CHANGES An estimated 40,000 lawyers flee the legal profession every year, but the market remains flooded because an equal number of students enter law school to take their places. The glut, combined with endless paperwork, long hours and intense competition, means an unhappy work life for many lawyers-and a search for other career opportunities.
Enter HELEN HARKNESS, Ph.D., executive director of Career Design, who offers hope to those fed up with the legal profession. She teaches SMU’s nine-hour continuing education course, “Running from the Law: Lawyers Exploring Career Transition.”
The three-part course, to be offered again March 4, 11 and 18, helps practicing lawyers evaluate alternatives and refocus their career. The student-lawyers are given several diagnostic tests to identify the source of their unrest and to help them match their personalities and skills with potential career paths. In addition to examining alternatives outside the legal profession, the course also looks at options available within the field. A real estate lawyer, for instance, might contemplate a change to banking law.
Harkness believes that those attracted to the law are usually “enterprising and creative individuals” whose legal training develops discipline, research and writing skills, and analytical abilities-valuable, transferrable skills, she says.
The course can also be a cold splash of reality for some students. Dallas attorney MIKE FORRESPER was turned off by too much paperwork, too little community service and a too-narrow focus in the legal world. According to the test results from Harkness’ course, he shouldn’t have been surprised. “I should never have been a lawyer,” he says. “It wasn’t even in the top 50 things.”