Some lawyers know from the start of their careers exactly who they are and what kind of practice they want to build.
Early on, they create a practice that reflects that self-understanding, and thrive. But for others, finding purpose and place within the law is a longer and more complex journey.
Before they start to practice law, very few would-be lawyers have access to a wide network of attorneys. Most lack visibility to the many practice areas and career paths in the legal industry.
That leaves many new attorneys, especially those without ties to the legal community, vulnerable to making uninformed early decisions about the legal career they want to develop.
To fill that void, it’s easy to default to the most obvious choices. One might believe there are limited options—private practice or government practice, litigation or transactional, partner track or solo practitioner.
Law school and media reinforce these false dichotomies and the limited menu. The traditional law firm model does this, as well, by placing newly minted associates into specified practice groups before new lawyers gain significant experience in a particular area of law.
The end result is that some will find themselves in a practice area or industry segment that doesn’t quite fit their skills and goals.
Add the feeling of being misplaced to the pressure of a notoriously stressful profession, and it’s easy to see why some lawyers find themselves unhappy, burnt out, or battling the demons of depression and substance abuse that plague the legal profession.
So, what’s a misplaced lawyer to do?
Finding place and purpose within the law begins with introspection. That requires defining what