I receive emails from young lawyers and law students asking me for advice on how best to enter the profession and focus on Internet/digital legal work, from time to time. I generally give the same answer and when I received an email from an aspiring lawyer recently, I thought I’d publish part of my response to her here too. The field I am in is attracting a number of new lawyers and this might help answer some questions they may have too.
One of the things I have learned about the law is that it is a pretty tough profession, both in the early years as well as later on in your career. In fact, I think the years after articles can be the hardest because you are well beyond the novelty of the work and if you are not doing work that inspires you, it can be a very difficult experience.
You’ll find that most lawyers hate their jobs and wish they could do something else. I was determined to change careers when I was leaving my last employer in 2005 but opted to start my own practice until I figured out the next thing. What changed for me was introducing “new media” into my legal practice in about 2007 or so (it could have been 2008) and developing that into my current speciality. I am passionate about digital and social and when I started working in that space as a lawyer I rediscovered some of the things about law and that I really enjoy too.
Doing work you are passionate about will keep you going in tough times and inspire you to innovate and do really interesting work. Following your passions doesn’t always mean only doing the fun stuff because there is still a lot of drudge work to do. The big difference for me was not having that Sunday Morning Dread (the gut wrenching realisation that you are a day away from going back to work). I experienced that feeling only once or twice since August 2005 and only when I found myself in a very difficult position in my businesses and lost touch with my passion.
Doing the work you are passionate about makes getting out of bed and going to work an adventure because each day is another opportunity to do more of what you love and to explore new ways to do your work even better.
So my advice is to find your passion and follow that. You might have a complete sense of what that is or may not have the flexibility to pursue it just yet (very possible when you are pretty junior and are required to do all sorts of work your employers require of you) so find ways to feed that growing passion by reading as much as you can, writing about what interests you or just following people who are talking about the stuff that engages you. At some point it all starts to come together and you find yourself creating the kind of work that will drive you for years to come.