All of the Dumb Reasons Why You Can’t Leave the Law and How to Overcome Them
- You care what other people think. It may be your spouse. Or your parents. Or your friends and fellow lawyers. Or maybe you did what I did, which was to create a fictional person that combined all of the disapproving people in my life. But there is probably somebody who strongly disapproves of your desire to leave the law. It is easy to say stuff like “don’t worry about what other people think.” But how do you do that? The easiest way is to realize that nobody really cares about you.
- You can’t go back. This one is paradoxical. You know you really want to leave the law, but you’re worried that you may not be able to go back? Why would you want to go back? The fear that its irreversible holds you back. Practicing law is something you went to school for and have done for many years. The law represents safety and security. You may hate it, but at least you know what it is like. The devil you know, as the cliché goes. What is you leave the law and end up hating your new career? What if you fail? What if you don’t make as much money as you did while practicing? It is easy to let these concerns hold you back from committing to leaving the law. The way to overcome them is to realize that, when it comes to your career, almost nothing is irreversible. It may be hard to explain to a firm why you want to return to the law 5 years after taking a nonlegal position. But that shouldn’t hold you back. First, you can’t know what will motivate you to do something in 5 years. A lot can happen in that time. Second, look at the risks you’re taking. If you stay in the law, you’ll never know how much better things might be for you. Why pass up that potential upside just for the safety of law? The risk of not leaving the law is worse than the risk of staying.
- You don’t know what to do instead. You’ve only ever practiced law. How are you supposed to know what else is out there? What else might you be qualified to do? The best way to overcome this fear is to reframe it: you don’t know what to do first. Don’t assume that you’ll be in your first nonlegal job forever. You’ll be exposed to so much new and different stuff. You’ll develop new expertise and new interests. Then you can figure out what you’ll do next. One thing lawyers like to do is have everything mapped out. We have lists of all the questions we’re going to ask the witness at the deposition. We have closing checklists. Everything is planned out. But thinking that way can hold you back. Your only plan now should be leaving the law. Don’t be afraid to take a nonlegal position just to get out of the law. Then you can pivot.
- You can’t afford it. Sorry, but there isn’t any way to sugarcoat this. Most lawyers have lifestyle creep. They make more money so they spend more money. Soon, they need their income just to keep up with their cost of living. The golden handcuffs. It can be hard to leave the law by finding a position that will pay you similarly, at least right away. You’ve earned your salary because you went to law school and have a few years under your belt. So you’re worth that 6-figure salary. But if you want to switch to a nonlegal job? Why should a company take a chance on somebody with little to no direct experience who is making a significant career change? What can you do for the company that justifies them paying you that kind of money? I can’t answer that for you, but that is the most important question you have to answer in any interview you’ll have. [link] Beyond this, cut back on expenses and start saving.
- You can’t get any interviews. Again, there isn’t any way to sugarcoat this. Getting a job for which you’re perfectly qualified for can be hard enough. Trying to do it while making a dramatic career change can be really hard. Companies will wonder why you want to leave the law? Why take a chance on you when there may be a more reliable candidate in the pool? It isn’t easy and it will take time. But you are not trapped [link]. If you see leaving the law as a short 3-month process, you’ll be frustrated. If you see it as a year-long process, you’ll be better off.