Being able to call yourself a lawyer can feel good when it comes to describing your job. Lawyers are respected professionals, after all, and there’s a great deal of prestige associated with the job. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for new lawyers to realize the cold, hard truth: Law isn’t always what they thought it would be.
Why Do Lawyers Quit?
Going into law practice is a long and grueling process. Much like being a doctor, once you’re on the path, you’re set on that path until you make it. Law school is long and difficult, and while you’re in it, you may not have time to consider other paths. Like being in college, law school doesn’t leave you much time to question your decisions – you’re busy with classes and preparing for the bar exam, so there isn’t much time to consider your career choices.
Many lawyers come out of this process and realize something – the law can be mind-numbingly dull. For some, this isn’t a deal breaker, and they are more than willing to handle a little bit of boring work to achieve their goals. Others, though, aren’t receiving the same satisfaction that makes the tedium worth it.
Where to Go Next
If law isn’t the issue, but being a practicing attorney is, you can always consider other legal careers. Consultation, business and finance, and education are all options you can consider should you want to practice law in a different setting. You don’t necessarily need to be a defense attorney to practice law – consider whether your current education can prepare you for a similar career that isn’t so draining.
Leaving Law Behind
Before you make any major decisions, seriously consider what you’re doing. If you’re only just starting law, for example, it’s possible you’re experiencing new-career syndrome. Starting any new work is challenging, and it can take years to really feel comfortable in a job or field.
If you are more experienced, think hard about what bothers you in law. As we’ve already seen, there are plenty of careers you can transition into if you’re simply experiencing fatigue as a practicing attorney. At the same time, it’s common to desire a career change later in life. Sometimes the vision we have of ourselves isn’t what works out in the end, and there’s no shame in that.
Unfortunately, leaving the law is harder than leaving other careers. The sheer time commitment you’ve put in to becoming a lawyer means you had to sacrifice other career options. Make sure you have a decent financial cushion, as unemployment is never easy. Be prepared to reinvent yourself, as there are few jumps as large as switching out of law.
As a practicing lawyer, you likely have a large network of contacts. Use this support system – you may find a few great options lying just behind the corner through business friends and associates. Be open to new ideas as well; you may be surprised by exactly what you like. If your dissatisfaction stems from the job description, however, try to steer clear of similar work – a contract lawyer leaving to become a hiring manager, for example, won’t be changing too much in their day-to-day experiences aside from the setting.
Either way, and for whatever reason you are leaving law practice, be confident in your decision. You don’t want to regret your decision, especially with all the preparation it took to enter your current field.