I have lost count of the number of lawyer jokes I have heard, as well as the number of times that I have been labelled a “failed lawyer” or a “reformed lawyer”.
What does a lawyer get when you give him Viagra?
But in spite of the inevitable jibes and jokes, many of us choose to pursue legal careers because of a desire to do good and to help solve the life problems of others (and where do our friends and family turn when they need legal help? Yup, you guessed it).
So let’s be upfront about this – being a lawyer is not the only thing you can do with a law degree. The skills you learn through studying law are not only relevant inside a courtroom or a law firm but are also transferrable in everyday life.
- You know how to read contracts
Anyone who has entered a contract for a new personal loan or a rental property knows how exceedingly long, complex and dull they are. As a law graduate, you know that most contracts contain a certain number of standard clauses which are generally the same irrespective of the contract. This insider knowledge means that you can skim read to find the most important stuff that affects you. For a personal loan, this might be the repayment terms or the interest rates.
Having an exceedingly thick skin (which develops from many years of punishing legal training and on-the-job experience) means that you are also undeterred from reading a contract in full before signing – even as the bank manager lets out a great sigh of frustration.
- You know how to shop for goods and services
As a graduate with a law degree, your intimate knowledge of Australian Consumer Law means that you are one of those annoying people who realise that the door-to-door salesperson is really only good for a cup of tea (unsolicited consumer agreements anyone?). You also understand that the additional warranty that the television retailer is trying to add to your purchase price is less than the amount required by guarantees applying to goods.
While cute, you also realise that those “You break it, you buy it” signs are completely unlawful and would never stand up in front of the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
- You know how to research, especially if you need to go to Court
The prospect of going to a Court or Tribunal to settle an issue does not intimidate you.
You can research your way out of any situation (or at least a rental dispute or a divorce) and you’re not afraid to file or write the correct forms and documents yourself.
- You know how to argue
You can argue like a lawyer by forming a reasoned and cogent opinion – usually on the spur of the moment. When the need arises you are also capable of using your sharp intellect and mean word merchant skills to insult someone’s intelligence, (usually) without the need to resort to name-calling.
Lawyering also gives you the uncanny power to see both sides of an argument. With your innate ability to forecast the future and predict your opponent’s next likely conversational move – whether in a friendly verbal jousting session over Friday night drinks or a formal political debate – you are always one step ahead.
- You know how to negotiate
You can advocate for issues that you are passionate about.
If you have done enough extracurricular mooting or negotiation competitions in law school, you know how to construct a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). In any negotiation, you understand when your opponent has the upper hand (and the best strategy is to settle) and when you have your adversary on the run (and it’s time to bring down the hammer).
- You are highly organised and manage your time to within a fraction of a millisecond
The stress of law school turns many of us into master procrastinators. While generally viewed as a negative habit, your procrastination has actually trained you to perform well in any difficult situation. You not only know how to manage your time effectively (remember squeezing an entire Semester of revision into the 6 hours before your 100% Commonwealth Constitutional law exam?) but also how to perform well under crushing pressure and little sleep.
These planning, organisational and time-management skills serve you well in life – whether it’s presenting a work project at the last minute, or managing a team of staff on less than four hours of sleep.
Law graduates have done it all that before – and the inevitable strain of life doesn’t phase you but rather plays to your strengths.
- You are a human lie detector
Law graduates are a pretty suspicious bunch.
Trawling through hundreds of cases involving vitriolic divorces or heated estate disputes will do that to you. Cross-examining your opponent in court for inconsistencies in their case also trains you to constantly subconsciously assess whether the person you are speaking to has a hidden agenda or is not being completely up front with you.
The good news is that you can use your newfound cynicism and flair for identifying fabrications in virtually any situation in life – from knowing when someone is actively lying to you or simply omitting facts to managing your friendships, relationships and even your work life better.
- You know how to extract information
You have a sixth sense for knowing when someone is hiding something from you.
You also know the best way to extract the information you want while delicately skirting around an issue to avoid raising any alarm bells.
- You know when opening your mouth is going to make it worse
Generally, as a law graduate, you know it’s not a great idea to abuse police if you are pulled over for a breathalyser or stopped for a random drug check at a music festival.
You know that sometimes silence is the best answer and that often appealing the fine at a later date is the best option.
At the end of the day
A law degree trains you to think analytically and solve problems logically. It’s a unique mix of skills that can take you anywhere in life and your career.
So the next time one of your friends throws a sharp lawyer joke your way, don’t forget to remind them how rad and diverse your legal talents are – because the chances are that they will need to call on your amazing advice one day.
What life skills do you think your law degree has taught you? Think we’ve missed anything? Let us know in the comments!