Why Non-Legal Jobs May Be A Better Option For Law School Graduates?
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You have made it to the halfway point. You really can't give up now. So much has been invested and people expect better from you. But you really don't know if being a lawyer is for you. Well, maybe next semester will be interesting. Sure, it will be a great term. You will get into it. Everything will get better.
You've just finished three grueling years of law school and, not to mention, six months of studying for the state bar exam. You are now personally responsible for making the post office hire extra help to handle your resume mail-outs to law firms and corporate legal departments. But there is no job offer. Actually, there is not a hint of a job offer. The law school placement office tells you that things are slow and you must be patient.
The alarm rings and you really don't want to get up. It will be just another day of battling the trivial and absurd. A motion to argue this morning, a deposition this afternoon, a client meeting to explain why your bill is not too high. Jury instructions need writing before you can sleep. Another little league game missed. This will be another day that is just like all the other days. No time, no fun, and maybe, not a whole lot of pay.
Go through these scenarios and give it a thought. Perhaps you can see yourself in these situations, or maybe you know someone who faces these situations just about every time. Well this article is meant for the likes of you and them. It is meant for all those who want to become lawyers and all those who wanted to become lawyers but have now changed their minds.
This article also targets law school students who are now harboring doubts about whether law school was the right choice and those who are in two minds if practicing law after school would be as bad as the law school was. Lawyers who are actually practicing but would love to leave their jobs and adopt a career that is more fun and enjoyable and all those students and lawyers alike who are dithering and vacillating about a choice they made but seem to find that the reality is not what they had imagined and that the pressures are not what they had bargained for.
A recent graduate from a top-rated state law school succinctly quantified the feelings of many students when in response to a question he said, “I started law school not really sure if that was where I wanted to be. I can say now that I enjoyed some of it and hated a lot of it. Now it is all over. It seems like it took both forever and just an instant to get to this point. I thought this would be the happiest time of my life; I am finally getting out! But those ahead of me with better grades aren't getting lawyer jobs. Sure, they interview. But, we all know they are just courtesy interviews. Even if I wanted to be a lawyer, I am not sure the opportunity is there. I feel like I wasted three years. And I still have to take the bar exam. I wish I could have the time back and start over.”
To him and others of his ilk, I would like to assure them that your situation is not peculiar to only you. There are hundreds of thousands of people with similar predicaments. Yes, hundreds of thousands! Their numbers swell a bit every time a law school graduates a class or a law firm lays off staff. Their current situations resulted from a major shift in the American economy. The American economy and the legal profession have never been like this before. Take heart, there is a solution. The solution is a career strategy that addresses the situation. This is not still another way to write a resume or get a legal job. I am not providing a temporary fall back alternative to practicing law. There is a surefire, better solution.
First, you may find it helpful to see where you are and what caused you to be here. It is true that and your situation is not your fault, but you cannot stay here forever.
The Old Days and Old Ways Are Gone:
Rapid advances in telecommunications and transportation have made all parts of the world accessible. Every society is adapting to fit into this shrinking world. The United States has hurled itself into the world community. There is no going back now. Everything is changing everywhere you look: businesses, political institutions, schools, and even families. All must adapt or perish. This means you must be ready to do the same. Prepare yourself to live in an ever-shrinking world. The privatization of Eastern Europe and Latin America is affecting each of us. Merely being well educated will not be enough. In the next decade, educated failures will be everywhere.
The painful adaptation process is underway. The process goes by a variety of jargon like names: downsizing, reengineering, and so forth. The United States Department of Labor reports that our economy has lost nearly one million jobs in the middle management and goods-producing sectors in the past two years. Anticipate more to follow. Job security is becoming an oxymoron.
Downsizing is occurring throughout all of corporate America. You do not need Labor Department statistics to tell you that. You only need to ask neighbors, friends, and family. It will not take you long to find some victims of downsizing. Downsizing is no longer just a fancy word for layoffs during a recession. It is how the labor force is being retooled to take its place in the new global economy.
Why is this happening now? Quite simply, until recently, the economy really has not gotten out of first gear during the last twenty years. Gains in productivity have been small. Real profits and real wages have actually declined over the past two decades.
Other world economies are growing much faster and attracting capital that used to go to our industries.
How many people heard of global mutual funds five years or ten years ago? We are now paying the price in order to stay competitive. For many, the price is losing their jobs and not finding new ones. For an increasing number of people, the American Dream is in reverse and picking up speed. This generation may be the first generation that, on average, will not be financially better off than the one before it. Global competition makes the future for many quite uncertain.
What does this have to do with lawyers and future lawyers? It has just about everything to do with them. One out of every three hundred people in this country is a lawyer. We are not talking about every three hundred adults, but every three hundred people. This means babies, toddlers, everyone! Our transforming economy, with its downsizing companies, is diminishing the opportunities for lawyers to make a living off it. Most businesses have made it one of their corporate objectives to slash legal costs.
The number of full-time high paying jobs is contracting at the same time. Providing lower paid temporary workers, especially attorneys, is the fastest growing business sector in the United States. People have less real income. Even at today's falling prices, fewer people can afford a lawyer's services. This is all too evident to the practicing lawyers who are working harder for less and less money.
Every One in Three Hundred People in This Country Is a Lawyer:
Gone is the notion of unlimited billable hours. Gone too should be the notion that a law school diploma is an automatic ticket to wealth. Clients are improving the way they run their businesses. They explore new applications and processes. Not surprisingly, they press their law firms to do likewise. Firms respond by cutting costs and offering more and faster service. Job security that comes with making partner, if you practice in a firm, or senior counsel, if you are corporate legal, just is not there anymore.
Even now, and it's still early, legal firms are merging to gain economies of scale and reduce staff and overhead. Some have just closed up shop. Many lawyers lost in the process think they can open their own practice. This is the law's answer to the family farm. The American Bar Association employment data over the past few years shows a rapid increase in the number of self-employed lawyers, or solo practitioners, as the profession euphemistically refers to them.
You may know some of these attorneys. You know many cannot find anywhere else to work except for themselves. In time, though, many of these hardy souls will have to find different work. Increasing legal research and malpractice insurance expenses with fewer customers to pay for them can make the difficulties of operating a successful small practice insurmountable. As with the family farmer, some solo practitioners will remain. Similarly, like the family farmer, they will be remnants of an earlier day.
The United States Department of Labor, projects that legal jobs will grow at a rate far below the output of graduates. Further surveys by the American Bar Association indicate a decline in the real income of lawyers as a group. This is a perfectly predictable result. Competition within a group always results in a decline in the average income of its members. You do not hear about it much, but more and more graduates are working for free in law firms. More outward signs include reduced hiring by firms and partner severancing. The legal business is not drowning, but it is treading water. The strong swimmers will continue to prosper, but the rest better head for the lifeboats.
But Wait-What Is Really Going On?
Technically speaking, downsizing is the eliminating of jobs during a set period, but not necessarily a net reduction in work force. We know the news is bad for many. We also know that others are being hired, promoted, and are prospering. Many firms hire and fire on the same day. However, Department of Labor statistics indicate the new jobs are very different from the ones being cut.
The numbers show that those functions having minimal marketplace value, such as headquarters and back-office staff, get hit the hardest. The key words are marketplace and value. Downsizing is here to stay because the other studies show that cutting back positively impacts profitability over time. Most firms surveyed that have downsized have reported increased profits after the cuts. What is more, companies downsizing on an ongoing basis realize even greater benefits.
If you are a law student, a law school graduate, or a practicing attorney, you must formulate a strategy that fits into this transforming world. It is not merely a matter of finding a port in the storm until the weather clears. It is learning to work in the rain. You must offer skills that are marketable and valuable. This statement applies whether you want to practice law or pursue a career in business.
If you are unsure, however, you are better off where your chances are better. By pragmatic thought, this leads to a career in the much larger business sector. I do not mean any career, but a special kind of career. A law school education is the best type of overall training a person can have. It affords you a tremendous competitive advantage.
Law school graduates have gone on to become CEOs, entrepreneurs, and company presidents. The key is transforming and translating your training and experience to take advantage of the changing economy. You should be aware by now that other alternatives to practicing law may suit you better. If you are ready to go forward on that premise, it is time to see how to make your legal training work for you. Your education and training have the potential to put you ahead of many of your competitors because you have abilities and qualities that business needs as it transforms to remain competitive.
Let us be clear that you cannot instantly transform yourself. There is no magic resume or interview lines that will get you that Fortune 500 CEO Job. Define the career you want in terms of your legal training. Show your legal training has given you valuable business sector skills. There are many non-legal careers for those educated in the law. These careers are not second class to practicing law. These careers have the potential to be superior in terms of job satisfaction and financial remuneration.
Success is up to you. The key is to bring your skills into sync with the transforming business sector. Be open-minded and innovative. You are painting your own portrait. Those who are transforming their knowledge into usable skills are prospering. This new world is exciting and fun for them because they are an integral part of it. Now is the time to take your place in it.