View Full Version : Lawyers - career advice please!
07-15-2002, 11:33 AM
I'm hoping all the lawyers out there might be willing to offer a little perspective on thier career choice because I am at a point where I need to decide if I am going to attend law school or not. The odd thing is that law school itself, the $100K debt, etc. doesn't scare me as much as being a lawyer does! I've been working for a number of years since my undergrad education (not in a legal field at all) and I've been lucky to work for casual, young, hip companies and that's about the only way I can handle office work. The thought of the corporate world of law, stuffy law firms, etc. seems terrifying to me! I know the whole point of law school is to become a lawyer but if it makes any sense, at this point I'm thinking more about the process and going to school (which I think I would enjoy) than the ensuing career - I'm just afraid I'll graduate and hate being a lawyer! (But will have no choice about working as one if I want to pay off those loans!)
I'm also scared of leaving the working world for 3 years. I love the industry that I'm in and have loved most of the work I've been doing but the jobs in the arena of what I want to do/have done are few and far between right now (as are jobs in general I guess!) and I feel that my current career has kind of gotten off the path I would like and I'm not sure its what I want to do for life. But its still scary to think about leaving my whole current career and industry for 3 years and to know that I can't ever come back to what I'm doing now (won't pay enough - again, those loans!).
So - you lawyers, any words of wisdom? Do you love what you do - did you know exactly what sort of lawyer you wanted to be before you began law school? Do you find it exciting, challenging, etc. or do you regret your career path? Any thoughts and help are appreciated!
07-15-2002, 12:38 PM
Peeps, I am a "retired" lawyer. I practiced for 14 years, loved it at times, hated it at times, got to the point I hated it most of the time, had a hubby that made enough money, so I quit. I am concerned about some of your statements. Many firms are stuffy and it still is, hate to say, a male dominated profession. Of course, it all depends on what type of law you want to do, etc. I was in a big, corporate, 200+ lawyer firm. There are all types of the law that arent' that way. PM me and lets talk.
07-15-2002, 12:48 PM
So why is it that you want to go to law school? It sounds like you are dissatisfied with your current job, but not like you have any real interest in the law. I would advise against going to law school as some sort of default. I did that, and it turned out pretty well for me, but I was extremely lucky in that I had a lot of really great opportunities after law school and not much debt. I'm not sure if I love the law, but if I don't, there's no reason why I can't do something else.
I definitely like my current job (I am clerking for a judge) better than any job I had prior to law school, and I am excited about working for a firm in a few weeks, but there are definitely days when I would like to do something a little less mentally taxing all day.
The best way to figure out if you should go to law school is to get a job in a law firm as a paralegal or some other support position. You will be able to decide whether you like the environment without making a big committment. Also, remember that environment varies widely from firm to firm. Some firms are stuffy. Some are pretty laidback. Most people work at firms during the summers between classes to get an idea of what they like.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
07-15-2002, 01:29 PM
Hmmm...having practiced for almost 12 years am I one of those who hated it more than loved it. I loved doing appellate work, and was quite good at it, but was never able to get a job with an appellate boutique firm. One things that I learned through the process is I am by nature, a very nurturing person. So when I thrust myself into the world of litigation, I put myself at odds with who I am. I don't think firms are as stuffy as they used to be, but depending on the firm you can still run into the "old boys network." After all the years though, I simply got tired of the hours and the stress. There are aspects of it that I really enjoyed (any form of oral argument, appellate brief writing) but on the whole, I knew it was time for me to get out. I work for a legal database company now; the pay is less, but so is the stress, and I can work from home to be with my kids. In the end, those things were more important to me. I have many friends who have since left the profession (I think most start to burn out around 6-7 years if they have not made partner.) But I have a fair amount of those who still enjoy it. Maybe if I didn't have kids, I would still be practicing, but I am happy with my choices.
07-15-2002, 07:49 PM
I chose law as a default, because I didn't really have any other appealing options. I lucked out in that I loved law school. Loved reading about the law, studying the law, arguing, advocating, etc. But like others have mentioned, it's not a path you can afford to not enjoy when it's all said and done with. I did have friends who learned quickly (after first semester or first year) that it wasn't their cup of tea, and quit before they got in over their heads. But if you go all the way through, incur all your debt, and THEN learn you don't like it (which I also had friends do), you're kinda SOL at that point.
I love practicing law. I didn't start out at a firm (worked for the state attorney general's office for a year and a half and got phenomenal experience there), but I ended up at one that I hated. It was a medium size firm (about 45 lawyers between all the offices), not really an "old-boy's school" (because more than half the associates were women, and about half the partners too) but the office politics were still horrible and I was miserable. I'm now at a firm that I love. It's a small firm (9 lawyers), the people are great, the work is interesting, and I get all the responsibility I want and can handle. It's definitely not the corporate, stuffy law firm that you describe (although there are plenty of those out there). You've really got to do your research when it comes to private firms -- they may all look the same on paper, but in practice, they may all be really different.
I'm not sure I'd recommend working in a law firm as a paralegal or as support staff, because I don't think you'd get a realistic sense of what it's like to be a lawyer in one of those places. And the challenge would still be the same, as far as picking the RIGHT firm. There are good and bad firms both for lawyers and for legal assistants, so an experience at one firm may not reflect an experience at a hundred different others. If you can, I'd suggest shadowing a few lawyers for a week or so, preferably lower-level associates (like 2nd or 3rd year) - hang out with them, follow them around, get a feel for what their jobs and firms are like. Talk to LOTS of people that do what you're interested in doing and ask them to be frank with you about their experiences.
No, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I started law school, and I had only a vague idea when I finished. I've done civil law, criminal law, trial litigation, appellate work, general advice, employment law, education law, you name it. I learned quickly what I don't like and what I do. If you're willing to invest a little in yourself, assuming you enjoy the practice of law, you CAN find a place where you'll be happy.
Like Cheryl, there are some days when I wish my job weren't so mentally taxing. Some days, I wish I had a job that didn't require the use of a single brain cell. But really, those days are few and far between. Most of the time, I enjoy the challenge and love the fact that every single day is different.
Would I do it again? Well, if I *must* work (and as far as I know, I haven't won the lottery yet! ;) ), this is the job I'd want. So yes, I'd do it again. I'd do it differently, but I'd still do it.
Feel free to PM me if you want to chat some more. :)
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