Monday, August 9, 2010

The End of Esq. [Never] - Final Post

When I first started this blog, I was not sure what direction it would take. While I linked to the other scam bloggers, I think I saw this blog as more of an attempt to chronicle my quest to find a non-legal job and to occasionally share my thoughts about law school, the legal industry, and, of course, the dishonesty involved in both.

(As it turned out, however, the career search aspect became a secondary concern as my contempt for the law school scam began to take prominence. More on that in a moment.)

One thing I did know from the start was that I didn't want to end this blog until I could triumphantly declare that I had secured a serious, decent paying, non-legal position despite my J.D., work experience gap, and the miserable economy.

I sincerely regret that this will not be the case.

A few posts ago, I informed you that I was taking on a temporary, contract position with a company that was designed to evaluate whether or not I would receive a permanent offer. While I am pleased to report that my "employer" envisions me working at the company well past the initial evaluation period, it is going to take them longer than expected to determine if they plan to take me on as a permanent employee.

While this is a contract position, I still work long hours and have a long commute. This has left little time for blogging. While I have not run out of things to say, I have exhausted my motivation to say them.

Over the past month, I had hoped to receive the final word about the position, my specific role, and my annual compensation. Sadly, it appears that it could be weeks or even months before this is settled. There is also the possibility that in the end, I will not end up working full time with this company.

With no particular date in sight when I can foresee declaring victory, and with little time to blog, I have decided to "prematurely" bring this blog to a close.

As mentioned, I have run out of steam to maintain this blog. After 100 posts, while I may have some additional thoughts to share that may be either interesting or entertaining, I don't know if I can really add anything more of substance. I've made my case as best I could through personal anecdotes and more detached analysis.

In addition, whether this present position works out, or I am just able to finally have some recent, substantive work experience on my resume, I believe I am on the road to leaving the law and securing an actual career.

Moreover, while I stand resolute that the law school deans and their cohorts are as crooked as the day is long, I am somewhat concerned about the cynicism and bitterness that I have expressed in this blog. In all honesty, I do not want to be an angry or resentful person.

I believe most of what I've said on this blog is accurate and defensible. I know that one man's sincere regret is another man's "whining", and I am not oblivious to the duplicitous tactics of some of the law school apologists and administrators. That said, I do not think it's healthy to be a in a bitter feud with anyone - even the more corrupt and miserable elements of society.

I certainly am glad that there will continue to be a scam busting community, and I hope it grows into a larger, more visible organization, but I'm not the right person to be part of this movement. I don't regret most of what I've written, but I do regret some of the occasionally snide and nasty ways in which I've expressed myself.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this blog went in a somewhat different direction than I expected. With my resumes ending up in oblivion and my networking connections flaming out, I didn't have much to write about regarding my job search.

When "A Law School Carol" unexpectedly garnered national legal press attention, I was pushed into the forefront of the scam busting movement. I hope this event was able to draw greater awareness about the community and in some ways contributed to the success of some of the more popular blogs such as Third Tier Reality, But I Did Everything Right, and the Jobless Juris Doctorate.

I would have never believed that simply by creating a blog and some simplistic cartoons I would be featured in three national legal publications and the Wall Street Journal blog. Moreover, being able to draw hundreds and sometimes even thousands of hits every time I publish a new post has been an honor. Maybe I should write into my law school's alumni magazine to advertise these accomplishments!

I contemplated revealing my law school in my final post, but I decided it wouldn't serve much of a purpose. Listing the school could possibly hurt me in the future, and my objection is to law school as a whole and not specifically Syracuse Law....oh wait, I mean the University of Florida Law...oh, I mean Loyola Law, uh, yeah that's it...

I did, however, plan on posting a narrative about my job search, a closing argument about why law school is a bad idea, and a final farewell after I posted my intended "victory" post. While I don't have the energy to write three full posts, let me conclude with three micro posts within this one:

In all, I spent 13 months unemployed since I graduated law school. Eleven of those months were post the bar exam. Eight of those months were months in which I was seriously committed to finding a non-legal job.

I sent out over a hundred resumes. I probably received a total of fifty responses - most of which were outright rejections. I was asked to come in for four interviews for serious, professional positions.

The first interview went well at first but quickly collapsed when it turned out that I lacked the requisite technical knowledge to succeed in the position without additional training. I was annoyed that neither the job listing nor my resume made any mention of serious programing experience. I was also displeased because I couldn't get a hold of anyone at the company to find out my status.

The second interview was a disaster. The security guard didn't even have me in the computer to let me up to the office. The guy who interviewed me clearly had no idea what was on my resume and asked a total of three questions. I had to fight traffic and pay for parking. Obviously, I couldn't get a hold of anyone in the office after the interview. I'm still shocked by the lack of professionalism I experienced.

The third interview was far more professional. The interviewer was the CEO of the company. He was polite and professional but not very friendly. I appreciated that he not only read my resume but also memorized it.

Unfortunately, this was the interview I was dreading. The first three questions were essentially "Why the #$%! did you go to law school if you don't want to practice law?" I actually think I handled these questions well, but his interrogation pushed me into defensive, moot court mode, and made me come across as too adversarial and quick talking throughout the rest of the interview.

In the end, I'll admit that I blew the interview by coming across as too aggressive and over-eager. Though, I don't think the interviewer and I would have gotten along very well, so maybe it was for the best.

While the interview was as professional as could be, and everything that went wrong was entirely my fault, I did become annoyed after the interview. I called the guy afterward, but he kept brushing me off instead of just thanking me for coming in and but saying that they had gone with another candidate. Moreover, during the interview, he actually promised to put me in touch with a networking connection (not a great sign at an interview), but he never followed through despite my requests.

My fourth interview was with my current employer. I actually wasn't expecting to get a job. I had a phone interview with my company, and it turned out that I wasn't at all qualified for the position for which I applied. Nevertheless, they invited me in to talk more about the company.

I didn't think this would amount to much, but I figured I'd go because it wasn't like I had much else to do. I actually considered not wearing a suit, and almost walked out when one of the interviewers took a call during the interview without excusing himself.

Then something odd happened - after I reiterated that I probably lacked the requisite skills to fill the role, he brushed it off by saying that it didn't matter. He then had me interview with another employee. Then he came in and talked to me again. Then I talked to another employee. Then he came in and asked me about my salary requirements. Anything above minimum wage that didn't require me to wear a paper hat sounded pretty good at that point, but I gave him a realistic figure.

He said he'd think about it, and the next day called me back to offer me a contract position that paid around what I wanted (albeit sans benefits and with the requirement to pay the SE tax for the time being) to evaluate my work before taking me on permanently.

The position could generally be called an IT/business position, which is what I wanted. I would prefer it to be a little more development/tech oriented, but otherwise it's pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

I was generally offered this role because my "employer" (technically "client" since I'm an IC) thought I was an intelligent guy with a pretty solid computer background. For the record, yes, they did see the JD as a plus, BUT before you apologists start yucking it up, let me point out the following: 1) This was one 1 of over 100 employers; 2) I presently make less than I did at my pre-law job; 3) I'm not even a permanent employee; 4) I still have a mountain of debt to worry about - IBR or no IBR.

I am, however, very grateful for this job, and I enjoy it. I'm also learning a lot of new thing, which will be marketable should I have to move on. I don't think I will voluntarily do so because there are some great opportunities available at this company.

For those of you still looking for work, I'm afraid I don't have much new advice to offer. Trying to sell yourself as a generally intelligent and capable person is a good idea, but learning some new, marketable skills is really the best approach. Try finding software that is used in the field in which you're looking and see if you can master it to give yourself a head start. If you're a writer, learn about SEO. If you're creative, look into learning about filming and video editing.

Besides that, just keep trying. If you have something to offer, eventually you'll find somebody who will pay you for it.

While things seem to have turned around for me, I wouldn't wish this experience on my worst enemy - maybe a law dean or two, but I'm talking about actual humans here.

If you're a prospective law student, I don't know what I else I can tell you that isn't already available elsewhere on my blog to try to convince you not to go to law school.

At the end of the day, if you ignore these warning, I guess it doesn't really affect me. I have my debt and my shame already, but you see, I do care. Maybe you think I'm a loser. Maybe reading my blog makes your blood boil. Maybe you're a pompous punk who thinks that he'll sooner grow a tail than end up begging for an unpaid internship with the local DA after passing the bar. It doesn't really matter; I still don't want this fate to beset you.

In other posts, I've tried to appeal to your reason; let me use this last post to appeal to your emotions.

Aside from those of you who know you want to be lawyers - and unless you've actually worked closely with practicing attorneys, you DON'T know - the people who go to law school are either recent college graduates or dissatisfied young employees who think a legal career will be more lucrative and/or more exciting than their present options. (Law schools prey on these poor souls with the ruthlessness of a lioness picking out and pouncing on a wounded wildebeest.)

If this is you, let me empathize with you. I was fortunate when I graduated college. The economy was doing well in 2004, and I landed a decent paying professional job. In some ways, I had it all. I lived in a luxury apartment (albeit sharing the rent with a friend), I had savings, and I had no debt. I could eat out with friends, and I could pretty much buy (within reason) whatever I wanted.

Yet I wasn't happy. My job was mundane and boring, and while it paid the rent and let me live a stable life, I wasn't exactly rolling in the dough and didn't think I could support a family on my salary. I also envisioned holding a job that was exciting, challenging, and lucrative.

Then I drank the law school Kool-Aid. I believed the data about the average starting salaries. I listened to the anecdotes about appearing in court, working with interesting clients, and researching compelling issues.

Sure, I knew that at the very big firms, the work wasn't that interesting, but I was never all that interested in working at the largest firms anyway. Besides, if the money ever seduced me into taking such a job, I could always move over to a smaller firm with more interesting work later on.

All I "knew" was that there's lots of work for lawyers because everyone needs lawyers, even the average law graduate was making good money, and whatever job I received, it would have to be better than my current job.

Sound familiar?

So I dutifully dumped tons of money into LSAT prep courses and the application process. I researched the schools and essentially felt like I was a senior in high school again, weighing my options as I embarked on a new chapter in my life.

I actually laid awake paralyzed with fear one night, worried that I had blown the LSAT and would have to stay at my job and forgo law school (back then you only had one chance at the LSAT). If only I HAD bombed the LSAT!

Maybe my job was boring. Maybe I wasn't making enough money. Maybe I needed to find a new career path, but the answer certainly wasn't to be found by going six figures into debt and wasting three years of my life all to attend a school that would give me neither practical training nor a pipeline into a new and better industry.

On the eve of law school, I had a good job, my own place, and a positive net worth. When I graduated law school, none of these facts were true.

Let me put it this way, if I had access to a time machine, I would go back in time to find myself sitting at my desk, reviewing law school brochures. I would then rip the glossy brochure out of my former self's hands and throw him to the ground. I would proceed to kick him several times and tell him if he ever even considered applying to law school after this, I'd be back to finish the job.

Sure, I'd probably have a few bruised ribs today, but I'd also probably not be in the process of requesting Sallie Mae to put me on the IBR, so I "only" need to hand over 10% of my salary for most of the rest of my life.

With that, I guess it's time to close up shop. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment, or contact me with your stories.

It was an honor to hear from so many people who changed their minds about law school because of this blog, derived some comfort by reading my posts, or just found this blog to be an entertaining way to kill some time at work.

If this blog has helped one person find a non legal job or convinced a single person not to go to law school, then I'm convinced that my efforts have been worth it even if "Esq Never" hasn't moved the law school industry even an inch towards reform.

While I don't have any intention of pulling a "Brett Favre", I may occasionally post articles on Underdog, Esq. if I believe I have anything particularly compelling about which to write, but I wouldn't expect any such articles for a while.

I will leave this blog up (but not add to it) and available until Blogger goes the way of Geocities and deletes all of its pages.

I wish everyone the best of luck, and I hope that all of you who are currently suffering from unemployment and underemployment (thanks to your JD's) end up landing on your feet.

While I don't want to discuss law school or the scam anymore, if I can ever help anyone in the future with advice about transitioning into a non-legal job, please feel free to e-mail me. I can't promise an immediate response, but I'll do my best to check my esqnever at hotmail dot com account and try to respond.

With that, this is Esq. Never - signing off.
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