A Slate article that went up earlier today officially has the interwebs going nuts. The premise of the article? Bashing the notion that "You can do anything with a law degree." As someone who went to law school because I love to argue, and as lawyers are wont to do, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Saksa.
Oh, and then there's the fact that my J.D. has been a selling point in every non-legal job I've ever had. So there. But seriously folks ...
0.3% Is a 'Leg Down'?
For the proposition that a J.D. won't help you get a legal job, Mr. Saksa cites the difference between the unemployment of recent law grads (11.2%), to recent college grads (10.9%) -- that is, for those of you who hate math, a meager difference of 0.3%. Really, less than half of one percent is going to be the basis of your argument?
But, he doesn't stop there. To his credit, he has quotes from a recent graduate and an HR manager to bolster his claims that a J.D. actually hurts people applying for non-law jobs. The recent law grad said "that if he didn't have a friend who worked at the company, 'my résumé would have gone right into the garbage can.'" Newsflash: that's true in every industry, that's why networking is important. Have you asked the guy with the PhD in American Studies how his job hunt is going? It has nothing to do with the fact that you have a J.D.
The H.R. manager sees the law degree as "lost time." To her we declare, you say tomato, we say tomato. Résumé review is subjective at best, and not everyone who looks at a résumé is going to value the same things. Period. While some prospective employers see a J.D. as "lost time" -- others see it as evidence of valued soft skills like work ethic, written skills, and tenacity.
Who Does That Anyway?
I think lawyers CAN do anything with a law degree, but here is the kicker: that shouldn't be the reason you decide to go to law school.
Here's another newsflash: You should only go to law school if you want to be a lawyer. I know, mind blowing stuff here. If you are going to law school because you can do anything with a law degree, you are setting yourself up for failure. And, it's not because you have a law degree. It's because you don't know what you want to do. You're about to throw down at least $150,000 getting an education that is meant for people who know what they want to do: become a lawyer.
While Mr. Saksa suggests getting an MBA instead, we'll ask you this. Why is getting a professional degree so important to you if you don't even know what it is you want to do? Ask yourself that question, and then get some work experience in areas you are interested in. Here's some free advice: Figure out what you want to do before going to any kind of graduate school.
You Can Do Anything. Period.
I don't want to sound like a corporate inspirational poster, but you can do anything with a law degree. There are plenty of people that prove that. If you're not finding success getting an alternative career, consider the fact that it may be your approach, not your J.D. that's getting in your way. Your cover letter can go a long way in explaining your career change, and dispelling any notions of "failure."
You'll also need to highlight skills and experiences on your resume that make sense for your prospective new career. Having a J.D. will alone, not be enough. But the skills you attain by having a J.D. will. Just don't think the J.D. will do all the work for you -- you are your best case -- be in it to win it.
If you're not convinced, we'll be back in a few days with 101 other things you can do with your J.D. (because 99 was simply not enough).
Where do you stand on this? Let us know @FindLawLP on Twitter.
- 99 Things to Do With Your JD, Besides Practice Law (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- How Else to Use a Law Degree: 5 Fun, Non-Lawyer Careers (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- Kill Law School? This Guy Might be On (to) Something (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)