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    November 27th, 2012

    ♫ Like a square peg in a round hole. No, don’t ever fit in.
    So you don’t beg, or sell your soul. Oh, you’re stronger within …♫

    – Music and Lyrics by B. Knight, P. Simm, recorded by Beverly Knight.

    Square Peg

    This is traditionally the time of year that lawyers contemplate new careers.  Accordingly, I have reproduced an article I wrote for the Canadian Bar on alternative careers for lawyers:

    I have friends in large law firms who don’t understand why someone who worked their way through law school wouldn’t want to practise law in a big law firm. On the other hand, I have met many others who couldn’t imagine working for a large law firm. Accordingly, this column is written for all the square pegs out there who are searching for other ways to make a living with a law degree other than falling into the maw of the big firm private practice.

    Danielle D. Hansen stated, “Law school stresses critical, analytical, and logical thinking and writing skills, as well as impartiality and the ability to see issues from all angles and points of view. You were also taught how to survive and thrive in an intensely competitive and stressful atmosphere. You may take for granted the basic skill set learned in law school, but these skills are not as common in the workforce among non-lawyers as you may think.”

    Why seek an alternative career with your hard-earned legal skills? For one, the time demands of private practice may simply be too much. There are many people whose personal circumstances require them to balance other requirements alongside a career. Of course, while the big example here is working moms, there are many other lawyers who face similar time demands that rule out a traditional practice.

    But aside from time constraints there are many other reasons for seeking out a different career. You may have an entrepreneurial bent – venturing into the hustle and bustle of a business career may appeal to the high-octane side of your personality. Others may be more introspective – a life in education, research and writing may be the quiet intellectual challenge you seek.

    You may have a dual interest, in which case blending your law background with your other interest allows you to remain active in each. For example, if you have an HR background, then coaching or executive search careers in the legal area may be a good suggestion. Others with an interest in labour negotiations may wish to work in either the labour or management side of things.

    Of course, many lawyers become mediators, judges and arbitrators. Increasingly these days we are seeing lawyers combine technology with law in consulting, programming, forensic or business careers that blend all or some of these [the writer has absolutely no experience here :-) ]

    All governments have need of lawyers in many different roles. So do international bodies such as the UN (I once met a Canadian lawyer who was working in international business law for the UN in Vienna). Banking and finance offer opportunities for those who find that environment interesting and a challenge. You could become an ex-pat and find yourself working in Hong Kong, Dubai or Singapore. I met a lawyer who was working for NASA when the issues of a capsule’s right to overfly nations were being dealt with.

    A few of us become writers such as Scott Turow, William Deverell and John Grisham. Some of us go into social causes and work for organizations that seek to change the world.

    In fact, there are so many opportunities outside of the traditional practice of law that you don’t have to be a square peg in a round hole; you can be stronger within by finding a career that is fulfilling, soul-satisfying and challenging.

    This article originally appeared in the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia branch’s publication BarTalk.

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 at 2:02 pm and is filed under Change Management, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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