A few times a month I get emails from new lawyers and law students. usually asking for advice in school or with their practice. Usually I respond to these privately, but on occasion I think it’s worthwhile to provide a public response so other people can benefit from the question as well. Last week I received an email from a University student who was considering law school.
I have recently (meaning just today) started looking into law degree courses at university, however I have been interested for a while. I work at a national recruiting company and work with a few girls who recruit for law firms and I find it soooo interesting, I have been on the computer looking for hours on whether its worth it, not only money wise but also if the outcome will succeed with me getting a job, since I work in the recruiting industry (some with legal firms) I do know there are jobs in the legal world, but you know just a little skeptical. How did you go after finishing your degree in finding a job? and in your honest opinion would you advise someone who is passionate about it to go forth with it?
Obviously Australia (where I’m from) and America are two very different places but I can sort of put it into perspective.
Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate.
I was getting ready to respond when I remembered that there were a few Aussie lawyers in LawyerSlack and they might have better answers. Then for double the fun, I just threw it open to any lawyer that wanted to respond to her. Here they are.
There are plenty of good careers out there, including, but not limited to, drug dealing, prostitution, insurance fraud, arsonist, low-level enforcer for an organized crime family, etc. However, attorney is not one of them. But if you’re dead set on making giant, life-altering mistakes that will keep you awake at night wondering what the hell you’ve done with your life then you need to study, network, and be ready to promote yourself like a street corner rap artist. Nobody is going to hand you shit, you will be studying with the most insufferable people you’ve ever met in your life, and afterwards you will be more than a little pissed off at the world as a whole.
From Gerrit (a happy lawyer in Boston):
Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I was applying to law school:
Drop everything that is important to you and study the LSAT until you can take practice exams in exam conditions and reliably score at least a 170. If you can, good. You get to go to school for free somewhere. If you cannot go to school for free somewhere do not go to law school. Taking three years off is bad enough for your finances, but doing it with debt and gambling on whether jobs will be available afterward is very, very risky.
Also re: What do Lawyers Do?
Lawyers read what nobody else wants to read, and organize what nobody else wants to organize. If you find yourself compulsively correcting others on the internet, especially their grammar, law just might be the career for you.
Being a lawyer is about 90% boredom and 10% action. Everything you’ve seen on TV and in movies is a lie (except for the most depressing parts of Better Call Saul). That said, if you really want to do the work (and don’t have crazy aspirations like “Space Law” or “International Law”, then consider it. But it is NOT the door-opening degree that schools in the U.S. make it sound like. It closes more doors than it opens.
If you are passionate about becoming an attorney, go for it. Otherwise, it may always be on your mind as a “what if?”
Networking is certainly important to finding a job. It sounds like you have established some network of people either in the legal field or tangential to the legal field. Foster those relationships. Use those people to build yourself a personal “board of advisers,” people you can talk to and confide in with questions about schooling, internships, potential career paths, etc. Those people will have connections and will want to help you find internships, find jobs, and connect you with other beneficial resources.
I’m gonna piggyback on Janesy-Boy there to say that’s probably the most accurate advice you’ll get from us. Practicing law is a profession that’s geared towards solving other people’s problems. It’s stressful as hell at times, and it can suck up every free minute. It isn’t something to go into because you think it’s academically interesting or because you think it can lead to good money. The best, and the happiest, lawyers are always going to have some genuine love for the practice of law. If you have that, go for it.
Passion is the pathway to success and happiness. Similar to your job of recruiting numerous volumes of people from around the area, law students and attorneys pull numerous volumes of information from different resources to come up with what we believe to be our best “answer”. Throughout law school, you are not learning to become a lawyer; rather, you are learning how to be a better, more disciplined version of yourself by means of your ability to read and comprehend hundreds of pages of reading; applying those pages to realistic situations, and be ready, willing, and able to defend your side, regardless of other people’s opinions. It is important to remember that not everybody will always agree with you.
My father always told me attorneys are like the modern day “garbage collector” of sorts. It took me awhile to understand that and not take offense to this. As many others above have stated, our job is to help our clients solve a boat load of problems that have presented themselves, or may not seem immediately apparent.
My best piece of advice is to ask yourself why you want to go to law school. Separate your passion, goals, and aspirations from the opinion and stories of friends, families, or TV shows. As my colleagues above have mentioned, you need to have some sort of passion or appreciation for law because that’s what will keep you going throughout the process. If you believe you have the passion or discipline to go down a path that is different than anything you’ve been taught, I encourage you to go for it, because it may be the best decision you ever make. (minus the financial obligations)
Finally, an Aussie:
From – a guy who is now in-house on the Gold Coast, after spending over 10 years working in law firms
Some interesting responses above, a lot which I agree with.
A job in a law firm is really only guaranteed for as long as either:
- You can bring work in; or
- Someone can feed you work to do.
If you don’t have an extensive network to draw on, or if you don’t hitch your wagon to a partner who treats you ok and feed you work you can do, then it won’t be an enjoyable part of your career.
The kicker is that these days clients are being more demanding and law firms (as with lots of other professional services firms) are being asked to do more work for less $. Result – junior lawyers crunching out inhumane hours.
My take is even if you slog it through law school and end up in a law firm job (which isn’t guaranteed), you are then facing an industry that’s going through structural change. Law firms are probably always going to exist in one form or another, but they probably won’t look the way they do now in 5 or 10 years’ time. Recent thinkpiece up here – http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/opinion/20541-the-brave-new-world-of-legal-advice
One consequence is people setting up ‘newlaw’ firms like Marque lawyers. I haven’t worked at a place like that – perhaps they have reasonable working conditions, but I reckon competition for a role at a place like that is probably pretty fierce.
If you are finding yourself interested by the legal snippets you seem to be tangentially involved with, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask a lawyer you know for a chat over coffee. As you can tell by these responses, lawyers love talking about themselves (and if you want a second opinion just ask twice lol).
There you have it. Do you have a burning question about law school or lawyering? Do you want a response from the salty, cynical LawyerSlack Hivemind? Leave your question below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Slack question.”
You might or might not enjoy the responses, but they’ll be honest.
Speaking of honesty, I honestly think you’d enjoy my book if you’re in law school. It’s like the above but not as cynical.