For lawyers, the risk is high right now that a lack of satisfaction at work could lead some to consider ditching the legal industry entirely. The field has been shaken up in the past year, and those shifts may have shone a light on bad management practices or unhealthy workplace culture while simultaneously dimming prospects for better compensation.
When someone’s boss is making them miserable, they typically look for a similar job with a different firm. If they’re unhappy with their compensation, they negotiate a raise or shop around. But the pandemic and its sudden switch to remote work may have pointed out or contributed to a variety of factors going sideways at once. If that’s the case for you, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your career trajectory for a new path. There is a risk of overestimating the benefits of a major career change, so be cautious in considering what is and isn’t working for you right now.
Here are ten reasons you might be rushing to leave the law – that don’t necessarily mean you should:
- You have a bad boss. If you’re interacting all the time with someone whose leadership style doesn’t work for you, it can make your whole job seem like a bad fit when a simple lateral move might solve your problem.
- You work for a poorly managed firm. Here again, your day-to-day might be totally out of whack, but it could have nothing to do with legal work itself.
- Your firm doesn’t offer the level of compensation you’re looking for. If this is the only issue, you’re probably looking at other law firms. But if it’s a factor compounding other concerns, this could be clouding your sense of how a legal career could still be a suitable path for you.
- You are struggling to work from home due to workflow changes, kids doing remote learning, or other shifts that aren’t likely to be permanent. Resist making a major career change based on what is likely a temporary situation.
- You’re in the wrong practice area. Maybe the work you’re doing isn’t a good fit for you. But your legal knowledge and background make you a great candidate for a variety of roles in the legal industry that would involve very different work.
- You are experiencing growing pains that will subside as you advance in your career. Maybe you’re struggling to adjust to some aspects of legal work early in your career, but these may be elements that you can find your way forward with given some time.
- You are overestimating the benefits of another path. Especially under stress, it’s a natural tendency to look for the magic bullet that will alleviate all your woes. But choices involve tradeoffs, and it’s easy to overlook the good things you’d be leaving behind. If you’re imagining that another job or career will be perfect, that’s a sign you probably haven’t learned enough about it.
- You are underestimating the comparative advantages of a legal career. The systemic factors that could be causing your dissatisfaction now may be even more pronounced for non-lawyers. If you’re considering bailing because you think you lack bargaining power or control over your time, realize that many other professional roles are more vulnerable to changes in the economy and the labor market. And the legal industry offers a lot of options outside of your current position.
- You’re dissatisfied with your job, but you still enjoy the core competencies of being a lawyer. If you love to be analytical and persuasive, enjoy writing, and have a competitive streak, these are sound reasons you got interested in law in the first place, and they might mean a smaller change is in order.
- People around you are catastrophizing. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to spread a sense of doom and gloom. Be sure to sort out what you feel from the worst-case perspectives others may be sharing.
Ultimately, as career coaches to lawyers, it’s not our goal to talk anyone into or out of working in a particular job or field. Our responsibility is to make sure our clients are making career decisions based on their true interests and skills with a realistic view of the market in mind. We act as a sounding board for the professionals we coach, collect information for them, and test their spoken and unspoken assumptions so that each can create a path that’s right for them – whether it’s in the law or not.