The nature of lawyering can make an attorney vulnerable to stress and depression. Picking the right practice area is crucial, but it requires introspection. Some questions worth asking — Am I a solo, small-firm, or big-firm person at heart? What are my financial objectives? Am I cause-centered? Do I love or hate litigation?
The Flower Exercise from "What Color is Your Parachute" is a good starting point to explore your individual qualities, values, and abilities. Another valuable resource is to begin looking at your career by creating a Mission Statement for yourself. Creating a Statement of Your Mission, written by WSBA member Terrence Leahy, is a thoughtful, empowering summary of this process, including brief exercises that can help consolidate your focus.
Many lawyers, while proud of the hard work they've invested in their degree, wonder what other kinds of work would be a good match. Deborah Arron, a former Perkins Coie attorney, wrote two excellent books on this topic. "Running From the Law" is about the decision-making and emotional challenges that are part of stepping away from a legal career. "What You Can Do with a Law Degree" is a more practical summary of how you can fit nicely into non-legal realms with your impressive law degree.
In addition to our resources, we recommend several consultants who can help you with your career search:
- Shawn Lipton — Many of you know him from the Seattle University Office of Career Development, but he now has a business called The Trusted Coach. He is an excellent resource.
- Karen Summerville is a career consultant who has advised attorneys for over twenty years. As an attorney, she understands the pressures one faces.
- The Centerpoint Institute in Seattle offers classes that engage you in a Passion Search, whereby you can find a career that matches your personality and interests.
- Paul Anderson hosts several job seeking groups that have a completely unique perspective that many job seeking attorneys have benefited from. As a writer for the Seattle Times and a KOMO news presenter he has a close ear to the street in terms of job seeking trends in Washington.
There are several online resources where you can take tests to help answer this question of what job areas will best fit your personality and interests. The Strong Interest Inventory is a career-specific assessment and the Myers-Briggs Inventory is a personality-specific assessment. These tests can provide helpful feedback when one is unsure where to start. The trick with these tests is to find a constructive way of interpreting the results. These assessments provide interpretive summaries of results and can be very helpful, although no inventory is going to fully grasp your uniqueness.