A big thanks to all who joined us, we loved meeting you and hearing what you had to say!
We don’t wake up to emails like this everyday!
At our private group last night, like-minded lawyers determined to do something different shared practical advice about where they’re heading and how to make it happen in the lead up to the More Than Law Course starting in September.
Learn why lawyers are so stuck in their jobs
This is the breakdown of the barriers that attendees are facing.
Law is a default option for so many. They make the decision without ever fully considering what it is to be a lawyer and if that is the right fit for them. Despite countless reasons for being unhappy in law such as ridiculously long hours, having no control over workload and very little meaningful interaction with others, so many people feel stuck in their jobs.
No time is the first excuse. How can you make time to think about what you really want from your career when you are working 16 hour days and 7 days a week? Looking for a job is only more work. The second reason which often holds people back is the time and money they have invested in getting to where they are. Years at university, training contracts, so many hours have been dedicated to making this career. Another big factor is of course money. You may be used to a certain lifestyle and giving that up is not going to be easy.
None of these reasons justify being unhappy in your job. Make time. Make time for you and what is important to you. Take some time off. It might take personal sacrifice, for example not going on holiday or missing a social event, but making time for you to consider your future is so important. Try and see the time you have spent studying and training to be a lawyer as constructive time in which you have gained skills and knowledge. Knowing what you do not want is a massive step.
At this point it is good to remind yourself, you are not alone. Our recent research, published by The Lawyer, found that a third of job seeking lawyers were looking to leave the profession. There is no failure in feeling law might not be the right fit for you and there are plenty of other people in the same situation.
Understand how to overcome the fear of leaving law
Reflecting on how confident are you that you could prioritise you values in order of importance, the point was made about how inconsistent our values can be depending on our mood and environment.
The best evidence of our values is what we do. Review your past experiences in order to identify patterns of positive and negative emotions, along with the cognitive biases that may have been in play before. The aim is to reveal what has been important to you based on your reactions to various experiences.
Look for patterns. Ask yourself a few questions about what you have plotted.
Are there particular emotions or values (skip ahead to understand what values are more clearly) that crop up again and again?
What are the situations and experiences you spend most time and energy simply trying to avoid? Think for a moment about what it is you least want to experience in life; is it pain, failure, poverty, rejection, loneliness, feeling that life is meaningless, conflict, feeling lost, getting something wrong, looking stupid, disappointment—or a combination of these or something else? Write them down. How do these feelings and this avoidance affect the quality of your life?
Will Meyerhofer who joined us on a Webinar earlier this year poses the question “When were you last happy?” to his clients and finds the response is often illuminating. Thinking about what you were doing, where you were and who you were with can offer insight into what you value most from a career.
More in the course about lifelines and other exercises.
Learn how to generate ideas, inside and outside of law. Brainstorm, research, experiment and network
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. At the heart of any successful career change is a great idea. Some seem so simple we wonder why we didn’t think of them before. Others are so inspiring we wonder how we ever could have chanced upon them.
To imagine is to perceive many of your potential futures, select the most delightful possibility, and then pull the present forward to meet it. Like attendees at the private group, if you don’t have a clue where you’re heading or they’re just ideas, then this is a major stumbling block.
Once you know your success criteria for work, you’re ready to get creative. There are many exercises and methods available to help you explore new ideas about the jobs you could do. Be expansive and non-judgmental - no pruning at this stage. A healthy number could be somewhere between 10 and 30 roles in particular industries that you can whittle down to a shortlist of one to three. Take a look at this blog post and this guide for more ideas.
It is also important to consider what kind of steps you are looking to make. Are you making a big leap or a small leap? What is most realistic given your experience or responsibilities? Maybe you will have to move roles more than once to get to where you ideally want to be.
Once you have narrowed down some options your research can move into the next phase. Networking is something which people, especially lawyers, get nervous about. Networking is talking to people. Have conversations and ask questions to find out more about different roles and different industries to see if there is a fit for you. Some meetings might lead you nowhere, but others will give you ideas and inspiration or open up new opportunities. Networking also helps you learn how to tell your own story and shape your personal brand. No doubt it will take some practice but you will learn how to present your best self.
Communities such as Escape The City, Career Shifters and Life Productions can be helpful to discuss ideas with like minded people on similar journeys. Be inspired by others. Read about lawyers who have successfully made the transition. Joshua Rozenburg who is now a BBC journalist and law commentator and David Lat co-founder and managing editor of Above The Law are among many.
Know how to land a job from a recruiter's perspective as a lawyer
Now let’s get specific for lawyers who often have an uphill struggle to convince recruiters who so often typecast to their existing experience and knowledge. In order not to start too close to the bottom again, it’s important to have a realistic appraisal of the industries in which lawyers are most valued. Know how to land a job that makes the most of your legal background from a recruiter's' perspective.
- Target roles and functions that lawyers have thrived in before according to our recent research
- Target industries such as employment, IP and pharmaceuticals where there is more in-house demand
- Try to move practice areas to where transactions are key and ideally where legal decision making is fundamental to its value like IP, sponsorship in media, entertainment etc.).
This improves the chance of moving outside of law with the next move, perhaps taking on a secondary function alongside law.
Careers are changing and there has been a shift away from conventional workplace environments to jobs which combine talent and passion with meaning and purpose. You can build on your credibility within a role and positive working relationships to create the job you want to do. Moving abroad, for example, can open up possibilities as you will be moving away from the extremely competitive job market of London to situations where your skills are highly sought after and there may be more flexibility to move into a different role in a new industry.
Be proactive, attend events, write blogs, take advantage of the knowledge and skills you already have to get to where you want to be.
You can find out more about his career strategy sessions and coaching here.
Martin Underwood is Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.