Switching Careers

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Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:03 pm

I am a little over 3 months into my legal career. I work at a relatively large law firm. On a positive note, the people are good to work with and the pay is great (180k), but the work is mind-numbing. I've grown more and more depressed each day, finding it harder and harder to wake up to go into work.

I am one of the people that did not heed the millions of cautionary tales. But despite my ignorance and naivete, in a way, I "won" law school. I hit the jackpot. In another way, I failed at life.

I never made a decision about what or who I wanted to be. Instead, I chose law school because I had no idea what else I was good at or what I could do. 4 years after I made my decision to attend law school, I find I'm back in the same place I was in undergrad....completely lost. I've been told it's too early to know, but I feel it in my gut that this is not where I belong. I'm not cut out for this. However, I'm stuck in this rut for now because I don't feel like I have any other options. I have 200k of debt, a year-long lease and no clearly defined skills or interests that could lend itself to a job or a career.

I'm thinking about going back to school, but I was never a good student. I lucked into my job. I've looked up successful "lawyer-turned-x" stories, but I'm not sure where to start. If anyone has any advice here for how I can either switch careers or maybe even practice groups/areas, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

-OP Anon

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 4:29 pm

Corporate or litigation?

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:09 pm

As someone about to be a 4th year, I can say I have felt the same way you have my entire post-law school career. Graduated just wanting to make some money, save and be free by 35, but you don't realize that those 10 years in between matter a lot and what is the point if you're miserable. Here is what I would do in your shoes:

1. Stick it out as long as possible, but try to stop caring so much. Carve out time for yourself to do things you enjoy and stay healthy. In this time, start trying to figure out what you want to do or what kind of work you want. For me, I've always had a passion for science and the environment, so I am applying for environmental law fellowships despite being a corporate lawyer. This way I can maybe transition to environmental law jobs with the hopes of someday going back to school to actually be on the research or engineering side.

2. The one big mistake I made was refinancing my $250K debt thinking "it'll be gone in 4 years". Well, 4 years is a long time to work a job you hate. Do not refinance (unless they offer fixed 20-year options where the payments stay low) and just don't worry about the debt. Most boomers I know that had grad school debt paid it off well into their 40's and 50's, so there isn't much to worry about and as long as you keep making payments your credit score will be good. If you lock yourself into monthly payments that are very high, that gives even more stress to the situation. Try to lower monthly payments and SAVE as much money as possible. That way if you quit you have a giant cushion protecting your ability to pay for your living expenses and rent while you figure it out.

Lastly, its ok to not know what you want. Not many people are meant for this type of job. Most of my friends outside of law can't believe I do this for a living and pretty much all are of the opinion that it's not worth it. Sure, I get to eat fancy meals whenever I want, but I can't go get happy hour drinks with my friends, I can't guarantee any weekends to go on small trips, I can't get into a normal routine or sleep schedule. It just isn't worth it for the most part. Try not to stress about it and start figuring out who you want to be and go after it. At the end of the day, no one will care that you failed in your legal career.

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Corporate or litigation?


Tax

-OP Anon

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elendinel

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby elendinel » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:12 pm

I am a little over 3 months into my legal career. I work at a relatively large law firm. On a positive note, the people are good to work with and the pay is great (180k), but the work is mind-numbing.


I sympathize with you, but this is true of a lot of careers (legal or otherwise): you will almost never get placed on the super-interesting thing right off the bat. Everyone wants to do the super-interesting thing, but you have to prove you can handle work and instructions before they put you on it, and also you have to keep in mind that there are dozens of people who also want to do the super-interesting thing, who have been working years to have the opportunity to do those super-interesting things. Many people in their careers have to slog through busy work, or have to work on boring projects no one else wants to do, etc., until they prove themselves enough to be able to get the work they want to get. Thus, the nature of your career at the ground floor, does not and cannot reflect what it would look like if you follow through this career path to completion. I also dunno that 3 months is enough time to figure out if the issue lies with the field as a whole, with law as a whole, or merely with this particular firm.

So I think you need to give your current career at least a year or two. See if you get put on better projects (or if there are better projects). See if you like those projects. If you don't get those projects outright, ask for them. If you can't get them, ask why (all politely, obviously). See if another firm may have better projects there, or a better progression plan for associates, and try that firm. In other words, make sure the issue is the field you're in, and that you're not just trying to avoid grunt work (which is hard to avoid) or you just aren't fitting in at this particular firm.

If you've spent a couple years trying different firms/etc. out doing similar stuff and nothing's working, then reassess. What have you liked at each firm? What haven't you liked? What kind of work do you wish you could do? Maybe you do like the field, just not firm life; then maybe try in-house/a boutique/a smaller firm/etc. with a different work culture. Maybe you hate the field, but love your current firm; try asking for projects from people in other groups or seeing if partners in other groups are willing to mentor you. Maybe it's not a field thing, but more that you hate litigation/hate transactions/hate business/etc.; maybe try getting some different type of work in your firm or through volunteer opportunities, if possible. Maybe you just hate law in general, but you really liked this finance stuff you worked on; talk to people who work in those types of careers to see if that's what you want to do, and to see how you should best get into those kinds of roles (maybe you need school, maybe you don't). In other words, come up with a hypothesis ("I will like litigation work/I will like transaction work") and, to the extent you can in your current firm/through volunteer work/etc., try to explore that a bit.

In other words, start adding some structure to your career goals.

FWIW: I was sorta like you (didn't know what to do after I graduated, realized six months into my first job that it wasn't what I thought it would be and wasn't what I wanted), so I get how much it sucks to work so hard to end up miserable in your job. Just make sure you're not setting yourself up to be miserable again by jumping ship before you truly figure out why you're doing so.

Anonymous User
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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As someone about to be a 4th year, I can say I have felt the same way you have my entire post-law school career. Graduated just wanting to make some money, save and be free by 35, but you don't realize that those 10 years in between matter a lot and what is the point if you're miserable. Here is what I would do in your shoes:

1. Stick it out as long as possible, but try to stop caring so much. Carve out time for yourself to do things you enjoy and stay healthy. In this time, start trying to figure out what you want to do or what kind of work you want. For me, I've always had a passion for science and the environment, so I am applying for environmental law fellowships despite being a corporate lawyer. This way I can maybe transition to environmental law jobs with the hopes of someday going back to school to actually be on the research or engineering side.

2. The one big mistake I made was refinancing my $250K debt thinking "it'll be gone in 4 years". Well, 4 years is a long time to work a job you hate. Do not refinance (unless they offer fixed 20-year options where the payments stay low) and just don't worry about the debt. Most boomers I know that had grad school debt paid it off well into their 40's and 50's, so there isn't much to worry about and as long as you keep making payments your credit score will be good. If you lock yourself into monthly payments that are very high, that gives even more stress to the situation. Try to lower monthly payments and SAVE as much money as possible. That way if you quit you have a giant cushion protecting your ability to pay for your living expenses and rent while you figure it out.

Lastly, its ok to not know what you want. Not many people are meant for this type of job. Most of my friends outside of law can't believe I do this for a living and pretty much all are of the opinion that it's not worth it. Sure, I get to eat fancy meals whenever I want, but I can't go get happy hour drinks with my friends, I can't guarantee any weekends to go on small trips, I can't get into a normal routine or sleep schedule. It just isn't worth it for the most part. Try not to stress about it and start figuring out who you want to be and go after it. At the end of the day, no one will care that you failed in your legal career.



1. I think that's what is making me so miserable -- inability to carve out time and trying to identify my passion and realistically pursue it. And, I plan to stay as long as I can, but I think a year is my maximum.

Anonymous User
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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:34 pm

I have been dealing with similar things... It's hard to come to terms with it sometimes. It's never too late to reset. You're still young.

Anonymous User
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Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 16, 2016 1:51 am

After my 3rd semester of law school (striking out on all my biglaw interviews mind you) I wasn't thrilled with the legal world, top 10% of my class, I pivoted and got a computer science degree. Immensely more satisfied with my life now. Those 2-3 years in between sucked having to learn a new field off the bat, and it took a real pride swallowing, but I found a job I wanted to do and got an education I found valuable.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:29 am

I am somebody who felt like you for three years, quit, and then came back to law.

If there is one thing that describes my career experience it's that the grass is always greener.

Law is a set of pros and cons just like everything else and is not better or no worse than any other career.

My piece of advice is to go seek a therapist. Highly intelligent people have a special inclination to tie their self worth and happiness to a job and I have put in a lot of work to undo that. A job is nothing more than a place to go to collect a check so you can do things you enjoy in life. Most of the the people who derive pleasure and identity out of work are sociopaths. I would strongly suggest speaking with someone to focus on gratitude and appreciating all the amazing things outside work.

1styearlateral

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby 1styearlateral » Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:After my 3rd semester of law school (striking out on all my biglaw interviews mind you) I wasn't thrilled with the legal world, top 10% of my class, I pivoted and got a computer science degree. Immensely more satisfied with my life now. Those 2-3 years in between sucked having to learn a new field off the bat, and it took a real pride swallowing, but I found a job I wanted to do and got an education I found valuable.

lol then what are you doing here.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:After my 3rd semester of law school (striking out on all my biglaw interviews mind you) I wasn't thrilled with the legal world, top 10% of my class, I pivoted and got a computer science degree. Immensely more satisfied with my life now. Those 2-3 years in between sucked having to learn a new field off the bat, and it took a real pride swallowing, but I found a job I wanted to do and got an education I found valuable.


Conversely, I got a CS degree and am now in law. So CS is not a panacea for everyone.

Be careful about "grass is always greener" syndrome.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 16, 2016 11:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:After my 3rd semester of law school (striking out on all my biglaw interviews mind you) I wasn't thrilled with the legal world, top 10% of my class, I pivoted and got a computer science degree. Immensely more satisfied with my life now. Those 2-3 years in between sucked having to learn a new field off the bat, and it took a real pride swallowing, but I found a job I wanted to do and got an education I found valuable.


This is probably good advice, especially to help you stick it out for a while and try to figure out what you want to do. You can at least make the best of the day to day aspects of it. Mindfulness helps me a lot, and exercising and trying to just not care too much, but at the end of the day, the job is pretty miserable and nothing I do can change the fact that i'm tired a lot and can't make plans more than two days in advance because of work. Good thing is if you stick around for 3 years, you start getting in house recruiters calling you a lot, so when you make it past year two, all of a sudden there seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel, which for me helps cope with the job more.

Anonymous User
Posts: 309235
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Switching Careers

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:After my 3rd semester of law school (striking out on all my biglaw interviews mind you) I wasn't thrilled with the legal world, top 10% of my class, I pivoted and got a computer science degree. Immensely more satisfied with my life now. Those 2-3 years in between sucked having to learn a new field off the bat, and it took a real pride swallowing, but I found a job I wanted to do and got an education I found valuable.


This is probably good advice, especially to help you stick it out for a while and try to figure out what you want to do. You can at least make the best of the day to day aspects of it. Mindfulness helps me a lot, and exercising and trying to just not care too much, but at the end of the day, the job is pretty miserable and nothing I do can change the fact that i'm tired a lot and can't make plans more than two days in advance because of work. Good thing is if you stick around for 3 years, you start getting in house recruiters calling you a lot, so when you make it past year two, all of a sudden there seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel, which for me helps cope with the job more.


In-house is only an option for corporate/transactional folks, right? And the litigator's analog (as far as getting out of biglaw is concerned) is AUSA or something else?

jhett

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Re: Switching Careers

Postby jhett » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:In-house is only an option for corporate/transactional folks, right? And the litigator's analog (as far as getting out of biglaw is concerned) is AUSA or something else?


There are in-house positions for lit people, but not as many as for corporate. For example, in-house litigation counsel oversee suits involving the company (e.g., manage outside counsel, line up witnesses and experts, organize discovery docs, etc.). Lit people can also move into lit-adjacent positions such as compliance, risk management, or regulatory/government enforcement.



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