Is Law School a good idea? That was the first question I asked myself and is very common. There are a million different approaches and answers to this question and none of them are wrong. While I can’t give you particularly educated advice on the subject, I do want to go over how I came to my decision and what I’ve learned so far.
What is being an attorney like?
While I was considering Law School, I met with several attorneys to get their perspective. Originally, I recognized that there were different types of attorneys but I didn’t have a clue that there were so many different career paths with such different outcomes. I interviewed an Associate at a large firm in Milwaukee, A City Attorney in Rural Iowa, Defense Attorney in California, a 3L working at a Prosecutors Office and a half dozen others. They came from different backgrounds and used their Law degrees for different paths making their jobs very different. One common theme was copious amounts of reading in their jobs. Personally, that didn’t intimidated me. I’m an avid reader and that I am able to keep that up for the next 30 years or so!
Can I have a successful career as a lawyer?
My major concerns with enjoying a career as an attorney were the hours, and repaying the crippling debt. Contrary to popular belief, many careers in the legal profession come with very low salaries, significantly lower than what I was making before going to law school. As we can all guess, the time commitment and pay have a linear relationship, and my concern that I would be stuck working 60 hour weeks for the next 30 years in order to pay for law school. I had watched my uncle toil those hours away at a large Law Firm and jumped at the chance to talk to one of the new Associates there to see what her work-life balance was like. I was comforted when I heard that while there are some long 50 hour weeks, most are in the low 40s if you watch your billable hours and she typically worked from home once a week. Law, like many fields, is shifting towards a better work-life balance and more flexibility. My other concern was repaying loans while working at a more laid back position if firm life wasn’t for me. The City Attorney grabbed lunch with worked for the city 2 or 3 days a week and at his own private practice the other two days. He had also gone to an expensive private Law School and had no issues paying back his loans. I would even say he seemed more comfortable with his debt than some of his big law colleagues.
Do I have a passion and the skills for Law?
On every forum and discussion board that has the questions “Should I go to Law School?” is the reply, “Do you want to be a Lawyer?” It seems like a silly answer, but there are a lot of people that go to Law School for the wrong reasons. Maybe your family expects you to go or you see it as a way to make money… those are not great reasons. You’re putting hundreds of thousands of dollars and three years of your life into this education-make sure it’s what you want to do with your life. I took a long time to make sure this was where I wanted to go. Ultimately, talking to attorneys helped me to determine that I had a passion for law and wanted to make a career out of it.
Forward and Onward,