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A new year is upon us. Lawyers are analytical folk by nature, so at this time of the year we spend a lot of time thinking about what is past and what may be coming next. But what if what's next is a blank slate? What if you have just had it with practicing law and your what next is more like "what the hell do I do now?"
Not to fear, we have been there, done that. If you are at the proverbial crossroads and thinking about leaving law to do something (anything) else with your life, do these three things next:
Here is something you are good at: analysis. When you want to walk away from your current career, you obviously need to know where you are walking to. A good first step is to analyze yourself. Everyone from "What Color is Your Parachute" to U.S. News and World Report thinks this is a good idea.
To get started, how about an old-fashioned list beginning with what you do every day. What do you like about your day (talking to clients, research) and what do you hate about your day (talking to clients, research)? One column for like, one for despise.
Take a look at your "likes": What kinds of other careers center around your strengths? The next step might be to ask what are the growth fields that use those strengths. If you love research, you might not want to try and be a fact checker in a publishing company (hard times, what with Amazon and all), but you might want to found a research startup or here's a novel idea -- online legal writing.
One more old-school step on your path. You might have found your current job this way, so do it again: network. Talk to people, especially those who are doing the kind of thing you think you want to do. This happened to me last year. A fellow law school alum (not from my class) found me on LinkedIn and emailed to see if I would give him advice on making the move from practicing to writing and editing. I gave him my two cents (well, really more like 10 cents) and he is now happily working for an online legal information company.
The moral here: Take a chance and talk to someone you don't know personally. LinkedIn, your school, your Facebook friends of friends -- chances are you are already connected to someone with an idea, or even a job for you.
Just do it. That phrase didn't sell a trazillion sneakers for nothing. Making a concrete change will put you in motion. U.S. News suggests things like surrounding yourself with positive people and getting the knowledge you need to make your career change. We would suggest lawyers take it easy on the formal version of "more knowledge." After all, you were saddled with the loans from the first bout of knowledge-getting for years, right? But knowledge can come from taking volunteer opportunities in your new field. After all, as a lawyer, pro bono is part of your DNA, or should be. Take it to the new path and help out.
Change is hard -- a cliché that, like most clichés, is true. But law school was hard, the bar was hard, probably the last hearing you had was hard. You have done it in the past and can do it now. If 2014 is your year to leave law and do something strange and new, or just new, we salute you!
All the best in 2014.
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