"I am a research scientist in a great field (new and sexy). I kind of stumbled my way into it and my current postdoc advisor hired me because of ancillary skills. I have been in science for around 12-13 years now with the Master's, Ph.D, and 3 postdocs... And I keep coming up against feeling like I am in the wrong profession. I am not publishing at the rate that I should and I find myself often extremely bored and attempting to avoid work. I think I hate lab work, which is new for me. I know I don't like teaching, though if I became faculty in a research university, my teaching load would be low. I am simply incredibly confused. So I started to research alternative careers and hit on patent attorney. More school, but only 3 years. Almost guaranteed job at the end. And then we got a grant funded that I am a co-PI on and, whammo, I feel like leaving would be a huge mistake. Except everything is in motion for me to leave, everyone knows, and my spouse has begun making plans around this new idea (which was good for him because of a million other reasons).
It's not what you think, I am not asking you to tell me what to do. But I would love to hear your perspective on this, when you have a moment. "
If you don't think you'll be happy staying in research and you don't want to teach, then you should definitely leave. Why put yourself through all the rigors of an academic or scientific career if it's not what you want to do? There's plenty of masochists who will happily snap up any job you leave open. (Are you in my field? I'm on the market!)
At the same time though, before you leave, make sure that patent law is *really* what you want to be doing. Imagine 5 years from now if you realize that it isn't...you would probably have some major regrets. I would recommend investigating carefully your chosen path. In particular, I believe there are ways for people with Ph.D.s to be involved in patent law without having to get a law degree. That might be a great way to switch fields without committing to more school. Can you find some scientists turned patent lawyers and see what strategies they used to move fields? I think the book, Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists by Peter Fiske has an example of a PhD who moved to intellectual property law.
I absolutely would not let getting a major grant stand in your way. (But congratulations on getting it!) If you want to switch careers, leaving it behind won't hurt you. And, in all likelihood, your co-PIs will be able to carry on without you (by recruiting another post-doc?), so the science will get done.
Whatever you decide, it sounds like you've got the talent to succeed. Keep us posted.
To my readers: What do you think? I told the letter writer that you are all way more brilliant, insightful, and knowledgable than I. Can you help this person out?