Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:06 am

As an OL, one of the selling points I've heard and seen about the JD degree is its purported versatility in the job market, enabling forays into diverse and variegated fields of non-legal employment. Yet, in trying to do a bit of informal research into this claim, I'm coming across quite a number of conflicting views.

Certainly law school marketing propaganda supports this view of degree versatility, but often the anecdotal, word-of-mouth type of chatter and stories I see and hear offer quite a different story. For example, I've heard some say that the JD has actually closed many doors for them - these were folks who were unable or unwilling to work in traditional law and sought work outside of it - as a result of: a.) either being seen as overqualified for a position; and/or b.) having non-relevant/neutral work skills (nothing that would give them a leg up over another person with a regular undergraduate degree).

What are people's views, experiences, and insights into this supposed claim of JD degree versatility?

For example, do stories of JD's seeking work at and being rejected from places as unglamorous and pedestrian as WalMart and common retail stores, due to overqualification, ring true to you all from what you've heard/seen/experienced? And, similarly, how about stories of JD's being beaten out for entry-level type office jobs, which do not require any technical knowledge or training, by bachelor's degree holders of various backgrounds? If the JD really is versatile outside of law, then in what areas of employment would it have an advantage? And would these putative areas of employment that would favor a JD holder offer salaries high enough to justify the cost of attendance at law school?

Hope to gain more insight into this topic and appreciate your views people!
Last edited by ksllaw on Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
thelawyler
Posts: 902
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:00 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby thelawyler » Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:47 am

At a firm I used to work as a staff member at, we used to get many JDs applying for paralegal positions. They went straight into the trash. It hurts you in many circumstances.

ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:35 am

thelawyler wrote:At a firm I used to work as a staff member at, we used to get many JDs applying for paralegal positions. They went straight into the trash. It hurts you in many circumstances.



Thank you. These are the types of situations I had feared, but seemed potentially true when I first heard them.

Here are some hypothetical scenarios I brainstormed that maybe others can weigh in on:

We can call these scenarios, "Who wins? JD or ____ ?"


**McDonald's Cashier. (Everyone without very an advanced degree would likely win, due to overqualification and flight fears.)

**Retail Store Manager/Supervisor. (B.B.A. wins; HS Diploma with many years of progressively increasing store operations exp. wins)

**Paralegal or Legal Assistant. (4-Year Undergraduate Degree Wins; 2-Year Paralegal Certificate Holder wins)

**Journalist. (B.A. in English or Journalism wins)

**Editor. (B.A. in English or Journalism wins)

**Administrator. (This one could be a tough call - depending on what type of admin., but I'm not sure the JD would have an advantage in general here.)

**Construction or Factory Worker. (HS Diploma wins)

**Substitute Teacher. (JD wins, as does everyone else)

**Data Entry Clerk. (toss up between JD and anyone else)

**Police/Security Officer. (Ex-military wins; HS Diploma wins; 4-Year Undergraduate Degree Wins)

**Professor. (Ph.D. wins here?)

**Debt Collector. (JD wins)

**Military. (JD wins, but likely low wages...here, we're talking about non-law too, so not JAG, etc.)

**Bartender/Waitress. (JD might win)

**Human Resources. (B.A. with Certification in Human Resources wins)

**Financial Advisor. (JD likely wins)

**Reporter (B.A./M.A. in Journalism or Communications wins, but JD could win too)

**Non-Military Government Work. (JD likely wins, but depending on what kind)

*****Now obviously anything STEM or technical-related would not be open to a JD, so jobs like engineer, computer scientist, nursing, accountant, pharmacist, etc. should not even be included (unless the JD has his/her undergraduate degree in that area). It seems tough...1/5 to 1/6 of the U.S. economy is tied to the healthcare industry and I'm not sure JD's would have an advantage in most of those areas (possibly a few here and there).

What other viable non-lawyer fields do JD's go into that would provide a stable and high enough income to pay down a typical law grad's $120K loan debt?

User avatar
Archangel
Posts: 106
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:08 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby Archangel » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:17 am

Last edited by Archangel on Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
PDaddy
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:40 am

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby PDaddy » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:54 am

I agree that many doors would be closed to J.D.'s, but it's important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule. Secondly, there are many jobs and careers not mentioned in the above post in which J.D.'s have gone on to become very successful, sometimes with an MBA or other graduate degree and sometimes without.

Here's a listing:

Solo Practitioner (offering varied legal services)
Entrepreneur: Test Prep Company Owner
Graduate Admissions Consultant
LSAT Tutor
Private Tutor (to rich kids 21 and under)
Screenwriter/Playwright/Novelist
Hollywood or Broadway Director/Producer
Film/TV Studio Executive
Theater/Performing Arts (Venue) Director
Record Executive
Sports Agent
Model/Talent Agent
Sports Executive (i.e. President, GM or Operations; experience as a player is a big advantage)
Arena/Stadium Manager
Advertising Executive
Union Representative/Liaison
Consultant
Public Relations Representative
School District Executive
School Principal
Entrepreneur: Restaurateur
Life Skills Coach
Police Officer/FBI Agent
News Reporter: Legal Correspondent
Hospital Administrator - Legal Department
Financial Advisor (mentioned above)
Apartment Community Manager
Assisted Living
Tax Consultant
Museum Curator
Entrepreneur: Mortician/Funeral Director
Director-Non-Profit
Municipal, City, State, or National Government Office (e.g. City Council, Mayor, Congressman, Governor, etc.)

These are all careers in which you will use your legal education, but you would not necessarily want to go to law school with these careers in mind - the exceptions being the entertainment and sports related professions as well as the government careers because they are all potentially law-related careers that are based on social networks regardless of whether you have a J.D. or not. The rest tend to be careers that one "happens into".

User avatar
sunynp
Posts: 1899
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 2:06 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby sunynp » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:17 am

Did you even try to search? Just two days ago I started a thread with a great article. Just searching the word versatile brings it up. Could you make some minimum effort next time, please.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=191546

The above list is ridiculous . The article will explain why. None of those jobs require a JD- dont waste your time and money on a highly specialized degree if you want a job that doesn't require a JD.

bigvinny
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:50 am

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby bigvinny » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:51 pm

ksllaw wrote:As an OL, one of the selling points I've heard and seen about the JD degree is its purported versatility in the job market, enabling forays into diverse and variegated fields of non-legal employment. Yet, in trying to do a bit of informal research into this claim, I'm coming across quite a number of conflicting views.

Certainly law school marketing propaganda supports this view of degree versatility, but often the anecdotal, word-of-mouth type of chatter and stories I see and hear offer quite a different story. For example, I've heard some say that the JD has actually closed many doors for them - these were folks who were unable or unwilling to work in traditional law and sought work outside of it - as a result of: a.) either being seen as overqualified for a position; and/or b.) having non-relevant/neutral work skills (nothing that would give them a leg up over another person with a regular undergraduate degree).

What are people's views, experiences, and insights into this supposed claim of JD degree versatility?

For example, do stories of JD's seeking work at and being rejected from places as unglamorous and pedestrian as WalMart and common retail stores, due to overqualification, ring true to you all from what you've heard/seen/experienced? And, similarly, how about stories of JD's being beaten out for entry-level type office jobs, which do not require any technical knowledge or training, by bachelor's degree holders of various backgrounds? If the JD really is versatile outside of law, then in what areas of employment would it have an advantage? And would these putative areas of employment that would favor a JD holder offer salaries high enough to justify the cost of attendance at law school?

Hope to gain more insight into this topic and appreciate your views people!


I have many colleagues that made lateral shifts into different professions using their law degree (such as business and politics). I'm not sure who keeps saying that it can't be done, but I've personally seen it many times.

ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:38 pm

bigvinny wrote:I have many colleagues that made lateral shifts into different professions using their law degree (such as business and politics). I'm not sure who keeps saying that it can't be done, but I've personally seen it many times.



bvinny, were these generally graduates from top law schools and/or individuals who had a previous career in those areas or had an undergraduate degree that complemented the alternative field of work? And how were the salaries in those areas generally?

I think what some are suggesting is that there can be a form of reverse disrimination against a JD, who is viewed as being either overqualified for these other career options or as a flight risk (leaving at the first offer of a big law job). I do wonder how common that may be?

User avatar
KevinP
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:56 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby KevinP » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:47 pm

JD can be useful in some situations for non-legal jobs. Rarely directly out of law school and can be a huge drag. For a lot of the nonlegal jobs touted by law schools, a JD is neutral or a net negative. Post-biglaw offers lateral options but more so due to connections than directly because of JD (so I guess indirectly bc of JD).

A JD is nowhere near a versatile degree, however.

User avatar
KibblesAndVick
Posts: 541
Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2010 5:29 am

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby KibblesAndVick » Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:13 am

If you ultimately want to do something other than practice law you'll be much better served by spending 3 years and thousands of dollars trying to make it in that industry directly instead of looking for a backdoor. A law degree isn't versatile, and even if it were, you're just avoiding and delaying an inevitable career decision.

The shortest path between two points is a straight line. Grow a pair.

ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ksllaw » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:38 pm

I came across this interesting post at Paul Campos' "scam" blog, which discusses alternative career paths for those considering law school:

http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/ (8/16/2012)
"I got an e-mail a couple of days ago from someone I'd corresponded with a bit during his/her 1L year at a law school well within the top 20. The person finished with top quarter of the class grades and had a substantial scholarship, but decided to drop out anyway. His/her thoughts:

------------------
Whenever I talk to people thinking about law school for the "what else do I do with a poli sci major?" approach (I was one of them), I tell them to look for jobs with startups. I work at one now, and when I decided not to pursue law as a career, I shotgunned as many startups as I could find that were hiring (which is almost all of them), and got great responses. I ended up getting to pick the job that made most sense to me. The thing about startups is that they have more to do than employees can complete, and are really just looking for smart, motivated, hard working people willing to learn on the job. I was lucky to find a company that employs 6 JD's, as well as myself, and had designed a pathway to hire people like me (hence it made the most sense compared to the others). But instead of going to law school, these "smart kids who did everything right," should just apply for marketing or business development positions with startups.

The kids who on the surface, pre-ITLSS, think law school is a good career move (I mean the ones who got into Top 30 schools with scholarships), will get these jobs, although I do have to add the caveat that being in a city that is full of startups (Bay Area, Los Angeles, NYC, Boston, Austin, Boulder, Portland, Seattle are probably the best bets now, but new hubs are popping up in all kinds of places) makes this much more feasible. Anyway, I've given this advice to 4 or 5 undergrads considering law school who actually took it and all have thanked me within a month. Thought you might be interested in another response to stupid reasons for attending law school, from someone who made that mistake and then recovered.
-------------------

I'm not going to comment on how feasible this route may be as an alternative to law school, or for law students who are considering dropping out (I know nothing about startups), but I'm posting it as something some people may want to consider."



What do others think?
Last edited by ksllaw on Sat Aug 18, 2012 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
paratactical
Posts: 5961
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:06 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby paratactical » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:43 pm

While there are lots of people with JDs that are not lawyers, there are very very very few jobs that require JDs that are not jobs as attorneys. Do not get a JD if you do not want to be a lawyer. Do not get a JD thinking that you might go into "finance" or "start-ups" or whatever other buzz word you're using if law doesn't suit you for some reason. There are certainly many famous people who have JDs who are not attorneys. Some of them lucked out; some of them served their time in the legal field. It's not a bad idea to be vaguely aware of other possibilities, but it is a bad idea to go to law school if you don't want to be a lawyer.

User avatar
JusticeHarlan
Posts: 1434
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:56 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby JusticeHarlan » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:10 pm

ksllaw wrote:I came across this interesting post at Paul Campos' "scam" blog, which discusses alternative career paths for those considering law school

bk1 wrote:You realize that you don't have to repost every single old blog link that you find, right?

Fark-o-vision
Posts: 590
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:41 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby Fark-o-vision » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:23 pm

Versatile degree is a joke. JD/MBA with a solid undergrad major are probably the most versatile degrees you can get.

Point is: Degrees aren't versatile. You get degrees in what you want to do, and deviance from that is usually because of prior experience, sheer luck, or exceptional UG/grades.

User avatar
KevinP
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:56 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby KevinP » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:16 am

Actually, I take back what I said. A JD is pretty versatile; you can work as a barrister/a, exotic dancer, sheep farmer, etc. The possibilities are truly endless!

071816
Posts: 5511
Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:06 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby 071816 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:17 am

KevinP wrote:Actually, I take back what I said. A JD is pretty versatile; you can work as a barrister/a, exotic dancer, sheep farmer, etc. The possibilities are truly endless!

You forgot pin trader and grocery store bag boy.

User avatar
ben4847
Posts: 789
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:38 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ben4847 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:22 am

http://abovethelaw.com/2012/08/comment- ... n-trolled/

It’s absolutely true that you can do anything with a law degree. Take my law school’s graduating class for example. For every barrister, we’ve got a barista. For every professor, we have a hair dresser. For every clerk for Judge Reed, we’ve got a clerk for Duane Reade. Pretty much everyone has fared well or is on welfare.

User avatar
KevinP
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:56 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby KevinP » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:27 am

^
Probably much closer to the true value of a JD's "versatility" than that purported by law schools.

chimp wrote:
KevinP wrote:Actually, I take back what I said. A JD is pretty versatile; you can work as a barrister/a, exotic dancer, sheep farmer, etc. The possibilities are truly endless!

You forgot pin trader and grocery store bag boy.

Nice catches. Can't believe I left those out.

Fark-o-vision
Posts: 590
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:41 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby Fark-o-vision » Mon Aug 20, 2012 3:06 pm

KevinP wrote:^
Probably much closer to the true value of a JD's "versatility" than that purported by law schools.

chimp wrote:
KevinP wrote:Actually, I take back what I said. A JD is pretty versatile; you can work as a barrister/a, exotic dancer, sheep farmer, etc. The possibilities are truly endless!

You forgot pin trader and grocery store bag boy.

Nice catches. Can't believe I left those out.


This is more or less what I meant. What else do people with Engineering degrees or MD's do, outside their profession? The fact that they are better off in their profession than a JD is doesn't make their degree more versatile. It makes it more valuable, right?

ksllaw
Posts: 312
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Re: Fact or Fiction/Myth? - A Law Degree is Versatile

Postby ksllaw » Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:59 am

Hi suny:

I'm not at all discounting the view that law degrees are not as versatile as advertised, but just wanted to comment on the article from American Lawyer you referenced.

"Under these circumstances, it's almost certain that recent law school graduates would be the first to bear the brunt of the downturn, and as with past legal recessions, some of the "bottleneck" or "backlog" of attorneys will be reabsorbed, albeit with significantly altered careers. In 2010 the ABA Journal set out to soothe overleveraged graduates' fears with an article that chronicled five law school graduates' journeys into professional work in the wake of the early 1990s recession, including NALP director James Leipold.

Aside from relying on anecdotes (and acknowledging that many graduates from that time never entered law), the article assumed that all recessions are created equal and ..."


Leichter criticizes the use of anecdotal evidence to support the pro-versatility side, yet uses anecdotal evidence himself later in the same piece to support the non-versatility side when he says:

"However, although credential inflation usually normalizes job overqualification as described above, this frequently does not happen for J.D. holders. Anecdotes abound of job applicants being told they are overqualified for positions or employers who fear J.D.–holders will bail when a large-law-firm job magically opens up for them. Still others report taking their J.D.s off their resumes altogether."

I realize it's tough to get reliable data on how many JD job applicants may be rejected for positions due to overqualification fears, but doesn't Leichter blatantly use a double-standard here when appealing to anecdotal stories of overqualifcation after previously denouncing their usage in support of the other side?




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest