by Cali Franks
Pivot! Piv-ot! Piv-et!! Piv-ett!!! Piv-et!
Pivot is such a small word, and until the pandemic, it was a word we rarely used. Since the pandemic, “pivot” has been used in headlines, news reports, and company emails to lessen the impact of the ever-changing plans and directions in light of COVID-19. However, either way you spin it, pivoting is usually accompanied by unexpected and unwanted change.
While pivoting is usually unwelcomed, it is sometimes necessary. Sometimes, pivoting your path or plans is the only way up the structural ladder or way to move forward in careers. Lawyers can become stuck in the mindset that we must keep our LinkedIn Job Search tailored to positions with the word “attorney” in their title. We often limit ourselves in believing we are only qualified for jobs with the same practice area(s) we have experience in. Lawyers can feel boxed into a practice area that they chose simply because it was the first job they were offered after law school. Decisions made by baby lawyers are usually reviewed by their supervising attorneys. However, the decision on where to start their careers are rarely scrutinized. This type of thinking can limit you professionally and personally. If this feels like you, it may be time to pivot.
Spinning aimlessly around to pivot will get you nowhere. To begin your transition, start with self-reflection. Determine what you enjoy doing, whether that be related or not related to your current job. Most importantly, what do you enjoy doing that you would do FOR FREE? This is important. What is something you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for free if money were not a factor in your life? Maybe that is doing something creative (creating graphics, creating CLEs, learning a new area of the law, etc.), navigating clients through unusual areas of the law, or something not related to law at all. It could also be training dogs or personal training. Whatever it is, determine what you are doing right now that you enjoy doing and would do for free. It is helpful if you are volunteering and can look at what you are already doing for free to determine that!
Stuck? Is there nothing you enjoy so much in your life that you would continue doing for free? That is okay, too! Self-reflection can help you rediscover or start new passions. If this sounds like you, expand your personal and professional activities and involvement by participating in a bar organization, volunteering, and/or even trying your hand in Pro Bono. While this list is not exhaustive, organizations and opportunities like these can help you discover and explore different areas, hold leadership positions, and expand your knowledge and abilities to areas otherwise not reached in your “day job.” These opportunities, which are usually looked at to build your resume and attract clients, can also explore and expand your abilities. They can also lead to you discovering your passion leading to a pivot in your career. As most lawyers are risk-averse, this allows you to explore your passions with little to nothing on the line. You can keep your day job and pivot into your passion when you’re ready.
Let’s say you took this advice and discovered your passion, and it is in no way related to your current career or career path. Fear not; pivoting into your passion has been done before you, successfully, and likely by many people already around you. Mentorship cannot be understated when making a career change, whether that’s a lateral move or a pivot into a totally different career. Ask around, do your research, and find people who have made similar changes or have made big pivots in their career regardless of the similarities to you. This will reaffirm that pivots and career changes have been done, and those you identify can provide insight to make the transition smoother.
No matter how great your mentors are, pivots always produce doubts. Major and minor pivots are met with obstacles and doubts around what the pivots will look like to the outside world (“Why the change? Could they not make it at X?) as well as self-doubt (“Did I go to law school for nothing? Is my law degree a waste? Did I waste the last X years practicing this area of law?”). No one likes to start over, and sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side. However, in moments of doubt and concern, it is important to be able to answer the above question, “Would you do it for free?” If you can answer yes to that question, you’ve found your passion. You can rest on the experience you’ve had doing your now “job” in your bar service, volunteer organization, and/or Pro Bono where you discovered this passion and shaped/sharpened your skills.
Now, you might like your current situation (job/practice area/etc.), and that’s great! However, if you feel this article does not apply to you, I have a word of caution. Complacency is not the same as happiness, and pivots do not have to be life-altering. Minor changes are pivots in their own respect. I would challenge those who think, “why would I ever want or need to pivot, I’m happy right where I am,” to make small pivots/changes like taking a different route to work/school or working out in the morning instead of the afternoon. You will be amazed at how your mind and body react to change after you had been stuck in a routine. Maybe you’ll discover a new coffee shop, meet a new friend, discover a podcast from your small pivots, or unlock a thought or idea that had been suppressed by your routines.
Hopefully, this article serves as a reminder that you don’t have to be stuck in your job, career, or practice area. It is never too late to discover your passions, and there are so many resources out there to assist you as you execute a pivot into your passion.
Articles on the DAYL website are provided for informational use only, and are in no way intended to constitute legal advice or the opinions or views of the DAYL.