Sunlit Water

July 11, 2006

No Law School Either

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 8:04 pm

I’m not the kind of person that everyone assumes should be a lawyer. You know the type: argumentative, always needs to be right, focuses on tiny points of dispute, etc. That’s not me at all. This is probably a good enough sign that I shouldn’t be a lawyer, but I do sometimes wonder. I kind of think I might make a good lawyer: I’m detail-oriented, I don’t mind dull work, I can write. On the other hand, I’m not at all sure I would be happy as a lawyer, and I’m definitely sure I don’t want to got through all the rigamarole of becoming a lawyer (particularly law school, about which I have never heard a good word) for an uncertain chance at a job I might hate. So law school is no more in my plans than an academic Ph.D. is.

Still, I don’t know nearly as much about practicing law as I do about academia; although I do have quite a few relatives who are lawyers, I’m not as close to them and I haven’t observed their day-to-day lives to the same extent. So I have some questions for the lawyers out there. How bad is law school? Is it necessarily so expensive that you have to take on massive debt? How broad are your options really once you get the degree? Is it worth it?

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13 Comments »

  1. No no no! Do NOT go to law school if you don’t want to be a lawyer. It is a trade school and the point of it is to train lawyers. It won’t prep you to do anything else.

    But law school is the least of your problems. After law school you become a lawyer. A lot of the people I knew in law school went in completely convinced that they could hold out, maintain their interests and later be good lawyers for the environment or the poor or something. A few of them went through law school, found they loved something different (family law or contracts or something) and switched to their new thing. Great. But so many of ones who swore they knew their hearts ended up taking jobs in fields they never cared about, or in their same field for the bad guys. They aren’t happy now. Partially because of their debt, partially because everyone they know is whoring for a law firm, and partially because it is freakin’ hard, they just can’t walk away from the high paying salaries.

    Law school wasn’t so bad, although I coasted because I didn’t care about my grades because I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Law students are smart and verbal, with a slightly meaner sense of humor than I was used to; I had fun around them.

    I refused to take the bar, because that was the only way I could be sure I wouldn’t become a lawyer. Even for me, who never intended to be a lawyer and with two other career options available, it was incredibly hard to withstand the pressure to be a lawyer. Do NOT go to law school to ‘explore your options’. Go to law school if you want to practice law.

    Comment by Megan — July 12, 2006 @ 7:52 pm |Reply

  2. Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve heard from everyone else I know who’s gone to law school. Like I say, I’m not really seriously considering this; the tuition alone is a deal-breaker. Thanks for the advice, though.

    Comment by teofilo — July 12, 2006 @ 9:29 pm |Reply

  3. “not really seriously considering this” is the way to go. What Megan said — don’t do it unless you want to be a lawyer.

    But so many of ones who swore they knew their hearts ended up taking jobs in fields they never cared about, or in their same field for the bad guys. They aren’t happy now. Partially because of their debt, partially because everyone they know is whoring for a law firm, and partially because it is freakin’ hard, they just can’t walk away from the high paying salaries.

    This is me.

    Comment by LizardBreath — July 12, 2006 @ 9:44 pm |Reply

  4. From my perspective, it’s not law school that sucks, it’s being a lawyer at a law firm that sucks.

    I have absolutely loved every minute of law school, but then, I thrive on the kind of discourse it involves, I love having a bevy of smart, playfully argumentative people to pick my friends from, and I find the subject matter compelling.

    However, I get the impression that I am the exception, rather than the rule. A lot of my friends really hate school.

    That said, it is possible to go to law school without accruing massive debt, but so few people do it. For example, I was accepted to the University of Texas with a sizeable scholarship package, and would have come out in a relatively decent financial position. However, I was accepted to more prestigious, more expensive schools, with far less financial aid. I took one of those offers instead.

    Once you enter the world of law school and the practice of law, it’s very very hard to not get swept up on the “more” bandwagon, whether it be more prestige, more money, more whatever.

    Comment by silvana — July 18, 2006 @ 11:51 am |Reply

  5. Yeah, see, that’s the part I don’t get. Why does it matter how prestigious a law school you went to? All you have to do to practice is get the degree and pass the bar, right? So why don’t people take the cheaper options?

    (Note that I’m very much not considering this for myself; at this point I’m mostly just curious.)

    Comment by teofilo — July 18, 2006 @ 4:04 pm |Reply

  6. Less prestigious schools restrict your job options. If you don’t go to a very good school an academic career is basically closed off, and a high-paying legal job is much, much, much more difficult to get. Coming from a prestigious school, getting a job was effortless — it can be quite difficult when your school is even a rung down the ladder.

    There’s an argument that the lower cost more than makes up for the more difficult job hunt, but it’s not an obviously correct one.

    Comment by LizardBreath — July 18, 2006 @ 8:53 pm |Reply

  7. But those jobs are mostly in big firms, though, right? Or are all opportunities easier to get for graduates of prestigious schools, and the lower-paying ones go to rich people? And what do graduates of lower-ranked schools end up doing?

    Comment by teofilo — July 18, 2006 @ 9:05 pm |Reply

  8. Or are all opportunities easier to get for graduates of prestigious schools, and the lower-paying ones go to rich people?

    Pretty much. Coming from a lower-ranked school, you can get a job pretty easily if you’re at the very, very top of your class, but otherwise you’re scrambling. Some people don’t find jobs at all; some people end up in low paying, duller work — there are firms of lawyers that just do collections on judgments, that sort of thing. There are a lot of temp lawyers that big firms hire on an hourly basis. People go into business for themselves. There are all sorts of things you can do, but anything that involves someone hiring you for anything either lucrative or prestigious, your odds are hugely, hugely increased if you went to a top-end law school.

    Comment by LizardBreath — July 18, 2006 @ 11:21 pm |Reply

  9. A good chunk of the administrative assistants at the firm I work at have law degrees.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Comment by silvana — July 19, 2006 @ 8:54 am |Reply

  10. Right. The paralegal on the big case I’m working on passed the bar a year ago.

    Comment by LizardBreath — July 19, 2006 @ 9:16 am |Reply

  11. I think that it can take all types to be lawyer. I dont think you need to be a partcular type of person to be successful

    Comment by David — March 21, 2007 @ 12:32 pm |Reply

  12. hi,
    i’m graduating from columbia law in 2007, and i never wanted to be a laywer and still don’t. i have a job set up at a prestigious lawfirm paying 190 that starts after the summer and i find it hard to give it up, knowing full well that i will quit this job in a few years and probably won’t want to be a laywer at that point but still have to figure out my options. many people have been telling me to just get a job in investing and take a paycut….but do something i’m interested in, and something that i know i will want to stick with. eh….it’s tough going to columbia. choices.

    Comment by columbia law — April 14, 2007 @ 1:38 am |Reply

  13. Same with my firm, most of the admin are lawlers as well. funny about that hay.

    Comment by Deane — June 6, 2007 @ 1:11 am |Reply


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