Jim Carrey and job security as a lawyer

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There is a story that in 1985, when Jim Carrey was a struggling actor, he drove his old car up the hills of Los Angeles, and looking over Mulholland Drive, he wrote a check to himself for $10 million dollars for “acting services rendered” and post dated 10 years later. Just under 10 years later in 1995, we would go on to earn $10 million dollars for his role in Dumb and Dumber.

Regardless of whether you like Carrey’s acting or not, this is a great story about visualization, which he further elaborates on in this interview that he did with Oprah Winfrey in 1997.

Carrey recently gave a graduation commencement speech to students at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. The entire speech can be found here and although it is a bit long at 26 minutes, it is worth watching. Here is my favourite part of his speech:

In this clip, Carrey talks about how his father inspired him to take risks in life. His father wanted to be a comedian, but didn’t think it would be possible, so he chose the safe job as an accountant instead. When Carrey was 12 years old, his father lost his job as an accountant so his family then had to do whatever they could to survive. (This included living in a camper van on a relative’s lawn, and working jobs as janitors and security guards at a nearby factory).

Carrey then delivers this point: “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you could fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Much like how Carrey’s father believed that being an accountant would have job security, I wonder whether students these days go to law school under the (false) impression that being a lawyer will be a safe or secure profession. These include the myths that there are tons of jobs for lawyers (there are jobs but also lots of lawyers vying for those jobs), that law is a very lucrative profession (it can be if working at a large law firm, but you are working lots of hours for that money), or that a law degree is a very versatile degree that allows you to do all sorts of different things (it isn’t; if you manage to go on and do different things, I suspect it’s because of you and your skills, not because of your law degree).

In fact, my experience going through law school, private practice, and in-house is that law is a very “unsecure” profession, and this starts all the way back in school. During first year of law school, you’re told that you’re graded on a curve and you’re competing with your fellow classmates (most of whom likely had A averages in undergrad) for marks. During second year of law school, you’re competing for summer jobs and articling jobs. During articling, you’re competing for a hire back position. And once you’re an associate in a big law firm, you’re competing for work and trying to reach your target of 1750 billable hours. And while being in-house doesn’t have the same billing and/or client pressures, your job can be dependent on the success of the business. (When I first started out, the dream lawyer job was to work at RIM, and we all know how that turned out).

I occasionally get asked for advice from friends who are considering applying to law school. Their hearts are not necessarily in it, but they think it would be a good career. I reply that they should do it if they want to be a lawyer, but not do it for the wrong reasons, such as thinking that there will be lots of job security or that they will make tons of money.

After all, I think everyone should take Carrey’s advice – it’s quite possible that you might not enjoy this job and that it might not work out for you. Therefore, why not try something you actually love?

Thanks for reading!


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