Archive for February, 2010

Via Stanford Law School’s Website: Race Conscious College Admissions: KCBS Radio

Stanford Law Journal posted this on their website: (my ramblings in blue)

Publication Date: February 16, 2010 Source: KCBS All News Radio 740 AM

Professor Bill Koski discusses the delicate issue of affirmative action in higher education after activists have challenged Prop. 209: “A coalition of activists students from the University of California are filing a lawsuit to overturn the higher education portion of California’s proposition 209 the affirmative action initiative. The group “By Any Means Necessary” says that proposition 209 violates the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution. The students and their lawyers claim that the UC system is segregated and that African American and Latino student enrollment at UC Berkeley has dropped steadily since proposition 209 was passed in 1996. For more we’re joined on the KCBS news line by Stanford law professor Bill Koski. We thank you so much for the time today. What does proposition 209 have if anything to do with the equal protection laws in the constitution.”

“Proposition 209 was a voter passed initiative that only applies to the state of California. And what it does is it bans the use of racial preferences or racial discrimination in university admissions and other government contracting. In essence, what it says that decision makers in government have to be race neutral in their thinking. And this — Proposition 209 — was actually upheld against a court equal protection challenge back in 1997. And so it has survived one challenge but I understand the folks who are now taking a fresh look at this — they believe that the times have changed and that within the data showing that there has been this precipitous drop in African American and Latino enrollments at the UCs. They believe that it is now ripe for a new challenge under the equal protection clause.”

One may argue that many minorities may have become disinterested in law school. Equal Protection requires similar opportunities be provided for all regardless of race, color, national origin, etc. I know most people will argue that objective criteria such as LSAT, undergraduate gpa are the most determinant factors in law school admissions. It was my understanding that if an equally qualified minority was available and were underrepresented for an opportunity or admission, then he or she should be selected. Thus, the disparate impact on blacks and Latinos would give rise to them as a suspect class and thus allow them to have standing for a cause of action.  Oft-times I read people “yell” liberal-heart agendas are taking over and unqualified persons are trumping qualified whites. As far as a legal education is concerned I don’t believe this is so unless someone shows me evidence otherwise. With rare exception, regardless of the tier ranking you will likely see very few minorities, especially Black Americans in law school, even now.  I am unsure how for so many years state colleges and universities which receive grants and federal funding as well as the federal student loan circuit were able to circumvent affirmative action via the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The system goes from a history of condescending paternalistic governance of blacks and education to a free for all-the door is open, it’s all on your back if you succeed. There is an underlying issue regarding preparation for higher education of minorities to equitably compete. Instead of addressing these underlying issues the law school industry promotes lower tier schools to accept minority students to show that there “is still room for them” in the legal field. This in turn, along with inherent racial discrimination is a definite recipe for failure. Maybe it’s a good thing law school enrollment among minorities have declined. Though I think undergraduate school is a good experience it isn’t for anyone; one still cannot justify depriving certain people a chance to attend a good school

Around the year 2000 I came across and article in the newspaper and actually kept it throughout the years. It was entitled: “Black Law Students disappearing with end to affirmative action” by the Associated Press. One guy stated:  “That really is the story–that we have been giving such huge preferences based on skin color that it kind of masked the fact that we have such a long way to go in the K-12 system to get black kids prepared for the competition,” said Ward Connerly. So untrue, really? huge preferences…to blacks? The truth is that there weren’t hardly Black American students attending law schools, and that the door remained slightly ajar for few and now some desire to completely shut it again. 

Yet, I’ll agree that he makes a valid point regarding student preparation before reaching college. I even noticed a journal article 23Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal 107 (2007):http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/blj/vol23/lee.pdf  entitled: Justifying Affirmative Action in K-12 Private Schools; which I still need to take a more in-depth look at. Interestingly the author focuses on private schools because obviously little attention is giving to most public schools, especially now.  To start, with the funding of public middle and high schools based on zoning and racial preferences (within the classroom), quality of teachers, we would be addressing root problems. During the 1970s and 1980s bussing was the sought after solution, instead of creating or improving schools in predominately black communities, just send them to a school where the majority of the student body is white, that’s how you get around investing in the future of black neighborhoods, schools and local government.

But this would take years and an honest admission that the current method of state/public schooling is not adequate for most Americans. With the history of this country it is difficult to digest when an oblivious person says they can go to a good school or just move to a good neighborhood. Economic, social and historical factors all play a trickle down effect on what people have access to. It’s like saying anybody can go to Paradise Island and enjoy it’s fruit, it’s the best of all places–but to get there you need specific equipment, canoe, compass, life-jacket, a captain, etc. Some things are to some degree fundamentally an unequal playing field, yet all the players are expected to engage the system as if it were even. As a result, the same people who propogate that it’s a free market and that equal opportunities exist will just say see “they can’t compete” or “don’t throw money at them” or “reverse discrimination.” When people are maligned, constantly culturally bashed, put in conditions comparable to animals, de-humanized and basically dis-enfranchised, what do you expect the result to be? One can do this with any race, deprived of decent education because we’re dealing with conditioning environments and modifying behavior, then this becomes the world they know, this is what becomes “normal.” Then expect to suddenly be able to easily adapt to a world unbeknowst to them, that just seems fundamentally unfair. For those who were not raised or exposed to this environment, certain inequities become more evident and surprising as you age, because as a child it was unknown to you. Thus, growing up thinking you can be whatever you want, no matter what trials or systemic curveballs are thrown to you, one becomes bewildered; because it was only when you were a certain age to understand a degree of depth of the system, you realize you’re in too deep. Now it appears insurmountable to survive.

“Without looking at the lawsuit because I haven’t of course seen the lawsuit — it hasn’t been filed yet, to my knowledge. I can imagine that what they’re thinking here is that given the numbers of students who are African American Latino in the UC system — it’s largely because the system now uses test scores and grades almost exclusively or to some large extent in making admissions decisions. And what the feeling might be is that in the state of California at least the resources devoted to schools with high percentages of African American and Latino kids in the K -12 system are much lower than more affluent neighborhoods which are perhaps more white and Asian American. And what they’re thinking is that if you have access to fewer resources, fewer honors classes, fewer counselors, fewer people that get you prepared for college, that that in effect is discriminating against those students in terms of their preparation for the UC system. And then when the UC system chooses to use just test scores and other kinds of grades for their admissions process it perpetuates that discrimination. Now that might be the theory that they’re working under and that might be the changed circumstance that they can point to that in fact there has been this drop and there is this potential fact of resource disparity in the state of California.” “There’s no doubt this is a novel claim and I’m sure that they feel very strongly about their position. It will be a difficult case to pursue. One thing that has happened in the interim on the is another — affirmative action case at the University of Michigan Law School in which the law school itself wanted to use race conscious admissions policies. But it was challenged by a white student who said that that type of affirmative action was essentially reverse discrimination. At the University of Michigan case their admissions policy was upheld because it took an individualized holistic look at each applicant. And it didn’t use a quota system for African American and Latinos. So at least when a university chooses to use or is able to use race conscious admissions policies that are very narrowly tailored it will be held up against an equal protection clause challenge but that doesn’t mean that there is any obligation on a university to use those race conscious policies especially where Prop. 209 exists. One thing that I will say may happen with the filing of this kind of lawsuit — the great hope will be that it will change the conversation. How is it that we as a state can tolerate such unequal numbers of African American and Latino students in our flagship UC system and how is it that we can reach out and try to change those numbers given that we have Prop. 209 in existence.”

The issue is the root problems, not scoring and making holistic approaches to admissions the norm, if it means lower standards to appease interest groups. Regardless of race the system should want to promote qualified diversity. Look at how often the U.S. attracts scientists and engineers from abroad but fails to invest in its own education system that would provide dedicated, qualified Americans in the same field. A quality education starts when they’re young, not all of sudden you’ll be thrown out into the real world let’s try to maneuver around the problem instead of creating real solutions. The system is failing because it doesn’t care about future generations, just how to profit on the way things work now, which obviously isn’t too well.

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A Post from Above the Law Website: Commentary on ABA approved outsourcing

This article was featured on Above the Law website, surprisingly it concerns the plight of unemployed attorneys who must survive amidst the legal outsourcing phenomenon by corporate law firms. Hopefully this wasn’t already posted on another blog. I wonder to what extent outsourcing is receiving such attention now, is it because T-14 graduates are now having to be in the company of the non-prestigious lawyers and it is having a big effect on them? I remember attorneys telling me that the discovery review work was for a long period of time the work of first year associates, then became the work of the contractual attorneys–which helped firms bottom lines. So I initially thought, maybe as a result the firms would not hire as many associates who are likely from T-14, thus rendering them in pro bono, internship or contract attorney work. As outsourcing gained additional support, more attorneys across the economic and social spectrum have been affected–is this why more people care now? Or do they really?: Anyway here’s the featured piece:

Legal Olympics Update: Outsourcing E-Discovery Sliding Down Slippery Slope, at Record Speed

The author doesn’t seem to oppose the cost-cutting effects on most American attorneys but suggests it’s primarily an issue of quality. Agreeably the standards in most foreign countries are likely not as strict in it’s process. So I get from this that it’s ok to keep outsourcing as long as quality measures were actually put in place. So in the end, no one cares about the masses of American attorneys affected by it.

Points to Ponder: US News & World Report Rankings

I was actually thinking about this while I was supposed to be resting (sad but I guess it is part of figuring out my future). Anyway, the U.S. News & World Report ranks law schools into four tiers. Each tier has 100 law schools and within that tier is ranked. This means of all the law schools worth mentioning on the USNWR website, the total is 400. When USNWR reaches the fourth tier it doesn’t even rank within the tier for obvious reasons–it doesn’t matter.

Then I thought wait, ABA has only accredited 200 law schools though a couple more have provisional accreditation. So how can an ABA accredited law school be ranked lower than so many other law schools without accreditation? What are the criteria that the ABA and USNWR uses when ranking these institutions of higher education and why don’t they reconcile? This means that a non-ABA accredited law school can be and is ranked at times HIGHER than an ABA accredited law school. Most jurisdictions won’t allow you to take their bar admission exams without graduating from an ABA accredited law school. Nor will many if not all federal jobs hire a law school graduate that hasn’t fulfilled the same criteria. Did I miss something?

On a Lighter Note…: Television Images We See of Black Attorneys

.yes I had to put legalease in the caption

I was thinking about the images of the 1980s-present of black lawyers I saw on television. Of course we remember Clair Huxtable, the very witty-social host-mother-wife-attorney whom could be seen polishing the family silverware in the kitchen. I think for me that was the first time I saw an image of a black woman as a successful lawyer married to a doctor who both had deep respect for their cultural roots and family values.

Of course I remember Maxine Shaw from ‘Living Single’, Freddie when she was accepted to the prestigious yet fictious HBCU Hillman Law School, the prosecutor-District Attorney Carter (Courtney Vance) from Law & Order, Joan and William, the corporate associates on ‘Girlfriends’.

Unfortunately, these shows didn’t show the reality of many Black American attorneys who didn’t attend elite schools, weren’t a part of the black upper class (yes they do exist in America, read: Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham), nor part of the black or white connected clubs which I see is somewhat intertwined with the previous ideal.

As a matter of fact, the spin-off of ‘Girlfriends’ was based on Joan’s younger sister struggling through medical school while seeing a famous rookie football player, as well as in ‘A Different World’ the character Kim’s father is a policeman and she struggles working two jobs through undergrad and struggles through medical school. Why is law school so glamorized while television continues to show medical residents and doctors struggle to balance their lives with their hoped for career. Maybe because so many attorneys in reality are that stereotype: conniving, deceptive, trained to have a tough exterior where weakness is frowned upon. I guess in a way there aren’t enough strong attorneys with the courage to expose the inherent pitfalls in attending law school, because that would be weak, that would be an “admission” that you didn’t make it, well that’s just not being a lawyer!

With these pictorial depictions flashed in front of millions, who would be a poor or middle class prospective law student’s mentor to steer them to the right school or even guide them as to whether law is an appropriate field? How do these potential mentors access them? One way is through these blogs.

BusinessWeek News Article: Tips From a Bitter Temp

To all those attorney bloggers out there, you were right this is the new American economy, the Titanic hit the glacier, let’s see who survives.

As the economy worsens and does not appear to ever return to a satiable and to address the unemployed attorneys who are feeling hopeless, the following is a news article published about two years ago, you’ll laugh as you reminisce about your comparable expriences and likely mourn for the reality that you had to even deal with this type of “work” environment:

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http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_34/b4097059792102.htm?chan=magazine+channel_special+report
August 14, 2008
Businessweek
Tips from a Bitter Temp
How to survive in a bureacracy

By Anne Altman

When I tell people I work at an insurance company, I feel I need to explain myself. Sure, I work in insurance, but I’m “in insurance” about as much as a Giants Stadium security guard is “in professional football.” See, I’m a temp. An outsider. My industry? Survival.

I perform and write comedy, which in my case is not lucrative. So I temp and do my funny business on the side. Since moving to New York I’ve strung together about a dozen long-term temp gigs at big-time, fancy-pants companies. Now, a year after settling in, I still don’t know a thing about insurance. But I know a whole lot about surviving in a bureaucracy. Here are five tips from a bitter temp:

1. RELISH THE COMFORT OF CORPORATE LARGESSE.

Two jobs ago I shared a conference table in a windowless room with 12 other people five days a week. My last gig was a step up: an office in the Empire State Building, a jewel of an historic building with climate control from another century. Imagine my delight when I arrived at my current job to find not only my own air-conditioned cubicle, desk, phone, computer, and Aeron (MLHR) chair, but a nearby pantry stocked with free coffee, milk, and cereal—including my guilty pleasure, Corn Pops (K).

2. LEARN THE JARGON, BUT USE IT CAREFULLY.

Each time I’m assigned to a new company, it’s like moving to a new country. I’ve got to learn the local language. In my current office, the underwriters talk about “sublimits,” “percentage deductibles,” and “quota-share excess renewals.” It’s Greek to me. There’s also an account service notification form, otherwise known as an ASNF. Say that one aloud and see if you don’t laugh as hard as I did.

3. FOLLOW THE MANUAL, KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR.

Bureaucracies are big on protocol. There’s a right way to do everything—like recording your voice mail message. My company manual suggests this: “Hello. This is Anne Altman. I am unavailable . Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thanks and have a nice day.” Here’s what I’d really like to say: “Hi. This is Anne Altman and I’m screening your call. I will most likely reply to your voice mail with an e-mail so I don’t have to speak with you. Buzz off.”

4. DRINK THE KOOL-AID, JUST DON’T CHUG IT.

Bureaucracies are little subcultures that sometimes seem more like cults. Take sales meetings. They bear a cult’s telltale signs: leader (an over-caffeinated VP of sales), mantra (Accelerate in 2008!), big production number (“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”), and ritualistic insignia (logo-emblazoned totes). I sit in the back where nobody can catch me scrawling “KILL ME PLEASE” on my handout.

5. DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE.

Settle in. Master the language. Sip the Kool-Aid. But remember: You could be out on a moment’s notice. I was once denied a dollar-an-hour raise. At first I was insulted. But the next week two execs were canned with no notice, led down the hall like criminals, and spirited out with a “We’ll mail you the contents of your desk.” Young guys right out of college were speechless. Me? I poured myself a bowl of Corn Pops and sat back down in my Aeron chair.

I’ve adapted so well to my new environment that my boss wants to offer me a job, make me legit: an underwriter. “So, Anne,” he said. “Do you like insurance?” After some stalling I said: “Look, I don’t understand this stuff, but I love the cereal here. I love the chairs. I really, really like a few of the people, and I’d like to stay. How can we make that happen? Could I have a demotion? Order staplers and stuff? That I know how to do.”

Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome: Attorneys and “Office” Politics

Although ‘Crabs in a Barrel” is a phrase most often associated with Blacks, the concept can be applied to human beings in general, blacks for the purpose of this post and its historical connotations but definitely lawyers. So when you add this historical, psychological scheme to the legal field, you have some pretty transparent and disturbed black attorneys.

My Synopsis: Crabs are scavengers who eat whatever they can get access to. When one puts many in a barrel and as one opens the lid, one will notice crabs climbing on top of each other to get to the top to exit. Now logically this is a methodical way for ALL crabs to leave, standing on the “shoulders” rather shells of the others, then the next then the next. However, characteristic of this syndrome is that each crab only desires ITSELF to exit, so  it uses the others as a stepping stool to do so no matter what the cost. In the end the stupid crab doesn’t realize that as a loner he is susceptible to the one(s) who put him in the barrel with the others in the first place, it eventually will be cajoled, seasoned only to be steamed for someone’s palette. Get it?

This syndrome is everywhere but the acute nature of it when trying to “arrive” in America is peculiar among black Americans. I noticed that Africans and West Indian attorneys usually sit together, arrive together and even eat together on document reviews.  Then again there aren’t many black American attorneys (especially women) to begin with.

Yes, there is an ethnic and cultural distinction among these groups though they MAY have a historical common tie. If anyone knows about black history, divide and conquer and “breaking a person” then you can understand how this is more prevalent among black Americans. Even as of 2010 one will see on network television a sassy black assistant who is smart but for some reason is the servant of the white person whose life isn’t together (I’ve even read this about movies, i.e. Morgan Freeman-no I don’t detract from what he accomplished but still); the black males who focuses on a short-term scheme bound to fail but with a false hope it will grant a windfall, etc.  The African migrant who became a citizen or who is on a work visa, usually grew up in an enviroment surrounded by people who look like them, share all of the same culture, understands their struggles within their original homeland. In America, blacks are frowned upon, janitorial staff who is of Latino descent, or the Indian or Ethiopian guy who may work at a convenience store or the parking garage. No matter how much one reminds ALL Americans and immigrants of the contributions and foundation that blacks and Native Americans have made, in 2010 most of the time a Black will be the butt of a joke before a South Asian, Asian or an African.

In document review land, one does not work to gain experience, one works for survival. As the economy steadily worsens (and even before), this becomes the bottom-of-the-barrel way to live until the following week. Thus, the goal is to stay on the job as long as possible no matter what. Knowing that most likely Black Americans (sometimes it will be an African who does it, but from what I observed this is rare) won’t have any alliances to conspire to get “others” fired, he or she becomes confident that at least they can assail another Black, because the reality is that no one cares what happens to a Black and if someone who appears to look like them are at the helm of subjecting the target to an earlier exit, by all means.

It begins with an overzealous black attorney (for purposes of this post). The one who is all too friendly, smiles just a little too much and one wonders what types of “special” brownies she ate. If one is normal, one cringes at the fangs bared as it reminds you of Jack London’s novel ‘The Call of the Wild.’ She will be the one who arrived on site only five minutes before you but is an expert of where everything is and who are the correct points of contact. All the while she acts like she’s 007 asking people around you about you, whether or not you worked with the other before, make subtle comments at the “standoffish” behavior one appears to demonstrate. While this is happening she is counting how many people, regardless of race or gender, that she has summoned unto her mental prowess to bring more attention to this other person. 

The next step is to become friends with the team lead or project manager. If this person is Black, you may really be in trouble because likely this person also never really had any “power” in the legal field as they were usually not left in a position of supervision of others.  Then if accessible, the same person will attempt to reach the senior associate (who will likely be white) on the case, but knows this is not likely as she has not been admitted to the socially accepted notion of speaking to a peer–but she is not considered one. At this point the attorney has brought out the plastic stacking cups of illusion with gossip, make-believe and conspiracy. Like some document reviewers the target may not care as she does not desire to be there in the first place, but I doubt anyone isn’t scuffed by false pretenses, false accusation and conspiracies. The real question to ask is why, I assume for the temporary euphoria that someone thought she was important enough to influence the decisions of others. Little does she understands that she is even less respected for betraying one of her own. She probably thought she was a puppetier, yet was only the string and wood for the unseen hands you will never be. The reality is that everyone will be “released” when the contract ends anyway, as you stood on the others’ shells you will be consumed just like the rest.

One Liners from Rejection Letters: A Breakdown

I had the idea to skim through this year’s past rejection letters from attorney positions I applied. Of course not all even acknowledged my resume or application, and of those that did I haven’t had one interview this past year. My interpretation of the “one-liners” is in black.
1) We have reviewed your application and found you qualified for the position listed above. However, you were not among the most highly qualified candidates. {The economy is bad, we can pick who we want, we can make the process so diffifult that we can hire only seasoned experts who are in their 50’s with 20 years experience and established connections}
2) The hiring official has selected another candidate for this position. {Don’t apply here again darn it, we hired someone, case closed}.
3) I regret we are not able to offer you employment at this time. {I have to put a human emotion in my verb to not make it sound as if your rejection letter isn’t a template}.
4) I regret we are not able to consider your application at this time. {Ditto}.
5) As impressive as your credentials were, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you the position advertised. {We are holding out on you, we know you qualified for other positions that were probably internal and we won’t dare refer you to the other agencies, lest you might actually get hired for a position you are qualified for}.
6) This is to notify you that our consideration of all applicants is completed and you were not selected for this position. {Thus, you have no reason to make a follow-up inquiry *door slam*}.
7) Unfortunately, at the present time there are no vacancies for an attorney position, but I am pleased you contacted us. { I know you are desperate for work, but we have a budget crisis and I am holding onto my position by the skin of my teeth}.
 
7b)Unfortunately, we are not able to offer you a position at this time. {See 7}
8.) Due to the large volume of applicants, we were unable to extend an interview to you at this time. {What?}
9) Please be advised that you were not selected for one of the vacancies in the ____________ Office. {Likely you applied for only one advertised position but I decided to rub salt in your wound to let you know that there was another one you qualified for–how do you like them apples?}.
10) The [hiring attorney] had several qualified and impressive candidates of which you were one…It is therefore, all the more difficult for me to inform you that the [hiring attorney] has chosen to go in a different direction. {I chose my mother’s neighbor’s daughter because I owe her a favor}.

A Law School Carol

O.k., I know it’s been posted on other blogs, but I couldn’t resist, plus a little comedic warning to those in this area couldn’t hurt!

Savannah Morning News: Ruffin, first black chief state Court of Appeals judge, dies

Black History Month feature:  Unfortunately we are losing the memory of those who paved the way for others, but we get glimpses of their work, only when they die:
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Ruffin, first black chief state Court of Appeals judge, dies
http://savannahnow.com/latest-news/2010-02-01/ruffin-first-black-chief-state-court-appeals-judge-dies

A Law Degree and Nowhere to Go: January 24, 2010 (from Psychology Today)

I thought this was an interesting article, especially for those CONSIDERING going to law school; what’s kind of funny is the books she recommends at the end of the article, like the legal profession has dissipated!____________________________________________________

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201001/law-degree-and-nowhere-go

A Law Degree and Nowhere to Go

Lawyers face unique challenges in the job market.

Published on January 24, 2010

When the recession first hit, we heard that there were certain “safe” career fields like health care, higher education, etc. But as the recession drones on, so-called safe industries are belt-tightening and finding themselves subject to the same economics stresses facing other industries. Even the practice of law.

The public perception about legal careers is generally inaccurate. People assume that a law degree guarantees a permanent job, a great income and an exciting, high-powered life fighting for justice. Not to mention a great career for those who like to argue. And the portrayal of lawyers in the media tends to support that image. When warned about this, college students planning to attend law school often say, “well I know the law isn’t exactly like “Law & Order,” but….” – and that’s where the line between myth and reality starts to blur. Sally Kane, writing for About.com identifies some of the prevalent myths about the practice of law.

The Wall Street Journal’s legal blog recently wrote about the increasing isolation in the practice of law and its relationship to depression and suicide. But the legal profession was struggling prior to the recession.

A survey in Legal Careers Blog pointed out growing dissatisfaction with the practice of law. Almost half of all lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with their careers and only 4 in 10 lawyers would recommend a legal career to others. People were looking to leave the practice of law and do anything else.

That was 2008. And then the recession really hit. Law firms have gone bankrupt. Thousands of lawyers have been laid off. New law school graduates are finding the offers less attractive and less plentiful. A legal blog, Above The Law, tracks the legal employment situation, noting weekly layoffs. Another blog, Law Shucks, runs both a “bonus tracker” and a “layoff tracker” simultaneously pointing out the appeal and the risk of the field. Both blogs point to the challenging job market for new graduates and for mid-career lawyers laid off from what were once guaranteed-for-life jobs.

All this leads to more lawyers in the general job market who, as a group, face particularly unique challenges. Employers will assume that you went to law school to be a lawyer so any other career path must be a second choice and the minute the market for lawyers returns, you’ll be gone. They may also assume that you’ll want a higher salary than other workers.

So I’m going to be blunt here: You WERE a lawyer. Get over it– if you want to get a job elsewhere. Let me explain. A law degree provides a great learning experience. You learned to create compelling arguments, develop writing skills, conduct legal analysis, solve problems creatively, etc. As a lawyer, you handled deadlines, dealt with crises, worked long hours, etc. All things employers might want.  But you also know that the word “lawyer” comes with a lot of baggage. People can view lawyers as money-oriented, manipulative, and at worst– litigious and always looking for the next lawsuit. No employer wants to live in fear that their employee will sue them, and hiring a lawyer for a non-legal job seems to invite that.

So how do you make the transition from lawyer/law student to “working anywhere but the law”?

Here are a few tips:

1. Start by analyzing your strengths and interests. What other career fields have you considered? Where would you like to apply your talents? Some career fields lend themselves more naturally to a background in law, including: academic administration, banking/finance, consulting, environmental, government, human resources, intellectual property, journalism, immigration, labor relations, publishing, real estate, and tax preparation. How would your legal background make you a better employee in your newly-chosen field?

2. Focus on the field you’re going into– not where you’ve been. Research the career fields you’re considering. Talk to people in the field. Join professional organizations related to your new field to demonstrate a sincere interest. Develop an understanding of what they do on a day-to-day basis. Determine if/where/how your legal background could contribute to the field. Remove legal jargon from your resume– make sure it speaks to the new field you’re moving into, not the old one you’re leaving.

3. Determine what percentage of time your legal education/background would come into play at the job and then tailor your cover letter, resume, and interview responses accordingly. Obviously, if the position/employer would greatly benefit from your legal degree, then go to town and tell them everything about your legal background. BUT—

4. If people can be hired for the position without a law degree– that’s a clue that your law degree isn’t the be-all and end-all and should not be the first thing you bring up. So don’t have your identity bound up in being a lawyer. Your resume will indicate your legal training and background. You need to come up with other more compelling reasons for the employer to hire you in your cover letter. For instance, don’t start your cover letter with, “As an attorney…” or waste a paragraph detailing your legal acumen when the employer doesn’t care.

5. Know why an employer might have concerns about hiring a lawyer. Don’t waste energy bemoaning the lawyer jokes and complaining that it’s not “fair.” Since you know the problem ahead of time, be ready to address concerns which might not even be voiced. Make sure employers know your skill set is greater than practicing law. And find a way to answer the unasked questions: Can you get along with people? Are you too argumentative? Are you overly competitive? Intense? Do you have hidden agendas?  Here’s a particularly unique challenge for lawyers: they think differently. Let’s put that another way: they are pessimists– it’s what makes them successful lawyers. Unfortunately, the law is one of the only career fields that rewards pessimistic thinking: optimists do better in virtually every other career field. Read the link to learn more about this.

The job market is tough for everyone.  Don’t make it harder for yourself by making the mistakes other lawyers make when they try to move out of their fields. I met a floral arranger recently whose business card had “JD” after her name.  I asked her why she put the degree on her card.  She said, “Well I earned it– I might as well flaunt it.” She has a point, but she also confessed that she went into business for herself because employers weren’t “open-minded enough” to hire a former lawyer. And it made me wonder: was it the employers who weren’t open-minded or was she just too attached to her degree?

Here are some resources to check out about transitioning out of the law: “Running from the Law: Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession” by Deborah Arron

“The Unhappy Lawyer” by Monica Parker

What Can You Do with a Law Degree” by Deborah Arron

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