Leaving the Law is a community for those who are unhappy practicing law. It is written by Jennifer Alvey, a recovering lawyer.

Jennifer is a 1991 graduate of Duke Law School, where she was an articles editor on the Duke Law Journal. She attended Transylvania University (yes, really. And no, the school mascot is not a vampire) and graduated cum laude with a BA in political science and a history minor.

IMG_4205After law school Jennifer clerked on a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, and then jumped into BigLaw at a top 10 DC firm. By the end of her first year there, she was crying daily on her way to work. Mind you, that did not stop her from practicing law. No, no, no!

Only 3 jobs later did she finally realize that the problem was not the firm where she worked, but working at any law firm. Eventually, she got a job with a legal publisher in D.C., and was much happier in the years she spent in publishing. She got to do fun stuff (for her) like write articles and run magazines.

After publishing this blog for a few years just for the heck of it, she realized that she really, really liked helping unhappy attorneys figure out what the they could do with their lives besides be miserable practicing law. And thus, Jennifer Alvey, JD, Coaching was born.

Jennifer has trained with The Coaches Training Institute, and currently lives in the Nashville, TN area. You can reach her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com, or at 947-7521, area code 615. Or, check out her LinkedIn profile.


  1. I just came upon this site and want to applaud you for the courage to leave law. I coach all types of lawyers and practiced law myself for 5 years. My partner in coaching and training also worked in the government and for several large firms before leaving. We both found more meaning in other careers that harnessed our strengths and our personality types.

    If anyone is interested in finding out more before you make the decision to leave law, our website is http://www.arudia.com.

    I wish that I had had a coach while I was in law school. I often provide pro bono consultations to law students about how to find a career in law that will work for them.

  2. I found your blog searching “legal careers, ISTJ,” looking for a way to use my soon to be acquired law degree in a non-legal way b/c like you I find “this law crap [i]s boring and I hate[] it.” And I’m ISTJ! However, I couldn’t be less interested in the law or the big firm “life.” To think I went back to school at almost 30 for this misery! Anyhow, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Thank you.

  3. Hi Jenn,

    I love your blog and have been reading it for a while now. I still practice law, as you know, but love to read your thoughts anyway.


  4. Would love to chat about your career counselor experiences – i am in need of one. I am leaving law and thinking that what I am going into is a mistake. I think I might need to think of a few more whats before I bite off more than I can chew. I am a new mom, so it might take me a while to respond…..

  5. Thank you for this blog. I’ve been a lawyer for four years and I’m not happy in it. It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit that to myself. I always wanted to be a writer but I also wanted to be financially independent and have a comfortable lifestyle. I decided to go into the law because I could use my skills and interests in reading, writing and helping people solve problems. My goal was to practice law for 10 to 15 years, save up a lot of money, and then retire and just write and travel. But my curse is that I’m successful in the law, I have done well and am building a reputation and I see that the longer I stay, the higher I will climb on the ladder and the more money I will make, etc. I do want to provide a nice living for my family. I think it would be selfish to write or to take a low-paying job and write, when I could provide them with so much more. And it’s not that I despise being a lawyer, sometimes I quite like it. It’s just that I feel I am not pursuing my life’s purpose and dreams with full gusto. I do make it a point to read and write every day, which helps spur me on, but I get depressed at work. I think my depression comes because I am not being true to myself.

    I feel stuck because what I want to be is a writer but how could I survive on that?! My standard of living is in place for an attorney (luckily I do have savings and I spend less than I earn) and I have a lot of student loans that won’t be paid off for years and years, and I do admit that I like creature comforts and I feel an obligation to provide them to my family. Another practical problem is that I have no idea what other job I would find happiness in besides writing, and it’s not like I have a major book deal to pay for me to write. I’ve thought about teaching writing or teaching anything, or just working in a bookstore. I’ve thought about trying to launch a magazine or website for lawyers in my community (one doesn’t exist), or to do freelance writing about legal issues since I have that background and it seems like it would pay.

    I would love it if you could do a post for those of us who dream of leaving law but feel stuck. What is the alternative, especially for those of us who are drawn to the low-paying arts and who can’t expect to make a living right away on our words, or other form of art? Thanks again for the blog.

    • Dear Valerie,

      Did you get a response to your post? I feel exactly the same way as you. I’ve been in it for several years now. And I have since come to realise that it really doesnt matter which firm I am in, I dislike the pressure and work, just having to be in the office, regardless.

      I want to enter the arts as well, but I don’t dare to. I’m too enamoured with the creature comforts and decent lifestyle.

  6. Hi there

    I left the law two years ago and have not looked back, although my job does still have a lot of close involvement with law firms and other legal entities.

    We are running a four-week series of articles in Australian Legal Business giving a few hints and tips regarding what lawyers should think about before moving on and how I made the transition from lawyer to setting up a translation company.


    If anyone would like to get in touch, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    All the best from Sydney.


  7. Jennifer,

    Your website was such a pleasant surprise! Suddenly I found a group of people who I never thought existed – lawyers who want to leave law…I mean what the hell! I’ve been practicing law for 10 years and really I’ve had enough. But the sheer fear of leaving the security of this work paralyses me into submission. I would love to see your comments on finding the courage to leave the vicious cycle of ‘the longer you stay, the better you get at it, and the more money you make’….even though you hate it or have had enough of it – which is where I am at. I would LOVE to be doing something more creative with my skills and time.

  8. Hi,

    Great web site! I found something very similar on the Internet: http://www.leavinglaw.com, a community website for lawyers in the UK looking for a change in direction. There are some job alternatives within legal practice, what i found very useful… It’s is really good, that some people like u and Leaving Law crew, are helping other lawyers to find a new direction in their lives!

  9. Interesting blog. I am planning on a career change after over 20 years practicing law. Some of my early years working for a public agency were enjoyable, but after joining a firm I have burned out. My change will take about two years, I’m getting a masters in library science and then will leave, but having the plan helps me get through the day to day grind.

    • I’m curious as to this “Masters in Library Science” generally.

      Not because I’m interested in it, but because this is the second time recently I’ve heard about someone leaving law for it.

      What is it about law that points people in the library science direction?

      In fact, Library Science sounds kind of like Database Admininstration, which is something else I don’t want to do.

      • You know, it’s interesting–librarian was one of the things that popped up consistently on my Strong Interest Inventory. I also wanted to be a librarian when I was in grade school and completely in love with reading. Seth Godin recently wrote a very interesting post about what the librarian of the future could be: http://bit.ly/lpRkVp

    • I’m so glad you’ve figured out what will make your days better. Hope it will make your heart sing!

  10. Thank you for this site. I stumbled upon the post about the lawyer personality type yesterday and, like you, I am an INFP. I have never been happy with the practice of law but seem to do well at criminal prosecution and now criminal defense and family law. I keep going through periods where I simply get ill thinking about going one more day in this career.

    Your site is giving me the courage to at least start exploring options to follow my heart and go into counseling or social work. THANK YOU!!!!!! It is also giving me insight into exactly what it is that I dislike about the law so that I can more clearly articulate my dissatisfaction to family and friends who continually dissuade me from leaving the field. THANK YOU!!!!!

  11. I graduated law school in 2009 and always thought I would use my JD in a non-traditional way (I know, mistake but no body told me so…teh law schools actually encouraged this thinking). Well I graduated at a time when everyone was getting laid off, let alone not hiring. I scratched and clawed…worked for the Census for example…i practiced solo just doing GAL work. Clerked at a PI firm. I did not like any of it. Now I finally got an actual lawyer job…gen. practice small firm in my smaller hometown. AND I HATE IT! In 2 months my mental health has deteriorated. I am miserable….but i want to get make some money, as my wife has had to put up with my lack of a steady income for so long. I really do not make that much, and when you consider how much i make per how many hrs i work…totally not worth it. It is sunday night at 10pm…I am at the office. I am depressed…on medication. I can nto sleep aat night. I am constantly feeling the pressure form my boss and stress out over everything. This is not the lifestyle i want to live. I will end up dead if I keep it up. For now, back to work!.

    • Part of your problem may be that you graduated into the “Dead Zone” of 2009. I, personally, did my summer clerkship in the manic bright shining days of 1999, which is precisely the opposite of you.

      Since you are not on the law firm assembly line, you are now in the dark, musty place where you end up when you graduate into a massive recession and are essentially a non-person in the legal community. As opposed to being three levels above an amoeba, which is where normal associates begin.

      I’m not saying that law is right for you, I’m saying that you pulled the short straw to start your career.

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for stopping by! I’m sorry to hear law doesn’t suit you. (Understatement, I know!)

      What non-traditional ways were you hoping to use your JD? They might still be quite viable–maybe even more viable now that you can see that having a law job is not the silver lining you had hoped for.

      Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs? Click on The Lawyer Personality Post, and there are links in it to get a free assessment. The free ones aren’t as good as the paid one, but it gets you started with seeing some strengths. That’s what anyone, lawyer or otherwise, need to do: look for a job and ultimately a career that plays to your strengths. What lawyers often see as weaknesses are actually strengths in other industries.

      Good luck, and let us hear how you are doing!

  12. Hi Jennifer,

    What a great blog! I found it when I decided to create my own “recovering lawyer” blog today, just so that I can make myself write a few lines every day, chronicle what I am doing since I quit full-time legal work, and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

    I quit after 10 years as a civil defense litigator, much soul-searching and many tears, for many of the reasons you describe. While the work was often interesting, and I loved it for my first few years, I came to hate the hours, the “toxic jerks” in the profession, etc., etc., etc. It has been amazing how many other lawyers I have met since I quit who say they “wish” they could do so as well, but feel like they can’t because they have law school loans to pay off, are too accustomed to the lifestyle they have created for themselves, too concerned about their retirement plans… I have been fortunate in that – a few months after I quit – I was approached by a former partner for a very flexible work-from-home contract litigation position, which helps pay the mortgage, and that my then-fiance (now husband) was very supportive of me leaving the profession and taking the time to find out what I want to do. I still haven’t figured that one out, mostly because I am having far too much fun doing volunteer work, cooking, practicing yoga, kayaking, gardening, and not having to come home early from (or cancel) vacations because work comes first!

    Cheers from Seattle,

    • Hi Sasha,
      Thanks! You have a great, inspiring story. I’m so glad you shared it here, just to show that things can work out even if you haven’t foreseen exactly how. Good luck on your blog.

  13. Thanks for the amazing site! I really needed to see this and your words have been an inspiration. Have been in a miserable big law job for 5 years and cannot wait to leave.

  14. I am not sure that the problem is law practice, but the fact that people chose to be seduced by money. Why would anyone think that making money will give them a sense of satisfaction? I practiced law for 12 years as a legal aid lawyer for little money and felt privileged to do so. I have been teaching law since then and love my job. I have never regretted getting a JD; it opened up doors to many wonderful things in life.

  15. “I am not sure that the problem is law practice, but the fact that people chose to be seduced by money. Why would anyone think that making money will give them a sense of satisfaction?”

    The amount of money you need depends on your objectives in life.

    For instance, if your goal is a multi-generational political-family institution like it was for Cosimo de’Medici or Joe Kennedy, you need a significant amount of money just to get the project started due to the expenses involved in such endeavors.

    Granted, Joe Kennedy did commit significant errors, such as lobotomizing his daughters and producing the complete mess that was Ted Kennedy and the Medici ended up with the mess of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, but that’s an issue for another day.

  16. I am an INFP and I’m glad that I came across this site. Thank you for reminding me that law school is not a good fit for my personality type. I’m a social worker which is a suitable career path for INFP’s, but it’s a flawed profession, too. If anyone out there wants to put their legal skills to good use, I think the field of social work would benefit from your backgrounds. If you can stand to go to grad school again, it’s not a bad way to go. Just don’t spend a lot on your social work degree because that’s where social workers get in trouble since they typically don’t make a lot. You would be great at educating social workers regarding the child and adult protection laws and the mental health laws.

    Also, have you considered being the kind of attorneys who help families place their family members in psychiatric institutions? I have seen these attorneys at work, and it seems to be a great way to use their legal skills in a way that helps families of people who have mental illness get treatment (treatment that they are refusing).

  17. I just now stumbled across this blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences with such authenticity. I graduated from law school in 2011 and after two years of practicing litigation, I finally succumbed to the realization it was not for me. I couldn’t stand being enslaved to the billable hour, the business travel, the “business development” a.k.a. schmoozing, and so much more. It was taking a toll on my physical health, marriage and overall sanity.

    It was both very difficult and very easy for me to decide to walk away from my job. Since quitting, I’ve been working as a paralegal to keep an income but give myself the time and space to reevaluate my skills, interests and career aspirations.

    Keep writing. It is good to know we’re not alone.

    • I am so burned out. Have been practicing for 19 years and am moderately successful. After spending the first 15 years of my career at small firms, we merged with BigLaw, which has hijacked my life. I hate it with a passion that burns deep in my soul. I hate getting out if bed. Every day is a chore. I have 10 more years as a litigator max, and then I’m done. I need 10 more years of BigLaw salary before I can retire. 10 more years of frugal living so I can walk out the door at 60. If all goes according to plan. Trouble is, how in the hell am I going to show up and do 10 more years? It’s like a freaking prison sentence. Only it pays well. Which is the only thing that keeps me going. The pay is my ticket out. In 10 more years. Searching for ways to get through them without it feeling like, but for the money , 10 wasted years.

      • Lot of things to think about there, Unconfirmed. I wonder if your body/health will hold up for 10 years of doing something that makes you miserable? That might be something to throw in the decision mix. It would suck to hang on for 10 years and find yourself combatting a chronic condition that limits your life enjoyment.

      • Thanks for your reply. That’s a very important piece I hadn’t considered. I’ve been taking good health for granted, as my weight creeps up and up. Stress eating and lack of consistent exercise. Yes, lots to think about.

    • Natalie, you are FAR from alone. Most unhappy lawyers don’t have the guts to quit and do something else with less prestige or pay. I’m proud of you! Well done.

      • I thought that prestige and pay naturally declined the longer you practiced law. Don’t most lawyers end up on the lawyer scrapheap?

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