The law can be a wonderful profession, and it is for many people. But it can also be draining and frustrating. Even for those who love the profession, after practicing for 10, 15, 20 years or more, some lawyers are simply ready for a change. Nowhere is it written that you must stay with one career your entire life.
My colleagues and I have counseled several thousand lawyers on re-careering and job search issues. Based on our nearly 23 years of experience, we have compiled The Top 10 Reasons for Wanting to Leave the Law.
We are going to share 5 of them today. We are going to discuss the second 5 in an upcoming issue, but if you don’t want to wait, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send it to you right away.
THE #1 REASON WHY LAWYERS WANT TO LEAVE THE PRACTICE …..
#1: Quality of Life — law firm and solo practice attorneys typically put in 10-12 hour days and often work on weekends. They have little time with their families, and little energy left to enjoy the fruits of their labors. They may be making good money, but there’s no time to do anything with it. If you are single, the demands of your work make it hard to develop a relationship. If you are married, it’s hard to maintain a relationship. And if you are parent, you miss your children’s Little League games, back-to-school nights and much of their growing up. It is no wonder that many of the people who call us are in their late 30s and mid-40s, and realize the best things in life are passing them by while they write midnight motions and memoranda.
#2: Billable hours — clients often report they are under increasing pressure to produce billable hours.
In some cases, clients say they are under more pressure to produce billables than they are to produce quality work. The system is designed so that you are rewarded for how many hours you bill rather than how well you represent the interests of your clients.
#3. Business Development – People don’t go to law school because they want to be salesmen. Many of our clients like the work of being a lawyer, but do not like the constant reality of having to “sell” their services. The cold, hard fact of law firm or solo life is that you have to get the business to do the business. If you can’t generate a sizeable book of new client billings each year, you will have a hard time being truly successful in your career as a law firm attorney.
#4. Negative, adversarial environment — every day, it’s a battle. Instead of creating win-win scenarios,
there’s tremendous pressure to savage the opposition, and to make simple issues more difficult. There’s needless posturing, bellicosity and pounding of chests when in reality, the same issues could be easily and amicably resolved if both sides were simply reasonable. But that’s not the system. Our clients tell us they not only have to fight opposing clients, they also often have to fight with other lawyers within their own firm. Most disaffected lawyers would prefer to be in an atmosphere that is cooperative and collegial. Wouldn’t you?
#5. Roteness/Boredom – after years of handling similar issues, a “been there, done that” mentality
can set in and, except for rare cases, the work can become no longer challenging. Lawyers, as a breed, are “smarter than the average bear” and have a low boredom threshold. They like “solving puzzles” and being creative, but after 10, 15 or more years doing the same thing, the thrill is gone. Often, you can predict the outcome of a case within a few minutes after reading the file, but you have to go through all of the motions anyway.
So why do unhappy attorneys stay in law firms or private practice?
There are two key obstacles to career change for lawyers. A common concern among attorneys is a lack of awareness of what else they can do besides lawyering. A second issue is a lack of awareness of the types of positions that exist in the ‘outside’ world. Both of these problems can be overcome.
If there’s anything I have learned after so many years of counseling attorneys, it’s that lawyers have the intellectual horsepower to learn just about anything. They have analytical skills, research abilities, problem solving skills and both written and verbal presentation talents — that’s not a bad platform for a career change. What company couldn’t make good use of someone with those talents?”
We provide a full range of services for attorneys in transition. Our specialty is career change for attorneys in mid-life who are seeking to explore career alternatives, either in the law or in business, academics or non-profit agency administration. We serve clients nationally. A boutique-sized practice, we limit ourselves to accepting just over 100 new cases per year.
If you are an attorney thinking about exploring your career options, call Career Strategies today.