Considering a Career Change, Input is Welcome

I have been an attorney for 10 years. I'm good at my job, but it's very stressful and has seriously impacted my mental health. I don't believe it's just my job. When considering other legal jobs none sound appealing. So, I've been looking at my options. I've been working with a friend who is a career counselor to identify options and determine what careers might be the best fit.

The careers I'm looking at would be counseling or some kind of post-education teaching. I've been exploring getting my Masters in Social Work. I think it would help open up both possibilities. I'm nervous about going back to school (i'm 36) and taking on more debt, though my current school debt is less than average (around 35K).

Does anyone work in these professions and have advice? Anyone go through a major career change and have advice?

thanks

Can't much offer advice about the rest of it I'm afraid, but I went back to school last year at 37 (a general art and design course, and I'll be starting a 3 year visual communications degree in September) and thus far I don't regret the decision one bit, so don't necessarily think you're going to be too old for it

My advice may be way off given I do not know you and you have a friend advising you.

As a professional, you have many transferable skills. Have you considered different career paths for which your current skills would be a plus? You may be able to avoid having to earn a different degree.

I run into a lot of lawyers in the startup ecosystem.

I have very specialized training and when I wanted to make a career switch I was able to find many interesting jobs that would have leveraged my training and experience.

I just want to share that I went to law school, passed the bar in two states, and practiced law for a few years. It wasn't for me, and I wasn't mentally healthy. I ended up going back to school and now I'm teaching middle school math. I love it, even though it brings its own stresses. I've been doing it for over ten years, and I'm glad I made the switch. My wife is happier and I'm better with my family. The debt load honestly sucks, but I have a supportive extended family which really helps.

Listen to your heart and make the switch if the job is not right for you. It will be better.

Thanks for all the support and advice so far.

I'm thinking if I go for my MSW, I would go part-time or online and still work. I hopefully wouldn't continue in my current job and would find something a less stressful and more flexible. My biggest concerns are the debt and insurance.

Greg wrote:

My advice may be way off given I do not know you and you have a friend advising you.

As a professional, you have many transferable skills. Have you considered different career paths for which your current skills would be a plus? You may be able to avoid having to earn a different degree.

I run into a lot of lawyers in the startup ecosystem.

I have very specialized training and when I wanted to make a career switch I was able to find many interesting jobs that would have leveraged my training and experience.

You're advice is not off at all. I'm considering this and my friend the career counselor also made similar suggestions.

What about teaching law?

Unless you really feel a calling, I would think long and hard about social work/counseling. My wife is a licensed professional counselor with her masters. They pay is not great, the bureaucracy is legendary, the system as a whole is designed more for triage than actually producing permanent positive outcomes, and often even fails the triage level. Maybe things are better in Indiana but cutbacks here in the Carolinas often result in mental health/substance abuse issues ultimately ending up with law enforcement.

If nothing else, I would recommend contacting social workers/counselors in your area and asking them about the professional landscape that you would be dealing with.

Not sure what part of law you're involved with, but I know that former attorneys are very popular hires as contract negotiators for largish companies. Particularly if you're even a little bit technical, sliding into IT contract negotiation where you get to sit and call bullsh*t on EMC and IBM all day is a pretty good deal. You'll rarely clock 40 and you won't take your work home.

I've got a friend who's a social worker and it doesn't strike me as a good choice if you're looking for a job that's good for the mental health - you'll see a lot of grim stuff, and while you have a chance to do some good there's also going to be a lot of times when you can't.

Badferret wrote:

Unless you really feel a calling, I would think long and hard about social work/counseling. My wife is a licensed professional counselor with her masters. They pay is not great, the bureaucracy is legendary, the system as a whole is designed more for triage than actually producing permanent positive outcomes, and often even fails the triage level. Maybe things are better in Indiana but cutbacks here in the Carolinas often result in mental health/substance abuse issues ultimately ending up with law enforcement.

If nothing else, I would recommend contacting social workers/counselors in your area and asking them about the professional landscape that you would be dealing with.

I think this just depends on where you're at. I've dealt with two different LCSWs here in Ohio, one at the VA, the other with the county MH network, and both seemed more focused on long term solutions, particularly at the VA. But that said...

Sonicator wrote:

I've got a friend who's a social worker and it doesn't strike me as a good choice if you're looking for a job that's good for the mental health - you'll see a lot of grim stuff, and while you have a chance to do some good there's also going to be a lot of times when you can't.

Yea, this. I feel like if you're after impact, the best place to do that is with the VA; their mental health departments are, in my experience, criminally understaffed. But dealing with vets and their mental health issues pretty much guarantees that you'll get to hear a lot of really awful stuff.

Thanks for all the input. These are things I have or will consider. I'll add that I currently work in a social work field as an attorney and am used to see messed up things and the various populations that social workers encounter. That's not really a source of my stress.

Because of my job, I also have connections to a lot of people in the social work field and people with msw's. I've been hitting them
up for info. I also have a friend from law school who went back for her msw and I've been asking her questions too.

It's a tough gig to get to teach law. Even at an undergrad level. It's something I would be interested in.

I made this thread 7 years ago. I dug it up because I have an update I want to share. So back in 2015 my job was toxic for my mental health and that's when I started to look for options. After I left the job I hated, I went to a social work job managing a grant project. After I was there for a year, I found a job in the same field as the job I hated, but in a totally different environment and I love it. I'm still doing that. But I still wanted to pursue an MSW, so I went part-time while I worked fulltime. It took 3 years, but this week I got my MSW! I don't plan to change jobs or careers at this point, but the MSW will help me do my current job better and will keep options open in the future. It's been an exciting week.

Congratulations!

I came here to post seeing if you could take on a legal job that you *didn't* care about, so you could keep your skills but leave the work in the office.

Thankfully you didn't take my advice back then.

NathanialG wrote:

Congratulations!

Thanks!

1Dgaf wrote:

I came here to post seeing if you could take on a legal job that you *didn't* care about, so you could keep your skills but leave the work in the office.

Thankfully you didn't take my advice back then.

I appreciate the advice, but yeah, I lucked out

IUMogg wrote:

I made this thread 7 years ago. I dug it up because I have an update I want to share. So back in 2015 my job was toxic for my mental health and that's when I started to look for options. After I left the job I hated, I went to a social work job managing a grant project. After I was there for a year, I found a job in the same field as the job I hated, but in a totally different environment and I love it. I'm still doing that. But I still wanted to pursue an MSW, so I went part-time while I worked fulltime. It took 3 years, but this week I got my MSW! I don't plan to change jobs or careers at this point, but the MSW will help me do my current job better and will keep options open in the future. It's been an exciting week.

Hey, that's great and I am happy for you! I just saw this thread now but glad it is working out for you. My wife has 2 masters in social work and after a few work stints, prefers working with children instead of adults. She can help them at an earlier stage (not to say those that are older cannot be helped!). There are obviously challenges working with both age groups.