It’s Ok To Change Your Mind About The Direction Of Your Legal Career
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that many 8-year-olds are asked. Such a common question is met with a wide range of responses; some want to be artists, astronauts and musicians, whilst others aspire to be doctors, dentists and brain surgeons.
For me, my argumentative nature and desire to push boundaries all of the time (much to my parents’ dismay) led me to the lawyer camp. I wanted to grow up and be like Ally MacBeal. She was a really cool lawyer, who was very fashionable, had an interesting life and helped people.
Once I firmly made my decision to become a lawyer around the age of 12, I set upon my quest to making it happen. It is amazing how much determination and will power one has at such a young age. There were no lawyers in my family, in fact I didn’t know any lawyers at all. So, I did research and figured out what I needed study and the grades I needed to achieve to make my goal a reality.
“Then it dawned on me: I had spent so much trying to get to the point of qualification that I hadn’t given much thought to what I actually wanted my life to look like after I qualified.”
Chasing The Dream
Fast forward 15 years and after a lot of hard work, disappointment and rejection, I made it. I stood proudly with my gown draped over my shoulders and my scroll firmly in hand as I was welcomed to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales. I had an amazing sense of achievement and the feeling that all of my hard work had paid off.
But, shortly after I qualified, I started to contemplate what life would be like as a corporate lawyer. And then it dawned on me. I had spent so much trying to get to this point that I hadn’t given much thought to what I actually wanted my life to look like after I qualified.
When I became a mother, I realised that the work I was doing was not as fulfilling as I needed it to be. Whilst I was helping people to make money through M&A transactions, that wasn’t the type of help I wanted to provide. I enjoyed the buzz of doing deals but I needed to do something more.
But what could that something be? If I didn’t practice law, what else would I do?
These are questions that many young professionals ask. They spend years and significant amounts of money following a path. So, even when that path does not lead to the type of work life that they expected, the thought of changing course seems too crazy, too hard, too ungrateful, too risky. Instead, they end up staying stuck. Stuck working long hours in jobs that they do not like or have a passion for because they feel they have come too far.
“It is much better to recognise that it is time to shift or pivot rather than spending more time in a role you know is not working for you.”
Here are four points to consider if you feel like making a change in the direction of your legal would be unwise or too difficult:
1. Build a portfolio career – You do not need to completely ditch your career, you can merge your passions and build a portfolio career. You can reduce your hours in your current role (or a similar one) to free up time for you to explore some other roles. I am now a lawyer and a life coach. The two professions blended provide me with the opportunity to exercise different skills which has lead to a more fulfilling working life.
2. Time is not wasted – Nothing you have studied or done in the past will be wasted. All of your experiences have made you into the person you are today. Your varied background can add a different dimension to whatever new role you choose to take or profession you choose to get into. You are not defined by the job that you do.
3. Life is Short – You may well have invested 10 years on your journey to become a (fill in the blank) lawyer but that doesn’t mean you should spend the next 40 years of your life in this role if you are not happy. It is much better to recognise that it is time to shift or pivot rather than spending more time in a role you know is not working for you. The further you get into it, the harder it will be to step away.
4. Your network is Gold – You probably know a lot of people; from school, university, local groups, church and the like. People who have experience in different roles and industries. If you want to find out more about your options, tap up your contacts Ask people if you can interview them and find out about exactly what they do on a day to day basis in their roles. The insight will be invaluable when planning your next move.
There is a great quote that says “The first step towards getting somewhere is deciding that you are not going to stay where you are”. If you know you need to make a change, decide to make a change today. If you need some support and guidance, consider hiring a career coach who will be able to offer you some assistance in planning out your next steps and provide accountability, so that you stay on track with your new plans.