Being a lawyer is not for me and I may switch career, but is this too drastic a move?
I am a lawyer in a specialist area and am well paid. However, the work has changed and the business takes decisions I am no longer comfortable with. Job security is important, so a move into a comparable legal role but with a different (possibly charitable) organisation does not appeal. I have worked in different types of legal environments, but perhaps, in spite of the effort I put in, law is simply not for me.
I am exploring alternative careers, including in the healthcare environment. However, my colleagues, friends and parents say this is too drastic a career move.
My employer gives me great flexibility, but ultimately I don’t feel my performance is appreciated, nor do I want to “give” more to the organisation. The idea of continuing in this role, or sector, until I reach retirement fills me with dread.
Am I being naive to think that I can start a new career, including returning to university, at the age of 40?
I appreciate the NHS is in a period of change (and always will be), and that the sector is poorly rewarded, but I genuinely think I would be more satisfied in a role that is more for the good of society and, on a personal basis, may make a difference.
You come across as someone who hasn’t thought things through very rigorously. For example, I’m not sure what you mean when you say job security is important, “so a move into a comparable legal role but with a different (possibly charitable) organisation does not appeal.” One of the advantages of a legal training is that it equips people to be of value in a huge range of sectors, including the charitable sector, and there’s absolutely no reason why such a change of environment should, of itself, offer less job security.
My first piece of advice is: don’t even explore the thought of starting from scratch until you’ve exhausted the possibilities your degree in law offers. You say that you once worked in an area you enjoyed, so you know it’s possible. Your dissatisfaction seems to be much less to do with the law, as such, and much more to do with your present position.
You’re looking for a role that you find personally satisfying. Keeping that firmly in mind, list all the fields which offer such an opportunity. You may be surprised at how wide a range of occupations that can include. And most will need at least one employee with a legal background.
You have the good fortune to be looking for a job from the security of an existing one, so take your time. Scan all the ads and agency posts, online and in print – but don’t hesitate to approach businesses direct.
• This is exactly what I did, although I was 38. The short answer is, yes of course you can, but you need to be sure you are doing it for the right reasons.
I left a year ago in the midst of legal aid being crippled by the government and there was no job security, or so I thought. I left to manage a health care organisation which, I was told, would allow me more time on weekends with my husband, was less demanding, but had greater security and work-life balance. It was the worst year of my life and I am back working in the same legal field I left, and I have never been happier. Job security is not everything; it has to be doing what we are happy to do. Furthermore, it was not as secure in the health sector as I expected. My advice would be to set up some work experience (it’s not just for 18-year-olds!) and see what it is really like before jumping ship.
And finally, what I have learned in all this is that life is short. For me, my year away from law helped me realise that I do genuinely love it, and in the field I work in I am helping the disadvantaged in society, which does make me feel that it is all worth it. Amanda
• I am a qualified solicitor no longer in practice. I originally thought I wanted to retrain as a primary school teacher. I worked in a primary school for a year as a teaching assistant. I loved it, but it wasn’t right for me.
I am now a senior lecturer in law in a university. My role has its own challenges, but I love my work in a way I never did previously. Lisa
• I believe the most important thing to say is that it is crucial to stop doing something one intensely dislikes. And it is never too late to change career.
I’m a doctor and intensely dislike medicine. So for someone to want to leave law and go into medicine (“health”), that is leaving the ashes and entering the fire. I cannot think of a less rewarding field than medicine. It wasn’t that way 20 years ago, but now it has become a sausage factory. stardestroyer
• I was a 50-year-old partner at a major law firm who, like you, felt tied to a very well remunerated job I was not enjoying. When I needed heart surgery I decided to retire and spend the rest of my days doing all the things I and my wife had always wanted to do. And I wish I had made the decision earlier. Money is a lot tighter than it was, but I have discovered late in life that it is true what they say – money doesn’t buy you happiness. PencilScribbler
Is it immoral for my partner to try to avoid some tax?
My partner works as an independent contractor for her old boss, instead of being on staff as she was before. It is on an ongoing basis, getting paid the same. An accountant advised her to set up as a limited company to avoid paying the usual rate of tax. It makes me feel very uncomfortable as I consider these kind of arrangements to be quite unethical.
I understand my partner loses certain benefits by being self-employed, but I’m not sure how much this offsets the somewhat immoral (in my view) aspects. Am I being unfair?
In your opposition you are not so much being unfair as unreasonable. I find it slightly objectionable that you should make your partner feel guilty about her perfectly legitimate arrangement and presumably expect her to carry the cost of your scruples. I know it’s a murky area and there are certain practices everyone should find repugnant, but this is not evasion nor, in my view, immoral.
• The real issue is that when you come to do annual accounts, you will almost certainly need an accountant. In essence, what you save in tax, you will probably give to your accountant. starterforten
• Paying your “fair share” of tax is highly subjective. There is no moral obligation to pay as much tax as possible. FatherChewyLouie
• Many years ago I was offered the opportunity to work on a self-employed basis. It was put to me that there were tax advantages. I was young and naive, but nevertheless I knew the company would benefit rather than myself, as they would divest themselves of all employer responsibilities. So I declined and never regretted it, not for any ethical reasons but because the company was being disingenuous. walkinginthesand
• If your partner works for more than one employer, it’s perfectly OK. If not, then it is an abuse. rdwes1
Do you need advice on a work issue? For Jeremy’s and readers’ help, send a brief email to [email protected]. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or to reply personally.