Everybody tells jobless lawyers to “network” in order to find employment. Nobody tells them how. Nobody tells them how to pay their bills while they’re spending their free time crashing cocktail parties and trying not to look so desperate that it’s off-putting. Nobody tells them what to do if they fail.
For one California man, the networking situation has left him completely befuddled. He’s unemployed and lives in one place, but can’t afford to keep driving the other place where he is trying to network for a job. But he doesn’t have money to move (see: joblessness above), and he’s overqualified for the positions he’s applying to even though he has no experience.
Now he feels like he might have to give up his dreams of a legal career entirely, or risk moving to a homeless shelter. Well, I could have told him that…
In one of the more over-the-top letters you’ll see to a professional listserv, an Australian attorney with an LL.M. from UC Hastings asked the career guidance listserv of the San Francisco Bar for help. Here’s the post, in pertinent part:
I moved down to the Monterey/Salinas area to study for the Bar Exam, but there are no job opportunities in the area, and I have been trying to move back to the Bay Area where there are more opportunities. I’m struggling because I can’t afford to drive up and back with the gas prices, and I can’t afford to relocate, but all the advice I’ve been receiving is that I need to volunteer for months on end before I will find a paid opportunity… [W]hen I apply for job postings I get screened out due to overqualifcation but lack of experience, so I don’t know what to do to move forward.
It seems at the moment like I only have two options, because I have exhausted the money to keep investing in this career trajectory – either to give up on a legal career, or move into a homeless shelter and beg on the streets for the money to go to networking events. Frankly I’m one of the smartest and hardest working people I know, but if that’s what it takes, then that may be what I have to do.
You can read the full post on the next page.
Frankly, if you are one of the smartest, hardest working, overqualified unemployed people you know, you should probably stop hanging out at the Monterey homeless shelter.
Oh, I kid. I actually think I feel bad for this guy. This guy might be steps away from passing a bar and becoming a licensed attorney, but that doesn’t mean anybody has taught him a marketable skill. He doesn’t know how to get clients, he doesn’t know how to get together first and last month’s rent for a move, much less how to rent an office. It’s likely that his parents are still in Australia and so he’s probably not in a position to live rent free. I know it’s hyperbolic, but I bet this guy is really genuinely afraid of being homeless.
The right answer isn’t to “try harder” or “network more” or any of the glib answers lawyers who have made it dole out to the unemployed. The right answer is to give up.
Look, this is a bar exam question where they’ve told you the answer in the question and now you just have to fill in the right circle. “I have exhausted the money to keep investing in this career trajectory.” YES. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE. You probably long ago exhausted the reasonable amount of money you should have spent on this, and it is just now catching up with you. What do we do when we exhaust all our money pursuing something? We stop behaving like an idiot. We replenish our funds. We recover our strength. Only a fool tries to keep throwing good money after bad WHEN HE HAS NO MORE MONEY TO THROW AWAY.
You’ve taken your shot, and you missed. Sorry. People lose. People fail. Successful people admit when they’ve failed and move onto something more successful.
Get a job in Monterey. Not a legal one. Any one. Get a job. Try to do really well in that job. Try to use that job to get a better job that will allow you to pay your bills and fill your car with gas. Then, from that position of relative security, if you are still desperate to be an attorney, you can get back on the networking circuit. Not only will you be armed with some actual professional experience, but you won’t spend your time at the events stalking the hors d’oeuvres for free sustenance. Employers don’t want to hire people who look like they’ll do anything for a train pass.
You lost this one kid, that doesn’t mean you have to like it.