A time to give thanks, for your law degree

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

This last week, as many of us celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we likely had that conversation with family and friends – “So, have you found an associate position yet?”  I’ve spoken to a few young lawyers who are ready to tell people they are giving up on law to go tend bar or deliver pizza.  Your situation may seem dire, and it may be, but there is hope and you should be thankful to have come this far.

Imagine, in your perfect world, that you were able to get an interview shortly before the end of your third year of law school and that you were hired for an associate position beginning shortly after you sat for the bar exam.  If that had been the case, would you now be having the same thoughts of leaving law?  Likely not, and you would be telling everyone to go to law school to join you in your noble profession.  Your frustration is temporary and situational.

Frustration often comes when your loan payments come due.  Many young lawyers say they would not have gone to law school and incurred tremendous debt if they had known they might not be able to get a job.  Law school graduates really need to address collective thinking about education; there is no entitlement to employment simply because we incurred great debt in earning a law degree.

Rather than stomping your fists, upset by a flooded market, job seekers should re-evaluate their skills sets and aspirations – you have more going for you than you realize.  The skills earned in law school include advanced research, problem solving, negotiation and technical writing.  Also valuable is an understanding of constitutional and government processes.  Imagine all the positions in which a fundamental understanding of the law is useful; for example, insurance companies employ compliance officers and other professionals who value the skills sets derived from an education in law.

Your law degree is also valuable in some of the following positions:  lobbyist, government administration, legal business professionals, health-care administration, forensics, and several additional public and private sector positions.  Guess what?  You may really enjoy one of these alternative positions – have you honestly considered any of them?

Even though it may seem bleak in tough economic times to imagine being able to pay off the student loans and meet your career goals, there are jobs out there and wise job seekers are savvy at marketing their legal and other professional skills to great success.

Giving thanks for your legal education also promotes forward thinking.  As we move forward from the recession and tough economic recovery, we should keep hope that there can be good economic times ahead.  At the end of the day, and as you are thankful for your family and friends during this holiday season, remember that you have advanced education and are in a better position than most.

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