Hate Practicing Law? Need a way out? I litigated for three years after law school. I thought it was fine and fun for the most part. But it wasn’t super-fulfilling. I would get irritated at having an unreasonable opposing counsel or unreasonable judge or unreasonable client! And I can only imagine that these are exaggerated in some areas of law. I was very lucky to like my boss and my coworkers and to enjoy my work, for the most part. But I know that many of my friends are not so lucky.
Many lawyers realize quickly that they do not like their jobs and need to find a way out! Some feel guilty for even complaining (given the not-so-stellar job market). But we believe you only have one life and should not spend it on something that you dread, or that is unfulfilling, or not what you were meant to do.
The first step if you hate practicing law—and a crucial step—is to identify the problem:
What is it that you do not like about your job? It might be:
- Going to court (or not going to court)
- Research and writing (or not research/writing enough)
- Your boss
- Your coworkers
- The clients or clientele you work with
- The subject matter of your work (i.e. you work at an immigration firm and you just don’t like immigration law!)
- The pay
- The time it takes to commute to work
- The time you are expected to dedicate to work
- Lack of flexibility
- The stress that comes with deadlines (or court dates, or whatever)
- Something else
Take some time to really think about what you like and don’t like about your job.
You may look at this list and realize there are really only one or two things that you do not like – i.e. the pay, and going to court. If this is the case, then maybe you don’t hate practicing law. Maybe you just don’t like practicing law in your field. Maybe you should look for a transactional law firm if you don’t like court, or something where you are helping people rather than constantly being “against” someone (i.e. probate law, immigration law, and being inside counsel for an organization does not require a lot of litigation). I thought I was leaving the practice of law forever when I started my JD Advising company, and I ended up with my own law firm writing bar exam appeals (which is much more my style of practicing law!).
If you hate the pay and your boss or coworkers or lack of flexibility, you may consider starting your own firm.
If you still think you hate practicing law, here are some other options to consider:
- Politics or a government job (those federal government jobs are fantastic!! Even the non-lawyer jobs pay well over what most lawyers make!)
- Working at a law school (as their faculty – i.e. “Academic Success Director” or a professor). These can be hard jobs to break into and sometimes you have to work your way up, but they have very consistent hours and decent pay (or good pay, if you are a professor)
- Teaching (paralegal instructor, political science at a college, etc.)
- Business – Many large organizations hire lawyers—not only for legal jobs but for other jobs (human resources, for example). Companies love to hire people who are aware of the law!
- Alternative dispute resolution – arbitration, mediation, etc. These are hard fields to break into but they can be very rewarding
- Westlaw or Lexis representative (if research is your thing!)
- A judge (it is easier to become a judge in most states than many people think!)
- Something else – there are about a thousand others. Think about what you are good at and what people ask you for help with. It does not have to be law-related!
Where do you go about finding these jobs? Applying online is one way. But it is an even better route to reach out to your friends and colleagues to ask if they have any ideas or if they have any leads. If you are close to the career services person at your law school, ask them. I hate standard “networking” just as much as the next person, but it is also a good idea to meet others with similar interests (for example, if you are going to start a business, go to an entrepreneurs meetup).
Looking for more resources? Some other posts that may interest you are:
- So you want to start a small business (…Or Law Firm. Or side business?) Here are Five Tips to Start!
- Ten tips for starting your own law firm
- How to Create a Professional and Polished LinkedIn Profile
- How to Become a Judge in Michigan
- Five Lessons I’ve Learned my First Year as an Entrepreneur
We will have more posts on practicing law, not practicing law, and especially tips for people looking to start their own firms and businesses. We also have a plethora of productivity and motivational tips. Sign up here if you are interested. We never share email addresses and we don’t email often. (We email on average, once a month.)
Ashley Heidemann scored over a 180 on the Michigan Bar Exam in February of 2011. She, as well as a team of tutors offer private one-on-one tutoring for bar exam students nationwide (including tutoring for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) and Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). She also offers small-group courses and seminars for the Michigan bar exam. Please click here to contact her company, with any questions or to set up a tutoring session.