Post # 1
I am considering applying to law school for the Fall 2014 semester. I wanted to get a little insight on the benefits and disadvantages of becoming an lawyer.
A little background…
I am almost 25 and have a Master’s in Education. I am currently a high school English teacher and am not feeling as happy with my career anymore (a lot of reasons go into this- disrespectful and somewhat agressive kids, unsupportive parents and administrators, large class sizes, federal mandates that impead kids’ learning, etc.). I have been interested in law school for awhile now and feel like it would be a good fit for my skills. I love learning and enjoy reading and writing, am incredilby organized and efficient, love working with people and helping them, and enjoy using these skills in my daily life.
1) What are the benefits of this profession? The disadvantages?
2) What do you absolutely love about your job? What do you not like as much?
3) Would it be better to try another career field (a M.Ed. does offer a lot of options) before committing to three more years of education and financial aid?
Post # 3
I’m an attorney and I wouldn’t suggest it. There are a looooooooooot of options and different fields, you could make a lot of money and work a lot or just a decent salary and work less, but it’s a highly stressful field generally. I keep wishing I had become a teacher, honestly. All my teacher friends have a much better appreciation for their jobs than I have for mine. I do have a highly stressful position in public service so it doesn’t pay as much, but my teacher friends make as much as I do and work a lot less. Have you considered changing grades? I can give you more info, but law school is a lot of work and very expensive, I wouldn’t recommend going unless it’s paid for.
Post # 4
I just graduated from law school but am currently looking for a job. I would say that part of my answer depends on where you are from/where you plan on being after you graduate. Look at what the legal market is there. Where I’m from there aren’t very many openings and I’m kind of feeling like the past three years were a waste.
Is there a certain type of law you are interested in or do you have any connections that may help you get a job after school?
The disadvantages kind of mix with advantages. If you want to make a lot of money you’ll probably be working a huge amount of time, especially in the beginning. If you want to do something to help people/have time for family, you probably won’t make much money and loans will be harder to pay off ( a lof of public service jobs have loan repayment options though, so you can check into that). Also, you have to expect that there will be a handful of people who think you are a shallow person who doesn’t deserve to have the huge income that they think you have. Also, while you can think about helping people, you have to also remember that on every case has a winner and a loser – sometimes you have to represent the winner and sometimes the loser and sometimes you may be unsure of which is which. I’ve done criminal law work and there is almost always someone that is unhappy with the outcome – you sent their brother to jail, you weren’t able to convict the guy who stole your stuff, the sentence should have been longer/shorter…
Apparently I’m cynical because I still don’t have a job, but I’d really look into your post-school job prospects before signing on for $100k in loans. Maybe see if there is someone you can shadow for a bit? Also, courtrooms are (almost always) public so you can always go and watch cases and see what you might like/not like.
Post # 5
I left law school and became a teacher. The loans were insane (upwards of 100K to finish), the job market was incredibly bleak (even worse than the teaching market), and the hours were killing my soul. There was no hope of becoming a trial attorney, since little goes to trial anymore due to arbitration clauses in most contracts. The only true trial attorneys left are personal injury law and criminal defense/criminal prosecution. I couldn’t live with the ethics of criminal defense, and prosecution jobs are coveted and highly sought after. Did I mention entry-level prosecutors work about 80 hours a week and make around $45K a year?
Yeah. No thanks. No regrets here. I can’t advise against it strongly ENOUGH.
Post # 6
- Wedding: October 2013 - Casa de España
@KatiePi: I graduated on 2011 from a Puerto Rico law school. Even though is not in one of th states of the US, I can tell you this:
1. There are lots of lawyers in the US that after graduating don’t seem to find a job, the same as in PR. You end up with a HUGE student loan that’s basically impossible to pay at the beginning of your career. When you start working as a lawyer you’ll see that you only learned theory in law school but not really the practice out there.
2. However, to me, the benefits are that you get to help people. That you can actually make a difference in someone’s life and that this job is actually pretty darn amazing. I hated reading until I got into law school. Now, its my passion to read things related to law, news, politics.
If you love law, do it… If you’re not sure, give it another thought. Going through law school is good but at the same time very stressful and demanding. Not everyone can pull it off. I wish you the best of luck! 🙂
Post # 7
@KatiePi: I originally wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a teacher or an attorney. I talked to one of my teachers/coaches from high school while I was visiting one summer. She said she was choosing between being a teacher and a lawyer, and she wishes she went to law school! I went to law school- I got a partial scholarship, but it is expensive, no doubt. So I do have student loans, but they can’t force you to pay more than you can afford if you switch to income-based repayment, so I don’t see it as a big disadvantage. I had some friends who worked for several years, saved up money, and went to law school without taking out loans. There are a lot of students who get some years of work experience before going to law school, so you don’t need to worry about being old there.
I am currently working for the federal govt. My salary is lower than private firm attorneys, but I leave at 5 pm every day and 3 pm on Fridays. I have a good work/life balance. It’s a lot of research and writing, so if you love research and writing, it may be a good fit for you.
I do some work in special education law (not sure if that would interest you) but I really love that and your background may lend itself well to that practice area! It’s also one of the few ares of law that is actually growing a LOT bc so many more kids are entering into special ed. I would warn you that you have very little contact with the actual student though, so if that’s what you love about teaching, then you won’t find it there. You have the satisfaction of helping a student be a successful student.
If I were you, I would try to find an introductory legal class. In undergrad I took a class called Introduction to Legal Education to see if I would like to go to law school. I absolutely loved the class and that made me confident in my decision to attend 3 more years of school. Maybe try to find a class like that to take at nights or during the summer to see if you like it?
Post # 8
@KatiePi: I am an attorney. Graduated two years ago, and I LOVE everything about my career and the life style it allows me to have. With that being said, law school is extremely stressful, a huge commitment, and overall a building full of a$$holes. I work for the gov’t, which severely limits my long-term earning potential, but I still make a very decent living doing sophisticated work, and have TONS of free time. I also teach at a local law school one semester/year. In short, I am not the stereotypical lawyer who works 70 hours a week and is trying to make partner at some fancy law firm. You could say I gave up some money in exchange for freedom. We are still upper middle class.
I am the exception to the “law world,” though. Most graduates end up at small or mid-size firms working VERY LONG hours, and making the same or slightly more than I do (starting; their long-term earning potential is greater). Only a select few work for large, prestigious firms (which often seek graduates from very prestigious law schools).
I cannot tell you whether you should go to law school, all I can say is that my personal experience has been that going to law school was an EXCELLENT decision. I used to be a journalist, BTW.
EDIT: As others have voiced, I DO NOT recommend law school unless it is paid for (or mostly paid for).
Post # 9
I graduated from law school 4 years ago and currently work for a state agency. As other posters have mentioned, laws schools were hit really hard by the recession and it’s still very difficult to find jobs. I enjoy working in the public sector because of the work-life balance and because I work on really interesting issues that affect my state, my community, etc. However, I don’t make much money, so I’m lucky that my husband makes a good salary. If you really like helping people, you may be drawn to the public sector or legal aid/non-profit type groups. If you do end up needing to take out significant loans, it will be difficult and can take a long time to pay them off if you don’t work for a big law firm making a high salary. Overall, you should do a LOT of research into the schools you would be applying to and what the employment prospects are in the fields you’re interested in. Law school is a bunch of really smart people competing for a limited number of jobs, so just know what you’re getting into!
Post # 10
I would strongly advise you not to go to law school.
The pp did an excellent job of saying why.
Post # 11
I really appreciate everyone’s comments and perspectives. This is a huge thing to consider and I’m not one to move quickly on a decision this big. I’ve already spend a lot of time in school and this is the first year where I am just teaching without completing graduate work as well (I was part of an accelerated graduate program where you were a first year teacher and completing the Master’s in 14 months). I don’t mind intense schooling or competition, but do really want to think about the potential outcomes, and money is definitely one of them! I think taking an introductory course sounds like a great idea! That would give me the opportunity to decide if it is just the thought of law school/the profession that is appealing or the actual business of it. I was thinking about a field that focused on kids or students as I do have a lot of practice in dealing with IEPs and 504s in the classroom. While I am not a Sped teacher, general education educators are becoming more and more versed in dealing with special education students and their needs as well as how delicate of a balance is (if you make ONE mistake or forget one thing you are threatened by the parent…try having 7 Sped students and 23 general education students at the same time and you’ll understand how challening meeting everyone’s needs can be). Thanks everyone!
Post # 12
Oh! I forgot to answer a question. I have thought about switching grade levels, but that is tricky. I am certified to teacher 5-12 Lang. Arts, but have a hard time imagining any other grade. I currently teach Freshman and, in general, love this age group. I am thinking of transferring to a middle school next year (6-8) and seeing if that age group is better for me. Until now, I never thought I would drop below 9th grade, but it may be worth trying. Also, it could be the school I’m at. This is a brand new high school in our city (we have 2 others) and everything is new and incredilby stressful. It could be that on top of a different population of students. So much to think about!
Post # 13
I actually decided not to go to law school and currently teach at a university abroad. I would reccomend reading Campos’ Don’t Go to Law School Unless, it’s a guide from a law school professor. He knows what it takes to minimize debt and be a successful lawyer.
If you’re just looking to mix things up have you thought about teaching abroad? Feel free to ask me if you have any questions.
Post # 14
I want to give you an example of student loans I’m talking about. I had a partial scholarship my first year. I went to a top 100 school. I took out $135,000 in student loans. I’ve been an attorney for 4 years (I’m a prosecutor) and have been paying my loans mostly on time for all those 4 years (I do IBR and so every year I have to reapply and therefore I usually miss 1-2 months while the application is going through). Right now, I owe over $170,000. In 4 years, my loans have INCREASED $35k, while I continue to pay them. Some days, I want to just cry. If I could take it back and not go to law school, I would do it in a second. Honestly, the only good thing that came out of it was meeting my FI. When all my teacher friends have the entire summer to do fun things or work and make extra money, I’m stuck working and making the same amount of money regardless.
You asked about the benefits – I don’t really know how to answer that, the benefits would depend on what field of law you end up getting into and what sorts of things you find to be beneficial out of your job. For me, I’m a prosecutor, so I feel good about putting bad guys away and helping victims find justice. The counter to that is that I’m sympathetic and sometimes I feel bad for the defendants, too. Maybe I’m just soft, but sometimes it really gets me when I’m sending someone away to prison for 15 years for selling crack for $40. It’s just really stressful – taking a case to trial is a LOT of prep work, you never feel fully prepared (maybe in 10 years I will?) and something always, always comes up that you didn’t prepare for. I do love the people I work with and my bosses, but in my last office, I hated everyone. It’s actually really hard to like lawyers lol. We’re opinionated, competitiv assholes. I hated everyone from law school, too. I have 1 friend from law school and my FI who I met AFTER I graduated.
What I would suggest is seeing what field of law you would like to go into and next summer seeing if you can go observe or maybe get a volunteer internship or something to see if you like it. My coworker majored in Chemistry in undergrad and thought for sure that she would do patent law (patent lawyers make bank), but then interned for a firm one summer after her first year and said she cried every day on her way to/fm work (cried on her way home bc she had to go back the next day!). Sometimes you think you’ll like something, but until you actually do it, you don’t realize how much you loathe it all.
And of course, just reiterating the whole don’t go to law school unless it’s free bit.
Post # 15
@AlwaysSunny: That sounds like an awesome experience! Currently, that’s not much of an option. My fiance is in the process of buying the business he currently manages and would need to be here for to oversee the transition and running of the business. Where do you teach?
Post # 16
I’m finishing up law school now and I agree with what most people in this thread have said. It is certainly a huge commitment (both in terms of finances and time) and I would say that you shouldn’t go to law school unless you’re 100% set on pursuing a legal career because the market these days is really tough.
That being said, I have really enjoyed going to law school, and I’ve been lucky enough to get a high-paying job after graduation. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, so the time commitment and expense has been worth it. I am obviously not looking forward to the hours and the hierarchical structure (e.g., you need to be more senior to get to do the more “fun” things), but I’m looking forward to having the chance to help with big, interesting cases and to work my way up.
It looks like the rule of thumb is that you have a much better shot at getting a job that makes up for your time and money if you go to a “T14” school. Obviously, even then there is no guarantee that you’ll get a job. If you can get a scholarship to cover even part of the costs, that would make it more worthwhile as well.
Good luck with everything!