Alternate careers for attorneys

 By Marie E. Matyjaszek

A lot of attorneys do not like being an attorney – some loathe it while others just feel general disappointment with their career choice. It’s depressing to spend all of your money, time and effort on graduating from law school, studying and passing the Bar Exam, to then be forced to work in a career that you are not happy with. I read an article recently that said the average private law school student debt was approximately $125,000 – thankfully mine is not that high but it is still far more than I ever wanted to have. While there are always exceptions, by and large for the past few years, law firms have been cutting staff, but law schools are still churning out students at a record pace, creating a surplus of lawyers without jobs. That whole supply and demand thing isn’t working out too well for those in my profession.

While I was lucky enough to have gainful employment during the years I was in private practice, I wasn’t always happy with my career choice. Since I focused my practice area on family law, I dealt with high conflict, high stress cases day in and day out. Migraines were common and I kept a surplus of antacids on hand at all times. I thought about broadening my area of practice, but it was nice knowing a lot about one thing and being able to tell some of the creepers that would call that I didn’t delve into representation of the criminal world. Besides, family law had plenty of cross over into that realm and I wasn’t exactly itching for more exposure. I expressed my displeasure over my career with a colleague of mine and he set me up to teach a course in Conflict Management at a local college. The class was almost four hours long and I had no idea how I was going to fill up that time.

Then I remembered that I frequently talk non-stop and am psychotically outgoing, and I ended up having a blast. I was easily able to apply my legal knowledge and negotiation skills to the class activities and course teachings. Still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave the law entirely. And let’s be honest, it can be nice saying you’re a lawyer too. There is an underlying layer of prestige that no one who suffers through law school wants to relinquish. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to start my career in the alternative dispute resolution field (think mediator), and I thoroughly enjoy my new career. It uses all of my legal knowledge, in the specialized field I practiced in, but has normal work hours and less stress (although you may not hear me say that every day). I don’t have to represent difficult clients, and I am frequently able to help former couples reach agreements without nasty court battles.

This in turn benefits the children most, which is what it’s all about. So if you are considering law school, or are in law school already, don’t limit your employment options to the 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. big firm, high pressure gigs. Yes, you can make enough money to pay your loans back in five years, but is it really worth it? Most of the time the answer is no. Your personal life can suffer tremendously and it can take a big toll on your physical health too. Lawyers can work in education, business, finance, and just about any career you can think of. Look around for a job that uses your knowledge but focuses on what you like best about the law. Don’t paint yourself into a box that you can’t get out of.

(The author is a family law attorney whose blog site is: http://legalbling. She can be reached by e-mailing her at