If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time considering how you might spend a life after law. Surely, there are things we can do other than practice law, but I have found that after 16 years of practicing law, I am so entrenched that I have the devil of a time coming up with ideas. Being a lawyer has literally sapped my imagination.
Recently I met with a career counselor to figure out a way out of this morass, but in order for him to help me find jobs, I had to describe for him talents that I had. I had to break all the things I used to do as a lawyer down to more universally applicable skill sets. As I got to thinking, I realized that I had several unique lawyer gifts. That is, the experience of practicing law gave me some transferable skills that would not have been nearly as strong had I never been a lawyer.
So here, in no particular order, are the unique lawyer gifts I believe I have, and that you may have as well.
I think law has made me a better listener. After all, law is ultimately about people and stories. We counsel people with problems by having them tell us their stories, and apply our legal knowledge to the facts we learn from those discussions. As I honed my legal skills, I think I became a much more engaged listener, with a much greater ear for detail. I experience this benefit firsthand in my personal life, when I’m talking to T, for example. When she tells me about her day, I come away with a fairly good sense of how her day actually went, and she comes away knowing that I care.
If there is one thing being a lawyer has taught me how to do, it is ask questions. Asking questions goes hand in hand with listening, because as you get the facts, those facts raise issues that require more facts, and that requires asking questions. After a decade and a half of doing this, I’ve gotten pretty sharp, so much so that whenever T is headed into a fact intensive situation, like a major doctor’s appointment or our kids’ individual education program conferences, she brings me along so I can ask the questions that she knows she would think of only 10 minutes after she walked out the door.
This is one of the more touchy-feely components of the job, but all lawyers are counselors to an extent; some of us more than others. Some of my most satisfying work has been helping clients understand their options and make solid choices based on their unique circumstances. There is also a great deal of satisfaction to be had in the faith people place in us, and the comfort we bring them when we listen to their problems.
For most of us, this is a biggie. Lawyers write. In fact, lawyers are paid more to write than any other type of writer. In my practice, I used to write on average about ten thousand words per week. Need I really elaborate on this?
We Are Valuable
While the fact may be lost on many of us, I now understand that I am valuable. I have unique skills, marketable skills. All I you and I have to do is find a way to take those skills and repackage them for the many other types of jobs that use them. I highly recommend career counseling to help identify those jobs, and I will talk more about my experiences with my career counselor in a later post.
But my unique lawyer gifts are unique to me. Depending on the field you practiced in, you may have others, or yours may be different entirely. Let me know in the comments what unique lawyer gifts you think you have developed in your years of practice.