career advice for lawyers

Career Counseling for Lawyers – Questions you Should be Asking During your Consultation

Although some lawyers love their jobs,  a large number of others find they are either burned out or have become bored with their careers. In a recent survey, the ABA found 50% or more of practicing attorneys are unhappy in their jobs. These people often wonder whether they will have to stick it out until it is time to retire or if it will be possible to make a career change, and either move into a more rewarding practice area or into a job that involves being more on the business side.

If you are one of the 50%-plus of legal professionals who are unhappy and are considering their career options, you should consider enlisting the advice of a qualified career mentor. Here are some questions you should ask when interviewing potential career coaches.

What Experience do you have in Assisting Lawyers who want to Change Careers?

Now is the time to remember that not all career counselors and recruitment companies are created equal – while some will assist individuals from all career areas, others such as Career Strategies Group, specialize in lawyers, and in mentoring attorneys who want to change careers or reposition themselves within the law.

Since lawyers possess unique skill sets and specialized knowledge within their practice areas, it is often challenging for them to know what else they are qualified to do, how to conduct an alternative career job search, and how to re-career without taking a pay cut. Enlisting professional assistance is a good way to find alternative employment, while still being able to use the skills and knowledge you have acquired in the legal industry.

While any competent career coach can be helpful, attorneys seeking to pursue alternative careers should look for guidance from specialists in this field.

What Services do you offer that will Help me Change Careers?

Not all career management professionals offer their clients the same services to help with their career transitions.

During your discussion with a potential career consultant, you should inquire about the services that they claim to offer. For instance, do they send you some standardized career assessment tools, or do they have instruments designed specifically for lawyers? Do they have off-the-shelf program packages or do they customize their proposals for each client? Do they just provide written or video materials on job search, or do they coach you individually on job search Best Practices? Do they offer broad-brush programs or do they help you select the specific services you need? How much time do they spend with you upfront to assess your needs before trying to make a sale?

It is also very important to ask if they offer services such as professional resume and cover letter writing, or if they just critique your original document? What experience do they have in preparing career change resumes? How do they handle your LinkedIn profile development? Who actually does the writing for you? You should also ask about the range of services they offer, such as career coaching, job search methods, personal marketing plans, interview preparation, and ongoing support. Can they do resume distribution for you to recruiters or venture capital companies? How do they help you prepare for interviews?

What is your approach on Networking?

A critically important question to ask is about their view on networking. Lawyers very often say they either do not have networks,  can’t use their networks for fear of discovery, or are simply uncomfortable asking people for favors.

Many career consultants base their programs on networking. A very few, like Career Strategies Group, have job search methods that don’t rely on traditional networking. Despite what some coaches say, traditional networking – asking friends and colleagues if they know of opportunities for you – is NOT the best way to find a new job.

How Can I Show my Qualifications if I don’t have Direct Experience in the Field in which I’d Like to Work?

It is particularly important to be honest with your potential consultant about how clear or cloudy you are about what you want to do next professionally. If you are rock solid certain about what you want to do, there are more coaches who can help you. If you are not certain or don’t have a clue about what else is out there that you would like to pursue, there are far fewer qualified coaches.

If you are not certain about exactly what you want, you will need a career coach who has substantial experience using tools that will help you see not only what you would like to do and what would be a good “fit” for you, but also what you can actually get hired to do and paid what you need to earn.

Coaches who do career testing often use tools that gauge your psychological makeup and skill set, but which are incapable of addressing marketability and whether you can in reality get hired to do a job you would like. That is a very specialized area in which few coaches are qualified. Make sure your coach can help you clarify your goals and create a real-world career path for you. For a basic overview of alternative legal careers, click this link, and get a copy of  “Caught by the Law? A Guide to Alternative Legal Careers” will be sent to you free of charge.

A key to a successful career change is to have an experienced consultant who will prepare compelling personal marketing materials for you in such a way that it will appeal to the right recruitment manager and show the full scope of your contributory abilities. In many cases, truly smart employers will be willing to help with the learning curve of a candidate if they can demonstrate firm communication skills, professionalism, intelligence and drive.

There are many good coaches out there, but no one coach is right for everyone. When it comes to your career and your specific situation, you should find a coach who has the knowledge of the law, the transferability of legal skills into non-legal roles, and who has the range of services and direct experience on point to help you.

Contact us today if you are a legal professional and are interested in exploring your career options and finding a job that you actually enjoy, that is fulfilling, affords a quality of life, and pays well. We look forward to speaking with you.