My colleague Ashley recently wrote a great article on his career transition from the law into legal recruitment. To borrow Ashley’s words, the realisation that you may have chosen the wrong career path is a daunting one – and one that I’m all too familiar with. However, the decision to leave the law is not a decision that either Ashley nor I took lightly or made overnight. It was a journey in itself, that required careful consideration, patience, a few wrong turns and a lot of networking and research.
In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to a number of junior lawyers who are feeling a bit lost and a lot unnoticed and undervalued. Maybe it’s the time of year – performance reviews and salary discussions are underway. Maybe it’s the circumstances – yet another lockdown means feelings of disconnection and isolation are exacerbated, with some junior lawyers having barely any face time with their teams since commencing their legal careers. It’s probably both.
After stewing in these feelings for far too long, many of these young lawyers have arrived at the same conclusion: the law isn’t for me.
It’s a bit of de ja vu for me. I went through the exact same thought process a few years into my own legal career. I was convinced that the solution to my misery was to leave the law altogether. I considered going back to university to study psychology or doing a short course in counselling. I briefly toyed with the idea of nursing or teaching. I felt overwhelmed and lost but I was 100% certain that the source of all my confusion was the industry I had chosen
Then I took a step back from the ledge and the bigger picture came into focus.
It’s easy (and very tempting) to point the finger at the law and say that it’s the guilty party responsible for your misery. But what’s harder is to pull back the layers and really get to the root of your unhappiness. Could it be the practice area that you are in? Perhaps it wasn’t your first preference but it’s where you were slotted in after your grad year you and you were just grateful to have a job? Could it be the firm? Are you better suited to a smaller or bigger sized firm? Is the firm culture clouding your judgment? I’m not saying that the law is right for every lawyer, but I am saying that your decision to leave the law should be considered, meaning you should take the time to really decipher the problem.
Especially for young lawyers who have spent their whole career at one firm in one practice group, perhaps a pivot – to another firm, or to another team – before taking a running leap out of the law can give you some clarity.
A healthy dose of comparison can do wonders. Perhaps it will confirm that you do in fact need to ditch the law. It might, however, surprise you with the realisation that the change you needed was not as big as you imagined.