Every job is a sales job

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University School of Law Chicago in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review, and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

Throughout law school, I bought and sold textbooks on Amazon. I price my items competitively and provide accurate and honest descriptions of their condition, with a little note, “All orders ship from Chicago, IL.” I think this addition helps my business because people in the Midwest and both coasts think of Chicago as close to them.

After law school, I experienced a surge in sales. This was extremely exciting. It reminded me of my days working as an account executive for an information technology reseller while I attended evening law school for two years. I made my bids as low as possible to win business from government agencies while continuing to make a profit. But I decided this career wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the cold calling, customer service, data entry, working with pesky sales tracking and customer relations software—I needed to move on.

When making the precarious decision about whether I wanted to take out huge loans and go to law school, I didn’t have anyone close to me to ask for guidance. Our family friends who are attorneys were people I considered inaccessible for the mere fact that, well, they were attorneys. I thought they couldn’t possibly have time to talk to me about this. Consequently, I purchased a book to help with my decision:  “In Our Defense:  The Bill of Rights in Action,” Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy (1992).

Much like the constitutional law topics addressed in this book, law school encouraged me to think about the big picture. We discussed things like parental rights versus state intervention, free speech, gay marriage equality, internet privacy, corporate mergers. Also, we spent hours on the minutia of interstate commerce as it relates to the delivery of milk, subject matter jurisdiction as it relates to entry into the stream of commerce, and the strict typography requirements for formatting a 7th Circuit appellate brief.  The latter topics dominated the lectures and would put me to sleep every evening after I’d worked a full day. I’d be worried about meeting commission goals, how my dismal attempts at making cold calls were being noticed by superiors, and whether the sales trip to the Caribbean that I’d just won would run into my finals schedule. (Thankfully, it did not.) When I was at work, I thought of torts and contracts. When I was at school, I thought of closing just one more large order before the end of the quarter. I didn’t even make up my mind about quitting my sales job until about halfway through my 2L year in 2008.

I have now been working in the real world long enough to see the multiple ironies in this. Every job is ultimately a sales job—and I mean this in the most literal meaning of the phrase. There will be performance metrics, customer service, superiors, meetings, etc., even if by different names. If you don’t believe me, just ask the person who works on development for your firm or non-profit organization. Everything that an organization does is measured and utilized as a way to gather more support, budget, profit or what have you. Your work is almost always billed hourly and bid out amongst multiple firms before you are hired. If you have ever worked for a corporation where there are sales trips, incentives and commissions, chances are it was not a law firm. That trip I won to the Caribbean (and I won more than one of them) will never be replicated while working for a small or medium-sized law firm—unless maybe I get into maritime law, an option which I still consider from time to time.

Last week I received an email from Amazon that I’d sold “In Our Defense:  The Bill of Rights in Action.” The past year since being sworn into the bar has been extremely rough for me, bouncing from doc review to doc review and being scrutinized about my litigation experience in job interviews that required zero years of experience. I have yet to encounter an assignment that relates to a “big picture” constitutional law topic. Since the world brought me and this woman I’d never met together through e-commerce, I decided to make a bold move. I inserted a small note into the book before I mailed it to my customer in the Baltimore area: “If you are not already in law school, and you are considering it, please e-mail or call me first. I’d love to chat. Thanks for the sale. –Angie”

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