Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Finding Law Everywhere

Janie Paulson//April 28, 2011

Finding Law Everywhere

Janie Paulson//April 28, 2011

By Janie Paulson

It is springtime and that means it is graduation time.  In the Twin Cities this spring, hundreds of law students are about to graduate, just as they did last spring and the spring before.

Four springs ago, after graduating 13th in my class from my law school in California, I decided to return to the Twin Cities and had to begin the search for a law job.  And luckily that great law job followed shortly.  This spring, my family and I have relocated to Washington, D.C., and the search begins again.

This spring, some students will go to their “dream” job at the exact place they wanted to be.  Most will go to some other job, some other place, or some other job market.  For the most of you, I empathize with your struggles.  But don’t worry, there are opportunities to find law everywhere you look.

The Barrister Barista:

Whether you are the first one at Dunn Bros with a laptop in the morning searching for jobs or the barista serving up the coffee at Caribou, coffee shops are a wonderful place to watch the legal world work.  Look up at the counter as the barista deciphers and analyzes strange code words such as macchiato to get the customer’s perfect cup.  These skills are similar to those we learned in law school: deciphering strange latin phrases, analyzing sets of facts and rules & determining the perfect solution to problems.  And of course, each transaction is a contract.  So what happens if the drink is wrong or if the wrong beans are shipped? What does the UCC say about breaches again or is it common law?  But be careful of that hot coffee. you don’t want to burn anyone.

The Retail Counselor:

For a while I’ve done a fun one night a week gig selling cosmetics at a retail store (insert shop-a-holic joke here).  Each time I work, women and men come in to the store with problems and I help solve them.  I often remind myself that each customer interaction is no different than a client coming into my office.  I’ve got a particularized set of knowledge just as I do as a lawyer.  Along with with negotiating styles, psychological theories and social skills, I utilize my knowledge & skills to assist each individual client.  Sure, night cream isn’t a case involving millions of dollars but to many people it is almost as important.

The Barred Bartender:

We all know strange things go on in bars, so what a great place to put that legal knowledge to work.  Well not literally to work, don’t start spouting out proximate cause to your patrons (unless you want them to leave) but rather treat those situations as an exam for your brain.  Whether the couple arguing at 1:30 am will be involved in divorce proceedings (and who would get what), whether any of the customers could cause dram shop liability, whether the noise & parking create any zoning or ordinance problems… and the list goes on.

The Office Jurist:

In every non-law job there are some standard legalistic issues.  Wages, breaks, safety standards, reporting requirements, and taxes are just a few of the many legal issues that affect every job.  Take some initiative and learn how the rules became what they are, offer to help preparing, editing or reviewing documents, take time to read the company’s filings (this can be especially interesting if you work for a publicly traded company), or read the company’s policies and procedures (this can be especially boring unless you are a lawyer).  If you are in an office, make use of the psuedo-legal stuff going on in that office.

So whether you are in your dream job or hoping to find that dream job soon, remember that law is more than just yelling “objection.”  Whether or not you are practicing law, that law degree can be used every day.  Law pervades every part of our lives and opportunities to improve legal skills are everywhere, so make sure to take advantage of them.

And if all else fails you can take a shot a suing your law school or complaining directly to Minnesota Lawyer/JDs Rising (use the comment section below). Got a non-legal job that involves your legal skills, comment below.

Top News

See All Top News

Legal calendar

Click here to see upcoming Minnesota events

Expert Testimony

See All Expert Testimony