Friday, February 20, 2009

The economy - a chance to reconsider our careers?

In this economy, a blanket of unease about our employment stability has settled across our nation. I constantly hear the words "if I lose my job" in casual conversation. Job loss numbers are climbing and the stock market can't seem to find it's bottom. People are now seriously thinking about what they would do if they lost a job, a fear that did not strike most of us before.

Maybe it isn't so bad that many of us are taking a moment to think about our careers. When we are comfortable in a job, we may not ask ourselves whether we are truly happy or what may make us feel more fulfilled at work and in life.

In the legal industry, we've been hit with headlines announcing massive layoffs and large firm implosions. Established law firms have dissolved, leaving hundreds of former employees competing with each other for work opportunities in saturated markets. This begs the question: if a lawyer wanted to quit the law, what would he or she do?

For years, I have been told that the possibilities are endless for lawyers seeking a real career change. Really? I think that the answer is "maybe." If you can identify your non-legal skills and package them in a way that translates into a different field, why not? As lawyers, many of us are decent writers, and some are good marketers, negotiators and sales people. Trial lawyers make a living convincing people to buy their story over their adversary's and they need to be able to connect with people and earn trust quickliy to accomplish that. We just need to think as non-lawyers for a minute to see that this career can prepare us for other things.

My own recent musings on this subject made me think -- what else could I do if the worst happens? I thought about my skills, not in terms of what kinds of legal work I do, but what sorts of business or other skills I might have. I realized recently that over the course of years practicing law and doing charitable work, political work, and running an occasional (very small) business on the side, that I've developed pretty strong sales and marketing skills. Who knew? I didn't, until I stopped thinking like a lawyer selling my legal skills and started thinking like an objective business person.

In addition to identifying skills that you have already mastered, think about what you might need to develop to move into your dream non-law job. Right now, I'm working on my jewelry making hobby. I'm learning new skills and how to market products that I've made. It's fun and it comforts me to know that I actually could do something else if I had to. I don't have any plans to leave the law any time soon, but I no longer feel like it is impossible for me to do anything but legal work.

So, if you are feeling uneasy and you wonder what could be in store for you, be proactive. Take a look at all of your skills, including those that you may have developed outside of your career. Also, be honest about what you love to do. That will help you figure out what skills you may need or want to develop in your spare time to pursue your other passions. It never pays to push yourself beyond your current career label. At minimum you will meet new people outside of your profession who could truly help your business development efforts as a lawyer!


  1. Excellent post! There are so many opportunities out there if we're just open to them! The people we meet along the way are the way through life make it all worthwhile!

  2. Thanks, Michelle! I think that our lives are richer when we are open as well.