For this week’s blog, I’m excited to share a bit about my conversation with former lawyer, Francesca Chang on her journey to leave the law after a few years. She lives and works in Taiwan, but she’s originally from California. Currently, she does some travel writing, some food writing, and digital marketing.
Francesca left her career in law only a few years in, so I think this will be an especially good read for those of you who are also early in your career and realizing, “Whoa, this isn’t what I thought it would be. I can’t do this.”
So without further ado, let’s get right into it. Here we go.
Choosing A Career In Law
Francesca decided to go to law school during her years at UCLA. She was always active in civil rights and human rights movements, even going door to door in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage. Like many, she saw a career in law as a way to help advance people’s rights and to help society in general.
However, Francesca did not go directly into law school. Instead, she decided to travel and have a short break from learning and enjoy her twenties. She went to Taiwan to teach English. This opportunity felt like a great fit at the time. Not only had she studied there before, but this opportunity also meant she could travel, have a break, and learn more about her father’s homeland and culture.
After two years in Taiwan, Francesca returned to the United States and enrolled in law school at the University of San Francisco. While she admitted the workload was hard on her, Francesca also had the school’s collaborative and supportive environment to help her.
Francesca’s Turning Point
During her second year of law school, Francesca hit a turning point. She was burned out and going into her first US internship at a small practice. The work there did was not inspirational, so Francesca started to rethink whether she wanted to pursue a legal career.
By the middle point of her time at law school, Francesca was already thinking that this was not what she wanted to do with her life. But, she was already halfway through, she was invested, and so she decided to stay. She thought to herself, “I’m going to get through, graduate, and see what happens once I pass the bar.”
Francesca looked at the bar exam as a way to prove to herself that she could become a lawyer. She didn’t hold herself to pursuing a legal career; she was going to decide when it was over. However, by her third year in law school, she was telling people that she didn’t see a career in law as the “be all and end all” for her. And she was okay with it.
Backlash For Wanting To Leave The Law After a Fe Years
Often, when someone who works in the law tells other lawyers that they want to leave, they’re faced with backlash and questions. Francesca also faced this, being asked why she would want to leave. Not only did she get backlash from other lawyers, but from her parents as well.
This is a common experience, for someone early in their career in law, or even a law student. It’s extremely intimidating and other lawyers are the only ones who know what you’ve had to do to get here.
At the same time, many other lawyers lack the empathy to realize that it’s really not for everybody. They can’t understand why you would want to leave your legal career after all the years of school. Not to mention all the student debt.
This “sunk cost” fallacy is a huge obstacle for some. The reality is that you’ve put in that time and money either way. If it’s not working for you, you don’t have to prove that you made the right decision by leaving your legal career. The debt will be there whether you pursue a career in law or not.
Finding The Alternative To A Career In Law
While Francesca didn’t have a planned alternative career move, she was very motivated about trying everything she could. She had to remarket herself and add different skills to her resume that she might have otherwise thought unworthy.
She eventually made the transition into marketing. She stayed close to the law, taking a role in marketing services for lawyers. Her experience in the law helped her quite a bit. Eventually, she was able to move back to Taiwan with her husband and continues to do writing for the tourism board, as well as some freelance digital marketing work.
Digital Marketing is marketing but on the internet. That means creating content, using Search Engine Optimization to rank higher on Google, creating ads, and using social media. In Francesca’s case, that includes writing about travel and food in Taiwan to attract tourists.
Advice If You Want to Leave the Law After a Few Years
If you decide to leave your legal career, early or not, you won’t be shunned from a career in law. You can go back if you want to. Just trust the process and be patient when finding an alternative career path.
You may not find your dream job for a while after you decide to leave your career in law. That’s okay. If you’re truly unhappy, then leave. Find something different for the time being. Go into your new journey with an open mind and a willingness to be in the unknown for a little bit.
As a lawyer, you’ve likely been trained to be risk-averse. All changes come with some amount of risk. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid leaving your legal career because it’s too risky. No matter where you go, there will be some sort of risk. Just learn to live with it and try different things.
I know that there are a lot of unhappy lawyers out there who are overwhelmed at the thought of leaving the law and literally don’t know where to start. So, if you need help leaving your legal career in law, download my free guide “First Steps to Leaving the Law” to find out exactly how to start your next chapter.
Connect With Francesca
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