Winning at the Waiting Game

As summer gradually fades into Fall many of us July ’11 Bar takers are still waiting on Bar Exam results. If you’re like me you’re watching your bank account slowly dwindle down to a pittance. It has been well documented in this column  just how difficult the job market is for recent law school graduates – so it comes as no surprise that many of us (including myself) receive letter after letter stating, “thanks, call us when you get your results back.”.

For me that means waiting until November until I get my results back from the Texas Bar Exam. If all goes well I’ll be sworn in on November 14th. While that’s only two months away, two months is practically a lifetime financially for many recent grads. So what do we do? In my case I’ve taken a non-JD preferred job, in car sales to be exact. Of course many of the scam bloggers  and trolls are probably cackling with glee as they read this, “see we told you, the system doesn’t work!” But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that law school has led me astray. I would argue instead that the system just isn’t as quick as its used to be.

As I stated last month, non-JD preferred jobs should be an option in the interim. Once you receive passing results from the Bar, you can always become a solo practitioner if you’re absolutely dead set on being an attorney. Sure, I’ve taken my fair share of barbs from people in the past week or so about spending all this money on a law degree only to take a job that I could’ve gotten just as easily with a bachelor’s degree. But I’d argue that my legal education has given me an inherent advantage in any line of work that I undertake. Many of my colleagues have taken an indignant approach when it comes to the notion of taking a non-JD preferred job. My line of thinking is that if I can’t find a job in the legal field then I might as well take a job where I can still utilize the skills I learned in law school. After all ,in sales and in the courtroom isn’t the bottom line getting someone, whether it’s a judge, jury, or customer, to see things your way?

After weighing all my options I came to the conclusion that there were three arguments in support of taking a non-JD preferred job in my situation.

1. Security

We all hear horror stories about not passing the Bar and the dire straits those people are left. By taking a non-JD preferred job, your livelihood and well being doesn’t rely on your test score.  It relies on your work ethic. Assuming you survived three years of law school, you should have at least a decent amount of ingenuity, ambition, and drive to not have to worry about being canned. Whereas those that were fortunate enough to land a job in the legal profession prior to receiving their Bar results depend solely on the contents of an envelope addressed to them from their State Bar. Taking a non-JD preferred job in the months prior to receiving your results insures that you have a safety net if the worst happens and you wind up not passing the Bar Exam. It’s always good to have a contingency plan in case things don’t go your way.

2. Experience

I firmly believe that any respectable work experience outside of the legal profession can only be a positive for a new lawyer as a job applicant once you do pass the Bar Exam. The experience you gain from taking a job outside of your comfort zone or expected field can be invaluable and provide you with an altogether different insight into how to practice law that you would not have gained otherwise. Sales, just like law, depends largely on human interaction and how well you are at gauging body language and other intangible clues as to what a prospective client is thinking. I believe that the chance to observe people on a daily basis outside of the courtroom and in a completely different environment will provide me with a new outlook on how I communicate with prospective clients in the future. Additionally, it shows potential employers that you have the willpower, drive, and desire to work. That can be a powerful statement and a great way to stand out in an already crowded job pool.

3. Connections

The more you engage with people, the more likely you’re going to come across someone who may be able to open to door to you to legal job opportunities once you do pass the Bar Exam. When customers inquire about my background, I have no problem telling them I went to law school. Some people may feel shame at having to take a non-JD preferred job, but I just treat it as a new opportunity to reach out and network with people. With as many people as you encounter in sales, you never know what kind of doors it could open by just being open and honest about who you are and what you want to do. You’ll certainly make 100% more connections out in the workplace than you will tucked behind a computer spending hours on end looking for jobs that you ultimately know aren’t available to you before you have your Bar card.

I wish everyone whose waiting on their Bar results the best of luck, a big congratulations to those who have already passed,  and finally to those that didn’t, keep your chin up and keep working. It’ll  pay off in the end.

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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3 comments on “Winning at the Waiting Game

  • Here’s what I did: sent an email to all the attorneys in the local small firm bar section saying that I was available for hourly projects and had no desire to take a job offer. I had been networking with that group throughout law school (tough for you as you moved to a new area) so people knew me. I work for 5 attorneys now, make up my own hours and get paid way more than if I had accepted a full time job with any one of the attorneys. Two of them have offered me a job, which I think happened because I told them I didn’t want a job. Of course our house burning down in the Austin fires has slowed me down, but even that has worked better because of all these jobs – every boss has been supportive and is that much more invested in my success. Networking done right really is an amazing thing.

  • I wholly concur with your points regarding the use and development of legal skills in non-legal careers. I always find it inspiring to hear California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye share her story about the beginnings of her legal career–she started out her career (after law school) as a blackjack dealer. Who knows where your career will take you!

    • James,

      Your comment is spot on. In many ways it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you get there. One thing I can share about being in the sales industry, you learn people skills, how to overcome inhibitors, how to qualify, interview and close. These are all critically important skills in lawyering and separate the great ones from the good ones. I myself come from a sales background and I knew the greatest ‘sale’ was powerful advocacy for my clients!

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