Enclosed please find the single most important message I have ever attempted to impart on the masses. Namely, that there is ZERO truth to the sadly overused assertion, “You can do anything with a law degree!” Unfortunately the people who would benefit most from this advice are highly unlikely to be Bitter Lawyer readers. Nevertheless, it needs to get out now so it can ultimately trickle down to those who need it most, i.e. people who have not yet made the disastrously unalterable decision to graduate from law school.
I can still recall with chilling clarity the fateful day when my undergrad adviser tricked me into applying to law school (rather than the numerous other grad school options I was toying with at the time) by offering two pieces of tantalizing fruit from the Tree of Knowledge: (i) he emphatically insisted that a law degree would be perfect for someone with my wide-ranging interests (“You can do anything with a J.D.!”); and (ii) he handed me a photocopied page from U.S. News & World Report showing the average starting salary ($125,000) for law school graduates from regional schools. Fast-forward a few short years later, and I’ve been forced to bear endless amounts of shame, pain, and toil (I wish this last sentence was a dramatic flourish included only to complete the metaphor; sadly, it is not).
For the avoidance of doubt, let me make myself abundantly clear. A law degree is about as useful as a G.E.D. for anything other than practicing law (or working in an in-house legal department). On second thought, a G.E.D. might actually be more marketable than a J.D. because it opens up an entire realm of job opportunities for which a lawyer seeking to escape the law would be rejected on grounds of over-qualification. In other words, unless you are categorically and unconditionally certain that you want to spend the remainder of your life practicing law, do NOT go to law school.
I’ve spent the past few days having my face mercilessly rubbed in this abrasive reality because last Thursday I tumbled into one of those really awful rabbit holes wherein the overwhelmingly omnipotent hatred of my job made me feel as if I was going to lose consciousness and possibly even die at my desk. So I closed my office door, gripped my dully aching stomach with one hand, and used my free hand to search every single job opening in any category within a 50-mile radius on Law Crossing, Indeed, Simply Hired, Media Bistro, Journalism Jobs, LinkedIn, Career Builder, and Monster. Then I scoured the Jobs/Careers section on the corporate websites of any and every corporation with a nearby office.
The results of my exhaustive search? Absolutely nothing. I am literally the least qualified job seeker for anything outside of law in the entire United States. I have absolutely no idea what Excel is even meant to be used for, let alone how to use it. Any knowledge even remotely related to math has been completely eroded from my brain (I recently had to ask my secretary if 1/4 is bigger or smaller than 1/2). I’ve never managed anyone, reported to executives, or analyzed statistics. Forecasts, P&L statements, and general ledgers are all things I’ve thumbed through during doc reviews, but I don’t exactly understand what they’re used for, nor could I readily identify them.
In any normal (a.k.a. non-legal) industry, a person possessing such a dazzling list of non-skills would at least know how to handle basic administrative tasks, e.g. how to: (i) hold or transfer a phone call; (ii) operate a copy machine; (iii) print a mailing label; or (iv) send a fax. Not so in the Big Law Twilight Zone, where utterly unskilled new associates are able to take full advantage of receptionists, administrative assistants, paralegals, a copy center, and a word processing department despite being armed with little more than a couple of impractical degrees and a sharp tongue. Thanks to my combined liberal arts/J.D./Big Law pedigree, I’m about as employable as an annoyingly cerebral, overly precocious second grader.
Come to think of it, maybe the only time a law school graduate actually can do anything would be if he/she had an undergraduate degree in business. But then again, why the hell would you ever go to law school if you had the sense to study business in the first place?
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