Here’s what happens when I talk to some lawyers about exploring alternatives to practicing law: Their eyes light up, and they get all excited. Until they realize that I don’t have some secret job up my sleeve that they never knew about but that suits them perfectly, and that they might have to give up something (usually high salary or certainty) to get out of the legal profession and into something that satisfies their soul.
They want the perfect alternative legal career. There isn’t one, folks. That’s not the world we live in. We live in a world of choices. Some choices work out much better for us than others. Some choices are so much better for us that they do, indeed, feel pretty close to perfect. They’re perfectly imperfect.
A wise boss of mine was fond of saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” That’s so true of an alternative legal career job search. If you insist on perfect, you won’t get out of law. There will always be a reason to stay with the known, because the unknown isn’t perfect enough to leap into.
Part of what underlies this yearning for the perfect job right after leaving law is the belief that THIS IS IT. That this is your one chance to find the right thing. Which is demonstrably silly. Lawyers have on such blinders about career paths, because they get indoctrinated with the idea of the one acceptable career path that law glorifies (that would be law school, maybe clerkship, then associate, then equity partner, then die of heart attack. Perhaps I digress.)
You have more power than that, if you choose to exercise it. You have the power to make a good choice, to find a job much more suited to who you actually are. To conduct your own beta testing. You can choose to search for a good first job to get you out of law and start walking a different, more satisfying path. Or you can choose to wait for the perfect alternative legal job to appear. It could happen. But I wouldn’t give much for your chances of fulfillment in the meantime. How long are you willing to wait for perfection?
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer and recovering perfectionist. She coaches unhappy attorneys to find careers and life that fulfill them, warts and all. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discounted sample coaching session to explore your perfectly imperfect path.