Non-Legal Career Paths With A J.D.: 4 Myths Lawyers Believe

Are you a lawyer who’s curious about non-legal career paths with a J.D.?

There are four myths that often prevent lawyers from exploring non-legal career paths with a J.D. Let’s talk about what they are and how to recognize whether one (or more) of them is keeping you stuck in the law.

If you’d rather watch then read, click below to watch Sarah talk about the four myths that keep lawyers from exploring non-legal career paths with their J.D.

Myth #1: You have to find the “perfect” next career.

I’m going to let you in on a secret—there IS no “perfect” next career.

Even if there was, you wouldn’t know it until you tried it. 

Don’t fall to the belief that there is only one perfect job out there for you, if only you could find it. 

Similarly, there is no perfect next step. The key is to take action, and then use whatever information you glean to make each subsequent decision.

If you want to explore non-legal career paths with a J.D., all you need to do is start somewhere. (For more ideas about how, read on.)

Myth #2: If you leave the law, you’re throwing away all the time and money you spent becoming lawyer. 

The sunk costs fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, energy, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.

The sunk costs fallacy tends to hold particularly strong sway over lawyers, but it’s also just that—a fallacy. 

You carry your training and experience as a lawyer into any endeavor, and it will serve you in each of them. The skills that you’ve developed as a lawyer and the time that you’ve spent developing those skills is not wasted. It can help you in whatever career you move to next.

And, as a law student and lawyer, you have developed many skills that will help you stand out in all sorts of fields.

As lawyers, we often have a hard time recognizing the unique skills and abilities that we have honed in our practice because inside the Lawyer Bubble they don’t seem particularly unique. But every lawyer has an incredible number of transferable skills that can be applied to all sorts of non-legal career paths with a J.D.

Myth #3: Leaving the law makes you a “quitter”.

Were you raised to think that once you decided to do something you had to do it no matter what? 

That’s a great way to approach many things in life—but not how you’re going to spend most of your waking hours for the rest of your life. 

You are not a “loser” or a “quitter” if you decide practicing law is not for you. 

It’s okay to be a quitter if the thing you’re quitting no longer serves you. Quitting is not a sign of weakness—it is a sign of wisdom if pursuing a non-legal career path with your J.D. is the right move for you.

Myth #4: Something is wrong with you if you want to explore a non-legal career path. 

There is NOTHING wrong with you because you don’t like your job as a lawyer.

In my experience, many lawyers think that there is something wrong with them if they don’t like being a lawyer. In fact, it simply means that you’re a normal person! 

You’re not weak, morally bad, or less than for not liking being a lawyer. 

Wanting to explore non-legal career paths with a J.D. is normal.

I love this thought that Shinah Chang of Crooked Calligraphy shared on The Former Lawyer Podcast: “Wouldn’t it be more of a waste to know that you were not meant for this and to spend your entire life doing it anyway?” 

Exploring what non-legal career paths are open to you and may interest you is a great use of your time if you’re unhappy in your career as a lawyer.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can download my free guide, First Steps to Leaving the Law. In that guide, I recap these four myths, and share the very first things that you should do if you’re a lawyer who wants to explore non-legal career paths with your J.D.