As a new attorney, I figured being stressed was part of the job, or I must be doing it wrong. How many fictional characters do we watch on TV or in the movies who are attorneys who are stressed out of their minds? And, I don’t know about you, but when I polled every attorney I knew about why they became attorneys, all of them brushed off the question and told me not to follow suit and become a lawyer too.
Plus, haven’t you heard that joke when someone introduces themselves as a “recovering” attorney?
It seems the legal profession is synonymous with stress, adrenaline rushes, and burnout. However, it doesn’t have to be. Here are three areas of law that are relatively low-stress.
When I went to law school, I was determined to not practice estate planning. I didn’t even take the class on wills. I had experienced a significant death in my family at a young age, and I didn’t want to think about death anymore. Not to mention, I assumed estate planning was a course on how to help wealthy people hide their assets.
And, now? Now, my practice is focused on estate planning.
I have come to understand a few fundamental things about estate planning. First, just about everyone, whether wealthy or not, should have an estate plan. Second, helping families with minor children or families with loved ones with special needs properly protect their children through estate planning can be incredibly rewarding. And, third, estate planning is a fantastic way to have flexibility in your career and still practice law.
For me as a mom to a young child (soon to be two), flexibility is key. My husband travels for work half the year, and I’m largely on my own with our kids during that time. If our son is sick and can’t go to daycare, it’s usually me who will need to stay with him. He goes to the doctor regularly for well-visits, and doctors offices don’t generally make appointments after regular business hours.
With estate planning, I never have to worry about continuing a case because of a sick child. I never have to worry about showing up to court if I’m down with the flu myself. I can simply reschedule my client meetings. I have wonderful, sometimes life-changing discussions with clients. And, I can count on getting paid fairly quickly.
For all of these reasons, I have absolutely loved practicing estate planning. If you’re looking for flexibility and a low-stress option for practicing law, consider estate planning.
Another great option is real estate law. As a new attorney, I ended up working for a small firm that focused on real estate law. At first, I wasn’t the least bit excited about this. But, after learning how to conduct a real estate closing, I came to truly enjoy working in that field.
A typical day consisted of reviewing real estate files: loan documents, deeds, promissory notes, etc. And, then conducting real estate closings, an event where a buyer formally purchases their property. Closings in Virginia (where I practiced at the time) usually involved hosting the sellers and buyers and their real estate agents in the office’s main conference room.
We went over the seller’s side documents and the settlement statement. The sellers left, and then I reviewed the loan documents with the buyers. Each closing might take an hour during which I chatted with the buyers and more often than not had a great time doing so.
Similar to having an estate planning practice, one major advantage to having a real estate practice hosting closings is the flexibility. While closings need to happen on the scheduled date more than a will signing, there is still much more flexibility than dealing with court proceedings.
And, one of the best perks of real estate closings is that clients (the buyers) are embarking on a major life milestone, one that you get to be a part of. It’s a positive, rewarding experience.
Another low-stress area of law is traffic law. Frankly, I never heard of this in law school, but when I began practicing in a small town in Virginia (and later when I also began practicing in a small town in New York), I discovered that many attorneys actually focus solely on traffic law.
Yes, they represent DUI cases, but the majority of case work involves simple speeding cases. These are fairly straightforward, easy to manage cases. Attorneys can handle several cases in one morning at the same court.
In total, I’ve probably handled several hundred cases in just the first few years of my legal career. There’s very little preparation that needs to go into these cases and very minimal complications.
There’s less flexibility in traffic law compared to estate planning or real estate, but the case work itself is uncomplicated making it a great choice for a low-stress law practice.
There Are Lots Of Options
There are even more options for low-stress legal work. If you are looking for a way to practice law that also affords you a balanced lifestyle and flexibility in your schedule, consider engaging in estate planning, real estate law, or traffic law among others.
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