One major theme in the feedback from the last post on Leave Law Behind is a sense of loss and confusion of how to even get started in leaving the law.
This is mainly because some of us have already tried to leave law. And it didn’t go well.
Some real life hurdles we face when we try to leave the law
We have sent out resumes to non-legal jobs … we have even scored an interview for some roles … but the hiring manager didn’t like us … or thought we would want too high a salary … or thought we only had legal experience, and not enough business experience … or they didn’t know how to view our skills … or we didn’t really know how to pitch ourselves … or we just lacked confidence throughout it all and it showed …
And we are frustrated. These hiring managers didn’t appreciate how well known our law firm was. They didn’t seem to care how highly ranked our law school was. They didn’t know how hard it was to make law review. They didn’t realize how difficult it is to do patent prosecution or how great of a licensing lawyer we are or how well we can litigate.
In short, they didn’t seem to care. They didn’t seem to like us. All of our credentials and accomplishments and hard work didn’t seem to mean anything to them.
And you know what? That might very well be the case.
How to get the outside world to understand the value we lawyers can bring
The outside world may have respect for lawyers, but it’s often done from a distance.
In reality, they don’t understand us. They know what we do but – besides what they see on TV – let’s face it, they don’t really know what we do.
How do we cross this bridge? How do we show “them” (all of those hiring managers and decision makers and bosses in the non legal world) how good we really are?
There are two ways to cross this bridge, to show them clearly the skills we have: first, we must speak in their language, and second, we must show how we can add value.
Speaking in their (non-legal) language
When it comes to speaking in their language, we can’t fault a CEO or HR person or hiring manager if they don’t understand the importance of the amicus brief we wrote or how respected our BigLaw firm is or how important that summary judgment was that we won. It’s not the language they speak.
They speak in a certain language of their industry. They speak in Sales or Revenue or Cost per Acquisition or subscribers per month or earned media or Likes or Klout score or customer care call time or refunds saved.
When we apply to a non-legal job, it is incumbent upon us to understand their world. We have to do the hard work to re-tool our resume so our legal work can be positioned for this non-legal job. We have to do the hard work of understanding the requirements of this non-legal job and seeing how our skills align with their needs. We have to do the hard work of showing how we can add value, not based just on our degree, but on our transferrable experience.
We’ve all met deadlines, done presentations, upsold clients, made money, closed deals, put out fires and achieved goals.
As much as we want to tout our degree or our law school pedigree or our stature as a lawyer, we have to realize that leaving the law means abandoning a score card we are familiar with for one we’re not.
In other words: We need to translate ourselves and our skill set into a language the non-legal world can understand and appreciate and hire.
Solve a pain. Help. Add value.
Second, we have to show we can add value.
This seems obvious: add value to a person or boss or organization, and be paid for the value we provide.
But too often, we look for jobs because we feel we are entitled to them. Or we hate our current job so much we’ll just go anywhere. Or we want a job that sounds cool or is with a hot company or brings us a certain stature.
What we need to realize is that the main way to make a lot of money in this world and to enjoy our job at the same time is to add value.
Many of us are scared stiff that we won’t get a non-legal job. And that paralyzes us.
To overcome this, we need to show that the skills we can bring to a position are so great and unique that the hiring manager may not have foreseen the need for such skills.
Let me say that again, in different words: We need to show the hiring manager that our skill set as a lawyer is so unique, and so valuable, and so needed, that the hiring manager didn’t even know we (or anyone) could bring such value to their organization.
But here’s where we get stuck: We feel our skills are not unique: Most smart people in the (non-legal) business world can read and write and speak and present well, right?
We have skills, and combinations of skills, other do not possess
Short answer is no. We short shrift ourselves when we downplay how important our skills are. We are loyal. And we spot issues that others don’t see. And we keep a calm head. And we provide good advice. And we keep things confidential. And we engender respect. And we question.
We come from law firms and other working environments where everyone can do that. We need to realize that outside of the legal environment, not just anyone can or does do this. We need to realize that our skills are in high demand.
But the other thing to realize is the value we can bring with the combination of our skills:
- You’re good with people AND you can negotiate contracts? Have you thought of Business Development?
- You write clearly and detailed AND you have a science background? Have you thought of Product Management?
- You are empathetic AND have a deep background in employment law? Have you thought of a HR Manager role?
- You are a control freak (with a fairly high level of OCD) AND are kind of a tech and gadget geek on the side? Have you thought of a Business Process Outsourcing role?
- You can deftly manage a conversation AND make people feel comfortable in your presence? Have you thought of being a Focus Group Moderator?
- You have a prosecutorial mindset AND you have great attention to detail? Have you thought of a Trust and Safety role?
It’s very easy for us to get down and out when we think of how the non-legal world has no sense of how much we’ve worked and how smart we are. And we’re right, they don’t know what it’s like to be a lawyer.
But that’s not their job to do so. It’s our job to show them the value we can bring in ways they haven’t even thought of yet … in translatable ways they can understand.