Tips for young lawyers thinking about leaving practice

Learn more about important factors in this decision

There are many reasons a lot of young lawyers are exiting the profession. In her research paper “Leaving Law and Barriers to Re-entry” (2013), professor Fiona Kay identified four categories: 1) establishing and maintaining a work/life balance and desirable daily routine; 2) organization structures; 3) pursuit of other interests; and 4) burnout. Some problems with organization structure with regards to law firms include, for example, how an undue emphasis on profit and billable hours can lead to a stressful work environment, how weak prospects for promotion at a firm can be a disincentive to continue working there, and how a time cage (8-5 work hours) can be discouraging.

A key step is to identify the source of your dissatisfaction. If it is the abovementioned “time cage” aspect of most law firms, then working for your firm part-time – such  as on a when-needed basis – might be an option to explore with your employer. If you think that it may be a problem with the workplace environment itself, then making a complaint or switching to new firm might be appropriate. If it is about a type of work you are doing – such as if you feel overwhelmed about your area of law or feel you need to learn more – then you could explore opportunities of seeking mentorship or help from colleagues. In these cases, there are other options than quitting law.

As lawyers, we work to ensure that our clients make informed decisions – knowing the possible consequences. Likewise, if you are about to make a fundamental choice to leave the profession, it is a good idea to first explore the feasibility of an alternative career path. The career services centers of your law school or undergrad university may be able to give you direction. Reach out to alumni’s who have made similar decisions and seek their input. They may be able to reality-check some of the alternative career paths you have been contemplating. Besides gaining new information, however, it is also important to try to clear one’s mind of sources of misinformation.

One commentator has gathered a number of myths that can lead to the decision to quit. One myth is that, if we lose a case, we should feel inadequate. But this myth makes the false assumption that success in law is based on integrity or character. Yet many people are only successful in law because they just take on unlosable cases. Another myth is to take disagreements personally, whereas an opposing counsel/judge may be doing so because they have a very good reason to. Yet another myth to avoid is to view practice as looking for victory instead of as performing a service.

If you have made the decision to quit, don’t listen to the noise – people telling you that you are wasting your education and experience. Trust in your own decision. Through your legal work, you gained invaluable transferrable skills like document review, legal knowledge and public speaking.


Anonymous. “Young lawyers, read this LSUC report”. Canadian Lawyer Magazine, May 20, 2013.
Robinson, James. “9 Reasons Why Lawyers Quit Practicing Law”. Family Lawyer Magazine, January 7, 2021:
Sheridan, Mary Kate. “Four Steps to Take Before Quitting the Legal Profession”. Vault – Career Advice Blog, October 29, 2018: