“Dear LiL: Law hasn’t always been my passion, in fact I started out in a completely different career! After having a change of heart, I completed my JD and have started articling with a great firm. While I know the path I chose is the right one, I’m surrounded by other articling students and people who have “always known” they wanted to be a lawyer and find myself shying away from discussing my past. Does my previous experience hold any value to my future legal career and how can I use this to my advantage?” Signed ~ Change of Heart
Dear Change of Heart,
Life never turns out like we plan, does it? I also started out in a different career before I discovered that law was my passion. I completed my Bachelors of Science in Nursing and quickly realized that nursing was not the best fit for me. When I entered law school it was intimidating to be surrounded by so many people who had always had a passion for law. I wondered, “am I in the right place?”, “is this another degree I won’t like?”, “did I completely waste the last five years of my life?”. Thank goodness, the answers have been “yes”, “no” and “no”.
Having come through the other side, I can assure you that no matter what your past career has been, it holds value. No matter what career you have come from, there are valuable lessons that can inform your practice of law. From how to relate to colleagues within a professional environment, to how to handle high pressure situations and deadlines. These are examples of situations that many of your fellow students have not been exposed to.
Many people come to law school immediately after completing their undergrad degree. While there is nothing wrong with that and some of the most skilled and qualified lawyers have this in common, this does not mean that you should negate or downplay the life experience that your first career has given you.
Your past has undeniably shaped who you are, your skill set, and your view on the world. My best advice to you is to leverage what you have gained from your past job. Do you know you work well under high pressure situations? Great! Use it to your advantage. Sign up for those tasks that have a tight deadline because you know you’ve got this! Do you have experience doing certain tasks that are transferrable to your new job? Excellent! Let people know about it and volunteer for those tasks.
Your past career is a part of who you are. While there’s no need to flaunt it, you don’t need to hide it either. Let who you are shine, and you will be sure to find a workspace that appreciates you and the unique skill set you bring to the table.
About the Author
Deanna Froese is an associate at Harper Grey LLP with a practice focus on representing clients in two main areas: health law and workplace law. She is a frequent writer on topics related to administrative and workplacelaw. She is a contributor to the LexisNexis Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and Harper Grey’s Workplace Law Strategies Blog.