Author Topic: lawyer needs new job!  (Read 1866 times)

valaraukar

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lawyer needs new job!
« on: March 06, 2021, 08:23:47 AM »
Hi all, I'm a lawyer with 21 years of practice, and I'm simply burnt out.  I took a detour into financial advising from 2012-2014, and while I enjoy money matters, I didn't like being a salesman.  So I went back into law as a solo attorney, and it's been lucrative (I made $175k last year) but I've reached the point at which I need to leave so I have some quality of life. 

We discovered FIRE late, and we're 46 and 49yo, so retiring at a young age isn't in the cards.  But thankfully my wife loves her job and I like to work, so I don't mind continuing to build a retirement fund over the next 10-15-20 years. 

Luckily, after discovering FIRE last year we analyzed all our spending, sold off a nonperforming rental property, paid off nearly all our debt, doubled our net worth, and we live completely off my wife's income.  My income will go straight to retirement investing.  So I don't need to earn what I earned last year; it can dial back to much lower income if necessary.  I prefer flexibility with my time so I can take the kids to school, pick them up, take them to doctor's apptmts, etc. so my wife doesn't have to (she's a college professor, so her schedule isn't always flexible due to her teaching schedule).

--I've considered going back into financial advising, but I'd be pushed to sell whole life insurance, high-fee mutual funds, or other products which I don't believe meet people's needs. 

--I've considered becoming a financial coach to teach people how to analyze their cash flow and get their spending priorities sorted out, without being an actual investment advisor.  I don't have a local network of contacts here so I'd be doing a lot of network building before I see income, so I'd want a "side gig to that side gig"  as it gets started.

--I've considered becoming a coach to other solo attorneys on marketing, work-life balance, legal writing (which is painful for most lawyers), etc.

--I've considered becoming a leadership coach for junior leaders (I spent over a decade as an Army officer, had a regular column on leadership in a local business magazine, and it's my passion).

--I'm open to cobbling together several side gigs.

In short, I think I have a number of skills, but I'm not sure where/how to launch them -- or how to launch several simultaneously without seeming like a mixed message to any target market.

I'd appreciate any thoughts you have of what to do next to bring in $$. 
« Last Edit: March 06, 2021, 08:25:34 AM by valaraukar »

Kroaler

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2021, 08:51:14 AM »
I have no business advising you... But what area of law are you in?

What is it that burned you out?

lexde

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2021, 09:04:46 AM »
Have you considered a change in fields while still being a lawyer? I found a unicorn job (300k 9-5 in MCOL area) so it is possible.

If there is anything about being a lawyer you still like, I’d say consider a field change before a profession change.

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2021, 11:56:17 AM »
I have no business advising you... But what area of law are you in?

What is it that burned you out?

I fight the VA at the appeals court level to get veterans another chance to pursue their VA benefits.  It's good work and I like what I do for my clients.  However, the VA is extremely frustrating to deal with, even in cases in which their lawyers agree to settle the case.  It can take 6-15 months to get paid, and the VA has taken to being sore losers in cases they don't settle and lose, so they are nitpicking bills up to 20% just to be a-holes.  Client expectations can be unrealistic, and sometimes I feel like I'm fighting them as much as the VA because they emotionally don't want to let go of claims that have no legal basis for success.

I shouldn't gripe, because it's a healthy hourly rate ($220/hr) and I nearly always win.  But the constant conflict has taken a toll on me that is affecting how I interact with my family.

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2021, 11:58:06 AM »
Have you considered a change in fields while still being a lawyer? I found a unicorn job (300k 9-5 in MCOL area) so it is possible.

If there is anything about being a lawyer you still like, I’d say consider a field change before a profession change.

I need to get out of litigation, but I'm clueless as to how to move into transactional or other legal work.  At 49yo and 21 years of practice, it's difficult to rebrand oneself.  If you have any pointers on how to do so, then I'd be happy to hear.

dandarc

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2021, 11:59:41 AM »
Since you fundamentally like what you do, have you considered simply cutting back? You can probably still make enough to keep your household running at like 60% or something.

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2021, 12:03:00 PM »
Since you fundamentally like what you do, have you considered simply cutting back? You can probably still make enough to keep your household running at like 60% or something.

The best way to describe it is that I like it in the abstract sense, but do not enjoy it in the reality sense.  I do it part-time from my kitchen table (all clients are by phone or email because they are scattered about the country and overseas) as a solo attorney while my kids are in school.  But the constant grind to get these clients, the negative nature of litigation (even appellate litigation), the difficulty of the other side, and the looooong pay cycle have reached the point at which I need to move on.

BicycleB

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2021, 12:55:00 PM »
As an outsider, it seems like the side gigs would have problems and less money, and you're in a field that has many advantages. Right now the non-advantages are what's bugging you, but you could easily leave only to discover the grass was not greener elsewhere.

Long pay cycle? Shorter than building a whole new career! Anyway, with your personal finances organized now, why is it a problem? Doesn't a long pay cycle mean that if the work gets interrupted, you have cash coming in for a while just the same?

If it's a logistics matter, can you train a collections clerk (or paralegal)?

Most types of law practice sound conflict based. Not sure how to avoid that, but guessing that the best option dollar wise is modify your approach to minimize the emotions even though that's difficult.

If you have a choice between further cost reductions vs further work, would you and your wife prefer cost reductions or continuing this work? If you need the money, it seems like all the options have their problems.

PS. Not a lawyer, just friends with one or two. My friend would love the get $220/hour with plenty of work. I respect that your feeling toward the work is painful now though.

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2021, 09:16:37 AM »
It's more than just being bugged by some of the collateral stuff, but I agree I should just dial it back for now while I explore other options.

lifeandlimb

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2021, 10:05:16 AM »
Good on you for shining a light on your burnout before it has disastrous effects on you and your family!
A lot of your suggestions involve starting your own business, which has its own set of headaches if you tend not to be the entrepreneurial sort. It might benefit you to choose one avenue and put out feelers among your social circles, see if you can gain experience or mentorship in those fields before you strike out on your own. And then when you do, outsource as much of the grunt work as you can to someone else.

If you like the nature of your work, would you consider leveraging some of your skills and experience into, say, working as a consultant or executive at a nonprofit or advocacy organization? Or becoming legal counsel for someplace similar?

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2021, 10:15:56 AM »
I would like to execute a phased withdrawal from the practice of law.  I don't enjoy the stress and it's negatively affecting my health and my relationship with my family.

I've been an solo entrepreneur a couple of times over, and I actually enjoy getting the business designed and up and running.  That part doesn't bother me; nor does the worry about "will I get new clients?" bother me.  I'm weird like that.

reeshau

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2021, 05:46:42 PM »

--I've considered going back into financial advising, but I'd be pushed to sell whole life insurance, high-fee mutual funds, or other products which I don't believe meet people's needs. 

--I've considered becoming a financial coach to teach people how to analyze their cash flow and get their spending priorities sorted out, without being an actual investment advisor.  I don't have a local network of contacts here so I'd be doing a lot of network building before I see income, so I'd want a "side gig to that side gig"  as it gets started.


With these two points, it sounds like you would enjoy becoming a fee-only Certified Financial Planner.  There are two primary franchises in the US, Garrett Planning Network and XY Planning Network (led by Michael Kitces) Having a franchise could help boost your ramp-up.

BicycleB

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2021, 09:48:52 PM »


I've been an solo entrepreneur a couple of times over, and I actually enjoy getting the business designed and up and running.  That part doesn't bother me; nor does the worry about "will I get new clients?" bother me.  I'm weird like that.

This is relevant information.

In the end, only you can decide. Good luck!

bwall

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2021, 06:05:16 AM »
First off, congrats on discovering FIRE and being in a good place to move forward on your time schedule.

I completely understand being worn out with 'the grind'. I'm FI, but not RE, b/c..... well.... my daily grind isn't bad enough to make me want to quit--most days. When you have no money, it's impossible to believe that someone would rather go for a walk or watch a movie (or whatever) than earn $220/hr using their education. I completely understand.

Now, on to the problem at hand!

I've dealt with lawyers over the years and one thing I've noticed is that they're all very articulate and quick studies of any sort of situation. Just reading your above comments it's obvious that you're in this category of people--and these people are always in demand. My point being, you have lots of high quality options available to you even if it's not readily apparent.

I know former lawyers who have transitioned to business and business consulting. I never asked them specifically how they did it, but it generally was something like 'I knew this person and one thing led to another.' I realize that's not very helpful at this juncture.

What are your hobbies and interests? Are there any trade groups or clubs related to this that you could join? You could thus meet a completely new set of people and see where that leads. Perhaps the group could benefit from a lawyer's perspective? (It happened at the trade group I'm a member of). Perhaps you could meet someone in the group who has only an idea, but is lacking something else that you could provide?

I'm thinking of areas such as:
Travel
Food
Drink
Nature Conservation (ever hug a tree? :) )
Construction (no room for tree hugging here!)
etc.

Alternatively, you could put out a shingle as an immigration lawyer. People are willing to pay good money for you to review their documents before submitting them--no experience required on your part. The barriers to entry here are very very low and the type of client will be much different than what you're describing above.

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2021, 06:18:11 AM »
I like to teach.  I'd really like to coach other lawyers on the things we didn't get taught in law school (leadership, business development) and on the things they may be too embarrassed to ask for help on from their boss or peers (legal writing, work-life balance, finding fulfillment in the practice of law).  I took a coaching course 12 years ago from The Coaches Institute (which is now rebranded) and it helped me a lot with my legal clients.  There are several coaches in the USA who work with lawyers, but I know of none who are actually lawyers, much less lawyers with my experience in govt, private sector, BigLaw firm, and small/solo firm.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2021, 07:48:29 AM »
As a lawyer who is minimally acquainted with VA claims, and moderately acquainted with dealing with the VA, I totally understand why you might want to try something new.

You like to teach, so what about becoming a law professor? Or work with a local law school to create a legal clinic on (insert issue here)? Or work with the state bar association on CLEs? Or maybe there is a fun gig with the Bar totally unrelated to teaching? Just a couple of thoughts.

But if you miss the VA/sensation of beating your head against a wall, you could always try policy work!

BicycleB

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2021, 08:55:06 AM »

But if you miss the VA/sensation of beating your head against a wall, you could always try policy work!

LOL

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2021, 09:04:34 AM »
You like to teach, so what about becoming a law professor? Or work with a local law school to create a legal clinic on (insert issue here)?

I work very part-time with a law school legal clinic, but it doesn't pay.  Nor is there a path to becoming a law professor.   I have family in legal academia, and the path there is a lot more difficult than people know.  It's not something I'm interested in pursuing.

Fuzz

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2021, 05:39:50 PM »
I am not sure what the question is. It seems like the problem is litigation = conflict = toll on family life. That's tough.

Sample size of one but when I cut out my 1-2 drinks/day habit for a health reason, I brought less conflict home from work with me. It really wasn't that much alcohol. But eliminating it had the happy effect of improving some relationships. For some folks it could be exercise, diet, whatever.

The reason I bring it up is because we all mislead ourselves--not just your clients about how much money their case is worth. There are a lot of other variables that can lead to contentment besides a career change.

Plus Covid has made for a tough year apart from the law.

No idea what business idea is the right one for you, but it seems like you can either (1) go cold turkey and not take new cases or (2) take fewer cases while you build up a side project into a business.

windytrail

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2021, 09:41:27 AM »
Early-career lawyer here. Our community has several legal services clinics such as the East Bay Community Law Center (https://ebclc.org/) and the Sustainable Economies Law Center (https://www.theselc.org/). Small business owners will drop-in for advice on how to run their business including insurance issues, employment law questions, etc. Sometimes they will bring in a contract and ask you a question about it. It's very rewarding and inspiring to work with them, in contrast to litigation which is also my current 9-5. Almost like a small-business incubator. Would definitely recommend if you have something like this in your area. They also hire full-time staff attorneys on occasion, salary being around $65k.

In law school I took a seminar that was about how to start your own firm. Our 'final exam' was creating a legit Business Plan, including a financial plan and plan of operation. The general idea of my firm was to provide legal services to small businesses for an affordable rate ($40-80 per hour). I did not go down this road due to wanting to quickly pay back student loans and obtain FIRE. But if you are looking to get more into transactional law, this could be an option that is easier in reach than joining a BigLaw firm.

There is a huge legal services gap in this country. The bottom 10% of people in this country can obtain legal services for free, while the top 20% can afford paying the common hourly rates. This leaves the middle 70% without meaningful access to legal services. At the same time, lots of lawyers out there want to help but don't know how.

For me, the simple fact is that my litigation job pays much better, but I still plan to get out after the FIRE number is reached. The general takeaway from my time volunteering is that having positive interactions with people in your community is much more rewarding and fulfilling than the adversarial interactions so common to litigation.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2021, 09:43:00 AM by windytrail »

Smokystache

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #20 on: April 24, 2021, 10:18:32 AM »
... My friend would love the get $220/hour with plenty of work. I respect that your feeling toward the work is painful now though.

I like to teach.  I'd really like to coach other lawyers on the things we didn't get taught in law school (leadership, business development) and on the things they may be too embarrassed to ask for help on from their boss or peers (legal writing, work-life balance, finding fulfillment in the practice of law).  I took a coaching course 12 years ago from The Coaches Institute (which is now rebranded) and it helped me a lot with my legal clients.  There are several coaches in the USA who work with lawyers, but I know of none who are actually lawyers, much less lawyers with my experience in govt, private sector, BigLaw firm, and small/solo firm.

Given that you like to teach and it seems like there would be others (more recent law school grads? or Overworked long-term lawyers) who would love to earn a great hourly rate and have more control over their time and be able to work remotely, I wonder if you can combine those. Can you teach others to do what you are doing now? And perhaps later also add on other services - including coaching-related services.

Like many other responders, I'm not a lawyer but I know several -- and they are mostly miserable from either working so many hours for someone else or they can't land a job. I can only imagine you pitching to other lawyers: "Last year I made $175,000 using my law degree from my kitchen table and living a location independent lifestyle. This isn't something you learned in law school, but I can teach you how to do this too." Set up a 1-on-1 6, 9 or 12 month coaching program and set a price for it. Maybe give the first person a discount as you're figuring it out.

You keep your best clients (whatever "best" means in your world) to keep the income coming, but begin teaching others how to do this. Adjust the percentage of coaching vs lawyering as you get more clients. Plus, coaching lawyers would give you lots of information about other areas of their practice (marketing, niches of practice, etc) where you could expand your coaching/advising. You may be sick of it (and I completely understand), but I can't imagine that there aren't other lawyers who would jump at the combination of a great income, location independence, and working for themselves. The "ideal client" that comes to mind is a 28-35 year-old lawyer who is a new parent and just realized that they cannot bear the idea of going back to an office for 60+ hour weeks and not spending more time with their baby.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2021, 02:37:54 PM »
Interesting dilemma. Smoekystache is on to something. Here’s what I would consider in your shoes:
1. Hiring a couple junior lawyers, training them to do what you do now and letting them basically run the practice, leveraging your brand and connections while you get a percentage of the business. This lets you be the managing director and focus on the business side instead of the legal and client side.
2. Setting up training courses akin to what Smokeystache mentions. This can create recurring revenue and branding for you, without you doing much.
3. Setting up a coaching business for lawyers that you’ve mentioned
4. Developing a training/speaking gig program for veterans to teach them how to advocate for their rights so they can hopefully avoid litigation and protracted battles. This would have several benefits: it would get your name and brand out more for option 1, and it would hopefully reduce the more mundane cases so that the only the bigger, more interesting cases are litigated. There’s also powerful benefits for veterans feeling more empowered.

All the best!

BicycleB

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #22 on: June 24, 2021, 11:59:39 PM »
So what's happening, @valaraukar?

valaraukar

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2021, 07:04:26 AM »
So what's happening, @valaraukar?

I'm doing two things:

1.  Taking on some brief-writing work for another law firm who does the legal work I do. No marketing, no hand-holding the client, just take the file and write the brief.  Hourly rate is lower than what I make on my own, but I get paid monthly for my work instead of waiting 12-15 months to get paid.  This will probably last for 1-2 years.

2.  Starting a leadership coaching solo practice.  Due to my experience and passion, it's something I'm uniquely suited for.  It's something I've wanted to do for 14 years.  I've done it informally for a few years, now it's time to start getting paid.  So I'm looking for pro bono clients now so I can get coaching hours to qualify for a couple of certifications.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2021, 07:07:23 AM by valaraukar »

BicycleB

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Re: lawyer needs new job!
« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2021, 11:12:54 AM »
Sounds like a plan. Good luck!