Alexis Grant

Experience in law can serve as a springboard to alternative careers

Plenty of lawyers are happy in their careers. But for those lawyers who aren't happy and/or burned out, they often stay in the law profession because they're not sure what alternative career options to pursue, or what type of job would make them happier.

"So many lawyers that I work with panic," says Caroline Dowd-Higgins , director of career and professional development at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who also works as a career coach. "The truth is they can do so many things with the law degree ... If they can drive their own marketing message and talk about what they do well, they can shift gears. That's the secret weapon: to be able to help others understand what you do well."

What do lawyers do well?

Lawyers tend to have excellent written and verbal communication skills, says Dowd-Higgins, who authored a book called This Is Not the Career I OrderedBusiness & Investing Books).

Lawyers often are strong negotiators, solve problems strategically, and can think critically and analytically. Identifying those transferable skills and applying them toward your next job, career experts say, is the best way to set yourself up for a successful career transition.

It worked for Ellen Covner, a former health care lawyer who now has her own landscape company, Custom Gardens, outside of Philadelphia. "I'm really analytical," Covner says. "I've switched from analyzing a legal problem and coming up with a solution to [tackling] a landscape problem: What does the property look like? What does the client want?" And her personality benefits her when overseeing her own company, too. "I like being in charge," she says, "[and] I don't have to get something decided by a million people before it can happen."

In addition to your transferable skills, consider the type of law you've worked in, and look for work that's related to your specialty, says Heather Krasna , director of career services for the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs and author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public ServiceJob Hunting Books).

"[Law] is a valuable degree even if you're not using it anymore [as a practicing attorney]."

If you're unhappy or burned out working as a lawyer, here are alternative career options that may suit you and your skills

Advocacy work

    Lawyers often have experience advocating on someone else's behalf, which means a shift to working for an advocacy group could make sense. Those are directly transferable skills to a nonprofit organization or advocacy group.


    Becoming an entrepreneur ca be an excellent alternative career option, particularly if you oversee your own law practice.

    Consider running a business or nonprofit organization unrelated to law. Your skill set likely puts you in a good position to head up a new venture; lawyers understand the value of the billable hour, know how to negotiate contracts like leases, and often have a client-focused thought process, which can benefit new businesses.


    Because lawyers often enter the profession with the goal of helping others, some transition into a field that seems unrelated: therapy.

    Becoming a therapist could require earning another degree, says Dowd-Higgins, who has seen lawyers become therapists. Consider a job as a marriage and family therapist.

Teaching or coaching

    Having a professional degree makes you more marketable as a teacher or professor, and many lawyers find they're good at explaining what they've learned to others.

    Teachers benefit from solid verbal communication skills, and this job, too, falls into the helping-people category.

Public speaking

    Since lawyers are often practiced at making their case in front of a group -- a skill that's valued in many industries -- you might be a good fit for a position that's heavy on public speaking.

    If you go into consulting or another form of self-employment, consider public speaking on the side to earn some extra cash and visibility.

No matter what alternative career path you look into, experience in law is likely to help you in one way or another. As Fitzpatrick says, "law school is a springboard to some great opportunities."



Career Advice ...

Alternative Career Options for Burned Out or Unhappy Lawyers - Career Advice

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