For a lawyer, taking the leap and making a career change can be a scary proposition. If you stop practicing law, are you throwing away all of your years of experience (and hard work!) and all of that training in law school? Is it ludicrous for an attorney to want to make a career change? The answer to both questions is not necessarily. There are all kinds of ways that you can leverage your education and work experience to land a job that is fulfilling and pays the bills. Here are a few steps on how to navigate such a career move:
1. Talk to employers about your overall experience. Did you write a compelling, persuasive brief? Did you negotiate a big deal? Did you manage a team of paralegals or other attorneys? Did you use your creative problem solving skills to produce results for your clients? Lawyers tend to think in terms of their practice areas. This kind of thinking short-sells their abilities. Your knowledge of your practice area can be obtained through studying. Your abilities to manage projects, supervise others, write effectively, analyze issues and negotiate deals are inherent talents upon which you can base a career change.
2. Consider becoming a consultant. Becoming a consultant is one of the easier way of making a career change. You can even start out on a freelance or ad hoc basis to gain some non-lawyer experience, all while keeping your regular job. This is a great way to test the waters and see what kind of positions are out there. It is also a way for potential employers to see the value you can bring to them. A recent “graduate” of our program wanted to transition into the computer industry. He offered to take on some non-legal projects for a technology company, and did the work on nights and weekends. They were so pleased with the results that they hired him full-time as Director of Special Projects. FYI — set your fees high – companies are much more willing to pay contractors a higher per-hour rate than hire somebody full time, so you should take advantage.
3. Expand your practice areas. Sometimes making a career change is more about getting away from a particular segment of law. One of our clients, a solo with a general practice, was very interested in financial planning. He took some courses and began studying for his CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation. After a time, he was able to add financial planning to his practice. This new area involves making presentations before investors, typically in small groups, and this satisfied our client’s love of public speaking. Eventually, he was doing more financial planning for clients than he was lawyering! Expanding your practice area involves the excitement of learning new disciplines, and can also be a great additional revenue stream!