The ability to “confront the brutal facts” is one of the most critical elements of success. This was arguably George Washington’s greatest leadership trait, and Jim Collins talks about this ability in his well known business book, Good to Great. If you have this ability, it means that you are able to evaluate circumstances as they actually are, and not as you wish them to be. You are able to accept present reality and choose your actions accordingly, no matter how unfortunate present reality may be.
As it relates to employment opportunities for law school graduates, the ability to confront the brutal facts is essential on both an individual level and a global market level. On an individual level, this means you must take an honest look at the reality of your personal situation when you are making career decisions.
You need to be realistic about your career options. If you planned to be a corporate finance lawyer with an AmLaw 100 firm, but you graduated in the middle of the pack from a lower tier law school, then you probably need to adjust your career plans. If you want to use your law degree to help you advance in the business world as opposed to the legal world, you probably will not start off with a salary like those at the top of the legal market. If you want be a Sports or Entertainment lawyer, but you want to live in the small town in which you grew up, then something has to give.
I believe one of the issues we have today is that many people would like their J.D. to be a type of guarantee. They want it to not only promise employment, but also exciting career options and unlimited opportunities. This is not reality and is not confronting the brutal facts.
Your law degree will help create opportunities for you and it is an asset, despite what the skeptics say. However, you will not magically be handed the job of your dreams simply because you have a J.D.
Yes, the employment market is tough, and yes, there have been legitimate questions about transparency in the legal employment market. Confronting the brutal facts means that we must accept these difficulties as a part of the present reality. Wishing things were different does not make them different and more importantly, it does not help us reach our career goals.
Taking an honest look at your background, experience and interests, and then evaluating those within the context of the current market are the first steps in reaching your career objectives. In the next blog posting, we will continue to look at we must confront the brutal facts in order to progress in our career paths.