But I Have No Marketable Skills Except Law

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard some version of “I can’t do anything except practice law,” well, I’d have more money than I currently do. Probably enough to buy an iPhone, at any rate.

And it’s really funny, because most non-lawyers assume exactly the opposite, that if you’ve made it through the hell of law school and practiced law, you must be very smart and accomplished and could succeed at anything.

Don’t write those non-lawyers off. They have a good point.

Lawyers arrive at the belief they are unemployable except as lawyers for many reasons. The biggest reason, IMO, is the highly toxic law firm ecosystem. Let’s review what that is: The firm is run by people who doubt their own worth beyond the hours they can bill, and don’t believe in the possible any longer, only the already proven, and they project all this onto poor unwitting associates. Add to the mix that most partners and senior associates can’t be bothered to tell you what you’re doing wrong in any helpful sort of way, let alone what you’re doing right. With such skewed feedback, only those with the most robust self-esteem can sustain belief in their innate abilities. Robust understates it, actually. With Teflon-covered egos is more like it. And most human beings simply don’t have that makeup. We’re creatures of doubt, for the most part, especially if we have spent several years learning how to poke holes in logic and deconstruct just about anything. Doubt is baked into the lawyer DNA. If you graduated from law school, good luck trying to extract it.

So how the hell do you combat all this self-doubt, when you’re still in an environment that eggs doubt on like crack dealers chatting up coke addicts? Find some un-lawyerlike people to hang out with.

How? You ask. Well, if you’re of a spiritual bent, you could try church, since faith is the polar opposite of doubt. Or a racquetball league, a knitting class, a book club. A choir or choral group. Take up horseback riding, boating, or biking. Do anything that interests and engages you and involves new and different people, as long as the majority of those people aren’t attorneys.

This strategy isn’t going to produce overnight results, but it will get you moving out of your limited point of view, and that’s a huge step. Plus, it’s fun. Who could ask for anything more?

(Yeah, I know who: lawyers!)

2 thoughts on “But I Have No Marketable Skills Except Law

  1. You’ll have to pardon me for a bit over the next couple of days and weeks as you may see a number of comments from me on some of your old posts. I am really thoroughly enjoying the treasure trove of articles you have on this page 🙂

    This article is really SPOT ON about preserving your sense of self and self-worth. In fact, I credit what you’ve suggested with my ability to fundamentally remain who I am during my 2.5 to 3 years of practicing law (which is actually closer to 4 if you count the time I spent being a law clerk). My best and closest friends are all non-attorneys. And as I’ve been working my way through this career transition period, they’ve been my greatest resources and cheerleaders.

  2. Welcome aboard, Nina! Glad you’re enjoying the archives. And I’m super-glad you’ve got such great support around you.

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