Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is Looking For "Any Job I Can Get" Hurting You?

Yesterday I was watching an interview with Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

Anyone who's watched her career realizes she is no "idiot-daughter." She works. Yes, she has a great name, went to the finest schools, and probably a few doors were opened for her just based on who her father is, but she said something important in this six minute interview.

She was asked: What is the biggest mistake people make when they come to you for a job - what don't they do right?

Ivanka: They don't know what they want. People are casting their net far to wide in this climate because they're looking for any opportunity.

I've heard this before, and I hear it a lot now. I hear law school graduates say they are looking for "anything," and I hear lawyers say that law students are looking for "anything."

What does that get you?

If you appear desperate, what will be the result? In anything? You'll get little to nothing.

I know, there's no jobs, there's loans that need to be repaid, bills that need to be paid, entitlements that need to be fulfilled. But why not narrow the search?

I have these conversations with unemployed lawyers. I ask "what are you looking for?" "Anything." I don't get it. If you want to do plaintiff's personal injury work, isn't your job search better conducted by focusing on that area of law? What result do you expect if your interest is family law and you are telling a partner in an employment law firm that you "just need a job" and will do "anything?" Why would they hire you?

If you are looking for a job to make money, why not just do something else rather than take a law job doing something you hate? Is it that important to be paid for legal work even though your life is miserable? Is your ego more important than your happiness?

I know you went to law school to become a lawyer (well, I know some did), but you didn't spend 3 years studying, then another few months studying to take the Bar for the purpose of taking "anything."

So don't.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.



Rick Horowitz said...

I know someone -- someone who is actually very good to me and wants to ensure that I don't "go under" -- who frequently offers me twice the income I have right now, if I'll just "do 300s" (juvenile dependency) for him.

I always tell him the same thing: "I'll bag groceries first."

People think I'm at best, odd -- at worst, an idiot -- because I insist I only want to do criminal defense. If I'm going to practice law, though, this is the only kind of law I know of that I actually can see myself doing. I periodically read other areas of law -- as I am now, reading through a CEB book on Torts -- but I just can't see myself doing something else.

Hopefully, I won't "go under." (But it will be very nice when things eventually pick up.)

I think. (Heh.)

Juan said...

Must be nice to have all your loans paid off and a successful law practice, be able to cherry pick clients and sleep soundly every night...BRAVO! I want that one day, I really do. I am also sure that after graduation you were showered with offers and picked what you wanted to do...My hats off to you.

Unfortunately, this is a new era. The jobs just aren't there
Personally, after seven years of school, a six figure loan balance (undergrad and LS), rent to pay, car payments, insurance, gas, etc etc, I cannot afford to cherry pick employment. I would never grovel or sound deseprate either, but I did have to accept emplyoment in a practice area I am certainly not enamored with. This is not a sense of entitlement. This is reality.

Not all recent LS grads are as bad as you paint them to be BT.
Yes, I would love to go solo and do what I love, but my Landlord, the bank who holds the note on my car, and Sallie Mae and a whole host of other creditors don't give a rats ass about what I want, they want their check every month, so I have to take what the defense gives me and keep my eyes peeled for other opportunities...

Brian Tannebaum said...

Feel better Juan? Did you get it all out- all your frustration that your $160,000 job you were told would be waiting for you wasn't there?

See, this is what happens when you give advice to the all-knowing law school graduate of this decade who people like me, 15 years out, just "don't understand."

So let me address your anger:

Yes, it's wonderful to have a successful law practice, be able to cherry pick clients and sleep soundly every night. I worked for that, big guy. I didn't get a six figure salary that I wasn't entitled to after law school.

You are "sure that after graduation you were showered with offers and picked what you wanted to do? Close, I got one job offer, the one I lobbied for, worked for, and networked for. I started at $28,000.

I didn't send out resumes telling law firms how much of an asset I would be to their firm because in law school I was something special in my mind.

I know "the jobs just aren't there." That's why I disturb your whining with some advice - to try something different. You don't want to do that, great. I'm really OK with it.

No one's suggesting this advice "to cherry pick employment," is the end all be all. If it doesn't work, of course you should take any law job you can get if you are ok doing something you hate.

You don't have to take any of my advice Juan. And you really need to step away from the person who's forcing you to read this blog that is angering you so very much

Brian Tannebaum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina Gadson said...

Brian: Re-read Juan's post. Then re-read yours. Now tell me. Do you really think Juan's post was the angry one?

Mark F said...

While Brian is coarse and angry, he is correct.

Getting a job is no different than drumming up clients for private practice. Only an idiot hires an attorney who isn't passionate about the type of case they have.

Do you think many people get hired at environmental agencies when they aren't passionate about the environment? People who haven't used an elective to take environmental law and haven't used discounted student bar membership to participate with the Environmental Law Section are lucky to even get interviews.

As a person who has sifted through resumes, had to sit through interviews, and train new people I can tell you this.

1. The hiring process sucks for managers.
2. New people slow down the office because inexperienced people need help and more supervision.
3. Most applicants are only going through the process to pay their bills or to have more money than they have in their current job.
4. Managers are looking to find someone who meets their need.

Unless its clearly a temp job no one wants hire someone who is just there for a check until they find the job they want. Replacing someone is a hassle because you've got to go through shifting their work load, find the replacement, and get the replacement trained well enough to be turned out on their own to work.

The person hiring you IS YOUR CLIENT. Unless you are devoted to meeting their needs you are wasting their time and your time. If you want to do commercial real estate law why even apply at a PI mill? You aren't going to learn anything of any value to your desired law practice other than the location of the court house. Just taking a job isn't helping the firm that hires you and isn't getting you ready for the job you really want.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but I'm so sick of the high and mighty job advice from people who got out of it and market not legal services but advice to all the other disgruntled lawyers. We may be BS artists, but the problem is we recognize it in you, BT. Juan is right. You have to get what you can get, and some of us get tired of hearing about how you should only do what you are passionate about, yada, yada, yada. You are dreaming! Moreover, you're just selling bullshit. So, give us all a break.

Brian Tannebaum said...

Anonymous at 11:52 a.m.,

Feel better?

Glad I could be of assistance in providing a place for you to come and express your opinions.

Enjoy your career.

MissForrest said...

Brian, I've been following your twitter feed since before my third year of law school, and I've been reading your blogs since then. It was not much fun reading some of the "There will be no jobs/Do you REALLY want to be a lawyer?" posts, especially as graduation/get a job/pass the bar pressure started to build.

Your emphasis on knowing what you want to do, getting to know the local legal community, and improvising on the job search (on a post last summer) was extremely valuable to me. Although it wasn't possible for me to work for free for a local attorney, in the hopes of getting a future job, I was able to negotiate with the three-attorney firm where I'd clerked since my first summer for continued employment. I don't make ideal money. I don't do ideal work. But I JUST started practicing, so I don't have the relationships with other lawyers and the courts that justify the big dollars. There are no perfect clients--just the ones who pay, and pay less for my time than my bosses'.

My employment arrangement is somewhat informal which, to me, means I know I'm still here because my bosses and mentors believe in the work I do. I've had the opportunity to work on much bigger and more interesting projects than I could land on my own the first year out. Slowly but surely, I'm building the types of relationships with the legal community that are critical to future success (there is nothing like being liked by court clerks administrators).

I can credit you with making crystal clear the importance of a realistic and flexible view of what I would be able to do with my degree and license. I don't see you as preaching from your very comfy chair with your feet up at all. You're further down the road trying to share your experience navigating this career. So I'll say a big fat "THANKS" for all the free, honest advice.

I'm not sure if making your "real lawyers" twitter list should be a career goal, but I do hope to get there eventually. When judges start to remember me, I'll let you know :)