Law School Discussion

How do you know you should go to law school?

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2011, 03:23:28 PM »

 If you can get into Harvard, Yale, Stanford or law schools of that caliber then you can probably do something unrelated to law. The name in itself is impressive, but having a J.D. from Hamline, GGU, Santa Clara, Southwestern, etc is not going to impress anyone. I think the opportunities at Yale, Harvard, etc are amazing, while people from lower ranked schools have difficulty getting started as lawyers. They do of course, but it is difficult and  rare for a mid level J.D. graduate to be hired for a prestigious non-law related job. At least in my limited knowledge.

This is true, but my point was a little different - with just a few exceptions, the non-law law students I know/knew were in law school on purpose.  One guy, for instance, was a reporter, and we wanted to pursue legal beat.  His paper had assured him that he didn't actually have to practice law to be the legal reporter (kind of scary), he just needed the paper credentials.  Others went into banking, which was their plan  all along.  Or politics/government service.  Or whatever.

The point being that they had a plan for life after law school, and they believed that law school would help.  They didn't just go to law school first and then start thinking about what they wanted to do when they grew up.  I know plenty of those folks too, but they are not an example to follow.

I think this applies regardless of which law school you attend.  The range of opportunities may vary, but the fundamental idea that you should go in with a plan - a realistic plan - is pretty universal, IMO.

bigs5068

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Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2011, 06:18:33 PM »
You are right, if you have a plan and a J.D. helps you achieve it then it is a good idea. The OP was saying there were not enough job opportunities and a J.D. would open more doors, but did not spell out any door they wanted to be opened. I think everyone agrees going to law school because you are having a hard time finding a job with a Bachelor's degree is not a good idea. Getting a law degree does not eliminate the pain in the ass known as job hunting, and you are going to spend 100K + 3 years of your life to start job hunting again upon receiving your J.D.  If you wanted to be a lawyer, legal reporter, banker, or some other profession that you know will apply to a door you want to open then go for it. Going because you think life will be easier not so much. Unless you have a lot of time and money to spend getting a J.D. won't hurt you, and  MikePing's suit analogy explains that logic pretty well.

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #32 on: March 28, 2011, 06:34:57 PM »
I think everyone agrees going to law school because you are having a hard time finding a job with a Bachelor's degree is not a good idea.

Yep.

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #33 on: March 31, 2011, 08:24:27 AM »
This is an interesting discussion, and I think I may be able to add something.  My SO works in the court system, and enjoys it fairly well.  She makes far more than she could in most “civilian” positions and has excellent benefits.  The court where she works has a “team management” approach – in her team there are seven people, three of which have graduated law school and passed the bar.  These three have decided that practicing law was not for them – although all have done so at some point – and are now happily working in the federal court system.  My SO has a B.S., and worked 4 years in private practice as a paralegal.  She is also extremely well spoken and writes amazingly well (she occasionally works as an associate editor for a regional magazine).  She is the second highest paid member of the team, making more than any of the law school graduates, mostly based upon merit pay increases (she is third in seniority).  She also has absolutely no law school debt, so that is a major plus.  In fact, she makes considerably more than your target salary. 

The point I want to make is that yes, a JD can open doors, but there may be other far less costly ways to pry these same doors open.

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #34 on: March 31, 2011, 10:00:14 AM »

The point I want to make is that yes, a JD can open doors, but there may be other far less costly ways to pry these same doors open.


... and a big "ditto" to that one as well.

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #35 on: April 03, 2011, 10:20:57 AM »
This tells me what I need to form an opinion.  Why on earth consider a degree and career in something you do not love?  Life is too short to dislike what you do.  The saying IS true: 'if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.'  Imagine dragging yourself out of bed every day forn the next 40+ years to do something you dont like... that is INSANITY! 

Fine, you are having trouble finding a job now - why not get an advanced degree in the area of study that you ARE interested in?

Also, with all due respect to others - "a JD is a versatile degree" is a throw-away line.  Aside from practicing as an attorney or doing direct law-related work, there are very few careers out there where a JD is a game-changer.  Why spend $150K on a degree with a narrow application?

And finally, not to get too personal here, but why not talk to your parents about alternatives?  If they both work in law then they must be fairly intelligent.  They will have exposure to a wide array of job/career ideas.  If they are pushing law, shame on them if you truly are not passionate about it.

I'll have to second Hamilton's opinion.  One of the most dangerous things is to go to law school "just because."  If you're lucky, that will happen to coincide with something you realize you like to do.  Unlikely, but possible.  More likely is a decade or three spent in a miserable job or, now, spend repaying loans with income from a field that is not law and for which the JD does little or nothing.

Find what you like.  Go for that.  If you don't like anything, find what you like.  If you still don't like anything, find what you like.  Not yet?  Well, prepare to be ho-hum at best at whatever you do. 

I don't mean to be too flippant, as nearly everyone goes through these same thoughts.  But it's still important to figure out what it is you are likely to like.  This is often through exactly the process you decribe: figuring out what it is you don't like.  More fundamentally, ask the big-picture questions.  Do you like people?  Numbers?  Answers?  Questions?  Hard work?  The opposite.  Answer those, and then talk with your parents and others who actually practice.  You'll likely get an eye-opening set of answers.

Good luck.

Ryans5

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #36 on: April 04, 2011, 11:29:46 PM »
Whoa. Haven't looked at this thread in awhile.

Ok I know I sound very hasty about law and yes, there are many things about law I would not enjoy doing. However there are also some things in law I would love to do, just not with huge firms.

I'm really into free speech issues and media law. I'd love to duke it out with the FCC for some media organization big or small or defend some kid who went to school with a "jesus sucks" shirt and got suspended. I'd like to support libertarian social issues like gambling, drug legalization, free speech etc. (I really don't want to turn this into a political debate, these are just issues I'd like to support with a law degree) However defending Goldman Sachs from getting indicted and junk like that just doesn't interest me. I don't need to make 150k, I just want to be able to live comfortably, own my own place, and god forbid support a family if I ever need to. Being a law professor, or even an undergraduate professor for pre-law looks like a pretty sweet gig too.

I've talked to some law professors and a lot of them dislike people who come in just for the heck of it, but I think the JD is quickly becoming the MBA for humanities people. Regardless I have to pass the LSAT first, and I should probably be nose deep in this book here instead of typing about it on a forum.

Re: How do you know you should go to law school?
« Reply #37 on: April 05, 2011, 06:18:30 AM »
Ok I know I sound very hasty about law and yes, there are many things about law I would not enjoy doing. However there are also some things in law I would love to do, just not with huge firms.

There are parts of every job that are a pain in the butt.  Law is no exception, I would imagine. 

I think you need to ask yourself general questions, here.  Would you enjoy working indoors.  Would you like a job where the vast bulk of it will be sitting at a desk.  Can you function with limited interaction with other people.  General stuff like that. 

Seriously, if the only criteria for whether you should do a job is whether you'd love it or not, nobody would be an accountant.  We'd be a nation of ski instructors, and frankly, the "instructor" part would be on shaky ground.

If you're a person who is very outgoing, who gains energy when you're in a room full of people, and who loses energy when you're by yourself, law might not be a good fit.

If you're a person who is not particularly analytical, law may not appeal to you.

At what point does the tipping point occur?  At what point do you know the law isn't for you?  Who knows.  That's a decision everybody is going to have to make for himself/herself.  I'd just say that if you are reasonably sure that law does not appeal to you, but you think that the money will make it okay, that's probably a bad basis for a decision.

Being a law professor, or even an undergraduate professor for pre-law looks like a pretty sweet gig too.

It is, but if you like the idea of being a professor, your best bet is to get a Ph.D.  They're almost all free (at no cost to you) and paid for by research or teaching assistantships that pay you a living stipend and come with a full-tuition waiver.  If you get a master's in English or Math, your chances of being able to land a full-time gig as a teacher at a community college are very good.  Other disciplines less so, but still sometimes good.

I haven't followed this conversation long, but what school are you getting your JD from?  One thing I noticed in the past year is that even the very worst law schools in the country have a disproprtionate number of professors from Yale, Harvard and Stanford.  I'd say, personally, that the chances of you getting a teaching gig if you have a degree from any school outside the T14 is very, very poor.  Yes, there are profs who teach who graduated from other than top schools, but you need to see how many there are (darned few) and when they started teaching (a long time ago.)