Even If You Have a Juris Doctorate Degree, the Game Has Changed

Continuing our discussion of “confronting the brutal facts” in a career search: One of the brutal facts we all must face is that the game has changed. Previously, a law degree was practically a guarantee of employment in a professional position. If you had a law degree, you might not be assured of incredible success and excitement, but you were almost certainly going to be able to get a pretty good, professional level job. This was one of the main benefits of getting a law degree. Even if you decided not to practice law, your J.D. gave you something “to fall back on.”

That “almost guarantee” benefit of a J.D. no longer exists, and that is a tough pill for many to swallow. After all, most law graduates did the right things. We worked hard; got good grades; played the game and held up our end of the bargain. The market did not hold up its end of the bargain and that is difficult to accept.

However, accept it we must if we want to move forward with our careers and our lives. Again, this is where we must “confront the brutal facts” that the game has changed. We don’t have to like it, but we are wasting time if we spend our energy complaining about the new game. A much better, more productive use of our energy is to play the new game to the best of our ability.

So how do we play the new game? It starts with having a plan, and the first step in the plan is to choose a definite target. A common mistake I see among job seekers, particularly law students and recent law school graduates, is taking the approach they are looking for “a job, any job.”

As tempting as this approach might be, it is a major mistake that is often counter-productive. Employers can sense desperation, and they do not like it. Rather than searching for “a job,” job seekers would be much better off taking the time to deliberately choose a specific practice area or career field that appeals to them, and then pursue that area or field vigorously. This approach makes for a much better story when interviewing and networking, and it makes networking more effective.

It is much easier for someone to make a referral or suggest a contact if they have a specific career field for context. Conversely, if you meet someone and tell them you want “a job,” it is very difficult for them to know how they can help you with a referral or contact. The possibilities for “a job” are just too numerous for them to be of any real help.

In the next blog posting, we will look at the next steps in playing the new game.