Alternative careers: How to take the leap

 

By Lyle Solomon

Lawyers often find themselves performing internet searches for “alternative careers for lawyers” when they feel frustrated with their status in life. Sometimes it comes as a surprise to them because they assume they are supposed to love their job forever. They spent so much time and money on their education that leaving it all behind seems like a waste. But sticking it out while living a miserable life is hardly the better alternative. So, what is the answer? How can a lawyer find job satisfaction without sacrificing everything he or she has worked for?

What is Lawyer Burnout

Burnout is the leading cause of career changes. People feel that so much has been taken from them and they have nothing left to give. This is incredibly common in high-stress or demanding jobs.

Professor Arnold B. Baker, Ph D has done extensive research on burnout. He put it best when he defined it as, “Burnout develops when someone is dealing with a high level of stress but doesn’t have access to adequate resources, such as social support, helpful advice, feedback from friends of colleagues, or control over how they spend their time.”

Symptoms of burnout may include:

  • Extreme fatigue not related to sleep deprivation
  • General cynicism or disengagement from work
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Inattentiveness or lack of focus

As a lawyer, there is a lot of demand on both your time and resources. With demanding clients, managing billing structures, and keeping up with a profession steeped in image, your mental health takes a toll. For many, burnout becomes inevitable. So, what are the options if you decide being a lawyer isn’t for you?

Entrepreneur

What are you passionate about? If you’re finding yourself unhappy as a lawyer, now might be a good time to bet on yourself. If you aren’t completely ready to give up law, you could decide to start your own practice as a lawyer, or begin a new venture. Your legal expertise will become an asset since you will have a basic understanding of law and have the ability to read legal documents.

All you need is a great idea and an understanding of your state and local requirements to start your own business. 

Content Writer 

Do you love the law, but find yourself tired of practicing law? Companies love to hire content writers with a deep understanding of legal issues. With such a specialized niche, you will become a very sought after writer within the community. You can also start your own blog offering advice or tips for people with legal questions. This way you are still putting your legal expertise to work without taking on the headaches of practicing law.

Politician

Some lawyers become frustrated with how certain laws are carried out. They do their best to uphold the law, but see pitfalls and feel powerless if a case doesn’t go favorably. This also leads to burnout if they constantly feel they can’t make a difference. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a lawyer to turn to politics. In fact, nearly half of Congress are law school graduates. As a politician, they have the chance to create genuine change in areas that may need it most. To get started, try connecting with your local political party or working on the campaign trail of a political candidate

Teacher or Professor

Teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession. Depending on what you feel passionate about, your possibilities are seemingly endless. Obviously, you can naturally transition into teaching law. But this would be a great opportunity to ask yourself what you are truly interested in teaching. If you love the idea of shaping young minds, you could teach elementary social studies. History, economics, and government are common class offerings in secondary education. To get an idea of what classes are offered at the college level, browse the online catalog of local colleges to see what sparks your interest.

Consultant

Do you love helping your clients, but feel the burnout of the pressure and sometimes tedious nature of being a lawyer? If you still have the drive to make a difference in peoples’ lives, a consultant may be the route for you. As a consultant, people still come to you seeking your expertise in a specialized field, but the main difference here is there is far less paperwork to keep up with. You also do not have to provide legal representation. The goal as a consultant is to help someone see positive gains in whatever area they came to seek advice in. These areas may include their personal or professional life, or even a business looking for operational improvement. If you are someone who enjoys creating relationships, your legal expertise could be exactly what some people need in a consultant.

Are You Ready to Take the Leap?

Ask anyone who has considered a career change how they felt and they will all tell you it comes with a mixture of emotions. While they feel hopeful and excited, it’s nearly impossible not to let fear of the unknown creep in. It’s natural to wonder if your new endeavor will be successful, and to feel concerned about leaving a job that offers financial stability.

First, start by considering your quality of life. How long have you been experiencing burnout? Not only can prolonged burnout make you feel miserable, but it can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. People lose interest in their everyday activities, feel resentful, and become susceptible to illness. So, if any of this describes you, stepping out into the unknown could improve your quality of life. The good news is, unless you feel comfortable making a clean break with a fresh start, you can make a gradual transition. Here’s how: 

  • Choose a path and research what you need to do to begin a new career
  • Start a list of small actionable steps to achieve to reach your target goal
  • Slowly transfer clients to trusted colleagues who can better service them
  • Keep your workload light while you are in transition between careers
  • Ask for referrals and seek a mentor in your new field
  • Make a clean break, leaving a positive impact as a lawyer when the time is right

 Before you get started, make sure you have a fully funded emergency fund to float you through the transition. You’ll want to consider any changes in income and plan your life accordingly. But don’t stop and don’t give up until you are living the life of your dreams.

 


 About the Author: Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in Los Altos, California.


 

 

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