updated on 15 April 2014
It was at an open day at a big City firm (which shall remain anonymous, as shall I!) during the first year of my law degree, that I first thought a career in law wasn't for me. It occurred to me that I really needed to love a job to do it well - and I just didn't. I couldn't muster that much excitement about corporate paperwork.
Despite knowing deep down that it was the right decision for me, it felt like a very big deal to be considering something else. If you're studying law, the obvious career choice is expected of you - even if you're 18 and straight out of school.
One reason I chose to study law was that it would ultimately cut off a year from legal qualification. I felt a lot of pressure to not waste that; in an environment surrounded by other law students following the same path, I felt that that straying from the prescribed route to success would put me at a disadvantage.
Despite my reservations, I figured there would be no harm in exploring other options. I considered related career paths, such as finance, journalism (particularly business-related) and governance, and secured experience in a variety of fields. I also considered my outside interests, trying to think of ways that I could turn any of them into a viable career. I think this is something that many people forget to do, but it is really important. Admittedly, I didn't allow much time for self-reflection when I decided, aged 16, that two weeks shadowing a partner in a family firm was sufficient proof that law was for me.
My interests and goals (writing, being creative, sharing ideas and obsessively reading lifestyle blogs) all pointed to PR and marketing, so I applied for an internship at a London-based agency, which specialised in luxury, fashion and travel. Despite it being a world away from any legal career, I loved every part of it; I found that it did use some of my legal skills - commercial awareness, drafting skills and intellectual property (IP) knowledge. You'll draw on all of your experiences no matter what the field you eventually work in.
I still couldn't quite shake that feeling of guilt though. It was unintentionally compounded by almost everyone I spoke to. My university supervisor still believed I had the potential to be a good lawyer and family and friends seemed to think I was somehow giving away a golden ticket, which made me really question myself. So I began doing what every careers expert will warn you against: pursuing two careers at the same time.
I spent the summer of my second year doing a vacation scheme at an international commercial firm, while also applying for graduate schemes in digital marketing. It was exhausting and I got confused about what I actually wanted to do. In the end, nobody was convinced - least of all me.
It was also confusing because despite not wanting to do it forever, I was really enjoying my course. By third year, I loved every one of my modules and even thought about doing a Masters in IP.
I eventually decided on some well-needed time away from all of my choices. I moved abroad for six months after graduation, travelling and learning languages. For the first time since leaving school, I deliberately gave no thought to my career. It was liberating; without the input of well-meaning, but confusing advisors, I got a clear idea of what I wanted to do.
My job now sees me using all the skills I've gained to date - including my legal knowledge and experience from my degree. I would advise anyone studying law, but considering a career in another field, to take some time away from the legal world. In the competitive battle for a training contract, you can lose sight of what you want. You can return later if you change your mind; even qualifying does not mean you have to work in law forever. Advice can be conflicting - and, while it is important to listen to those around you, it is only you who can really make the decision.
Not pursuing law doesn't mean you're wasting your education -the point of which is to make you a more creative thinker, not just to guarantee your first job. Nor does it mean that you chose the wrong subject to study. As much of a cliché as it is, a law degree is truly transferrable: your writing and analytical skills will improve drastically and your attention to detail will be excellent (those years of reading judgments and contracts pay off). Your work experience will also make you business-minded.
Equally, if you entered your studies with the intention of never qualifying, you'll be well aware of the options open to you. Not everyone will take as drastic a step away as mine, but careers in finance, journalism and government are all closely related to the field and will make substantive use of your degree.
And remember - don't feel obliged to commit to a career you don't love! Life is short.
This article was written by a member of the marketing department at Vincent's Solicitors.