Feb 12, 2013
When I asked you all to fill out my blog survey, I got a few responses asking for posts on law school. Seeing as the majority of you aren't contemplating law school, I thought I'd attempt these posts in a more universally applicable way.
I never once contemplated being a lawyer. I had many dreams growing up: singer, actress, artist, stay at home mom, public relations exec, author, veterinarian, marine biologist, the list goes on and on.
When I went to college I had no idea what I what I wanted to do. I chose to apply to schools with marine biology programs since that had always been a real interest of mine and I was afraid I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a try. I LOVED studying marine biology. The classes were interesting and our labs were usually field trips outdoors or on the water. However, my professors basically presented us with the options of going to grad school and possibly becoming a professor, or doing scientific research. As much as I loved my classes, I knew that spending years collecting data was not for me. Basically, research is not “my jam.”
I don’t remember how the idea of law school got into my head (my dad claims he suggested it) but somehow I clung to the idea that I would go to law school and make an environmental difference through policy change and the law, rather than just doing research.
To be honest, I think I was scared. I didn’t know what to do when I graduated, so I picked law school as a goal and threw myself into it. I’ve always been hard on myself and I think I believed that I had to have a career that was “worthy” and “appropriate”; that if I became something else, like a personal assistant (I’d be SO GOOD AT THIS) or wedding planner (another dream job) then it wouldn’t be good enough.
Is that a good reason to go to law school? No. But I didn’t realize those were my reasons at the time. I applied to schools with environmental programs, visited several, and chose my current school in Chicago over others because I felt more at home in the Midwest.
Now, you might be thinking: “Well that was stupid” but I don’t think so. I don’t regret my choice to go to law school one bit. I firmly believe that everything that happens in our lives is for a reason. Moving to a new city (again) and starting over (again) with the added pressure of law school was really hard. I enjoyed my classes, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. If I hadn’t gone through this experience I never would have learned how to lighten up, how to be a little easier on myself, and how to find and make friends that I enjoy hanging out with. Life isn’t about fitting into a mold, it’s about finding who you are, and I learned that here in Chicago.
And anyway, a law degree can’t hurt, right? And don't worry, I haven't ruled out being a lawyer as a career by any means. I just need to find a job I love (typical quarter-life crisis...).
So that turned into a serious digression from what I intended… but anyway, now that you know how I chose to go to law school, here’s my advice if you’re looking to continue your education or go back to school:
1. Really assess your reasons: Are you avoiding entering the “real world”? Are you scared of the unknown and just want a plan? Or is ____ (insert law, nutrition, medicine, etc) what you really want to do with your life? If you’ve known you want to be a lawyer since you were 8, go for it, don’t let me dissuade you. Is this something really recent? Take some time to think about it, maybe write down your reasons.
2. Consider taking a year off. If you’re a student, I highly recommend taking a year off of school and trying out the working world for a bit. For one thing, this will give you great real life experience, as well as some time to start paying back any debt from undergrad you might have. Secondly, it might make you realize that whatever you wanted to study isn’t right for you. But as I said before, if you’ve always known in your heart that this is what you want, then go for it. There were tons of people in my class straight out of college.
3. Talk to current students. Find people that you know, or friends of friends, who are currently in the program or type of program that you’re looking at. Ask them what it’s really like, what their workload is like, what’s expected of them. Anything!
4. Once you choose to apply, put your whole self into it. It’s easy to get distracted by your life now and put off what you need to do for applications, but if you want to get into a certain school, those applications and test scores are SO IMPORTANT. I first planned to take the LSAT in June, before my senior year but realized I hadn’t studied enough. I put it off until October and spent all summer and the beginning of fall studying my butt off with an online Kaplan course. It was hard to do that and work, take classes, and be on my sorority’s council, but it was worth it in the end.
As I said before, always feel free to shoot me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you ever need advice or have questions. One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that whatever I end up doing, it’s got to involve helping people, because I LOVE IT! (it’s my jam).
Have you ever gone to grad school or gone back to school?
Have you ever changed career paths?
What advice would you give?