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Question: Lawyer Career Change to Less Demanding Practice Area to Make Time For Children

Attorney Career Question: How does a 20+ year litigator change practice areas to elder law or civil appellate law when she only wants to work 15 - 20 hours a week to focus on her school aged children? Is there another work area completely outside the law that would provide comparable pay and flexibility of hours? Thank you very much for any information!

Click here for a response from Stephen Seckler, who runs the Boston Office of BCG Attorney Search, a leading attorney search firm.

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Thank you for your question. I speak with many attorneys who are looking for a way to continue earning a good living and reduce their hours. Choosing a practice area that has fewer emergencies or more predictable work flow is one way to try to get this control. Making a career change is more difficult and generally involves some investment of time or money or both (though doable for many—some of whom are featured on JD Bliss Blog.)

If you truly want to leave the practice of law, I would recommend that you get some career counseling. A good place to start is to pick up a copy of a book called “What Can You Do With a Law Degree”. It was written by a pioneer in the field of attorney career counseling, Deborah Arron. This book will get you started until you identify someone competent who can give you more guidance.

As far as civil appellate law goes, if you are willing to do a lot of leg work, perhaps you can market yourself to smaller firms who may not have the resources needed to work on appellate briefs (and other pleadings). If you can find a group of practitioners who are willing to feed you work on a contract basis, this can provide you with fairly flexible work. But it takes time to build up a network of lawyers who may be able to refer work to you.

If you are interested in transitioning to another practice area (you mentioned elder law), a good place to start would be to take a CLE program on the subject. See if you can pick up some pro bono work so that you can get some experience doing estate planning for moderate income seniors. Get out and network with practitioners in the field and see if you can find someone who is busy enough that they may need some help on a contract or part-time basis. Contact your bar association and find out if they have a mentor program so that you can get up to speed on relevant issues that elder law attorneys deal with.

You should expect that it will take a while to figure out how to make this transition but with persistance, you should be able to find an arrangement that gives you more flexibility. Just be aware that you may need to earn less during a transition. Hope this helps.

If you want help learning how to start up an appellate law practice, you should speak with Lisa Solomon. She helps lawyers do just that through her site at:

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