Making the Best of a Law Career Change When You Hate Your Current Position
Many people pursue a law degree with certain aspirations. They believe that by becoming a lawyer they’d spend their careers making defined differences in victims’ lives and secure justice—while also securing a steady pay check.
Altruism is nice, but the reality of a career in the law is far less compelling.
Fresh law school graduates quickly and painfully get a crash course in the reality of law in practice. Those who actually land full-time positions—and remember, only 60% of graduates in 2014 were lucky enough to have long-term law positions nine months after graduating—generally get stuck doing clerical work and answering phones. The dream of being the next Johnnie Cochran or Ruth Bader Ginsberg is replaced with the reality of combing through countless piles of paperwork and never seeing the light of day. As such, many would-be defenders of justice quickly realize that they hate their jobs.
But what can you do? You’ve spent years working to get this far, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of dollars you spent (and still owe). You can’t just say “oopsy” and start over.
But you can choose change to be happy.
Changing Your Career Path
Nothing is worse than realizing that you may have chosen the wrong career path. Your entire life becomes defined by your current misery and by your well-intentioned but misguided decision. Work becomes even more unbearable and overwhelming, your productivity worsens, and you lose sight of happiness because you think you’re stuck.
However, you’re not quite as trapped as you think you are. You deserve to be happy in your job (or at least not unhappy), and thanks to your degree, you have the skills to do just that. Really, all you need to do is figure out what it is you actually like and want to do.
- Make a list of what you want out of a job: Do you want to be able to help low-income families? Do you want a large paycheck? Do you want to work from home? Rank your priorities in descending order of greatest importance.
- Set up informational interviews with people in jobs that seem interesting to you.
- Make a list of the skills you learned in school, such as writing, analysis, advocacy, counseling, management, and research ability.
- Revise your résumé to emphasize these skills.
Although you may discover that the perfect job for you has nothing to do with law, you can still use the skills law school gave you to pursue your actual passion. On the other hand, you may find alternative law careers that satisfy your wants without sacrificing your needs.
Career Options That Utilize a Law Degree
- Government jobs. Although you may still wind up with clerical duties, government jobs provide more incentives than private firms. For example, government jobs usually encourage reasonable working hours, a steady paycheck, and student loan incentives.
- Bridge jobs. A bridge job is a job that you use as a stepping stone to another job until you cross to the career you want. For example, you may decide that you want to work in the entertainment field. You can use your legal background to represent start-up studios in order to get your foot in the door. You can then use the connections you networked in that job to secure more prestigious studios and so on. By the time you’ve crossed the bridge, you may wind up representing A-list celebrities.
- Counselling. Many disgruntled lawyers have found happiness by counseling new law school graduates in career placement depending on their individual needs. Not only do they help people, but they get to use their law knowledge without having to be constricted in a firm.
The important thing to remember is that the skills you’ve acquired by obtaining a law degree can help you do anything—as long as you put them to good use. If you don’t like your job, change it! Otherwise, you may wake up 40 years from now and wonder what happened to your life.