If you are in law school, or are even considering law school, you have doubtless been regularly subjected to quips (solicited or otherwise) from friends, parents, professors, advisors, etc. about your prospects for finding a job after graduation. Well it is true, the job market right now sucks, though there is some indication that information about the job prospects is moving from bad to mixed.
Regardless of what you have been told though, there is no doubt that things are not rosy for those of us in law school, thinking about law school, or graduating from law school. There are a lot of thoughts, and even more opinions about why things are so rough right now for law grads.
While this whole discussion about why the job statistics suck and the debate about who to blame can be heated and in some sense exciting, it is not particularly helpful to those of us who are the subject of it. What I, and I think my fellow law students, care about is what can there be done to improve our job prospects. Here at Oregon Law, there have been some ideas floated and they have been the subject of some lively discussion. I think it is important to have these discussions and as a student I am glad the school is working on new ideas. However, I think it is also important for us as students and young professionals to think about how we can be innovative and creative in our own career goals.
Personally, as I face the current chaos in the legal market I have tried to keep the words of Petyr Baelish in mind.
“Chaos is a ladder.”
Now, admittedly, the actual context of that Game of Thrones quote is a bit dark, but I think the words themselves are useful in contemplating a professional career in the law right now. (And maybe I just really wanted to work that quote into this post. Whatever.) While the legal field may not exactly be in “chaos” it certainly isn’t at its most stable point right now. This has created many challenges for law graduates that has resulted in cruddy employment statistics. However, as Lord Baelish’s quote suggests, there are also opportunities. Particularly, there are opportunities to be creative with career goals. If you are not entirely sure what career path you want to take with your law degree, this should be exciting.
For me, the intimidating job prospects for traditional legal paths has simply lowered the transaction costs for me to seriously consider an alternative career path that could be more fulfilling. If there were high employment rates right now with many law firms, I would be tempted set aside my aspirations to work in international law. My dream is to work in international affairs by working with NGOs, or intergovernmental organizations, or the State Department, and so on. This is not a traditionally “safe” career path. But, as Steve Dalton put it, “there’s no guarantee any career these days will be secure or lucrative, so one might as well target something fulfilling…” So that’s what I plan on doing. I am going to take advantage of the great education and skills studying at Oregon Law offers me. But instead of focusing on trying to find which firm will pay the most for those skills, I am going to focus on trying to put those skills to use in a way I truly want to.
I am going to try to be innovative in my job search. I am going to look for opportunities abroad as a well as in the United States. I am going to look for organizations that are willing to fund the type of work I want to do. I am going to network with people whose careers truly excite me. This is how I think we must approach the job market today. We need to break down paradigms and try to find new ways to apply the skills we acquire in law school.
I am fortunate to be at an institution that is open to creativeness in forging a career path. There are lots of resources for finding or funding jobs in public service or other sectors at Oregon Law. Are there enough? Maybe not. Is there more that can be done to encourage such creativity? Probably. But first, we students have to step onto that ladder.
There will continue to be a high risk of failure, or that the jobs will not be there. But instead of this prospect discouraging us, it should motivate use. Getting rejected for or struggling to find a job is not the end. It is just another opportunity to enhance your skills, refine your professional resources, and expand your horizons. It is the climb.