Re-Entering the Law After Public Burnout 12/06

venues, I was feeling unhappy and decided to explore career opportunities and do some general soul searching. I was unhappy practicing law and expressed these feelings openly to friends and family. I even expressed them in a somewhat public forum, i.e. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly June 2003 “On Point”. However, after approximately three years of part-time practice, spending time with my family, weight loss through exercise, some personal reading, etc., I feel inclined to return to the practice of law. In fact, throughout my three and a half years of part-time practice, I cannot recall one single day that I did not ponder a legal question, read a law related article, or discuss law oriented issues with my wife. Even though I tried to limit my “thinking like a lawyer” during this time, I could not find the switch to turn it off. In fact, I missed the intellectual challenges shortly after closing my office but I was determined to press on. My question pertains to how I may be perceived after making these statements of my unhappiness with the practice of law and then a few years later considering making a comeback. It seems I may have confused “unhappiness” with burnout, stress, frustration and other negative emotions that seem to have subsided significantly. I felt I was missing something by being defined solely as a lawyer, but have found now that nothing else really impresses me enough to walk away from being an attorney. I plan on gradually returning to full time practice, but also trying to maintain some balance as well with my wife and four children all under 8. Have I damaged my career by expressing my feelings prior to reducing my practice? Are their others who have faced this predicament?

Much of the process you describe sounds very healthy. You recognized that you were stuck in career rut that called for change rather than inertia, and began a new journey in which you paid attention to your physical and mental needs as well as your family. You also discovered that “there’s no place like home,” realizing that you valued the lawyer’s way of thinking, and that it had in fact become a part of you (and perhaps an asset in whatever you might undertake) – but no longer your personal identity. We guess that many lawyers wish they could make the same journey, but personal, interpersonal, or financial factors stand in their way.

You have correctly identified the new goal, which is to return from your odyssey to legal practice, but in a very conscious way so that it does not overshadow or override your personal and family needs. Finding a workable setting for this mission will be a challenge. It seems to us (non-lawyers who have spent a lot of time meeting lawyers) that either your own practice or a small firm would best fit the picture you have in mind. Given that setting, perhaps any public stance you have taken in the past would be unlikely to have much effect. While we don’t remember your written piece from 2003, we suspect that many of your colleagues will have resonated with what you had to say, and may be interested in and supportive of your choice to rejoin the world of lawyers. But as your question implies, more useful input may come from your peers, and we invite any lawyer reading this to email their comments to us (either anonymously through our anonymous Q&A or as a regular email with attribution through Contact Us).

preload preload preload