Of #AltLegal and the Skeleton Key to Other Professions

What lawyer doesn’t daydream about throwing in the towel and leaving practice—at least once in a while? Even if just infrequently like during a trust audit. Or maybe frequently but only during select rituals, like contemplating a depleted retainer, or feeling that file go off-the-rails while pondering what it could be like to have your salary taken care of without all that suspense.

Ruminating about less beaten career paths is perfectly lawyerly. The CBA even publishes a list of career alternatives for lawyers, or writes up profiles of people who have pursued different legal paths from time to time. You may consider one slightly older US statistic: up to 40 percent of lawyers wanted to leave the profession in 2009; and around 40,000 US lawyers walk away from their jobs each year. The phrase coined by Clio’s gentleman lawyer-in-residence, Joshua Lennon, to describe these parambulations is #altlegal. So why am I mentioning it?

Well, there are many interesting examples of life after law, but I’m not merely mentioning this because, for instance, Richard M. Nixon was a lawyer before he was the 37th President of the United States. And I’m certainly not raising it because he was also a lawyer before he worked for the tire rationing division of the Office of Price Administration—a decidedly uninteresting #altlegal career indeed!

I’m actually bringing up #altlegal careers because Courthouse Libraries BC recently posted for a liaison lawyer. In the interests of full disclosure, let me add that I am also a liaison lawyer with the Courthouse Library. The details of the job are posted here and it essentially involves helping the library transform into a platform—not of the literal software kind obviously, but more like an open software platform, an institution of training, knowledge and information capabilities that is co-extensive with the BC legal profession and that sustains that which is built and supported upon it. The application period closes November 12, 2014.

The job promises literally zero tire rationing chores, and you most certainly will not become the 37th POTUS.

My colleague, the inimitable Meghan Maddigan, is moving on to a full time position with the Law Society of BC as an instructor for the PLTC program (the mandatory Bar course). She and I have often mused about our #altlegal luck maintaining such a strong connection to the legal profession in our liaison lawyer roles. I have even maintained practicing status while serving the Courthouse Libraries BC—so this is even one of those #altlegal careers where you don’t need to walk away from anything in a major way. I just see the law (and my fellow lawyers) a little differently—and with a lot more positivity—than I used to when I engaged in the controlled demolitions of people’s business and personal relationships. In fact, working with lawyers on non-litigation projects makes you feel more connected and collegiate. Seriously, check out our posting if you’re curious. 

That’s really the end of this post, so you can cease reading unless you’re trying to make it to the comments. I’ll write on about my own #altlegal path now that the mood has taken me though.

About fourteen years ago I remember getting into my first debates with family about career aspirations and higher education. I finished my bachelors degree in 1998, and completed a technical diploma a year later. Macs were becoming cool again changing the world from beige box to cuddle-tech hard candy with a gigaflop. I started my first real salaried job at a Vancouver Internet startup in the fall of 1999. Yahoo had a market cap twice the GDP of Ireland, and soon my business card read “VP Communications”. My younger brother exclaimed “cool, so you have your own office?”, I blushed to admit that it was really an open office thing. Then the money ran out. Then I was unemployed. That was when the family debates happened and I was convinced that a law degree… well maybe it was a skeleton key.

There’s certainly more than a few #altlegal doors around.

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