Could You Turn Down The ‘Dream Job’? I Did.

A job offer before graduation is about as rare as the Crown Jewels in today’s economy. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it only happens to a very select few these days. Three weeks prior to my Hooding Ceremony I received an offer to work as an associate in a sports law firm. A dream come true you might say and which is why it was so difficult to turn down.  I’m sure the sound I just heard was that of jaws hitting desks as people read this. Yes, I turned down my “dream job” and an offer before graduation. I’m sure many of you will call me foolish but before you draw any conclusions let me state my case.

This ‘dream job’ would have required this Texan to stay in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had already made plans to return to Texas and take the Texas Bar in July of this year. Upon receiving the offer, I inquired about taking the Oklahoma Bar in July and the final deadline had already passed. What this meant was that it would be February before I could take the Bar in Oklahoma and April before I received my license (granted I passed).  It also meant that it would be almost a full year before I would be able to legally practice in Oklahoma. Whereas if I continued my originally intended course of going back to practice in Texas, I can start in November (once again granted I pass the Bar). Five months is a lifetime when it comes to paying back sizable student loans.

Additionally the job would have had me traveling a majority of the year. I know many lawyers that are “road warriors” and literally live out of their suitcases for weeks at a time, but that’s just not me. The glamour and the glitz of the sports world is not worth it to me. I’d much rather be commuting to the office back and forth on a regular basis instead of racking up Frequent Flyer miles on pace with George Clooney in “Up in the Air”. There was a time and place when I thought I wanted that lifestyle but I’ve since come to realize that’s not who I am. I’ve read several books written by lawyers on finding the successful keys to avoiding burnout and they all say that one of the most crucial things an attorney must do to avoid getting burnt out is understanding who and what they are. I am a not a jetsetter – and the more I thought about it, it definitely seemed like a one-way ticket to becoming another bitter lawyer.

Furthermore, understanding who you are seems to be the key element in establishing a sustainable and hopefully enjoyable life as an attorney. There’s a reason why attorneys consistently rank among the top professions in substance abuse: I believe it’s because too many lawyers take the money and run without any consideration for what it is they want out of life.

I have been gone from home for seven years now. I went to Texas Tech for undergraduate studies twelve hours away from home, and then moved to Michigan for my first year of law school which resulted in me essentially moving from Mexico to Canada, and then moved to Tulsa which was eight hours from home.

After a while the missed birthday parties, anniversaries, football games, and fishing trips start to get to you. Then you start to lose relatives and loved ones and realize that all this time away in pursuit of a career is also time lost with those closest to you.

Family is important to me – I can be the most successful lawyer in the world, but if my family is not there to share it with me it’s meaningless. I’d much rather be a small-town lawyer making a fraction of the salary I could elsewhere if it means that I never have to choose between going to my future son or daughter’s baseball game or recital and a work related business trip.

That’s why I turned down my “dream job”. Someone once told me to be careful what you wish for and I understand now what they were talking about. Everyone is different and maybe many of you still think I should have taken the job, but I know I made the right decision for myself. As important as it is for me to be an attorney, it is even more important for me to be a “Happy Attorney”.

I would encourage my fellow 2011 graduates to stand back and take a long look in the mirror before taking that high salaried job. Is it really what you want? Is it really who you are? Can you see yourself keeping up with that pace of work in five, ten, twenty years? Is this a job you can see yourself waking up every morning looking forward to or dreading?

The student loans will get paid eventually – it’s just a matter of how quick they get paid off. We owe it to ourselves and those around us to make sure that we take jobs that we enjoy rather than the highest paying job right out of the box. Attitudes are contagious – if your job is going to leave you constantly exhausted and jaded odds are that attitude is going to carry over into your home life. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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8 comments on “Could You Turn Down The ‘Dream Job’? I Did.

  • Kudos, Jack! I turned down no less than 3 job offers after my clerkship to go solo and have a life on my own terms. 6 months later I had a profitable law practice. Its the best decision I ever made! Did I have days where I second guessed myself for turning down those jobs? Absolutely! But it all worked out in the end. I think this is a post a lot of lawyers and law students needed to read! Thanks for sharing!

  • What part of Texas are you coming to? I’m planning on opening a practice in Leander, which is north of Austin about 30 miles. My wife and I argued early on in law school because I wanted to open my own firm and she wanted me to take one of those $160k jobs. But then I got my grades back and I won. Never felt so good to have no other options!

      • That’s great man. I am sure you will do well. If you ever come to Austin I’ll take you out to lunch and pick your brain. I’m willing to bet we have better food trucks here than in Beaumont.

      • Welcome back to Texas, Jack! I’m outside of Conroe/The Woodlands, myself, and I have a couple of friends over in Beaumont practicing with firms.. Good luck on the bar exam!

  • Jack:

    Brilliant decision. I did the same thing 25 years ago (turned down a sports law job in Washington DC to “go home”) and I have never regretted the decision. Not only have I carved out a lucrative niche (injury & malpractice law) in my hometown but I get to live my life and run my life, MY WAY. Priceless!

    Good luck and knock’em dead!

    Jim Reed

  • I am not leaving the Piney Woods of Texas, Jack. I know how you feel. Welcome home. If you come up to visit Marc, I am a stone’s throw from him. So, visit me as well.

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