Why corporate lawyers exit BigLaw

January 10, 2019

Corporate lawyers in the BigLaw world accept long work hours as part of their career paths, but the time requirements of a BigLaw career can make it challenging to focus on (and achieve) goals outside of work. In the end, some lawyers have to choose between staying with their corporate legal careers or leaving to pursue other goals or life events. Many of them find that remote law jobs are the solution.

The simple truth is that the long work days and high billable hour requirements in traditional practice have caused talented lawyers to leave the legal profession. But the rise of flexible work arrangements via alternative legal service providers means the legal profession no longer has to lose some of its brightest minds — only that some of those legal minds may realistically choose not to work such long hours.

Why do corporate lawyers leave BigLaw careers?

Lawyers step away from legal careers at BigLaw firms for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the reason may be to pursue an important personal goal. But in other cases, lawyers leave BigLaw careers due to life events that may or may not fall within their control:

Pursuing a career change

No profession is immune to turnover caused by employees’ desire to pursue a new calling. In the legal field, one survey found up to one-third of lawyers consider leaving the profession to find their way in a new industry. Simultaneously, “side hustles” have risen in popularity. Some lawyers leave BigLaw because succeeding at a side hustle isn’t possible while working so many hours — working at a traditional law firm doesn’t leave much time to explore a new field or line of work on the side. Ultimately, corporate lawyers have to decide if they want to continue their commitment to working long hours on complex matters or if they want to pursue a path that offers more flexibility.

Starting a family

Parenthood is a life-changing decision that forces people to juggle multiple priorities. But in BigLaw, lawyers must be always on, making it difficult to dial back a work schedule. Transitioning to a part-time legal position doesn’t always feel like a viable alternative for many lawyers preparing to be parents. While some BigLaw firms offer part-time policies, one-third of lawyers who work at these organizations have not taken advantage of part-time work opportunities for a variety reasons, including concern about the feasibility of practicing a demanding type of law in a part-time context.

Relocating outside of a major city

BigLaw jobs are primarily concentrated in major cities. If a lawyer starts their career at a BigLaw firm in a big city, but then decides to move to a rural or suburban area, they have to leave their firm and forego working with high-caliber clients since these firms aren’t likely to offer remote legal jobs. But there are a variety of life changes that draw professionals to less urban locations. Whether it’s raising a family, moving closer to loved ones, moving for a spouse’s career, or just a lifestyle preference, legal professionals value location independence.

Caring for themselves or a loved one

A lawyer may become ill and need time away from work to recover, or may experience a loved one falling ill and need to take leave to care for them. Either of these scenarios could involve temporary relocation in order to seek treatment or be with an ill family member in another city or state. But coming back to the office from an extended leave and returning to a normal work pace can be challenging. Lawyers have to ramp up their billable hours and advocate to work on upcoming projects. Some lawyers decide to leave rather than go through the process of reintegrating themselves into the life of the firm.

What are the new opportunities for flexible corporate law work?

Imagine if there was a way for talented lawyers to practice corporate law with world-class clients and still achieve true flexibility. Lawyers desiring to continue practicing at a high level while also pursuing other passions or needing to practice remotely would enjoy access to the best of both worlds. The good news is that this opportunity already exists.

At Ontra, we offer corporate lawyers with BigLaw experience the opportunity to set their own hours and choose their homebase. As a result, our legal network members have accomplished some pretty spectacular goals on the side, while being engaged and motivated to provide exceptional service and legal work to Fortune 500 customers.

From writing children’s books to working with Cirque du Soleil to starting a family, Ontra has seen how top-notch corporate lawyers benefit from remote law jobs and the flexibility they offer. The benefits are also realized by customers, who receive high-quality work from lawyers experienced in the routine legal documents they need negotiated.

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