It started out as a vision to change the world (however you define that – see The Dip by Seth Godin), make money or have fun (unlikely I know). But hopefully you didn’t fall into law because you had nothing else to do.
You may have been drawn in by the historical covenant of lawyers, the complexity and diversity of the subject and the need to lay your learning on the line. Of course there will be some people who looked at law as a passport to something other than private practice or a job in-house: Politics or industry being two possible contenders.
Once you traversed the hurdles of qualification you made a relatively ill-informed decision about the area of law to practice, which you hoped would sustain you through all the travails of practice over the next 20+ years. Talking about jumping into the abyss.
In the early days of qualification you (hopefully) loved the law – it fuelled your enthusiasm for the job. But as you became more experienced you found that very little mention was made of your early years and drawn instead into a incessant cycle of chargeable hours, billing, credit control and trying to navigate an increasingly difficult route to partnership.
As much as it pains me to say, there will be times, which will come with increasing alacrity, where you begin to wonder why on earth you chose law as a career and you may find yourself hating the very thing that inspired you in the first place.
Trying to reconnect will be hard, and it isn’t going to get any easier. The market will see to that. If it isn’t your competitors, then, increasingly, your clients will expect you to work just as hard, possibly harder, but for the same reward. You will feel that you are going backwards.
And if you have made the wrong choice about the area of law to practice, then it will be incredibly hard to find the passion, excitement and motivation to get through the day.
You will no doubt have canvassed as many people as possible to enable you to reach into your soul and decide “What next?” but chances are you have come full circle because the job opportunities are so slender that you simply cannot close the knowing ~ doing gap.
There is no shopping-list answer to your dilemma. You are smart and will already have gone through or crossed off all the obvious contenders but have you gone far enough?
Go back and re-examine your rationale for law. What excited you? If you can’t answer this basic question then why are you trying to plot a career in law? My assumption is that you have decided that law is your future but not the one that is currently mapped out.
And there lies the crux of it. How much time are you spending developing your personal strategy?
Have you written out your career plan?
Have you looked at your personal development goals for the next 12 months?
If you are going to enjoy more of what you do, what sort of clients do you want to work with?
How much money do you really need to live? If you can afford less or do more with less (trading down etc), are there opportunties out there where your existing skill set might be welcomed even if you have to take a few steps backward?
Are you being honest with yourself? Or are you clinging on to something that no longer stacks up?
If it is simply a money thing, then how long can you stay at the coalface? Have you considered a sideways move or retraining? You like/love the firm/your colleagues but not the job.
Of course, it may be none of these? You may in fact be suffering from lack of work and that is what is causing you to worry? There is no easy answer to this but one major consideration has to be whether the area of work is on a downward spiral. If so, do you believe that you have the drive and determination to push on?
At the end of the day no job comes with a promise of career certainty. What looked good in your 20’s may look increasingly tenuous now but it is important to rekindle your motivation for a career in law or else as the market pressures bite you are going to wonder more and more “Why law”. In the end if all you doing is going through the motions then that will impact substantially on your life outside of work, your family and possibly your health.
You may feel that you can tough it out and great if you can, but if you fall between two stools – love and hate – then it is the worst of both worlds. It is like being an insomniac or never waking from a bad dream.