I've only come across one retired academic at a job seminar sponsored by my alma mater dissuade the audience from going back to school. The hundreds who packed the auditorium ranging in age from 23 to their mid-50s seemed to appreciate his candor and honesty. "The last thing you want to do right now is take on more debt or extend your stay in college or graduate school," he said as he went on to discuss examples of students who actually failed class on purpose so they could stay in college for an additional semester rather than face unemployment. "You don't want to come out of school in a few years with the same amount of work experience you have now just with more debt and a degree that is useless. Employers these days don't want to pay someone more money simply because they have an advanced degree." And yet, thousands more each year are fooled into believing the exact opposite.
I won't spend a lot of time discussing the problems having a JD poses on law graduates looking to start a career in a different field. Most of us who have attempted to branch out into other careers have found how much of a hindrance that "versatile" JD has had on our job search. I mentioned in my first post to read Esq. Never about the challenges entry level candidates with a JD face right now. I still recommend trying to branch out sooner rather than later if you no longer want to practice law or can't find a lucrative legal job because of your grades or law school ranking. Chasing after the $160k biglaw dream (or nightmare?) when you neither have the grades nor T14 cred is a lost cause imo, especially in this economy when even top law school grads and experienced attorneys like Angel are having problems finding jobs in the legal market.
Articles like the one Angel posted from the National Law Journal is BS for the most part, similar to the type of PR stuff found in those glossy diversity (chuckle) and lifestyle pamphlets given to law students during interview week. Those who have made it to the top through nepotism, backstabbing co-workers, or representing the most heinous of corporations, insurance companies, and criminals like to perpetuate story lines as unbelievable as the ones found on television shows like The Deep End and The Good Wife. As much as I love The Good Wife and Julianna Margulies' intelligent and admirable character Alicia Florrick (who just happens to always represent innocent clients or take on pro bono cases for her high-profile Chicago law firm Stern, Lockhart & Gardner), the glamorization of an otherwise depressing and elitist profession has helped the ABA and law schools rake in the dough while ignoring the more common realities of the legal profession including depression, desperation, corruption, high unemployment, and suicide. The majority of the lawyers I know who were laid off from both biglaw and mid-sized law firms felt almost relieved to leave the toxic and unfriendly work environment. I won't even go into my own short-lived experience at a firm - all I'll say is that the experience was overwhelmingly negative. Other than the paycheck most people find little fulfillment from working at these sweatshops, so don't envy us or feel bad if you never had the chance to experience it first hand.
Just a typical day in the life of a first year associate, right??
For those of us who would rather put our unrealistic dreams of becoming a real life Alicia Florrick behind us, convincing employers that the writing and analytical skills developed in law school makes you the best candidate for a non-legal job can be as nerve-wracking as a first year law exam. Getting your foot in the door of these non-legal jobs is a challenge in and of itself. Sometimes it means working from the bottom despite all of the money and time you invested into earning your law degree. One option is to take an unpaid/low wage internship. As an observant friend noted, unpaid and low wage internships are another way of weeding out people who come from poorer families as the employer assumes that young graduates who accept these internships will receive financial assistance from their parents. I know a lot of you, including myself, can't afford loan payments and an apartment in NYC on a $10/hour internship. Unfortunately, an internship is often the only way a young graduate or entry level candidate can get a leg up on other applicants once a full-time job becomes available within the company. I know one person who managed to get a full-time (non-legal) job after a summer internship last year and another law graduate who has put their pride aside to work their way up from intern to administrative assistant with a company. Yes, it sucks. But if you don't have the connections to get a full-time job, an internship might be the only viable option available at the moment.
The downside to this is that even internships today are extremely competitive and it doesn't always guarantee a job in this economy. I also know people working from one internship to the next with no job security or health benefits. It is unbelievable to some that someone with a graduate or professional degree has to accept an unpaid internship, but this is the nature of our new economy. Keep an open mind and if you can afford to, take an unpaid or low-wage internship in an industry that you want to transition into from the law and use your free time to find your niche and apply to full-time jobs in that field. At least the internship will make it easier for you to create a new resume that will make you more employable outside of becoming a paralegal with a JD or doing legal temp work.
As always, anyone with better advice is welcome to post their ideas. I will also begin to delete comments that I deem to be off topic or offensive.