By: Nancy C. Grimes
President, Managing Partner
Grimes Legal, Inc.
Nancy Grimes has over twenty years’ experience serving the legal industry. Clients include international, national, regional, local and independent law firms and attorneys. “Counsel to Counsel” is updated weekly. Have a question you’d like answered? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
After almost three years as an associate, I’m not sure I want to practice law. I’ve considered making a move to another firm, but I feel a change in venue is not the answer. As I research the internet and speak with friends and family, I feel there are many more creative avenues I could entertain with my legal degree. Any suggestions on what I can be doing now to gear up for my career change besides read internet sources?
Dear Craving Creativity:
After almost three years in practice, you seem to be unsure about your career path. I’m gathering from your question that you very intellectual and are drawn toward “something creative.” At the same time, you leave an opening for continuing to practice law.
To confirm whether you are ready to give up law practice, self-assessment exercises can be helpful. Consider your reasons for going to law school and whether you can fulfill them in any type of practice. Assess whether different practice areas or settings would interest you. Consider the skills that you like to use and whether law gives you an opportunity to use them on a regular basis.
If you determine that no other practice appeals to you, the same self-assessment exercises can help you identify the skills, work values, work settings, and interests that you would like to incorporate in a different career path. You have already singled out creativity as an important element in whatever you do. Creativity can take many forms and be found in many different careers.
Three of the books that contain self-assessment exercises are: What Can You Do with a Law Degree? A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law, by Deborah Arron; The Lawyer’s Career Change Handbook – More Than 300 Things You Can Do with a Law Degree, by Hindi Greenberg; and Alternative Careers for Lawyers, by Hillary Mantis. Those books are also a source of information on diverse types of careers and may help you determine paths that appeal to your creative side.
After you figure out one or more potential new career paths, your next step is to learn more about them. Internet research can be a starting point. As you recognize, you must go beyond reading about careers.
To gain a deeper understanding about different careers, you can talk to individuals who are doing what you think you want to do. In an informational interview, you can find out whether your idea about a career matches the reality of the work; for example, how much of the work is creative. Be prepared to ask questions that can help you determine whether you are on the right track. Some possible areas of inquiry are the individuals’ career path, what attracted them to the career, their responsibilities, their challenges, and opportunities within the field.
As you learn about each individual and her or his career, be sure to discuss your background and experience, including how it may be transferable to their field. Ask for suggestions and resources related to how you can develop skills and knowledge that can help you make a transition. Seek referrals to others so that you can continue to gather information and become known to individuals who may open doors to a new career.
Take the time to learn about yourself and the types of opportunities that interest you. Creativity and resourcefulness can help you discover and pursue your calling.