1. JD 2. ??? 3. Publishing Career!
August 28, 2009 7:54 AM   Subscribe

PublishingCareer Filter: So, I'm getting my JD in May. Would applying for jobs in publishing be a worthwhile supplement to my job search?

So, I'm finishing up my JD in May. Law school has been a mixed-bag for me, but the best part by far has been working on a journal. Last year I had the typical edit-till-you-drop experience, which was a blast, and my enthusiasm earned me a slot on the executive board. Now, I handle all the article submissions - reading them, recommending them for publication, preliminary edits, etc. Awesome, fun job. I know student-run law journals aren't exactly the height of quality publishing and this is absolutely the extent of my editing/publishing experience. FWIW, I hold a B.A. in Classics.

I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile to supplement my legal career search with applications to some university presses. I realize these careers don't pay much, but I'm applying for mostly state/public interest jobs anyway so I'm not expecting the moon. I would love to get a job working in law, but I would LOVE to get a job doing what I do now for the journal.

I browse the job boards of the UPs in my area and I technically qualify for (some of) the entry-level positions they advertise. I just have no way of knowing if I'll be a competitive applicant. I realize this is a somewhat silly question, but the job market is tough and I'm insecure about my career prospects. Any insight and/or hand-holding will be appreciated. Thanks guys.
posted by ailouros08 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Consider the non-UP legal publishers (West, Hein, LexisNexis, etc.) as well, since they will view your JD as a greater asset than a random UP not specializing in legal literature.
posted by onshi at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2009

yeah, i would look at the legal publishers before anyone else since you have an edge there. publishing is super competitive and there aren't enough jobs to go around (even more so now in this economy, but it was bad even before that as things like copyediting got outsourced to india). so a up would look at your jd and be confused and go on to the person with a degree in publishing or writing or journalism or something, whereas the legal publishers would "get it".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2009

Best answer: I think you won't be a competitive applicant, because you'll be way overqualified. Publishing is a very competitive field which works on an apprenticeship mentality (you start at the bottom and work your way up), so it's much harder to break in at any higher level. (In my case, I had to start all over again as an assistant despite being several years out of college and having lots of work experience. It was worth it for me, but it might not be for you.)

Rather than university presses, I'd recommend looking at legal publishers, or the legal departments of trade publishers (or university presses, but I'm not sure how many smaller ones have them). Even university presses will probably consider you over-qualified for the very competitive entry level positions, so it might be easiest to get your foot in the door by going the route that actually uses your degree.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2009

FWIW the publishing job market sucks sucks sucks right now (even more so than usual). I know this isn't especially helpful, but like don't get your hopes up or anything, JD or no JD.
posted by scratch at 9:44 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I work in publishing. I'm unsure we have a concept of 'over-qualified' in this industry as we all come from different, even non-literary, backgrounds. We work for love of publishing. Life experience is not considered a weight around the neck here.

Yes, the economy sucks.

Yes, publishing is hurting.

Yes, definitely apply to open positions.
posted by eatdonuts at 9:54 AM on August 28, 2009

I think it wouldn't so much be a problem of your being overqualified as the nature of your background. At my UP, I know many individuals with PhDs in arcane subjects and with limited professional applicability. Certainly they are quite educated, but the risk of their landing the tenure-track professor position is quite low, especially after a certain age. As a JD, you'll always carry with you the threat of leaving for a much (much) higher paying position as a lawyer. It is true that this business has an apprenticeship mentality; if there was a chance you'd leave after a year for a better gig, potential employers would likely be wary.
posted by penchant at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2009

It can't hurt to apply right? But I wouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, either. Why not apply to open publishing jobs but also some traditional lawyer jobs as well. And make sure you take the bar, you don't know when a law license will come in handy.
posted by bananafish at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2009

Best answer: I work at a UP and working for the journals division would be very different than working on the books side. But I would disagree with some of the other folks answering that you're overqualified or that you should limit your search to the commercial legal publishing arena. At a UP I guess your appropriateness would depend on which position you were applying for. Editorial assistant, yes, overqualified. Copy editor, no. Acquisitions editor, probably under-qualified unless you were applying at a press that published books on the legal system like Princeton, Harvard, or Fordham to name a few. Acquisitions editors come from all kinds of places. What makes a good acquisitions editor is their network of contacts and you seem to have a start on that with your journals experience. If you wanted to pursue that, you'd need to look at places that had those sort of lists.

Journals at UPs, by the way, do little editorial work. Most of that is handled by the organization sponsoring the journal. The UPs mostly do the management, production, and distribution of the journal so if you were hoping to do journal editing at a UP, it's unlikely you'll find such an opening.

I would encourage you to give it a shot. At my press we do look for previous experience in publishing, but we also like a diverse background. What we generally want are really smart and thorough people. So, yeah, I agree with eatdonuts.

If you didn't know about it, most UPs post their open positions here: http://aaupnet.org/jobs/jobslist.php

Good luck!
posted by Toekneesan at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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