Advice column: would the court work grass be greener for a disenchanted corporate lawyer?

Dear Ash,

I’ve worked in the corporate sphere for a few years now and although I’m earning a good salary and work with good people, I have become increasingly disillusioned with my role. I’m good at my job but I don’t get any job satisfaction and essentially feel like a paper pusher. My role is a far cry from the career I had visualised for myself when I first pursued the idea of doing a law degree.

I had aspirations of fighting for justice and equality and essentially planned on being a court lawyer, but as I progressed through university I felt increasingly pressurised to apply for roles in the larger commercial firms due to the allure of the added benefits and perceived better career prospects. I’m now craving for a taste of some “real” law and am considering moving to a lower paid, more junior role in order to do court work. However, my friends think I’m mad to make such a career move at this stage.

Ash replies:

Many who have ventured on the path of pursuing a legal career may have at one time or another fantasised about becoming the next Perry Mason.

However, in reality even many court lawyers are unable to experience the exhilaration of untangling the mysteries of complex murder cases in an open court setting. Instead, they are left to contend with the more mundane issues of, for example, explaining why their hapless client has yet again become embroiled in criminal activity and why he/she does not deserve to be sent back to prison, despite having been before the court on at least 10 previous occasions!

Before you take the leap of faith into a new career direction, it may be wise to confirm that you are making the move for the right reasons. Many jobs can become mundane after a while and it may be that you are simply requiring some fresh challenges within your current role. You could talk to your manager about the possibility of taking on further responsibility, or even going on secondment to another organisation. This would at least allow you to confirm whether you really are dissatisfied with your career direction or merely the work you have currently been assigned.

However, if you are determined to take the plunge to move into court work then be aware that such work does raise its own challenges. Speaking from experience, you may become frustrated with the amount of paper pushing involved in this sphere too. Job satisfaction is also not a given, even when you are able to represent the more vulnerable clients, as client expectations do not always match the protection afforded by the law.

You may perceive my views as seeming quite negative, but I do think it is important for you to consider all your options thoroughly, especially in the current job market. The grass does seem greener on the other side, especially at this bleak time of the year when Christmas has passed and resolutions are impulsively made to kick start the New Year. Just make sure you do not make a resolution you later regret.

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.
  • Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Meanley, Manager in the Registrar’s Department aon 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieMeanley@lawscot.org.uk
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