Why our law degree won’t be considered a waste even if we leave the law

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Annie Little, a blogger and writer at Attorney at Work, asked me and a number of other lawyers and bloggers to write about numerous topics on the law and alternative careers to the law. Annie had me focus on the question  “How valuable is your law degree“.

For the most part, the value of a law degree is often determined in relation to what it can get us practicing lawyers.

Some are very tangible and measurable: A clerkship. A BigLaw job. A high salary. A career path.

Others are more intangible: Stature. Ego. Self-Worth. Exclusivity.

But when we leave the law behind, and stop practicing, the value of a law degree in a world of non-lawyers may be no less important. But the value can just be a bit more difficult for us to ascertain.

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree means we’re smart. Really … no fooling. Non-lawyers perceive lawyers as being smart and intelligent. And if you wear glasses, that only increases your smarts quotient.

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree means we’re disciplined. Law school admittance requirements are hard, it takes three years to complete, the books are really thick, and the Bar is no joke. Non-lawyers view having a law degree and license as requiring discipline and dependability.

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree means we can do a number of important things well that others cannot. We have the ability to negotiate agreements. We have the knack for handling sensitive and confidential matters. We are looked to as a source of rational, objective advice. We can interact with people of all kinds. We put out fires. We can understand complicated situations. We can do things others can’t.

But …

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree can imply our skill set is considered “siloed”. Non-lawyers often think that we can only do law stuff. It takes work and patience to show non-law hiring managers that we can do other things.

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree can imply we’re not initially considered “creative”. People do not associate us with creative endeavors (design, marketing, development, ideas, thinking outside the box), so it is incumbent upon us to foster those creative skills and strengths we may have stifled up to this point, so they can benefit others down the road.

In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree can imply we’re risk averse. It’s in our nature to fear the unknown and change. We need to train ourselves to understand that life is messy and work is always changing,

For those of us who have stopped practicing or are thinking about leaving the law, the value of a law degree can at first be questioned.

But just because we are not practicing doesn’t mean that our law degree is worthless. It just means its value and the perception of its value is identified in more nuanced ways.

But that’s where the fun is.

 

If you’re interested in one-to-one coaching sessions, shoot me a note.

And take the Leave Law Behind survey. I appreciate your (confidential) thoughts and feedback.

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4 thoughts on “Why our law degree won’t be considered a waste even if we leave the law

  1. All very true. I remember my legal writing professor from 1L saying that after you finish law school, you can do almost anything.

    Going through the battery of tests, learning, and eventually working for a firm does a thing or two.

  2. “Non-lawyers often think that we can only do law stuff. It takes work and patience to show non-law hiring managers that we can do other things.

    In a world of non-lawyers, having a law degree can imply we’re not initially considered “creative”. ”

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I haven’t quit law yet, but I do have a plan. I do not tell people what I do for a living. Law is a career that often finds us thrown in boxes. People assume we are a certain way, and it’s a difficult – if not impossible – fight to prove otherwise.

    1. Hi Jen, Yes it is hard to break out of the box … but it can be done. Good luck and keep us all posted! Casey

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