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Recent Graduates: Coping with the misconceptions of your friends and family [by Danielle D. Hansen, J.D] This week, we examine how you can cope with friends and family members who don’t quite understand what it means to be a recent law school graduate.
If you’ve just graduated from law school, you
“true” nature of what we’re going through,
building and hang up a plaque with “Attorney
know the familiar questions all too well. If
it’s almost forgivable that our friends think
at Law” after our names. Clients will come
you’re currently a student, prepare yourself
we’re rich the second we step out of law
out of the woodwork with open purses, eager
to hear these same questions. The words
school. Forgivable, but annoying.
to hire us and quickly make us rich. It always comes back to lawyers being rich, doesn’t it?
may vary slightly, but all in all, the topics remain the same:
The legal field can indeed be lucrative, but most recent grads are years away from
What the hell do you mean, you don’t want
• So you’re a lawyer now. You must be rich,
achieving those kinds of results. What our
to be an active attorney? Why did you go to
friends don’t understand is that even if we
law school then?
• How come you’re not in a courtroom today?
were to land great jobs fresh out of law
Here at LawCrossing, we’ve often explored
• You are still looking for a job? Why don’t
school, still the Specter of Student Loans
alternative careers and how your J.D. will be
you open up your own shop?
hangs over us, requiring healthy chunks of
helpful to you in other endeavors, but that
• What the hell do you mean, you don’t want
whatever salary we’re fortunate to earn. And
is something that many people just don’t
to be an active attorney?
unfortunately this may last for years to come.
understand. In many ways, I see their point. Just the fact that you went to law school
• And (my personal favorite). Can I ask you a How come you’re not in a courtroom today?
implies that you want to become an attorney.
Another question from those who don’t know
But they don’t realize that things change
Perhaps no other profession has as many
the vast variety of jobs in the legal world or
during those three long years. There are so
misconceptions surrounding it as does the
watch too much TV. Again, it’s the media who
many interesting career options available to
legal profession. Many of us formed strong
rarely shows attorneys anywhere except for
you in which your J.D. will prove useful, but
friendships with our peers in law school;
in courtrooms, slugging it out with adversar-
the people closest to us sometimes don’t
others have attorneys in our families. These
ies and saying, “I object” all the time. Our
want to hear any of that.
people do not count for this article, because
friends don’t realize that many attorneys will
they know what we have gone through.
never set foot in a courtroom. We deal with
Can I ask you a quick legal question?
Instead, we’ll focus on all those people in
contracts, discovery, settlements, and many
It’s utterly amazing how many family mem-
our lives who have no clue about the rigors
other things that keep our clients from ever
bers and friends expect free legal advice for
and demands of finding legal work. No clue
having to go to court.
life. Furthermore, they want their answers
quick legal question?
immediately and don’t understand why reYou are still looking for a job? Why don’t you
search is required if we choose to help them
Let’s start with the first and perhaps most
open up your own shop?
at all. I imagine it’s like being a mechanic
True, there are many job openings, but there
and having your friends call you the moment
are also many more lawyers than there
their car acts up. It’s great to help someone,
You must be rich, right?
are openings. It’s an extremely competitive
but we all want the freedom to choose our
Since we were all children, we’ve heard that
field. Yes, lawyers will always be in demand,
pro bono cases at will, rather than having
doctors and lawyers are supposed to be the
but for many of us, perseverance in look-
them thrust upon us by a distant uncle angry
wealthy ones. Movies and television shows
ing for a job will be required. And as for the
with his neighbor’s dog barking all the time
rarely portray attorneys as anything other
second question here, that one never ceases
or by an aunt who needs her lease reviewed.
than high-priced, high-profile lawyers. With
to amaze me. It’s like our friends think it’s
That “quick” legal question is never quick,
all this media perception working against the
the 19th Century where we can simply buy a
but no one seems to realize that. And even
continued on back
if it is quick, it’s still an imposition. You can really judge people at times like these by seeing if they offer you compensation. We may not accept their money, but still, it’s a great sign when they offer. What to do. In dealing with these misconceptions, the main thing to hold onto is your patience. People may be a bit ignorant about what you’re going through, but rarely do they mean anything maliciously. Try to explain your situation. Point out that thousands of law school grads have made the exact same decisions you have. You’re not the only one in the world who chose this path. If all that fails, then tell them that you’ve only been fooling with them: you’ve secretly opened your own practice and have a big trial downtown tomorrow. Oh, and you’re wealthy beyond their dreams. After all you’re an attorney, and, with some hard work and maybe a little luck, it could all be true someday.
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