Big dreams, small salaries

February 13, 2009
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Update: The jobs in politics seminar has moved from March 11 to April 8.

From IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger, who attended a session of the Alternative Legal Career series at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington this week.

During a discussion about careers in marketing, communications, publishing, development, and consulting Feb. 11, six panelists explained how their career paths twisted and turned to get them where they are.

The panelists made many valid points, including:

- Find a job that makes you smile everyday.

- Consider your values, including how much time you want to spend with your family.

- Network with a diverse group of people from your life and in multiple cities.

- Talk to someone in a job you’d like to have.

- Volunteer for something you like; it may lead to contacts or new interests.

- Be open to any and all new opportunities.

- Take heart the job you have right out of school may not be your “forever” job.

So when I asked the panel for advice for students who have large loan payments who want to go into a career that pays only a fraction of the starting salaries at the large law firms, I wondered if the students were also curious about this.

Panelist Robyn M.H. Schuster, the law school’s assistant dean for communications and marketing gave a good answer – that students should consider a repayment option based on income.

My hope for anyone with an interest in this field is they have a realistic understanding of how little these jobs tend to pay – no one does this for the money. And take it from someone with her master’s in journalism – an advanced degree doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger paycheck; it just means you might need to explain how your school work applies to the job and that it wasn’t just “time off.” Not to mention these jobs are highly competitive, considering the large number of jobless journalists out there.

But if you’re persistent and follow the guidelines above, and don’t mind a small apartment (or roommate) and pot pie dinners every once in a while, it’s not so bad.

The alternative legal careers series has included a panel about jobs in banking and finance. Future panel topics include jobs in higher education, Feb. 25; and jobs in politics, March 11. All are free and open to the public at the law school’s Bloomington court room at 211 S. Indiana Ave., noon to 1 p.m.

A story about the subject will be in a future Indiana Lawyer. If you’d like to weigh in, e-mail me at

The audio of this panel discussion is now available online and worth a listen:
  • I thought that the panelists gave good advice, but sometimes I would like to hear from someone with average credentials like myself - it seems like often the speakers have top notch academic credentials which led to a stellar first legal job which led to other career options. I want to hear from the guy like me - middle of the class, some experience, involved in extracurriculars, but lacking the top 10% credentials that set up others for success...
  • some of my post got cut -

    I want to hear how the average guy/girl has faired in the legal market and in particular, the floundering economy.

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