4PQE and want out

Is it normal to experience these thoughts at this stage?

After a law degree, LPC, training contract and four years PQE at City firms, I just want out. I feel ashamed and lonely for having these thoughts. It may be something to do with turning 30 this year, but I can't see myself spending another decade in this industry. 

Ever since I started my TC six years ago, I have found the work meaningless and administrative.  I tried moving firms but it hasn't felt like the right fit and the same feelings always came back to me - I either feel very stressed, depressed or bored out my mind. I've never been able to get excited about law.  I can't complain about the wonderful start this career gives you and the good money at an early age.  But I qualified into a really niche area which isn't transferable and I feel trapped and burnt out.  I can't imagine spending decades ahead at a desk in London doing this.  I've never been able to see myself stay long enough to become senior associate / partner. 

I've therefore been seriously thinking about taking a part-time associate role to just get some breathing space to pursue other interests on the side and think about what I really want to do with the rest of my life e.g. go back to school (part time as I wouldn't be able to afford taking a year out) and wondered whether any one has had similar experiences / whether this is unheard of at this stage of a legal career?  I'm just wondering whether making another move and into a part time role would be career suicide or would be negatively viewed by peers / colleagues. I am at the point of unhappiness where I just do not want to do this full time anymore but don't have many other options. 

Just feel like it's pretty taboo to come out as not loving this profession at such a junior stage. 

I haven't loved this job for a few years. I am about 8 PQE. Different area, not City but I find it drudgy, stressful and not always enjoyable (I am quite client facing which can be interesting) but otherwise I feel like I made a stupid decision. I don't even have the City megabucks salary to console me.

Firstly, when did you last have a holiday of more than a week off work? I think you need to get away and see the wood for the trees.

Despite what you think about your niche role, a lot of the skills you have are transferable, you just need to think about where to leap. Do you like commercial work or do you want out of law altogether? Would an in house role be better? There are genuinely lots of choices for you. I think you should get some careers guidance from someone in the know. There's a few websites online about jumping out of law altogether, maybe contact the people who run the sites and ask to chat.


You are not the only one to hate your job. It did not live up to your expectations. If you hate it this much, get out while you're young enough to retrain, and go do something you like, or at least hate less than being a solicitor.

If you were at three years PQE and were ambivalent, I'd say stick it out a bit longer because it's around the 3 year mark that the steep learning curve starts to plateau a little, and you start being more confident in your legal abilities.

However, at 4 years, hating it this much, get out if you can. Going part time may simply mean doing the same amount of work, but for less money and you'll be completing tasks and answering emails and calls on your days off.

What they said. Not too late to retrain or go do something else

Can you give any clues as to what practice area you are in?

Its absolutely not too late to retrain or get out and life is too short to be miserable at something you spend 8 to 10 hours a day doing 

that said I'm skeptical of the prevailing attitude that we can expect work to be fulfilling and empowering etc. They pay us (and they pay you well) for a reason. 

Your post focuses a lot on what other people will think if you do x or y.  Learning to care a lot less about the opinions of others would do you a lot of good - it comes as your 30s progress 


"Ever since I started my TC six years ago, I have found the work meaningless and administrative"

No sh*t Sherlock. What did you expect, Perry Mason?

3 ducks what do you do if you dont mind my asking


what guy said

"I have found the work meaningless and administrative" = city law. 

Its a shit job and no normal people like it. 

Get out before its too late. 

Lots of work is work is fulfilling and empowering, very little law jobs are though. 


There are plenty of legal jobs which are interesting and fulfilling; they just don't tend to be the ones that pay well.

I wish I had seriously had these thoughts when I was 30 and jumped ship entirely, rather than just leaving PP. My job now is nice enough that I don't need to bugger off but I do wonder what else I could have been doing.

Work in-house. It's still boring and administrative but you're not surrounded by a*******s and actually get to play a part in the day-to-day operations of a business.

Most jobs are a bit sh1t and most jobs don't pay as well as city law...

But if you really hate it (and it's perfectly rational to hate it) then get out asap.  Don't faff around for another 5 years (when it will be MUCH harder to find something else).

I resigned at 3.5 years PQE and took 6 months off to work out what the fuck it was I wanted to do with my life.  Turned out the answer was... 


*this was during the late Jurassic period mind you.

Thank you for the kind / practical messages.

I qualified into data protection so obviously there is no shortage of work and it's become much more relevant.  But I can't for the life of me see myself doing this for another five years let alone the rest of my life.

It's a really interesting point someone made about the possibility of a part time role being a lie in practice.  I guess you could try to make it clear that you wouldn't be available on that day, but query how realistic that is in a City practice. 

I just can't afford to pull the plug and quit with no money and it would be more practical to do it as a transition while re-training if possible. 

What dusty said about holidays is very good advice.  I was feeling like I may have made a bad decision (not law) and went on a few weeks holiday, came back and resolved that I just needed out so I resigned shortly thereafter.

Whilst you may not be able to do that, having a holiday can give clarity of thought and once you’ve worked out where you wish to be, whether be staying put or moving on, a break should help crystallise your thinking.  Best of luck. 

I would have thought you could go in house quite easily with a specialism in data protection, especially given that you're not that many years PQE.

My advice would always to be to try doing the same job in a completely different environment and see how you feel. In my case I wasn't sure whether I hated law or hated working in private practice, and as soon as I got out of practice I realised that I actually quite like law, I just hated working in a law firm.

Hmmm given your specialism maybe try in house before you bin it completely. It should be possible to find something reasonably well paid in your area with more sane hours, no time sheets and hopefully less ar8eholes. Maybe that would make you think differently. 

you do Data Protection and find it dull?


NO WAY! !!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !  ! !  ! ! !!!  



Data protection is almost by definition boring and administrative.  Try moving practice areas.  It's tricky, but it can be done.

Most law, though, is boring and administrative.  It's meant to be.  If you want interest, you have to move to criminal law, family law, high end/catastrophic injury, or human rights and international stuff.

And a lot of that pays really really badly.

Thing is though, whoever said "make sure you do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" was an idiot.  That is an option open to only a very small number of very lucky people.  If everyone did that, the world would fall over.  

If it pays well, is uninspiring, but isn't doing you any harm, stick with it until you find something that suits you better.  If it's harming you, quit.

I quit law very early on after qualifying and much for the same reason as you. Its a wonderful career for a lot of people but not me. Best thing I ever did was leaving.


I think you need to examine this statement you made: 


I just can't afford to pull the plug and quit with no money and it would be more practical to do it as a transition while re-training if possible. 


You have to look at things in the round 


Also regarding re-training what are you thinking of? I tend to think going off to study something else you think youll be interested in is a recipe for disaster. You studied law thinking you would enjoy that and look whats happened! 


What motivates you?

"Just feel like it's pretty taboo to come out as not loving this profession at such a junior stage."


The reason it feels taboo is actually because a lot of people feel the same way. 


Several of my colleagues expressed the wish that they could leave the profession when I did, but instead said they felt they couldnt. Very arbitrary. I have subsequnetly seen at least 3 of those colleagues have finally left the law and of those that have stayed many have left PP.


Its Taboo because for a lot of people it is the elephant in the room and if you accept you dont like the work then a huge piece of your general direction in life is instantly whipped out from beneath you. 

I felt the same when I was a NQ so definitely don't worry about wanting out early!

I'd definitely recommend a holiday. Sometimes it's good to get some distance. I would also say - don't quit until you've tried inhouse. The work may still be dull but it's work for a reason (sadly) and it's so much more fun when you work with likeminded people who make your day easier, and the pressures are completely different to PP. I've really grown in my inhouse roles, and you'll have your hand snapped off at the moment for DP work. Best of luck.

I felt the same way at about the same point.  I seriously considered jacking it all in to go an retrain as a doctor.  I lacked the ladyballs to actually do it and ended up moving firm instead.  I managed to find some work that made me happy sometimes, but the people mostly drive me nuts and 75% of my job is deathly dull.  However, I'm now to old to retrain for something like medicine and "trapped" by the money, which is undeniably good.  Do it while you are still young enough.


"The work may still be dull but it's work for a reason (sadly)"


This is sad and way too many people accept this,although thank fuck they do otherwise the world would explode!

and "trapped" by the money, 


you are trapped by yourself not by the money 



Try in-house, you should be able to find a role that is broadly commercial/DP.  That'll let you drop the DP part in quick order if you really don't like it, and you can always go back into PP later if you want.

It may be that you hate law, it may just be that you hate being a pure DP lawyer, or a junior PP lawyer, or it may be the firm that you're at / people you work with.  I'd try somewhere else (and certainly a more generalist role) before you sack it off entirely. 

If you don't mind DP but don't like being the lawyer, try a DPO/compliance role.  You might enjoy the practical application a bit more.

You will need the city money for your 4 strong sons and your daughters

It's a good, well paid job. The grass is not greener despite the siren voices on here

Most men have had to work in coal mines or oil rigs, or even worse, on the land 

You could try to leverage your DP experience into a non-legal role in the tech sector?


What they all said about in house

With a DP specialism you should be able to find something well paid, much better hours and without psycho colleagues, worth a go before jacking it in altogether

The question is not what else you CAN do. It is what you want to do. 


Trust me you need to work out what interests you and motivates you, if its money and status that is fine too, but if you dont take the time to really work this out youll just move for "something else that you CAN do that pays OK" with no logic behind whether or not you will enjoy it other than that it is NOT what you are doing. 



If limited to a pure DP (ah, I miss my chats with UP and Funky about DP) role, what everyone says about going in-house, pref into tech, and possibly seeing if you can extend your remit into cyber security/prevention of cyber crime on an advisory basis, this may require additional learning but would be building on your already current, valid and relevant experience, with a focus on next burgeoning crea of law. 

Have you thought about setting up as a sole practitioner in the assassination market?  There's always plenty of work, and really any of your "clients" will have asked for it in one way or another, so you will be doing the world a favour.

What others said above.

If you can find supportive colleagues and a reasonable boss, and it pays the bills, then it's not likely to get much better. Law is intrinsically dull (I would say by definition - it has to be).

The people who turn hobbies into careers are a tiny, tiny minority and/or independently wealthy.

I lasted until about 5 pqe, and then had to get out. 

Managed to fluke some consultancy work with a previous client and never really looked back.

Its a lot easier to stand out as a lawyer when there are not another 1000 in the building.

Get out and see your quality of life and probably work go through the roof.

being lucky helps .

One option nobody has suggested is trying to find some contracting work.  I was considering getting out about 5 years ago and as part my exit strategy I started doing contract work so I could concentrate on some other interests that I didn't have time for working full-time.  As it turned out my outside interests now they're up and running don't take up as much of my time as I envisaged they would and I ended up doing maternity cover at a firm which restored my faith in some law firms being genuinely good enjoyable places to work combined with the fact they were happy to offer me a four day a week gig when I went permanent.

As one big personal project is coming to an end I'm even considering going back to working full-time although ultimately suspect I'll jump ship and join a virtual firm and work from home in the country.

4 pqe is a bit too junior for decent contract work imo

entirely what delta bravo and blue iguana said.

Take what you've slogged for and make it work for you.

I accept that I am a bit of a weirdo in what I do, but I got out of private practice at around the same stage and now do government work. I was just at the point where I was hating my lifestyle and working myself to the bone so partners I didn't even really like could take home loads of money. Now I get to do actually interesting stuff and have spent most of the last decade living out of the country. It's not for everyone though.


entirely what delta bravo and blue iguana said.

Take what you've slogged for and make it work for you.


Whilst I agree that it is worth seeing if you can leverage wat you have done so far do NOT make the mistake of the 

SUNKEN COST FALLACY - it is prevalent amongst professionals like lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants etc who have invested time in their profession

The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.

The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

I set up on my own - one person firm and I do some data protection work. Your niche being that is not particularlyo limiting. It is just the kind of service all kinds of companies might need and you could pretty easily add some commercial law to that - IT law, copyright so you have a broader practice.


I have worked how I want for 20 years and would never work in a law firm or in house now. it is just so much better being your own boss (and keeping all the money).

Has the menopause started yet Lyds? I remember you being hopeful a while back.

What Archibald said, just because you went through the time and money to get into the profession does not mean it is a good idea to stay in it if you really aren't into it.

I actually quit with no job to go to and went skiing for six months which was a nice break to have a think about what I wanted and get my life in order.


about 18 years PQE and partner here.

Too late for me.

You're young. If you genuinely don;t like it, for god's sake, get out and change. Do something else.

My brother was in a similar position some year ago. he's 10 years younger than me. He got out, retrained, got a new career. He's happy.

So, go for it.

Apologies if use of word "god" has upset anyone. Please mentally replace with specific deity of choice if your sensitivities have been offended.

I realised that I hated the drudgery during pupillage. Perhaps even before that as a Paralegal. People at the Bar (Family Bar) would talk about almost nothing other than leaving it when the cuts came in and yet so few did.

It's really hard to leave the law, but other posters are right. You do have transferable skills, and people who aren't in the law automatically think that you must be really clever (even when you are not) which is a distinct advantage.

Part time=normal full time so don't do that. Have a look at this link which is a useful checklist for leaving the profession:



In-house roles definitely offer greater opportunities for lateral movement. I know some in-house lawyers who did several years in-house then moved within the same company into entirely commercial roles, i.e. nothing to do with law. If you’re interested in whatever the company’s business is, this can be an ideal escape. In due course, I suppose, they could also now move out of the company into commercial roles elsewhere.

I definitely agree that making the move now is sensible. You have your professional life ahead of you: we will all be working until our 70s. You will only truly be trapped once you have a partner and young children relying on you, and a mortgage which you must pay. I was an Army officer in my first career, and I saw many people get trapped that way. Until their early 30s the objective risks of them leaving were minimal: mainly just a combination of inertia and cowardice. After that point their commitments acted like a ball and chain, and they suffered from severely diminished freedom of manoeuvre. Many now feel that they have no choice but to stay.

Try working pro-bono at a Law Centre or Housing Advice Centre a couple of evenings a week for six months.

It would broaden your skillset and horizons, while leveraging your experience to date

You can definitely do something else... the skills and experience you gave gained in your career so far will serve you well.