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[personal profile] v_greyson
Sometimes people ask me, "Should I go to law school?" because apparently being in law school has made me some kind of ~expert~ on the legal field. Sometimes they open this with, "I really want a job, so..."



I think as a way to get a sure-fire job, law school is not really the greatest plan. My "professional skills seminar" is constantly getting lectures on how hard it is to get a job, how many unemployed or not-law-related-employed law school grads there are, how there's a surplus of law students while the legal market is shrinking due to automation, and on and on. UPLIFTING.

But it's pretty much the truth: Law School Transparency is made of grim, depressing charts about post-law school (un)employment, and of course, the New York Times ran a terrifying article about law school grads not finding work and suffering from crushing debt.

So that's the worst-case scenario downer fest. The good news is that if you really love law and you want to practice law, law school is actually not that bad. As a "part-time" (lololol) student, I have an 11 hour course load and work 40 hours a week, and it's manageable, if not especially fun. Full-time students who are good at time management and interested in the material seem to do fine and have ACTUAL FREE TIME, a concept relatively unknown to me.

There's a nice comfort in knowing, "Hey, at the end of this, I'll be A LAWYER," which is pretty cool. But for people not in the top 10%ish of their class, there's no guarantee they'll get a job that requires bar passage (the standard for an "attorney" job), or any job at all. My path is different than most people because I'm already in the government and intend to stay, so I'm not trying to practice in a firm or go into corporate legal.

I think the job market is craptacular for almost everyone, besides maybe nurses, sysadmins, and petroleum engineers. Law school is not a magic bullet that will lift you into a recession-free wonderland of BMWs and Gucci. The upside of law school is that it gives you a specific, marketable skill. The downside of law school is that it gives you a highly specific skill that's marketable in only a few circumstances, whereas I feel some master's degrees are more broadly applicable. I can't really speak for markets outside DC, but I would say a lot of jobs here value experience first, and education is a bonus. People with MBAs or MPPs/MPAs and a few years of white-collar experience seem to have a decent amount of mobility and flexibility, in my anecdotal experience.

In any case, I think it's important to look really hard at the feasibility, availability, and likelihood of the legal path you're interested in. My impression is you can improve your odds by focusing in a not especially flashy but extremely practical kind of law: employment, tax, negotiation/mediation/alternative dispute resolution. But if you think you'll walk out and become a star litigator at a big firm, buy lotto tickets instead.

Also, don't take what the admissions office says at face value. Do your own research. I heard a lot of, "Well, people from OUR school don't have to worry about getting jobs, because our school is a GOOD school." Don't settle for employment stats; ask for percentage of students employed in jobs requiring bar passage, so they can't pad their numbers with paralegals or baristas. On the other hand, there ARE legal jobs, and law school IS totally manageable and not as awful as it's made out to be.

If you think you'll like it, and you want to practice law, then go for it. But don't let admissions offices mislead you about how "easy" it is to get a six-figure legal job right out of school, because it isn't. If you wake up in the morning and think, "damn, I want to be a lawyer," then do it. If you wake up and think, "damn, I want a sure-fire way to make money," it might not be for you.
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November 2015

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