on careers

At our introductory dinner Thursday night, a professor spoke on the importance of doing what you want to do and avoiding the risk-avoiding*, herd-following behavior that all lawyers fall into when considering careers. It was a nice speech, and I do hope a lot of people listen to her. Unfortunately, we won’t- something like 97% of my classmates (according to a dean who I spoke with the same night) will go through the traditional sheep-like hiring process the school provides. There are a lot of reasons for it- kids too young to understand what will or won’t make them happy in a job; kids with $100K in debt when they graduate; kids getting offers of $145,000 when they walk out the door; law schools that basically admit that you need big-firm training in order to be a useful lawyer. So there is no blame there. Still something I desperately hope I can avoid, ideally by finding the right open source/peer production firm to fall into. We’ll see :)

Relatedly, the next morning Kathy** posted this piece about using Venn diagrams intead of hierarchies to measure success. It strikes me as one of the more blue-sky pieces she’s written, because the Venn diagram needs three circles- what you are doing, what you want to do, and what the company needs you to do, which she basically ignores. But the nugget is there- if you ran a small company, and could afford the time and money to hire the right people from without to fill management roles, the three-circled diagram might be a preferable first metric for thinking about hiring and raises. (The heirarchy isn’t going away in a firm of more than 7-10 people.) Now if only a law firm (*cough*) would figure Kathy’s balancing act out, maybe the first problem would be lessened :)

* you thought QA people were bad about risk avoidance. Lawyers trump this badly.

** you shouldn’t need me to tell you this, because everyone on earth should be reading Kathy’s blog, but just in case…

4 thoughts on “on careers”

  1. What is the age distribution of your law school class? What proportion have followed paths like yours – doing something else for a while before starting law school?

  2. I think the average time out is a little under 2 years, with something like 1/3rd-1/2 having come straight out of school. (The dean who I spoke with mentioned the exact fraction, but I don’t recall what it was.) I believe this is fairly typical of law schools. Most MBA students, by contrast, average about five years out of school.

    Worth noting that many of the ones who didn’t come straight out took a year off- but that year was not ‘serious’- they taught LSAT, traveled, or did other similar things.

    Also worth noting that my personal impressions are probably skewed, because the people I’ve actually socialized with are mostly from facebook- which presumably is younger and perhaps less serious than the student body as a whole.

  3. Thanks. Any sense of how representative your particular institution is relative to law schools as a whole? It seems as though all the University of New Mexico law students I meet have some underlying social activism coloring their approach to their legal education (water law, Indian law, poverty law). Often they’ve had time off doing something else that contributes to that social activistm. But that’s almost certainly a biased sample, because I meet them as a result of their activism.

  4. Oh, many (most?) here talk about social activism, human rights, etc.- the Public Interest Law and Human Rights Law groups are amongst the biggest on campus. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised at what percentage seem to honestly be interested in those issues, and not in making the big bucks. But it is the most expensive law school in the country (not by much, but still) and while housing is subsidized, it is still NYC. So if you want to stay in Manhattan after graduation and pay your bills, it is practically impossible to do unless you go corporate in a Very Big Way.

    Not sure how this plays nationally, though I believe the debt problem (and associated impact on job choice) is national- see the last section of the ‘$100K in debt’ article.

Comments are closed.