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BuckyIsOurKing

would you rather...

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1. go to law school

 

or

 

2. abandon all hope in the world and move to costa rica and sell tiny shell bracelets to tourists and get a pet tree frog

 

okay.... that's not really what I was going to ask but I thought that would help get at least get some attention

 

Basically, I am your standard college graduate who "wants to help people". I studied International Policy and Economics, Environmental Development, and got a minor in public health. Disparities (social, economic, educational, environmental) make me livid, and like many other liberal arts majors, I want to change that (I don't mean become jaded and accept these issues.. just to be clear).

 

So obviously I started looking into law, because what is a better way to help systematically oppressed groups of people than to.... use the system to help them???

 

This leads me to one of my main questions: what is the deal with everyone saying going into law is a stupid decision? I will admit, although I thought this video posted on the forum earlier was pretty funny (https://youtu.be/nMvARy0lBLE) it still didn't really explain thoroughly why going to law school is a bad idea (unless I am being willfully ignorant)

 

I guess my questions for you all in this forum is:

 

1.Why did you choose to ignore all the bad press about going into law school and pursue it anyway?

 

2.Do you have lawyers in your family that you could get advice from/insight how it is really like to work in law?

 

3. What do you hope to do with your law degree? Personally, I am not looking to go into courtrooms and arguing, I like conflict resolution, compromise, and public interest advocacy (is this a huge red flag? Do I have the complete wrong impression about what it means to practice law?)

 

Thank you for reading this far, and I greatly appreciate any insight you may be able to offer.

 

Sincerely,

a mildly exasperated and cynical, but aspiring superhero 

 

 

 

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For my credentials, I attended (and completed) both graduate school and law school. I'm now a corporate lawyer helping big companies get richer. Feelsogoodman.

 

Hate to break it to you, but if you want to "help people", don't go to law school. Legal education and the legal profession generally have little, if anything, to do with "helping people".  Also, as an aside, if "disparities" and "social injustices" really get you riled up, you might feel more so once you're looking at a six figure debt load and dismal job prospects after obtaining your legal education. 

 

And yes, if you think you're going to be spending a ton of time in court and arguing the philosophical minutae of caselaw, you're completely off-base about what it's like to be a lawyer. I can only think of one exception to this statement, and that's criminal law. Good luck subsisting largely on legal aid certificates for the first 5-10 years of your career though.

 

ETA: Ignore all of the above if you come from a wealthy family and simply want to "explore" your "interests" with a law degree. Money isn't an issue for you, and you can afford to spend the rest of your life as a staff lawyer at a legal aid clinic. Congratulations and enjoy that $30K a year salary.

Edited by Thales

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I am speaking from the context of having just graduated from law school.

 

1. When I started law school three years ago, either there wasn't quite as much bad press, or I found a way to avoid it. At that time, my understanding was that the job market for lawyers was rough, but if you stayed in the top of your class, you would be alright. I thought I could excel, so I went for it.

 

2. I do not have any lawyers in my family. I wish I did, or knew a lawyer before going to law school. I would spend some time in a law office before deciding to go to law school, such as through an internship, if you can.

 

3. When I started law school, I had academia as a long-term goal, and litigation as my short-term goal. I learned that litigation is not for me. I also became much more interested in academic questions that legal training alone would be insufficient to answer. So, now I'm starting a PhD in the fall.

 

Ultimately I wouldn't recommend law school unless you know (from spending time in a law office) that you want to be a lawyer, you get a substantial scholarship, or preferably both. There are other careers you can go into with a JD, and the problem-solving skills you learn are really valuable. However, with how much law school costs, you need to be sure it will be worth the money and the next three years of your life. 

 

I would second Thales' comment that the only way to help (disadvantaged) people is if you can afford to earn very little.

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1.Why did you choose to ignore all the bad press about going into law school and pursue it anyway?

I've always been a humanities person so from about 8th grade I saw law school as the most prestigious route to take for my talents/interests. Now, I have much different reasons for wanting to attend. In the last 4 years I have also become very interested in social justice/civil rights type of work. Like you, I get really riled up about systemic injustices. I thought about pursuing a PhD instead of a JD but felt like that was a bit too abstract and theoretical for me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE research and writing, and I do think I would have enjoyed getting a PhD, but I felt like I wanted to combine theory with actual work on the ground and so a JD was better for me. I was very fortunate to be able to work with professors who taught English or Cultural Studies classes with a strong legal bent (assigning policy briefs and amicus curiae for hw and studying court cases instead of books) that really inspired me. One of my professors was actually really brilliant and worked as an expert witness in a lot of discrimination cases. Getting to work with him really solidified my interest in law for the ability to create social change. I chose to ignore all the bad press because I realized that for me law isn't about making a shitload of money, but it's really about reshaping the type of society I want to live in. I'd rather go home to a tiny apartment proud of what I accomplished that day than to a mansion earned by helping the rich get richer and keeping the poor poorer.

2.Do you have lawyers in your family that you could get advice from/insight how it is really like to work in law?

No lawyers in my family. I've had an internship at a small law firm for almost 4 years now. It's definitely not what I hope to be doing as our work is basically to help super wealthy people avoid taxes. This internship actually derailed my interest in law school for a while because I had a hard time envisioning myself doing a different kind of work from what happens in this office. As I stated above, other people and experiences helped reinspire my passion for legal studies.

3. What do you hope to do with your law degree?

I honestly don't know. I hope to do some sort of social justice/civil rights type of thing, but beyond that broad category, I'm not sure. Fair housing and equal access to education are two areas that really interest me but I'm not going to confine my options to only those two. 

 

And I just want to say about what "Thales" commented above, that's just one perspective. There are actually a lot of opportunities to "help people" with your law degree and a lot of areas that are greatly understaffed in lawyers who want to help people. Yeah, you won't be raking in bucketloads of cash, but if you do a nonprofit or gov job, there are programs to help you pay off your loans. People always get their panties in a bunch about employment statistics, but really, I think so much of it has to do with how you spend your time, how you network while in school, how hard you work, and the type of job you are looking for. If a 80% employment rate scares you and you are that convinced that you will be in the 20%, then maybe law school isn't for you. Also, it's a lot more competitive to get a big law, corporate job than a job "helping people," so please don't be discouraged. We can do it!!!

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