can I ask for a vacation do-over, people make fun of me for not using my law degree, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask for a vacation do-over?

I just had a week off of work for my birthday. I had planned two back-to-back small trips to see friends out of state. After the first three days, I learned that my uncle had passed suddenly and I went to be with my family and wound up taking the lead on planning the funeral. I’m now returning home but not feeling even slightly rested as all I’ve done the last 4 days is manage family emotions, organize the memorial, and care for my family members. While I don’t regret any of it and wouldn’t have had it any other way, I know that when I get to work on Monday I get to a) awkwardly explain that it was not a nice birthday break b) go back to work feeling emotionally burned out a bit. My boss and department head often talk about how important taking time off is and while I hate taking it off, I could kind of use a couple of days more to take care of myself. Is it crazy to go to my boss and ask to take a couple of days off soon after being OOO for a week?

You can definitely explain what happened and that you ended up not getting the relaxing vacation you’d planned, and ask if it would work to try again in (timeframe). What that timeframe should be depends on what your workflow is like, whether people need to cover for you, etc. If you pretty much manage your own time and own workload, it might be fine to propose taking a few days late this week or sometime next week. If that would create a problematic backlog, I’d aim for a little later, like a month or so from now.

2. People keep making fun of me for not using my law degree

I graduated from law school, but I was never one to be an actual lawyer and really just went for my own enlightenment. I never took on any debt, just paid my way. The problem is, a few acquaintances feel the need to “remind” me I went to law school and think it’s so strange and laughable that I have kept my blue collar job. Things like, “So how’s that law degree working for you?” (with a chuckle and a slap on the back) and “Are you planning on ever using your law degree?” and “To think, you went to law school!” I work in a gym and a few people will say these things as I’m cleaning equipment or helping someone use a machine.

I happen to love my job and I feel ridiculed by these people. How do I respond to their snobby remarks? It is certainly not an everyday occurrence so maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but it does get annoying.

Yeah, that’s incredibly obnoxious. It’s one thing for someone close to you to genuinely inquire (in an appropriate context) whether you’re thinking of using the law degree or not, but these remarks sound clearly meant as ridicule — or at least as teasing. It might even be intended as good-natured teasing, who knows, but it’s incredibly rude nonetheless (and is made all the more so by happening while you’re doing your actual job).

Some options for responding:

Them: “So how’s that law degree working for you?”
You: “Just fine, actually. Why?”

Them: “Are you planning on ever using your law degree?”
You: “No, not professionally, that was never the plan.”

Them: “To think, you went to law school!
You: “Wow, that’s incredibly rude.”

If you know any of these people well and they’re repeat offenders, it’s worth raising it with them when you’re not with a gym client. You could say, “You know, you keep making snide remarks about my job and my law degree. It’s really rude. Can you cut it out?”

For what it’s worth, it is pretty unusual to go to law school just for your own enlightenment (as opposed to planning to use it professionally, even if not as a lawyer), so people are no doubt assuming you had other goals — but that makes their comments even ruder.

3. How can I discourage my coworkers’ daily intense socializing?

I work in a small but open plan office. Behind me sits Jane and there’s a spare desk there also. Jane has struck up an unlikely friendship with Fergus, who works in another area of our office. I think the office camaraderie is nice, and I try to keep out of business that isn’t mine.

Jane and Fergus time their morning arrivals to coincide (they arrive quite early, usually an hour before I do and about an hour and a half before our boss, who sits in a connecting office, and my coworker, who sits next to me). Most mornings when I arrive, Jane is sitting at her desk while Fergus sits at the spare desk, and they are usually so deep in conversation that they don’t respond to my morning greeting. Conversation will then quiet down until they are whispering with frequent giggling. It’s pretty apparent that my presence has them feeling stifled. It’s really awkward, and inevitably Fergus will return to his area after about 10 minutes of me sitting at my desk. Other people who arrive at work as early as they do see them chatting from the time they both arrive at work.

It’s not my concern how they spend their time at work. I’m not senior to either of them. But it’s decently distracting and super awkward for me (I feel like a third wheel on a second date) so I’ve been coming in to work later to avoid it, and that means I have to stay later which doesn’t suit my schedule. How can I discourage this without seeming like I’m being the fun police? I dread getting in when I know they’ll still be talking to one another!

The whispering is the most obnoxious part of this, since for most people that’s harder to ignore than normal-volume talking; normal conversation can become white noise, but whispering triggers something different in our brains.

So the next time they start whispering, I’d say, “Would you mind not whispering? For some reason it’s really distracting, more than normal-volume conversation would be.”

I suspect that might cause Fergus to just leave when you show up since they seem to realize they should stop having a normal-volume conversation at that point. But if you’re worried that they’ll just revert to a normal volume and you don’t want that either, then instead of making it about the whispering, just say, “Fergus, would you mind if I kick you out when I show up in the morning? It’s tough to focus otherwise.”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Telling my employee I made a mistake with a client

I read your advice about how a boss should handle making a mistake, but something came up today that’s a little different and I’m not sure the best way to handle it. My report, Joe, met with a client, Alice, who had previously met with me, before Joe started in his role (now that he’s here, he handles client meetings). I know that my meeting with Alice went poorly — she was making unreasonable requests and displayed a level of inflexibility that I knew would not get her where she needed, but I also did not do a good job being client-centered and I could tell our meeting left a poor taste in her mouth. Fast forward to this week and Alice set up a meeting with Joe; in that meeting, I overheard her say (repeatedly) how much better he did and how awful I was to her. She also had totally changed her goals and was asking for something that was much more reasonable. I don’t know if she knew that I could hear her (she would have had to walk by my cubicle to get to him) or if she was just venting. I don’t know if Joe suspects Alice was talking about me, but it was clear he handled the whole thing very professionally.

What do I say to him now? I feel like it’s bad precedent for me to not own up to my mistake, but since her goals are totally different than they were before, our conversation isn’t particularly relevant to the work they’ll do moving forward. I would want to give him more context, but I don’t want him to think I’m being defensive — even though she was being unreasonable in our meeting, I think her frustration with how our meeting went is justified. On top of all this, I of course still feel badly about how the meeting went, so it’s not easy for me to talk about at all.

The best thing you can do is to frame it as giving him useful context (which it is), be up-front and matter-of-fact about what happened, and take responsibility for your role in it. This isn’t a horrible indictment of you — we all have bad days and mess things up, and employees generally draw their conclusions about how from how you handle it when that happens, not from the fact that you’re not perfect.

So for example: “I should give some of the history with Alice. She and I met earlier this year about X, and it didn’t go well. She was asking for (explain unreasonable requests) but I frankly didn’t do a great job of explaining to her what our concerns with that would be. My sense is that our meeting didn’t leave her with a great impression, and that’s on me. I’m hoping that by starting fresh with you, things will go differently.”

5. My neck is going to swell up like a bullfrog — what do I say to coworkers?

I am getting Kybella treatments over the next few months. This is to get rid of my genetic double chin that I’ve had for 30 years. I am expecting my chin and neck to swell up like a bullfrog for a few weeks (as doctors have told me happens and is very normal). I am excited to have the procedure done. My friends are also exited for me because I’m excited. My question is, I am anticipating questions from my coworkers about the swelling. It comes from a place of curiosity and concern. However, I don’t want to share with them that I’m getting cosmetic surgery. How would you advise I handle this?

“It’s a side effect of a medical treatment I’m having — it looks weird but it’s nothing to worry about and should go away soon.”

The key things you’re conveying there are (a) there’s no cause for alarm and (b) it’s not permanent. Good luck!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 505 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Ugh, OP#2, I’m sorry. They’re indeed being snobby, which is bad behavior on its own, but it’s doubly silly because most U.S. law grads exit law practice after 5 years. That means you’re part of the majority of law grads who don’t practice as lawyers.

    I agree with Alison’s scripts, but I also think it might be worth giving them a puzzled look and saying, “Why do you ask?” or “Why do you keep bringing this up?” I suspect they may still behave boorishly, but I like forcing them to squirm a bit and explain their classist assumptions.

    1. tiasp*

      OP #2 – No really good advice, but I also have a law degree and I never practiced law. It’s long enough ago now that I don’t really get comments like yours, although what I get that annoys me is a few people will refer to me as a lawyer (eg “you’re a lawyer, you would know” or “better ask the lawyer”). Uh, no, never called to the bar, not a lawyer. Just an intelligent person who is willing and able to read the rules/regulations/instructions etc.

    2. Emmie*

      2 is one of the smartest lawyers I know. He graduated debt free. People have a one track vision of lawyering, which usually involves a courtroom. It irritates me too, but it’s their ignorance. It is unfortunate that people assign status to certain jobs. I’m proud of you for pursuing a career you love.

    3. Anon for this*

      This. OP2, I have a law degree and practiced for almost ten years before switching to a different field entirely. If you have a job you love, you’re better off than at least 75% of the lawyers I know.

      I think your responses have to vary depending on who is asking you. If it’s coworkers, I think Alison’s scripts are great. If they don’t work, I’d suggest something more definite like “Fergus, you keep mentioning my law degree. It’s getting weird. What’s going on?” If they’re clients, you might not be able to be this assertive. If the scripts don’t work, could you try distraction? Like “I love my job here! Hey, have you checked out the new kettlebell collection? It’s great for building upper-arm strength!”

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree that the rigors of law school and the cost make no sense if one doesn’t want to practice law but that ship has sailed for the OP. I wonder why EVERYONE knows they have a law degree if they are in a blue collar job and not practicing. Lots of people who do various white color jobs have law degrees that they find tangentially helpful but they don’t practice and people rarely find that odd. They do find it odd if the job is so entirely divorced from the profession.

        Yeah it must be annoying but time to develop a sense of humor about it and not be defensive. ‘I have always found that reading legal cases is really helpful for my insomnia.’ ‘it is handy if I want to sue my neighbors’ ‘you never know when you are going to want to dispute a parking ticket.’ ‘I find legal analysis very helpful in filling out the TPS reports (when roughing out the frame, when organizing the stock, when piloting the back hoe)

        or just ‘enough already — I enjoyed studying law, but this is getting pretty old.’

        1. Emily K*

          The job is inherently crappy
          That’s why you’ve never met a lawyer who’s happy
          It’s a guaranteed soul destroyer
          Don’t be a lawyer

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah my friend got her law degree, practiced for several years (not in the US) and then moved here and started a whole new career in video games.

    4. Scully*

      OP #2- This isn’t advice, but your path is what I would want to do, too. I find studying law very interesting and it is very enlightening; it’s always good to know the law for your own protection. But even though I love studying law, I would never want to be a lawyer myself.

      1. Annette*

        There are many ways for citizens to know the law. Which they should. Law school is training for lawyers who want to practice law. LW had a happy ending but I would not go to law school if I did not be a lawyer.

        1. MK*

          This. If you are interested in X subject, there are many ways to study it, even structured ways, like classes, seminars etc.

          1. Aspiring ex-lawyer*

            There’s no “wow” about it. Annette’s advice is spot-on: don’t go to law school if you don’t want to be a lawyer. There was a great NYT article a few years ago that challenged readers to think of another profession that has a whole industry dedicated to helping people “escape” from the profession. Clawing your way out is much, much tougher than people think, especially if you’re more than a year or two out of law school.

            1. Flash Bristow*

              Sorry but I have to question this: why the hell should you only study a subject if you propose to work directly in that field as a result? Have you never read articles about subjects unrelated to your work purely because you found them interesting?

              I’m really sorry but I just don’t get it and it seems accusatory. OP2 has found something(s) that make their life fulfilling. That’s more than many of us ever do. I’m in admiration of OP2 and I’m a bit lost as to why they are being criticised for their choices.

              Regardless, returning to their letter, being constantly “teased” about it must be wearing at the very least. And it *is* rude. And that’s the issue under discussion here.

              1. Holly*

                First, law school tuition at full price (not including living expenses and LSAT expenses, books) costs at least $150k, usually more than $180k. I would never recommend someone spend that kind of money who has no plans of leveraging their degree to a higher salary position or a legal job that qualifies for loan forgiveness. Because of the high cost it’s extremely rare for someone to be able to afford just casually attending with no intention of career advancement in the area. It’s a pretty common story for college grads to be not sure what they want to do, go to law school, realize it’s not for them, and then be horrifically trapped in debt. OP might have a trust fund, went on scholarship, or any other situation so I’ll take them at their word that they are fine and not struggling, but most people would not be in that situation.

                Second, law school can be extremely cutthroat and stressful. It’s a lot of hard work. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about the law in specific areas now that there are free online courses, podcasts, etc – there’s no reason to go law school (3 years of earning potential) just to casually learn about the law.

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Why does it matter how much time and money she spent, and how stressful it may have been? She wanted to do it, so she did it. On her own dime. Why should any of us care whether she’s using the degree or not?

                  I went to college late in life. Not because I needed to advance in my career or because I wanted a new career. I went for personal enrichment and paid for it myself. I don’t need it for my white collar job. Should I not have gone?

                2. RandomU...*

                  This is so bizarre, I’m not even sure where to start.

                  -The OP paid for this with their own funds, who cares how other people pay for law school.
                  -I’m guessing the OP didn’t feel the cutthroat pressure that others have experienced because practicing law was probably not their focus.

                  The bottom line is, no this isn’t the typical path. But who cares? Why criticize the OP and tell them they should have done something different? Guess what… at the end of the day the OP has a law degree to fall back on if their current profession doesn’t work out for them…

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  If OP2 didn’t like it, she could have stopped. She evidently did since she kept going and says it enlightened her. It’s her choice and it’s fine.

                4. Dot Warner*

                  I’m out of nesting here, but folks, it’s not that anybody’s business what the OP does or doesn’t do with their law degree or that anybody’s criticizing her. However, if a friend or family member was considering doing what the OP has done and asked for my input, Holly’s post is what I would tell them: there are better uses for their time and money. Don’t get me wrong, OP seems happy and I’m happy for her! But that doesn’t mean the path OP took is a good decision for anybody else.

                5. Risha*

                  It’s certainly not a choice I would have made, but I don’t see how anything you said is any of our business. Unless you can come up with a way that their choices have hurt themselves or another person (and the only one I can think of is maybe taking a slot from someone who did eventually want to practice law, but it’s not like that person couldn’t go to a different law school), then who are we to judge.

                6. Holly*

                  I’m not sure if anyone read my full comment, or maybe I wasn’t clear, because I wasn’t talking about OP. “OP might have a trust fund, went on scholarship, or any other situation so I’ll take them at their word that they are fine and not struggling, but most people would not be in that situation.” My point was that attending law school just for fun is not *recommended* and there’s a reason why people would be confused. That said, if OP had the funds for it, it doesn’t really matter.

                7. fhqwhgads*

                  This is out of nesting but replying to the chain below: this response was not to the OP. It was to someone else who said they’d want to do what OP did. It’s great it worked out well for the OP. But it’s not unreasonable to tell others considering the same thing “hey there are huge potential downsides; no need to mimic that specific path.”

                8. Parenthetically*

                  So? Who cares? There are people who spend that amount of money on plastic surgery or world travel or real estate or any number of other things over the course of a few years. What difference does it make to you how someone else spends their time or money as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else or breaking the law or whatever?

                  Someone else with a graduate degree they got without planning to go into the field, purely out of love of learning

                9. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Eh, I have to disagree with this. Pushing $200K for law school is really only if you go the top-tier school route required to work in BigLaw. No doubly that it can be incredibly expensive, but, if you’re going for an academic pursuit, there are lower-tiered schools that are not obscenely expensive and that are more generous with financial aid as well as longer-term evening programs that are more manageable to do pay-as-you-go for. (I’ve experience the reverse, where someone has gone this route and is then shocked when academically snobby BigLaw won’t even interview them until they have a book of business worth millions of dollars or high sought-after expertise.)

                  Same on the cut-throat and stressful dimension. If your future doesn’t hang on your law school grades, it’s less daunting and stressful. If you’re not going to a top tier, you’re also not swimming in the same shark tank as the people out for a $180K to start job at a white shoe. I know many people who loved law school (some of whom hate practicing). It is an entirely different educational experience to MOOC and podcasts, and some people want the academic version with casebooks and study groups and moot court competitions.

                  I also, however, disagree that law school trains you to practice. That is the bane of law firms’ existences – law school trains you to research, think, write, and advocate. Very few of them do anything on the practical side – matter management, delegation/supervision, project planning/management, rainmaking, etc. Many clients will no longer pay for first-year associates to work on their matters, citing training them up as “firm overhead” that they won’t pay for. I also worked in the ediscovery world for years and the number of junior associates with no practical understanding of discovery (i.e., what a Bates number is) was crazy. Many law schools, especially the top tier ones, are still very ivory tower of learning and not practical skills of practicing.

                  I will out myself as someone who would go to law school for fun, if time and finances allowed, with zero interest in practicing. (I’d be a professional student, if I won the lottery.
                  I already have a just-for-fun master’s degree with no bearing on my employment.) I’m not naive; I’ve worked in the legal industry for years amid people who regret going to law school, those who only endure the poor work/life balance until they repay their loans, and, for years, managed a program entirely populated by people who were looking for a year or two of work in the industry to make a decision about the outlay for a top tier legal education. I had about a 50/50 dissuasion rate during that time.

              2. The Other Dawn*

                I completely agree. I assume OP is in charge of her own life, so she can spend her time and money however she pleases. Some people go to school to get a better job or learn a new trade, while others go for personal enrichment. Nothing wrong with that.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  So true. Very few people would wonder why OP isn’t working as an artist if she’d gotten her MFA. It makes her happy, it gives her a skill she wants to have, and no one else paid for it. Good for her.

              3. Joielle*

                I’m a lawyer and I mostly agree with Annette and Aspiring ex-lawyer, with the caveat that it’s not really applicable to this letter. In general, people who don’t want to become lawyers shouldn’t go to law school. I know a lot of people who didn’t know what to do after college, figured law school would be interesting, and are now in six figures of debt and have only managed to determine that they don’t want to practice law. It’s an awful place to be.

                That’s not a dig against the OP, though – they’re in an unusual situation where they had the disposable income to pay their way through law school and not go into massive debt. Good for them! They should use their money however they like, and getting an education is a pretty good choice. Although the comments above are applicable to most people, they’re not applicable to everyone – it’s just that for lawyers, it’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction to say DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL IF YOU DON’T WANT TO PRACTICE LAW because we see it all the time and for most people, it sucks.

              4. Emily K*

                There’s a difference between studying a subject and collecting a degree that proves you studied it, though.

            2. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

              “Don’t spend your own time and money studying a subject that interests you if you don’t want to do it for a living”.


              1. MK*

                No. Don’t go through the formal training to do a job if you don’t intend to do that job.

                Look at another example: say that you love acting but don’t want to be a professional actor. Most people in that situation would take classes and seminars, maybe private lessons, and become involved in amateur theatre groups, possibly have a YouTube channel, if they are interested in film. Most would not choose to apply and attend the National Theatre’s four-year training program (the equivalent of a university education for actors in my country). If they did, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder àt that choose, or to advise someone who is considering it to go another route.

                In a privately funded education system, there is nothing wrong with getting a degree just out of personal interest (I think it’s somewhat different if you have a totally state-funded university network).

                1. Anonymous 5*

                  No. Go through whatever training you want. Education (even if it’s state funded) is valuable because an educated populace is valuable. There is no requirement that you “use” your degree for a particular purpose, and there’s good reason for that.

                  Going into debt for a degree you have no intention of using for a professional purpose is another calculation. But even that is the sole prerogative of the person taking on the debt. We simply don’t get to say otherwise.

                2. fizzywhizkid*

                  Sometimes you get pretty far into training before you decide you don’t want to do something. I got two years into a law degree before deciding it’s not for me. I completed the degree so that I had something in hand. People will be rude about anything, but they’re usually a lot less rude about deciding not to be a lawyer vs not finishing law school.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  It’s one thing to encourage people by saying, “You CAN learn about the law through other means,” or to warn people that law school will have difficulties that might make it less enjoyable.

                  But so many of these comments are really dismissive

                4. EBStarr*

                  I just have to jump in because this line of reasoning really reminds me of a scene I love from Friends.

                  Joey: You want my advice?
                  Ross: Yes. Please.
                  Joey: You’re not going to like it.
                  Ross: That’s OK.
                  Joey: You got married too soon.
                  Ross: That’s not advice.
                  Joey: Told you you wouldn’t like it.

                  Although at least Joey’s advice would definitely have been true if it had been given early enough to qualify as advice. The advice not to get an education unless your plans to use that education match up exactly with some pre-approved use of it, is questionable — education is not just an economic machine that takes in human capital and spits out trained workers. And, as the wise Ross Geller would point out, even if true, it’s no longer advice at this point. It’s just criticism.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I was kind of dismayed to read an article years ago about some profs complaining that teaching old people was a waste of their time. The thinking was that only people using the degree should be getting a degree. It’s a waste of resources to do otherwise.

                I don’t agree.

                I do think that a person’s knowledge pool comes together and gives that person something uniquely theirs to offer. While OP is saying they are not using the law degree formally, I bet there are plenty of times they have found it useful on an informal level. Additionally, I am not sure how big a “problem” we have with people receiving degrees or taking courses that they will never use.

                However, I think that OP can feel free to respond in a light manner. “Some people want to climb Mt. Everest. I wanted to get a law degree. What big goal do you have in mind for yourself?” And with that, OP, you turn the tables in the conversation. Perhaps, OP, if you think of it as an opening to encourage people to do more with the lives you might feel differently?

                One of two things will probably happen. The person will drop the conversation for a variety of reasons. OR the person will start telling you about their bucket list and some of their bigger goals in life. Either way, the conversation might shift off of you. Over time you may find that you have encouraged a couple people to stretch and reach for their longer term goals.

                If you responded like this to me (because I somehow said this stupid thing) I would start excitedly telling you about my plan to pay off my house early and how my plan is going. My point here is that people can surprise us with what they say next, if we give them that opportunity.

                1. Myrin*

                  I find that first part especially interesting since it posits a directly opposite view to how it is (or used to be) seen in my country. The Bologna Accords, a change in the educational system to make university structures the same in all of Europe (and you can imagine how well that went…), were not well regarded or implemented at all; its main criticism was that it would lead to a “schoolification” of university because everything would be so focussed on points and tests and degrees.

                  And university staff were pretty unanimously against that because, up until that point, university was seen as something you do for your own enlightenment and intellectual challenge (a view obvious ones notwithstanding, like medicine or any teacher tracks). You were supposed to hear lectures because of your own personal interest in the subject, not because you’d write a test in the end and get a grade you’d need to complete your degree. (How that played out in reality, I have very little idea since no one in my family went to uni; but it was very much a mindset even when I was in school (before uni) that “vocational schools are for working, universities are for learning”. Although I’ve always wondered where the fact that university graduates also have to work at some point factored in in that.)

                  And since these Bologna changes only came into effect in my state one year before I started uni, that mindset was all-encompassing when I arrived there. Basically all lecturers expressed their disappointment with this at least once in the course of a semester, many did so almost every session. I don’t know what it’s like now, ten years after the fact, but it’s fascinating to read these comments expressing such a totally different point of view.

                2. boo bot*

                  I really like the Everest comparison (although, if pressed to choose between the two, I would recommend law school – it’s slightly more expensive, but less likely to kill you or anyone else). So what if you have a unique hobby? Some people solve cold cases on the internet; some people grow orchids. Life is a rich tapestry.

                  Here’s the other thing: most of us non-lawyers barely know a thing about the law, including our basic rights, and that can get us in trouble. Even if you never take the bar, you have practical knowledge that’s valuable.

                3. Artemesia*

                  An old person who doesn’t want to use their PhD is the perfect candidate — same with law because both professions are overrun with far too many people for the jobs available. The ideal PhD candidate is someone who will never want one of the vanishingly small number of tenure track appointments.

                4. Robbenmel*

                  ” …profs complaining that teaching old people was a waste of their time.”

                  If that’s the case, they’re just going to have to grump on my behalf, because my state allows folks 62 and over to take classes at state universities tuition-free. I got my first degree at the ripe old age of 40, and you better believe that as soon as I hit 62 in two years, I am taking advantage of tuition-free classes. Maybe I’ll get a couple of new bachelor degrees. Maybe I’ll get a Ph.D. Maybe I’ll just take random classes about whatever pops into my head. But I will keep going to school as long as I am able to get out of bed (and maybe after that), just because I love learning new stuff.

                5. Health Researcher*

                  Completely agree. This is so well-articulated, plus it provides the OP with fantastic advice for a comeback this shuts down the ridicule while also taking the conversation into a positive, relationship-building place. Nicely done!

              3. Holly*

                It’s not a wow. Law school at full price costs a quarter of a million dollars. For most people it’s not going to be a “do for fun” thing.

                1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

                  If someone wants to spend their money in that way, that’s up to them. It’s not up to anyone else to tell them what to do.

                2. Colette*

                  If you can afford it and it’s something you want to do, why should you not do it? People spend lots of money on smoking, drinking, owning cars, eating out, buying designer apparel, etc. – law school is not an inherently worse choice.

                3. PretzelGirl*

                  I don’t see what the point of commenting on the fact OP went to Law School for their own enlightenment. The OP went, and finished debt free. Perhaps OP saved for years to do this, perhaps they an inheritance or maybe they won lottery. Who knows. I think we should stick the question at hand.

                4. Ethyl*

                  So? For *this* LW the cost obviously wasn’t part of the calculation.

                  It seems like a lot of people are having a lot of Feels unrelated to the LW’s question. Grown up human people are free to do whatever they want with their time, money, attention, and effort. Some people collect Pez dispensers, or train for marathons, or buy supercars that sit in garages 99% of the time If you think it’s silly, too freaking bad, it’s not your life.

                5. Pedantic Anon*

                  I feel like your making an assumption that OP went to BIG NAME law school. There are many local law schools that are undoubtedly cheaper than this. Example: UMBC Law school is $17,000 a semester. Times 6 semesters = 102,000, which is significantly less than 1/4 million. Still a lot but not a 1/4 million.

                6. Gaia*

                  So? You probably do a lot of things that to someone with less means seems frivolous. Who cares? The OP could afford it without debt and enjoyed it. Literally no one’s business.

                7. RUKiddingMe*

                  The attitude that it’s anyone else’s business that OP chose to spend her time and money…her *own* money to get a certain degree she never intended to use *is* a “wow.”

                  Who the hell does Everyone think thy are that they are entitled to dictate OP’s choices? Especially as she paid for it on her own.

                  We are all free to make different choices, or not but we are certainly also entitled to *not* lecture OP on whether she should have gone yo law school, especially since she didn’t ask.

                8. Elysian*

                  I feel like people are really caught up in the recommendation aspect of these comments – the point isn’t that she OP *shouldn’t* have done it, it is that it is unusual that she did, and that is some context for her coworker’s comments. It doesn’t excuse the rude nature of what is said, but this isn’t like training for a marathon. “Lots of people” don’t do what the OP did; that’s why the people she works with find it worthy of comment.

                  Those people are still rude for how they’re approaching things, but it is worth noting that what the OP did was unusual and that’s probably why people feel like they’re justified in commenting on it.

                9. Artemesia*

                  There are night law schools in most cities where people get degrees for low cost. I suspect that is what the OP did if they are working a blue collar job. While those degrees don’t generally give one access to top law firms, clerkships etc, the state legislatures are full of local lawyers with degrees from such schools. There is often a strong network of local graduates.

                  People also start professional degrees and then discover far in that it is not for them. I know someone who decided near the end of medical school that she didn’t want to practice medicine; she went ahead and completed her internship and then moved into an adjacent profession where she worked on a niche area of medical education and made a fine career of it. She developed community service programs for doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists etc that became part of the training of these professionals and did research in this area. There are lots of lawyers that decide they don’t want to practice law — often they go into business professions where the training is of some use.

                10. Holly*

                  I’d like to echo Elysian’s comment above. The reason for my comment is not to *criticize OP* (what OP does has no bearing on my life) but to provide context as to why it might be a shock to someone that OP is not doing something else and why many who have been through law school would not recommend that path. That does not excuse anyone being rude about it.

                11. Holly*

                  Also, just as aside, but I’ll stop here as not to derail further – I went to law school on scholarship. I know there are ways to make it more affordable – but most schools are in the 50k a year range whether its Harvard or a local school.

                12. London Cat Lady*

                  If the job snobs didn’t fund OP personally, it’s none of their business. People get far too upset about what other people do.

                13. Emily K*

                  I didn’t read Annette’s advice as “telling someone what to do with their money.” I read it as “sharing a perspective and giving advice which can be taken or not taken.” Some of yall are acting like Annette is ordering people what to do, when she’s just making a basically true observation and saying what she would do: “Law school is training for lawyers who want to practice law. LW had a happy ending but I would not go to law school if I did not [want to] be a lawyer.” Is that really so offensive? I tell people all the time not to go to grad school unless they know for a fact they need a degree, and not to adopt a puppy unless someone can be home with the puppy all day when it’s little. People are free to take or leave that advice, I really don’t have any personal stake as long as they don’t expect me to help them with their studying or watch the puppy for them. But I still have an opinion based on my own experiences that doing those things would be a mistake and I would generally advise people not to do them.

                14. Micklak*

                  If I learned that someone went to law school and was working at a gym I might think there was a story there and be curious about it. If I learned that someone paid their way through law school without intending to practice or use the degree I would be VERY curious.

                  That doesn’t mean I would ask rude questions, but I might ask questions.

                15. TardyTardis*

                  A Lamborghini can cost a quarter of a million dollars, too, and yet people still buy them…

              4. What Do Irish Bees Make?*

                Yeah, I have a giant problem with “don’t spend your own time and money studying a subject that interests you if you don’t want to do it for a living”. Or else what? What are you going to do about it? Call the police?

                A Person Who Has Spent Time And Money Studying A Subject That I Don’t Do For A Living

                1. Emily K*

                  Zaphod is the only person who said, “Don’t do this,” which was a mischaracterization of Annette’s original comment, which simply said, “I wouldn’t do this.”

                2. biobotb*

                  @Emily K – Annette’s comment also stated unequivocally that law school is for people who want to be lawyers. Annette didn’t just simply state what she would do, she made a sweeping statement about how other people should view (and act on) law school.

            3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              There are quite a few resources out there dedicated to helping people with any kind of PhD get out of the academic track and into a job elsewhere, so I don’t think law is unique in churning out lots of people with degrees that aren’t immediately obvious. It’s also extremely difficult to get a “normal” job with a PhD because everyone assumes you would rather be teaching and will leave as soon as possible.

              1. Gidget*

                Interesting to think about. No one in my grad program wanted to teach, including the professors (who would much rather be doing research than wasting time with undergrads). Most of the students realized it wasn’t possible to get a tenured teaching position, but many just didn’t want to. But yes, I guess that is the perspective people might have from the outside.

              2. Argye*

                I don’t want to derail, but as someone thinking about getting out of academia, what kinds of resources are available? I’ve done some mild looking, but haven’t come across much. Admittedly, I’m still in the contemplating phase, so haven’t spent tons of time on it.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  I’d start with the Professor is In, Versatile PhD, and Beyond the Professoriate. I think the terms alt-ac and post-ac are a little bit passe but you can still find useful information if you search those terms.

            4. CJM*

              Your talking about getting out of the law profession. OP2 knew they never wanted to enter it in the first place.

            5. DCR*

              I totally agree with you aspiring ex-lawyer. No one tells people who are interested in medicine to go to med school if they don’t want to be a doctor; no one tells people who love animals to go to veterinary school if they don’t want to be a vet; no one tells people who like kids to get a teaching degree if they don’t want to teach; no one tells people who find teeth interesting to go to dentistry school if they don’t want to be a dentist.

              If you are simply interested in law but don’t want to be an attorney, (1) there are many other ways to learn about the fields of law you are interested in, (2) law school costs over $200k now a days, and there are a lot of other uses for that money, and (3) law school is likely to kill your interest in the law.

              1. Gaia*

                Med school and get school require years of actual patient work. Law school doesn’t. Different.

                I’m going back to school to study a subject that many people think is ridiculous. Will I use it in my career? Nope! Is it a program that exists solely to qualify people for a particular career? Yep! Don’t care, I’m interested in the subject, can afford the cost (and opportunity costs) so I’m doing it.

                1. Nessun*

                  I think that sounds wonderful! My dad decided to go back to Uni after he’d retired, because he was curious about theology, having spent his entire life in a non-theistic household. He found it incredibly interesting, spent his time on campus having wonderful discussions and diving into the readings, and then he was done school with a M.Theo and moved on to his next new thing (woodworking, in this case).

                  If you have the money for it and it interests you, why not?

                2. Elysian*

                  Not that its either here or there for the OP, really, but lots of law schools have clinical requirements to graduate. Mine did, for both the full- and part-time programs. It wasn’t as extensive as medical school (and I don’t know anything about vet school), but you couldn’t graduate without doing practical work.

                  Sure, you’re free to go if you have the time and money and are curious, I guess, but it certainly isn’t why most people are there.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Whoa, that’s not true! All law schools now require skills education (thanks ABA), and at many law schools that’s now an experiential education requirement. At least for the top 100* law schools, that often means actual practice through an externship or in-house clinic.

                4. skunklet*

                  I would absolutely go back and get a Master’s in History if I had a spare $20k. Would I use it at work? Nope, purely for my own edification and because I can. However, no spare $20k lol.

              2. Harper the Other One*

                I’m a bit perplexed about what your concern is here – is it “taking a spot” from someone who wants to be a lawyer, the cost, the person’s loss of interest? Because LW has answered the second two (they could afford it and they found it interesting.) As for the first, it’s already well known that many people leaving a law degree won’t be practicing members of the bar, so I’m not sure what’s different between “I’m taking this for pure interest” and “I’m taking this because I plan to go into business.”

                If there were a desperate need for qualified lawyers, I would understand why this bothers people (and that’s why people wouldn’t tell folks to go to med school or dentistry for interests’ sake – I don’t know anywhere that is suffering an over supply of qualified doctors and dentists.)

                LW was successfully admitted, worked hard enough to complete it, and now has a degree that can open a lot of doors. I don’t see why that’s a bad thing just because they didn’t go in with any intention of taking the bar.

                1. Artemesia*

                  There are far too many lawyers and most grads can’t make a good living with it; the ideal candidate is someone not competing for those rare jobs.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Strangely, there’s both a law glut and shortage. There are many attorneys, but there are huge “law deserts” throughout the country, especially in rural and low-income communities. So we have a lot of lawyers, but not nearly enough working for the most vulnerable and underserved populations.

                  It’s similar to medicine, where there’s a good number of doctors being produced, but there’s a shortage of physicians in family / internal medicine and in clinics that serve low-income populations.

                  I would argue that part of the reason for this skewed distribution is because of the $200K+ debt burdens that are common for both law and med school.

                3. JKP*

                  It also depends on the niche. There’s a huge shortage of lawyers in my boyfriend’s niche and he’s always desperate to find lawyers to hire. In his specialty, the total number of practicing lawyers has stayed constant (new replacing old) over the last 10 years, while simultaneously nationwide demand has almost doubled. So he’s one of the people who agrees with the idea that people shouldn’t be taking up spots in law school that could be given to someone else who actually wants to do the work.

              3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                I know 5 people who went to med school and never intended to practice medicine. Plenty of folks who want to go into clinical research or public health get an MD or DO for the clinical foundations, pass the USMLE, and then go into a field where they never see a patient.

              4. Anna*

                So all the comments about not going to school for X subject unless you’re going to work in X subject is a very…capitalistic way of viewing education. It’s incredibly sad.

                1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

                  I see what you’re getting at, but I don’t think it’s a “capitalistic” view at all; capitalism is, after all, about the value of having things (including education), spending money, making oneself a better “commodity” on the “market” (including the job market). Capitalism strives to better itself, and sees bettering oneself (or bettering a product or whatever) as a good thing. That’s what free markets are all about, is striving to make better products/provide better services in order to make more money.

                  I think it’s a very unimaginative and narrow view, and a view that thinks bettering oneself simply for the sake of bettering is bad. It’s a view that sees knowledge and education simply for the sake of knowledge and education as bad. It actually feels to me almost like a “How dare you better yourself for no purpose?” kind of thing–a crabs in the bucket kind of thing–and to me that is the exact opposite of capitalism. The idea that education in itself has no value and that the only reason to learn something is to use it, that some education is “above the station” of some people, is not an idea that originates in capitalistic/free market societies where striving to better oneself is seen as an inherently good thing.

                  Like I said, I see what you mean, and I agree; I just don’t think “capitalistic” is the way to describe it.

              5. Annie on a Mouse*

                I think the biggest issue is that law school isn’t just more school. Debt aside, if you look at the percentage of starting law students with depression and substance abuse problems compared to the rates of graduating law students, the numbers are astonishing (I’m going off of memory from my professional responsibility book, so I can’t be more specific, but it was eye opening).

                The point isn’t that people shouldn’t follow their dreams and study what they love. The point is law school takes a mental toll that is hard to overcome—and it’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it. If you don’t want to be a lawyer, get a masters in legal studies. Read books on law. Follow Supreme Court cases. But don’t go to law school just because you love the law, because you might not exit the way you came in.

                OP, major props to you for being able to graduate debt-free and with a job you love. You’re the exception to the rule and I’m thrilled you made it work. You proved the more general rule wrong, and that’s fantastic. The warnings are directed at individuals who read about your experience and think that will automatically happen for them too.

                1. Emily K*

                  This is actually the top reason I cite when I try to talk people out of going to graduate school with no particular goal in mind. Grad students experience depression and anxiety at 6 times the rate of the general population (39% v 6%). Somewhere around 8-12% have reported suicidal thoughts (you get a higher figure when you look at fifth-years alone vs first-years alone) and over 2% have attempted suicide. The only people with worse mental health than graduate students are medical students.

                  Graduate school at its best typically involves working long hours for sub-minimum wage (this is for those lucky enough to get a ‘free ride’ and a stipend), and most undergraduate universities do a really terrible job of educating students about the ways in which graduate study is fundamentally different from undergraduate study. In undergraduate you are a consumer of knowledge and you’re there to learn from a body of knowledge. In graduate you become a producer of knowledge and you’re there to do original research and add to the body of knowledge. The people most likely to have a rude awakening when they get to grad school are the ones who thought it was just going to be more learning, the way undergrad was, and find they’ve signed up for something substantively different that they may or may not actually want to do.

              6. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                @Elysian, vet school requires 4 years pre vet and minimum 4 years in vet school (in the US). It’s tougher than medical school, students have to learn far more, and they don’t usually have a residency. Yet, many vets specialize which is additional schooling and training. All this rigourous work for a profession that has a high suicide rate unfortunately as veterinarians face huge issues that physicians have far more support for and on an average, get paid oodles more.

            6. Elitist Semicolon*

              But there are any number of other areas in which a law degree can be either useful or unexpectedly relevant, including non-profit work, business administration, lobbying, consulting, arts administration… Sure, maybe Knowing The Law isn’t the big focus of those positions (and the person in them may never have to Know The Law as part of their day-to-day), but the reading/research/writing skills and the functional knowledge can still be valuable. If you work at an art gallery that is staging an exhibit with lots of pieces loaned from another institution, for example, being able to parse contracts and understand liability is tremendously important.

              I’m in academia and work with a ton of folks who have law degrees but are not lawyers. It’s not at all unusual for someone to go to law school and then not “use” the degree by entering legal practice themselves or by working within the legal system.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                (Also just because someone didn’t stay in legal practice doesn’t mean they’re not using the degree in whatever they do next. Careers are the products of an ongoing process, so even the person who goes to law school and quits the law to do something else after 5 years is still getting the benefit of experience and learning – whether about fields or about themselves – from having the degree.)

              2. Teapot Compliance*

                Thank you for mentioning this! My job traditionally doesn’t get a law degree, but it sure would be helpful!

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                The spouse of one of my good friends went to a top-tier law school (on scholarship – she’s brilliant), has never sat for the bar, and has had a happy and successful decades-long career in legal publishing.

              4. Dot Warner*

                I would argue that your example is still “using” the degree, though – that person learned special skills while getting the degree and is now applying them in the workforce. It’s akin to someone who went to medical school but chose to go into research instead of seeing patients. That person isn’t doing what most people think of when they hear “doctor” but they’re still doing a job that requires the skills they learned in school.

          2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            Maybe just try to look at it as advice rather than a command (especially since internet strangers really have no control over one another). I would also advise someone to avoid going to law school, regardless of whether or not they want to be a lawyer because I personally hated it, but I realize its just advice.

        2. Elysian*

          Agreed. Law school (at least in the US) is a professional school. There are lots of things you can do with a law degree, but it’s way out of the norm to go just because you’re generally interested in the subject. It is similar to medical school, nursing school, dentistry school, etc. I wouldn’t recommend anyone spending the time and money on dentistry school if you were just interested in teeth and didn’t want to actually be a dentist.

          1. pentamom*

            And yet, the OP did that, and is happy with their choice. So should they have followed your recommendation?

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I’d understand giving recommendations and anecdotes if OP wrote in before law school, asking whether she should go for it or not, but as it stands, it’s already in the past, so I’m not quite getting these comments – what exactly is the takeaway here? “Haha OP, you did something I personally find totally meaningless so you should feel dumb and judged and like you need to question the path you chose in life and it serves you right that people at your work keep mocking you.”?

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                I read it as Annette advising Scully that even though going to law school just to learn about the law may sound good in theory, it often doesn’t work out that well for people in practice. And I think that’s pretty fair.

                1. Annette*

                  Yes Guacamole. Presumably LW is independently wealthy or had some way to pay. Kim Kardashian is going to law school and that’s great but for most people professional training is just that. It’s no judgement on LW who clearly has a nice life.

                2. Myrin*

                  Ah yes, I didn’t account for the fact that these original two comments were basically a “conversation” where Annette’s answer is indeed on-point – I totally didn’t go back up to check, so thanks for pointing it out!
                  However, I stand by my general point and will specify it saying that most comments after these two don’t seem to be taking this original exchange into account, either, but are rather making general observations and sometimes even chastising the OP, which isn’t cool!

                3. Blossom*

                  Well, there’s a lot of chastising of Annette, which seems very unfair given the context (which most people have missed).

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Kim Kardashian isn’t going to law school! She’s doing California’s law apprentice program, which is an alternative to law school that allows people to enter the bar without attending law school.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            I think some of the disagreement in the comments may be coming from the fact that in some countries, law is more like an undergrad major than it is in the US, and higher ed is also a lot cheaper. If that’s the case where you are, then sure, choose it over studying English or political science or chemistry or whatever if you find it interesting or think it might be kind of helpful to your life or your career.

            In the US, law school is a 3-year professional graduate degree that’s done after 4 years of a bachelor’s degree. Some people do get scholarships, but full cost with living expenses often leads to $250,000 of debt for law school alone, on top of whatever loans someone may have from undergrad. Big law firms pay well enough that people can pay off that debt, and many schools have loan forgiveness programs for people who go into public interest legal professions. But for those who come out of law school without the intent to practice, that’s a whole lot of debt that doesn’t really help you get high paying non-legal jobs. And lots of people who are generally good at school but lack career direction post-college seem to go to law school because they don’t really know what they want to do and it feels like a straightforward path to a good job. Many of those people end up in debt and unhappy with their career options.

            I’m married to a lawyer and we dated during her time in law school so I know a lot of lawyers and former law students. “Don’t go to law school if you don’t want to practice law” is such standard career advice that it’s basically a cliche at this point.

            None of this is to say that the people that OP is encountering aren’t rude and that she shouldn’t shut it down and change the subject. But that doesn’t change the fact that Annette’s advice to others above is pretty reasonable.

            1. londonedit*

              You might be right. I’m in the ‘study law if you want to study law’ camp, but then law degrees in the UK are three-year undergraduate degrees just like any other. You come out with an LLB and you then take the accreditation to be a barrister (the sort of lawyer who defends people in court) or a solicitor (the sort of lawyer who gives advice on legal stuff that doesn’t involve court like property, wills, etc).

              So you can absolutely do a law degree and not use it afterwards. It’s seen as one of the degrees that clever people who will probably go into something like banking or politics take, like PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics; popular at Oxbridge with Tory politicians). Your undergraduate degree here is already specialised, so in the vast majority of cases you don’t need to do a Master’s degree unless you have a particular interest in the subject or unless your specific career path requires one.

              1. Shad*

                Here (and by here I mean my specific US city for sure; I can personally vouch for the quality and availability here), I’d recommend looking at the paralegal coursework at the community college. There are courses on subject area law as well as general principles and things like legal writing, which would likely provide a lot of the same utility for someone interested in learning about the law but not becoming a lawyer and do so for a much lower price point and with greater evening availability to work around a work schedule.
                I’m not certain, since I’m a chem student, but I’d hazard a guess that undergrad pre-law tracks here would also include a decent bit of subject matter learning as well.
                In the US, a law degree isn’t even technically a Masters, it’s its own type of terminal degree, named in Latin as “doctor of law”. And like most terminal degrees, the assumption is that you’re getting it for a pretty specific track.

              2. Collarbone High*

                American here: This is super helpful in understanding the university-age characters in Maeve Binchy books, thank you!

                1. londonedit*

                  No probs – we specialise fairly early here. It’s all changed a bit since I was at school, but basically from age 14-16 you study a range of subjects, usually around 10-12 subjects (including compulsory ones like English, Maths, Science etc) for GCSE, and take exams in those subjects aged 16. Those GCSEs are qualifications that you can use going forward. One of the things you can do with those qualifications is go on to sixth form (at a high school) or college (a separate further education place) to study for A levels. There, you specialise further, studying maybe 3-5 subjects over two years (I’m simplifying slightly here). So, for example, I did 10 GCSEs and then studied A levels in English, Art and Biology. Again, you take exams in each subject, and are awarded qualifications at various grades if you pass. You can, if you want, then use these A level qualifications to go to university to (usually) study one subject. You can have ‘dual honours’ degrees, such as French and German, or English with American Studies, or whatever, but most people will study one subject (English Literature; History; Sociology, etc). Most degrees are three years (usually aged 18-21 if you go straight from A levels to university) and you come out with a BA or BSc. The only exceptions are things like medicine where the initial undergrad degree is 5 years and then you do an extra 2 years’ postgrad followed by more years of training.

            2. Elysian*

              I agree, I think that’s one potential source of the divide here. I’d be curious what county the OP is in – I could easily see these rude comments happening in the US. I don’t know about other counties, but I do know that there are differences in how they treat “law” as a subject to study. If law were an undergraduate degree in the US my view would be different – sure, major in law instead of English or history or geology or whatever. But it isn’t here, and that’s why I think people find it worthy of remark to the OP.

              Either way, the people making these comments are being rude. But if I were OP’s friend or a close coworker I might ask in a more polite and sincere way why should would make that choice to spend all that time/money/energy if she were happy in her current job. That doesn’t excuse rude comments from near-strangers, though; it is just context for why people might say something at all.

              1. Gaia*

                I’m in the US and I still think they’re rude as hell. The advice to not go to law school if you don’t want to practice law is because law school often means major debt. But if you can do it without the debt? Who cares!?

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I’m in the US and I also think they’re rude. Their behavior is also very common IME. So common it seems to be part of the culture here to judge and comment on what others are doing.
                  I currently have a social circle where we don’t do this, but in any random group of people – like coworkers – there will be at least one or two.
                  I agree OP2 should shut this down as Alison and others advised. Going forward, she may want to not mention her law degree unless there’s reason to.
                  I hope her colleagues aren’t doing the “so here’s the restroom and there’s the water cooler and BTW, you know OP2? She has a law degree!” to new colleagues. If they are, it may be because they think it’s interesting.

                2. pentamom*

                  Yes. Even as an American, I don’t understand why people are so invested in other people not doing something because in totally different circumstances, it causes a problem that it doesn’t cause in that circumstance.

                3. Dot Warner*

                  Sure, it’s rude, but as an American… there are a lot of rude people in the US. :)

              2. Holly*

                I appreciate your comments in this thread – I think above in the thread I intended to convey the same thing and it came off wrong. It is rude regardless, but the context is that it’s a very unusual thing to do.

        3. Harper the Other One*

          I disagree. If you can afford the time and money to go to formal training, and that’s what gives you pleasure, there’s no reason not to.

          My background is in music and there were multiple people in my professional music program who attended purely for the pleasure and challenge of being surrounded by all things musical.

          In a field where professionals are desperately needed, I could see your argument – it would be inappropriate to take up a surgical specialty position if you have no intention of being a surgeon – but law is not a field dying for qualified people.

        4. ellex42*

          There are quite a few professions in which having a law degree is useful and even necessary to get ahead that don’t involve actually practicing law in a courtroom or law firm. Many industries have a need for people who can conduct legal research, which doesn’t require passing the bar, so is not considered “practicing law”. I should know – I work in one of those professions. I’m rare in my field for not having a law degree.

            1. ellex42*

              Energy: a broad category which covers oil, gas, coal, wind turbines, solar installations, roadworks, pipelines, powerlines, facilities, and on and on. I used to research real estate ownership, now I read legal documents and pull out pertinent information to input in a database – basically data entry, but fairly complex and very specialized.

              I’ve met a lot of people who went to law school and became realtors or went into finance. A legal education is very helpful in the mortgage field – reading corporate mortgages is particularly unpleasant. None of it requires passing the bar or having any courtroom experience, although I’ve also met quite a few recent law school grads who went into research to get experience to get their foot in the door of a traditional law firm, and others who started out that way and decided to stay in research.

              1. Elise*

                Also, you typically need a JD and Master of Library Science to be a Law Librarian, which I think would be really interesting, though I felt that one post-graduate degree was enough so I stuck with public librarianship. :)

                1. Law Lib Student*

                  There’s a growing number of non-J.D. law librarians in industry positions! Academia is the main holdout requiring dual degrees, plus certain government positions where the ability to practice law is more germane.

                  My current mid-size firm (which I’m leaving in three weeks to start my MLIS) has six librarians and none have a J.D.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              I know there’s a lot of people who work in bio-science patent research that do this. They often have a PhD and a JD.

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              Of the people I know with a JD that do not practice:

              -Regulatory compliance administrator
              -Legal publisher/editor
              -Legal researcher
              -Discovery consultant/e-discovery project manager
              -HR Recruiter
              -Risk management executive
              -Trade association publication author and editor (in a highly regulated industry)
              -Data scientist for administrative office of federal courts (focus on sentencing and recidivism data)

          1. Holly*

            I completely agree with this – I think what makes it extra unusual is OP works at a gym. Which if that makes OP happy, that’s fantastic, most people are not happy in their jobs. But it’s not something that is even *advantaged* by a law degree.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree with this. There’s always a handful of JD/PhDs, especially in STEM, who often pursue their joint degree because they specialize in areas where that knowledge (and related skills) are complementary.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              At least one of the communication professors where I went to undergrad picked up a law degree while working there using his tuition benefits, presumably just out of general interest. (This was at a teaching-focused SLAC and the professor in question was hired back in the 1970s or 1980s, before teaching-focused schools had particularly high research expectations for their professors.) He was the professor in charge of the school’s debate program, so obviously research and argumentation were both relevant to his main work, but I’m pretty sure it was a case where he realized he could take a law class or two at a time and eventually pick up this other degree for free just because.

              I wish academia still worked the way it did for my professors in undergrad. They had such cool stories and career arcs.

        5. Swampy*

          Meh, I disagree. I did a law degree mostly because I was interested – my aim going in wasn’t necessarily to be a lawyer. I went because I wanted to be a librarian but a law degree had more applications than a masters in library science and I figured I could be a law librarian. Now I’ve somehow ended up in academia. I think law is fine to study as a subject without intending or needing to be a lawyer. It’s just as interesting as a subject as history or literature and just like history or literature, you could educate yourself but you will get a lot more context and guidance if you do a degree.

        6. MommyMD*

          Agreed Annette. Few people have the money to spend to get a professional education and not practice it. Good for the OP but most professionals are burdened with debt to get where they are. It’s not surprising that some people are mystified the education is not being put to use, as they see it. I’d just say I went another direction.

          1. Nessun*

            I think people are struggling with the value proposition. For most the value in spending the money on school is the degree they can then leverage into a career. For LW, the value was in the learning. Most people don’t have the luxury of equating value at that level, because they need the years of learning to equate directly to earning potential. LW is blessed to be in a situation where she could study for learning’s sake, and it’s no one’s right to criticize that (by which I mean, she should absolutely shut people down using Alison’s scripts, when they ask about her degree).

          2. Jennifer*

            Agreed, there’s a bit of privilege at play here, which isn’t the OP’s fault of course, but there are a lot of people who couldn’t take on the expense of law school unless they were planning to use the degree. That’s where the confusion is coming in. Learning for learning’s sake is great, but not everyone can afford to do it at a university.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think Annette is saying this because there’s a sizeable number of folks who go to law school without really knowing if they want to be a lawyer, and it becomes a very expensive mistake.

          Like medical school, law schools are really designed to create lawyers. I would give someone interested in a doctoral program similar advice—those programs are time-consuming and are usually designed to produce academics (although of course you can choose a different path). Law schools also often offer less deep philosophical or academic inquiry than graduate programs. If someone is interested in a non-law career but law, I would recommend they consider the newly burgeoning “Masters in Law” programs, although those are also still expensive.

          All that said, OP was aware of all of that when they went to law school, and they had the good fortune to be able to graduate debt-free. I don’t begrudge them their interest, and I think what they did was kind of neat. They clearly knew what they wanted, had the means to pursue it, and did so. I like stories like OP’s because it’s refreshing to meet people who don’t always pick the path more traveled.

        8. Gumby*

          My favorite quote about education is “Learning makes a man fit company for himself.”

          Education is valuable because it forms you as a person. Not because it immediately translates into income-producing work.

          The paths people take in education and work are many and varied. Among my former co-workers are:
          Someone who finished law school before going into software.
          Someone who was a fully qualified and practicing physician before going into IT.
          Someone with an advanced degree in materials science and engineering who went into user interface design.
          A former nurse who became an accountant.

          It takes all kinds and the education is never “wasted” just because it doesn’t lead to a job in that (or any) field.

      2. ellex42*

        Depending on the location and the type of judge, I believe that’s not necessarily true.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          New York (and I know other states do as well) has elected village and town judges. They have a weekend intro class and access to a call center for legal questions, but other than that there is no training or required qualifications.

          Though, speaking as a lawyer, it can be obnoxious as hell, because an untrained judge tends to “go with their gut” instead of following the law, which can have bad consequences. The NYT did an article about it in 2006 and it hasn’t changed much at all.

      3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        If it makes you feel better about not studying law formally, going to law school doesn’t really “teach you the law.” The first thing you learn in any law class is that while you might learn general concepts, laws vary wildly between states and even between cities. Practicing lawyers always have access to databases of cases and statutes because there’s no way of keeping all of a state’s laws (and how they’ve been interpreted and how they interact with federal law and how they’ve just been modified by a new law) in your head. That’s why lawyers dread taking the bar exam despite three years of law school: you DO have to keep all the laws in your head, if only for the two or three days of the bar. And to do that, you need to study for eight hours a day for two and a half months with no breaks – it’s completely untenable to do that all the time.

        What you learn at law school is how to find what the law is (by finding statutes and cases and figuring out how they interact with each other) and then looking at a situation, picking out the facts that are important about it, and analyzing those facts with the law you just found to come up with a solution. This is a good skill to have, but you rarely if ever will need to use those skills outside of legal practice, and you don’t learn how to apply that skill practically until you’re an actual lawyer with a job.

        1. Hmm*

          Hmm. This seems to be the case in many professional schools. You learn the general concepts in the classroom, but you don’t really “learn” to do the job until you are doing the thing (i.e. Doctor, Teacher, Lawyer, etc). And in that case there are generally resources (manuals and such) that help you look up that thing you were supposed to have memorized in school.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I would agree with this if you are regarding laws as the defining factor of the skill set you’re describing above, but certainly researching, intepreting, and synthesizing other sorts of specialized source material of varying degrees of technical complexity are valuable in other professional areas as well (I’m thinking about business analytics and consulting in particular). Law school may or may not be the most cost-effective way of learning those skills depending on circumstances, but the number of fields that interpret the degree as proof a candidate possesses those skills is large enough to allow for other types of careers.

      4. Temperance*

        As a lawyer … I would not recommend going to law school for personal fulfillment. Go to law school if you want a legal, or legal adjacent, career.

      5. MeanieNini*

        You don’t actually “learn the law” in law school. You do some basic legal concepts which admittedly are helpful to know – most of that comes in Year 1 … after that law school is meant to teach you how to think like a lawyer and solve legal problems like a lawyer. The tests, essays, and work are all surrounded around teaching you to think the way a lawyer needs to think. If you want to learn the law a masters in legal studies will probably actually teach you more of that or specific legal classes on specific topics like “business law” or “human resources law” because it will be targeted to teach you the actual laws, not where to find the laws, how to analyze judicial rulings, and how to give legal advice based on what you found. This is not intended to tell you or anyone else not to puruse law school if that is what you want to do. I’m just pointing out how law school is structured compared to other programs or classes where the intent is to actually teach you the law itself vs. the practice of it.

      6. No Law in Law School*

        In my experience at a top 5 law school in the USA, going to law school to learn actual, practical law isn’t what’s going to happen. Not even practical in the way of learning to be a lawyer, but in the way of knowing the law as it is. The focus was far more on how to research, abstract philosophical work, teaching without ever practicing, etc. I would never recommend someone go to a school like that just because they want to study law for it being interesting and enlightening unless they wanted the more esoteric style.

        No matter that, though, no one with a legal degree should have to deal with rude questions about why they aren’t using it if they aren’t. I’m 10 years out and the only person I know from my law school group of friends who still practices and the rest of them, at most, use it in a nebulous way. Not using a law degree is not a strange thing at all, even if OP’s situation is fairly unique.

    5. MK*

      I don’t disagree with the spirit of what you say, but, to be fair, “exiting law practice” does not equal “not using the degree”. Many of my law school classmates aren’t barristers, but almost all of them have a job that requires, if not a law degree, at least a university degree of some sort. People aren’t being silly for feeling perplexed that someone would go to law school for their personal edification, not matter how rude it is to mention it repeatedly in a deriding tone to the person concerned.

      1. Asenath*

        Many people don’t use the degree they earned – I’m one of them – and yet, few if any co-workers tease them about it. These co-workers are being rude and OP should feel free to discourage their comments.

      2. Aspiring ex-lawyer*

        These comments aren’t coming because OP isn’t working as a lawyer — plenty of lawyers leave the profession, but they go to positions in public policy, academia, or business/consulting/finance that at least leverage the skills they picked up in law school. The comments are coming because OP’s job is cleaning gym equipment, which doesn’t leverage the law degree at all. The comments aren’t particularly kind, but if OP had no intention of doing *anything* with the law degree (“personal edification”) that wasn’t particularly kind to others in the law school applicant pool who would have liked to attend but were rejected.

        1. Anonymous 5*

          Whoa, that’s off-base. It sucks to want a particular degree and to be rejected from schools, but that isn’t any responsibility of OP’s. If you want to go to xyz school/professional program and you get in, you’ve earned your spot. Period. It doesn’t sound as though OP is making much of a deal about having gone to law school, let alone about the reasons/intentions, so that covers her responsibility on the “kindness” front.

        2. Asenath*

          A lot of the people I know who have degrees they don’t use aren’t leveraging the skills they learned either – that’s part of what “don’t use” means. And I don’t think anyone has an obligation to refrain from studying something if they are doing so for personal enjoyment, even if it is in a highly competitive program. Kindness doesn’t come into it. It’s true that some people have a kind of snobbery about education, and think that educated people should be “above” such jobs as working in a gym – it’s part of the reason some employers will reject over-qualified applicants. But that is no excuse for making fun of people whose educational background isn’t what you expect or think is appropriate, and that’s what these co-workers are doing.

          1. MK*

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that the people that hassle the OP are anything other than jerks.

          2. Amethystmoon*

            True. I have a Master’s degree that I finished the other year, but our company just got taken over by another company. I intend to use it someday, but now isn’t the right time, as there is a hiring freeze going on.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            “And I don’t think anyone has an obligation to refrain from studying something if they are doing so for personal enjoyment, even if it is in a highly competitive program. Kindness doesn’t come into it.”

            This. Articulated much better than what I was going to say at 6:30 AM with only a single sip of coffee thus far.

            It is not incumbent upon anyone to go “woah, wait, maybe *someone else* could have that spot if only I didn’t take it…” for whatever reasons.

        3. MK*

          I would think it’s on the law school to admit the people really interested in practicing law (or using the degree in other ways), not individual candidates to bow out to more deserving ones.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I think it’s on the law school to admit qualified applicants regardless of their intentions.

            1. MK*

              Actually, no. A law school should be as free to determine their own mission as any other organization, and it’s perfectly valid for one to want theirs to be the training of future professionals, not providing general education.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Law schools admit people who are not interested in practicing law all the time. It can be useful for our class balance, and although those folks are not the majority of admits, they’re still in the class mix. It’s also sometimes hard to admit based on intention—a lot of folks enter with one intention, and they graduate pursuing a completely different path. That’s just part of being a law student.

            We focus a lot more on ensuring that folks who do want to practice will be able to pass the bar, because that affects our USNWR rankings and now our ABA accreditation. But folks who never take the bar don’t really affect those metrics.

        4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Wow. So we should curtail our interests and ambitions because of a nebulous other who might have taken a differnt path with the same degree? Try applying that to other areas. Should I choose not to apply for a better job because someone else might also like it? Not buy a ticket to a popular concert because someone else also wants to go? Not step on the bus to work because there are other people in line who want to get on?

          It seems absurd to me that the OP’s choices should be dictated by other people who think they know better. And the sneering “cleaning gym equipment” smacks of superiority and a sense that the OP stepped out of their place.

          1. RandomU...*

            Yeah, I don’t get it either. I can now see why the OP came in with this question. I wouldn’t blink if I met the OP and found out they work in a gym having a law degree. It wouldn’t occur to me that anyone would have more than a passing interest in the situation like “Oh are you working here before taking the Bar or something like that” because that would be the ‘typical’ path. If the OP responded with ‘Nope don’t want to practice law… just found the courses interesting’ I’d find that interesting, because again… not typical, and move on.

            I can’t get my head around why people seem up in arms about this situation.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I would also find it interesting and if she was open to it, would ask why she finds it interesting. I worked with federal regulations in a previous job and they were very interesting. I would have a discussion about the interesting parts of the law, if she didn’t mind.
              Before I got my current job I applied for a job working on white-collar crime at the Inspector General’s office. They didn’t respond. I still think about how interesting that job would have been.

          2. Librarian*

            I agree! I work in a field that requires a master’s degree, and I daydream of leaving it and just selling vintage things or something. I can’t fathom someone telling me it was wrong to get my master’s degree then. This whole thread is surreal to me, and it honestly makes me think of some of the issues with higher education in America. In my opinion, education is for enlightenment and to be informed citizens, not just job training. Even if I’m not in a JOB that requires my degree, I still know what I know, apply it daily, and help others with it.

            1. RandomU...*

              Ironically I’m on the side that higher education should be more job training for the vast majority of careers. That being said… if someone wants to pay for education just to learn, I say go for it. May we all find ourselves in that same position.

        5. Aquawoman*

          “others in the law school applicant pool who would have liked to attend but were rejected.”

          No, ONE other person got rejected–she took up one spot, not multiple spots. And the person who would have gotten that spot should have applied to more than one law school and if they were any kind of decent candidate, would have gotten a spot somewhere else, and if they weren’t a decent candidate, giving them a spot is more harm than good.

        6. CG*

          Wasn’t Ruth Bader Ginsburg told at Harvard that she shouldn’t be there because she was taking a spot away from a potential male student? OP was successful at every element of the program: they got in, were able to successfully pay for school, passed, and graduated. Others who were not successful at all four of those pieces were not unsuccessful because of OP’s success.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, RBG and every woman who entered law school from 1900 to the early 1990s.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame OP for others not being admitted to that law school. In addition to this being a very pernicious assertion, it’s the exact same argument used to keep women out of law schools. Now that I participate in law admissions, all I can say is that there’s no guarantee that OP’s “seat” opening means someone else would have received it.

          People are allowed to pursue education without the intention of using that education professionally. That includes professional education. There’s no need for us to interrogate OP’s choices, and it’s not entirely helpful to OP or to others who are in similar positions.

          1. Random observation*

            “I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame OP for others not being admitted to that law school. In addition to this being a very pernicious assertion, it’s the exact same argument used to keep women out of law schools.”

            Merely because someone used an argument for discriminatory ends in the past does not invalidate that argument when different people use it in a vastly different context.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m arguing it’s an invalid argument, full stop, and that it has also been used in discriminatory ways.

        8. wickedtongue*

          Just gonna say that that’s the exact same reasoning that my former English teacher was given when she applied to law school in the 70s: “Well, you’re a married woman with children. You probably won’t use the law degree, so we can’t admit you, because some men would miss out because of you.”

      3. Myrin*

        I do agree that “[p]eople aren’t being silly for feeling perplexed that someone would go to law school for their personal edification” – even in cultures where “personal edification” is one big goal in the universities’ mission, people generally think that of subjects like Philosophy or German Studies, and at least law and medicine are usually exempt from that -, however, they are being silly if they’re expressing their perplexity more than once. And in OP’s case, it not only sounds like these are always the same people but also like they’re doing this with some kind of regularity; at that point, any initial understanding of their confusion doesn’t really hold water anymore, if you ask me.

      4. MeanieNini*

        I, unfortunately, get a lot of comments similar to the OP. I have a law degree. I have passed the bar. I practiced for a few years. And now I’ve moved onto a career where my legal education and practice is actually quite useful and somewhat relevant (at least) … however, I still get these comments all the time. Usually these comments are well-meaning but I can defintiely appreciate the frustration as I have chosen this career path and do not intend to go back to actively practicing the law in the future. The practice of law was just not for me.

    6. MsChanandlerBong*

      I honestly don’t blame them. My best friend has a law degree and works full-time as a lawyer, but I (with about 80 college credits and no completed degree) make more than she does. She is trying to find a better job, but all the ads in the local paper have starting wages of $14 or $15 an hour. Not for a paralegal or a recent law-school grad who hasn’t passed the bar yet–for experienced attorneys who have been admitted to the bar already. It’s ridiculous.

      1. Meh*

        “Ads in the local paper” – is that still a thing, can people still find a job by perusing newspaper want ads? OP2, I have two degrees that I’ve never really used afterwards either, it’s quite common, but I’m glad I did it and had the experience. Life just takes you down different paths sometimes and that’s ok.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Well, my wording was bad (I had dental surgery this morning, so my brain is not firing on all cylinders!). Newspaper ads, job boards, etc. I do recruiting for my work, and I have found that Indeed and Monster have turned into cesspools; from the applicant’s perspective, it’s almost impossible to find a listing that isn’t a scam, an MLM trying to disguise its “opportunity” as a real job, etc., and from the employer side, Indeed has been sending me nothing but people who don’t meet ANY of the qualifications for the job (it’s not a matter of meeting 75% and not the other 25%; they literally don’t meet basic requirements). She went to law school 7+ hours from where she lives, so the alumni job board isn’t super-helpful, as it posts mostly local jobs.

      2. Dagny*

        If she’s trying to make more money, she should look into the panoply of “JD preferred” jobs. While they pay less than prestigious legal jobs at large and medium-sized law firms, they pay far more, with better work-life balance, than the lower-end legal jobs. This can be anything from regulatory agencies in state government, being an ALJ/Hearing Officer, compliance in highly-regulated industries (e.g., banks), contracts management, policy, advocacy.

      3. Bee*

        The state of law practice in the US is kind of absurd right now. I have a bunch of friends who became lawyers in the last ~5 years, and they all told me that it was only worth it to them if they got into one of the top 10 schools in the country, because those were the only places that would get them jobs that paid well enough to make the debt worthwhile. Hell, I know someone with a law degree from *Princeton* who couldn’t get a job as a lawyer.

        So! If you’re doing it just because you’re interested, you don’t HAVE to go to one of those extremely expensive high-ranking schools, you don’t have to take on all the debt, you don’t have to worry about your class rank, and you don’t have to take the bar. I can certainly see a personal trainer being able to keep working while attending law school, since the hours are unusual anyway. I don’t think this is anywhere near as bizarre as people are making it out to be. It’s certainly not weirder than my aunt getting a Ph.D. in her 50s in a field unrelated to the business she owns, just because she wanted to, and I thought that was pretty badass.

        1. DCR*

          Princeton doesn’t;t have a law school, so it is not surprising that a person who graduated from Princeton couldn’t get a job as a lawyer.

          1. Bee*

            Huh! I actually don’t know him personally, but his wife, and I know he was at an actual law school and they lived in Princeton. So…I made some assumptions and don’t actually know where he went, I guess. Which does rather back up my friends who didn’t think a job was guaranteed unless they went to Harvard or Yale.

        2. Aspiring ex-lawyer*

          “Hell, I know someone with a law degree from *Princeton* who couldn’t get a job as a lawyer.”

          Princeton doesn’t have a law school.

      4. Emily K*

        Oh yeah, here in DC, Nonprofit Capital of the US, it’s extremely common for nonprofits to hire freshly-minted JDs to do policy analysis for $30-40K a year – or, put another way, less than half the area median income of $80K and almost certainly not enough to afford your own apartment without roommates. The number of people I knew in my 20s who had $100K in debt and were living off ramen in a beat-up rowhouse in the cheap part of town with 3-4 roommates…it’s one thing to live that way when you’re doing temp work or service work, but barred attorneys…certainly not what people used to imagine you’d command with a law degree and bar admission.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      If it makes you feel any better, LW #2, if you had become a lawyer they probably would have made lawyer-jokes all the time – so either way you’d have to deal with these amateur comedians.

      1. Lucinda*

        People make lawyers the but of jokes till they need one in an emergency or serious situation. Then they want exactly the type of lawyer they’ve been mocking (i.e., a shark).

        People joke a lot about the litigiousness of Americans, but the minute it’s their interest on the line, they want to sue “all the way to the Supreme Court.”

        It’s a combination of fundamental attribution error and selfishness.

        I sometimes think that the maturity level of the species needs some serious overhaul.

        1. anna green*

          I sometimes think that the maturity level of the species needs some serious overhaul.

          Ha, yes, absolutely this.

        2. MK*

          You ‘ve said it. People are talking about lawyers as if they were the ones forcing litigation on their unwilling clients. I am not saying there aren’t cases of a lawyer milking a case for personal gain, but most of the time it’s the client who is on the warpath and the lawyer is just following instructions, or even unsuccessfully trying to rain them in.

    8. Collarbone High*

      This comment is really personally helpful to me, PBCH – I’ve always slightly regretted not pursuing my childhood dream of going to law school, and it’s not reasonable at this point in my life, but that statistic does a lot to quiet my inner critic.

    9. TootsNYC*

      “Why do you keep bringing this up?”

      This is where I would aim.

      I often like the Ronald Reagan tactic: “There you go again!”

      It’s so swiftly dismissive.

      The tone is important: Amused, tolerant, superior.

      There are other ways to say this.
      “Do you have an idea how often you make that crack? It’s getting old, to be honest, and I’d appreciate it if you’d come up with some other casual conversation starter.”

    10. Anonymous because it's not my own story*

      A family member got his law degree and passed the bar in his state 5 or 10 years before retirement age. He plans to work at his current position until he hits the point of 100% retirement/pension benefits — and then go to work as a public defender. (I believe he’s going to work for through a friend’s law office, but forgive me being fuzzy on the details….it’s not my own story.)

    11. If you can't beat 'em, bore 'em*

      OP#2, I love the “What are YOUR goals?” suggestion above. Another option is to ignore the snide-ness of the question and just answer cheerfully and genuinely–and extensively and boringly–with the details of whatever branch most interested you.

      Q: “So how’s that law degree working for you?” “Great! Intellectual property law is everywhere: software, plants — did you know you can patent a rose hybrid? And did you know copyright law actually hinges on a lawsuit involving the player piano? It began in 1908, with the White-Smith v. Appollo case . . .”

      Q: “Are you planning on ever using your law degree?” A: “OMG, I use it all the time! You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t understand the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees, and how overtime pay and comp time work. The requirement to use comp time within the pay period causes a lot of confusion. Let me explain. Of course, labor laws are often different in California, where . . .”

      The more genuinely happy and excited you can be to talk about your interest, the better. You might even get somebody excited and interested too. But if they are uninterested, you get bonus points if you keep talking while the not-interested person tries to edge away.

      1. tiasp*

        HA HA HA this is the best! Trap them a few times and they will become careful to avoid the subject in the future!!!

    12. GreenDoor*

      I have a huge problem with anyone looking down their nose at anyone who puts in an honest days work to earn their living. And there are plenty of people with degrees who don’t work in that field – me included! For when you’re not at work (and don’t need to be professional), I might use these:

      Them: “So how’s that law degree working for you?”
      You: It’s nice to have options. Too bad you don’t. (Especially good your fellow blue collars who do not have other certifications/degrees)

      Them: “Are you planning on ever using your law degree?”
      You: “Are you ever planning on using the manners your mother taught you?”

      Them: “To think, you went to law school!
      You: “And to think you…..wait…what exciting thing HAVE you done with your life?”

      Very snarky. But like I said, I take issue with people getting arrogant about what other people do/don’t do for work.

  2. Pam*


    If losing vacation days is an issue, you might ask about switching part of the week to bereavement leave.

    1. mark132*

      This is excellent advice. If OP1’s employer offers this, this may be a very elegant solution.

    2. Emmie*

      I thought the same thing. This is a good opening for the conversation. FWIW, my deepest condolences on your loss.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A lot of bereavement policies don’t cover aunts/uncles, but if the OP’s does, yes, definitely. (Although it still leaves the OP needing negotiate more time off fairly soon after.)

      1. Former HR person*

        Since the OP seems to have been the next of kin for her relative, a good case might be made to HR that the bereavement leave policy can apply in this instance.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Not all bereavement policies follow reasonable standards. At the time when my partner’s (we had been together 8 years at that point) grandmother passed away, I did not qualify for bereavement leave because we were not married, we were engaged though. But interestingly enough my partner was already on my insurance without being married as a “domestic partner” without a problem for about a year.

          I probably could have argued it, but I had enough vacation time banked that I could take 2/3 days without an adverse impact, I just said screw and didn’t want to deal with it.

    4. Lena Clare*

      Yes, I have done this twice in my working life – once when my mum was ill (dependents’ leave) and once when I was ill (sick leave). Good luck!

    5. GeoffreyB*

      Came here to say the same thing. My work allows us to retroactively convert rec leave to personal leave (sick/bereavement) but I wouldn’t have realized this was an option if I hadn’t been told by a helpful manager.

      1. AppleStan*

        Our work specifically excludes this option…if you are on annual leave, get sick during leave, you can’t come back and convert it. You can take additional sick leave when you come back from the annual leave, but you can’t convert the annual leave that turned out to be sick leave.

      2. Becky*

        I have single bucket PTO that is used for both vacation and sick leave but bereavement is specifically a separate time code so if that ever happened I would have to ask if I could convert. I suspect it would not be a problem given what I know about my employer.

    6. Moocowcat*

      Exactly. Check to see if the vacation days can be switched to bereavement leave. My employer would see this as a completely reasonable request.

    7. Smithy*

      Last summer, I was planning on taking two weeks vacation. Those two weeks happened to be while my father was very ill, moved into hospice. On the last day of my vacation, he passed and I then added the company provided week of bereavement. I was out of work for three weeks – none very restful.

      I did work with my manager so about 5-6 weeks after I was able to take a long weekend and I truly recommend it. It wasn’t the full time I was hoping to take off, but it was greatly needed and helpful.

      If your team really does support work/life balance and using vacation days – then there can be a way to address this. Even with my father being ill and passing it was hard not to also feel “I’ve missed three weeks of work! Ack!” I think that a combination of being both honest and flexible with your manager should hopefully find a solution.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had that thought too – FWIW, I got one day bereavement leave when my aunt died (which I used to attend the funeral). Hopefully OP’s workplace does offer at least that.

    9. Kathleen_A*

      Yeah, my employer let me convert some scheduled vacation days into sick days when I came down with a truly lousy, fun-destroying, stay-home-for-three-days-moaning cold. So if the bereavement policy covers aunts (ours doesn’t, but some do), it should be fine. If not, maybe they’d just let you call some of those days sick days?

    10. Parenthetically*

      Yep, that was my first thought. My husband’s workplace has excellent bereavement leave policies and it would be no problem for him to switch some of his vacation days to bereavement days if something like this happened to us.

  3. Name*

    How much of a gossip am I that for #3, I really wanna know what they’re discussing. That friendship seems quite intense, indeed!

    1. valentine*

      I suspect they’re courting.

      OP3, if it really is 10 minutes and only 10 minutes all day, I would ask them not to whisper, but otherwise consider it a tax on my job.

      1. OP3*

        That’s totally all it is – a little bit of work flirting. On the mornings when I expect it will only last about 10 minutes I’m just going to consider it a tax and either ignore it or listen to music. And on the mornings where I really do need to get in earlier to leave early I’ll say what Alison has suggested and see if that works? (And perhaps they’ll consider it a tax on those occasional extra early mornings for me?)

        1. SezU*

          Maybe you should just be loud by yourself… normal loud, but things like a cheery hello, singing to yourself, talking to yourself? (jk)

          1. OP3*

            I liked this one, it gave me a really good laugh – could you imagine? They’d think I’d lost my mind! Maybe it would frighten him away?

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              OP #3 are Jane and Fergus supposed to come in at 8 am and start working at 8 am, or are they scheduled to start work at 9 am but they come in at 8 am to chat before work?

              My suggestion ( if possible for your job) is wear over the ear headphones and play music to drown out the 10 minutes of whispering/talking. If they only talk for about 10 minutes after you arrive that does not seem like that long. I have had conversations with my boss that were mostly non-work related that have lasted 20/30 minutes. Granted it is not everyday but it does happen.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              If Fergus leaves about 10 minutes after you arrive, no matter when you come in, maybe just come in whenever you like?

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          If your boss lets you wear headphones and you can afford some nice noise-cancelling ones, might that work?

        3. Cat Fan*

          I don’t understand how you can kick someone out of an area that’s an open office. I’m a little confused by that suggestion from Alison. I realize that he may not sit in the area normally, but if he’s there talking to a co-worker, does it matter what it’s about (within reason, of course)? What if he was there talking about work, would his being there talking still bother you or is it the personal nature of their conversation that does it? I think you might have to just put headphones on. Good luck!

          1. Venus*

            Typical open-office courtesy (from what I have experienced) is that personal conversations happen elsewhere (lunch room for example). I suspect they are talking at Jane’s desk to give the illusion of it being work-related. They should easily be able and willing to move, if asked.

            I have had to ask colleagues to go elsewhere. There were a few of them clearly discussing non-work, and I had to stand up and say “I’m really sorry to interrupt you, but I can’t concentrate. If it’s not a work topic, could you please take it elsewhere?” (work chats aren’t great, but they natirally tend to be shorter and don’t feel as aggravating). I felt badly, but it was becoming a frequent problem and they were very reasonable about it.

            If these two aren’t reasonable (explaining that whispering is really distracting will be a very good idea) then that’s on them, not the LW.

            1. BadWolf*

              Same with our open office. If people get into their personal conversation, they’ll often say, “Hey let’s take a walk.” Or you could say to them, “Hey, trying to concentrate here.”

          2. BRR*

            If I understand the situation, it’s regular, long personal conversations that are preventing the LW from doing their work. My personal opinion is if the conversations were brief, infrequent, or work related, the answer would be different.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ugh, OP, you have my sympathy. I was in this spot at an OldJob, when a coworker sitting across the aisle from me in a cubicle farm started getting friendly with another coworker. They’d sit in his cube and chat for what seemed like hours every day. It felt really icky and awkward and I was happy when they moved my desk to a different area of the office. Even though I was friends with both of them at the time, it just felt… yuck. And hugely distracting when I was trying to work.

      2. EPLawyer*

        They get in an hour earlier that OP and are still talking when she gets there? What on EARTH can they have to talk about, because presumably they just saw each other the day before? That’s not mild work flirting. That’s flat out chatting for an hour instead of working.

      3. V*

        I mean, they’re “timing their arrival to coincide”. In my world that’d be code for leaving together. It certainly has the appearance of going beyond a mere friendship even if that is all it is.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          “timing their arrival to coincide” = they spent the night together and came in together but one of them is waiting in the lobby/parking lot for 5 minutes so it looks like they didn’t spend the night together.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I read that the opposite way that they are trying to time their arrival so that both get in at the same time like 9:05 so that they can start talking to each other right away.

  4. WS*

    OP #5 – there are lots of medical treatments (in particular prednisolone/prednisone) that can cause noticeable facial/chin/neck swelling like that. You shouldn’t have any problems passing it off as a temporary medical issue.

    1. Letter Writer 5*

      Thank you! This is a great point. I was trying to think of what would cause neck swelling (not to use it as an excuse) because I couldn’t think of any procedure that caused it other than cosmetic. So I was worried my “I’m undergoing medical treatments” would lead to MORE curiosity. Alison, great point too as just mentioning it’s the side effect of something else. Thank you!

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Taking short course steroids (prednisone) is common to clear up short term issues and they can bloat you like an mfer. I might have personal knowledge of this. Would it be the same bloating and as localized? Prolly not, but what are they, prednisone experts? This is going to work out okay.

        Best wishes and congratulations on moving forward in a way you are excited about. :)

        1. StudentPilot*

          Same here- I was on prednisone for nearly 2 months, and 1 month in my face (cheeks mostly) swelled up. No one at work (including clients) really commented, but those that did it was mostly sympathetic noises, and they dropped it when I said it was a side effect from some medication I was on.

        2. DAMitsDevon*

          It might not cause the same type of swelling, but I think a possible side effect of prednisone is that it can cause some fat build up on the back of your neck? I just got the face swelling though and it’s finally going away.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I think the operative word there is “temporary.”

        I had to google Kybella and now I’m all like, why did I not know about this and can you use it on that damn belly roll!?

        1. Letter Writer 5*

          Haha apparently you can use it on lots of places! The FDA has only approved use on the chin fat, however. When I found out about it 4 years ago, I was dying to try it. So pleased I finally am! I had my treatment done yesterday and I am swelling up big, and it’s very red. But honestly, it’s not as big as I thought and I think it will be fine. Thank you all for this great advice and encouragement!

          1. Green*

            I did Kybella. Unfortunately, it was not particularly effective and the swelling lasted a surprisingly long time (and it required 3-4 more treatments for even average results…). Also, it can cause scar tissue that makes liposuction less effective in the future, so be sure to talk to your plastic surgeon if you’re finding it’s not working for you. Ultimately, I went for chin liposuction because of the impact on work.

      3. Analyst*

        OP5, I’d be surprised if anyone said anything at all, but it’s nice to have a line in your back pocket in case someone catches you off guard. I’ve worn a shirt inside out all day and no one said a thing. Same thing with drastic hair cuts, wonky makeup application, lunch break facials and the resulting redness/peeling. Currently, I’m 6 months pregnant (I’ve only told my boss) and still no one has mentioned my 20lb weight gain or obvious bump. Hopefully your coworkers are just as polite (or oblivious) as mine!

        1. Letter Writer 5*

          That’s so nice that they aren’t nosy! I would prefer that type of environment.

      4. AW*

        For what it’s worth, I’ve had 2 rounds of Kybella and no one from work has said anything. I did the treatments on Friday afternoon and swelling was down pretty well by Monday. I noticed it, but if anyone from work noticed they didn’t say anything. The bruising was noticeable, but I just covered it with foundation.

        But if anyone had noticed, I would have just said that I had had a Kybella treatment. Not sure why you’d want to cover it up.

        1. Letter Writer 5*

          I’m telling pretty much everyone but my workplace is traditional and religious. So I didn’t want it to become a thing (like someone preaching about how God made me the way he wants me) when I feel it is not a thing and I wanted to have a response ready.

        2. Letter Writer 5*

          Like my mom (who is very religious) said “but God gave you that chin!” after I had it done. She acted so mortified. I’m like, “yeah God also gave you brown hair under all those highlights so…”

  5. DDc*

    It’s actually extremely common to go to law school without intending to be a lawyer! It can be a very fascinating study. I went to one of the best schools and am a member of my state bar, but have never practiced. ‍♀️

    1. Sue*

      I don’t think it’s very common to go without some career intentions though. Law school costs can be up to $70,000 per year not including living expenses. That’s a large financial commitment if you have no plans to use it at all. I have a few classmates who never practiced but it was a rarity, not the norm.

      1. Aspiring ex-lawyer*

        Even the ones who never practiced are using skills they picked up in law school, such as negotiating, breaking down problems into component parts, thinking about how counterparties will react to proposals, etc.

        1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          This. Law school is one of the best places to learn rethorica, which is hell of a skill.

    2. DCR*

      As a lawyer, I don’t think it is “extremely common” to go to law school without intending to be a lawyer. I had some classmates who intended and did go in to public policy instead of practicing law, but that is a field where you often either need a JD or a MPP to break in. That’s not the same as going for your own interest. I don’t know anyone who went without intending to use the degree.

      Most law schools costs over $200k to attend, often over $300k. Who are all these people spending that money on a degree they will never use and therefore never see a return on?

      1. Green*

        I know lots of people who wound up not using the degree. I don’t know anyone who went fully intending to not use the degree in at least some fashion in law or a law-related career.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      [citation needed] for “extremely common,” I’d say. Plenty of people finish law school and then transition out of the profession after a few years, or they fail to find a lawyering job right away and decide to do something else. But to say that it’s “extremely common” to enter law school with the intent of never, ever being a lawyer? My own anecdata: some colleagues that I graduated with ended up transitioning out of lawyering after a few years, and some never got lawyering jobs to begin with. But holy moly, that wasn’t their intent when they entered law school, taking on 3 years of stress and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. It was more a matter of circumstances and the economy we graduated into. The vast majority of law students enter law school so that they can become lawyers.

      1. pretzel logic*

        This was my experience as well. There’s a lot of comments here from non-US non-attorneys and I think that’s skewing the conversation. My reaction to OP2 would be “hey way to get out,” but if she went on about how she never wanted to actually be a lawyer…I have to admit I’d have some questions.

        Law school is a grueling, miserable, stressful existence. I actually like litigation and I’m not sure you could pay me to go back in time and go back to law school.

    4. Lexi Kate*

      Unless you have a study that proves this, I have to disagree with you. I cant see it being common to get into and finish Law school without ever wanting to practice law. I think its more common to decide during Law school that a practicing lawyer is not in the cards for you. But to just want to go to law school with no desire to ever practice, I really don’t see that as being common. For one most people don’t have the time or money to study law as a hobby.

      1. Harvey 6-3.5*

        As a lawyer, I agree with Lexi Kate. In most of my classes during the day, I was the second oldest person (I was only in my 30s), and even the one older woman, in her 60s, was planning to practice law as a child advocate, though she didn’t need a salary. Everyone else, as far as I remember, was planning to work in some area of law or another (though I’m sure many of them have transitioned out by now, many years later).

    5. nona*

      Not really that common. The advice to people considering law school is actually the opposite – don’t go to law school if you don’t plan to be a lawyer because it expensive and time-consuming to do otherwise. At least these days. And it counteracts the perception that “there is so much you can do with a law degree”, when the truth is those are jobs that recovering lawyers have turned to, not that they planned to do with their law degree.

      I do know of (much older) alums who did go because it was interesting, but tuition was less of a financial impact. Or then there are the law professors – who went to law school and then likely never practiced because they went straight to teaching….

    6. pleaset*

      “It’s actually extremely common to go to law school without intending to be a lawyer!”

      I find this hard to believe. To be clear – I find it hard to believe it’s extremely common to enter without the intention of practicing. Plenty finish and decide not to practice (or drop out and don’t practice), but making the decision not to practice before starting? No way is that common.

      1. MeanieNini*

        Agree. When I started law school, I had every intention of practicing law … as did almost all of my classmates. Many of us are not actively practicing now for a variety of reasons. I never once heard a person at the large law school I attended discussing that they did not want to practice in some form upon leaving. Many were in joint degree programs that had specific tracks once completed but still required you to have a JD and/or bar passage to work in the field.

        1. pleaset*

          Actually that reminds me of one (1) person I know who went to law school without intending to practice – he did a JD after getting an MLS at the same time with the intention of being a law librarian. I think he got some kind of major scholarships for the JD.

  6. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

    OP 1, I really don’t have any advice to give other than what Allison already did. But I do want to say I hope you are able to get a day or two soon, to help you emotionally rest and recover. My sympathies for your loss.

  7. Alphabet Pony*

    #1 Sorry for your loss. It’s presumably too after the fact for this to be useful advice now, but I would have suggested maybe emailing ahead so you don’t have to explain when you get to work.

  8. PurpleMonster*

    People can be very obnoxious about what you study. When I did a BA majoring in English I usually got, ‘so are you going to be a teacher?’ (HAHAHA NO) or ‘so how many ways can you say “would you like fries with that”?’ (‘tis truly the height of wit.)

    To be fair, I did it because my parents were of the ‘any degree proves you can think and that’s what employers want’ school and would do things differently now, but there’s nothing wrong with study for personal edification.

    1. CatCat*

      I got a BA in Classical Civilization and often had to field, “What are you going to do with THAT?” My response was, “Whatever I want.”

      After some interesting years in the work world, I ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer. A lot of people I went to law school with aren’t practicing. Some just haaaaated it and moved on to something more fulfilling, some gave up on trying to pass the bar and moved on, some didn’t hate it yet it just wasn’t for them and moved on, some had higher personal priorities than practicing law, some had other options that were more fulfilling right out of the gate. I enjoy being a lawyer, but it is not for everyone. There are soooo many reasons people don’t practice.

      I discovered a work acquaintance of mine also went to law school, but she does not work as a lawyer. I admit a part of me is curious, but I would not dream of inquiring as someone who is neither close to her nor in any sort of appropriate context to do so.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        … and often had to field, “What are you going to do with THAT?” My response was, “Whatever I want.”


        Besides, taking a degree is a time when I learnt to live away from home; it wasn’t just about the study but about managing a “household” budget, becoming disciplined and working to a timetable, all kinds of things. Many people aren’t ready to go straight from school to work. If you have the capacity to study (both intellectually and financially) and the opportunity, it can be a valuable experience that is the making of you, so to speak. Why *not* choose a subject you’ll find fascinating? So many people get degrees nowadays, it’s not like they’ll go from degree to well-paid related job, and find ways to change the world. And many people who quietly do the “lower level” or less academic jobs are those who keep the world ticking over.

        OP2 I’m sorry that you’re getting criticism – both at work, and now here!

        Alison, your thoughts? Should / could comments be redirected to the question in hand rather than criticising the OP2 for their choices?

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Besides, taking a degree is a time when I learnt to live away from home; it wasn’t just about the study but about managing a “household” budget, becoming disciplined and working to a timetable, all kinds of things.

          Absolutely. My father used to say that your degree is what’s left over after you’ve forgotten everything you learned in class. And for me, I wish I had taken my undergrad a bit *less* seriously! I took a double major (English and French, and no I did not want to be a teacher, tyvm), which left me no time for any electives or courses that I could take just for fun. I don’t regret it exactly, but if I could do it over again I would have majored in French and then just taken all the general interest courses I could find.

    2. Gaia*

      BA in English and History and if one more person asks me why I’m not teaching I’ll give them a really honest answer (cannot stand kids for more than 10 minutes and I’m capable of explaining things patiently like 2 times after which I lose all patience).

      1. London Calling*

        Gaia – ditto. I graduated in 1975 with the same degree and people could not compute a female arts graduate who did not want to teach – who would rather eat her own eyelids than teach. ‘But what are you going to DO?’

      2. miss_chevious*

        Given the state of the teaching profession, I’m glad every day that I quit teaching (fellow English major here) and went to law school. :) My response to the “why aren’t you a teacher?” question is “do you see how they treat teachers?”

        1. Gaia*

          Seriously. I don’t even get into how terribly teachers are compensated for basically ensuring the next generation isn’t a bunch of uneducated mouth breathers.

          Like “oh nooo…I can earn way less and have to buy my own supplies and deal with kids and their parents? Why didn’t I do that!?” Mad respect for people that teach. We need to do better by then. But I’d be doing no favors by teaching.

          Why did I pick my majors? Because I like reading and learning the past.

          1. Big Mood*

            Seriously. I went for a BA in History and talked to my dad, a science teacher, about possibly becoming a teacher. He warned me away from the whole profession, not because he hated teaching, but because he’d watched the profession be treated worse and worse and saw no sign of a turnaround.

            People get degrees for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily because they want the job most associated with that degree.

    3. Quoth the Raven*

      BA in English here, too, in a Spanish speaking country. I went for it because I thought it was extremely interesting, for the most part, and because there was nothing else I would have rather studied.

      I’m a translator (my “minor”, so to speak, was in Translation, so that helps). I’ve got no intention of being a teacher or going into academia.

      1. MK*

        Translation is a pretty conventional way to use a language degree, if not as common as being a teacher.

          1. Manuscript Helena*

            Unless your language degree is in Latin. Ask me how I know…
            (I do use my degree in my work every day, but translation jobs are few and far between.)

    4. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I studied physics. I only ever got two answers to that:

      1. Oh, you’re going to be a science teacher! (Hell no!)

      2. *Bewildered look* Why would do that?! Physics is horrible! (Not for me it isn’t)

      It got old VERY quickly.

      People seem to get strangely invested in other people’s academic decisions.

      1. Blossom*

        I find it so strange that people would assume you were going to be a science teacher, as if there were no practical use for physics in the real world, or no worthwhile careers in the field. I mean, they could at least have asked if you were going to be an astronaut! I wonder if male physics students got the same comments?

        1. Myrin*

          FWIW, in my experience most people don’t really know that there’s a practical use for physics in the real world or that there are worthwhile careers in the field, unless they have something to do with the field or with fields adjacent to it.

          I’ll also freely admit that I, too, have no clue what physicists do when they’re working outside of academia but still in their field, although granted, that’s the case with almost all majors which aren’t immediately obvious (like medicine); economy majors will forever be a mystery to me. I had an acquaintance who studied maths who later worked at a company and did some kind of statistical calculations and evaluations for them which was easy enough to understand, but I never would’ve thought of that on my own.

          But, being in one of those “But what are you going to DO with that?!?” fields myself, I’d never actually ask so obnoxiously.

          1. Knitting Cat Lady*

            Yeah. I once met someone who studied book sciences.

            My reaction was: ‘Cool! What do you learn there?’

            I had to fight the woman -> teacher thing more or less my whole life. My grandfather was a teacher. And a really good one*. Who loved his job.

            So he made it his mission to talk everyone else into teaching. Including his children in law.

            My dad had none of it, my mum had none of it, I had none of it**.

            He succeeded with ma mum’s older sister.

            *He was, to fulfill stereotypes, a shit father and grandfather, though.

            **I’m actually good at teaching, especially in small groups or one on one. I hate it. I hate dealing with people. Kids are allright, but the parents? And I hated teenagers even when I was one. And I really have no patience for shit parents. I’d probably snap in a very dramatic and memorable way fairly soon into a teaching career…

            1. ellex42*

              My mother is a retired preschool teacher. She had to take continuing education classes throughout her career, and as I got older, I ended up helping her with them. I know more about early childhood development than anyone who is childfree and has no interest in teaching should know.

              So of course, anyone who knows my mother automatically assumed (and still does) that I would go into teaching too, and be eager to have children of my own, and they continue to be surprised that I have no such desire.

              1. DaffyDuck*

                My mother was a very talented teacher, she definitely had “the touch” with kids who needed help. She tutored (mostly elementary school) students while I was growing up and I picked up a ton of skills just from living in the same house. I never wanted to be a teacher, IMO they are one of the most underpaid and unrespected professional jobs out there.

          2. Le Sigh*

            I’ll never understand people who respond with some variation of horror when you tell them what you studied/where you live/what your job is.

            People do this when I mention where I live (major city, and some have actually made a face) and my specific job all the time and it’s like, well? So don’t live there? Don’t take my job? I politely nodded when you told me what you do, which also sounds dreadful, can’t you do the same?

            1. londonedit*

              Oh yeah. ‘Ugh. I could never live in London’. OK…how about you don’t? And how about you let me get on with enjoying my life?

              1. Leyton Cat Lady*

                I moved to London and yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I thought I’d scream if one more person said the words “But London’s so expensive!” Yes, I’m aware of that, why do you think I spent nearly five years saving? “Well, spend it on a holiday then!” You want me to give up my whole future for two weeks in Lanzagrotty? Stroll on…

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I could live there, if I could afford it and the UK would take me (and there were no Brexit or Bojo the Clown). I actually seriously considered it at one point.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              When I was preparing to leave Kansas to move to the big city, 80% of the people I talked with said “you can’t go there! you’ll get killed!” (they thought TV shows about inner-city violence were the whole picture.)
              I got so annoyed I started answering with “that’s right, all 8 million people who live there get killed every year and they start over.”

          3. Zephy*

            I’ll also freely admit that I, too, have no clue what physicists do when they’re working outside of academia but still in their field

            Government/military research, from what I gather. I know a physicist or two and they’re working for the DOD.

        2. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Nah, I’m too fat to be an astronaut.

          And us physicists are really versatile. You can put us in just about any engineering/technical/computer science role.

          1. Blossom*

            Exactly! It seems like such an in demand degree with so much potential for all manner of clever things (which I know virtually nothing about).

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              The techniques learned studying physics are very, very useful in my current field (software testing). Also I once heard a manager in seemingly unrelated field saying he loved astrophysics grads because they weren’t afraid of big problems ;)

          2. Call Me Dr. Dork*

            Yep! My undergrad school emphasized that a Physics degree set you up for doing a whole lot of interesting things besides academic physics, and brought in alums who went on a variety of career paths.
            Graduate school was a different story, and the attitude at the time was you got an academic job or you were a failure. The scale of the oversupply problem in astronomy was just becoming known then. I think it’s clearer now – I spoke at a meeting about non-academic career paths for PhD astronomers, and the statistic that was being repeated was that 95% of astronomy PhDs will not become professors.
            I haven’t gotten too much crap about my degree, but this is perhaps because I am in a tech field, and a physics-y PhD says “I’m not afraid of math or solving problems”.

        3. Shiara*

          As a math major who always got asked if she was going to be a math teacher, I actually compared notes and while some of them occasionally got the question, (including the ones who were actually planning to become math teachers!) it definitely wasn’t nearly as common.

        4. Observer*

          I wonder if male physics students got the same comments?

          I’d be willing to bet NOT AT ALL.

        5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          My husband has a bioscience PhD and is a professor at a research university with his own lab. My parents kept nagging at him to apply for jobs as a high school teacher, and then when he tried to correct them, tried to convince him that he needed to teach high school before he could teach college.

          Which is better than his parents, who think he has an MD and keep sending him job postings for hospital jobs. “They’re looking for a Head of Cardiology, you should apply!” “Why won’t you apply to hospital jobs, I think you’d be great at it. You need to have confidence in yourself!” Or…it’s illegal to practice medicine without a medical degree and a license?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            He has his own lab! He’s basically at the apex of a very prestigious career, what are they thinking?!?!

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I get this kind of thing from my family sometimes. Why don’t you apply for this assistant professorship focusing on a totally different thing on the other side of the world from where you did your research? It’s all archaeology, right? Why not apply for this directorship of the national museum? You have a PhD, it will be easy! Nobody really does museum studies…

            Umm, because I don’t want to be a professor anymore, I don’t know anything about that subject area, and my experience in museums is nothing to do with running one. Also a PhD does not qualify you for everything, it’s just the first step.

        6. Close Bracket*

          I wonder if male physics students got the same comments?

          I get asked if I teach/want to teach all the time with my physics PhD, and I am really sure that my male colleagues do not get this question. I currently work at Big Engineering. BE had a table at a local STEM fair. I staffed the booth wearing one of my nerdy shirts with equations on it. I walked over from my booth to a neighboring booth to see what they were handing out, and the person behind it saw my shirt and said, “Oh! Are you a math teacher?” Lady, you saw me behind the BE table. That means I work for BE. That means I am an ENGINEER. My outloud answer was much more polite, but crikey.

      2. PB*

        Oh, you’re going to be a science teacher! (Hell no!)

        Oh, this takes me back. I’m good at math, but I never wanted to major in it. When I was in high school, my math teachers would hear me say something smart about math, shake their heads, and say, “You’re going to teach math someday!” Because that’s the only thing to do with math?

      3. Willis*

        I got the exact same comments regarding my math degree. “What can you do with a math degree?” Uh, seriously?

        And I also know some people that went to law school as adults cause they were interested in it but not necessarily planning to “use” the degree. I don’t doubt that it’s outside the norm but I also don’t think it’s quite as rare as some people think. Sorry about all the jerk comments you’re getting, OP!

        1. boo bot*

          “What can you do with a math degree?”
          “Comprehend the laws of the universe?” Nothing’s good enough for some people…

          I got my degree in history because I wanted to understand the past, and by extension, hopefully, the present. I’m not a historian, but I use the damn thing every day.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          He’s got his PhD in it, actually. (Granted, there was a bit of a gap between when he started and when he finished.)

          1. Christmas Carol*

            Ok Mr. May, just what have you been doing with yourself during your break from your university studies, and by the by, will you be needing any financial assistance while working on your advanced degree?

          2. Hepzibah Pflurge*

            His PhD is, more specifically, in astrophysics. Good on him for following his personal path in his own personal time.

      4. Gaia*

        In my experience people who studied physics did not teach science. Football coaches taught science. Basketball coaches taught math.

    5. londonedit*

      Yes, BA in English here, and SO many people asked whether I was going to go into teaching. Um…no. I was lucky in that when I went to uni the fees were only around £1000 a year (they’re now £9000 a year in England) so back in my day you could do a degree you were interested in without getting yourself into huge debt. I did English because it was my favourite subject and I was good at it. I happen to have a career that’s linked to my degree, but plenty of people I know don’t.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep. I have a BS in English and an AS in Criminal Justice.

        1. I’m not teaching because I would need a Master’s even for corporate training, and I can’t afford a damn Ph.D, nor do I want to go back to school ever again.
        2. I’m not a cop because my eyesight is too bad.
        3. I’m a writer and no I do not have a bazillion dollars like J.K. Rowling.

    6. Poppy*

      BA in geography here. I got the “are you going to teach” thing too. No, I was just interested in the world around me. I ended up in bookselling. Most people I tell this to say, “ooh, I’d love to do that!”
      Having money is great, but so is doing something you love and believe in. Good for you, OP, you’re helping people with their health and self-image!

    7. Jaid*

      I got a BA in General Fine Arts. Ask me if I do anything art related these days. Though I was more for the appreciation of art, than a creator of it.

      It did give me a grade up at work, yay(from GS 6 to GS 7).

    8. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      My mum has a friend who went to law school and works in property management. OP 2, you’re not alone.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My husband got a degree in labor relations. He worked as a tech, never used the degree. He did say his degree helped him not to feel bulldozed by others who had a degree. I think he appreciated the transferable skills he learned in the process of getting his degree. He was respected by his peers and we will never know how much having that degree helped him to be a better employee so he could earn their respect.

    9. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I have a master’s in theological studies. My favorite question about my degree was “are you studying to be a minister’s wife?” I always get questions about it in interviews.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I just… wow. I’d have a hard time not smacking someone who asked me that.

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          Same for the people who asked me if I was done getting my Mrs degree yet, or why I’d bother getting a MS when I already had the man, because what iffff kiiiiiiddddssss.

          Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

          1. Dagny*

            “or why I’d bother getting a MS when I already had the man, because what iffff kiiiiiiddddssss.”

            Response: “If I have kids, I need to be able to support a family. My husband could become disabled, get struck by lightning, hit a midlife crisis and run off with a woman 10 years younger, or be in any situation in which my kids would depend on my skills to have a roof over their heads. It is precisely because children might enter the picture that I am ensuring my ability to keep the family afloat if need be.”

            But I like throwing things back in people’s faces. :)

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              They were even more confused when my response was to teach any children the value of independence & self-reliance. *shrug*

              What makes it better is that I physically can’t have kids, so the whole point is moot.

              1. Dagny*

                Yet another reason that the nosiness about reproduction needs to not happen. Physically can’t have kids, just miscarried, pregnant and not ready to tell, pregnant and not happy about it, marital problems that create strife and make you both think that bringing a baby into the picture would only make it worse…. People need to mind their own business.

      2. Aquawoman*

        WTAF? Who is so backward that they don’t understand that women can be ministers?

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            You would not refer to a Catholic clergyperson as a minister though. They are priests. Even the allowed-to-marry clergy assistants aren’t ministers, they’re called deacons.

          2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            Though you also couldn’t be a Minister’s wife if you were Catholic. ;)

        1. Observer*

          You really don’t know that there are denominations that don’t allow women clergy?

          That’s a pretty uninformed view of the world.

          1. Willis*

            But that’s not really what Aquawoman said. Even if you’re part of a denomination that doesn’t have women as ministers, it’s still odd to be unaware that other denominations do. I doubt Aquawoman thinks every denomination has women ministers as your comment implies.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Most Christian denominations have a branch that doesn’t accept women as ministers. American Baptists, the largest US Baptist group, for example. Multiple evangelical groups.

          Someone who has only experienced one religion, that doesn’t allow women to be ministers, could easily miss that other branches and denominations do allow it.

        3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Hi, allow me to introduce you to a huge swathe of denominations (possibly most of them).

      3. Observer*

        It’s an interesting degree, and I can see why people might ask about it. But “studying to me a minister’s wife”? Seriously?! That’s one of the stupidest things I’m going to read today.

    10. Environmental Compliance*

      I have a double BA in biology and environmental science, with a focus in water & life.

      I worked for the DNR. I am one of those Outdoorsy People (TM).

      If I had a dollar for every person that asked me “but…are you going to teach?”, I could have paid off my student loans 5 years earlier. If I had a dollar for every person that asked me why I was getting an MS, wouldn’t it get in the way of having children, I could have paid for my MS in cash outright.

      People are the strangest things on this planet. My MS is actually in pro-environmental behavior, which confuses people even more, but for that all I need to say is “people are fascinatingly strange”, and most anyone nods, lol.

    11. Ella bee bee*

      My BA is in theatre and my MA is in drama therapy. I work as a special education teacher. People keep telling me not to “give up on my dream” and that I’ll get a job in one of those fields if I keep trying. But that isn’t my dream. The job I have now is the job that I want and I’m happy with the choices I’ve made in pursuing this career.

      However, I do use the skills I gained from these degrees on a daily basis with my current job, so I still feel like it was worth it. There are many things you can do with a degree.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Also, being in the performing arts is emotionally, socially, and physically taxing. Sometimes people “give up on their dream” because it’s making them miserable.

    12. DCR*

      Lots of people get undergrad degrees in fields they don’t necessary plan to enter, because they just need a college degree. I do think it is less common to get a graduate/professional degree that you don’t plan to use. The people addressing OP are rude, no doubt about it. But I’m not surprised that there is an element of interest about why you would spend all that time and money studying something you never intended to use. If I knew you, I admit that I would probably be trying to figure out a polite way to ask why you went to law school if you never planned to be an attorney.

      1. CheeryO*

        Me too. It’s natural to wonder how and why someone would spend so much money on something that was just for personal fulfillment. I’d probably keep my questions and jokes to myself, because I don’t actually care that much, but I can definitely understand the impulse.

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          People do lots of things purely for personal fulfillment that cost a lot of time and money though. Climbing Everest springs to mind.
          Of course, to your point, even the Everest team ended up having to come up with a snappy comeback to the question of “But why?” (Edmund Hilary gets all the credit, but it was actually George Mallory who said “Because it was there”, a response I recommend the OP keep in their back pocket.)

      2. Observer*

        Well, yes and no. I definitely get the curiosity. But what the OP is getting goes well beyond that.

    13. pleaset*

      Why do you think that question is obnoxious? Maybe the word “so” is, but I don’t see what’s obnoxious about asking.

    14. Elly*

      Bachelor of Music here. Fielded these stupid, stupid questions for a while, then got a job in administration with a symphony orchestra. Now instead of the “what are you going to DO with your degree?” questions, I get the “But do you still play piano??? Did you give up on PLAYING????” questions. Sigh, you just can’t win.

      (I did a degree in music because I love music. I hate performing. I’m thrilled that I get to be around music all day every day without having to suffer through being on stage. I play piano in my spare time. Yeesh.)

      1. pleaset*

        Are they saying/yelling these with the emphasis the ??? implies. If not, I don’t understand why these questions are stupid stupid. They’re questions.

        Saying you’re failure because you don’t do X, Y or Z is obnoxious, but what asking doesn’t seem that bad to me. And if many people ask, it’s because they don’t know what a degree in music is about.That’s ignorant, not stupid. So tell them.

    15. Richard*

      Yep. There’s a class of jerk that will openly mock anyone for being so stupid to major in anything other than business or engineering.

    16. Anon for this*

      Gaaaaagh! Yes,I also have an English degree, and no, I never planned on being a teacher. I worked in advertising and PR.

      But those post college job seeking interviews…
      Q: “Why aren’t you teaching?”
      A: “I’m not planning to be a teacher. I plan to work in advertising and PR. Which why I am here, interviewing with you.”

      I will say it again…. Gaaaaagh!

  9. mark132*

    OP3, why worry about being the fun police? It’s no fun for you why should it be fun for them. You don’t have to be rude, but pleasantly blunt. Perhaps even use that term. “I apologize for being the fun police but I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    1. Annette*

      I would avoid this tactic. ‘Fun police’ sounds like what you’d say to a teen. They are adults. It’s not about fun – it’s distracting. Just say what you mean to avoid unintentional condescension.

    2. Princess Deviant*

      Because it’s not about spoiling people’s fun, it’s about being in work and being able to do that productively.

    3. OP3*

      I see what you’re saying and it’s got a lot to do with the way it’s said – keeping a pleasant tone but pointing out that it’s distracting. Although, I won’t use the term ‘fun police’ – what if they’re keen Askamanager readers? My cover would be blown!!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If they weren’t behaving in a disruptive manner you would not have had to ask a manager…..
        You can change your user name (you’d have to anyway with being “OP3”) and life will go on.

        You could acknowledge that you read it here and then add that you have used other tips you found on AAM.

        Alison, how often do people come back and say their person figured out that they were the topic of your column?

    4. 780*

      I agree that the comments are rude, and should stop. But I do think it is very different to get an undergrad degree in a field that you don’t intend to use and to get a graduate/professional degree in a field you don’t intend to use. It doesn’t surprise me that people are curious why the OP isn’t trying to use the degree, but, again, that is none of their business and they are being very rude.

  10. nnn*

    My first thought for #3 is to trade desks with Fergus. Then Fergus and Jane can chat all day, and you aren’t right there to hear it.

    (Obvs I can’t tell through the internet if there’s an operational reason for the seating plan, or how much inconvenience switching seats would present in your particular workplace.)

    1. valentine*

      trade desks with Fergus.
      This could backfire and leave OP3 where she is but move Fergus to his breakfast seat permanently.

    2. SezU*

      I don’t think Fergus’s desk is there. He works in another area and comes over to chat (flirt) with Jane early in the morning and sits at that desk. I think!

  11. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    How about “if I had to do law as my actual job, that would take all the fun out of it!”

    1. Auntie Social*

      That’s how I feel about interior design. I did my husband’s law offices but turned down other work.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is what I tell people who know how much I love Alamo Drafthouse why I don’t want to work there (also because bending over to run with plates would kill my back). It’s my happy fun place. If I worked there, it would no longer be my happy fun place.

  12. Johanna*

    OP2: well.. I have four university qualifications (three post graduate) that I’m not using, and I’m in a job I don’t particularly enjoy.
    You sound like you are miles ahead working at a job you love.

    Your journey is your own.

  13. YetAnotherUsername*

    OP3 have you tried headphones? I work in a loud open office and use headphones or earplugs every time I need to concentrate.

    Search on YouTube for video game concentrate play lists. Video game music is designed to keep you focused and concentrating.

    1. Anono-me*

      I never heard of this before. I can think of so many times when it will be useful to me.

      Thank you for mentioning it.

      1. Anono-me*

        I am sincerely referring to the video game concentrate play lists. (As soon as I posted, I realized that it could be misread as sarcasm about the headphones. )

        1. YetAnotherUsername*

          Don’t worry – I assumed you meant the video game playlists. I had pretty much the exact same reaction when I learned about their magic concentration power! They really do work (for me, anyway).

          1. Anono-me*

            Thank you. Can I ask you to please name a few of the best ones? ( I like almost every style of music, except for some of the higher-pitched girl or boy singers. )

            1. Miss Bee*

              Hope you don’t mind me jumping in, but I wanted to share some of my favorite game soundtracks to have on as background noise. All can be found on youtube by searching “x soundtrack”, and the first two are also on Spotify:
              – Journey (lots of cello)
              – Transistor (more electronic with occasional pretty vocal tracks)
              – Paper Mario (classically game-y)
              – Animal crossing (very relaxing)

              1. Alex the Alchemist*

                I second the Animal Crossing one, and I also have to add the Civilization soundtrack.

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Honestly, just type “video game mix” or “study music mix” into the space bar and start browsing around to see what you like. Personally, I like “Best of Funky Fella | Trip-Hop & Downtempo & Lo-fi & Hip-Hop Instrumental” – a little catchy but not distracting.

            3. YetAnotherUsername*

              I actually found one called “3 hour video game concentrate music” or something like that. I haven’t got bored of it yet so I haven’t even looked for another.

            4. scribblingTiresias*

              Video game music is the BOMB.
              “For Victory” from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. It’s the theme that plays in your ‘base’ when you’re preparing your soldiers for battle, so it’s got a nice beat but it’s quiet and inobtrusive. Sometimes I’ll turn this one on, set it to loop, and just let it go.

              The Legend of Zelda has a *lot* of good music – I’d particularly recommend the Breath of the Wild and Cadence of Hyrule soundtracks. Breath of the Wild has very quiet piano pieces; Cadence of Hyrule is more techno with a steady beat that’s great for focus.

              Undertale has some great music- it’s been a while since I played it, so I can’t remember the track names, but just about every piece of Undertale music is gold. The Undertale community is really great at making fan remixes of songs, so look for those, too.

              Hollow Knight has a *fantastic* soundtrack- make sure you look for the “relaxing” mix, as it’s got a lot of Boss Battle music that can be particularly jarring. I’d recommend the Greenpath and Forgotten Crossroads themes, but all of them are good.

              Octopath Traveller has a great orchestral score- very SWEEPING and EMOTIONAL. I haven’t played the game enough to recommend any specific track, but the soundtrack (and *especially* the main theme) is great for concentration.

              This is a bit of a YMMV one- and you might not want to listen to it at work, at least not with an open tab- but I find the Silent Hill soundtracks to be really great for concentration. You want to look for a “relaxing Silent Hill music mix”, because a lot of Silent Hill ‘music’ is ambient noise that sounds like two washing machines getting it on, but a lot of it is pretty-if-slightly-creepy ambient piano.

              1. stampysmom*

                Thanks for this! I’m going to check them out for myself and my about to enter gr9 son. He loves LofZ and Undertale so I’m certain I can sell him on this great concentration idea!

    2. OP3*

      This is what I usually try to do on the mornings where I anticipate that Fergus will only hang around for about 10 minutes or so, but I like your play list suggestion! Thank you for that – I’ll try that tomorrow :)

    3. rocklobsterbot*

      i use one of the YouTube white noise channels. That plus noise cancelling headphones makes almost anything unnoticeable.

  14. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW2, there are people who see the advancement of people at/below their economic level and interpret it as the advancing person thinking that they’re “better” than them. Pretty similar to crab mentality. They’re assuming you’re trying and failing to get a job as a lawyer, so you’re failing to prove you’re better than them.

    I don’t have any advice better than Alison’s, but I do want to be the first person to link to the video for Don’t Be A Lawyer:

  15. SezU*

    #3: In my previous (supervisory) role, my team came in at all different times. Other teams did the same. I found it was a good idea to randomly show up really early when the early birds were supposed to be working. I’d often find a bunch of them (not just mine) hanging in the break room coking and joking. They’d all suddenly have to get back to their desks when I walked in! LOL I suggest all supervisors with teams with varied schedules do this occasionally. Keep them on their toes!

    To be clear, I didn’t have issues with my team, and I didn’t do it to check up on them. It just happened sometimes for various reasons that I came in super early. But that’s not to say one shouldn’t!

    1. OP3*

      Maybe instead of avoiding the earlier starts I could do them just a little bit more often just to break up the routine a little bit – I think you might be onto something!

      1. Achoo!*

        My guess – since SezU didn’t mention massive fallout from discovering her team’s secret drug habit – is hanging out drinking Coke.

        1. SezU*

          LOL…. we used to say coking and smoking… same as hanging out by the water cooler (in the really old days), but now since no one can smoke in our buildings, it’s coking and joking. It may be a holdover from my military days!

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I thought you just left out an O and it was supposed to be cooking and joking. We have a microwave, and toaster oven in my office that several people use to cook/heat up breakfast and lunch.

        2. CM*

          Thanks for the explanation, I thought they were doing cocaine and SezU is just exceptionally laid back!

          OP3, I’m wondering whether there’s another place that Fergus and Jane could go to do their own coking and joking, like a cafeteria or something? You could suggest that they go there, like, “Hey, would you mind moving to the cafeteria? I get distracted by whispering.”

  16. triplehiccup*

    OP 4, I think I would tweak Alison’s script a little, from “I’m hoping it’ll be a fresh start” to something like “it sounds you’re doing a good job getting us off to a fresh start.” (You may need to ask him first how he thinks it’s going, if it would be weird to implicitly acknowledge that you overheard their conversation.) Why miss an opportunity to offer praise?

    1. Heidi*

      Yes to this! I might start by saying, “You met Alice? Did she talk about how she wants us to build her a spaceship so she can fly to the sun? I don’t think she was very happy with my explanation of why that would be difficult for us, so I’m glad you were able to help her.” Then go on with how you might approach it differently in the future.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, if you acknowledge that you could hear them, then you can also let him know that you thought he did a great job with her, stayed professional, and you are quite happy with his performance.

      If you don’t acknowledge you could hear them, there’s going to come a time when it becomes apparent, and then all the times before will seem super awkward in retrospect.

  17. Susan*

    Kybella-I had three Kybella treatments. Believe me it will change your life!! It is painful, as acid is being injected into your skin. They will give you ice packs but I also brought my own since it warms up fast and you’ll want to ice on and off for a few hours. Also take an anti inflammatory. The skin under your chin will be a bit red for a few days and swollen for a week or so. You will have numbness for many weeks but it will go away. Most people won’t even notice it, unless you tell them I covered the red up with makeup. I don’t think there is any shame in admitting to cosmetic surgery. I can tell you I look 10 years younger after the three treatments. Good luck and don’t worry. Life is too short to stress over what others may think’. You’ll look and feel fantastic!!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Same – I’ve had plastic surgery and I’ve always thought it was weird that people are so intent on hiding it. I had massive sinus surgery and a rhinoplasty and since I had to walk around with a bandage on my nose for a month, I couldn’t hide it, but I didn’t have a problem telling people I had a nose job.

      1. CheeryO*

        I understand why most people want to keep it on the DL, but I agree. I had a septorhinoplasty done in 2016 and brag about it to anyone who will listen!

    2. Letter Writer 5*

      How awesome! That excites me even more. I had it done yesterday and yeah it burned so bad right after they injected but today it feels fine (numb and maybe awkward?) Redness and swelling but the swelling isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Thank you for sharing! I don’t know anyone who has had it done.

  18. Ms. Cellophane*

    Being a lawyer isn’t usually as glamorous or interesting as people would think. Rates of substance abuse and burnout are really high in the legal field. When people ask why you aren’t using your law degree, you could jokingly say you came to your senses upon graduation and decided to pursue your passion instead.

  19. Black Targaryen*

    #3 — I don’t mean this to be rude, but it kind of sounds like this is more your issue than their issue, like perhaps you take their “unlikely friendship” personally, if that makes sense. Some of your comments that make me say this are: “They don’t respond to my morning greeting,” “It’s pretty apparent that my presence has them feeling stifled,” “It’s really awkward,” “It’s super awkward for me, I feel like a third wheel on a second date.” If they talk for an hour before you arrive and die down/return to desks within minutes of your arrival, this already seems like a fairly decent outcome, unless of course those first 10 min are super time sensitive (but that doesn’t seem to be the case since your office sounds like it has flexible start times and I noticed a response to another commenter that you pop in headphones if you need to get things done before they go back to desks).

    Don’t get me wrong—I understand it can be irksome just knowing that they’ll be there talking. There’s a person that irks me in a part of the office who is *always* by the kitchen area when I go get my cold brew in the morning. Actually, the fact that they’re always there is part of what irks me, but being annoyed at their presence is more of a me problem, not a them problem.

    Anyhow, you said other people arrive at the same time they arrive, which means those people are dealing with them talking for a full hour. So it sounds like your arrival in particular signals that it’s time for things to die down. Since others are there dealing with it for an extended amount of time, it might work to collectively approach it or to ask one of the earlier arrivers to do it, since they’re bearing the brunt of the duo’s interaction much longer. Especially if you know one of them is annoyed by it. If the two of them realize they’re bothering others who arrive at the same time—and not just you— then maybe they’ll die down even earlier and you won’t have to see any of it anymore.

    1. OP3*

      Actually I really appreciate this perspective, because it is more of a me problem but I guess I was interested to see what other people thought about the situation too. I’m glad you pointed this out – I don’t want to get so carried away by something that is really only trivial – and what you’ve said helps me to not lose sight of that. I think the comments have all been really helpful and insightful; when it’s a me problem (and it’s not going on for too long) I’ll just brush past it because it’s not hugely significant and when it does go on for a little bit longer than that I’ll gently point out that it’s distracting (if the music doesn’t help, but I suspect it will – I could use some better self focussing skills maybe).

      Yeah, I had hoped that some of the other early birds might have mentioned something sooner too except all of the separate open office areas are far enough away that they only notice when they walk past our area to their own or if they have to get supplies from our area. It doesn’t seem to cause a distraction for anyone else, just that they notice a bit of a “routine”. Ohhh well, thank you for your comment, I really appreciate that perspective and that approach to thinking about these kinds of things!

      1. Ann Perkins*

        While it’s not a hugely significant problem, it’s definitely ok to point out that it’s distracting! And I think it might help if you don’t try to time your arrivals in any particular way – do what you need to do and let the chips fall where they may. It seems there could be a buildup of resentment if you’re altering your schedule to try to accommodate them.

      2. theletter*

        From the start of your comment, I suspected that Jane and Fergus may be having a more-than-mild flirtation. They whisper and giggle when they know they’re not alone anymore.

        You might be able to get them to cut the whisper giggles by turning to Jane when Fergus takes off and saying “So how’s Fergus?” is that “When am going to see you a wedding dress?” well-meaning-busy-body aunt tone. Hopefully she’ll get the hint and start dismissing Fergus before you get in. Or you’ll get a free slice of cake and dance party in a year or two.

    2. LH Holdings*

      Thank you so much for this response! 10 minutes of quiet chatter isn’t problematic and the OP does seem to take this personally when it is not. Also, the disdain for “whispering” that I see on this board is really outsized. If they are so engrossed in their conversation that they don’t acknowledge your greeting, stop giving one.

      Consider this a quirk of your coworkers and get started with your day.

      1. WellRed*

        If people were having a conversation and then abruptly switched to whispering and giggling when I walked in, I’d feel awkward myself, like I interrupted their fun. Her coworkers could see her arrival as time to wrap it up and get on with the day.

        1. WellRed*

          I also didn’t get the sense the OP was taking it personally so much as it’s annoying after awhile.

        2. Close Bracket*

          You might feel that you interrupted their fun, but feeling that way doesn’t make it true. You could choose to interpret the whispering as them being considerate of you and lowering their voices so they don’t disturb you. You always have choices about how to take things.

          1. Qistina*

            “Feeling that way doesn’t make it true.” THIS. I’d personally choose to interpret the whispering as them being considerate of me, and not feel awkward about interrupting their fun or like I’m the third wheel.

      2. Observer*

        Alison addresses the issue of why whispering gets such a reaction. It is a bit counter-intuitive, but it’s a valid point to keep in mind.

    3. smoke tree*

      I don’t know, I think Captain Awkward’s “return awkwardness to sender” concept applies here. Fergus and Fergusina are the ones making it awkward by acting like teenagers at work, but since the OP is outnumbered, it’s easy to feel like the odd person out. Remember, they are the ones causing the problem! Don’t feel bad about making it uncomfortable for them–they are getting paid to work, not to cloyingly flirt in an open plan office.

  20. Lynca*

    OP1- You need to be upfront that you had to spend your vacation dealing with a death in the family. It doesn’t sound like the issue is time off itself- just that you really don’t like the appearance of going back out on leave.

    I’ve had to plan a funeral and you do need to take some time for yourself before you go back to work. Reasonable people (which your employers sound like) are going to understand why.

  21. doreen*

    Nobody should be making comments to OP2- but I kind of wonder how people who are described as “acquaintances” and seem to be either coworkers or clients even know she went to law school. There are number of people at my agency who have law degrees but are not working as lawyers. Most of them are in jobs where a law degree is at least useful , some of them practice on the side, and some of them apply whenever a legal job opens up in the agency. Nobody thinks there’s anything unusual about those people. There’s only one person that people wonder about- he essentially works as a security guard, manning the magnetometer that visitors pass through and he doesn’t have any interest in transitioning to a different position. But the only reason anybody knows he went to law school is because he put “JD” in his email signature – which is extra weird because the people who are working as lawyers don’t do that.

    1. Myrin*

      Have you ever been a regular customer at a gym? I realise this might read as snarky, but I mean it as an honest question – I’ve been a regular at one for ten years, five of which I also worked there, and I literally didn’t even think to ask the question of how these acquaintances know about the law degree because that’s just the kind of thing people know about each other at a gym they regularly frequent. But I can see how someone who isn’t familiar with the kind of environment especially small gyms foster might wonder about this.

      (As an aside, I’m wondering if OP went to law school not straight out of school but later in life, after having already worked at the gym for some time, maybe even doing both simultaneously. I’m thinking that because she says she “kept” her blue collar job, not that she “took” or “chose” it. I might be on the completely wrong track here but the whole letter kind of gave me that vibe.)

      1. doreen*

        I think I worded that poorly – although it’s possible that they found out some other way (such as a law school classmate became a customer at the gym ), I suspect the OP told them . And again – nobody should have said anything to the OP- but when you give personal information to people, they are going to have an opinion regardless of whether they say anything to you. If you don’t want acquaintances to have an opinion about something, then you don’t tell them about it – nobody would know the security guard at my office has a JD if he didn’t put it in his email signature. And that knowledge has absolutely affected people’s opinion of him , even though no one has said anything. I’m not sure if the OP didn’t realize that getting law degree and continuing to work at the gym would be seen as unusual or if she simply didn’t think people would be rude enough to make comments.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I’m so not down with the idea that people need to censor themselves constantly to prevent other people from acting like rude, judgmental jerks.

          1. doreen*

            I’m really not sure how it’s censoring yourself constantly to simply not tell mere acquaintances you have a law degree.

            1. Colette*

              How do you respond when someone asks where you went to school, or mentions your alma mater? Stuff comes up in conversation.

              1. DCR*

                You say where you went to college, or you mention the school without saying that you were there for a law degree. I just don’t see how that comes up in conversation. I’m a practicing attorney, and it doesn’t come up unless people ask what I do for a living.

                Noting excuses the rude comments. But the easiest way to avoid them it the future is not to tell people that you went to law school.

                1. pentamom*

                  But all this assumes that people should limit what they share that is neither embarrassing nor highly personal simply because, as Aquawoman says, other people are rude, judgmental jerks. It’s not like it’s some interrogation where you strategize to give minimalist answers, it’s a conversation about people’s lives and interests. I don’t see how that’s distinguished from “censoring oneself,” if you are sitting there thinking, “I won’t mention my law degree even though they mentioned their business degree because XYZ will happen or I’ll be thought of in a certain way.”

                2. Colette*

                  Oh? What did you take?

                  It’s not unreasonable for what you studied in school to come up in conversation.

              2. doreen*

                When people at work ask me where I went to school, I don’t mention the college where I started ( but didn’t finish) an MBA program. It’s not relevant to my job and I’m not interested in conversation about why I didn’t finish with my coworkers or acquaintances.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        OMG yes, I’ve worked in fitness. Especially the senior citizens, they will chat with you, find out what you studied, and then follow you around, “Why are you working here? This is a terrible place to work, you’re too smart to work here! You should (other job they think is a good job.)”

        Whether you were an entry-level machine wiper making minimum wage or were a manager making $75K, if they thought you should be working at a “better” job they’d follow you around and let you know.

      3. LizB*

        Agreed, at the gym I belong to/have worked at, it’s really common for members to have a friendly relationship with long-time employees where they would know this kind of info. In addition, sometimes we would do an employee-of-the-month recognition thing where the employee might be asked to share a fun fact about themselves — that could be another way the information became public.

    2. Stephen!*

      I had a bachelor’s degree in an “exotic” field and worked in a place where few people went to college. I never mentioned it, but one of my coworkers saw my resume and asked me questions about it, told a few other people and it just spread. When people see you as a curiosity, they tend to talk about it.

    3. CA non-lawyer*

      Maybe this has been addressed, but law school (at least in the U.S.) is a huge commitment. If the OP kept her job while going to law school, it’s likely that most acquaintances in the workplace knew about it, simply due to the time spent in classes and studying. I think it would be pretty hard to attend law school and keep it a secret from people you see very frequently.

      From: A law school graduate who took and passed the CA bar exam but has never practiced law. And who has heard enough snide comments about not being a lawyer.

  22. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4 – if he has any experience with clients/customers, he’ll probably know to take those comments with a pinch of salt! It’s a regular go-to to compare who you’re talking to to previous person – good or bad! When I was in customer service it wad very common for people to say “well, X helped me!” or “You’re so much better than Y!”.

    Summary – customers do that. Putting in context is a good plan, but it’s not stressworthy.

    1. Zephy*

      I still have no idea how to respond when clients start in with that mess. Most of the time I wasn’t even there to see/hear how allegedly rude and unhelpful “that other girl” was being the last time you were here. Sometimes “that other girl” was me, on the phone, giving you honest answers that you didn’t like about our policies. Sometimes “the young man from last time” was doing things he shouldn’t have been, so now we’re in the awkward position of you expecting unauthorized discounts on services and us not being able to tell you “the young man from last time” has been fired for theft.

  23. Triplehiccup*

    OP 2, can you embrace the fact that you’re subverting expectations? My wife graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a Seven Sisters school where she learned welding and other metalworking techniques in sculpture classes, and has worked as a metal fabricator ever since. She jokes that she went to Vassar Vo-Tech. I could see a wry one-liner like “Law is my fall-back plan” working for you, even with people who regularly comment on it. If you keep saying the same thing, you’ll expend far less mental energy on the issue and they’ll get bored with bringing it up.

    (But I wouldn’t throw out the idea of using your JD eventually – as my wife nears 40, the wear and tear on her body is catching up to her, so she’s going to use her pre-med background to become a pathologist assistant. I’ve worked with many people who capitalized on their law degrees without practicing law.)

    1. SezU*

      Vassar Vo-Tech! I love it! (And I’ve always secretly wanted to what your wife is doing, but I haven’t an artistic bone in my body!)

    2. AnnaS*

      I agree with this. If the remarks are friendly-but-not-really-friendly teasing, it might work to lean into it, lean so far that it topples.
      They: ‘Huhuh, I thought you had a law degree.’
      You: ‘OMG!! You’re right! What am I doing cleaning this equipment?’ and then continue cleaning the equipment with a straight face.
      ‘Law is my fall-back plan’ also is a good one.
      They: ‘Are you ever planning to use that law degree?’
      You: ‘I’m using it right now! Didn’t you know you need a law degree to understand this machine?’
      If you can joke along with them, the ‘joking’ might cease.

  24. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    I’m really confused as to why so many commentors are attacking OP2 for having the audacity of doing what they want to do. They are being just as rude and weird as the OP’s coworkers. What business is it of yours? OP did not write in asking for your opinions as to whether they should have gotten the degree that they did.

    I’m sorry, OP2. This is really irritating. If your colleagues are half as rude as this no wonder you are frustrated.

    1. Annette*

      Who have you seen doing this. Nobody questioned LW’s choices but. Few (like Alison) noted – they are unusual so confusion is understandable. No reason to criticize LW for what she did in the past. But if someone is reading and thinking ‘I should do this too!’ no they shouldn’t. It’s an advice blog and people give advice.

    2. CG*

      Agree! What the heck is up with all of the “you shouldn’t have gotten a law degree if you’re not going to practice law” comments? It’s nobody in this thread’s business, *and* obviously OP was already successful at it. As for the people citing costs and difficulty, clearly OP already had that covered. No one here knows anything about when or where OP got their law degree, or whether or not they got merit scholarships.

      OP sounds like a smart person to me, and it seems like they went into the law school experience with far more realistic expectations than most people do. Good on OP for pursuing their passions!

      1. Holly*

        I didn’t see anyone arguing against this, including my own comment about the cost – it was potentially derailing, because it was in response to whether this course of action would be recommended to others, but obviously OP is happy with their choice.

    3. 780*

      The comments are not directed to OP. They are in response to an exchange between Scully and Annette about whether it makes sense for Scully to decide to go to law school if she doesn’t want to be an attorney, and about the general view in our society that if you are smart and don’t know what to do after college, you should go to law school. No one is commenting on or saying that OP shouldn’t have gone to law school.

      1. CM*

        I agree that the “who should go to law school” discussion is a derail.

        OP#2, I think these people are trying to ridicule you but that doesn’t mean you need to feel ridiculous. Nothing makes people feel stupider than making fun of someone who doesn’t feel at all sensitive or defensive about what they’re being mocked about. You can take the air out of their sails by showing that you’re fine with your choices — you don’t see having a law degree as anything to be ashamed of, it’s how your life unfolded.

        All the approaches people have suggested can accomplish this, it’s just what you’re comfortable saying. Personally, I’m a fan of ignoring their intention and just answering the question with a smile. “How’s the law degree working out for you?” “Great!” “To think, you went to law school!” “Yup!” I also like the puzzled approach: “Huh? Oh, I’m not doing law right now. I work at this gym.”

        I’ve actually seen people come around and respect the person they’re mocking — I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the people implying that you’ve failed starts using you as an example of how you should do what makes you happy in life.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      I find the “you shouldn’t go to law school” discussion fascinating, it really says something about society that you are expected to do something with your degree no matter what.
      I have a friend who is an MD (and licensed to practice) she works as a raft guide most of the year, writes the emergency response policies for the rafting company and picks up shifts in the ER when it’s too cold for commercial rafting. If you didn’t know she’s a board certified ER physician you’d probably never guess.
      I’m about to start working on a degree (this will be #3) in computer science. I have no intention of leaving my current profession I just want to learn more about computers and programming.

      1. MeanieNini*

        I think some of it is comes from people sayings things like “oh wow, it would be so cool to learn the law” and they think that going to law school means you will learn the law … which is not what law school is actually about. I’m all for taking classes, getting degrees, etc. if it’s something you want to do whether you plan to use it or not but after attending law school myself, it’s fair to remind people that law school is not intended to teach you the law. The intent of law school is to teach you how to be a lawyer which is quite different than teaching the law itself. Professional programs are typically meant to teach you the ins and outs of practicing a specific trade. I actually don’t practice law and don’t regret going to law school necessarily but it was a very expensive endeavor considering that I could have ended up in the same seat I’m in now without taking out as much debt.

      2. AnonAcademic*

        This site having a white collar US readership primarily, it’s important to remember that law school is not financially feasible for many people who would like to go. Nor is college for that matter. It is an enormous privilege to complete expensive schooling purely for personal enrichment. I think that makes it hard for people to wrap their heads around, if they see the point of schooling as vocational training to increase earning potential. The liberal arts model of education as personal enrichment is inherently classist and not what most people view as the point of higher ed these days. I say this as someone with a BA, MA, and PhD who has mentored a lot of first-gen students. Education is viewed (right or wrong) as a life line for those trying to pull themselves out of poverty or working physical labor jobs, and for someone to not use that privilege for everything it’s worth can be hard to conceptualize. I associate people leaving law or medicine for jobs like tour guide or physical labor with burnout, it seems like an unusual thing to do if you liked the field you studied and invested all that time and money.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Perhaps I misread it, but I found this comment in particular to read as a criticism of the OP:

      “The comments are coming because OP’s job is cleaning gym equipment, which doesn’t leverage the law degree at all. The comments aren’t particularly kind, but if OP had no intention of doing *anything* with the law degree (“personal edification”) that wasn’t particularly kind to others in the law school applicant pool who would have liked to attend but were rejected.”

      And it wasn’t that clear to me that many of the other comments weren’t also criticising OP for getting their degree when they had no plans to practic.

  25. SigneL*

    OP2 – I think people will stop if you quit reacting. Whatever they say, just smile. Act as if it’s beneath you to respond. You have a job you love! (Do they have a job they love? Maybe not!)

  26. Delta Delta*

    #4 – I don’t see a lot of comments on this one so I’ll start one. I think about it this way: not everyone is the right fit for everyone else. OP and Client didn’t exactly hit it off, but Client also didn’t take her business elsewhere. CoWorker comes in and hits it off with Client. Perhaps in that time a) Client has had time to refocus her goals to something more realistic and b) chill out a little bit. So, it seems like it’s all the better for everyone that CoWorker came along and can be the person this client works with. The business wins, the client wins, and OP wins. If OP can re-frame this in her head as a positive for CoWorker (why did I start that weird capitalization?) and communicate it that way to CoWorker, it can get past that initial awkward meeting and into a good business relationship.

  27. Booksalot*

    LW #1, this is company-dependent, but my boss would encourage me to convert some of those vacation days to bereavement days (I think for an uncle I’d get two). If you have a similar system, during that process would be the ideal time to float the idea of a few more days off.

  28. Myrin*

    #4, I must admit I’m not quite getting the situation – is Alice on ongoing client of your company’s and you’ll be working on her case with Joe going forward? I’m only asking because I didn’t quite understand how the situation of you having to explain all of this to Joe would even happen. But if my assumption is correct, I heartily co-sign Alison’s script, which is straightforward and honest while not beating yourself up. I also want to remind you that Joe presumably knows you, your personality, and your working style to some extent, and I don’t think he’s going to think poorly of you just because you handled this one client meeting in a non-excellent manner.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      I think OP4 also needs to remember that Alice being better behaved in the meeting with Joe doesn’t mean she’s going to stay that way. It sounds like the project has to do with deliverables, meaning she might start changing the goalposts towards the unreasonable ones again if it looks like it’s going well. It’s worth warning him why she had a bad experience, ie her unrealistic expectations being disabused in not the best way, so that he can prepare for the possibility of her coming back with those expectations again later.

      Of course, it’s important to admit that the OP’s method was bad, but it looks like they’re willing to admit that. I’m a fan of Alison’s script because it both addresses that OP made a mistake, and provides the context necessary for Joe to do something constructive with that information. It might be worth mentioning the most egregious of her goals from the first meeting so that he can keep an eye out.

    2. CM*

      I’m curious about why OP#4 is framing this as her “mistake” that she needs to confess to Joe. I don’t see it that way. I like Alison’s reframing as just providing context, and that’s how I’d approach it too — it’s not that you made a mistake, it’s just that your interaction with Alice didn’t go well, and that’s relevant information for Joe. You can certainly say, “I admit that she got to me and probably didn’t like me so much by the end of the meeting!” but that’s not a big deal. The relevant part is that you met with her before, she made requests you felt were unreasonable, and you said you couldn’t meet her needs. Now she’s back saying her goals have changed and you hope Joe will have a better relationship with her — but if Joe knows the backstory, then he won’t be surprised if Alice starts being inflexible and starts making unreasonable demands again, and he’ll also understand where Alice’s comments are coming from.

      1. Myrin*

        It’s funny you say that, because I read the headline “Telling my employee I made a mistake with a client” and then I read the letter and then I looked up and thought “And where in that story was your mistake?” (and then I thought Alison might’ve written a misleading headline but in the letter, it also says “my mistake”) – I think reframing this in her mind might help OP feel more confident in this situation in general.

  29. Aquawoman*

    One tweak I’d make to the lawyer script–if people said “To think, you have a law degree,” I think I’d put on a quizzical look and say , “What do you mean?” and enjoy watching them try to dig themselves out of that hole they dug as they cast around for a reasonable explanation that’s not “oh, you have SUCH a menial job.” I guess some folks are obtuse enough to go on and SAY something rude, which I would then call out as rude.

    1. Joielle*

      This! Let the other person marinate in the awkwardness while you expectantly wait for an answer.

  30. WellRed*

    People are so weird and rude about higher education sometimes. I have a measly BA and my brother acts like that’s a character flaw (I do not talk about, attempt to use it as a signature, look down on those without a degree and am still paying for the damn thing myself). As to LW 2’s rude coworkers, I assume they are all working in the gym? How is their education (of any level) working for them?

  31. Nep*

    OP5 – I’ve not had that particular treatment/side effect, but when I’ve been on massive doses of steroids, my face has rounded and I’ve developed a hump on the back of my neck. Not one of my coworkers (with the exception of the one who was an actual friend) ever said a thing.

    I’m not saying that that will be universal, AAM’s advice is great, and I wouldn’t worry too much.

    I hope everything goes well!

  32. Buttons*

    #3, I disagree with Alison. I don’t think there is anything that should be done about this. OP is feeling awkward and wants to stop feeling awkward, but Jane and Fergus aren’t really doing anything wrong. They are having a conversation, and when OP comes in they lower their voice out of consideration. Also, the first 10 minutes of the day isn’t really crunch/intense work time. The computer is booting up, getting logged in, checking voicemail, starting to read emails, making a to-do list.
    I think OP is just annoyed that they have obviously sat and talked for the full hour they have been there and thinks they are getting away with something.

    1. JW3*

      OP stated that they have timed their morning arrivals to coincide and are usually chatting for an hour before she arrives and continue to chat for 10 minutes after she arrives. Also, Fergus’ desk is in a different area, so he is not booting his computer, logging in or checking voicemail. In a follow-up comment, she said this is not work-related conversations, they are flirting with each other.

      I don’t know about other offices, but I know if I spent an hour chatting/flirting with a coworker first thing every morning, it would be noticed and I would be “spoken” to. A bit of socializing and friendly chatter is ok, but timing your arrival to coincide and chatting for a hour while “on the clock” every morning is a bit much.

      1. Buttons*

        I was referring to her first 10 minutes.
        Jan and Fergus arriving an hour earlier than everyone else and chatting for that hour isn’t OP’s problem, she isn’t the manager, and they are there before anyone else gets in. Is it right? No, but it isn’t her problem to deal with. If she felt like they were getting away with something then tell the manager. Her letter wasn’t about what to do about them wasting an hour, it was about how she feels awkward in those 10 minutes before Fergus goes back to his desk.

        1. JW3*

          Or they could go sit in Fergus’ area to flirt/talk/chat. She feels awkward because they are flirting and giggling like a couple on a date. As I said, a bit of socializing at work is beneficial, but it doesn’t appear they are just socializing.

          She didn’t say she thought they were getting away with something, that was just *my* take on it. A hour flirting when you are supposed to working? That’s too much. To me, it sounds like they are in to each other and arrive early so they can spend time together. Office romances happen but if that is actually what is happening, they need to take their flirting out of the office.

      2. Samwise*

        So what? She’s not their boss, it’s not her business how they spend their time when she’s not even there (OP even says that “it’s not my concern how they spend their time at work”), they wrap it up when the OP arrives (ten minutes might be a bit long, but it’s not horrifyingly unreasonable). If they were chatting for an hour while OP is there, then sure, but otherwise this is mountain out of molehill.

        It does seem to me that while the OP says “I’m not concerned how they spend their time,” in fact how they spend their time *does* bother the OP. That’s just my sense of what’s happening here. Because if we strip out the hour before OP arrives (when their chatting can’t possibly be annoying because OP is not there), here’s OP’s question: Jane and Fergus are chatting and whispering for ten minutes after I arrive at my desk. To which I respond, if it’s just ten minutes, say hello and sit at your desk, maybe pop on some headphones, pick up the phone and make a work call. But really, chill. Because it’s just ten minutes.

  33. sam*

    OP #3: I don’t really get what the problem is. Fergus leaves after about 10 minutes, so it’s just 10 minutes of whispering? I suppose you could use AAM’s script, but it seems…unfriendly? unnecessarily testy first thing in the morning? I’d say hello and sit down and get started working. If the whispering goes longer than a few

  34. Beth*

    “Just think, you went to law school!”

    “Yeah, just think, your mom tried to teach you manners!”

  35. Samwise*

    OP #3: I don’t really get what the problem is. Fergus leaves after about 10 minutes, so it’s just 10 minutes of whispering? I suppose you could use AAM’s script, but it seems…unfriendly? unnecessarily testy first thing in the morning? I’d say hello and sit down and get started working. If the whispering goes longer than five or ten minutes, say something, but otherwise, this is pretty small potatoes.

    Feeling like a third wheel, coming in late to avoid them and then being mad because you have to stay late — that’s really on you, Jane and Fergus aren’t being chummy AT you.

    Yeah, they sound annoying. But not enough to make a thing of it.

    1. JW3*

      They have been chatting for an hour before OP arrives and then continue to chat, whispering and giggling, for another 10 minutes. I’m all for being friendly and a bit of socializing at work, but if they talk for a hour every morning, they should be able to wrap it up when other people arrive to work.

      1. Samwise*

        They’ve been chatting for an hour when the OP is not even there. What difference does it make to OP what Jane and Fergus are doing before OP gets there? None. What matters is how long it’s going on when the OP is there.

        Ten minutes may be a bit long, but in my experience it’s pretty typical for many offices that folks are chatting for close to that amount of time.

      2. bonkerballs*

        Looks to me like “wrapping things up” is exactly what they’re doing. OP comes in, they lower their voices and after a few more minutes to finish their conversation it’s over.

  36. drpuma*

    Greetings OP2 from another non-practicing lawyer! I do white-collar work, so I get a little less pushback from folks around me (ugh classist stereotypes). Depending on who’s asking and the context, my answer tends to be some version of one of the following:
    “You’d be surprised, I actually use [specific legal skillset] all the time!”
    “Since I focused so specifically on [area of law], I feel like I got everything I wanted out of law school.”
    “The legal analytical approach is actually just like [thing I do in job now].”
    Over time I’ve found the key is to convey that I’m confident and happy in my decision, which is hard when the other person is being a jerk. But getting defensive is not your best bet here. Staying upbeat or confused as Alison suggests makes it clear that other peoples’ questions about what you do with your law degree are their problem, not yours.

  37. Push up contest*

    #2 I work in Health insurance and we are the melting pot for career paths that didn’t take shape (we have more PHD’s in Art than we have finance degrees). I fell like for the majority of us we look at Lawyers, Doctors, and other highly educated people as the epitome of what we could have been and had dreams of being in those careers and having the things that those careers would bring us (beach-house in Hawaii, the good Land Rover, a Birkin collection) but didn’t have the skill set or the drive to make it. This isn’t your problem but in the real world I don’t think telling people you just wanted to learn about the Law so you went to law school is going to get any better for you in the job you are in. So I wanted to offer up some advice that I feel like most of us would accept without recourse. In the future when asked about the Law degree I would either not tell people you have the actual law degree, or say that you decided that career path wasn’t for you. For your current antagonist laugh it off or challenge them to a boxing match/push up contest/etc something every time they say it.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      +1 but no need for the OP to punish themselves. “10 push-ups for you every time you snipe about my degree.” “10 more reps every time you sniff your nose at my job” I have no idea how long the OP has been out of school, but I imagine that the joke will cease to be funny for everyone else eventually.

      I’ve know 2 people who have law degrees but never intended to be lawyers — one’s in IT and one is a graphic designer. The degree helps them in ways that aren’t readily apparent such as intellectual property rights, or setting up/running a business etc — the kind of things people would hire an attorney for… If an entrepreneurial venture is in the OP’s future that might be a response too, “One day I’m planning on starting my own X, and I won’t have to hire an attorney to do XYZ for me.”

  38. Redhead in NY*

    #5 – I have had all kinds of injections in my face and often come to work bruised up and looking awkward. Really no one has ever said anything. I know Kybella is different because the swelling is pretty big. Can you wear a scarf? I know it’s not exactly the time of year for one but that would definitely help :)

    1. Bowserkitty*

      Chiming in a little late, but I used to work in an office where one subdivision was doing Kybella trials and one of the employees opted in. She wore a scarf the entire time and looked fine!

  39. Buttons*

    OP2, those people are rude, but I think for them they just can’t understand why a person wouldn’t work as a lawyer. For many people, that level of education is very far out of their reach, and it seems like a dream job that would make lots of money. Of course, they don’t realize that law isn’t for everyone and how stressful it is (I know 4 people who have law degrees and do not do anything law-related.) It is probably really confusing to them and they may be even feeling a little jealousy/resement– “If I had a law degree I sure as hell wouldn’t be working here.” You chose your job, they may feel stuck in it.
    Not that this changes the annoyance of what they are doing, but sometimes having a bit of perspective as to why people do something helps us manage through it.
    My response to rude or inappropriate questions is usually to give a look that conveys “yikes, did you really ask that?” and then shake my head like “bless their heart” and I don’t usually say anything at all.

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      This! Lots of people think law school is a golden ticket, and can’t imagine why someone would “slum it” in a blue-collar job when they could be making millions. (Of course, that’s not how the legal profession works, but people’s point of reference is Suits or Boston Legal, not Middle-Class Lawyers Helping People In Poverty). There might also be a bit of “OP probably thinks they’re so special, having a fancy degree when we don’t, I should take them down a peg or two,” because they’d probably be tempted to lord it over people if they had such a degree and assume you would, too.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        This was an issue at one of the rec centers I worked at. Most of the people in aquatics and fitness had specialized certifications and were working on or had completed degrees. (A lot of people need a second job to pay off their loans or save for retirement, too.) Most of the people in the other departments had no degree or an AA degree, and there was this constant undercurrent of “The snooty fitness and aquatics people need to get with the program and understand they are Different from the rest of us and Do Not Belong Here.” To the point that if there was a medical emergency while you were working, no one would respond to the mayday call to bring you equipment or call an ambulance, because “WE are working and THEY are just goofing around wasting OUR time. They are OUT of TOUCH with the people who do the REAL work around here, snooty SNOBS asking for defibrillators and ambulances.”

        It was very frustrating, and if you were in fitness and aquatics you were always on the defensive, demurring to others to show that you were “one of the team” even if the team was refusing to call an ambulance for someone who’d passed out.

  40. voyager1*

    There are plenty of law schools that are not outrageously expensive of course they are not particularly ranked well or accredited well.

    When I worked at previous bank there was a call center rep with a law degree who couldn’t pass the bar and had given up. Most people just kinda pitied him.

    1. Holly*

      One of the dangers of law school is that even unaccredited or low rank schools are extremely expensive – a lot of students end up in debt and disillusioned because of this, and there have been many lawsuits of low rank schools exaggerating their job numbers while charging sticker price. This has nothing to do with OP, I just feel the need to correct the record on that because it’s been a problem in the field and very exploitative to especially poorer aspiring lawyers.

  41. Jerk Store*

    #4 I would recommend taking at least brief notes whenever someone meets with a client. That way there’s a record for CYA purposes, and even when things go smoothly, anyone meeting with the client after you move on has some context for the relationship.

  42. LawBee*

    I’m fascinated by the law school grad because even getting INTO law school is so much work between the application process, the LSAT, pulling together all your residential/employment history, etc. . Applications are expensive, the LSAT is expensive, law school itself is expensive. I feel like some of the commenters are seeing it as the equivalent of going to night school on the side at the local university, and it really really isn’t. My friends who did law school at night almost killed themselves with the workload.

    And what you learn in law school is – well, it’s weird. You learn how to read caselaw, which has very little application in real life. You learn how to write in a specific way for a specific reason. You MAYBE learn how to argue, or someone mentioned above “rhetoric”, but you’d probably do better with that in a collegiate-level logic class. What you don’t learn is “the law” because they teach in generalities. States have different laws and their students will go to different states to practice, so they don’t generally teach the law in their state. (A lot of bar review for me was unlearning “the law” I’d learned in school.) The first year is sheer hell, the second year is pure drudgery, the third year is a waste of time (hi, I think law school is a scam, if you can’t tell) – even if you don’t care about your grades, you have to at least pass year one to make it to year two and onward. Going through all that just for funsies is baffling to me, when that itch could have easily been scratched in a less expensive and arduous manner.

    I also wonder if there’s a class issue here as well. OP1 paid for school as she went, which isn’t feasible for I’d say the majority of people. I wonder if OP is fairly well-off, works the job she has because she genuinely enjoys it, but has a little bit of privilege blindness.

    (and a tiny tiny part of me is sitting in the corner of my mind, going “really? really. REALLY. mmhm.”)

    1. Canonical23*

      I think you’re being a bit unfair to the OP. A lot of comments seem to be assuming that they went to Harvard for the fun of it, and we don’t know that. I live near a small Midwest law school that doesn’t have the best reputation, but going there part time costs a little bit more than getting any graduate degree part time. They also might have gone in thinking “Hey, I like this, maybe I can make a career change” and then realized halfway through that while they loved studying it, it just wasn’t a career option. Maybe they have a relative that works at that school and so they get free tuition. Maybe they inherited a million dollars and decided that they’d always dreamed of studying law and that was the best option for them.

      The thing is – we don’t know the situation, so judging OP for their choices, or accusing them of being privileged when we know nothing about their specific class/race/gender/etc background isn’t the best use of our time. They are asking for help in rerouting invasive questions, which generally, AAM threads are very helpful for. I really liked the suggestion above of comparing it to climbing Mount Everest. We all have something on our bucket list. I’d love to get a PhD because I love learning. I probably wouldn’t do a single thing with it, and I hope that if I get to do that in the future, people would understand why.

      1. LawBee*

        Well, I didn’t accuse them of being privileged, I wondered if that was something in play.

        I didn’t judge the OP for their choices, I’m intrigued by them. There’s a lot of work involved just in the application process, and money, and it’s interesting that someone would go through all of that when there are easier ways.

        I don’t think I’m being hard on the OP at all.

      2. Jennifer*

        Anyone these days that can afford to get a degree and graduate debt-free, with no intention of using the degree, has a bit of privilege. It doesn’t make them a bad person. It doesn’t mean they made a bad choice. But they are privileged.

    2. Delphine*

      How is this relevant to the LW’s situation? Even if your opinion is that she was incredibly privileged and was able to do something the vast majority of people couldn’t–it still doesn’t make snide comments any less irritating.

      1. LawBee*

        I never said that “my opinion is that she was incredibly privileged”. I said that I wondered if that was at play in her interactions with her coworkers, which is exactly what the letter was about. Couldn’t be more relevant.

    3. Joielle*

      Eh, I don’t know… I loved law school. The first year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it was an absolute revelation about justice and privilege. You get to learn the thinking of some of the preeminent minds in our country’s history – for better or worse. I don’t think you can get quite that same experience anywhere else. I did go to a small social-justice-minded law school, so maybe that makes a difference.

      For 99% of people, I think it’s a terrible idea to go if you don’t want to practice, because it’s expensive and not a great return on investment – but if you can afford it, I completely understand wanting to do it for fun. To me, caselaw is fascinating regardless of applicability and it doesn’t really matter whether you learn the laws of your state – if you study law, you learn how to figure out the laws wherever you are.

  43. Dagny*

    Letter #2:

    Some of the issue is that the people who are working at the gym might hate their jobs, and would envy someone’s ability to work in a different role. This doesn’t make it any less rude, because you’re not in charge of other people’s emotional regulation, but it is likely an element.

    I’m not going to run your life for you, but you could reply (and seriously consider) leveraging your law degree into a related role if/when you ever do not want to continue working at the gym, or if your body cannot take the stress of it anymore. “I’m not using my law degree now, but I had the opportunity to get it for free, and I’m happy to have it in my back pocket if or when a career change is in order. “

  44. Database Developer Dude*

    There, I fixed it. You’re welcome.

    Them: “So how’s that law degree working for you?”
    You: “Just fine, actually. Why?”
    So, how’s that Dollar Store personality working for you?

    Them: “Are you planning on ever using your law degree?”
    You: “No, not professionally, that was never the plan.”
    Why? Do you need a lawyer? What are you being charged with?

    Them: “To think, you went to law school!
    You: “Wow, that’s incredibly rude.”
    To think, someone let you leave your house looking like that.

  45. Amethystmoon*

    #1, if your workplace offers bereavement leave, I would go to your manager and ask if any of your PTO days can be swapped out for that. That way, you’ll have PTO days to be used later.

  46. Specialist*

    RE: Kybella
    It’s not that bad.
    Change your hairstyle. It is really effective in distracting people from other things.
    Use makeup to cover any bruising that may or may not happen.

    1. Dot Warner*

      That’s really good advice! OP, if you’ve ever wanted to try a much shorter haircut or change the color of your hair, this would be a great time to do it. At most of the places I’ve worked, people will be too busy gushing over your new hairdo to care about anything else.

  47. I coulda been a lawyer*

    OP2 you will of course want to use one of Allison’s professional responses, but I’m afraid mine would be, sorry I can’t help you bro – I didn’t take enough criminal law classes for your needs, or my concentration was tax law, not criminal law, or whatever would embarrass them in return.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      I disagree. Certain things cross a line so much, that a professional response isn’t required.

  48. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I’m in the UK, and it’s pretty normal for people to go to university, get a degree, and then work in a field that is not necessarily what their degree is in. Most people (contratry to popular belief) who read PPE at Oxford don’t become politicians, for example!

    Lots of people with law degrees might go on to be lawyers, and lots of accounting degree holders might go on to be accountants, but it’s equally possible that the lawyer could go on to work in the health service as a policy manager (like my best friend from uni did) and the accounting grad could go on to be the IT director for a big publishing company (like my big boss did).

    My degree was in geology. I spent many years in IT projects and I’m now a technical trainer. No rocks involved at all!

  49. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s bizarre they’re fixated on your law degree. It took seven years after graduating for my old colleague to get a lawyer job, so I would never assume the degree got anyone a job. We had a crew member who had an engineering degree and people just knew that jobs don’t fall off trees if you shake a degree at them.

    I get that in your case you don’t even plan on using it but still, treating you so poorly and making those assumptions are over the top. I wouldn’t classify any of those snobs as friends or decent people you want around you unless they’re paying for you time.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      I think also how the op is phrasing it when they tell people they have a law degree is part of the issue. Telling people that you got into and went to law school with the intention to just learn and to not move up when you are working at a gym seems like an oddity because most people don’t see working at a gym as a career (owning one yes, working there no). In my experience most people who work at the gyms I have been apart of are part time instructors who use the gym as an outlet for their full time job, or are working on their way up to a career job, or they are very into fitness and their dream is to own a gym.

  50. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Yep. I was thinking that someone with a law degree will have a head start when starting a business …. maybe OP will buy her own gym franchise down the line, and she’d know how to stay ahead of legal requirements!

  51. Trek*

    OP#2 I had a history teacher in high school that went to law school at night. He wanted to know what lawyers knew and so he went to law school. He had no intention of using his law degree as a lawyer but was interested in the field. I work in finance but love history and could see myself earning a Master’s in American History for myself and not for anyone else. I am never going to teach. It’s OK to do something for yourself. You took on an academic version of MT. Everest for the challenge and you did it! Revel in it. Lot’s of people have degrees they don’t use. Two options for responses depending on how harsh you want to be to them.

    “How’s that law degree working out?”
    “Great, really enjoyed my studies and glad it’s done.”

    “How’s that law degree working out?”
    “Are you still jealous that I finished law school? I think you need to put your jealousy behind you.”

  52. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    #2. What is the average education level of your mocking acquaintance? That is. are you hanging out with college grads and Phds, or high school drop out and associates degrees? Both are worthy and cool groups of people, but the second is going to have a very different perspective on college just-for-fun (and the affordability thereof), and you should be respectful of that, if applicable.

  53. I should be working*

    I feel like if your chin is going to look significantly different people will be able to put two and two together and realize you got cosmetic surgery. So if they’re already going to know, maybe it won’t be so bad to just say what it is? It’s up to you, of course, just a thought. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of, having work done!

  54. ClashRunner*

    OP2, I feel for you. I recently made a career change from something that was chronically underpaid and overworked (but “prestigious” because it required a great deal of higher education) to a much more manageable work load and reasonable salary. I get rude comments all the time…”Couldn’t hack it anymore?” “Sure, that field’s not for everyone if you don’t want to work hard” “Oh, so now you’re just a secretary?”

    The irony in my situation is, when I was in school and the first few years of my first career, I still took a lot of flak from some of those same people because it’s not business, law, or medicine. There are some people in this world who “know” that they’re always right and you’re always wrong and it’s obviously their job to tell you about it!

  55. Karyn*

    OP 2: I seriously feel you, so hard. I am only JUST NOW taking the bar exam, having graduated in 2012. For the longest time I didn’t think I wanted to practice, and was just so exhausted by the idea of studying and taking the exam with some health issues I was having, that I just stopped wanting to do it at all. I worked as a paralegal for years, and at least once a month someone would tell me I should take the bar exam because ______. Usually, the blank was something along the lines of, “You wasted your degree,” or “You wasted your money,” or “You’re too smart not to be a lawyer,” or “Don’t you want to DO something with your life?”

    You know the best response to any of these statements, or to anyone who’s making rude, obnoxious commentary about your use of your degree or lack thereof? “Thanks for your input.” That’s literally it. If it was someone I worked for, I’d do it cheerfully, and add, “I appreciate it, but it’s just not something I’m interested in pursuing.” But otherwise? You owe no explanations to ANYONE, and you do what makes YOU happy – law related or not.

    1. Dagny*

      Good luck, Karyn! I’m cheering for you.

      Side note: “taking the bar” comes with a substantial cost of time and money. People often take off work for several months to study, then spend thousands of dollars on bar review courses. The fees to take the exam are about a thousand dollars. Then bar admission is expensive – you may need to buy malpractice insurance, set up an IOLTA account, do pro bono work, and/or do CLEs.

      It is not something that people really understand, and it can make sense for someone who is a paralegal to not be a member of the bar. People at law firms can forget about this because their firm paid all of those expenses.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I used to manage a paralegal program, and, every single year, someone wrote on a paralegal’s review that they were “too smart to be a paralegal”, and it drove me crazy. Some of my best paralegals loved being paralegals and had no interest in going to law school, yet they were constantly told that they were wasting their talent in a “lesser” position.

      Best of luck with your bar exam!!

  56. Have you tried rebooting?*

    OP#2 I love Miss Manner’s response to rude questions: “How kind you are to take such an interest in our business.’’

  57. Marthooh*

    I like most of Alison’s scripts, but “To think, you went to law school!” should be capped by “That’s right, I went to law school to think.”

  58. OP2*

    Hi all, OP2 here- thanks for the feedback. Wow, I am happy and surprised to see my little law school drama generating so much thoughtful discussion! For the record I went to school in Montana which is not exactly cut throat or exceedingly stressful, a few shining stars, yes, but most of us were mellow- nor did tuition break the bank especially since I worked on campus while in school and received an in state tuition reduction. Thanks for the helpful ideas, I will be putting them to use.

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