I graduated from law school in 2004, and since that time, I have worked as a litigation associate for a respected midsized firm in DC. I went to law school because I thought that being a litigator would be intellectually challenging. But most of my days are filled with endless discovery disputes, and when I look at what partners in my firm are doing, I find myself getting depressed. I have made a few attempts to interview for non-legal jobs, but it is difficult to find the time to think about what I want from my career, let alone go out on interviews. I'm thinking of quitting my law firm job so that I can focus more consistently on looking for an alternative legal job, but some of my friends say I shouldn't quit until I find something else. What should I do?
—Seeking Alternatives, Washington, DCAnswer:
Dear Seeking Alternatives,
Your friends are right. Don't quit your day job until you have another position lined up. There are several exceptions to this rule (which I will discuss below), but first let me explain why it is important to have a job when you are looking for a job.
Being employed by a respected law firm provides you with an air of credibility that you should not give up without understanding the consequences. Putting it another way, being unemployed is a stigma that will make it harder for you to find new work. Employers have little objective information to go by when making hiring decisions. Therefore, employment status can become an important factor in helping a prospective employer weigh the likelihood that you will make a good hire.