Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Diluting the JD stain? How to go back to a previous career?

I went to law shool (dumb, I know) while working as an engin kman03/24/12
I ran into the exact same problem, FWIW. I didn't pursue mo dupednontraditional03/25/12
"additional engineering degrees?" You have 4+ degrees? Rea jdmallard03/25/12
Bachelors and masters. Worked for seven years, no debt, th dupednontraditional03/25/12
Yep, plus a PE license. kman03/25/12
Kman, glad you have found your way. Back in 2004 (2L) I had dupednontraditional03/25/12
I was in a similar situation. I had a Comp Sci BS and was wo recoveringjd03/26/12
Whilst the non-elite JD is the educational analog to herpes thedetroiter03/24/12
Heh heh. If getting a job were similar to bedding down with frankythefly03/24/12
Thanks thedetroiter - interesting term, laundering, although kman03/24/12
Honestly, a lot of engineers work in regulated industry sett shaudius03/24/12
What did the entire degree process cost you? Did you pay frugal_and_puzzled03/24/12
Good point shaudius - like I said up top, it does come in ha kman03/24/12
. . .people think its overkill if its just for the supplemen retsiger03/25/12
It depends on the industry and of course the job. Yes the J shaudius03/25/12
Could you please elaborate on places and fields where the JD frankythefly03/26/12
Compliance of various sorts(athletic, securities, healthcare shaudius03/26/12
f&p, I did it all part-time at state schools, while worki kman03/24/12
Titcr. I didn't fully appreciate the prestige game wrt law. dupednontraditional03/26/12
I don't understand why you don't leave the JD off your resum aconceitedzerolontls03/24/12
You're probably right - I guess I thought it might somehow s kman03/25/12
It's hard to wash away the stain of a non-elite JD. When I t turde03/26/12
Wouldn't T14 graduates who were unable to secure careers in frankythefly03/26/12
I think it could go both ways. Depends on the goals of the lovehatethelaw03/26/12
Let's suppose the guy's applying for a lowly $12/hour job, s frankythefly03/26/12
In this case, it could also depend on just how distant the h attorneyatpies09/06/14
Depends on the T-14, any degree that says Harvard on it prob shaudius03/26/12
As far as T-14 cachet, when you get outside law circles, it ricegol03/26/12
This is a very good thread. I've a friend who has a BS in e aknas03/27/12
Still struggling with this issue...though I've ONLY EVER wor kman09/06/14
pervasive cultural stereotype of lawyers being rich and some kansas09/06/14
TITCR. The dark side of cache. soupcansham09/06/14
But surveys consistently show that the public has higher reg kman09/08/14
I'm trying to get back into my old career. Or combine my JD cavebro09/07/14
I don't have money for more degrees (didn't have money for t onegin09/07/14
I had to get a Master's in an entirely new field. I'd rathe stevelaw09/07/14
Seems like a thread on this subject pops up every three or f eddiemunster09/08/14
It's very hard to hide the stain. I had ten years of enginee soiled_nappies09/08/14
"Why are you interviewing for a Process engineer job when yo kman09/08/14



kman (Mar 24, 2012 - 7:22 pm)

I went to law shool (dumb, I know) while working as an engineer thinking I might get into IP. [Insert Laughtrack.] When that didn't pan out after a year or so, I decided to stick with engineering - but found people weren't really "seeing me" as an engineer anymore.

So to show my commitment and bolster my engin-cred, I pursued additional engineering degrees. This seems to have convinced most people to view me as truly an engineer (albeit one who merely happens to have a JD for personal-interest reasons). The JD does come in handy as a supplemental knowledge base, I will admit, although I downplay the fact that I'm also a licensed attorney.

Has anyone else had to use additional education to "dilute" the toxic JD and thereby facilitate a transition to non-law? IBR and/or going to cheap state schools part-time makes it possible, although still a relatively long road.

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dupednontraditional (Mar 25, 2012 - 4:41 am)

I ran into the exact same problem, FWIW. I didn't pursue more engineering as that would have required a PhD, and I had already doubled down on the whole LOL skool debacle. I was tapped out and had already spent a lot of loan money.

What is frustrating and tragic here is that society just leans back and looks at you in disdain for your education, as if to say " yeah, you have x degree, but what have you done for me lately?" It's easy for a hiring manager or HR harlot, secure in their jobs, to dismiss you and require more education from you, as if it were no big thing.

Science-related majors are worse, IMO, as they have no imagination and see no value in doing anything other than toeing the line. The idea that law could help you be a better manager or EPA consultant is just lost on them. Why would you want to grow or improve yourself? Just keep your head down and do as you're told.

Look at any company's website that is a small business. The principals will have their bachelor's in engineering from 1973, the gen-xers will have bachelors and masters, the gen-yers will have that and more.

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jdmallard (Mar 25, 2012 - 12:20 pm)

"additional engineering degrees?" You have 4+ degrees? Really?

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dupednontraditional (Mar 25, 2012 - 1:06 pm)

Bachelors and masters. Worked for seven years, no debt, thus my law school error. Per OP's logic, which I think is largely correct, I would have to get a PhD in order to show recommitment. So three degrees, PE license and bar license.

I have been working for six years now, gratefully, but "high on the hog" is not how to describe it. Since I am married and now have a child, a PhD would be largely impossible, at least mathematically. And, I am effing SICK TO DEATH of the higher ed scam - fool me thrice, screw you liars. I can provide for my family in a limited way, which is something. Though I'm sure that someone will tell me its still all my fault for living.

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kman (Mar 25, 2012 - 3:19 pm)

Yep, plus a PE license.

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dupednontraditional (Mar 25, 2012 - 6:16 pm)

Kman, glad you have found your way. Back in 2004 (2L) I had an adjunct patent prof level with me and say "I've got several patent attorney friends with experience who couldn't buy an interview." so you are likely not missing much, either.

At that point i knew i was effed ( why would an engineer not be a patent attorney? Why would an attorney go back to engineering? As if the reasons were as simple as reading dick & Jane) so I focused on legal related jobs exclusively.

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recoveringjd (Mar 26, 2012 - 6:11 pm)

I was in a similar situation. I had a Comp Sci BS and was working in programming when I got it in my head to go to LS. I had a friend who went the same route and was successful. But he was brilliant and I was not.

I graduated almost 5 years ago. Didn't pass the bar. I was fortunate to get back into IT but they were either short lived or dead end. For the past 2 I've been sending out tons of IT / Software Dev resumes but was getting few callbacks. In my last batch, I dropped the JD and the response picked up. Mostly headhunters but it was better than before. I think that time is helpful. I can imagine certifications also being very helpful - especially when you don't have the opportunity to pick up another degree.

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thedetroiter (Mar 24, 2012 - 7:41 pm)

Whilst the non-elite JD is the educational analog to herpes and is something that, unfortunately, is with us forever once "attained", there are various ways of masking its ill effects.

One is indeed what I have coined "academic laundering" whereby the highly-suspect and dreaded non-elite JD is fogged in amongst additional degrees in a sort of camouflage effect, the same way a hamster in the wild camouflages itself against airborne predators.

The other tried and somewhat untrue method is to gloss over the JD entirely by substituting some other thing you were doing while in law shool: slightly exaggerating a part-time job or volunteer work during that time, etc. to provide the necessary concealment of the law degree that way.

Both are fine techniques and I applaud your efforts. I always seek to warn the kids that the JD closes more doors than it opens.

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frankythefly (Mar 24, 2012 - 8:36 pm)

Heh heh. If getting a job were similar to bedding down with the hiring manager, then having a JD on your resume is the equivalent of everyone in town knowing you have herpes.

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kman (Mar 24, 2012 - 7:58 pm)

Thanks thedetroiter - interesting term, laundering, although I kind of like "dilution" too. :)

Fortunately I was working while in law school, so there would be no gap on my resume if I simply left off the JD, although I don't go that far. I do try to bury it though, giving it minimal elaboration while playing up the others. Now that I'm thinking about it, it would be kind of funny to title my "education" section as something like "select degrees," LOL.

I've gotten pretty good at "spinning" why I went to law school as a mere "side interest" or some such...but you are profoundly right in that it's a lot of work just to re-open some of the doors that a JD closes!

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shaudius (Mar 24, 2012 - 8:19 pm)

Honestly, a lot of engineers work in regulated industry settings where a JD could actually be a benefit depending on your job within the company. If you're strictly a line engineer doing product development, probably not, but there are a lot of places where the law degree could potentially be helpful. Biomed or mechanical engineers working the medical device sector looking to start drafting 510(k) applications is one example.

ChemEs or PetroleumEs doing work with EPA, DoE etc. It just depends. The JD isn't a stigma if you can spin how it helps you transition into something that's related.

It's definitely not worth the investment, but if you have it you could try to spin it into a job where you could actually use it depending on your engineer discipline.

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frugal_and_puzzled (Mar 24, 2012 - 8:24 pm)

What did the entire degree process cost you?

Did you pay for the JD with your savings?
Did you use savings while in law school? OR did you go PT while working?
How did you pay for the additional engineering degree?

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kman (Mar 24, 2012 - 8:26 pm)

Good point shaudius - like I said up top, it does come in handy as a supplemental knowledge base, and I am in a pretty regulated field. I also have to spin it as a "personal interest" (which is true), or people think its overkill if its just for the supplemental-knowledge aspect.

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retsiger (Mar 25, 2012 - 9:49 pm)

. . .people think its overkill if its just for the supplemental-knowledge aspect.
-------------------------------------------------------------

This is correct. Everyone involved in the employment process is much more jaded. He comes across as unfocused, unsure, and possibly as a problem. So, unlike what career services may want to believe, having a JD to be a janitor does not say "i just want to really comply with all environmental laws and understand torts for wet floor." Rather, it screams "what the . . ."

I feel for you kman. It's a rough world.

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shaudius (Mar 25, 2012 - 10:00 pm)

It depends on the industry and of course the job. Yes the JD is not as universal and useful as the people in career services would have you believe, but it is also not as much of a kiss of death as people on this forum would have you believe either. It's all about finding places where your experience + your JD can be useful.

Again, its still not worth the price of admission for 90% of people who receive it, but that doesn't mean that you can't make it at least partially work for you in the right circumstances if you already have it.

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frankythefly (Mar 26, 2012 - 11:00 am)

Could you please elaborate on places and fields where the JD would be of value and where hiring personnel would recognize it as being of value?

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shaudius (Mar 26, 2012 - 3:02 pm)

Compliance of various sorts(athletic, securities, healthcare), regulatory affairs(pharma or device mostly but some food), various claims based government jobs, various quasi-legal government jobs that aren't claims based.

Which isn't to say that you'll get any of those jobs automatically, and most require some sort of secondary background besides law but at the very least those are places where the law degree will at least be able to be spun as a benefit.

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kman (Mar 24, 2012 - 8:34 pm)

f&p,

I did it all part-time at state schools, while working, but also needed significant student loans to make it all work. (I'm consolidated all on IBR.)

I thought I was being responsible by not going to a ritzy law school, and also by being able to work my way through, but alas then I had no idea about the elitism in law. (In engineering, prestige is more pro-rated; sure the top schools feel superior, yes, but unlike in law they also respect the decent-but-less-prestigious schools for what they're worth.)

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dupednontraditional (Mar 26, 2012 - 3:44 am)

Titcr. I didn't fully appreciate the prestige game wrt law. The lawyers I knew were very encouraging, which troubles me given the length of relationship and the realities of the legal market. Did they know...? I think they had to have.

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aconceitedzerolontls (Mar 24, 2012 - 10:44 pm)

I don't understand why you don't leave the JD off your resume if you are applying to non-legal jobs, don't have a resume gap, and think the JD hurts you.

I haven't heard of non-legal jobs that require you to list every academic degree. Maybe some government jobs require you to list all your degrees, since I think most require you to list every job you have had, but I have never heard of that in the private sector. I also can't think of any reason it would be an ethical violation to leave off a degree in a non-legal job.

I used to work with a guy before law school who, when I told him I was leaving to go to law school, told me he had a law degree and told me a bit about what law school was like. After, he told me not to tell anyone because they might look at him differently. And this was a government job.

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kman (Mar 25, 2012 - 3:21 pm)

You're probably right - I guess I thought it might somehow seem unethical to leave it off, e.g. if it's in a context that creates the impression that the list is exhaustive.

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turde (Mar 26, 2012 - 2:38 pm)

It's hard to wash away the stain of a non-elite JD. When I took prereqs at my university there was a guy who got his JD and Tax LLM from Georgetown. He could not find a job so he enrolled in the Macc program. I have no idea if he found work after that.

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frankythefly (Mar 26, 2012 - 2:41 pm)

Wouldn't T14 graduates who were unable to secure careers in the legal profession or even entry-level jobs be equally stained? How would non-attorney HR people and hiring managers know that a candidate's law degree from a T14 school was from a T14 school? Wouldn't they suffer the same discrimination as TTT graduates when they seek out non-law jobs?

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lovehatethelaw (Mar 26, 2012 - 2:49 pm)

I think it could go both ways. Depends on the goals of the company and the process use by the hiring manager.

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frankythefly (Mar 26, 2012 - 2:56 pm)

Let's suppose the guy's applying for a lowly $12/hour job, say as a bank teller or customer service rep. It's a "blue collar" level job but without physical labor.

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attorneyatpies (Sep 6, 2014 - 4:10 pm)

In this case, it could also depend on just how distant the hiring manager is from the realities of the legal world. There are still a surprising number of people out there who haven't yet gotten the news, and who are still blinded by the shimmering Preftige Field that materializes before them upon hearing that so-and-so is a LAWYER!!11!!1!

I'm fairly sure this is what happened with my current pizza delivery gig. (Got it as the nearest available $$ when broke and crashing with parents -- held on to it as the "sure thing" augmenting temp assignments). After being there for six years, I've started to think of my boss as a kind of equitable-defense superhero: Captain Laches. He lets a TON of stuff just go to hell (employment applications included) until he's absolutely desperate, at which point one can wander into the office and find him calling back a stack of apps six months deep. Yet this guy hired me literally two minutes after I filled out the application.

Sure, I did have prior delivery experience, but probably no more than a lot of applicants who just sat in the pile. And while I'm not paralyzingly awkward in person, I'm not exactly Mr. Smooth either. So I think the boss' personal history had a lot to do with it. He was in his early 40s at the time of hiring me, grew up in a small city in North Dakota, went into the pizza industry right out of college, managed locations of a major national chain, and eventually became the franchisee of those two locations. All of this makes me think he might be on the very tail end of the social cohort that accorded Automatic Respect To Lawyers (even in settings like pizza delivery, where esquire status isn't really all that germane).

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shaudius (Mar 26, 2012 - 2:59 pm)

Depends on the T-14, any degree that says Harvard on it probably has cachet, a degree from UVA or Michigan, not so much, but at least the schools are all known in the T-14, 5 of the T-14 are Ivies afterall.

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ricegol (Mar 26, 2012 - 5:43 pm)

As far as T-14 cachet, when you get outside law circles, it really depends on the part of the country. Everybody everywhere recognizes HYS, and to a lesser extent Columbia, Cornell.

But to non-law Joe Citizen, Michigan and Texas mean football, while Duke, Virginia and Georgetown mean basketball. Of course in their local areas, the law school may mean something but not in the broader country. For example, even among lawyers outside of biglaw, Michigan does not carry great cachet on the East Coast. I think if you go to California and talk to non-law peoople about Duke, most people will think Coach K and the Lacrosse team. The bottom line is that only a handful of law schools have a true "brand name" everywhere.

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aknas (Mar 27, 2012 - 5:50 am)

This is a very good thread. I've a friend who has a BS in engineering and then a JD. She got a good-paying job immediately as a patent attorney. This was fifteen years ago. For ten years, she thought that she was smart and everyone else was "loosers" for being unemployed. For the last five years, she has started to admit that she is lucky and that possibly everyone else might be smart and diligently searching for a law career but just have bad luck.

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kman (Sep 6, 2014 - 12:46 am)

Still struggling with this issue...though I've ONLY EVER worked in engineering, it's a regulated area and so I'd sort of like to keep the JD on my resume/Linkedin/bios/etc. in some way.

However, no matter how I keep trying to "trivialize" it (it's down to the point of a buried, glancing mention!), people seem to zero in on it and regard me as a lawyer. It's not always (and often not) even viewed as a negative at all, but still I want people to view me as an engineer who just happens to be legally educated. I mean good grief, I've never worked as anything but an engineer, and I'm fairly accomplished at it...plus I go out of my way to always act/talk like I never even entertained the thought of transitioning to law. (It was only a fleeting notion anyway; I quickly changed my mind and decided I wanted to stay in engineering after all.)

So what's with all this law-centric-ness, of lawyers and non-lawyers alike, that has people thinking anyone who's an engineer + lawyer must be "mainly" the latter? I feel engineering is at least as least as valuable, and shouldn't be intuitively regarded as a back-seat profession that's just there to provide some handy extra background for a legal career.

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kansas (Sep 6, 2014 - 1:50 am)

pervasive cultural stereotype of lawyers being rich and somehow more powerful than everyone else. Not true, not at all, but that's the reason.

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soupcansham (Sep 6, 2014 - 10:32 am)

TITCR. The dark side of cache.

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kman (Sep 8, 2014 - 8:57 am)

But surveys consistently show that the public has higher regard for engineers than lawyers - and most people think that engineers make at least "good" money.

I don't say this to disparage all lawyers - especially the struggling ones who got screwed by "the scam" and are just trying to get by. But at some point, leaders in the legal profession gave it a "bad" name, and for the life of me I can't figure out why people assume that everyone educated in the subject would automatically want to practice it (at least, more so than for other professions associated with intelligence/good income/etc.).

So, I have advanced degrees in two professions - both associated with good incomes, rightly or wrongly - and for some reason people jump to thinking that I must "really" want to be part of the one held in lower public esteem?

I realize I shouldn't complain - I'm fortunate to be working in a good field, and the fact is I finally have managed to trivialize my JD enough to at least get probably most people to now regard me as "mainly" an engineer (though it would be nice to not have to trivialize it quite so much, but if I have to I have to...). It's just that it was a lot harder than it should have been, and I still do encounter the problem sometimes where people see that JD and it's like my whole career went out the window.

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cavebro (Sep 7, 2014 - 12:46 pm)

I'm trying to get back into my old career. Or combine my JD with my old career. I'll be so happy the day I start my new job. Whenever that may be.

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onegin (Sep 7, 2014 - 2:00 pm)

I don't have money for more degrees (didn't have money for the ones I did), so I am trying to dilute the JD with certifications and certificate programs which I complete as finances allow. Right now I'm taking some comp sci courses through Harvard Extension so my JD won't be the most recent education on my record.

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stevelaw (Sep 7, 2014 - 4:54 pm)

I had to get a Master's in an entirely new field. I'd rather not say which one.

The JD is very much looked down upon and/or a problematic sticking point for non-law job interviewers. As I interviewed for jobs in my new field, even though I pointed to a Master's Degree in the new field and experience I obtained in the new field, the interviews always degenerated into grilling me as if I had some kind of secret plot to be all like, "HA HA! Now that you have hired me I will quit and cash in on my golden JD ticket! This was all just a plan by me to obtain more education, not to work in a new field, but to mildly annoy an HR rep and cause him/her to restart the hiring process!"

At one point where I feared employers of the new field were not going to give me a fair shake because of the JD, I dusted off the JD and applied for a law job. I was interviewed for a stereotypically gruff and grizzly attorney. Said attorney informed me that if hired, my salary would be in the 20,000's, I'd be expected to work 24/7 whatever was needed, bring in new business, oh, and don't expect any training or "hand holding." Oh but if you make a mistake, you'll be out. I was one of a bazillion applicants for the job.

I went home that day, kicking myself for ever getting in a profession where the above described job is something that lawyers will scramble over each other for.

Said atty never called back. But luckily, a non-law employer in the new field called back soon after to offer me a job. A job where I get paid much more than what Grizzly Atty was offering, plus I get these crazy things like vacations, benefits oh and respect! I have never worked in a job where I felt more respected and valued by coworkers.

I feel like divine intervention was at work - give me one last glimpse at the legal profession, remind me how lousy it is so I don't feel bad for getting out of it, moving my mindset from "I feel bad I failed to find a law job" to "The legal profession failed me."

I mean, I'm not overly religious or anything, but it felt like God was saying, "No Steve, you're not wrong, the law field really does suck, I just wanted to give you one last glimpse of how much it sucks so you will appreciate your new non law job that much more."

I love my non law job. My only regret now is that I can't go back in time, bypass law school completely, and have gotten this job or another like it sooner.

Kids, remember, don't smoke, don't do drugs, and don't go to law school.

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eddiemunster (Sep 8, 2014 - 10:41 am)

Seems like a thread on this subject pops up every three or four months at least. Nothing's changed, by the sounds of it - the JD is a permanent stain on the resume you can never be rid of without actually lying to cover up the time spent getting it.

There was a poster here several years ago who did just that - covered up her JD so she could get a job as a paralegal. Sad, but true.

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soiled_nappies (Sep 8, 2014 - 11:37 am)

It's very hard to hide the stain. I had ten years of engineering experience when I entered law school. I knew how important it was to get practical legal experience while in law school, so I took every patent law clinic I could. I applied to every firm in my city and others across the nation, pulled every string I could, did the Loyola Patent law interview thing, etc. I got decent, but not stellar grades(B+ to A- average).

Naturally, I graduated law school without a job. No one told me of the rampant age discrimination within entry level legal hiring. I couldn't even buy my way into a job by offering to pay for training. I couldn't volunteer at legal clinics because the Legal Aid people received dozens of resumes a week from people who had gone to U of C, Northwestern, Notre Dame, etc. And THESE people were on 9 month fellowships and were more attractive than a desperate Toileteer.

So I thought "Sh*t. Maybe I can get back to engineering. At least there I'm guaranteed an $85K+ salary and maybe I can worm my way in-house."
Nope. Not a single engineering employer would take a look at me. I even applied to work in the places most people don't want to go. Think ... Saudi Arabia or Fairbanks, Alaska.

After 2 years, an old engineering buddy saw how desperate I was and got me a phone interview with BP. After a reasonably cordial interview I asked them one question I knew they really wanted to ask.
Me: "So is there anything else you want to know about me?"
Them: "Yeah. Why are you interviewing for a Process engineer job when you're a lawyer?"

I had a great canned response, but I'm afraid it didn't carry the day. I could have done that job in my sleep and get along with others just fine. They just couldn't see past the JD.

And that's it really. Even in my current job (non-legal) I had a pleasant encounter with a colleague on my first day.
Her: "So why couldn't you get a job as a lawyer? What wrong with you? You know you never going to make good money here."
(She was not known for her tact)

And that's it. law school was, by far, the stupidest decision of my life. At least I have a job I somewhat enjoy and I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. With luck I might be able to retire a couple of years before I die and can maybe leave a little something to my kids. Most of the fools now going to Toilets won't even be half as lucky as me.

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kman (Sep 8, 2014 - 12:17 pm)

"Why are you interviewing for a Process engineer job when you're a lawyer?"

This is what's so infuriating to me! Nobody says "Why are you interviewing for a law job when you're an engineer." And engineering is better regarded by the public (according to most surveys I've seen...), is also associated with fairly good money, and is every bit as important to society (if not more so, but I'm biased...).

That's where the "trivialization" comes in - it helps if you're in a regulated area, or even willing to put just "JD" without the actual license (especially if you have a PE license, for contrast). That way, you could plausibly say "I'm NOT a lawyer! I've never practiced law and never would. I merely have a legal education to supplement my ENGINEERING career. I'm sorry if that was not clearly conveyed." And, if you're feeling particularly aggressive about it (as I have at times...), you can throw in some embellishments like "I never wanted to be a lawyer" or "That was always just a side-interest."

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