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Should you Accept a Job Where you Don’t Want to Live?

My classmate asked me to write about what a law student should do if they get a job offer in a state where they don’t want to move.  That’s a really hard question, and I don’t think that there is a hard and fast answer.

The economy is not doing well and law school graduates are struggling to find jobs in general.  I’m sure a lot of people will say you should take any job you can get.  When I put this question out on Twitter, the best response was, “If you really will like the job, then the location doesn’t matter as much, at least in the short term.”  The only problem I have with this response is related to the fact that we don’t have a national bar in the United States.  When we pass the bar, we’re basically locking ourselves into one state unless there is reciprocity or we’re willing to take another bar exam.  If we weren’t locked into to a particular location, I would be more willing to support moving to a place you hate on a temporary basis.

Ohio state welcome sign, along US Route 30, en...
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I asked my sister, Morena Carter, for her thoughts on this topic.  She’s a law student at the University of Akron.  When she finished her masters degree in European history and museum studies, she moved across the country to accept a job at the Cleveland Art Museum in Ohio.  I was baffled by her decision.  She had never lived in that part of the country and she did not know anyone there.  When it comes to moving for one’s career she says, “I think people should only apply for jobs that they think they might like at least a little bit or that might lead them to the job they really want no matter where it is.”  She took the job because it was an incredible career opportunity of her and if nothing else, having it on her resume would help her get a more desirable job.  She stayed at that job for the 4.5 years and is still happily living in the Cleveland area.

My Dad has always said, “Figure out where you want to live, then get a job.”  I give this advice a lot of weight because I know if I hate where I live, no job is going to make it bearable.  I need to be able to enjoy my free time.  It’s also important to know what factors you need to be happy in a city.  My experiences have taught me that I do better in cities with minimal snow and that are within 90 minutes of a major airport.

You shouldn’t completely reject a job if it’s in an unfamiliar place, but carefully consider the opportunities and the drawbacks of both the job and the area before making a decision.  Think about what you would be willing to give up for the right career opportunity.  If you’re going to move some place completely new, it’s important to embrace it and make a strong effort to get acclimated and meet new people.  It’s hard for people who aren’t self-starters to do this.  My sister and I agree that it takes a good 6 months to a year for a place to start to feel like home.

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6 Comments

  1. Andy W. says:

    It has to be a tougher decision for lawyers because of the bar exam from state-to-state. Every lawyer I know who has settled in doesn’t want to move after a few years because of the requirement to take the bar exam in the new state.

  2. Ruth Carter says:

    That’s exactly the problem with the state bar – it locks you in to one location. It’s a huge risk to take the bar in a state that you’re not sure you’ll like.

  3. Amanda says:

    I agree about state bars…bar prep is super expensive (both time and money). Also, I moved from CA to CO for law school thinking, “Well, I can always move back in 3 years.” That’s only sort of true. Life went on without me in CA so going back wouldn’t be quite as easy as I originally thought. Not to mention I started building a life here in CO, it’s easiest to network and job hunt where you live and of course I’m making friends here.

    If people move thinking they’ll go back they should know it might not be as easy as they think. So, if you know you don’t want to live somewhere…it might not be worth going.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I agree! I couldn’t move any place where I would be miserable. I think your thoughts really reflect why Law School Confidential says to go to law school where you want to get a job after graduation.

  4. Rick Ortmeyer says:

    I applaud your sister’s wisdom.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      She’s one smart cookie. I’m glad she’s built a happy life with wonderful people in Ohio. 😉