Thursday, September 01, 2011

Law School Education and Employment After Graduation: Does the World Owe You a Living? Surely Not

Elizabeth G. Olson in Law grads take their job frustrations to court at CNNMoney, Fortune Management, reports on law school students with high debt loads after legal education who are now suing their law schools for fraudulent advertising because they are having trouble finding high-paying jobs during the Great Recession.

Does the world owe you a living just because you got an academic degree?
any degree?
Surely not.

Does the world owe you a living just because you have been so foolish as to amass a mountain of debts just to get your degree?
Surely not.
In the "good old days", law students such as myself not only took out national defense loans to help finance our law school education, but we also WORKED at various jobs for pay during our law school days to keep those debts down.
Did you?
In fact, while WORKING, contacts were made through which subsequent jobs were ENABLED.
Or, as the saying goes, YCMMSOYA.

A law school degree CAN enable tremendous wealth and success -- two different things, by the way -- but that depends on a lot of other factors, including the necessary development and proper exercise of essential human skills, a type of maturity which no law school can control in any given individual. Nor can law schools greatly influence job markets. Caveat emptor.

While law school graduates on the whole surely have disproportionate average incomes as compared to most other professions, there is no guarantee that any specific student will earn a lot of money just because he or she obtains a law degree.

Law school graduates who did not do well in law school, who perhaps were or are not much suited to the law -- and I had many such students, who were not active in numerous activities but waited for things to come to them, and who thus did not develop the types of experience and contacts necessary to move forward in life -- especially in law or law-related circles -- can not expect the world to suddenly come to them with gold-plated opportunities on silver platters. It won't happen.

A law school education provides the basics for someone interested in a legal profession or law-related work. Some people even do dual degrees and get, for example, an M.B.A. degree, especially if their main interest is business. Prepare for doing by learning what is necessary to do that doing. The main actor is the law student himself or herself. No other. God helps those who help themselves. 

People hire lawyers to GET THINGS DONE. This requires some modicum of experience in doing just that and the earlier one starts in life to do that, the better. Getting a job for oneself is a good starter. Attitude here is critical. People are hired for what THEY can do for their employer, not vice-versa.

Any former law student suing his or her law school because he can not find a high-paid job just has not done his or her homework. What does it take to be hired by a top-flight law firm? You should know that long before you apply for a job at such a firm. In fact, you should have a good idea of where you are going to work after graduation long before you graduate. If not, you have been living in a dreamworld of your own creation.

The world operates by a different set of rules than simply "I want". The world says "WE want", and YOU provide, not vice-versa. And the higher up you go in the ladder of societal responsibility, the more that rule applies. Successful lawyers SERVE a multitude of interests and the more they provide what those interests want, the better paid they are. Similarly, a corporate head often serves thousands, not only in his own company, but also in the public that buys his or her company's products. In politics it is even worse. A U.S. President has millions, yes, even billions of people, who demand, "we want". Anyone who does not realize or who forgets that "success" is almost always a product of providing what OTHERS want, not what YOU want, has no business occupying high or well-paid positions in any profession.

Hence, if you want a job in law or anywhere else, look to what the WORLD wants and needs, not just to what YOU want or need, and see if you fit the bill. Then you will be on the right track for being successful. Ask anyone who is.

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