Yes, deciding to leave your legal career is hard - but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Below is a list of seven non-legal jobs that will get you ready to pack your things and leave law behind.
Let's face it - lawyers are paid a lot better than many other business functions. It's certainly true that most unhappy lawyers in their right minds would always put their life before the money. Yet for many, be it for the family they have or the lifestyle that's important to them, it's still a big sticking point that they won't compromise on. So, what can you do to leave law and earn a decent living?
There is no doubt that you will have to be strategic in finding a job that pays well amongst many that do not - but by leveraging your legal knowledge and being resourceful in how you search and pitch yourself for prospective opportunities, finding a job that rewards your talent and expertise won't be nearly as hard as you think. Here's how you could be putting your law degree to work outside of practice.
1. HR Director/Manager
This is a great job for the lawyer who understands people and wants to solve people-centred problems; likes to put deals together; and likes to interact with many different departments. Success really comes down to getting the right people on board, keeping them happy enough to retain them and developing their skills on the job. Lawyers that like to mediate and negotiate in conflict situations will be well suited to preventing and resolving problems, along with advising supervisors on how to correct poor performance and employee misconduct. The greater the complexity of law and the more conflict in the workplace, the more valuable your legal skills become - look out for distressed companies. You can also specialise in recruiting and training below as internal staff or external recruiter.
Our very own Course Director Martin Underwood moved from the Criminal Bar to the the Head of Delivering Happiness (or head of HR) at a fast-growth internet start-up. He says:
“Joining a start-up that was expanding rapidly gave me a great opportunity to take responsibility over shaping the whole structure of the company and working across lots of different departments in a dynamic environment, whilst making the most of my litigation background to resolve a lot of the disputes that emerge when an organisation is moving so quickly.”
2. Learning & Development and Training
A role in L & D and training would be great for lawyers that like to communicate in group settings, not least litigators who are looking to use their skills in a less antagonistic, more people-centric environment. This involves picking up on new industry themes, assessing skills and knowledge of people, determining what training is needed then delivering this. You could be internal to an organisation focussing on the holistic or external delivering to many. You’ll probably know already if you like helping others learn - think about helping friends and colleagues that have a problem. Ultimately, you have to enjoy helping others fulfil their potential.
Lucy Gregory was a former Tax Associate at an important multinational law firm before becoming the Managing Director of Attica, a business-writing consultancy that trains businesses and professionals to deliver high quality content:
“I wanted to combine my advisory and writing skills and to keep working in the commercial sector. So I teamed up with my co-founder (who’s a management consultant) and we established Attica, a business-writing consultancy. Since there are only two of us, we handle all the day-to-day management of the business, which includes strategy, sales, marketing, bookkeeping, web coding…the list goes on. I didn’t know the first thing about any of this before Attica, and it’s been a steep learning curve.”
3. Professional Writing
As you probably know, the lawyer/writer schizophrenia goes back centuries - Franz Kafka, John Grisham, Washington Irving and Henry Fielding are but a few of those who began their careers in the law. Novel writing aside, those hours spent researching, crawling over documents and enduring drafting equip lawyers to write, edit and proofread well on a range of topics. Many will combine their writing skills with commercial awareness and the ability to grasp new subject matters quickly to add value. Find yourself a muse, get inspired and unleash your writing skills. The variety on offer is huge: from copy writing in marketing to TV and film script editor, and from professional training to compliance and internal technical documents.
Lucy Gregory says that, at Attica, meeting the client’s needs and delivering high quality results is key:
“I work mainly with professionals, helping them improve the quality of their documents. Typical tasks involve editing, proofreading and training staff to develop their own writing skills. The real challenge is understanding a client’s business and what they want to achieve with their documents, often with little guidance; in that respect it’s much like being a lawyer.”
“Is it easy?” she concludes, “Definitely not. But I love the work, my clients are amazing and I’m in charge of my own time – so for me it’s worth it.”
4. Legal/Non-Legal Recruiter
In house, you’ll be involved in the fulfilment of a company’s goals,establishing a company’s recruiting needs by managing the intricacies of the hiring process and advising the management team on possible actions. You’ll need to have a good grasp of the company’s needs, be comfortable in managing and assessing people and be ready to make judgement calls when it comes down to picking the right candidate. These are often the skills that litigators will flourish in. In addition to this, keeping track of the compliance and legal requirements of hiring, along with an analytical rigour to the role can set lawyers apart here.
Nick Halewood was a Capital Markets lawyer at a top law firm before leaving the law to join Shilton Sharpe Quarry as a Consultant:
Life as a headhunter is far more dynamic than as a Capital Markets lawyer; days are more varied and projecting your personality is part of your job, whereas lawyers often hide behind a professional façade. I enjoy the fact that talking to candidates and clients is the main part of the job and that the role has a “soft-sell” element to it, making it far more commercial than legal practice.
The work is much more entrepreneurial than law – you really do get out of the role what you are willing to put in, both in terms of remuneration and job satisfaction, which is something that was not the case in private practice. There is also the opportunity to earn considerably more than you would be able to as an associate in a Magic Circle firm.
5. Business Development/Sales
If you’ve got a commercial head on you that likes making deals happen and building relationships gives you energy then these two roles could be for you. Business development is a lot like sales, but even more strategic as it aligns with a company’s long term objectives. You’ll be doing a mixture identifying, developing, defining, negotiating, and closing business deals, relationships, partnerships and opportunities. These positions would be great for a lawyer who feels energised by closing deals, developing relationships with people and executing a company’s business strategies - you’ll need a lot of resilience to keep going through the no’s to think that it brings you one step closer to the ‘yes’.
Sam Hall Director is the Business Development Director at WeJaunt, a social travel marketplace and group-building platform that arranges active weekend breaks for young professionals.
“Having had such a dispiriting professional experience previously in my career, I became fiercely stubborn about what to do next. I knew I was done with stepping stones, and acutely aware that I can only achieve the success that I'm after if I'm working on a subject or a product which I feel fundamentally passionate about. I've worked in three business development roles, and saw the results I was achieving peak and trough in tandem with my passion for the company, the team, and most importantly, the product. With WeJaunt, that's what I've found - something that I can be enthusiastic about, something that I’m proud to talk to people about, something that I believe in.”
6. B2B/B2C Marketing
A position in Marketing would suit a solicitor who is commercially and editorially oriented, has excellent research skills, good powers of persuasion and feels like applying his writing skills to something more than briefs and other legal drafts. Business-to-business (B2B) marketing roles involve applying many of the skills you’ll have learnt at law school. Here you’ll be required to research new topics and themes in your company’s market (although often you’ll find this more lightweight than the research you may be used to), simplify complex ideas into persuasive pieces of information and interact with new clients, industry leaders or the press in order to further the exposure of your company. Equally, business-to-consumer (B2C) jobs may attract young lawyers looking to apply their skills from different angles. These jobs will often include having to write product page content, marketing proposals, compliance documents and blog posts, as well as having to coordinate and cooperate with the marketing team. All of this means that employers value lawyers, provided you can demonstrate that you can transfer the skills developed during your legal training (research, analysis, concise writing, teamwork, persuasion) to the marketing world.
Before becoming a Senior Marketing Manager at Amazon UK, Karol Corcoran was a practising Corporate Lawyer:
I left practise to get a more hands on business role and my first step was to pitch myself as a resource to some start ups. I offered them legal advice and set up their terms and conditions -basic stuff- and in return they gave me business roles. This was great as it helped confirm to me that I had made the right move and in subsequent recruitment conversations it really helped to have something extra to talk about. Now in my marketing role its about ensuring great customer experience by having great copy and content and ensuring accuracy and high standards which is bread and butter to someone who is legally trained. Using data to make decisions and dealing with ambiguity is a key part of the job too and that's something most lawyers can easily relate to. It can feel daunting to leave the structure and 'safety' of private practise but it can be done. It's a case of getting your narrative straight (the why and the what you bring) and just backing yourself.
7. Project Manager/COO in a small business
These two roles are great for a solicitor or barrister who enjoys the responsibilities of being accountable for the achievement of goals, likes leading by example and/or has a particular interest in a niche subject area (i.e. Tech, FinTech) or even a specific product category. Many lawyers will transition by both PMing and providing legal advice in legal technology companies that mix day to day legal advice, drafting legal precedents and publications and compiling legal know-how.
Both Project Managers and COOs are required to be strategic thinkers, good problem solvers, successful communicators and have strong personalities to implement and develop strategies in order to achieve the desired results. In either of these roles, you’ll be required to manage employees and coordinate with the HR and recruitment offices, make sure the project stays on track with the timeline, ensure that the budget is respected, be prepared for the unexpected and deliver results. They’re both high-pressure, high-reward positions that require you to think on your feet and apply many of the skills you’ve worked hard to develop during your legal training.