Building a career

Stand up, you lawyers who would rather be brickies – we know you’re out there

All those all-nighters for a mere mid-market partner’s pay no doubt lead to one thought for some lawyers: I’d rather be an accountant.

But research suggests that just as many overworked associates are wondering what would have happened if they had chosen to become plumbers instead.

A survey of 323 lawyers by recruiter Laurence Simons reveals that just under 7 per cent might have chosen a career as a builder, decorator, electrician or plumber if they had not gone into law.

The same proportion – or 6.8 per cent, to be precise – said they would have considered accountancy, putting paid to any assumption that the two professions hunt in pairs.

By far the most popular alternative career for lawyers, however, is not really a profession at all: entrepreneurship. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents to the question ’If you hadn’t have chosen the legal path, which career might you have chosen to pursue instead?’ said they would have considered being an entrepreneur, knocking a political career (19.5 per cent) and teaching (15.8 per cent) down the leaderboard. Some 12 per cent said they would leave the law to set up a restaurant, indicating that lawyers are more foodies than handymen.

But all this is more complicated than you think. As Laurence Simons managing director Lucinda Moule pointed out, it all comes down to what side of the brain you favour – the right deals with creativity and intuition, while the left is the seat of the analytic mind.

“Although it is a generalist view, lawyers and accountants are characteristically left-brain-dominant careers, whereas entrepreneurs are typically seen to be right-brain-dominant,” said Moule. “It seems surprising that so few lawyers chose accountancy as an alternative career, as this is also a left-brain discipline. Perhaps this is a generational shift and we’re about to see an influx of legal entrepreneurs at the helm of our largest corporations.”

Common sense suggests that craftsmen are also right-brain types, so perhaps we will also see more lawyers quitting to become decorators and carpenters.