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Returning to Work after a Leave

Many attorneys find they will need or want to take a leave of absence at some point in their careers, perhaps to welcome a new child, assist with a family illness, or address another sort of personal matter. It is normal to feel anxious about the transition back to work or about conducting a job search after a leave of absence; however, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help make it a little easier.

Short-Term Leave (weeks or months)
Short-term leave of a few weeks or several months from an employer is extremely common, and your comfort level once you return will depend on how connected you stayed during your time away. If possible stay in touch with the profession by reading legal newspapers and connecting with colleagues. This will allow you to return with knowledge of any changes or new initiatives during your absence.

Upon your return, you may be concerned about your schedule and may need occasional flexibility in your work hours. Address these concerns openly with your supervisor, giving as much notice as possible. There may be opportunities for flexible time or for some work to be done from home. These types of arrangements will vary depending on the employer’s circumstances and, in some cases, the nature of the job.

Long-Term Leave (years)
If your leave from work was over a year, the transition back may take longer. We encourage you to contact CDO to make an appointment with an attorney-counselor to discuss your particular situation and path to re-entry, either at your former employer or through a post-leave job search.

If you are engaging in a job search after a long-term leave, it will be important for you to effectively market yourself to employers and highlight the skill set you will bring to the position. There are ways to gain experience during your leave to show you remained active. These experiences can then be added to your resume, such as the following:

  • Volunteer and Community Activities: Become involved with legal pro bono work. Volunteer and hold leadership roles in community organizations and list your accomplishments. These types of activities can be included in the Experience section of your resume and account for any gaps in time.
  • Continuing Legal Education: Show that you have kept your skills fresh and learned about related fields. A section on your resume entitled Additional Education can be the perfect place to highlight these courses.
  • Temporary or Contract Projects: Consider consulting, or performing contract or temporary legal work related to your job target, and include those projects on your resume.
  • Professional Development: Join local and state bar associations and/or trade organizations. Join a practice area committee and attend any events or conferences to show your commitment to the field.
  • Work-at-Home/Self-Employment: Consider a home based business, even if just part-time.

There are several pathways and approaches to returning to the work force after a long-term leave. A CDO attorney-counselor will be glad to discuss these with you, as well as to help you discern what may make the most sense given your particular circumstances and goals. A CDO attorney-counselor will also be glad to help you update your resume in order to prepare for your new job search. You may also wish to take a look at the Resume and Cover Letter Advice pages of the CDO website.