Making the decision on whether to go to law school will be one of the biggest decisions you make as a young adult. If you decide to go to law school, not only are you investing a large sum of money, but you are also investing three years of your life. The decision becomes even more difficult if you are not sure whether you want to be a lawyer. Although the law degree will certainly put you on track to practice law, will it help if you wish to pursue other careers? That’s the question we examine below.
Should students consider other advanced degrees instead of a J.D.?
If you do not want to be a lawyer, there are many other advanced degrees you might want to pursue as opposed to a J.D. Those looking to go directly into business, management, entrepreneurship or consulting, would be better suited to either start working after graduation, or apply for M.B.A. programs. If you know you are interested in another particular field, such as engineering, international relations, or history, graduate schools offer masters programs that specialize in each area, which would be far more relevant than law school.
What other careers can you pursue with a law degree?
On the other hand, law students can, and DO, enter careers other than law after receiving their degrees. Although the possibilities are endless, some examples are real estate, politics and government, academia, finance, journalism, or public interest advocacy.
What skills does law school teach you in general?
Law school touches on nearly every other field, because it is relevant in almost every aspect of life. When you leave law school, you leave with a different style of reasoning and thinking than you had before you came. You will also spend time working on your writing skills, and learning how to network with other professionals.
On the other hand, law school is clearly dedicated to learning the practice of law. Each class is tailored to how to perform as a lawyer, rather than through the eyes of another career. If you are going to law school because you think it will teach you how to be a politician, you will be very disappointed.
Would there be any benefits from a dual degree program?
A dual degree program will certainly be challenging and more expensive; however, you will receive double the benefits. You will be twice as marketable in the job market and you will have an opportunity to double your network. In addition, you will be receiving an interdisciplinary education that will both diversify and specialize your training
How has earning a law degree helped you in your current profession?
Despite what you’re interested in pursuing, a law degree will help you in your profession. First, you will learn how to think logically and critically, which is an important skill to have in any field. Second, you will learn about the law, which is important to know regardless of the field you’re in. For example, business individuals often evaluate the legal risk of a deal; you will be a real asset to your company if you have the skill to conduct such analysis on your own.
What are some reasons NOT to go to law school?
There are a lot of reasons to avoid going to law school, especially with the financial and time commitment at stake. If you think you want to go to law school because you like arguing and everyone says you are good at it, then think again. Of all of the reasons to go to law school, this is the worst one because one must understand that being a lawyer has almost nothing to do with arguing in the conventional sense. In fact, very few layers ever engage in anything resembling “arguments” in their commonly understood form. The truth is you’re more likely to be crammed in a cubicle cranking out last minute memos than standing in a courtroom “arguing.”
Another terrible reason to go to law school is that you want to be like Jack McCoy from Law & Order [or insert your favorite legal TV show character here]. Think about it-the legal profession is not a Hollywood film or a television show. If this is one for your reasons, we recommend taking an internship in the legal profession to find out why.
We also recommend avoiding law school if you think it is the only way you can use your degree. First, you will be going into thinking you are trapped, which is a mistake when you encounter the law school stressors during your first year. Feeling trapped to the profession will not make it you love it any more than you did before you started law school. Be creative with your degree, seek mentorship, and advisement from career services in order to broaden your horizons, but do not go to law school if you think it is the only way you can use your degree.
Lastly, you should avoid law school at all costs if you are only going into it to make a lot of money. Being in the legal profession requires some sort of desire that goes beyond the prospect of making big bucks, especially since the extremely well paying jobs are in large corporate firms. Those jobs are not only very difficult to get, but also tend to yield low job satisfaction. No one is guaranteed a job out of law school, much less a job that pays six figures.
What should you look for in a law school if you are planning to practice in an alternative career?
If you are interested in pursuing an alternative career, make sure you are looking into law schools that offer diversified opportunities for networking and academic engagement. For example, you will have opportunities to attend events in law school with speakers from the legal community; be sure your school offers opportunities for you to mingle with folks in other professions as well if you would like to pursue an alternative career. Remember that you will be taking law classes during your three years in law school, but check to make sure you can take on internships for credit in professional areas your are interested in pursuing.