Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

(Share and discuss thoughts and stories on Dropping out of law school, entering a graduate school program, Career changes, Similar/ related career options)
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Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:38 pm

Current 5th/6th year associate at a big firm in a smaller CA market (think OC/SD). I'm ready to leave the law and am starting to explore my options. However, I'm afraid that my options will be fairly limited since I'm in a general litigation practice group. I'm really looking for something that will give me more work-life balance. My wife and I have two kids and will likely have a third one in the next few years. I'm confined to my geographical area for family reasons and the fact that we just bought a house.

What do the exit options look like for someone in my situation? I've thought about potentially doing a part time MBA program while I work to open up opportunities at a tech company. I'm mainly looking for something that can provide me with more work-life balance, so I can be actively involved in my kids' lives without having to constantly jump through hoops. Ideally, I need to make around $100K at a minimum.

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:58 am

Somewhat similar position, also targeting the California market. I have about five years of litigation experience and having a hell of a time getting interviews in non-law jobs.

If you want a JD preferred job, there are a lot advertised but often they seem to want several years of specialized experience in a particular field (i.e. not enough that you have experience interviewing/deposing/examining witnesses, but they usually want that experience in a particular topic area). Occasionally I'll find a desirable one that allows general legal experience to be a substitute for the specialized experience that the posting requires. There are relatively few JD preferred jobs that are entry level or that would give attorneys much credit for their legal experience. I say that after searching an hour or two a day for the last few months.

That said, I think that human resources, compliance, risk management, and investigation are some of the fields that are easier to break into as an attorney with only a minimal/moderate amount of subject matter experience. Unless you get constructive credit for at least a few years of your education or experience though, I don't think those jobs are usually going to meet your salary needs of ~$100k. It's been a struggle for me to find positions that pay $65k that I'm qualified for.

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 07, 2019 1:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Somewhat similar position, also targeting the California market. I have about five years of litigation experience and having a hell of a time getting interviews in non-law jobs.

If you want a JD preferred job, there are a lot advertised but often they seem to want several years of specialized experience in a particular field (i.e. not enough that you have experience interviewing/deposing/examining witnesses, but they usually want that experience in a particular topic area). Occasionally I'll find a desirable one that allows general legal experience to be a substitute for the specialized experience that the posting requires. There are relatively few JD preferred jobs that are entry level or that would give attorneys much credit for their legal experience. I say that after searching an hour or two a day for the last few months.

That said, I think that human resources, compliance, risk management, and investigation are some of the fields that are easier to break into as an attorney with only a minimal/moderate amount of subject matter experience. Unless you get constructive credit for at least a few years of your education or experience though, I don't think those jobs are usually going to meet your salary needs of ~$100k. It's been a struggle for me to find positions that pay $65k that I'm qualified for.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry to hear that it's going so poorly for you. That's extremely frustrating, and I almost wish I had gone the transactional route instead. I bet it would be an entirely different experience finding a non-legal job since at least we would have some business experience. This might be naive of me, but have you thought about looking into any biz dev, marketing, or product jobs at like startups/tech companies? I've seen a few postings and salaries are more like $70-85K.

Another problem for me is that there really aren't a lot of companies in the area(s) I'm targeting. I've also seen a lot of jobs that want industry specific experience like healthcare.

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:21 pm

It does seem like transactional/business experience translates far more easily to these JD-preferred positions. Of the JD-preferred job types we've mentioned here, I think that investigation jobs do put the most value on trial/litigation experience. You could take a look at the state bar website, they had openings for an investigator. One of my friends (trial attorney there) mentioned that JDs with legal experience get a large boost during the application cycle. Those are 40 hour a week jobs that would probably be easy for an attorney.

I know several trial attorneys who now work in HR, both private and for large state agencies. In some cases they had experience handling employment matters, but not always. Might be worth looking into. In private practice, I consulted with maybe a dozen clients on hiring/discrimination/termination issues so I try to emphasize that in my applications, but still waiting to hear back.

I've considered marketing, business development for both existing and start-up companies too. However, they all seem to want at least a couple years of direct experience in those fields. I've tangentially touched on those areas, but I'd say it's less than 1% of my legal or pre law-school experience. Since my resume doesn't meet the minimum qualifications (not even arguably), I haven't actually applied to those types of roles yet. But I am open-minded too.

I have expanded my search geographically (west coast) but still not any solid leads yet. As a back-up, I've considered moving in with my parents (half my income goes to rent right now) and going back to school for an MBA, MPA, or MPP. Not sure if anything other than MBA really opens up doors in my position though.

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:40 pm

Have you tried looking at a state agency job? I know it will still be attorney work, but almost all agency jobs are 9-5 with generous leave. I think the CA Department of Healthcare Services is currently hiring an Attorney III and pay is over 100k including benefits. Check it out on calcareers

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Anonymous User
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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:54 am

CA attorney here. I left biglaw (litigation) and now work for the state. I would strongly recommend you look into government attorney jobs. I have a number of friends in various CA/fed government jobs and, with the exception of DAs/PDs preparing for trial, we all work 9-5s and love the work. With the benefits (esp if you can get that sweet CalPERS pension), the pay is fantastic (well over $100k). All the attorneys I work with are lifers, and for good reason.

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:44 pm

I'm a former attorney who left law after a few years for a completely non-legal related career. I took a huge gamble doing so but it's worked out really well for me. I've worked for the past few years in business development for a high-growth tech company, make significantly more than I did as an attorney and am 100x happier with my current role/future career prospects.

Agree with many of the suggestions said above. Here's the harsh reality - with the exception of JD-preferred/advantage jobs, the hard skills you learned as an attorney are not directly transferrable to most other jobs (but the soft skills can be.) This means that you should try to reset your expectations around role/compensation. It's going to be very difficult to land a $100K+ non-legal job right out of the gate unless you have relevant pre-JD work experience. Depending on what type of role you're looking for you may have to take a more junior role than you'd like. Consider this to be the cost of making a pivot in your career - I viewed it as taking 1 step back in order to take 2 steps forward and it worked out very well for me.

Best of luck - life is too short to be unhappy in a job that you spend so much of your time in.

jagpaw

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Re: Leaving the Law, Confined Geographically, Could Use Advice

Post by jagpaw » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a former attorney who left law after a few years for a completely non-legal related career. I took a huge gamble doing so but it's worked out really well for me. I've worked for the past few years in business development for a high-growth tech company, make significantly more than I did as an attorney and am 100x happier with my current role/future career prospects.

Agree with many of the suggestions said above. Here's the harsh reality - with the exception of JD-preferred/advantage jobs, the hard skills you learned as an attorney are not directly transferrable to most other jobs (but the soft skills can be.) This means that you should try to reset your expectations around role/compensation. It's going to be very difficult to land a $100K+ non-legal job right out of the gate unless you have relevant pre-JD work experience. Depending on what type of role you're looking for you may have to take a more junior role than you'd like. Consider this to be the cost of making a pivot in your career - I viewed it as taking 1 step back in order to take 2 steps forward and it worked out very well for me.

Best of luck - life is too short to be unhappy in a job that you spend so much of your time in.
Can you PM me please? I was recently presented with a similar opportunity but am hesitating to take the plunge; would be great to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

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