How to Interview for New Jobs After Quitting Law School


The TLDR: Be prepared to answer confidently about your law school experience, and don't be evasive. These two things will lead to better interview experiences.

So... how do you interview for new jobs after quitting law school?

There is absolutely no one right answer for this.

That sucks, but it's the truth.

Some interviewers will be so focused on other qualifications or parts of your resume that they won't even notice law school is mentioned. Others will tell you things like, "This is going to be a problem to some people in our enterprise." (Which means, it's a problem to them.)

I have personally had both experiences I mentioned above. I've actually had some interviewers simply be impressed that I tried law school. So there's a definite spectrum of reactions.

My life has changed a lot of late, and I am at a serious career crossroads. I have done a variety of interviews for various reasons. For instance, I interviewed to start a new school program... and they didn't even bat an eye regarding law school. I also have done a series of interviews for a position that could eventually turn into an entirely new career, and that's where I really saw the array of reactions to this situation. I have interviewed with four different people in this organization. Two of them were concerned, but I was able to appease them by saying (essentially), "It just wasn't for me, and some personal and family issues arose at that time." One of them pretty much just ignored the subject entirely after I explained that I have a very diverse career background. Then there was the fourth person. This person was concerned, and remained unappeased that it was part of my experience. This bothered me. Law is in no way a requisite factor for this job. So I was bothered that this interviewer would even care enough to say that my having quit law school had a negative impact on my hireability.

When I quit, I knew some people out there would have a beef with me quitting.  I'm here to tell all of you, that, in my limited experience with job interviews after dropping out of law school, one in five interviewers takes serious issue with my quittorney status.
It's important to note that it seems obvious that if I were interviewing for legal positions, the number of very troubled interviewers would be significantly higher. I realize that there is a reason it concerns even those whose positions for which they are hiring has nothing to do with law or experience gained from law school.

It's that I quit something.  It's that, from their perspective, I couldn't finish what I started. It's that I'm changeable or weak.  It's that they don't realize that quitting can be a virtue. It's that they don't realize that quitting is sometimes the best career decision.

I get that!

I do!  I mean... what was all of my hemming, hawing, and mental turmoil about if not, "If I quit this law school endeavor, my life will be irreparably damaged," running through my brain constantly?

We don't always understand the virtue that can be part of quitting. But I've come to know for a very substantial and significant list of reasons that quitting was the right decision for me. I made the best choice for me given my situation. Most who interview me for non-legal positions get that. I might give them some insight into what went into that decision, but many of them understand and even share experience of their own with quitting something major.

So, know that if you want to quit, or if you have already quit law school... there can be a lot of non-legal interviews that can involve you quickly appeasing the concerns of your interviewer or skipping past the subject easily.  But you should also know that you should always be prepared to fight for that appeasement, and be ready for it to not always work.  My strategy? Be confident within the interview that my year of law school is a value to my potential employer, and quitting isn't a ding against me, but a sign that I made the right decision given my circumstances... and I'm not afraid to talk about it!

I think the worst thing you can do is try to avoid the subject once the interviewer knows about it. That could immediately mean to them that you think it's an embarrassment, that it's a reason not to hire you, and that there's a problem they need to investigate. There may be a lot of wisdom in never mentioning law school was a part of your life at all, but I don't really operate that way and can't offer any evidence to its value or erroneousness.

If they do know you have quit, the best thing you can do is be ready to answer questions about it confidently as though it was any other part of your resume or previous experience. I think in a lot of circumstances, being honest and up front about things that could potentially be a negative for your hireability is something of value. Surely, there are always going to be interviewers that don't see things this way. You're probably going to have some hard times because you quit law school. I know it was emotionally tough to leave my most recent negative interview and avoid the thoughts like, "Maybe I should have just finished," or "Maybe I made a mistake in quitting." That, for me, has passed. I'm back to remembering that I made the right choice, that quitting was the right thing, and that I'm no worse a person for that experience.

Again, applying this to non-legal interviews, you could even say things like, "I left the law in favor of working in the industry that your enterprise works in." Tell them it's about what they do. The things they care about were really the things you cared about, more than the practice of law.

Career changes are not so uncommon a practice. Some people tout that people have "seven careers in their lifetime," but statistics supporting this seem nonexistent or dubious at best. However, according to one BLS study I recently read, people in their late twenties, thirties, and early forties average 2 to 3 different jobs within each respective time frame. My point is just that we all tend to change jobs. Owing to the fact that these kinds of BLS statistics exist, that you or I may have quit a schooling endeavor which was just meant to support one line of jobs shouldn't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.

I've rambled a lot. I know that there are people who will read this and will doubt all of its value or veracity. But I also know that quitting law school hasn't irreversibly effed up every interview I have participated in.

Thanks for reading! (Unless you quit long before now... I'm NOT judging you for that!  ;) )


UPDATE: (Yes, this is an update I'm adding to a post I wrote about a year ago and NEVER published. I'm now publishing it... and updating it.)
I currently am working in an extremely rewarding job. I know the direction I'm heading with my career, and I'm actively heading that direction. I am now more than three years beyond my decision to quit law school... and I very rarely even think about it. The interviews I have done to get my current job (which involves working around the law and lots of attorneys) were really affirming of how my having some law school in my background was a neutral if not a positive impact on my qualifying for getting the job. Also, I had one interviewer since writing the above who had quit practicing law and was excited to talk about how early I got out of legal practice. (Before it really even began!) Anyway, I just thought that would be a bit more good information for those of you that freak out about the job hunt following the big quit.  :)

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