New Year, New Legal Career Resolution?

So it’s the first official work day of the New Year, though I suspect many of you unhappy lawyers have put in some billable hours already. I also suspect that many of you are determined to find a new job this year, maybe even outside of law, and flee the awfulness of your current situation.

job want ads in color

A new year, and the lure of a new, better legal job!

I applaud the urge to find a new job if your current one is making you unhappy. Unhappiness, discontent, misery—they can all be excellent motivators for change.

But. (Aw, come on. You knew there was a ‘but’ coming.) If you don’t pay attention, your resolution to find a new job may backfire on you. Either it’s like all the other New Year’s Resolutions—most of that resolve for superficial change disappears by Valentine’s Day. Or you get so fixated on the goal of Find New Job that any job starts looking better than your current situation. You know, the career version of how people all get prettier at closing time.

I haven’t done formal New Year’s Resolutions in probably a decade. Instead, I tend to focus on one or two key aspects of my life that need some work. Stuff like:

  • Addressing my fears head-on, rather than organizing my life to avoid being scared,
  • Practicing a more positive outlook on life’s valleys,
  • Engaging in active meditations, like walking while visioning and singing,
  • Changing my default to motion rather than stewing when problems arise, or
  • Improving my strengths, rather than fixing my weaknesses.

That’s a hodge-podge collection from several years, but you get the idea.

I doubt any of this list sounds sexy or exciting enough for the average person in America, but you, dear readers, are particularly smart and perceptive people. I’ll even bet a few of my ideas have some appeal for you.

I’ll bet you can come up with your own focus or two for the coming year that will address the root causes of your work unhappiness. Maybe you can figure out your true joys in life. Or what you’re not going to tolerate any longer because it takes away too much of your integrity. Or maybe you can commit to a weekly date with yourself to explore things you’re curious about or that add joy to your life.

None of these ideas are nice, concrete goals that play well with to-do lists. And that’s exactly the point. Items checked off a to-do list rarely impart lasting life or career satisfaction.

It’s OK to make finding a new job your New Year’s Resolution, but as you work on that resolution, focus on what’s important for you and the things that you value about yourself and others. Kindness, nurturing creativity, sanity and lack of dysfunction, work that has a purpose that resonates with you—those types of values. Then work on bringing those things into your life, unconnected to your job. You’ll be amazed at the positive things you can draw to yourself as a result. Even a truly wonderful new job.

Peace and joy to you as this new year begins. Whether you make a New Year’s Resolution or not.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches attorneys on finding new jobs that make them excited to show up at work. She even offers discounted sample coaching sessions so you can try on coaching before committing. Contact her at to schedule your free session.

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