Who can I talk to?
January 31, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Lawyer in a career rut. I need to get some advice, but from who?

I've been a lawyer for almost 10 years now, with the same firm out of law school. Still an associate, but that is partly by choice - I have no desire to be a partner. I just want to do interesting work, have interaction with clients and be intellectually stimulated.

I do a lot of administrative law work, like filling out forms. This requires a lot of experience, but I have that experience and now I feel like I can do it in my sleep. I've never taken a deposition in my career. I've been involved in one piece of litigation in 10 years. My firm just doesn't do a lot of that kind of stuff, which I had knew going in but hoped would change. It hasn't.

I want to speak about this and whether to find a new job with a career coach or someone equivalent but I really don't know where to start. I do not trust the head of career services at my law school because she is a notorious talker and I cannot trust that she won't go blabbing to members in my firm.

Who else can I talk to who would help me either find marketable skills to move to a new position or give me some ideas on how to make my current position more fulfilling?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
well, there's two ways to go about this, I think. One is to find an actual career coach; they exist; I know lawyers who have used them, but almost always to transition out of lawyering.

The other is to start networking - is there a lawyer (in your firm or outside) who does the kind of work you'd like to do, or who seems to be fufilled? Take them to lunch and talk about it. Talking about this with other lawyers might give you some ideas. As for career services, you might talk to them about the part on making your current position more fulfilling - maybe they can assist with pro bono opportunities that would get you some of the intellectual stimulation you're looking for?
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:30 AM on January 31, 2012

Your local or state bar association may have a Lawyer's assistance program. I'd start there. These are confidential programs that help lawyers deal with things like addiction, mental health problems, grieving, and whatever other sorts of personal problems they are having.

Make a call, make an appointment, and talk with them. They may have a career counselor they can send you to (possibly even for free). They will almost certainly have books on getting out of law, rekindling your passion for law, or making healthy career decisions in and around the legal profession.

I don't know where you are but I can speak highly from personal experience of both the NH and CT lawyer assistance programs.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like to talk. I just got out of practicing (possibly for good, I don't know yet) and it feels pretty liberating right now.
posted by gauche at 11:30 AM on January 31, 2012

Is there a legal headhunter you can approach? Usually there are ads in the bar publications.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:31 AM on January 31, 2012

Something else to consider is approaching a partner that you do trust about opening up a new line of business for the firm.
posted by Pants! at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

start networking - is there a lawyer (in your firm or outside) who does the kind of work you'd like to do, or who seems to be fufilled? Take them to lunch and talk about it.

This. Not only will you learn about other lawyer's actual practices, but you will then start to develop contacts so if and when you do want to make changes your network will be stronger than it was before.

There's little risk to this, since learning what other lawyers' practices and networking is valuable in its own right, so if word gets out that you're networking in this manner, that should only be positive for you. Just so long as you don't tell anyone "I'm unhappy in my current role." Saying, "I'm really interested in what you do," is totally fine.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2012

I think you should approach this from the angle that you already have a very valuable skill that is marketable, instead of starting over with a clean slate. If you're experienced in a specialized niche, you may find it in demand elsewhere -- you might get out of your rut by changing firms, as opposed to changing focuses entirely. For example, you could switch to a smaller firm where you get more client contact and a variety of assignments. You may also find you enjoy the business aspect of helping to manage a small firm. (Because in a small firm, everyone has to pitch in for management tasks).

Another route is to deepen your current niche by writing articles and coming up with new client services, staying abreast of current news and legislation, etc. You've got the expertise; you should flaunt it.

Personally, I used to be in a niche, and left it behind for an opportunity that seemed like a logical step up for me. I think that turned out to be a mistake, and I regret not staying where I was and trying to really rock it in that setting, instead of starting out in a completely different atmosphere where it turns out I'm not really thriving anyway.
posted by yarly at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2012

Anon, feel free to MeMail me, even if just for the moral support--I'm in much the same position, many years into a steep learning curve area of law, with no particular interest in becoming partner (or to come in to work at all tomorrow, frankly). I'm starting with a career coach this Saturday to try to suss out what I want to do with my life, whether I should find another area of law, etc.

I am finding it hard to start networking when all I know is that I really want a break from what I'm doing now.
posted by 5845(f)(1)(D) at 12:23 PM on January 31, 2012

If you're in the Bay Area, or even if you're not, you might consider contacting Hindi Greenberg of Lawyers in Transition. I found her advice helpful.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 6:58 PM on January 31, 2012

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