Legally Speaking

The legal profession has expressed growing dissatisfaction with their career choices. The trend among lawyers is to seek law related and non-legal careers. In a recent study, reports stated that 40% of the over 1 million lawyers in the United States have stated that they would love to leave the legal field. What are the legal implications of this growing dissension?

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the decline in prestige and desirability of the legal profession.  Forty-four percent of lawyers surveyed by the American Bar Association said they would not recommend the legal profession to younger individuals. Law school applications in the United States have declined drastically. On an average, law firms lose approximately 20% of their associates the first year in practice.  Another concern is the pervasive depression that exists in the profession.

Lawyers outlined specific reasons for dissatisfaction with their chosen profession, including: the billable hour model that has increased pressure to bill more hours. The refusal or inability to bill an unreasonably large number of hours can seriously hinder career advancement, as the number of hours billed is almost always directly tied to opportunities for advancement within the firm. There has also been a declining prestige of the profession.  This view, however, seems to have changed drastically in recent years with many lawyers being viewed as necessary evils.

Many lawyers complain that there is no balance between work and life. Many also complain that lawyers look at their investment banking colleagues who have similar stress and work equally long work hours but make a significantly higher salary.

For many lawyers, the practice of law is not what they had hoped for or expected. It regularly involves tedious and uninteresting work, resulting in a lack of fulfillment on a personal and professional level, and hopes of helping people or being involved in exciting, intellectually challenging work are often extinguished.

There is good news, however. Lawyers should not feel alone in their feelings.  Many lawyers express the same dissatisfaction and concern. There are options, too. If you are unhappy in the profession, there are a number of resources to help lawyers make the transition, from legal career coaches to recruiters who specialize in alternative legal careers.

Just remember that the right opportunity may not come overnight, and it most likely will not fall into your lap. It will take a significant amount of time, planning, effort and patience on your part.

Attitudes towards alternative legal careers are rapidly changing, creating more opportunities for those who seek them out. In-house positions have become very desirable as salaries, bonuses, benefits, opportunities for stock option and prestige have increased. The additional benefits of no longer having to deal with billable hours and the opportunity to give fulfilling input into business decisions, has made in-house positions some of the most desirable in the profession.

Lawyers no longer fear that their legal education and training constrains their career options to the practice of law. More and more lawyers have realized that their varied and valuable skill sets can often be applied to law-related and non-legal career opportunities, giving them more confidence to move in that direction.

Source: “Alternative Legal Careers: A Growing Trend | Alternative Lawyer Jobs.” Alternative Lawyer       Jobs RSS. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

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