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This week in #DearFindLaw, we discuss a question that's increasingly common: If you're looking for work, should you take that non-legal, but legal-ish job?
An anonymous law school friend had a career question for me. A recent graduate like myself, he's doing contract document review but has been offered a job at a company that produces document review software.
It's a non-legal job, but because it involves legal software, it's tangentially law-related. Should he take it?
At Least It's Something, Right?
My first thought was, "Yes, of course, but look for other jobs in the meantime." The bills still need to be paid, and doing any kind of tangential legal work pays those bills and still shows that you're interested in pursuing a legal career.
The problem, of course, is that for every year you're not practicing, you're setting yourself back a little bit more. Those jobs that ask for "three years experience" don't mean any experience having any job; working for a software company that happens to make legal software doesn't make you a better litigator.
And so, in a year's time, what do you have? Well, if your ultimate goal is to work at a firm -- i.e., actually practice law -- then you don't have much. The dark secret of law practice, which lawyers know, and which students will soon find out, is that law school teaches you some fundamentals, but most of your education comes on the job, when you're working in your practice.
Really, It's Not Useful
Here's the perspective of another person who graduated with us: "I wouldn't recommend this job for people with law degrees. Its usefulness is very limited, if necessary at all."
That all depends, of course, on what you want to do with your fancy law degree. There are a host of jobs out there called "JD Advantage," which the blog Outside the Law School Scam doesn't think so highly of, and it's not just because such jobs have little to do with the reason you became a lawyer in the first place. "JD Advantage" just means "Hey, you've got a law degree, that means you're smart," but in fact,
[L]aw school provides poor training for these jobs. JD Advantage jobs involve skills and methodologies beyond law -- say, statistical tracking of compliance activities or knowledge of how to motivate corporate employees to follow policies -- none of which are taught in law school.
Getting back to my friend from law school: Should he keep doing contract document review? Probably. It's more "law" than working for a legal software company. Thankfully, the current document review job pays pretty well. But what if it didn't? Then I'd say take the legal software job, but don't stay for long.