If you are anything like me, you have spent that last few years distancing yourself from focusing on law and instead focusing on some other alternative career ambitions. I have spent the better part of the last few years focusing on my career as a comedian/writer/actor.
When people in that world ask me what I do, that is the order of my answer. Once we get into the conversation, I usually drop it on them that I also am an attorney.
Those of you pursuing alternative careers have probably had similar experience. Sometimes your friends may say “he or she used to be a lawyer too.” You should immediately correct them. I’ve recently realized there isn’t much benefit to hiding the fact that you still are an attorney with a valuable skill set, even if you are not living in the legal world on a day to day basis. Trust me, no one is ever gonna say “if only you weren’t a lawyer, too.”
Having a Law Degree Should Be a Source of Pride
Many people now use their law skills to supplement their true passion/career. So naturally, they want people to know first and foremost that they are a musician, comedian, wine expert, horticulturist, or whatever it is that you chose to leave the law for. The naturally tendencies is to try to validate your alternative career by not admitting that you still need to do contract work or freelance as a lawyer to pay your bills.
Working part-time as an attorney is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, we should all take pride in the decision to follow our passions AND the ability to support it with our legal skills! So by all means, point out that you are a lawyer whenever possible. Remember, people know how much work gets put into being a lawyer and therefore, you will automatically get credited for having a strong work ethic. There are also quite a few other advantages that you may not have recognized in always letting people know you are an attorney.
Carve out a niche in your new field that combines your legal background with your alternative career
If you have a new job/business that you are trying to promote, you can distinguish yourself from the pack by using the law angle. For example, if you are pursuing entertainment, create your own niche perhaps you can be the legal commentator or talking head on a news show. There are plenty of media outlets seeking sound bites from smart funny types. Why not be that person? Or if you are pursuing a career as a restauranteur or winemaker, why not become the go to person for legal questions about the food and beverage industry.
You can barter your legal skills
Your legal skills might be a valuable commodity to barter with. When money is in short supply, you can always leverage your legal skills for something you might want. Perhaps you need tools for your new construction business, perhaps you can offer free legal work in exchange for office space for a new venture. Remember, an hour of legal work can earn you billing dollars but it can also build up credit and goodwill. You can think of it like a miles card. Obviously, we all wanna be paid for our work, but try to see payment as bigger than dollars, see it as the advancement of your pursuits. One quick personal example, I reviewed a contract for a fellow comedian who is more successful than I am at this point in our careers. I didn’t ask for payment, partly because I consider him a friend, but also somewhat selfishly because I knew he would now owe me a favor. A few months later he returned it by taking me with him for a road gig that paid me considerably more than that hour or two of legal work. Further, that gig opened the door for me with that club owner and I have since been back to that club without my friend. Even if payment for legal services is an option, see if there is a way that bartering legal help can get you closer to achieving your dreams.
Your law degree may be the plus factor
The world is very competitive and whatever your new pursuit may be, you’re going to encounter stiff competition. Think of your legal degree as the ace in the hole that nobody else in your new chosen field can offer. For example (sorry to use a personal one again), when I want to produce a show at a major club, they wanna know that I can sell it out. If they don’t know my background, so they assume I should be able to draw the same amount of comedy fans as any other comedian on my level. When I reveal that I also work as a lawyer, write for legal blogs and have an extensive corporate network to draw from, that tips the scales in my favor.
Think about the field you are now in, and make a list of ways that having a law degree can be a benefit, you will surprise yourself. So remember, don’t be shy in sharing the information that yes, you also spend 3 years working your tail off in law and yes you passed one of the most difficult tests around to become a licensed attorney.