How to Leave Big Law

Title: How to Leave Big Law: Charting a Fulfilling Career Path Beyond Corporate Law


Leaving Big Law can be a daunting decision, but it can also lead to a more fulfilling and balanced career. Many lawyers find themselves yearning for a change, whether it’s a desire to pursue a different legal niche, start their own practice, work for a non-profit organization, or even explore a completely unrelated field. This article aims to provide guidance on how to successfully navigate the transition, highlighting key steps and considerations. Additionally, a FAQs section at the end addresses common queries related to leaving Big Law.

I. Reflect on Your Motivations

The first step in leaving Big Law is self-reflection. Understand what drives your desire for change and what kind of career you envision. Consider the following questions:

1. What aspects of your current work do you find unfulfilling or dissatisfying?
2. What areas of law or industries interest you?
3. Are there specific skills you want to develop or utilize?
4. How important is work-life balance to you?
5. Are you willing to take a pay cut in order to pursue your desired career path?

II. Explore Alternative Legal Career Paths

Once you have identified your motivations, research alternative legal career paths that align with your interests. Some options to consider include:

1. In-house counsel: Transitioning to an in-house legal role allows you to work directly for a corporation or organization, providing legal advice and support within a specific industry.
2. Government or public service: State, federal, or international government agencies offer diverse legal opportunities in areas such as public policy, international law, and regulatory compliance.
3. Non-profit organizations: Many non-profit organizations require legal expertise in areas such as human rights, environmental law, or social justice.
4. Solo or small practice: Starting your own law firm or joining a smaller practice can provide greater autonomy and flexibility in your work.

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III. Develop New Skills and Networks

To increase your chances of success in transitioning out of Big Law, focus on building the necessary skills and networks for your desired career path. Consider the following steps:

1. Acquire new expertise: Identify any skills or knowledge gaps and seek opportunities to develop them through courses, certifications, or pro bono work.
2. Network strategically: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with individuals who can provide guidance or potential job opportunities.
3. Leverage your existing network: Reach out to colleagues, mentors, and former clients who may be able to help you transition into your desired field.

IV. Plan Your Financial Transition

Leaving Big Law often involves a financial adjustment. To ensure a smooth transition, consider the following steps:

1. Create a budget: Assess your current financial situation and create a realistic budget based on your anticipated income during the transition period.
2. Save for the transition: Build an emergency fund that covers at least six months of living expenses to provide a safety net during the initial phase of your new career.
3. Evaluate your benefits: Understand the impact of leaving your current firm on your healthcare, retirement savings, and other benefits, and explore alternative options.

FAQs Section

1. Will leaving Big Law negatively impact my career prospects?

Leaving Big Law does not necessarily hinder your career prospects. It can actually open doors to new opportunities and allow you to pursue a more fulfilling career path aligned with your interests and values.

2. How do I overcome the fear of leaving a stable and well-paying job?

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Leaving a stable and well-paying job can be nerve-wracking. However, identifying your motivations, carefully planning your financial transition, and seeking support from colleagues, mentors, or career coaches can help alleviate concerns and boost your confidence.

3. Can I switch to a completely unrelated field?

Yes, switching to an unrelated field is possible, but it may require additional education or training. Research the field you are interested in and determine the requirements needed to make a successful transition.

4. Should I consider taking a pay cut?

Taking a pay cut is common when leaving Big Law, especially if you transition to a non-profit or public service role. Consider how important salary is to your overall job satisfaction and weigh it against the potential benefits of pursuing a more fulfilling career.


Leaving Big Law can be a transformative journey towards a more fulfilling and balanced career. By reflecting on your motivations, exploring alternative legal career paths, developing new skills and networks, and planning your financial transition, you can successfully navigate the transition process. Remember, leaving Big Law is a decision that should be made with careful consideration, but it can lead to a more rewarding professional life.