Writing Jobs for Ex-Lawyers

Sorry about the false promise of the title--I'm looking for them myself. But I can offer some general advice if you're a lawyer, and you want to be a writer:

1. Have money saved. Period

2. Learn about the trade. Talk to a career counselor or coach and see what kind of writing you want to do. There's consumer and trade magazine journalism, copyediting, advertising and public relations copywriting, marketing, work-for-hire, ghostwriting, legal-test-related writing, career-related writing, consumer and trade book publishing, internal corporate writing, lawfirm writing...and I have done all of these. That might be the only way that you will figure out what kind of writer you will be. If you want to be all of the above, go for it. Just know what you're getting into.

3. Use the Law Degree. The newly learned lesson: do not try to run from being identified as a lawyer. It won't work. If you want to get away from your law degree, you are going to have to do it in stages. So, while you get your writing career going, stay as close to the law as you can stand. If this means practice, practice. If this means temping, fine. A year ago, I was determined to never write about law again. Now I'm almost looking forward to it. The time I spent as an agent's assistant or ghostwriter for cookbooks or doing study guides was fine, but I wasn't making as much money as my law degree could get me. And I have never gone through the phase of wanting to be starving writer living in a garret. I have cats to feed.

4. Network. This is something that you'll have to do the rest of your writing life. Allot some time and money to get to know people in the writing world, mostly for information rather than jobs. The simplest way to get started is this: make a list of everyone you know, everywhere. Go through the list and see who you can contact about your new career goal. Ask everyone if they know anyone who may work in writing/editing/publishing, and if you can use their name to make a connection to go for an informational interview. Do it in person; failing that, choose the phone, then email. You will meet some people who are not useful, but you will eventually meet people who will help you or at least remember your name when they do have work. Ask lots of questions, and at the end, ask if they can recommend more people for you to talk to.

5. Lose the Resume. Rework your resume to highlight any writing experience you have. Nonetheless, show your resume only as a last resort. Once people see the law degree, they won't see anything else. The resume actually limits you.

6. Give it time. I mean years. You will fail at least once. The important thing is to be persistent and pick yourself back up and plan for the long run.

7. Get used to explaining yourself. Everyone will want to know why you are not a lawyer. Many will be complimentary, but more will be incredulous. Don't take it personally. They just won't get it.

8. Downsize your life. You will have less money than you will budget for. People will not pay you on time. Sometimes not at all. Be prepared to go without on specific things.

9. Write and read frequently. Write about what you'd ideally like to write about. Read any publication you'd like to write for. Read books that will inspire your writing. Think about your writing ability like a muscle--it must be exercised regularly.

10. Don't burn any bridges. You may want to run from your fellow colleagues, your firm, your cases, etc. Don't. You may want to go back one day. Or, ask them for work. If you leave, leave on good terms, whenever possible.

So...this is just a preliminary list, based on my experience in the last three years. Any other lawyer-writers out there, feel free to add your thoughts...