Frustrated Lawyers R Us. Plan ‘B’ Mutiny?

‘The sun is out… the sky is blue… there’s not a cloud… to spoil the view… but it’s raining… (doodle doodle doom)… raining in my heart.’

You may recognise the lyrics from a song. I’m referencing it in relation to how all you frustrated lawyers out there may be feeling right now. Whether you’re frustrated as hell about trying to get into the profession, or whether you’re in it and desperately depressed and you want to get the hell out… but feel stuck… this article’s for you. For some of you, it may feel like a tornado is whipping around inside that legal beagle heart of yours.

I’ve just read in the Sunday Times (business section) last weekend that we’re in for a double dip as far as the economy and recession is concerned. And, the double-dip pessimist mongers say that ‘looking forward the wider economic picture is not so bright’.

I’ve also been chatting and meeting with tomorrow’s lawyers and partners in law firms over the past couple of months and law student, associate, senior associate and barrister clients. It’s partly why I’ve been a wee bit quiet on the blog post scene of late – my apologies; some of you may of course be thinking ‘thank God’ – my ‘anonymous’ commentator fan club in particular.

Bottom line… doom and gloom. The feeling is that there will be no boom for many years to come.

I’ve probably made you feel like jumping off the proverbial crumbling ivory tower roof (or equivalent). Jeronimoooooooooo!

But hey, don’t jump. Ever the eternal optimist I reckon there’s still hope. We just have to find the strength and courage to persevere.

For a start, we shouldn’t believe everything we read or hear. So, you can choose to stop reading this article right now if you’re thinking I’m talking a load of blond bimbo utter tosh (or about to).

I believe there is hope because we have choice. We have options.

For example, if you can’t get through the ‘no training contract here for you’ brick wall, are struggling to duck around it by applying for a paralegal and/or legal executive position and having no success there either because law firms are hoarding any cash they have and are reluctant to take on more staff as the global economy faces continued uncertainty, then here’s an idea: go and do something else with your life. For now, at least. While the economy and legal world is struggling and desperately trying to find its feet again and get itself on an even keel.

Reality check – there’s an obvious over supply of law students, an obvious under supply of training contracts available (and/or paralegal positions available) and a pool of highly qualified and skilled ‘give us a job’ lawyers already in the market who were ‘let go’ in 2008/9/10, ever hopeful of reclaiming a rowing position on the good ship legal enterprise.

Taking another path may well mean less risk of racking up debt. After all, there is no guarantee you will make it as a lawyer and have a legal career at the end of it; some things may well be beyond your control. The saving grace is that there’s always the chance you can come to the law later in life (as many lawyers have, successfully).

You may well find (like most people) that you will have more than one career during your working life. There’s a whole range of exciting career paths for an intelligent, hard-working, ambitious young person such as you. Remember, you are one of the top 5% in the world (as an educated budding professional). Even in a recession there are industries and niches doing rather well. Go seek and ye shall find… because it just may turn out that the dream you once believed as being the holy grail might actually turn out to be a paper cup. If you don’t believe me then go and talk to all those frustrated lawyers who remain in the industry and all those who have since left (out of choice).

Whether you’re a paralegal, legal executive, assistant solicitor, associate solicitor, a senior associate, attorney, lawyer, partner or barrister you may well have already reached the point, mindset and realisation which Jim Rohn speaks of:

‘Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.’

Being unhappy in your role/job/career is akin to being unhappy in your marriage. When you’ve reached the point that there’s more ‘bad’ than ‘good’ happening then you have to do something about it (for everyone’s sake).

So, if you want out now because in your case the holy grail you may have once searched for and found has actually turned into a paper cup, then how about these ideas:

1) Become a virtual lawyer – if you’ve got the network, contacts, collaborative relationships, wherewithal, personal marketing skills, personal sales skills… and guts, then go do it; or

2) Be a portfolio worker (be a lawyer and something else at the same time), for example, Tim Kevan: barrister (non-practising at present), the Guardian law blogger, writer, author of Law and Disorder; Marci Alboher: lawyer, journalist, author and writing coach; Denise Nurse: lawyer and weather presenter (Sky News); Shireen Smith: lawyer, marketing & website business owner (sources: Director magazine October 2009 and NatWest Sense magazine 2009). It might continue to rain in your heart as far as your lawyering role is concerned but the sunny joy the other roles bestow might actually be worth the juggling act; or

3) Go start a business – hook up with an entrepreneur who will complement your skills and needs your connections, experience and level head. Together you could be a dynamic duo – the Batman & Robin of the new legal and business dynamic (although I suspect there could be a battle as to who drives the bat-mobile).

4) There are plenty of entrepreneurs desperate to have esteemed professionals on board, who, dare I say it, already have finance lined up – their own or somebody else’s – but need someone of your calibre and ability to add value to the team. I have also read and hear of late that there are also plenty of cash rich entrepreneurs (business angels) who would rather put their money behind a sound new business venture than invest it elsewhere in the present economic climate, as there’s a chance that the yield will provide a much better ROI than sticking it in a bank or dabbling in the plum duck stock markets.

In my experience (as both a lawyer and an entrepreneur) some entrepreneurs have got all the ideas and whizzy gig oomph but no clue as to how to turn it into a viable business and make it work. They need you!

It’s worth remembering that great companies were born out of previous recessions – such as LexisNexis, Microsoft and Dell. And many lawyers whom left the profession have made a great success of their new ventures (and careers).

Take a look at Philip Vecht. He’s made an absolute fortune hanging advertisements in toilets.

Reported as ‘the lawyer who cleaned up with washroom adverts’ in the Sunday Times in January this year, Vecht began his career as a commercial lawyer at Nabarros. After two years he got out of the profession and co-founded Admedia. In Vecht’s own words ‘it was terrifying’. Surprisingly he wasn’t referring to making the leap of faith into his new venture… it was in reference to the toils and challenges of making the business work and if he failed he ‘thought (he) would have to go back to being a lawyer’. Turnover for 2010 is expected to be £7.5m.

I believe the world could probably do with less lawyers lawyering and more lawyers working in and on a business. You never know, this way ahead might actually just help the world get out of this long tail recession. There’s already a plethora of lawyers in the world and a technological, digital, consumer sovereignty trend that will inevitably see the need, want and/or desire for even less.

Problems on the job (or search for a legal job) could lead you to begin a search for something better. But it may well not be the time for impulsive action. Only you will know what’s right for you…where and when.

When all is said and done, if it’s raining in your heart then you could do something about it. You have a choice. You could be master of your own mutiny.

Of course, you will have to conduct a 360 degree personal talent, strengths, skills, knowledge, experience, fiscal, confidence and guts reality check. And an honest one at that. You’d be a fool not to. After all, if you’re going to walk the plank and jump into a stormy sea then you’d better have all the bits ‘n’ bobs in the life raft to ensure your survival. Otherwise, you just might drown!

Do you have a plan B, C or D? I ask because I’ve always lived my life as such that I hope for the best but plan for the worst. ‘It pays to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark’ (anon).

One final thought. There may well be a market and a viable business model in the concept of ‘Frustrated Lawyers R Us.’

I wonder who of you reading this article will actually act on this idea.

If you do, please do let me know. I’d be delighted to hear about and witness your success first hand. In fact, I’d be honoured to swash-buckle alongside you in your personal mutiny

Tally-ho!

Chrissie Lightfootauthor of The Naked Lawyer eBook – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU: a blueprint in how to get more sales.