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Summary: For many, it is much easier to deal with the hateful thing you know than the unknown thing you fear. To find career satisfaction, you must…
Attorney dissatisfaction: is this a new phenomenon? Yes and no. For many years, unhappy associates and young lawyers have gathered behind closed doors to whisper and moan and groan among themselves. So, what is new? Now, it is out in the open. Way out in the open.
Young lawyers voice their complaints online at websites devoted exclusively to them. They also express their dissatisfaction in various published surveys conducted by legal publications and by independent entrepreneurs. Large firm or small, these are issues that have an impact on all associates.
Can the legal profession as a whole successfully address these issues so that associates can realize greater career satisfaction? It is certainly a worthy goal, but if you are dissatisfied, you do not have to continue to complain while waiting for a solution. Complaining can serve a useful purpose, up to a point; you know you are unhappy and vent about it, but, when all is said and done, you are stuck.
1. You must take action if you are unhappy with your legal job.
This does not necessarily mean that your only alternative is leaving the practice of law. You may find that you would be satisfied in a different firm, or an entirely different practice setting, such as in-house at a corporation, government agency, public-interest organization, or in a different practice area.
2. Before jumping to any conclusions about your legal career, your first step is self-assessment.
This process helps you determine your skills (e.g. writing or public speaking), interests (e.g., politics, theatre), work values (e.g., recognition, working independently) and preferred work settings (e.g., corporation, government). Once you have an understanding of your preferences, you can start to consider career paths that incorporate as many of them as possible.
Whatever change you decide to make, you must focus on the skills that are transferable from your current position to your next one. One advantage of being an attorney is that you are likely to possess many transferable skills such as researching, writing, analyzing, persuading, managing, investigating, counseling, organizing, and dealing with pressure.
In the course of your self-assessment, you will also identify the obstacles facing you. Among the obstacles that you may encounter are your financial constraints, timing, need for prestige, possible adverse reaction among family and friends, and fear of the unknown. To make a successful career transition, you must resolve these issues.
You can engage in self-assessment on your own or with the help of an experienced career counselor. If you undertake this process on your own, there are a number of books that provide self-assessment exercises and career advice, including The Career Transformation System.
People often refer to self-assessment exercises as tests. Try not to think of them in that way since it implies that there are right and wrong answers. There are only answers that are true for you, with no judgment attached to them.
There is one simple exercise that can get you started: Look through the jobs on LawCrossing and see what jobs seem interesting to you. Do not eliminate anything because you lack training or any other qualifications.
Your purpose in doing this exercise is not to apply for a job; it is to identify skills, interests, and work values and settings. Often, regardless of how unrelated your circling or underlining may seem, themes emerge, such as your desire to work with people, to be outdoors, to rekindle your artistic talent, to use your background in science, to work in a public service setting, or to take on greater responsibility in a leadership position.
You may choose to work with a career counselor who is experienced in analyzing self-assessment exercises and discussing the results with you. A career counselor can also administer assessment instruments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. These instruments can provide further confirmation about your preferences and interests. When working with a counselor, be aware that he or she cannot tell you what to do next. There are no magical answers; the answers lie within you, and your counselor can only guide you to discover them. See BCG Attorney Search Career Coaching.
Self-assessment is a rewarding and, at times, frustrating process. You are anxious to find a solution to your career woes and it may not be immediately apparent. By becoming self-aware, you can begin to identify careers that seem to suit your personality and preferences. At this stage, you can start to research those careers to determine whether they are a good match in other respects: Are there sufficient opportunities? Do you have the necessary background and experience? Do you need additional education or training and is that feasible for you? Do the salaries meet your needs at your entry point and at more senior levels?
3. Lawyers unhappy with their jobs should do networking to gather information.
A major part of your research is informational interviewing or networking. This is the best way to learn about a career - by talking to those people who are doing it every day. You can get a clear understanding of what to expect on the job, the positives and the negatives. You can also learn the buzz words, the shorthand that those engaged in the career use when communicating with each other. For example, as an attorney, you would say "EBT," as opposed to "examination before trial," and would recognize as an outsider anyone who used the latter term. Your goal is to become as much of an insider as possible so that you are well prepared for the all-important phase of your transition - the job interview.
Taking action can be a difficult proposition. It is much easier to complain than to undertake the hard work necessary to make a successful transition. For many, it is much easier to deal with the hateful thing you know than the unknown thing you fear. To find career satisfaction, you must make a commitment to take all the steps that are necessary. You have taken so many steps to get this far in your career A few more can take you much further. Career satisfaction is possible for you.
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