It’s no accident that there’s an entire industry dedicated to helping lawyers leave the profession.
Between too much stress, not enough time away from the job, and a desire for change in the way the industry is run, there are a plethora of reasons that one might want to leave the legal world.
Many lawyers didn’t know exactly what they were signing up for when they enrolled in law school and scored their first big lawyer job. Some were pushed into the profession by family. Others expected their career to look like it does in the movies. These are just two of the reasons that some lawyers regret going into the field. This regret can push lawyers out of their jobs and (hopefully) into careers that are better suited to them.
Lack of Control
For many lawyers, having no control over your hours and caseload can be too much. When you have to call in every day of your vacation, or take a two-hour conference call on Saturday mornings, it can be exhausting. This lack of the ability to control one’s own schedule becomes a make-or-break issue. Whether on vacation or during a weekend, not being able to take any substantive time away from work becomes frustrating enough to lead lawyers to opt for a change of career.
It’s no secret that most lawyers work much more than the typical 40-hour work week—more like somewhere between 60 and 70 hours per week. With the heavy workload and stress that can be overwhelming at times, some lawyers find themselves feeling burnt out on the profession as a whole. Between having little time for family and friends, lack of sleep, and a constant flow of new work, lawyers can feel burned out after just months—not to mention years—on the job. Feeling overworked and overloaded, some lawyers opt to leave the profession altogether in search of a career with better work/life balance.
In many Big Law firms, the office environment can be challenging to productivity, especially for certain personality types. If you’re working for a firm with a toxic culture or inefficient system, it will make you want to get out of there as quickly as possible. While this could signify that it’s time to change firms and not necessarily your career in general, it could also be a sign that you don’t like the environment in which lawyers often find themselves.
Some lawyers, no matter how much they hate or love the legal world, find second passions they feel strongly enough about to pursue. Like anyone else, a lawyer can have a change of heart about their career after a while, even if they enjoyed the work. Changing careers at least once in a lifetime is not at all unusual. Whether a lawyer becomes interested in teaching, joining a nonprofit, or starting their own business, having legal experience can be a great lead into other fulfilling careers.
Finding Something Better
Just as in any career, lawyers must build a network over time. Someone in your professional network may hear of a job opportunity that’s just perfect for you and urge you to at least investigate it. These opportunities won’t always entail working as a lawyer. Many lawyers segue their education and experience into recruiting, consulting, or academia. If you’re considering leaving the law behind you, make sure to look at all of the options you may have.