The Unemployed Lawyer

Blogging about the trials and tribulations of being an unemployed lawyer…at least until I’m employed.

And so it ends… March 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

So, here it is. I’m closing it out, formally. Just in case anyone spent the last 2 years hoping I’d write another post.I meant to write more, I wanted to write more, so I’m going to tell you what the heck happened.

Basically, I stopped being the Unemployed Lawyer.  No, I didn’t land a job at BigLaw. Or SmallLaw. Or HangYourOwnShingleAndTryNotToCrapYourself.I did pro bono work for a while, hemmed and hawed and basically stalled for a while. And then I finally figured it out. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Not now, maybe not ever.

Thus, I wasn’t an unemployed lawyer anymore. I no longer identified with wanting to practice law. Instead, I was a directionless twenty-something.  And that wasn’t fodder for a blog I was interested in writing.

Okay. Directionless may not be 100% accurate.  I was spending a lot of time thinking about the future and my goals, but the career piece was fuzzy. I decided I wanted to teach. I decided I wanted to get a MA in psychology. At some point, I probably wanted to be an astronaut. I was confused. And I didn’t have a strong desire to become un-confused. All the while, I was working full-time at the same under-employed position. Except I was spending a lot of my day working beyond what that position entailed. I was lucky enough to be working with a team that saw that my value lied in things outside my job description.  It wasn’t clear at the time, but I had a job I liked, so it’s no surprise I wasn’t trying to hard to figure something else out.But, what I loved doing at work really wasn’t my job. So, I wrote a job description for a position I wanted, that we didn’t have, and passed it up to the powers-that-be. I was encouraged to keep trucking away and pushing boundaries, but it was clear that I wouldn’t be moving into a new position anytime soon.  But, as it turns out, hard work and scrappiness and dedication do pay off, because a position similar to the one I proposed was created (though it took quite a while). And it’s mine. And I love it. And I’m good at it.

Good for me, but what are you supposed to get out of this warm and fuzzy little story?

First, figure out what you actually love doing – you can’t be good at something you hate. It doesn’t matter how much that JD cost, or how much interest your student loans are racking up. If you don’t want to practice law, you’re not going to be very good at it. And your job search is probably never going to get any better. If you love practicing, do it. Figure out a way to do what you love, because you will do it well, and you will be noticed.

Next, money isn’t everything. My student loan debt is high. Crazy high. Ca-razy. And my salary isn’t BigLaw-esque. How do I manage? Right away, I got on the payment plans that let me make the lowest payments possible, even though that meant paying interest-only on some loans. I was paying on time, so I wasn’t killing my credit or surviving solely on ramen. And most months I could throw some extra at my loans. My payments have gone up since I first started paying, but I’m still making them on time, paying extra toward the debt, and saving each month. I’m not on track to pay them off in 5 years or retire at 40 or anything like that, but my debt doesn’t own me.

Part of this is that material things don’t own me either. Sure, there are times when I want a ton of new clothes and I lust over the iPad2. But I get over it pretty quick.  There’s a million personal finance and frugality blogs out there, and I suggest you look at those for tips – they’re the experts, the enthusiasts. Even if you only do ½ of what they suggest, you can be more in control of your money and life. A lot of freedom comes from that control.

And finally, go on living your life. If you need a job, take one. And make the best of it. Don’t look down on it because it doesn’t pay $150k a year and isn’t what your education prepared you for. You’ll only be hurting yourself and missing a learning opportunity. Outside of that, do the things that matter. Get married, start a family, hike the Appalachian Trail or whatever you really want. Those are the things that’ll matter, that you’ll regret not doing. You really can do these things. Career craziness aside, I’ve had an amazing few years, and more excitement is right around the corner.

You paid a lot of money for that diploma – don’t let it hold you back. Don’t let the things you ‘should’ be doing, the life you ‘should’ be living, hold you back. Live your life.

That’s it. Thank you for reading. You somehow keep finding me, and you keep commenting. I’m glad that this blog can provide a little bit of help or comfort to anyone weathering the shitstorm that is today’s legal market. I’ll still keep posting comments as they come in, so you can help each other.

 

Good luck. Keep on keeping on.

 

So you wanna go to law school… June 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 7:25 am

I’m almost famous: I have a blog, and it was mentioned in an article. Oh my!

The author of that article sent me some follow up questions, which may or may not make it into an article. We’ll see, I guess. One of the questions she asked was if I had any advice to young people considering law school. I wanted to post my reply here, in hopes that it might spark some thoughts of your own.

My advice to a young person considering law school:

I’ll hold back from saying “Don’t.” I would tell such a person to think very long, and very hard about that decision, and to assume nothing. Don’t assume you’ll get a job, or that you’ll get a job that pays a certain salary.

I would tell such a person to do a good deal of soul searching, and figure out if this is what she really wanted. I would remind such a person that there many, many ways to help others – most of which will require less schooling, and manage to be more effective, than practicing law.

Finally, I would remind such a person (and especially those still in college) that law school will always be an option. You’ll always have the rest of your life to do whatever it is you want to do – don’t rush yourself, and don’t allow yourself to be rushed. If someone is rushing you, tell them to go to law school and let you know how it goes.

What’s your take? Leave me some comment love!

 

Oh yes, it still matters. April 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 2:02 pm

Okay, fine. I will totally admit to being a blogging slacker. But, despite all my slacking, you still seem to find my blog. And then a few of you leave comments, thereby renewing my blogging energy. This post is a direct result of such a situation.

I recently received a comment from someone in a similar situation to mine – my situation hasn’t changed since I started writing. The commenter asked how to explain to loved ones why he isn’t earning a six figure salary right now, fresh out of a top tier law school. He ended, rather sadly, by saying “Oh well, guess nothing really matters … anymore.”

Well hell. Where do I go with that one?

Let’s start with the money issue. Ah, the six figure starting salary. The firm sponsored CrackBerry. The mythical BigLaw office, with a convenient pull-out couch, so you never have to leave. I don’t know about you folks, but these are the images I was fed before going to law school. These are the images that lingered in my mind as I signed the notes for all the student loans. And no doubt, these images were in my parents’ minds when they co-signed on those notes. I thought, “so what if I come out $150k in debt, I’ll be earning at least $100k a year right out of school.”

Overtime, my expectations changed. A year ago I was telling my fiance that I just wanted our joint incomes to total $100k a year in 2009.

Of course, this goal has fallen into the soul-sucking blackhole that is this recession. I’m living the dream as an administrative assistant (an AdAss, as I’m fond of saying). I do some pro bono work, and when I write a work memo, I Bluebook my citations, just to flex my Esq. a little. It keeps me sane.

But,the hardest part, by far, is the questions. Friends, loved ones, strangers in a bar – they always ask what you do for a living, or how the job hunt is going.  And then you’re faced with telling them the craptacular truth:

“I went to law school, passed the bar, and now I’m doing something completely unrelated to my over priced degree. And I’m broke. Are you going to finish that drink?” 

And then a little piece of your soul dies. No, it up and leaves. Probably because you’re such a train wreck.  

Here’s the thing though: there’s nothing you can do about your unemployment. Yeah, yeah, you can apply for jobs, network your bum off, and stand on the corner with a sign that says “Will Shepardize for Food.” But somethings just aren’t your fault; you can’t control it all.  (Unless a certain ex-President and some ex-CEOs are reading this. Then it is sort of your fault. And yes, that window does open wide enough.)

There is something you can do about being a train wreck though. Do something you’re proud of. Civil Legal Aid organizations are hurting BIG TIME right now, and I am sure that somewhere out there you can match up with some group and take on a case or two.

Proudly use your skills. Put it on your resume, brag about it in your cover letter. And then go wait some tables in the meantime: don’t forget that you’re rather accustomed to food and shelter at this point.

Finally, remember that your loved ones love you too. Love and support should not be directly connected to your earning capacity.

 

Frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn. Or, musing on work life balance. January 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 4:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

As lawyers and law students, we hear a lot about this mysterious thing called work-life balance. You know what I’m talking about. You saw that panel discussion in law school about how you can, or can’t have it all: well-balanced children, a wonderful relationship, fabulous trips around the world, and make senior partner by 35. 

Well, that’s all fantastic. I fully believe that work-life balance is possible, neigh achievable, when one sets boundaries in their life. But here’s my questions: how do you achieve work-life balance when you ain’t got no work? (I’m a lawyer. I know how improper that sentence is.  But I like it, okay?  See: balance.)

Yes folks, I am still the unemployed lawyer.  Sort of, I am still a temp, see my earlier posts (seriously, there aren’t all that many, just hit the “older” button), and I will, in theory, be transitioning in to a permanent administrative assistant role sometime in the next couple of weeks (read: benefits).  But, life certainly isn’t going to plan, let me tell you. I was supposed to be a lawyer. Making good money.  So, here’s the work-life balance issue – do I let my life wait around until I find legal work?

Let me explain. I had a plan.  For starters, I’m getting married next Spring. And I want kids. I’ve been planning on kids (because you have to plan, frankly….but more on that later…perhaps). I want to start having said kiddos when I’m about 28. When I devised this plan, I  knew I would graduate at 25 (check!), and start working thereafter (not so much). That would have given me 3 years of practice under my belt until I squirted out a baby. Well, of course, I’m not practicing right now (sort of the point of this blog, isn’t it?).

So, what do I do? Should I delay my way-too-freakin’-expensive wedding? Should I wait to have kids? Should I go on a strict diet of Top Ramen and unfiltered water until I find legal work? Should I see how the economy plays out? What do YOU think? No really, tell me, dutiful readers? Because here’s what I’m thinking: screw you economy, I’m getting married. And then I’m gonna have some babies. Because I’m a worker. I know how to make money, and I’m going to continue to make enough to scrape by.  I’m going to take a wild guess that when I’m old and wrinkled enough to act completely crazy but still really know what’s going on (how I long for that day), those are the things I’ll remember. And isn’t that what really matters?  

 

To sum up:

 

Dear Recession,

Screw You. Life goes on.

Love,

Unemployed Lawyer.

 

Give me your thoughts on this issue, folks.

 

Some validation for your misery, and a little number crunching December 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 4:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

Okay, let’s face it folks. I’m a bad blogger. It’s been a while, I know. I’ve been trying to plan a wedding (read: slash and burn a guest list and my calla lily dreams). I’ve been working my alleged 25 hour a week job (I put in 48 last week…including 13 on Saturday). I’ve been letting the job market get me down. 

I’m still actively hunting for a legal job. I’ve also  applied to be full-time at the place I work now (legal related, but not “lawyer” work). I’m hopeful this job will work out, because things are pretty grim out there. It’s just depressing. And I want me some health insurance. 

How grim? How bad can it be? Are we all just whiny little brats looking for someone to hand us a job? I dare say, no we are not. CNN dares to say as well. And the ABA, too! Folks, I bring you some validation:

CNN’s article about the crap legal job market

The ABAJournals Career News section looks pretty dismal

And it’s not getting any better

 

So, what’s the unemployed lawyer to do? Well, if you’re like me, your sitting on, or being crushed under, a whole lot of student loan debt. And joy-of-immeasurable-joys, payments are starting for recent grads. I graduated in May 2008, and my first payment is due this week. Yipeee! My various loans will keep trickling in, and I will be in 100% repayment by March. Whee!

So, it’s time to crunch the numbers my friends. Time to throw out your grandiose notions of $100k a year to start and figure what you need to pay the bills and eat something now and again. 

It’s better than you think. Well, maybe. Depends on what you’re thinking, I guess. 

I make a measly $16/hour, and should be working 25 hours a week.  That’s $1600/mo, before taxes.  I’ll be getting my taxes back this year, so lets work off of that number. 

My rent is $550 per month. My student loans payments, when I hit full repayment, will be $615.90. (Go ahead and vomit/weep with me). We’re up to $1165.90. Throw in food, utilities, and general spending. My money is gone, yes. But, if I’m careful, I won’t starve or default.  And don’t forget, that’s working 25 hours a week. 

Hopefully, I will get the full-time position I am temping in now.  That will pay about $46,000/year (good-bye dreams! good-bye 1L expectations of my life!), which is about $3800/ month. More than double what I can live off now. I could make it and pay for that money-sucking white-satin beast they call a wedding! Or have one of those things called a savings account. [Insert a Joey "Whoa" here].

If you’re in my situation (and if you’re not, what are you doing here, Employed Lawyer? Do you not have a memo to draft? Okay…you can stay. I hate memos too) let me offer this piece of advice: look hard at your student loans. Every single one of mine, federal and private, offers different repayment plans, which can help you lower your payments for at least a while. Do you pay more in the long run? Sure do. Do you avoid eating ramen everyday, having your diploma and bar card repossessed, and murdering your credit score? Sure do.  I did this. If I hadn’t, I would be paying about $1350 per month, instead of the $615 I mentioned above. 

Short of that, I’m sure that there’s some sunny South American country where we can all run away from our loans and hide out for a while. Where credit scores won’t matter. I’ll be the one selling shoddy woven hats. Please buy one, I need the cash.

 

A lack of options…could it open a world of oppurtunity? November 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 7:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

Well, its been over a week since I last posted. Bad blogger.  It’s been a big week, what can I say?

Barack Obama was elected president!

I was formally sworn in as an attorney.

I learned of a job prospect. 

I got ENGAGED!

I got a temporary position. 

First, you’ll have to indulge me in a little engagement gushing. I leave it at this: it was perfect. The perfect place. The perfect nerve-laden love filled speech. The perfect down-on-one-knee “Will you marry me?” And the perfect ring. Now comes wedding planning, which already is causing stress. But, I digress. This won’t be a wedding blog, I promise. I’ll start a separate one if it comes to that!

Onto the working bit. Could it be that the unemployed lawyer is now an employed lawyer? Sort of, but not quite. Let me explain. I’ve taken a temporary position with my state Bar; a liaison position. I’m working in the legal community, but I’m not using my degree in any way. It’s a pretty enjoyable job, so far. Which leads me to this revelation:

Why do I have to be a lawyer?

Yes, I have this big fancy degree. Yes, I’ve trained to be a lawyer, took a lot of classes, learned to write memos and briefs, and survived the bar exam, but so what? Yes, I can practice law. But I don’t have to. If nothing else, my qualifications and education should open doors, not close them. And in such a crap job market, closing doors is not the way to go. 

Instead, I am going to open up my job search. Does X job in Y non law related field sound interesting? Then I’m going to apply to it. I’ll still be a lawyer- so long as I keep paying my dues to the bar, I’m a lawyer. That doesn’t change.

But what about my resume? Well, all I can say for that is, if later on, when I am applying for a legal job, if they are the sort of folks who are going to look down on taking non legal work as your first job out of school in a recession, well, they aren’t the sort of people I want to work for. 

I have no idea what I’ll do when this temp position ends. Maybe I’ll have a legal job, maybe I’ll transition into more temp work, maybe I’ll take an opportunity to do something totally different. But, my mind will be open to any of it.

What about you? Could this crap job market be a blessing in disguise?

 

What are you doing here? Go! November 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julia @ 9:58 am

It’s Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. The first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month of November, in a even numbered year divisible by 4 (Honors 10th grade Government, thankyouverymuch). Which means that if you’re a US Citizen, and at least 18, you should have registered to vote at least a couple weeks ago. And today, even if it is windy, rainy, snowy, cold, hot, you’re tired, you have the sniffles, hey, even if you are an employed lawyer, you should drag your butt to the polls and VOTE

I won’t even give you my two sense on who you should be voting for :::coughObamacough:::. Just go!

And if you have an absentee ballot sitting on your coffee table that you forgot to fill out or never managed to stamp and put in a mail box, go turn it in at your polling place! Go go go!

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.