ABA Journal


Opening Statements

Don’t know what to do with your law degree? This lawyer wants to help

May 1, 2013, 09:00 am CDT



By Nancy Mackevich Glazer on 2013 04 30, 12:57 pm CDT

After I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration I completed my first year at William Mitchell College of Law (a night law school).  At the end of that year I was very discouraged about my results.  I enrolled in Summer School at the University of Minnesota in a program that would lead to a PHD in Educational Administration since I was working in the adminstrative office of a local school district.

It was my uncle who was then the Registrar of the University of North Dakota who convinced me to continue in law school since a law degree would open many doors.  In particular, he pointed to the then current Chancellor of the University of North Dakota who was not an educator but held degrees in business and law.

I still believe that the combination of business and law degrees provides the greatest flexibility in career choices.  In fact, I did not enter the private practice of law until I was in my early 50’s and have not experienced the “burn out” that I have frequently seen in attorneys who went directly from law school to private practice.

Now in my early 70’s, I am ready to close my office and retire in the next year simply because I have other things I want to pursue.

By George Claseman on 2013 04 30, 5:36 pm CDT

While I like that he is working to make his service available to college and law school students, as it sounds like a good resource for students or lawyers looking at other career options, I think $20 a month could be tough for some, particularly those who “all of a sudden [are] unemployed.”  Better off going back to your college/law school career services office…or your local Workforce Center, all of which are free.

By apersson on 2013 04 30, 5:54 pm CDT

What can you do with a law degree?  Everything you can do without a law degree—except, of course, practice law.  A JD is a versatile education that can help you in many vocations.  But your innate talent is what actually produces success, and you didn’t need a juris doctorate for that.

It would be silly to promote getting a law degree as the passport to success outside the legal field when you could succeed without the class work, three years of lost time, and oppressive debt.

By LawLOL on 2013 04 30, 6:59 pm CDT

I too have a business degree from the U of MInn. followed by a JD from Wlm Mitchell.  But that business training ruined me as an attorney.  Business is about taking risks and making a profit.  Lawyering is about avoiding risks and…making a profit.  I’m in practice, going on 20 years, but I was burned out before I even passed the bar.

By Dear George on 2013 04 30, 7:41 pm CDT

Thank you for the article, I am just beginning 2L, and so far I am having a blast learning law.

By Troy T on 2013 04 30, 11:42 pm CDT

Sadly, designer cupcake trucks—a favorite default career for otherwise unemployed JDs— are also running their course.

By AndytheLawyer on 2013 05 01, 5:23 pm CDT

@3 are you joking?  If they are having trouble with $20 a month how are they going to afford the gas to get to their career services department. How are they eating.  If it was $20 per video or per day then maybe, but not $20 a month.

By BCReed on 2013 05 01, 11:18 pm CDT

Hi everyone. Many thanks to the ABA Journal for publishing this piece. I’d like to engage in the discussion taking place here and address some comments.

@apersson (#3) - Yes, affordability to students and the unemployed is a concern for me, which is why we make licenses for the site available to schools so that they can choose to pay to cover their students. Students and alumni can feel free to nag their career centers to join our community on their behalf.

Also, as a legal recruiter who talked to young associates every day all day for years, I encountered countless people who were stuck on the wrong path with limited to no knowledge of what else was out there or how to get it. Many were spending over $20/week on coffee breaks. Each individual can choose where to spend his/her money, but $20/month for career and professional development advice is certainly worth consideration.

If some really can’t afford it, we keep a good chunk of our content free and put it on YouTube. And if that crowd recognizes the value in what we’re doing, they can push their schools to embrace it.

@LawLOL (#4) - Yes. Law school is a ton of money and work. And yes, there may be many roads into different careers both with and without a law degree. However, I can tell you that I would not have been hired for some of my favorite jobs without my law degree - and I wasn’t practicing law. Friends of mine and people I’ve interviewed on JDCOT credit their law degrees for getting them opportunities that led to where they are now - and they didn’t/don’t practice law.

Doors really can open as a result of the skill set that comes from earning the degree - whether it be in entertainment, insurance, real estate, banking, etc. It generally takes the individual knowing how to sell it to employers to make those doors open.

Can people without a law degree get many of those jobs? Yes. Different approaches work for different people. Like you said, your innate talents play a big role. But I’d argue that by themselves they don’t necessarily produce success. Even with all of his innate talents, Michael Jordan still wasn’t a championship player until he was properly coached.

Our mission isn’t “promoting the law degree as the passport to success,” but instead helping people discover careers that fit them and delivering advice to help them succeed. Our target audience at JDCOT is people with a JD, earning a JD or considering law school. We want to help people to do this research and self-exploration so they can increase their odds of finding fulfillment and avoiding the wrong paths. 

If our viewers choose not to get a law degree because they conclude that the career opportunities and money don’t add up to being the right fit for them, that’s great - they made an educated decision and we helped them in doing so.

Thanks for the feedback and I hope you all check out the site.

By Marc Luber of JDCOT on 2013 05 02, 3:59 am CDT

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