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Career Crisis...

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littlelysser

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Alright...I thought I''d put this up to the PSers and see what advise they might be able to give.

Here''s the situation:

I''m an attorney. Worked for a large firm for four years out of law school. I was absolutely miserable and so stressed out. I left the firm and went to work for an appellate judge. I like this position. Very low stress. Great hours. Good work. Been doing it for a few years now. Just don''t know if this is my passion.

My judge is retiring at the end of this year. Thus, December 31, 2007 will be my last day at this job. 6 months is a nice amount of time to figure things out...but I have NO idea what I want to be when I grow up!

FI and I will be married by then...

And although we will have to cut back, we can survive quite well on FI''s income.

So...what the heck do I do now?

I have ABSOLUTELY NO DESIRE to go back to private practice. Honestly, it isn''t really even an option at this point. My sanity is worth more than the big check.

Do I find another clerkship - again, good hours, interesting work, low stress? But again...I don''t LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I''m not sure I want to do this for the rest of my life...gah.

Go back to school? get a Phd? Any Phd folks have any advice or thoughts?

Chuck it all and go work at a doggie day care? I really just have NO idea what I want to do.

I realize that I am very lucky that I am in a position to have the option to kind of start over in my early 30s...but I have no idea where to go.

Anyone else been through this? Anyone have any advice?
 

Cehrabehra

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jun 29, 2006
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11,071
Date: 7/9/2007 1:24:20 PM
Author:littlelysser
Alright...I thought I''d put this up to the PSers and see what advise they might be able to give.

Here''s the situation:

I''m an attorney. Worked for a large firm for four years out of law school. I was absolutely miserable and so stressed out. I left the firm and went to work for an appellate judge. I like this position. Very low stress. Great hours. Good work. Been doing it for a few years now. Just don''t know if this is my passion.

My judge is retiring at the end of this year. Thus, December 31, 2007 will be my last day at this job. 6 months is a nice amount of time to figure things out...but I have NO idea what I want to be when I grow up!

FI and I will be married by then...

And although we will have to cut back, we can survive quite well on FI''s income.

So...what the heck do I do now?

I have ABSOLUTELY NO DESIRE to go back to private practice. Honestly, it isn''t really even an option at this point. My sanity is worth more than the big check.

Do I find another clerkship - again, good hours, interesting work, low stress? But again...I don''t LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I''m not sure I want to do this for the rest of my life...gah.

Go back to school? get a Phd? Any Phd folks have any advice or thoughts?

Chuck it all and go work at a doggie day care? I really just have NO idea what I want to do.

I realize that I am very lucky that I am in a position to have the option to kind of start over in my early 30s...but I have no idea where to go.

Anyone else been through this? Anyone have any advice?
Are children a part of your future? Because if they are you might want to consider that as well.

Would you like teaching law at a university?
 

littlelysser

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Not sure about kids...chance we might have one...chance we might not...we are still undecided on that issue.

And I''d LOVE to teach law at a university. Unfortunately, those position are incredibly difficult to get and are usually given to folks with ivy league resumes...I went to a top tier law school and graduated in the top ten percent, but not from one of the biggies...Harvard, Stanford, Yale...so although it''d be wonderful, it is very difficult to break into...
 

surfgirl

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What about doing pro bono work or working for a free legal services agency, for those who cannot afford a high priced attorney? That seems like it would be a rewarding way to use your degree...
 

Pandora II

Ideal_Rock
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Aug 3, 2006
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9,613
I''ve done a major career change twice now.

My advice:

Write down all your skills,
then write down what you enjoy doing - in life and at work
ditto with what you don''t like doing.

See if there is a match with one of your hobbies.

Look at what $$ or hours you will work - eg I don''t want to work evenings or weekends regularly so that ruled out lots of jobs.

Most jobs use mainly transferable skills that are not job specific. A spreadsheet is a spreadsheet...

Then all you need to do is take a risk...

(Careers advisors can be helpful as well - I saw one, didn''t find me a job but helped me focus better on what I wanted)
 

Efe

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Aug 8, 2006
Messages
773
I think public interest law would be perfect for you, especially since a larger paycheck is not essential.
 

neatfreak

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Feb 17, 2007
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14,167
Date: 7/9/2007 1:47:02 PM
Author: surfgirl
What about doing pro bono work or working for a free legal services agency, for those who cannot afford a high priced attorney? That seems like it would be a rewarding way to use your degree...
That''s what I was going to suggest too. Non-profit groups often need lawyers on staff, but can''t afford to pay big salaries. Find one that does work you''re interested in and apply!
 

Cehrabehra

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Jun 29, 2006
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11,071
Date: 7/9/2007 1:45:29 PM
Author: littlelysser
Not sure about kids...chance we might have one...chance we might not...we are still undecided on that issue.

And I''d LOVE to teach law at a university. Unfortunately, those position are incredibly difficult to get and are usually given to folks with ivy league resumes...I went to a top tier law school and graduated in the top ten percent, but not from one of the biggies...Harvard, Stanford, Yale...so although it''d be wonderful, it is very difficult to break into...
What about teaching at a junior college? That''s what my dh plans to do when he retires... he can work a semester here or there and not be fully committed to work every term. Actually my best friend teaches at stanford (yeah that''s not a jr college lol) this way... she teaches a semester a year though she is taking this year off. It isn''t maybe a career choice but the flexibility would be amazing.
 

Clio

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Jan 13, 2007
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809
Go back to school? get a Phd? Any Phd folks have any advice or thoughts?


Honestly, I would only get a Ph.D. if you really want to teach/do research. Doctoral programs tend to be long (some longer than other - this will depend on the field) and intense. Plus, once you finish, jobs are not necessarily easy to find (again, it depends on the field).

I can relate to your crisis. I did a Ph.D. in history, which took 6 years (including the MA). When I finished, I did get a tenure-track job, but after a couple of years I found that teaching - the job for which I had spent year preparing - was not for me. It was a difficult time as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do and what people would hire me to do (a Ph.D. in the humanities is not the most marketable degree). It all turned out well, and I now have a job that builds on my degree and experience and that I love, but it''s not a path I would encourage anyone to take lightly.
 

littlelysser

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Joined
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Messages
1,862
Thanks for the words of advice.

I''ve definitely considered the public interest law angle...but honestly, I really and truly dislike practicing law. In all forms, really, other than clerking. I find the whole process so unnecessarily contentious and just horrid, really. It is not even a function of hours...I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist and when I was practicing I found myself up at three am checking a case on Westlaw...because I''d managed to wake myself up in the middle of the night worrying! Unfortunately, I think that would likely transfer to the practice of public interest law...here''s the other thing...I find it ethically kind of challenging to advocate a position I know is incorrect or not really supported by the law. As a clerk, the goal is to find the correct answer...as a practicing lawyer, the goal is to get the good result, regardless of the merit of your argument. Know what I mean?

Teaching at a junior college or community college is definitely and idea.

As for teaching...I''m 99% sure I would love to teach higher education...just not sure how to break into it.

My undergraduate degree is in creative writing...and I have my J.D. so I do have a fairly unique background...but I just don''t know what to do with it.
 

Cehrabehra

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Date: 7/9/2007 3:45:01 PM
Author: littlelysser
Thanks for the words of advice.

I''ve definitely considered the public interest law angle...but honestly, I really and truly dislike practicing law. In all forms, really, other than clerking. I find the whole process so unnecessarily contentious and just horrid, really. It is not even a function of hours...I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist and when I was practicing I found myself up at three am checking a case on Westlaw...because I''d managed to wake myself up in the middle of the night worrying! Unfortunately, I think that would likely transfer to the practice of public interest law...here''s the other thing...I find it ethically kind of challenging to advocate a position I know is incorrect or not really supported by the law. As a clerk, the goal is to find the correct answer...as a practicing lawyer, the goal is to get the good result, regardless of the merit of your argument. Know what I mean?

Teaching at a junior college or community college is definitely and idea.

As for teaching...I''m 99% sure I would love to teach higher education...just not sure how to break into it.

My undergraduate degree is in creative writing...and I have my J.D. so I do have a fairly unique background...but I just don''t know what to do with it.
Yeah, the best way to break into academia is to STAY in academia! Seriously - that''s why my friend teaches periodically at stanford... she did her post doc there and keeps it as an "in" even though she is busy with other projects and private practice. She is aware that at some point down the road, maybe years from now, she may want access to university and what better way than already being there.

That said..... would it be possible for you to take a class or fellowship or internship or *something* at a school? Meet with someone who is doing what you want to do and solicit their advice?
 

enbcfsobe

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Joined
Jan 17, 2007
Messages
1,154
Ahh, I feel your pain. This will be me in another year or so (except that I did my clerkship last year and went back to the law firm). Here are some thoughts and ramblings...

Breaking into academics isn''t easy in any field, but its worth a chat with any professor you particularly liked in school to see what the options are. I second the idea of starting with community college or undergrad programs as an adjunct, maybe teaching law-related classes (constitutional law, judicial politics, etc.) or even as an adjunct in a law school program teaching legal writing. Your clerkship is a plus, especially if it was in the federal courts. Starting out with a fellowship is another good way to break in, from what I''ve heard, but again, I would talk to someone who has been there before -- preferably someone who''s been around at least a few years (so they don''t see you as direct competition).

Pro se law clerk -- each federal district court has a few, and its different from working for a judge (and doesn''t depend on them not retiring/dying!), but it doesn''t have the same adversary aspect as practicing. Ditto for staff attorneys in the federal circuit courts. If your state has elected judges, consider whether you''d be interested in running for the most local judgeship (though I understand if politics just aren''t your thing.) There are also some government agencies that look for legal experience when hiring investigators (eg: EEOC). Legislative aide -- you could put your creative writing and legal experience together (again, if you can stand the politics) to help craft new law. Legal recruiter -- a lot of these folks are former attorneys, though if you really hated practicing it might be tough to convince others its a good idea! Westlaw/Lexis/other publisher representative -- you could be the legal equivalent of a pharmaceutical salesperson! Seriously, though, it seems like a pretty decent gig, and they even hire them out to work in law libraries in the court systems and universities.

If I think of anything else, I''ll post. If your school has half-decent career services, it might be worth getting in touch with them just to see what''s out there in non-practicing jobs. Such a huge percentage of law grads these days don''t practice, so they should have at least some info available.

Best of luck, and don''t feel like you''re alone!! FI and I are both having this discussion on a regular basis, and we''re only 3 years out. You''ll figure it out, it just may take some time.
 

Independent Gal

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Joined
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Hey there LL,

Why not talk to a career counselor? If you get a good one, it can be life changing. They specialize in helping you figure out what your set of skills and interests would match up best with, and I know a good handful of people who dropped $300 or so for a couple of sessions, and swear it''s the best money they ever spent.
 

enbcfsobe

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Joined
Jan 17, 2007
Messages
1,154
Date: 7/9/2007 4:07:16 PM
Author: Independent Gal
Hey there LL,

Why not talk to a career counselor? If you get a good one, it can be life changing. They specialize in helping you figure out what your set of skills and interests would match up best with, and I know a good handful of people who dropped $300 or so for a couple of sessions, and swear it''s the best money they ever spent.
Many community colleges offer career counselling, and some even have a 1 or 2 credit course you can take with a career counselor and you get to take all the career/interest assessments (for what they are worth).
 

MichelleCarmen

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Feb 8, 2003
Messages
15,880
Hi,

Do you have any hobbies that you''d love to expand upon?

Can you take just a few basic classes at a community college or in an extended-learning center on non-academic subjects just to jump start your mind thinking of activities you love that you haven''t focused on while studying and practicing law? Try ONLY fun or enrichment-type classes. Painting, pottery, yoga, or nutrition (or whatever you like). Do not even think PhD or of anything serious at this point!

Your ARE in a lucky position! Have some fun and you''ll eventually find your avenue
 

littlelysser

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Joined
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Messages
1,862
Zoe - A legal clerk researches and drafts the opinions that the court files. Basically, after the trial court has rendered its decision, the parties are entitled to an appeal as of right to the intermediate appellate court of the state.

The party that lost at the trial court then files a brief with my court, pointing out the alleged errors that the trial court made. The winning party will then file a responsive brief, usually saying why the trial court did not err.

Often times we''ll hear oral arguments on the case, review the briefs, conduct independent research on the issues and then draft an opinion. Evenutally, it''ll be circulated to the other judges on the panel, and once they join it, we issue the opinion.



Perhaps I''ll call a career counselor. I don''t think it could hurt. I just don''t know! UGH!

As for hobbies...well, I love jewelry...love dogs...and fashion. Honestly, I''d love to be a stylist or something like that or open a jewlery store or a doggie day care...but who knows...maybe I''d find that tedious after a while as well. Like I said, my undergraduate degree is in creative writing...but I haven''t written anything in YEARS.

You guys are coming up with some faboo suggestions! Keep ''em coming!
 

Independent Gal

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I had a brainwave in the middle of the night. Not sure why I was thinking about your career situation in the middle of the night, but hey, it beats worrying about wedding planning!

If the thing you hate about being a lawyer is the adversarial nature of it, why not become a mediator? This has got to be one of the most satisfying possible jobs right? Bringing people to agreement, resolving conflict... Plus, it''s a growth industry.

And you can be lots of different KINDS of mediator: helping people come to mutually agreeable and friendly divorce settlements, helping people resolve conflicts without having to go to court, helping people deal with sexual harassment issues... Basically, any kind of conflict at all, you help them see each other''s point of view and come to a settlement CONSTRUCTIVELY instead of adversarially.

OK, now _I_ kind of want to be a mediator... hmmm.
 

Harriet

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Having defected from a PhD programme myself, I''d urge you to not pursue one unless you have a true passion for the field. Also, depending on the field, jobs are hard to come by and you may find that your options are limited to places where your other half can''t work. I second the suggestion that you try for an adjunct position in legal practice. You have the perfect background. Lastly, why not just take a year off to enjoy yourself and have a good think?
 

littlelysser

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Date: 7/10/2007 9:12:41 AM
Author: Independent Gal
I had a brainwave in the middle of the night. Not sure why I was thinking about your career situation in the middle of the night, but hey, it beats worrying about wedding planning!

If the thing you hate about being a lawyer is the adversarial nature of it, why not become a mediator? This has got to be one of the most satisfying possible jobs right? Bringing people to agreement, resolving conflict... Plus, it''s a growth industry.

And you can be lots of different KINDS of mediator: helping people come to mutually agreeable and friendly divorce settlements, helping people resolve conflicts without having to go to court, helping people deal with sexual harassment issues... Basically, any kind of conflict at all, you help them see each other''s point of view and come to a settlement CONSTRUCTIVELY instead of adversarially.

OK, now _I_ kind of want to be a mediator... hmmm.
Thanks IG! That is a really good idea! I''ve definitely got some things to think about! And I certainly appreciate you giving my situation some thought! I find myself thinking of the craziest things in the middle of the night...so I completely understand!!!
 

littlelysser

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Date: 7/10/2007 9:29:16 AM
Author: Harriet
Having defected from a PhD programme myself, I''d urge you to not pursue one unless you have a true passion for the field. Also, depending on the field, jobs are hard to come by and you may find that your options are limited to places where your other half can''t work. I second the suggestion that you try for an adjunct position in legal practice. You have the perfect background. Lastly, why not just take a year off to enjoy yourself and have a good think?
I am considering perhaps auditing a class or two in the area that I am considering a PhD in. (eeesh...that was some bad grammer there)...

Anyhoodle - a number of friends are in the process of finishing up their PhDs and I definitely see the amount of work it requires...sigh.

I have many things to think about...

Thanks so much for everyone''s input! PS rocks!
 
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