Are you a lawyer by default? Answer the following questions to find out:
– You chose law school because you didn’t know what else you wanted to do.
– You chose your first legal job because the firm was hiring at your school.
If you answered “Yes”, congratulations, you are a lawyer by default.
You’re not alone. There are many of us, hard at work in law firms, wishing the phone was ringing and the perfect non-legal job with a six-figure salary was calling.
If you chose law school by default, you probably also chose your legal career by default. Why? Because just as going to law school is the easy choice, choosing to go to a firm is also the easy choice. Law schools have extensive recruitment programs.
Every fall, law schools select the nation’s most prestigious and highest-paid law firms that are interested in their students and offer you an alluring opportunity. Maybe you’re still not sure what you want to do, but it wouldn’t hurt to fill out the form and go do some interviews. You meet with the firms. They make offers. It is very difficult to reject a job already done.
So here you are. A lawyer by default.
Punishing yourself for it isn’t going to help. Where you are is where you are. The question is what do you do now?
Here are 5 simple steps to find and search for a satisfying job outside the law:
1. Accept that you want to do something else with your law degree. If you resist that idea, it will cost you a lot to get out. You are not the first person to change careers and you will not be the last. Would you rather find a job you love or suffer for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years?
2. Identify 3-4 options. What fields do you find interesting? Don’t worry so much about job titles or salaries right now; you’re just brainstorming. If you have no idea, start keeping track of what appeals to you. Is it baking, spending Saturdays at the bookstore, reading stock quotes, what?
3. Explore your options. This is the fun part. Do some research on the fields that appeal to you. Go online, read books. Call someone and do an informational interview with them. Spend a day with your local florist or pastry chef. Experiment and visualize what it would be like to spend your days doing this kind of work.
4. Map. It’s time to leave the left brain inside. Think about what would get in your way of pursuing the career you love. Finances, family, lack of experience, turning your legal resume into one that opens doors for you outside the law? Now find out if those obstacles are real or just in your head. If they are real, decide if they are worth getting over.
5. Take the leap. As much as we’d like to plan it out until it’s perfect, there comes a time when you have to put away the notepad and just go for it. It’s often a messy and unpredictable journey, but the end result is worth it: no more counting down to Sunday night and a job you want to get up for on Monday morning.
© 2008 Monica R. Parker