Career Alternatives for Lawyers

January 7, 2020 Career Alternatives for Lawyers

2020 is officially here—a crisp new year and decade. And if this transition has you feeling like a clean break and a big career change, you are not alone. The holidays are over, you've reflected on your life a bit, and now you're sitting at your desk and you realize you just aren't into this anymore. Attorneys can easily feel trapped at a firm, between law school loans and sweat equity invested in their careers, it's tough to just walk away.

Some of the same changes that may make practicing law in a traditional manner more challenging have opened up new opportunities—and there are lucrative and fulfilling paths for attorneys and law school graduates. If you'd like to stay in the legal industry and use all of the experience you've gained from working, you have options.

We recommend thinking about what facets of your legal job you enjoy and which you dread in planning your next move. And, we've compiled a list of career moves that may appeal to you if you want to leave the practice of law for good (or for now) detailing which may be right for you based on what you do enjoy about your current job:

1. Legal Project Management: Legal Project Managers are in such high demand right now that salaries for entry-level roles are sky-rocketing. You can read the story on our blog about how one attorney went from practicing law to LPM here. You may want to consider a career pivot here if:

  • You have constantly thought 'we could be managing this matter better” when practicing law

  • You are highly organized and always find yourself tidying up and creating contingency plans or alternative options

  • You are the first person to react when an emergency occurs, you are not afraid to share your opinion, and you tend to talk the most in your interactions with others.

  • You have a high degree of self-efficacy and find ways to get things done.

  • You see obstacles as challenges and you firmly believe that once you put your mind to it, anything is possible

  • You are reliable, dependable, and love schedules and timelines (and are good at sticking to them and motivating others to do the same)

2. Legal Operations: The Legal Operations function grew up out of the recession first at in house legal departments and spread to the new law/ Alternative Legal Service Provider concepts. Some opportunities are also now rising within law firms as they attempt to better relate to their clients and compete with new law challengers. You may want to consider a career pivot here if:

  • You spend your spare time thinking about alternative ways to get something done while practicing law and how things in the larger world could be more efficient from the inefficient line at the coffee shop to governmental policies.

  • You dive into details, use and analyze data and other information to think big-picture about problems and solutions; you may find yourself spouting off various data and studies during political or stock market discussions to support your wider views and assertions.

  • You are energized at work when your law firm or client proposes a new way of doing things or otherwise shaking up the status-quo where many of your colleagues freeze in fear or pushback.

  • You are a master planner, you spend a lot of your time deliberating and planning on what the best course of action is and may have lots of spreadsheets and/or task management apps in your personal life for everything from vacation planning to your exercise routine.

3. Legal Tech: As you've read above, the legal industry is exploding right now with new ways of doing things and new opportunities and you may have noticed a new legal tech concept popping up every other day. You may want to consider a career pivot here if:

  • You are not easily discouraged, you see “no” as a challenge, not a dead-end.

  • You are patient and can take the long view on things

  • You like risk-taking, you may find yourself seeking out career and strategic personal risks like moves to unknown places, new industries, and new companies.

  • You like to brainstorm new ideas and prefer taking a new approach versus the tried and true.

4. Human Resources: The average length of a job for millennials is around 3 years (even in law, 44% of associates will leave within 3 years), 43% of the working population is engaged in some form of freelance work, and there are new and shifting regulations at the state and federal level around employee classification and other labor laws. With the way we work changing quickly, there are many opportunities to use some of the same skills you learned as a lawyer for HR and employment compliance within the legal industry or outside of it. You may want to consider a career pivot here if:

  • Your current colleagues come to you to discuss their struggles at work or otherwise because of your empathy, understanding of others' feelings, and it's your goal to help those in need.

  • Your colleagues and friends and family look to you to help diffuse highly charged situations for your emotional intelligence, your tact, and ability to deal with various individuals.

  • You've enjoyed the challenge of smoothing over issues with clients, co-counsel, or opposing counsel in collaborative ways while practicing law.

  • You easily trust others and genuinely care about the well being of your co-workers and clients (sometimes a tough find in law!)

  • In your legal career you've preferred to work with and achieve goals as a team versus shutting yourself in your office with your portion of the case hoping that no one drops by your office to bother you.

5. Legal Recruiter: In addition to the above general trends in work in the legal industry that mean jobs are turning over more quickly and there are more roles for legal recruiters, a host of new law concepts are growing and “lawyering up”, creating a variety of new opportunities for legal recruiters outside of search firms or in house legal departments. You may want to consider a career pivot here if:

  • You are excited and energized by your days at work where you're interacting with your coworkers, clients, and co-counsel and you actually enjoy business development and relationship building.

  • You genuinely enjoy helping your coworkers (and they regularly turn to you for this) and are trusting and cooperative by nature

  • You are known by friends, family, and coworkers for being positive-minded, enthusiastic, and gregarious.

  • You have a strong eye for detail and you like deadlines and perfection.

If the legal recruiter or legal tech jobs above sounded interesting to you, we're hiring! You can learn more about the roles we're hiring for at Hire an Esquire by emailing us (!