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What I wish I knew when I graduated from law school

I caught up with my dear friend Eli over a delicious Thai meal at a restaurant in Angel, London. We had a wonderful time chatting and eventually the conversation turned to our careers. We studied law together and then went on to work at firms in London. However, we probably aren’t the best advocates for a career in law considering neither of us practice it anymore! We would both describe those years as a bit of an ordeal and realised this:

We bloody wished we knew more about the other careers open to us when we were graduating.

At the start of the academic year, most universities host a job fair where you have companies telling you how amazing it is to work for them. They all come with branded mugs, chocolates, cakes, key rings and balloons — anything to get you to talk to them. I remember walking around the fair and spotting a girl at the stand for a magic circle law firm. She had a forced smile but I could tell she was exhausted. I went over and asked her what it was like to work at her firm. She answered what was obviously her automatic response: “It’s amazing”, but I wasn’t buying it. I pressed and she eventually confessed that the hours were extremely long, and she felt completely burnt out. Her current plan was to save enough money to quit and find something else.

How many times have you heard this same song: I am only here for the money. We are all prone to thinking we are immortal. The fact is we are on borrowed time and at some point, it will run out. I don’t mean to come across too heavy but that is a fact. Therefore, you owe it to yourself to at least consider how you are spending your time. Don’t feel that just because you studied law you have to practice it. Even if you have spent a few years practicing it there is nothing stopping you from trying a new career (except your own ego).

Unfortunately, money talks baby, so the job fairs will always be filled with law firms. Their business model runs on energetic graduates working crazy hours for relatively low pay. So, they have a big incentive to appear as enticing as possible. Your university won’t be much help either. Their job is to provide you with an education. They aren’t as concerned with what you do with it.

You need to do some self-reflection and think about what you really want to do. Once you have an idea, go and find someone already in the industry and ask how they got there. You might be surprised how many people answer an email asking them to talk about themselves! Research and explore your options in any way you can. Instagram was great for me — I have discovered so many people with inspiring careers to learn from.

A law degree is amazing because it teaches you so many different skills, many of which are transferable across a wide variety of careers. Researching, verbal questioning, evaluating, negotiating, analysing, reasoning, critical judgment, problem-solving, writing, public speaking, precision — these are all skills a law graduate possesses.

Some of my friends carried on into law firms but others went into the following roles:

1. Charity campaigner

2. Food stylist

3. Lifestyle and food blogger

4. Private tutor

5. Copywriter

6. Freelance journalist

7. Fashion stylist and personal buyer for high net worth clients

8. Entrepreneur

9. Mother (the hardest job of them all and she is doing it brilliantly — I’m sure the resilience built up during her law career helped her immensely

10. Radio host

11. Fashion photographer

I could go on but I think you get the point. They didn’t let anyone tell them what they couldn’t do and followed careers they are passionate about. Having the courage to follow your passion makes everything possible. It isn’t just an empty phrase; your commitment will be rewarded. It may not always be in the way you expect, but it will be rewarded. Don’t feel locked into any future. Think about what you really want to pursue and go for it!

Check out our Ratio notebook for a great way to take legal case notes.