Business Needs Lawyers, Too

I’m not a lawyer; I’m an entrepreneur. But I’m distressed to see the despair of recently anointed law school graduates from a distance. The lack of opportunities is no longer just the talk of legal blogs and trade publications. CNN recently profiled a law school grad with 60K in student loans working at a coffee shop to make ends meet.

I can imagine that if you’re in this situation, especially if you graduated recently, you have the sense that the rug was pulled out from under you. It’s terrible luck that during your tenure as a student the entire industry not only contracted, but changed. What used to be a sure thing is no longer a sure thing. You took out loans with the promise of an easy layup and all of a sudden you’re faced with Shaq.

Allow me to share my own misfortune, and those of my classmates (a little schadenfreude never hurts, does it?). A similar thing happened to me as well when I started my career. When I enrolled for a Masters in Computer Science in 1999, I thought I’d be graduating with a six-figure job at some hip Internet company with dogs in the office and ping pong tables everywhere. The bubble-burst of 2000 squished any of those plans, leaving many grads from my class scrambling to find work.

But here’s my message as you face the abyss of post-law school life with little job prospects. To me, as a businessman, you’re a great hire.

If you made it through three years of law school, you’re probably pretty smart, or at least know how to BS, which is one of life’s most critical skills. You’ve been tried and tested, and you’ve survived a competitive and difficult environment. Stick-to-it-iveness is hard to come by. You exhibit pragmatism, choosing a career which, at least when you signed up for school, offered a solid life plan for employment.

You know how to write. You’re a good communicator with a keen analytical mind. You can sift through mountains of information and pick out key pieces of salient details. In fact, you learned ideal high-level, general skills that can help you in any industry or business in the modern marketplace. We’re in an information age, and your training equipped you better than most on how to make decisions in an increasingly noisy and complicated world.

Granted, it’s a shift to view yourself as anything but a lawyer. And I’m not suggesting you give up your ambitions to practice law. Rather, I’m suggesting you take the opportunity to recognize the skills you built in law school and examine how you might be able to apply them to today’s knowledge economy. I know it’s difficult, especially coming out of intense training, to reframe your perspective or determine you need to shoot for another type of job.

But you may get lucky. You might find a career that suits you better than law. This may be especially true if you hightailed it straight into law school from undergrad: you may have bypassed an opportunity to explore the workforce and find your true calling.

I’m sure I’m not the only business owner who feels this way about law school graduates. You got skills, kid. Use ’em.


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  • Beautifully put, Larry! I graduated from law school during another tough time — the late 80’s. I’ve practiced law and I’ve spent time as an entrepreneur in the tech world. These days I’m enjoying a run in the legal recruiting world. I’ve seen firsthand how transferable my skills, experience and training truly are. Yes, it can be a challenge to reinvent one’s idea of his or her professional identity, but the skills are definitely there for the leveraging.

  • Wade

    Sorry, but I disagree pretty strongly — the touted “flexibility” of a JD degree is vastly overstated. Larry, your business is a special case, in that Rocket Matter is a company providing products and services specifically to the legal community, and thus it behooves you to have lawyers on staff in non-traditional capacities such as product development and marketing. Obviously most businesses do not fall into this niche, and the typical lawyer applicant for a non-legal position is confronted with a healthy dose of skepticism (that he or she is just biding time until finding a job as a practicing attorney), and perhaps disdain. Without belaboring the point, most law grads who succeed in the business world have some combination of (1) tangible skills and experience gained prior to law school, (2) close connections who are willing to take a chance on them, and/or (3) an impeccable academic pedigree.

  • Susan Gainen

    In my Alternative Careers:Getting to There programs (@34 law schools/bar associations by the end of the year), I note that “Go to law school it will open every door” is the Big & Little Lie of Law School Admissions because there is enough truth in it for people to continue to say it. It is NOT an app on Harry Potter’s wand, and it is not the same as saying “open sesame,” although people will continue to it that way and believe that it is true.

    It is true that law-trained people are hired into jobs without the title “lawyer” every day, and they must overcome the natural skepticism that folks in business have about welcoming lawyers onto their teams. It is also true that for the most part they got those jobs through:
    1. careful exploration of their interests and skills using their own initiatives as well as traditional career counseling tools and methods;
    2. willingness to learn about the businesses and industries about which they know little or nothing;
    3. serendipitous and strategic networking;
    4. willingness to take risks;
    5. smart approaches to the application process, which means NOT leading with their “lawyer” foot (or feet);
    6. willingness to listen to hare-brained schemes;
    7. demonstrating that they are not one of “those” lawyers (those who appear to be arrogant jerks unwilling or unable to listen and collaborate), and
    8. a little bit of luck.