The other day I was talking to an elderly lady I knew. Sadly, she felt compelled to ask the question I dread hearing the most these days, "So, how's the job search going?" I tried to brush it off by saying I was still looking.
Nevertheless, she persisted. She wondered how I was supporting myself, and I was again forced to remind her (and myself) that yes, I am a 28 year old with both a college and graduate degree who lives at home with his parents. She continued to lightly reprove me by reminding me that this was a long time to be out of work and that I needed to find something soon.
Had this not been an old lady, who probably thought she was being helpful, I probably wouldn't have tolerated this line of questioning, but in truth, she was only expressing in words what I'm sure many people are usually thinking when they learn about my situation.
What acceptable response can I possibly give? The myth of the law degree permeates society (at least for people who don't make hiring decisions). Nobody understands just how few legal jobs exist - and just how crummy most of them are. Few people realize that the J.D. will automatically exclude you from many non-legal positions.
It's next to impossible to explain that because of the dearth of attorney positions and the difficulty of transitioning into another field, many law graduates are left in unemployment purgatory where the odds are stacked against them in finding any work at all during a recession.
Over the course of writing this blog, I've written about most of the woes related to attending law school: the debt, the lousy employment prospects, toilet law, doc review sweatshops, arrogant professors, all of the incidental costs associated with attending LS, etc. These are all bad, but the worst part is the shame.
When expectations are so high for law graduates and opportunities are so limited, people are confused. An unemployed lawyer? Something must be wrong here! And guess what? In the eyes of most of these people, that "something" is YOU.
It's amazing the number of people who ignore first hand accounts of just how bad the job prospects are out of law school. I had a friend who went to a TTT law school (and is continuing after his first year) even though he knows all about my situation and that I went to a better ranked school than him.
It doesn't matter if you went to a good school, had average to good grades, or a strong resume, these prelaws "know" that they just have to do better, and they'll be fine.
In the same way, people who don't go to law school will judge you based upon what they "know". Can't find a job? You must either be a real loser or you're just not trying hard enough.
The latter assumption has underscored what many people seem to feel about my job search. It doesn't matter that I've submitted tons of resumes, gone on interviews (which plenty of JD's can't even get), gone to job fairs, and networked with just about everyone I can. This is practically a full time job to me, but no, if other people don't see results, they assume you're just sitting at home watching the Cartoon Network instead of trying to find a job.
There's nothing I can really do to rectify this problem. It isn't like I've been particularly picky when applying for jobs. I've told temp agencies I would accept clerical positions. I've applied (and begged for) entry level positions designed for recent college graduates. I've been willing to accept salaries south of $40k.
The shame game doesn't necessarily end after finding employment either. Suppose I did land one of those low level positions, that's not exactly the sort of thing that's going to be trumpeted in my law school's alumni newsletter. Even if I could get a decent $40k a year, corporate job with room for growth, that still wouldn't impress too many people (even though it'd be a dream come true for me). Heck, if I became a corporate VP making $100k, I know some people would still be disappointed in me for not being a lawyer.
For those who do become attorneys, there's still plenty of shame to go around. If you're paying back loans while finding yourself in small law, people are going to wonder why you don't drive a fancy car and live in a luxury condo. If you're chasing ambulances, you better believe people are going to make fun of you.
How about being a doc review prol? Trying to explain what you do to a non-attorney probably isn't exactly fun. "Well, I essentially click a mouse all day in a windowless basement. Those three years of law school really were necessary for this."
Going to law school certainly is a good antidote to pride. It's hard to be arrogant when you're in your late 20's or early 30's and either living with your parents or barely squeaking by while working a job that doesn't require a GED. There's not too much room for boasting when you spent three years in law only to make less money than you could make with a college degree.
If you're somebody who hasn't been able to reign in his ego through any other means, give law school a try. It'll certainly help bring you back down to earth (and even lower). For everyone else, unless you want to be filled with shame every time anyone asks you about your career prospects, please stay away from law school.