Jobless Lawyers: Stop Bellying Up to the Bar

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law jobsJobless lawyers are everywhere, ranging from U.S. metro areas like New York and Chicago to China and India.

The good news is that the skills, knowledge base, and personality traits of jobless lawyers are marketable -- outside the practice of law. However, making that transition from the determination to be a practicing attorney to experimenting with ways to leverage that background is challenging.

However, it's being done. After he lost his job at a large New York law firm, Will Meyerhofer tried marketing for a few years before he studied for a master's degree in social work. Today, Meyerhofer is in private practice as psychotherapist in Manhattan.

Although saddled with $150,000 in law school loans, Elie Mystal left law and tried journalism, his long-time love. Today Mystal is the head writer at the popular online site Abovethelaw.com in highly regulated industries such as energy. When he retired he was a top executive at Duke Energy.

But this kind of career reinvention isn't new. Making a living wage practicing law has always been difficult. Therefore, the ambitious such as James W. Hart, Jr. migrated to public relations in highly regulated industries such as energy. When he retired he was a top executive at Duke Energy.

But this kind of career reinvention isn't new. Making a living wage practicing law has always been difficult.

Other career paths that tend to be viable for former lawyers include lobbying, health care (just think all those regulations), politics, legal journalism (think Jeffrey Toobin and Nancy Grace), and activism (think Ralph Nader).

As I recommend on my syndicated blog, former lawyers might consider emphasizing certain attitudes and behaviors to make the transition less traumatic and more lucrative. They include:

Position law degree as plus. In your attitude and all marketing materials, highlight how your law degree can be asset in new career path. The way to present yourself is as a marketer or journalist with a legal background.

Focus on employers who are receptive. It's a waste of energy and frustrating to pitch to employers who are not open to career changers. Perform due diligence on which organizations hire persons with diverse backgrounds.

Revise or pitch paper materials based on feedback. The market keeps changing. Feedback helps you stay in touch with those shifts, but only if you use it. Not all feedback will be useful, but don't determine that before you review it.

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