I have a canned speech I give to all my younger relatives when they say that maybe they want to go to law school. My answer is not YES or NO, but somewhere in between. Here are the major points;
- Boot camp is a very calculated system for breaking down the individual (body and mind) and building him back up in the way THEY want. Law school is like boot camp, at least the mind part.
- The Law is based upon a very specific vocabulary in order to keep it inaccessible to those not trained in its Black Arts. Everything becomes easier as you learn how to speak the language.
- Lawyer Brain is the opposite of writing poetry. If you ever had that part of you, it will die in law school.
- This is a BAD thing but necessary to your transformation towards Lawyer Brain.
- Lawyer Brain is a very specific operating system. It is a complete and valid operating system, but it will cause you to view everything in life through this lawyer prism.
- The debt you incur will actually close more doors of opportunity than it will open. You will be forced to maintain a certain level of employment (read salary) just to keep ahead of your loans.
I think the biggest question for an attorney is which legal path to choose out of law school.
If you are one of those people who did not incur debt during law school than I do not feel qualified to speak on behalf as to what your position/decision tree looks like. Feel free to chime in below in the comments section.
Lawyers are also usually divided into those that write and those that do. I for one practiced on my feet and could argue all day in front of an audience. I can’t write a legal brief beyond boiler plate fill in the blank.
My wife, on the other hand, can weave a tapestry of case sites and persuasive prose like nobody’s business. She can’t sleep the night before trial because she is a writer not a fighter. Each lawyer tends to drift towards their strengths.
There are basically 3 tracks; (Unless Daddy’s law practice is waiting for you, in which case I don’t love you).
- Law Firm, associates work way more than 40 hours a week in order to eventually become partners. Here lies the big bucks and the not having much of a life outside the office. At least for the first handful of years. Family life will be difficult, but hopefully someday you will be golfing a lot.
- Government Law, here lies 9-5 Monday through Friday work that for the most part you leave work at the office when you get home. Decent wages and a work life balance. These jobs can be fulfilling, but you will periodically doubt yourself. Maybe you should be making more given all that debt?
- Hang out Your Shingle, you are your own boss, but jeesh good luck in this dog eat dog, too many lawyers world. Statistically this is the hardest and quite frankly it always seemed to me like what you do when you could not get job #1 or #2.
It has been 16 years for me and wifey at our ‘Option 2‘ jobs.
The salaries work for us, the work itself is intellectually stimulating and we feel like we are valid contributing members of society with enough time set aside for a successful family life and marriage that we agree all along was the real accomplishment.
The level of dedication and resources utilized here means YOU MUST TAKE TIME beforehand to decide if this is the Path for you. Good Luck!