The Happiest Lawyers

The following is an excerpt from Hillary Mantis, Who Are the Happiest Lawyers?, Lawyer & Statesman, (May 16, 2014).

In my years as a career counselor, I have met many lawyers who are very happy with their careers. …The lawyers I know who developed defined interests in law school, and got to know themselves better, are the ones who are happy now. For example, a colleague who absolutely knew she wanted to go into Legal Services, defending the indigent, did end up working for the Legal Aid Society. More than a decade later, she is very satisfied with her career.

I’ve met lawyers who enjoy the challenge and the resources (not to mention the paycheck) available in large law firms, and those who love the entrepreneurial nature of being solo practitioners (one that I worked with turned down a job listing I told him about, because he didn’t want to go back to work for someone else.)

But what if you don’t have defined career interests? …I recommend you take advantage of the career testing and counseling available to you at many law schools. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong are two of the most commonly used career tests. …Read career books, like The Official Guide to Legal Specialties, which describe the many practice areas that are available to lawyers. …Law externships can also really help you determine if a practice area is right for you.

The lawyers I’ve met who are unhappy are often the ones who are not in a good fit for their position. They are stuck in their offices doing research, when they would rather be in a high people interaction center. Or they are stuck in court all day, when in fact they are terrified of public speaking.

But what about the economy? …I understand the realities of the market, and yes, you may have to take a job right out of law school that isn’t your first or even second choice, to pay the bills. …Even if the recovery is slow, you can spend time now planning your long-term career. Lateral moves are often easier.

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