Lawyer turned Wedding Photographer? Why Not?!?

Melissa BrandmanAs regular readers know, we’re always on the lookout for interesting legal career paths here at The Girl’s Guide to Law School.

When I met Melissa Brandman on Twitter, I knew she had to come by for an interview. Lawyer turned wedding photographer? Tell me more!

I’m in law school, but I’m not sure I want to practice. I’m getting a lot of pushback from my family, friends, and professors when I bring this up. Do you have any ideas for helping them understand my choice? They’re really disappointed!

To be honest, I kind of agree with your family, friends, and professors.

Have you really considered why you don’t want to practice law?

Perhaps everyone seems to be pushing back on your decision because they want to make sure you’ve thought it through. As a law student with limited practical experience in the law, your view of legal practice may be a bit myopic thanks to your law school’s career center.

When I was a law student, my law school’s career center focused on two career paths: private Biglaw practice and public interest. Truth is, there are many practice areas that allow for more flexibility and a balanced lifestyle, but you won’t find these areas by following the traditional career paths most law schools promote.

You will need to do some soul searching and out-of-the-box research to find a practice area that suits you. Don’t give up on the idea of practicing law just yet — you may be surprised to find a career path in law that you actually enjoy.

Truth be told, I no longer practice law, but I am so grateful for my experiences as a practicing attorney (both good and bad).

I’ve been practicing as a lawyer for a few years, but I’m not finding it very satisfying. What are your three best tips for figuring out my next career move?

I know from personal experience that quitting the law is a HUGE decision. You definitely want to take your time deciding what your next career move will be. Here are my three tips:

  1. Get Some Breathing Room: The key to making a sound decision to quit the law is to make sure you are running towards a new and exciting career path rather than running away from a miserable job. Whether you take a sabbatical, a vacation, or just a weekend or two where you fully unplug, figure out how you can take time for yourself to think clearly about your next move.
  2. Take Stock: Once you get some breathing room, take some time to reflect on a few of your happiest, most accomplished moments at any point in your life. Are your proudest, happiest moments happening inside the legal profession? If so, perhaps a law firm or practice area change is all you need to find happiness in the law. If, on the other hand, your happiest, most accomplishment moments have nothing to do with being a lawyer, you might want to consider finding a non-law career that is more fulfilling.
  3. Make Plans: If you decide to leave the law, there are likely many obstacles you will need to overcome to make your move. A detailed plan can help you knock out those obstacles until you reach your new career goals. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you months or even years to reach your new career goals. It took me several years from the time I decided to quit the law to pursue a career as a professional photographer, but I’m very happy I stayed the course and knocked out every obstacle in my way.
Could you talk a bit about what you do in the average day at work, and how it’s similar to (or different from) what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?

After quitting the law and becoming a wedding and portrait photographer, I can say my average day at work looks NOTHING like what I thought I’d be doing when I started law school!

My work day consists of client emails and phone calls, scheduling shoots, editing photos, creating album designs, blogging and marketing, and of course photographing couples and families.

Believe it or not, there are many aspects of my legal career I use in my business everyday, especially the ability to work under pressure and to think on my feet.

My career path is unorthodox to say the least, but I hope it encourages you that your law degree does not necessarily define or limit your career path for the rest of your life.

Melissa Brandman is a “retired” attorney turned wedding and portrait photographer located in Seal Beach, California. She photographs weddings and families throughout California and beyond. To see more of her photography work, visit MelissaBrandman.com. Melissa is also the founder/writer for The Founderie, a blog for women professionals seeking to leave corporate life for a career path less traveled. To learn more, visit TheFounderie.com.

Thanks, Melissa!

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