I Don't Want to Practice as a Lawyer Anymore...What Now?
It’s the holidays, which means you’re bound to wind up in a conversation with a relative that starts with: “How’s work going?”
If answering that question gives you the type of anxiety that’s left you up at night googling any variation of: “what do I do with my life if I don’t want to be a lawyer?”, then keep reading, because this article is for you.
Yes, you. The person that has seriously considered leaving your law job, but has no idea what that means, or where to go next. Take a deep breath – it’s going to be okay! Several years ago, I was working as a litigator at a large law firm. I lateralled to a smaller one, thinking it would be better. Even still, I continued to spend holidays – and probably most days, generally – on high-anxiety alert, fearing any career-related question that might open Pandora’s Box and lay bare my inability to identify a professional future that made sense for me. Confused and frustrated, I found myself questioning all those people who had assured me over the years that I could do “anything” with a law degree.
I won’t lie to you: finding your professional “happily ever after” is a journey. It was for me, and will be for you, too. That said, I’m writing this article because this is a topic so rarely addressed, and because I want you to know that you’re not alone, and that you do have options. Within the span of a couple of years, I found my “life after law” in recruiting and it’s been a fantastic one. You, too, can find yours. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Administrative Roles at Law Firms:
• Legal Personnel/Associate Relations: The professional development “PD” professionals at a firm are a crucial component of helping law firms run smoothly. They are often the behind the scenes “wizards” consulting with partners on how to improve associate satisfaction and solve any and all problems that may arise. Associates are often encouraged to speak with their PD professionals about problems they may be facing, advice they need and questions they would like answered on a confidential basis. www.nalp.org is a great resource to consult to learn more about what jobs are available and descriptions of the positions.
• Recruiting: Recruiting at law firms is another possibility – I know you must know these people well, as they are probably asking you to conduct interviews all the time. While there are peaks and valleys with recruiting, it is again an opportunity to be part of the law firm world, and be on the front lines with respect to hiring the best people possible, thereby, having a direct influence on the growth and success of a firm.
• Knowledge Management: Many law firms now have positions for former lawyers to run their practice area. The pay is often very competitive and the hours are not as exhausting as compared with practicing. Knowledge management professionals may follow certain trends in the market, handle assigning work, work on client pitches, etc. This is an excellent way to stay close to the field in which you practiced without the same pressures as working as an attorney.
I may be a tad biased, but this can be a great career path for the right person. Yes, there is some risk, and yes, there are plenty of ups and downs, but with the right platform and learning from the best in the business, you can have unimaginable financial success as well as the ability to counsel associates and partners into positions that can change the course of their careers forever. If you are naturally outgoing, thinking about a way to help others, want to use your people skills and find your sales voice… this could be an excellent option!
Don’t angst this holiday season. Just…take another deep breath. Enjoy yourself. It’s never too late to start over in spite of how daunting it may seem. Start that business you have always thought about, go to business school, get a Master’s degree, talk to friends in other professions about what they do and see if it appeals to you. You’ll find your professional-self soon enough, I promise.