By Katalin Tarjan • January 27, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence
Most people when they think ‘lawyer’ they think about attorneys arguing at court. But legal careers are actually much more diverse than what you see on those legal shows on TV, that’s why it’s important to learn about different career paths before you decide on one.
Do you know those personality tests that ask you to go back to your childhood to find out what it is you want to do with your life? I love those! It always makes me kind of proud to find out I am doing the exact same thing that I imagined for myself all those years ago. (Especially looking around in my similar aged - not-just-lawyers - peer group I feel extremely lucky to have a clear career goal in life.)
Looking back, I was about 13-14 years old, when I first stated I wanted to be a lawyer, and as soon as I knew, I also knew I didn’t want to work for law firms or argue at court (on either side). I either wanted to work for companies (in-house, though I didn’t know how this was called then), or for organizations (public administration or non-profit). I have no idea why I was so sure, and I remember clearly one time when a teacher asked me about it, and I said I didn’t wanted to be an attorney, she asked, ‘what then, a judge?’. Those were the only two legal careers she seemed to be familiar with.
Going forward I didn’t immediately get in to law school, so I started on another path. I chose sociology, because many classes of the first two semesters could be counted in for law school (meaning I didn’t have to take those classes twice). Then I loved sociology, so I stayed and finished it, eventually gained two university degrees and never regretted it.
Dreaming about my legal career I imagined myself working at one of those companies or organizations, being a lawyer, knowing the law, but using many other skills at my job and doing a wide range of tasks as a legal professional. And this is exactly what I am doing now. My first legal job after law school was at a semi-governmental agency, working in the construction industry, I was a legal officer and my job description couldn’t have been more diverse. My current job is in public procurement at our national authority and I perform legal control of tender notices before their publication. I plan to write about both jobs in later posts.
The strange thing I find from time to time is that even among lawyers the ‘real lawyers’ are considered to be those who work at law firms, go to court and do all the client work. I do respect that kind of work a lot, it is no easy feat, but there are many other legal jobs just as demanding and challenging. During my legal career I had to balance heavy workloads (that seems to be a given for me), work with difficult clients, be creative, be super-organized, write excellent briefs in a moment’s notice and of course always know the law.
What is important is that not all legal jobs are created equal. Being a lawyer can look like a bunch of different jobs. You should always look for what is the right fit for you, but if you know your priorities it is not impossible to find.
How about you? When did you know first that you wanted to be a lawyer?
How did you imagine your legal career then and how did it actually turn out to be? Did you already find what you were looking for or still looking?