Leaving your Biglaw law firm job and finding lawyer / attorney exit options



So, you landed a nice, secure job at a Biglaw firm or a giant corporation, perhaps right out of law school. Now a few (or more than a few) years have passed, and you’re thinking about leaving. If you’re thinking hard enough about leaving the firm that employs you that you Google “should I leave my job at a big law firm,” then my advice to you is: do it.

The obvious drawback to leaving your Biglaw job is that you have to find something different, but it’s almost always a good idea to escape before the golden handcuffs get too tight. Let’s look at a few of the reasons why leaving your Biglaw firm might be right for you.

The hours are ridiculous

It’s an unfortunate reality in Biglaw that whether your case is an eventual win or a loss for the firm, the true victor is the last person out of the office each night. While there is no guarantee you won’t be burning the midnight oil at a smaller firm, you may find respite from the rat race on a more cohesive, tight knit team with smaller cases and (fingers crossed) a less toxic atmosphere of competition.

You’re a small fish in a big pond

If you have more associates at your firm than the combined capacity of lifeboats on the Titanic, it might be time to jump ship. No matter how sharp your skills, or how strong your work ethic, or how high your GPA, it’s going to take a lot to get noticed. If you work a hundred hours a week for twenty years instead of spending time with your family, you might have a shot at a non-equity partnership. Good luck making it up that steep hill without losing your soul.

There are so many other things you can do

While the Biglaw firm job may seem like a beautiful golden goose when you’re in law school, you can put your skills to use in any number of positions. Shocking, I know, but you do NOT have to be a lawyer if you don’t like it. Maybe you’re even a good enough singer to try your luck on The Voice (if you’re keen on some actual options, see the end of this article).

You’ll inspire others to consider their careers

There are so many others like you, who feel stuck on a path with nothing at the end except more path. You don’t have to go around spreading the job-quitting gospel, but if you leave Biglaw, more than one person at your company will be jealous, and word will get around. This is a good thing! Your brave career move will give others the nudge they need to get out and do something they’re passionate about, In other words, you’ll actually have a chance at changing the world.

Maybe you’re reading this right now and thinking, “I agree with all of this, but I still think quitting is a bad idea.” You could be right. If you plan to throw chairs and curse out the senior partners on your way out the door, and you have literally no other marketable skills, you should probably stay put, for now. But if you already know your next move, and you plan to exit gracefully, you should leave.

What are common Biglaw exit options?

You’ll never feel completely ready, so don’t wait around until you work up the nerve. Acknowledge your fear, and act despite it. The next big thing is waiting for you around the corner. Here are some exit options:

1. In-house counsel (law): It’s known as a safe haven for lawyers seeking better hours (but not that much better).

2. Management consulting or finance: You made it through three years of law school; what’s two more if you end up with an MBA and a move into the business world?

3. Risk and compliance: If you’re more of a “project manager” type, you can prove invaluable in keep a company on track.

4. Non-profit: You might not earn as much, but you might feel better about the clients you encounter in non-profit advocacy work than those you have in Biglaw.

Check out some more exit options below for lawyers.