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No, You Cannot ‘Do Anything With a Law Degree’


Once upon a time, liberal arts grads with uncertain career paths put their faith in a fairytale: if they really couldn’t figure out what to be when they grew up, there was always law school. In the wake of the recession, when over 11 percent of law school grads are unemployed nine months after graduating, it seems that this particular coach has turned back into a pumpkin. At Slate, writer and attorney Jim Saksa reminds us that it was probably all make-believe in the first place.

law student 

(Photo Credit: John Althouse Cohen/Flickr)

“Everyone who has ever considered law school has heard some variant of ‘you can do anything with a law degree.’ Of course, this statement isn’t technically true,” Saksa writes. “You can’t practice medicine with it, for example, unless you also have a medical degree (which, to the delight of Sallie Mae, some J.D.s also have). But the more general sentiment, that a law degree will afford you a wide range of opportunities, is also total BS.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Many human resources managers are leery of JDs who are looking for non-law jobs, Saksa says, both because they wonder why the candidate isn’t practicing law, and because their budget won’t stretch to what the prospective hire would earn in his industry. Even if you can talk your way around those two points, there’s often a sense, true or false, that the former lawyer failed out of their previous line of work.

The bigger point is that it’s always a bad idea to sink time and (lots of, probably borrowed) money into preparing for a career that you won’t enjoy. That’s a primary reason so many career experts advise against picking your career off of one of those “hot jobs” lists that come out every year.

“If you don’t like what you’re doing, it won’t matter how much you are earning or what your chances of finding employment are,” writes Dawn Rosenberg McKay at’s Career Planning site. “You will hate every moment you spend at work … and that’s a big part of your day. You have to learn as much as you can about an occupation whether you pick it out of a hat or off a list.”

Bottom line: don’t start off a new career focusing on how you’ll get out of it. If your thoughts keep bending in that direction, it’s time to ask yourself whether you’d be better off pursuing another line of work.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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