It is difficult to explain how and why I left my job as an attorney without first explaining how and why I became an attorney.
I have always excelled academically and had diverse interests including writing, literature, education, law, economics, and theater. After graduating from college with honors in economics, earning a graduate degree seemed like the logical next step.
I had considered going to law school and becoming a lawyer from the time I was in high school. From an economic standpoint, a law degree had the greatest return on investment. I wavered back and forth throughout college as to whether I would really pursue a law degree. With the support from my family as well as several great mentors, I had every reason to believe that I would succeed.
As I searched for LSAT prep courses, I decided that if I signed up for the LSAT prep course, I was going to go to law school.
No matter what.
An Actual Lawyer
I took the LSAT and after MONTHS of waiting finally got my score. I was devastated. There was no way I was going to get into my top choice school with that score. But, I was going to law school no matter what.
Despite what I perceived to be a “devastating” score, I received several acceptance letters and even a few scholarships. Since I was accepted to law school, I decided I should go. After all, according to the brochures, a law degree will complement any career.
Armed with the reassurance that I would not be pigeonholed to be an actual lawyer, I started my first semester of law school.
Within one month, I knew I wanted out. I struggled in my classes, some days certain that I had a different textbook than everyone else. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t want to be a quitter. So I put my head down and trudged forward, semester after semester, for three years, toward a career that I really didn’t want.
After graduating from law school, I left academia for the first time in over 20 years. After passing the bar, I started working as an attorney. I worked in a fantastic town, specializing in exactly what I thought I wanted to do.
I thought that if I found a job as an attorney, everything else would fall into place and I would like my job.
But, being an attorney in a litigious field, I found that the learning curve was steep, the hours were long, and the work really didn’t interest me.
The Daily Struggle
I struggled every single day.
During my morning commute, I would call one of my closest friends, who was also struggling with her job at a large international corporation.
We lamented that we would never find work that we truly liked—let alone loved. Finally, we decided to stop complaining.
On a cold, dreary January morning, while driving to our respective jobs, we vowed that by May 1st, we would both quit our jobs and start new careers.
It seemed impossible. We didn’t just want new jobs; we wanted new careers, in just 3 months.
I revised my resume and began applying for jobs on CareerBuilder. I sent my résumé and cover letter to any job that sounded interesting.
But, I wanted a new career, not just a new job. I wanted a career that aligned with my interests and goals.
Foot-dragging into a New Career
While out to lunch with my best friend from law school, she mentioned that one of our professors was looking for someone to do marketing work for a book he had written. I was hesitant—could this be the career I wanted? My friend convinced me that if nothing else it would give me the opportunity to leave my attorney position and prevent gaps in my résumé. I agreed and asked her to let him know that I might be interested and would be emailing him soon.
I waited. I drafted and re-drafted my email. Finally, I hit send.
In March, after several emails back and forth and an early Saturday morning meeting, I had a job offer. What started out as a small part-time position managing publicity for one book, has turned into an incredible opportunity to get on the ground floor of a new business venture in the world of writing, publishing, and seminars in the growing field of CLE. CLE is mandatory for attorneys in almost every state in the country.
Leaving my first attorney job was difficult. Telling my boss that I was leaving was even more difficult. During this meeting, I said something that I thought was incredibly honest. I told my boss that I realized that being an attorney is not right for me, and that’s okay.
Of course, it was more important for me to hear that than him.
What My New Normal Looks Like
My “part-time” position has grown exponentially. I am now the Director of Programs and Publications for the company. As Director, my interests in writing, literature, education, law, economics, and theater are utilized each and every day.
I write for our social media and develop program materials. I analyze what programs are in demand for attorneys. I create educational materials. I network and develop contacts with CLE administrators throughout the country. I have had the opportunity to co-teach and perform a program for attorneys in the field of ethics.
During this time, I finally completed a lifelong dream. I finished my first book. The Graduate’s Guide to Networking will be available this fall.
Leaving the law was a difficult decision for me to make, but I don’t regret it for a moment. Because I made that difficult decision, I found a career that is just right for me; a career that aligns with my interests and goals.
I can finally say that I love my job!
Many thanks to Amy E. Jensen, J.D. , Director of Programs and Publications at Marc Garfinkle Seminars, LLC, for an illuminating, provocative guest post. Her blog, Making Networking Work, is a resource for new graduates networking for career success. Her book The Graduate’s Guide to Networking is available on Amazon.
Do you have a leaving law story to tell? Email Jennifer Alvey, recovering lawyer and story collector, at firstname.lastname@example.org