Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"More qualified to sue us than work for us"‏

He was more qualified to sue us than petition us for employment.

This was an actual non-legal employer quote from Barron's [may be a paywall] (A newspaper that people with jobs read—some of our fourth tiers friends sadly may have not heard of it) regarding a T20 graduate who was begging for a $20/hr computer programming job. That's $40 grand a year for you non-Leiters out there. You long time pay debt back! There are two main things this brings to mind:

First, the sort of things that a law degree actually does give you do not impress non-JD hiring managers. For instance, in this case, the applicant had listed on his resume that he had already passed the state bar exam, to show that he was a success and was smart enough and hard-working enough to pass a difficult examination. But it didn't impress the hiring manager: He was more qualified to sue us than petition us for employment. It just made the manager think that this guy was even more overqualified, and more likely to leave the job after being trained, or to even sue the company itself! (If only they taught law students how to actually file suit!) Before blaming the hiring manager for not understanding the situation, know that 1) it doesn't matter what you think, but what the people with money (and the leverage to hire someone with that money) think, and 2) it is only common sense to think JD-holders are overqualified. Why else would you go to law school? The hiring manager has plenty of choices and is not going out of his way to analyze the rational possibilities of why a T20 law grad who just passed the bar is applying to a technical job that requires only a high school diploma. That's not his problem. It's your problem to show that you can offer value to the employer.

Second, based on the first principle, you will be squeezed no matter which way you go. It follows that any sort of additional investment, like taking the bar exam, can push the recent J.D. grad into more trouble. If law school on your resume makes it harder to get a non-legal job, then any addition to that JD, such as a legal internship, bar admission, doc review job, will make things even worse, showing that you are doubling down, as it were, on flaw—I mean, law. So if you try to squeeze out a career in the law, you close more escape hatches behind you; but if you hedge your bets you will have no chance to get legal employment. That is, if you don't take the bar, you have no chance in the legal profession, but if you take the bar, that is closing other opportunities.

So take your choice: Build your legal resume for the unlikely hope of getting a legitimate legal job, or abandon further hope in law, but then risk having the non-J.D. hiring manager, who presumably does real things in the real world, W-T-F your resume when he sees "Order of the Coif" as an "accomplishment". What is "coif"? Don't they sell those at Wal-Mart?

Preston Bell (premeditatedmeditations.com) is the author of the (free) eBook about the Law School situation: Smarter Than Socrates: The End of the Law School Era.  

26 comments:

  1. First, and FOL.

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  2. Part of the problem is that people (including hiring managers) just FUCKING HATE LAWYERS!

    Nobody sees a lawyer for anything good. Their only memories of lawyers are when they get screwed by their spouse in a messy divorce ($$$) or when their kid gets a underage possession charge in college or a big speeding ticket ($$$).

    The bottom line is that the lawyer is always seen as the fucker who has screwed you over in the past.

    Why would ANYONE want to hire that?

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  3. Credited post is credited.

    One of my biggest dissapointments was realizing, "no, really, most people don't think outside the box. They say they do, they act like they do, but when push comes to shove it is same-same, same-same." There was no worse time for my personal philsophy about the working world to fail than after graduating from law school.

    It was (and still is) a desert out there for the JD-(Dis)Advantage candidate, let alone the actual hang-around-the-courthouse lawyer.

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  4. Employment is sort of like hitting the sweet spot on the baseball bat. A fraction off you get a foul ball. Any more you swing and miss.

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  5. As someone working in industry, let me just reiterate that nearly every hiring manager wants a square peg for a square hole. Getting "creative" in hiring choices is extremely risky for the hiring manager, especially when the current economy provides an abundance of people with resumes that tell a simple, clear story.

    For this reason, and speaking as a liberal arts BA, I think most people are harmed by law school. As a hiring manager, I somewhat easily can make the case for choosing a liberal arts grad for certain entry level positions. Even if the pay is low, these positions offer a chance for new grads to prove themselves and start building valuable experience, which allows them the real prospect of a career. If they are bright and ambitious (as are many prospective law school students), they will have little difficulty outshining most of their peers. Once they have a couple years experience, they can start a part-time MBA program, which, combined with additional experience, goes a long ways to masking the liberal arts undergrad degree. And, if something goes wrong, hey, I'm not the first person to have hired this type of candidate for an entry-level position.

    JDs, on the other hand, are a high-risk hire, because, if anything goes wrong, the first thing my superior will ask is why on earth I hired someone who went to professional school for lawyering for a non-lawyer position. The flight risk thing is also a very real (unfounded) concern. Trust me when I say that 99% of hiring managers have NO clue how bad the market is for lawyers, let alone understanding the systemic pressures that basically guarantee that the "glory days" of legal hiring are gone forever. No, these managers imagine that the JD is just biding his time until the prestigious, 200k-a-year offers start rolling in. And even if the hiring manager is aware of the poor employment situation for JDs, does he or she really want to get in a huge debate with his or her superiors? Is this unemployed JD REALLY going to be such a superstar that he or she is willing to risk his or her job over it? Not likely!

    Bottom line: law school is a terrible career decision for all but a tiny subset of people who attend.

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    1. Exactly. Hiring managers are as risk-averse as attorneys. Most attorneys would decline to hire a JD for a non-lawyer position, so I'm not sure why we expect generic HR people to "get" what the JD can offer (which really isn't much except advanced reading/analytic ability and a penchant for argument). Here's looking at you, Jack Marshall.

      What the poster says in point 2 rang home with me. I went to law school really wanting one of those JD-advantaged jobs that barely exist. I would personally be happier in business than in a law firm, but felt like I had no choice but to take the bar exam and expand my options of employability. When in law school, I worked for "legal" jobs like externing with a judge b/c it seemed better than working in retail. I'm second-guessing that now, since my resume apparently screams "WANTS TO BE A LAWYER" even though I really do not, in fact, want to be a lawyer. So my resume makes my cover letter look untrustworthy, and there's no way a hiring manager wants anything to do with that.

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    2. Yep. One would think good-faith efforts to show drive, initiative and not-sitting-around (what Boomers supposedly value in candidates) would demonstrate character and model-employee-ness, but instead it says "see, look, you really want to be a lawyer, lookit all the legally-type stuff on your resume."

      Can't win for losing, as they say.

      Delete
  6. feb lsat taker numbers are up and, subsequently, entire cycle numbers are available:

    http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsats-administered.asp

    another double digit Y-O-Y decline in total test takers. love it.

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    1. Lowest number since 2000-2001 and lower than 1987-1988, the 1st year for which data is available.

      That's very cheering you know.

      Delete
    2. Wow. Impressive decline. Reading over those numbers made me smile a bit. And, some days that's all I need.

      Delete
  7. As someone who made the transition, am in position to hire, and so forth, I would say same thing as 6:36. When I look to expend funds on a salaried position, I'm looking for experience. For a JD looking for an entry level position, best way to do this would be to show me side projects you've coded. Go to compilr.com, c9.io, browxy.com, etc. and show me something you've built. Most people who walk through our doors are known quantities -- someone, somewhere knows you from developer boards, communities, etc. It's more of a practical paradigm. (The law school model doesn't work, which is, spend money to learn something and remain unskilled upon graduation.)

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  8. Law school is doubling down on a bad bet. $150k liberal arts degree won't get you a job? Add a $150k law degree.

    Maybe instead of Obama saying we need more college grads he should be saying we need more transperancy on college debt and outcomes.

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  9. Former Biglaw associate and current psychotherapist Will Meyerhofer slayed the myth of the flexible law degree - in convincing fashion - back on November 3, 2010. The piece was entitled "Extremely Versatile Crockery." This is from someone who has been through the process. In contrast to “law professors,” Meyerhofer does not have a financial stake in the matter. Take a look at this brutally honest assessment of the situation:

    http://thepeoplestherapist.com/2010/11/03/extremely-versatile-crockery/

    "But there’s a bigger, broader problem with switching careers when you have the letters JD after your name: people hate lawyers.

    Why do they hate lawyers? A bunch of reasons.

    If you are a real person in the outside world, the word “lawyer” means obstruction. The phrase “run it past Legal” means you might as well give up, ’cause it’s never gonna happen. Exciting business ventures ooze to a standstill like a sabre-toothed tiger in the La Brea Tar Pits. Some risk-adverse dweeb in a suit will spout dire warnings to you about unlikely contingencies until nothing seems like it’s any fun anymore.

    Lawyer means pretentious – socially awkward losers with fancy degrees telling you what to do when they’ve never run a business in their lives.

    Lawyer means threats. “You’ll hear from my lawyer” is the worst thing you can say to another person. And lawyers love to write threatening letters – it’s what they do best. That’s why lawyer is synonymous with wasted time and wasted money.

    Lawyer means annoyance. Lawyer means hassles. Lawyer means a total void of common sense. Lawyer means expensive, with little to show for it."

    Too bad that the lemmings are so blinded by their ambition.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Also, I can tell you from personal experience that you better prepare for an interview with a non-legal employer as if you are in an interrogation. You will be asked variations of the following:

    "So...why do you want to pass up the big bucks as a lawyer for this job?"

    "Why the career change?" (This implies that at least person on the hiring committee is reluctant to bring your ass on board.)

    "How long do you think you would remain in this post, if offered the position?"

    "Were you not sure of what you wanted to do, when you went to law school." (Telling them that the degree is "versatile" is not going to help you.)

    HR managers are extremely risk averse, perhaps more so than lawyers. The underlying concern is that you might sue the company, if you are ever terminated or "treated unfairly." You can be damn certain that these men and women will scrutinize you more than some schlub with a BA in American History or Political "Science" from State U.

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  12. I went to a career fair awhile back and filled out a preliminary app for a shift manager position for Target. I then followed a twenty-something kid into a room and observed an incredulous look come over his face as he perused my app. He grilled me for five minutes, and it was obvious from the get-go that he had no intention of hiring me--he just enjoyed giving a "clueless" attorney the business. The gist of his questioning was "why should we believe that you won't run off to practice law and make more money after we spend the time and effort to train you?" I tried to explain the current legal hiring situation, but he wasn't buying it. To be honest, I didn't have my heart set on working at Target anyhow and my feeling of resigning myself to "this...(sigh)" may have come across.

    Employers need to receive an education on how screwed newly graduated attorneys are (and that, coming straight out of law school, most of us are incapapable of suing a corporation on our own). Then they might look past all the other undesirable qualities attorneys possess and actually hire one for novelty's sake (They can then sit at the bar and gloat over how they bark orders to jump to attorneys on their payroll and the attorneys ask "how high?").

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  13. Just imagine what you would think if you were interviewing an M.D. for low-paying shift work. That's sort of what it looks like to the outside world when a J.D. applies. It looks crazy, like something's not right.

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    1. That is right -- and it doesn't just affect law grads.

      Employers hire resumes they understand. They get hundreds of resumes for most openings, many of which perfectly fit their requirements.

      There isn't any point or benefit to them, hiring someone else, and the comment about having to explain to one's superiors ... spot on. People have their own jobs to think of in an unforgiving economic climate, and if they make too many hiring mistakes ...

      Be honest. If you were doing the hiring, you'd probably do the same.

      Delete
  14. For a lot of entry-type positions, I honestly think JDs would be better off just saying that they spent three years "discovering themselves" through yoga or surfing or spiritualism or some other unverifiable but stereotypical Gen-Y stuff. For a retail position, this is far from the worst thing a hiring manager has heard, and it certainly doesn't make one sound like any kind of flight risk. It also puts the focus on your UG degree, which can still be a benefit for retail spots.

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    1. I have heard many people say this, but I think that may be more difficult than it seems.

      So many employers do background/financial checks. Hard to imagine they won't uncover some record of where you lived, your credit records etc. If you were supposedly "finding yourself" through yoga in India, why do you have 100K in loans? Etc.

      Look at those employment applications you fill out, how many say they will conduct background or credit checks and you may be dismissed for any falsification?

      Somehow it's bound to show up and having concealed it or lied outright about it, you could easily lose the job. I am not getting into any ethical argument, just saying it sounds easier than it may be, to erase three years of your life.

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    2. You're right about that, of course. I'm just not sure what is more feasible - roll the dice on them not checking much beyond criminal record, drug use, etc. for an entry-level retail job, or try to get as far as a background check when you have law school on the resume...

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    3. Just saying ... even in an entry-level retail job you are likely handling merchandise and/or cash register.

      Therefore, they are likely to run a credit check. It doesn't cost that much, relative to what you could steal. Hey, I recently read even that a large bank was involved in a customer lawsuit over a teller who allegedly stole their ID and gave it to the spouse.

      And, if you get fired from a job "for cause" (lying on your job application), that could also have an impact on trying to get another job.

      I don't know how likely this overall scenario is ... but, given that we live in a database world ...

      Again, not necessarily an ethical argument, just a practical one.

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    4. The kind of BG check employers do is basically a credit check, not a full-on background check that pulls up school transcripts etc.

      Plus, there are countless employers who don't do BG checks. Like U of Chicago, which hired Leiter. Fuck knows what is in that weirdo's background. He acts like a catholic nun, with his hatred of insolent children.

      "Pull down your pants now, you insolent child! This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." (Said with growing erection...)

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  15. The Scarlet JD

    HR Director: I am very sorry to tell you that we have received information that you lied on your resume.

    Employee: I did not! I can re-verify everything-- my college graduation, my places and dates of employment, my references and professional associations, everything.

    HR Director: And that three year long gap?

    Employee: We discussed that during my job interview. It was a very painful period in my life. Prison, mental hospital, drug abuse treatment. You said that a person with my otherwise impressive credentials and character deserved a second chance. And I will always be grateful.

    HR Director: We don't think you were in prison at all. We believe you went to law school. You know, we don't really want JDs in our organization. They tend to think they are smarter than everyone else, don't respond well to supervision, and are far more likely than non-JDs to file complaints against us. And something must be amiss about them personally if they are not making a fortune in the lucrative legal field. We can forgive your lie. But we cannot forgive your JD.



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