good at (e.g. his transferable skills): Gabe loved processes. He loved sketching out the steps to achieve a result, mapping out all of the contingencies, getting clear on all of the “if X, then Y” steps.
With this in mind, he began to apply to software consulting roles, where this skill could be put to use. He interviewed with a company called BlueWolf that helped other organizations to launch their Salesforce.com implementation.
The BlueWolf hiring manager loved Gabe’s personality, and really saw that his “lawyer” skills, as we discussed above, were transferable to this new consulting role.
His one hesitation, however, was that Gabe did not yet have a deep software background, and specifically, that he wasn’t an expert in Salesforce.com technology.
Gabe responded that this was true (he did not have any recent Salesforce.com integration experience), but that he had passed the California state bar exam – the most difficult bar exam in the country with a fail rate of over 60% – with only two months of preparation. “I can learn Salesforce.com within 30 days, and be close to an expert in it in 3 months,” he assured them.
Gabe was hired.
As a lawyer, you are constantly ramping up and becoming an expert on a new case or deal or transaction. Remember that you have the skills to learn any new industry and subject matter quickly.
Reason #3: Leaving the Law Has Been Done Before … And There is A Roadmap For You to Follow
There are many famous people who have left the law for successful “non-law” careers: Mahatma Gandhi, Julie Sweet (CEO of Accenture), Tony LaRussa, Hall of Fame Baseball Manager, actress Rebel Wilson, former President Bill Clinton, and many more.
And leaving the law isn’t just reserved for the rich and famous. There are many “former attorneys” you likely run into in your day to day life, who have left the law to pursue careers they are happy with, enjoy, and provide them the income they need to sustain their lifestyle.
And there is a proven 5 step process to leave the law, which we’ll continue to write about here at Above of the Law, and which we’ve mapped out at a high level below below:
- First, move past your fears and blockers that are getting in your way of leaving the law.
- Second, overcome your need to identify with the title of an “attorney” and become comfortable with a new, “non-law” job title.
- Three, gain a better mindset with your money, in part by realizing that the more value you provide the world, the more you will be paid.
And now, with this emotional foundation in place, you can add …
- Fourth, understand what your specific “transferable skills” are and to which “non-law” jobs they align and match.
- And finally, “get out there”. Do informational interviews, apply for jobs that align with your skills, meet people in these jobs, and get your resume and name in front of people hiring.
You have the skills, the intelligence, and the precedent to leave the law for a “non-law” career. It’s now up to you to believe it.
We’ve built a whole course to help you leave the law. Click here to learn more.
And for more information about how to leave the law, click here to read our guide on Alternative Careers for Lawyers.