In a legal career, it is easy to go to bed at 25 or 26, fresh out of law school and recently admitted to the bar, and wake up at 35 at the same firm, working the same grueling hours Long hours, sleepless nights, stress, the client is always right mentality, and other factors contribute to difficult careers that can suck years out of an attorney’s life if he or she doesn’t assess personal choices and career path. Attorneys, like everyone, should assess their choices and path every few years to make sure that they are on track for the life they want.
Some attorneys crave the stress of Big Law firms and trials; some fell into it because it was what the profession expected them to do. Moreover, these changes can occur subtly over time. Perhaps at the start, the office was a pleasant working environment. However, over the years, the staff and attorneys changed, the culture changed, new partners took over management, and suddenly it was a different office with a different culture and values. Assessing a legal career isn’t about rejecting capitalism, quitting the legal field, and foregoing financial obligations to pay off school debt, a mortgage, or save for a child’s future. However, it is an opportunity for lawyers to be open to changing their work-life balance, applying for a new job, or learning a new skill.
The attorney shouldn’t blindly blunder into a new industry or practice area. He or she should research the pay scale, industry culture, work-life balance, employer options, and other issues before making the jump. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Attorneys, by definition, shouldn’t be impulsive. Attorneys should use their legal training to carefully consider their options and plan a move, if appropriate. Attorneys should balance their financial and familial obligations with the changes they want in their careers. The change doesn’t need to be dropping their well-paid senior associate position at a good firm to join a non-profit organization and take a 50% pay cut.
Also, attorneys should carefully evaluate their next move and what it will take to get there. Does the attorney need to learn new skills? Should the attorney go back to school for a different degree? Has he or she tried reaching out to his or her network? Does he or she know anyone in the preferred field?
3. Communicate with Employer
Moreover, an attorney doesn’t necessarily need to change careers or employers to get what he or she needs. Attorneys should consult with their employer about their desires. For attorneys who work in-house at a large corporation, they may move to another department laterally. The attorney could also apply for special projects to test the waters. They can negotiate to add a pro bono department for attorneys at law firms, request to manage an internship program, or solicit new clients. Not every solution to a stagnant career requires dramatic change.