I’ve been doing some advertising lately on Facebook for a course on career change and it’s clear from the response that the idea hits home with many lawyers.
Of course, the question of whether you should look for a new role or even quit the law completely is a complex one and will depend entirely on your own circumstances.
But I think that there are some tell-tale signs that indicate that it’s time to give some serious thought to the direction your career is heading in – and whether that is ultimately where want your life to go.
Here are a few of the signs based on my experience and that of other lawyers I know who have changed or re-aligned their careers.
1. You’re starting to rehearse some big conversations in your head
Maybe something like: “I know it’s a secure job with prestige and good money, but wouldn’t you just like me to be happy…” or even: “I know I could be on the partnership track, but I’m thinking I’d rather get a job working on the railroad track…”
2. You’re beginning to dread your phone ringing or a new email landing in your inbox
Of course, there are always some clients or some types of work that you want to avoid. But if your heart sinks when anything new lands on your plate, you have to start wondering how much longer you can go on being de-motivated by the very work you are there to do.
3. You couldn’t care less about the new landmark judgment that’s about to be handed down – and you’re having trouble pretending otherwise
All your colleagues have been talking about this judgment for months. Clients have been advised to put their cases on hold, and Mr Super-Keen along the corridor is poised to publish a commentary on it in the legal press within 10 minutes of the report going live on the Supreme Court website. For you, however, it just means tedium and drudgery: revising your standard advice, reviewing all the pending files and discussing it ad nauseam with clients who don’t have a clue what your talking about and are not listening anyway.
4. The walk to the office takes a little bit longer every day
The long route from the station seems so much more attractive than it used to, as does the display in the second-hand shop window on the way.
5. Consequently, you’re getting into work a little bit later each day
It’s only a minute or two, but whereas you used to be one of the first in at 7.30am, it’s now 8.15 before you’re firing up your desktop. At this rate, you’ll be doing the night shift in 6 months time.
6. You’ve stopped going out
At first, you turned down your colleagues’ invitations for coffee, lunch, drinks etc. because you were too busy, too stressed or just not in the mood. Now the reason you’re not going out is because nobody asks you – and that includes your friends outside work too.
7. You seriously envy the woman who comes round to water the office plants
She’s got comfortable clothes on, her buds in her ear and a relaxed smile for you when she walks past. She starts at 8, finishes at 5 and nobody’s adding more plants to the planters as she’s working and telling her she needs to get the pruning done by COB today. She can probably even go out in the evenings because:
- (a) she leaves work at 5 p.m. and
- (b) she doesn’t have a conference call with the plant waterers in New York at 10pm.
8. You’re a grouch
You’re getting a bit short-tempered with everybody these days, not just your spouse or your partner, although you’re getting even worse with them. Now you’re not just grumpy in the office, you’ve even totally lost it with a colleague on a couple of occasions. And the chances are, it wasn’t one of the people who deserved the rough end of your tongue.
9. The Sunday evening dread now starts by Saturday lunch time
You’ve barely had your Saturday morning cappuccino before your thoughts turn to what awaits you on Monday morning. You ruin every weekend feeling desperate about the week ahead.
10. You just wish you could be outside or work with you hands instead of your brain
You dream about working in sport, or gardening, parks or horticulture – maybe you could buy a vineyard in France or an olive grove in Spain. If only you could paint, take photographs, make hand-crafted guitars or cashmere sweaters. You feel the strongest urge to get out of your own head and into the world.
11. The high point of the day is when you lock yourself in the bathroom cubicle and read the Guardian on your phone
Or is that just me?
12. You’re composing the letters you’d really like to send
You used to do it in your head. Now you’re drafting the actual e-mails. Before long, you’re going to press send by mistake and it may be all be over anyway. Here’s an example: “Dear Sirs, your failure to appreciate the soul sucking futility of this entire exercise in pointlessness both saddens and disappoints us…”
13. You realise that you were never really a details person all along
You’re beginning to see that your ex, your friends and your former collaborators in the situationist art collective, were right; spending half your life combing through amendments to the Street Furniture (Lighting, Signs and Traffic Light) Regulations 1954 may not be what you were put on this earth to do.
14. You avoid all legal dramas on TV and in the cinema
Whereas once you used to lap them up and enjoy pointing out the legal errors to your uninterested partner (again, maybe that was just me), now they just make you feel uncomfortable and a little bit sad.
15. You buy the Four Hour Work Week
And you start signing up for various online marketing resources. You keep hearing about people with side-businesses that become their real businesses and you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, that could be the answer.
So what can you do?
Firstly, bear in mind that if you’re not currently happy with your work, it doesn’t have to mean leaving the law entirely.
Maybe you just need some adjustments to your current role, a new job elsewhere or even perhaps a new way of thinking about your current work.
Whether it’s that kind of limited change that you need or if quitting the law entirely is a real possibility for you, I’ve got something for you that you’ll definitely find useful.
So, if you need some help kicking all of this off, or maybe putting your career plans back on track, click on the button (or the image below) to get my 7 Step Career Change Road Map for Lawyers.