Resources Articles Barriers to Career and Job Changes - Myths or Realities?

Barriers to Career and Job Changes - Myths or Realities?

The Alabama State Bar “ADDENDUM”
August 2000

For years, I’ve been listening to attorneys try to persuade me that they have no option except to continue in their current job, despite feelings of dissatisfaction and alienation. 

But the fact is that dissatisfied lawyers can find rewarding work both within and outside the legal world. I’ve worked with lawyers who are now teachers, writers, entrepreneurs, lobbyists, private investigators, legal career counselors, mediators, and psychologists, to name only a few.


MYTH: It is irrational and wasteful to choose not to practice law after completing a legal education.

REALITY: Many professionals consider a law school education to be the best type of training a person can have. The sheer fact that you have succeeded in law school assures a prospective employer that you’re intelligent, responsible and able to successfully work toward goals.

MYTH: You’re a failure if you can’t find satisfaction in a legal career.

REALITY: Success means finding the work that is an expression of who you are. The success you perceive other lawyers to achieve is a reflection of the fact that they’re in the right place and you’re not. When you move into an environment that is well-suited to your strengths and interests, success and satisfaction will replace your feelings of failure.

MYTH: You’ll need another degree to find a job outside of legal practice.

REALITY: Consider the skills you’ve acquired through law school and your legal experience: the ability to write clearly and persuasively; to think analytically and on your feet; to research questions and gather relevant evidence; and to synthesize ideas, problem- solve and advise.

Although certain professions (like medicine) require a degree for licensure, many of the careers you’re likely to consider will value the skills and training you’ve already acquired. Most require experiential training (internships, for example) rather than another degree. The key is being able to transform and translate your training and experience to take advantage of opportunities that match your preferences and talents.

The key to finding career satisfaction either within or outside of the law is to:

  • Do a comprehensive and honest self-assessment of your passions, interests, talents and values;
  • Thoroughly and carefully research all the options available to you;
  • Conduct extensive informational interviews to ensure that the work you’re considering fits with your life, not just your interests.
  • Make a long-term, step-by-step plan which includes strategies for addressing financial needs; and
  • Expect the emotional roller-coaster that is an unavoidable part of transitions. Be goal-directed and persistent, even in the face of apparent obstacles.

Many attorneys find it easier to accomplish the above steps and ultimately reach their new career objectives by establishing an ongoing relationship with a professional coach. Coaching is conducted via telephone (with e-mail and fax backup). You don’t need to add travel time to your busy schedule. And, the structured, task-focused nature of coaching can allow you to accomplish your objectives more efficiently.

Before you make a change, though, you have to believe that you can. Here are some of the common myths that keep lawyers feeling trapped - myths that need to be debunked.


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Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D., CMC

Rockville, MD
Phone: 844-818-9471

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