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Gradenfreude: Working Retail as a Lawyer Is Pretty Damn Demeaning

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at, and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

As the number of days without a career increases, I can feel myself losing it. Now by “it,” I don’t mean I’m going to have a bad day and go postal, but instead, I believe I’m becoming a little dumber every day. It seems that the lack of thought required for working in retail is resulting in a regression in terms of my basic common sense.

I now understand why old people need to play brain games to stay sharp. At least once a week, I catch myself doing something that is out of character — something that, if I saw another person doing it, would make me think that person was a moron. I feel like this job is turning me into the complete idiot that my customers treat me like….

The customers that I have to deal with every day are not only annoying, but also incredibly stupid. It almost seems like being around stupidity makes it rub off on you. For example, there are customers that will “shop around” the store for a better, more favorable answer to their questions. When I’m asked about whether we have a certain product, and I inform the customer that we either don’t carry the product, or it’s currently out of stock, some people will go to another associate, and ask them the exact same question, only in search of a different answer.

And then they are still somehow unable to understand the concept of a store actually running out of a product prior to every potential customer getting the opportunity to purchase one. And in my situation, it’s particularly annoying, as the customers seem to become happier when the person with the G.E.D. confirms what they have already been told by a person with a law degree awaiting bar admission a few minutes earlier. That’s the sort of thing that makes me feel like I’d be better off banging my head against a wall.

Because of the stupidity that I’m surrounded by on a daily basis, I’ve decided that I need to exercise my brain more often in my free time, at least until I find a legal job. I’m still deciding on what I should do, but I’m seriously considering reading my bar review notes before bed. I figure that it might be a good idea to refresh my memory a bit, since the closest thing to legal work that I do on a daily basis is tell my coworkers whether or not they’ll be able to file a lawsuit over some minor inconvenience in their lives.

Then again, re-reading my bar review notes will likely just result in nightmares recounting this past summer’s awfulness. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve been away from the law for too long to be remotely competent in any legal job, so reviewing my notes from the hell that was the bar exam may help me slightly.

I also think that just hearing some of the customers’ requests is enough to make a person dumber, kind of like the principal’s quote at the end of Billy Madison. Almost every day, there will be one or more customers that say something that is just so stupid that I pause for a moment to try to figure out what a logical person could have intended to say, instead of the words that I actually heard.

I’m usually at a loss for words when I realize that the person is really just that stupid, and then they decide that I’m stupid because I can’t assist them. I don’t know whether I should laugh at them, or laugh at myself for the joke that my life has become.

Although, thinking about it logically, I’ll likely have to deal with complete idiots on a daily basis, even when I do find a legal job. Why do I even bother?

When not writing about life after law school for Above the Law, Tristan Taylor Thomas (not his real name) works at a retail job stocking shelves — which he admits is slightly better than being a shoeshiner. You can reach him by email at

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