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In my time mostly reading and sometimes posting on this site, I have developed a great deal of respect for this community. I have seen that we have experts in every field, people with amazing natural intelligence, and as many wide ranging life experiences as anywhere. I know that the main focus of the site is getting progressive democrats elected, but I have also come to enjoy how it truly has become a community where diaries of a more personal nature have been accepted as well.

With that in mind, I am about to embark on one of the most important phases of my life and have decided to come to people I respect for advice. I am currently going into my senior at year at Boston College where I major in History with a minor in environmental studies, and I am about to begin the law school application process. I figured there are a decent amount of lawyers and law students on the site who could provide valuable insight. If you feel like you can help in any way read on for my musing on the path I am thinking about and for some questions.

I have always wanted to go to law school, pretty much since participating in Mock Trial in 7th grade. The experience was so much fun and so exciting I was hooked. I have since found out that being an attorney isn't really like mock trial, but I am still fascinated by the law and enjoy any of my undergraduate classes that use the case method. Since I have started environmental studies I have become interested in working with the law to help the environment. If anyone works in environmental law that would be great.

Besides that I have some questions. I am pretty set on the application process but any tips on that is always helpful. I am more interested in peoples law school experiences. How did you deal with the public vs. private sector debate. I am currently dealing with the moral dilemmas of some private work against the financial insecurity that can come with public work. I'm sure most people deciding to go to law school and in law school have dealt with this problem. Any stories on how you handled it would be greatly appreciated.

Another question, should I take time off before going to law school?

I'd also appreciate your impression of the specific law school you went to and info about your current career if your willing to provide it. Basically just info on your path to becoming an attorney and your experience with it now.

Anyone that made it all the way through this diary, I really appreciate it. Anyone who leaves comments I doubly appreciate that.

If anyone wants to reply though email, my email is brendanboyle87@gmail.com

Originally posted to bbxcountry25 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  definitely take time off (10+ / 0-)

    do not go straight through to law school.  continue to examine your motivations for going while doing real life work, particularly paralegaling at a law firm.

    and i'd add, don't let the firm process get you, only go to become a public interest lawyer, but that's just how I feel.  You can discard that piece and go uphold the corporate state at one of the NY firms if you really feel that's your calling.

    Gobama! Edwards, Better late than never, you Johnny-come-lately.

    by DoGooderLawyer on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:48:42 PM PDT

    •  Seconded. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maracuja, LogicaLizE, negev79

      Absolutely take time off.  I didn't and I wish I had.  Definitely try to do some work in the legal field before committing to law school.  You may discover that you'd like to help society outside of practicing law.

      The main reason to be absolutely sure is that most law schools are very very expensive.  I was lucky enough to have a half scholarship AND a parent to pay for my housing expenses, and I still left law school $57,000 in debt.  Some of my friends owe up to $150,000.  That kind of debt can cost you $1000/month just to make minimum payments.  The crushing debt is what forces many new lawyers to take corporate jobs they never wanted, or to stay in the legal field despite profound unhappiness.

      That said, I know some people who love practicing law.  You may love it too, just take the time to be sure first.

      •  Also a thought (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maracuja, LogicaLizE, negev79, Mara Jade

        Look into schools with loan forgiveness programs. I know my school had one and I'm sure others do to.  They help you pay back your loans for every year you spend doing low paying legal work.

        "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." - T. S. Eliot

        by sadpanda on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:14:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Also forgiveness for 10 yrs in gov't work. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sadpanda, negev79

          There is a gov't program that forgives student loans if you work 10 years for a gov't agency. In Calif., we have civil lawyers employed by every county, in an office called "County Counsel" and in some counties it is the best law job you can find, with the best lawyers in the county. True for Ventura anyway.

          Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. Satchel Paige 1906-82

          by threesmommy on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:26:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Already, checking this one out. If only (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          negev79

          I could just magically get into Harvard. They are starting to forgive the whole third year if you do 5 years of public interest work.

          Friend me on Mybarackobama.com http://my.barackobama.com/page/dashboard/public/gDjyP

          by bbxcountry25 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:29:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There are conditions on the loan forgiveness (0+ / 0-)

            I have worked for the government for over five years now and checked it out but didn't qualify.  On the positive side, I didn't qualify because I got paid too much, so I can't really complain.

    •  Caveat (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maracuja, LogicaLizE

      A lot of people I know who paralegaled with the plan to go to law school never do.  I know for some its that they hated it, for others I can't say.  Altough, one of my best friends did paralegal (at the firm I now work for which he recommended to me) and continue to law school.  He is now doing extremely well.  He is a bit atypical.

      I do know that as a lawyer working with paralegals I would never want to do what they do.  We essentially give them the tasks that its not worth are time to do or to bill the client.  Which means they get time consuming, rather tedious tasks.  Since its not the type of work you do as a lawyers the best benefit it gives you is a little insight into how firms work and cases progress.

      So, really I'd only recommend being a paralegal if you want to talk yourself out of going to law school as that's the effect it seems to have.

      "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." - T. S. Eliot

      by sadpanda on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:12:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you will get much better grades if you wait! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Mad Mad World

      Grades rule the roost in l.s. Go to l.s. when you are sure you will get the best grades possible. Many older students find l.s. easier than the younger ones. Easier is better when talking about l.s.

      Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. Satchel Paige 1906-82

      by threesmommy on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:23:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm going to law school this fall (0+ / 0-)

    I think you should take some time off and just dive in! Even if you do not decide to practice later on, it is still a great degree to have in your pocket!

    John McCain is a devil worshiping, radical, elite terrorist. My email told me so.

    by LogicaLizE on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:50:34 PM PDT

  •  Well This Is Just My Two Cents (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Femlaw

    In grad school I was very interested in the Federal Communication Commission and telecom regulation in general. I mentioned this to my father and he made some phone calls to lawyers he knew. He asked if I planned to practice law. I said not really, it is just much of telcom regulation is related to case law and I'd like to be an expert.

    Pretty much everybody he talked to said the same thing. That the time I would spend going to law school would be better spent actually working in the field. As fate would have it I ended up doing something else, but I always felt on reflection that was pretty solid advice.

    As I said, just my two cents.

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:51:58 PM PDT

  •  Law School (4+ / 0-)

      If you work a normal job before law school, you will be more rounded and not as likely to complain about how boring law school is.  I worked as a secretary.  I hated every minute of it.  I found law school quite entertaining by comparison.
     
      I also discovered that you should try all suggestions in the beginning to find what works for you.  For example, I was able to outline course work on my own.  The study group drove me bonkers b/c they were so slow.

      My secret weapon was the three color ink example.  Case names in red.  Brief in blue and annotations and class discussion in black.  It worked.

      I graduated New York University and served on a major law journal.  I loved it.  Good luck.

  •  My advice is... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NearlyNormal, threesmommy

    to give Kaplan their money before taking the LSATs.  But, really, if you're excited and ready to roll, I think go right into it while you're still used to spending time in the library and working your ass off.  

    Also.

    There just can't be enough progressives in the profession.  Rock on!

  •  Well, i found Law School to be much less (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    negev79

    interesting that undergraduate work, generally.  The really hard part of law school is the first year and the necessity of learning to think in a different way.  It is truly a change and has to happen or you will not be successful.  However, once you get that, much of law school becomes drudgery.

    I work as a Public Defender, and have for many years, I like it because I am free to be a lawyer, I don't have to run a business-I've got a good boss and have a pretty good assignment, I'm the lead atty for our juvenile division.  Downside of being a PD is that you will have one hell of a caseload, and you will be in a system that is rigged against you.

    DO NOT take time off before you go to law school, go do it and get it done if that is an option, it will never get easier, and the quicker you get it done the quicker you can go do something in the pracitce of law which is far better than the scholastic part of it.

    I wanted to do international law, but the great magnet was having none of that.  My favorite ex is a pretty big shot corporate lawyer and makes 7 or 8 times what I do, but she has paid a harsh price for her success.

    "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man.'" Robbie Robertson

    by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:56:45 PM PDT

    •  Law school is trade school. Not an education. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mikidee, cityduck, NearlyNormal, sadpanda

      From a philosophy major who is a practicing lawyer.

      Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. Satchel Paige 1906-82

      by threesmommy on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:27:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What is it like representing criminals, (0+ / 0-)

      who are almost certainly guilty more often than not?

      •  well (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NearlyNormal

        NearlyNormal can answer for himself/herself, but for other public defenders that I've known, it's difficult but has its rewards.

        the idea is that in our society, even the worst, most guilty criminals deserve the protections of law, and deserve their day in court.  It doesn't always mean that you want to win, or that you want them to be set free.  It means that you believe they deserve to have their side heard.

        and then sometimes, there is someone that really might be innocent, and those are the cases that can break your heart.

        although it's getting late, you still have plenty of time

        by maracuja on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 06:09:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thats rarely a problem, most are just folk (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mcfly

        in a jam.  Some are assholes, but they are actually rather rare, a very few are truly appalling individuals, but you don't have to love them as individuals.  The real horror in criminal law is having the innocent client, because once they have gotten to the system all involved in the system assume that they are guilty, in spite of any evidentiary notions about proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  The criminal lawyers prayer is "God keep me from the innocent client".  You haven't felt bad as a criminal defense attorney until you've stood next to some poor bastard going to prison because its all rigged against him.

        The worst of all things is to have a client that has a couple of strikes and have the DA offer to strike the strikes (not charge them) if you client agrees to a negotiated prison sentence.  So you have to go tell your client the offer: 25 to life if you lose the trial, or 3 yrs with half time and credit for the time you are already in.  With the innocent client that is awful, and if you really think about it and put yourself in this person's place you have to admit its a hell of a dilemna.

        Don't worry about the guilty ones, they can use your help, but the innocent, they need justice which may not be in your hands to deliver.

        "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man.'" Robbie Robertson

        by NearlyNormal on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 06:15:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My cousin... (3+ / 0-)

        ....is a defense lawyer and he wrote an interesting article, a bit after 9/11, where he answered the question "would you defend a terrorist?" He said that it would be his ethical duty to do so, because everyone deserves a defense, though he'd personally have second thoughts of doing it, because it might put his family at risk.

  •  Definitely take a year off, if you can afford it. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maracuja, sadpanda, bbxcountry25

    Public v. Private is a very tough call, especially for us bleeding heart libruls.  In general litigation, I find that most of the cases I've worked on were not too morally objectionable.  Also, debt can be too crushing to go public interest.  If you want to do that, strongly consider state schools and lower-tier private schools.  (And score high on your LSATs, scholarships are tied tightly to that... which makes it well worth a tutor or an expensive course)

    If you are thinking of going to school in NY, I'd be happy to share some perspectives on some of our local schools.  

    No matter where you go, do a clinic in all four semesters that you can.  Best experience you can get in law school, IMHO.

    Don't let law school intimidate you.  It's hard, but doable.  The job market OTOH, well that can be scary.

    •  I am thinking about NY, I know about the (0+ / 0-)

      big ones NYU, Columbia. What are some of the others like?

      Friend me on Mybarackobama.com http://my.barackobama.com/page/dashboard/public/gDjyP

      by bbxcountry25 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:02:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I went to St. Johns and enjoyed it. (0+ / 0-)

        Decent class sizes (with the exception of first year, but I think all schools do it like that). Some really excellent faculty, and very good clinical programs.

        They have very relaxed core requirements beyond ConLaw and Professional responsibility, so you get to choose plenty of classes that interest you (most of which will not be tested on the NY bar, however.)

        It's in a decent neighborhood and there is somewhat affordable housing around there, unlike manhattan. Parking usually sucks, unless you don't mind a 5 minute walk (I never minded it, but heard plenty of complaints). Hmmm what else...

        Quick takes on the others:

        Hofstra: low bar passage rate (for whatever that's worth).
        Touro: up and coming, supposedly has some excellent clinical programs, and gives fat scholarships.
        Brooklyn: good school but harder to get into, and hard to get a big scholarship.
        Cardozo: don't know much about it
        Fordham: don't know much about it, but St John's usually tries to peg it's bar passage rate to fordham's.

        •  And (0+ / 0-)

          From my experience St. John's produces some excellent lawyers.  The two St. John's graduate in my year at my firm are spot on.  I'd go (and do go) to them with questions before I ask those of better know schools.  They know their stuff.

          "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." - T. S. Eliot

          by sadpanda on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:47:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Public law schools... (0+ / 0-)

        ....offer a good price and a good education, too. I went to Rutgers and I had some excellent professors and interesting courses.

  •  Thanks, I like the three ink idea. NT. (0+ / 0-)

    Friend me on Mybarackobama.com http://my.barackobama.com/page/dashboard/public/gDjyP

    by bbxcountry25 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 03:58:27 PM PDT

    •  Find what works for you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sadpanda

      I didn't highlight (in different colors - lots do), underline, use different inks or anything else.  Tried it, didn't work.  It's best to try everything though and use what works, leave the rest.

      Faith rather than fear, Hope rather than despair, joy rather than pain ... our dream is being achieved. Welcome to America 2.0.

      by kimobrother on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:24:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now seems like a bad time to study "law". (0+ / 0-)

    Studying law in the US right now seems a bit like studying democracy in 1939 Germany, doesn't it?

    •  It's more important now, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maracuja, kimobrother

      because we need to fight for the rule of law.

      "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." James Baldwin

      by zdefender on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:02:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zdefender

        My profs gave some great insights on a lot of the problems.

        They lectures, presentations, and classes I remember best were discussions about what the Bush admin was doing.  There were talks on Bush v. Gore, Hamdan, Teri Schivo, the legality of the war in Iraq, among others.  I'm sure if I was there now we'd be dissecting Bush's spying.  Truthfully I'm sure my class on Media Law is probably more interesting now than it was when I took it, even though we got to get into the reporter priviledge in connection with Valerie Plame.

        "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." - T. S. Eliot

        by sadpanda on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:21:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  for what it's worth (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NearlyNormal, Femlaw, negev79
    1. gchaucer2 is an enviro lawyer and could probably give you some thoughts on the matter.
    1. I got accepted into both BC and Northeastern and have only had minor regrets. Northeastern will give you an opportunity to look at public and private sector jobs through their co-op program. It's a tough decision to make.
    1. My regrets about Northeastern are that a. it's very expensive (BC would have been, too) and b. when I graduated they did written evaluations instead of grades.  I think they've changed that, but in a tough job market, it doesn't really help with find private sector work.
    1. Stay out of litigation if you can. It's nothing like mock trial and it will suck the life out of you.
    1. If you can escape from law school without a lot of loans, I'd go public sector or enviro policy. Both areas can be tough, but I think private sector can be cutthroat and you don't get to pick your clients (you don't really in public sector, but the politics are better). I had a friend in law school who was interested in international health law, did internships at the UN through Northeastern, and got a real job there.  I find that kind of opportunity exciting.
    1. One thing I didn't do that I wish I had: I was offered a full scholarship at Lewis & Clarke (which wasn't well-known at the time) and didn't take it. If you're paying a lot in loans each month, you might as well go to the best school you can get in, take a private job and pay them off. If you can get any kind of scholarship (and some schools will attempt to buy your LSAT if it's high) and the school is decent, you might want to give some thought to going there.

    Anyway, good luck.

    NetrootNews coming soon!

    by ksh01 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:00:15 PM PDT

  •  i'd say look for a law school with (0+ / 0-)

    a strong clinical program...

  •  I took a year off, worked as an investigator (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mcfly, sadpanda, Femlaw, negev79

    then went to law school.  Try to "have fun" in law school.  Don't spend all your time in the library.  Hang out, make friends, debate politics over coffee, get to know your professors.  Treat it like college.  Work hard, but live well . . .

    "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." James Baldwin

    by zdefender on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:04:52 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, I was plesantly surprised... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mcfly

      ....by some of the people I met in law school. I thought I was going to be going to school with a bunch of money-hungry tight-ass conformists, but I met some fascinatingly interesting people. Many of whom have good law jobs now, though unfortunately, I can't say as much about myself, but that's my own damn fault.

  •  do you want to be a lawyer? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cityduck, Femlaw, foufou

    That's the first and most important question I always ask of people considering law school--it sounds like you do, so you are on the right track.  I am a lawyer and fairly recent law school graduate, having spent my first year at Tulane and going on to get a JD and LLM from NYU.  Both schools were great, though NYU was a dream come true for me.  The general advice to go to the best law school you can get in to is, I think, quite solid.  I may get smacked a bit for saying this, but unless you are at the very top of your class at a second or below tier school (something which you cannot guarantee! law school is competitive!), you will have a hard time finding a job you want.  I might even say do not go to law school if you cannot get in to a top-50 school, given the time and money commitment.  You will not get into that public v. private dilemma if you cannot find a job when you graduate!  On the other hand, almost any salaried lawyer position should enable you to pay your debts and put a roof over your head:  if the job doesn't pay well enough for that, then keep looking if at all possible.  Lots of your classmates will go for the big paychecks, and that is not necessarily something for them to be ashamed of, but always remember that a law degree does not shackle you to that path if you do not choose it.

    You, like me, are entering law school in a down economy when competition is likely to be tough since the job market is so tight right now.  (If you can find a good job before starting law school, then you may be tempted to defer admission, but most of the people who do that just end up treading water for that time and don't get any real professional benefit out of it.)  I wanted to do international law and environmental law and I have, and continue to do both.  I've lived and worked overseas for various international tribunals and judges these past two years and will be starting this fall at a boutique environmental and international law firm in San Francisco (a really one-of-a-kind job that I am quite excited about).  While in law school, keep your eyes open and your attention focused on opportunities to pursue what you want to do.  As soon as the ABA rules allowed it, I always had legal jobs outside of class, both because only doing law school coursework drove me crazy and because "real world" legal experience is so important in learning what it really takes to be a lawyer and in making professional contacts.  So, take full advantage of your time in law school and keep pursuing what interests you and what you're good at.  That you've made it this far should show you that you can change the world if you so choose.

    Yes we can!

    All the best~
    Petrox

  •  My 2 cents (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maracuja, Femlaw

    First, I strongly encourage you to take time off.  In law school you could often tell who hadn't both because they were just less aware of some basic things having been nothing but a student for years and because of their view of the work.  When you view law school as a full time job the work load isn't that bad, but compared to college or high school work its crushing.  Those of us who had worked managed to enjoy it better, because we knew the alternative and were happy to be spending less time on something we found rewarding.

    Second, I love my law school.  I went to University of Michigan and if it's a possibility I would strongly encourage it.  The people were wonderful, and there wasn't a sterotypical law student.  Ok, there were probably one or two and we did have gunners, but I can't imagine anyone I know, even the worst hiding books like some of the story's you here about.

    Third, if you have a top choice school and you get waitlisted, its worth it to wait.  People do get off them.  Also, sending a follow-up letter after you've been put on the wait list expressing your sincere interest, seems like it work for several people I know (including me : )

    I am currently with a large law firm in New York.  While it may not be what you expect of a Kossack I generally like it.  I wanted challege work and job security.  And because I picked a firm like I did my law school - based on wonderful people - even the bad parts on so bad.  I wanted an intellectual challenge, career development, and a structured work place were I got responsiblity.  I have all that and am treated with respect.  I can't gaurantee that this is the experience at all firms, but I think you can find a match as long as you are actually looking for the things you want.  I turned down an offer at a much more prestigious firm (and people called me an idiot). However, I choose the right firm for me and did not buy into all those things I was supposed to want.

    I also do pro bono work at the firm.  My firm encourages it and the pro bono coordinator knows me well enough that he now corners me for some things.  Truthfully, its not always the kind of work I would choose, but I'll often do it because the cause is good.  And while I'm not one of them there are a handfull of attorney's who do a substantial amount of pro bono work.  So even if firm work seems like something you might be interested in, but you still want to do "good works" you could try and find a firm that does a lot of the type of work you like to do pro bono and see if you can do it for them.

    Personally, I couldn't do public interest full time.  I'm afraid I'd get to emotionally involved and become less professional.

    Hope this helps.

    "This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." - T. S. Eliot

    by sadpanda on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:07:20 PM PDT

  •  I love law school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NearlyNormal

    Essentially, I think people blog, read, inquire, etc. because they like to think about how to construct a better world.  Some people are generalists; others focus on a single narrow topic.

    You'll find the law school experience to be similar.  Your first year will give you a grounding in the broadest array of societal concerns (contracts, property, torts, criminal law) and broad-based legal concerns (civil procedure, constitutional law).  You'll probably also take a legal writing and research course.

    After that, you choose.  But your choice starts now.

    In considering what school to go to, look for a program that gives you the best options for what you want to do long term.  In your case, you say you want to practice environmental law.  So look closely at Vermont Law School.

    Ah...

    But there's another side to the story...  I came to law school with visions of joining criminal law, international law, human rights law and environmental law to go after amoral corporate bastards that resite manufacturing plants to third world countries where environmental standards are low.

    But I got to school and realized I'd be a lonesome (and poor) lawyer working against teams of (very well paid - $160K just out of law school) corporate lawyers.  I couldn't get pass that fact.

    So...  I'm gonna be a tort lawyer.  I'll start out with slip and falls, learn the ropes and hopefully graduate to product liability.  It's a field that will allow me to provide for my family (and possibly get filthy rich) while continuing my activism.  If lightning does strike and the dollars come in by the bushel, well...  I've got a lot of activism goals that have had to be set aside for lack of money.

    So that's how I got to where I am.

    One more thing though.

    If you are at BC, you've probably got a really decent chance of gaining admittance to one of the top law schools.  If you get the opportunity, don't forgo it lightly.  The teachers at UVA (where I'm at) are incredible.  The students are too.  It's challenging, but so worth it.

  •  well if I can't talk you out of it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Femlaw

    Definitely take a year off, because you wont' have any more time off once your debts start coming due. I went to Georgetown, it was Ok, some interesting professors. Definitely try to go top tier, you can't flunk out once you're in and you might have a few good professors. Generally law school is quite boring compared to undergrad, but it is what you make of it. If you get invovled on jouranl and clubs, it helps pass the time, also drinking helps. The coursework is not overly difficult, but if you want to get all A's and be in the top percentiles it is hard. If you don't care as much, then it's not a problem, you don't have to start studying until a month before finals. Law school is way more fun than practicing law though.
    If you fancy yourself a writer, or have a style of your own, you will resent having a much drier style forced upon you. One thing that does teach you which is also important when you practice is that form is more imporant than substance in law. If you dot your i's, it doesn't matter that much how many wrong cases you cite.
    Generally, the people I know who went the high end corporate route were overworked and bitter, but made it through, although as changed people, much like MBAs are changed from people into businenssmen. The public sector wannabes were disappointed worse, once you realize you can't make a difference, have no money and work for the same people you are fighting and form an essesntial cog in their oppressive machinery (like a public defender) that hurts.
    The best part of law is what hooked you, the addictiveness of trial. The best way to get that going is through the public defender. For god's sakes, don't be a prosecutor, though it's easier to get in and gives you trials, that is like moral suicide.
    Overall, it's a job like any others. The essential thing is attention to detail and the ability to handle stress, rejection, losing, and being confronted with your own fuckups. If you are good at those things, then you will get used to the rest, if you have a problem with them, this job will be a living hell.
    Just try to take as little debt on as possible, it's quite crushing afterwords and limits your freedom of choice. Good luck. Oh, and don't pay Kaplan, just buy a few practice books and take the tests, it's essentially an IQ test and there's really no way to study for it in my opinion.

    Do not rejoice in Hiterl's defeat, for though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

    by Marcion on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:08:30 PM PDT

  •  Some Advice... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Femlaw, bbxcountry25

    Always nice to see someone doing their due diligence before taking the plunge.  After reading everything I could get my hands on about law school (including 1L by Grisham for an interesting account of his first-year at Harvard Law) I was amazed at the number of my classmates who had no idea of even the basic mechanics of law school.  Who were shocked that the final would constitute their entire grade etc.  

    I would encourage you to take a few years before deciding to go to law school.  I was a re-entry student at Cal after a career in the hospitality industry working at the Bay Area's nicest restaurants.  I decided that perhaps I had a higher social calling than serving overly expensive plates of food to S.F.'s elite at places like Jardiniere and Aqua.  Stellar food but maybe I could do more...

    After I graduated with my degree in history I was torn between going on to a Ph.D. in Latin American History or going to law school.  I decided that getting some real world exposure to some part of the law might help so I did what DoGooder suggests but in the public sector.  I applied for a position as a "Capitol Fellow" with the Center for California Studies and got a fellowship with the California state court system.  Worked at the Alameda Superior Court for a year and found some stellar judges, public defenders and district attorneys who I respected immensely to help me decide on my future path.  

    I decided to go to law school and, on the advice of many lawyers went to the institution, among several comparative law schools, that made me the best offer monetarily.  I'd done fairly well on the LSAT (damn those logic games) and ended up getting about $18,000 a year in scholarships from a California law school away from the Bay Area.

    Upon going into law school I knew that when I got out I was going to work for the government.  But then I did well, really well, and got sucked into "on-campus interviews" and eventually got a couple of offers from corporate law firms.  The thought of financial security coupled with my undergraduate and law school debt burden of almost $140K along with the "prestige" of going to work for one of the firms that everyone wanted an offer from led to me accepting first a summer associate position and then an associate position.  I managed to stick it out for a year-and-a-half before I found myself wondering what the hell I was doing.

    I left private practice about three months ago and spent the first month wandering around in a state of delirium - wondering what I should do now that I was home at 5:30 while it was light outside.  I was so used to working late and on weekends I suddenly had to remember how to enjoy myself.  I'm making alot less money now, took a 40% paycut, but I'm insulated from the vagaries of the economy, am finally getting to fight "the good fight" and get to feel good about my work.  

    I'm glad I did the corporate law thing for a bit as I'd have always have wondered if I hadn't.  But I stayed way too long working for corporate America - and I was only in it for 18 months.  It's that soul-sucking.  Keep in mind, however, that I'm a guy who had a very, very, clear idea of what I wanted to do with my law degree and I still ended up getting sucked into the "firm process" referred to by another commenter.  I'd check my motives if I were you, do a lot of research and reading, and take your time getting into it.

    I found that, as an older student I had a distinct advantage during my first-year, not only because I had better study habits and discipline but because I'd lived through real-life torts, contracts, and property - all of which lent some depth to the interminable cases we read.  I should also mention that I felt the first-year wasn't very intellectually challenging.  The case method gets really old quickly.  IRAC, repeat.  IRAC, repeat.  It was  only when I got to ConLaw that things got interesting again academically.

    For all that it's worth - there's some advice.  At least it was solicited, lol.  :-)

    Faith rather than fear, Hope rather than despair, joy rather than pain ... our dream is being achieved. Welcome to America 2.0.

    by kimobrother on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:09:18 PM PDT

    •  good point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SamSinister, Mara Jade

      Yeah, once you're in law school, everything is geared through competition to make you covet the top tier corporate jobs, you find yourself interviewing just to see if you can get in, and then they give you trips and posh internship perks and make you feel big. It's a well run machine, be careful of it.

      Do not rejoice in Hiterl's defeat, for though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

      by Marcion on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:12:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes Indeedy (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SamSinister, maracuja, Femlaw

        It does suck you in.  I concur with some up-post comments about law school in general - law review is interesting although it does tend to crush any individual tendencies in your writing style.  And then by the time you are on the editorial board in your third-year you'll be wondering why the hell you signed up to run things.  Ha, and I swore I wouldn't be changed...

        The folks I know who still work at big firms or who have worked at big firms for quite some time are like MBA's who stay in business.  They are "lawyers damnit" and don't have much in the way of outside interests, senses of humor, or it seems, any real enjoyment of life.

        There is opportunity to do pro bono work, however, as SadPanda points out.  I thought that by going to a corporate firm where the people were "good" and "self-deprecating" with senses of humor I was escaping the worst of BigLaw.  But what I found out is that all of that is a veneer that, for most of them I think, hides a vast disappointment in what they do everyday.

        I told my wife, after I went to the regulatory side, that I wouldn't miss working as a "litigator."  I used the term intentionally because I knew I'd get a response and sure enough she said, "but you never went to court."  I said, well, I did go to a trial-setting conference once but I was a litigator - people who go to court are "trial lawyers.  Litigators just push paper around all day."  

        If you do go, remember to have fun and to do things other than study and talk about law.  I knocked off everyday at 5 so that I could spend time with family and I tried to never talk about the law as it's just dreadfully boring to almost everyone!  

        Faith rather than fear, Hope rather than despair, joy rather than pain ... our dream is being achieved. Welcome to America 2.0.

        by kimobrother on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:21:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I just want to post a blanket thank you for all (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maracuja, negev79, KentuckyKat

    the responses I'm trying to absorb them right now and it will be tough to reply to each one. You guys as always are great.

    Friend me on Mybarackobama.com http://my.barackobama.com/page/dashboard/public/gDjyP

    by bbxcountry25 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:17:20 PM PDT

  •  Get a job in a law office . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KentuckyKat

    preferably one doing criminal defense or civil plaintiff work.  Start as a gopher. Learn where the clerks office in the courthouse is.  Sit in on some depositions.  Read them. Serve some subpoenas. Hang out with lawyers in the bars after work.  

    The go to law school.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:24:10 PM PDT

  •  The question no can answer but you. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bbxcountry25, KentuckyKat


    How did you deal with the public vs. private sector debate. I am currently dealing with the moral dilemmas of some private work against the financial insecurity that can come with public work. I'm sure most people deciding to go to law school and in law school have dealt with this problem. Any stories on how you handled it would be greatly appreciated.

    Having worked alongside some of the earliest, and finest public interest attorneys in the nation I think there is only one question that really needs answering: how much of your soul are you willing to sell?

    If your decision to go to law school isn't about a passion for change, then just make peace with it now and go for the money. On the other hand, if you're really dedicated to making a difference then forget about the McMansion and fast car -- it ain't gonna happen.

    But you should decide before you go to law school. And maybe go meet with some public interest attorneys before you decide.

    p.s. Here's an article that may be of interest.

    The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

    by two roads on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:28:10 PM PDT

  •  Please read the WSJ's Law Blog. It's insider (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mikidee, KentuckyKat

    information about what it's really like to be a lawyer. Read it every day. I think you'll decide not to spend the money on law school.

    Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. Satchel Paige 1906-82

    by threesmommy on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:29:04 PM PDT

  •  I'm a little bitter about life in a firm... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marcion

    but that has nothing to do with the practice of law.  

    The one thing that I wish that I had considered was the impact of student loans (I didn't plan to have any based on a promise from my father).  When I had to have a large amount of loans due to his failure to live up to his promise, it really limited my job opportunities.  Instead of becoming a prosecutor, as I had intended, I had to go to a big firm in order to be able to repay them.

    Consider this in choosing where you want to go...if you think that you might want to do public interest work...consider going somewhere that will provide you with significant scholarships.

  •  If you are going to be a environmental lawyer (0+ / 0-)

    good. Otherwise find some way to contribute.

    I would suggest Science, Engineering or Business. With any of these you can make a serious contribution to the world. Most lawyers are paid by big corporations to protect them. I know of one firm that specializes in protecting insurance companies from individuals actually trying to collect on their insurance. We need a lot fewer lawyers and a lot more contributors to build our way out of the mess left behind by the 20th century excesses.

    As a lawyer you help sue people. Suing someone starts at $20K for disclosure, then trial could run you another $100K and there's the cost of "expert witnesses" (totally biased, paid, technical hit men). All in all, it's making money off of other people's misery, with no certain outcome. You get into court and you get some clown in a robe with a big ego and absolute power in his courtroom to deal with. And you, the tax payer, know that you have paid outrageous sums of money to support this court system.

    I remember one economic study that predicted the GDP of a country based on the number of people in a given profession. Each profession had a weight associated with it. The weight for Engineers was very high, the weight for Lawyers was negative.

    There are some useful areas of law, for instance contract negotiations. And I'm sure than many of the legal contributors on DKOS are not of the stereotypical mold that I describe here.

    Sorry if I'm so negative. My personal experience with lawyers is that they pretty much don't know much about law, unless it's the area that they are currently practicing in, and they only know common practices. If I ask one a general question about law I get no answer or the wrong one. I also consider billing rates of $200 to $800 per hour to be absurd. We can only afford a handful of good lawyers to build our new society.

    •  Enviro Lawyers (0+ / 0-)

      I'll mention this - the majority of folks I know who went to places like Lewis and Clark and Vermont Law School all ended up practicing evironmental law for corporate america - I liked to call them "anti-environmental lawyers."

      Helping the polluters - I'm pretty sure that's not why most of them went to law school but that's what they ended up doing.  Sadly, there are fewer jobs at EPA than there are doing corporate environmental law.  

      But, if that's your dream, go for it and don't waver.

      Faith rather than fear, Hope rather than despair, joy rather than pain ... our dream is being achieved. Welcome to America 2.0.

      by kimobrother on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:44:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not in my experience... (0+ / 0-)

        I'll mention this - the majority of folks I know who went to places like Lewis and Clark and Vermont Law School all ended up practicing evironmental law for corporate america - I liked to call them "anti-environmental lawyers."

        Nah, lots of my classmates at Vermont Law School have killer jobs with great environmental organizations - Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, and lots of smaller green orgs.

        Hope is bulletproof. Truth, just hard to hit. -Christopher Moore

        by negev79 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 05:06:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good to Hear (0+ / 0-)

          The other side of that story.  I didn't go to either of those law schools but the firm for which I toiled had a very large anti-environmental law section at which many, many students from those two law schools toiled to help polluters escape regulatory oversight.  Bummer.

          Faith rather than fear, Hope rather than despair, joy rather than pain ... our dream is being achieved. Welcome to America 2.0.

          by kimobrother on Tue Jul 15, 2008 at 08:52:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wow, stereotype any? (0+ / 0-)

      Lawyers are like everyone else---some good, some bad, some ugly.  I find it funny that on a progressive website someone would say to contribute in business rather than follow your passion to be a lawyer.

      I am afraid your personal experiences are not really reflective of the entire practice of law.  For starters, asking a "general question about law" is almost always a futile exercise.  There may be an answer, but the answer will often have a ton of exceptions and a comprehensive answer would require a lot longer than there would be time to give.  You may want a general question to have a quick and simple answer, but it isn't a lawyer's fault if they cannot give you one because none exists.

      As for your comments about suing people, what you say is just about 100% incorrect.  Most lawsuits in the US at least are done on a contingency fee or flat fee basis and do not start at $20,000.  Trials are not common, but generally would not cost $100,000 unless they involve a bunch of very technical details, expensive experts or two corporate entities battling each other and running up the costs.

      You know, the more I think about it, the more I think I have to troll you for this one.  It's not something I normally do, but you are spewing nonsense and don't know what you are talking about.

  •  This is the only post you'll ever need to read. (3+ / 0-)

    I'm going to take this in reverse order for reasons that will become apparent below.

    If you decide to attend law school, I strongly recommend that you take the following advice:

    (1) The summer before you start law school take a bar review course.  Why?  Because the basic curriculum of law school, which is at its heart is not an intellectual exercise but an exercise in rote memorization, can be learned in less than a month in a bar review course.  By taking that course before you start law school, you are almost guaranteed to finish your first year (when you take exclusively "bar courses") in the top 5% of your class.  This will be essential to ensuring you have the broadest options available.

    (2) Before, during and after law school, network with anyone and everyone.  Everyone you meet, especially your fellow students, is either a source of business or a source of jobs or a source for recommendation letters.  NEVER EVER FORGET THAT.  You will get nowhere unless you build that network.

    (3) Determine your preferred specialty and where you want to practice BEFORE entering law school.  This is key.  Because you will want to start looking for a clerkship for after 1L the day you start lawschool.  Most summer positions will be filled by November of your first year.  And summer clerkships will be your best entry into the job market.  So you need to look in the areas (both geographic and practice) that you want to end up in from the outset.

    (4) If you want to be a top notch big firm litigator, you are best off going to a judicial clerkship, then time as a US AG, before you enter private practice.  Ideally, you will do these things for two or three years after having summer clerked with a big name firm, and having maintained your connections at that firm so you can transition in as a 3rd or 4th year associate having skipped the first two years of document summary grunt work.

    Now, as for whether you should want to go law school I'd suggest you consider the following:

    (1) Law school is very very expensive.  A top law school will set you back over one hundred thousand dollars.

    (2) Few lawyers get rich.  Even if you go to a top law school, get top grades, and start at a top firm, the odds of you making partner and achieving a salary that will qualify you as "wealthy" are stacked against you.  Public interest lawyers get raped salary-wise (you almost have to be independently wealthy to make a go of it), and public sector lawyers only make a good living in smaller towns and cities where the cost of living is much lower.  

    (3) Few attorneys end up doing what they thought they would.  Lawyers do many different things, but few law students know what the practice actually entails before they get a clerkship.  You may start out thinking you'd like to do free speech law and end up defending medical malpractice cases because that's the only job you can get and you need to pay the bills.

    (4) The most essential skill to an attorney in private practice is salesmanship.  You will spend your life trying to acquire and maintain clients.  You will see "rainmakers" who aren't great attorneys rule the world, and incredibly skilled attorneys fail for lack of clients.  As a result, few attorneys are "secure" in their livelihoods -- it ain't a union job.

    (5) The practice law is all about hierarchy.  If you don't get into a top law school and get top grades you will have fewer options than others.  Look at the profiles of S.Ct. Justices, top flight Professors, and top firm attorneys, and the point will be driven home.  Going to a "lesser" law school and getting average grades may render you somewhat unemployable.  Many law school graduates never practice law.

    Harsh, I know.  But it is essential that you go into the practice with your eyes open, a definite plan, and your networking commenced.  If you don't think you can do that, don't.

  •  My two cents (0+ / 0-)

    As for the two questions:

    1.  I would go to law school now and not take time off unless you have something better to do while taking the time off.  I mean, if you can spend a year on the beach in Europe, go for it, but if it means working full time in a job that won't go anywhere because you will be going to law school, skip that stage and just head straight to school.
    1.  Don't worry about the public/private sector issue.  It is way too early.  All the best plans can go awry depending on your debt level, life plans and the jobs available when you get out of school.  I went from a small firm in a tiny rural town in Georgia (living hell for me, but I needed a job and I just could do the corporate interviews and say what they wanted to hear [despite good enough grades to get the jobs], and well, I needed a job!) to a clerk position in a district court to my current position with an appellate court.  There is no way to plan what you are going to do in advance with any accuracy--you won't really know if a job is right for you until you get it and start doing it---so don't sweat it now.
  •  Read a Book that will Help (0+ / 0-)

    One L by Scott Turow.

    Going to law school teaches you to think in a different way. That will change you and your relationship to everything and everybody.

    A Southerner in Yankeeland

    •  Turow's book is a joke. (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, 1L contract law is not intended to teach you conract law but to "teach you to think like a lawyer," e.g. logically (which hopefully is how you think anyway), but the only people who end up as freaked out as Turow are the head cases.  I assume his book was mostly literary license intended to propagate the myth of the difficulty of law school.  In the Bar Review course you are actually taught contract law, in about two hours.  It's an easy subject.  The smart students see through the theatre and learn the subject outside of class.

    •  Going to law school teaches some people... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foufou

      ...to think in a different way.  Some of us naturally think like that.  ;)

  •  2 more cents (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cityduck

    I recommend taking time off.  I did and enjoyed it, and also ended up going to law school with a bit more purpose and perspective.  I also avoided feeling like part of the teeming group-ish nervous first years who were straight-from-college (I had a bit more sense of remove that gave me some perspective and stability).  Having said all that, if you are driven, focused and ready, then jump on in right away, it's up to you of course.

    On public/private.  It became something of a cliche/joke that so many entered l.s. to do "public interest work", when some huge majority end up working in private law firms, in fact.  Many recommended to me that, even if (or especially if) you plan to do pub int work, you should start in a private firm to take advantage of the training it provides versus public work - there are pro/con arguments to that.

    Also, as in other walks of life, as you get older, perhaps get married, oh look I've got kid$ now, you may find that the private law firm compensation is helpful to life.  Certainly different people have difft levels of commitment, conviction, consistency, etc., as it should be.

    First years should ignore professors that say "Don't use the outlines!" to study from.  What garbage.  Use the outlines.  Everyone does by the end of the year anyway.

    That's all 2 cents buys from me . . . .

  •  Lots of great advice here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foufou

    I've been practicing law since 1994, exclusively in the public interest sector (including nonprofit and private civil rights firms).  My friends have jobs in traditional firms and government, so I have a sense of the whole universe.

    Here's my advice (consistent with a lot of what others have said upthread):

    1.  Be sure you want to be a lawyer and practice law.  It sounds like you are getting there, but it's a long and expensive three years and no one wants to find out 2/3 of the way through it isn't for them.  Because to pay off your debt you will probably have to work as a lawyer at least as a little while.
    1.  Maintain your sense of self as much as possible.  There is an inherent conservatism to law, that is oriented toward doing everything the way it has been done in the past, or the way other people do it.   That's how students who think they want to do public interest end up at firms - it is what their classmates are doing.   That and the debt, of course.
    1.  Go to the best school you get into that you can afford.  What that means is, think about the end game now.  If you go to a private school with no loan repayment, you will be working at a large corporate firm.  No other way to pay.  A public university or one with loan repayment for public interest work will give you more choices.  
    1.  Take time off.  It helps a lot with points 1 and 2.  And you will probably get better grades which gives you the most choices when you finish.

    Good luck!

  •  My $.02 (really long, sorry) (0+ / 0-)

    I am an attorney, and I like being an attorney, but - and this is a big but - I have been very careful in choosing the type of work that I do and put a lot of thought into it. I know a lot of attorneys and a good portion of them aren't happy. So here is my story for whatever it's worth -

    I graduated from college with a BA in English (minors in poli sci and history). I went to SUNY Albany - which was a decent education for a decent price, but ivy league it ain't. I graduated with honors. I was lucky in that my parents graciously paid for my college education, so I didn't have any debt when I graduated.

    I wanted to go to graduate school and I played around with the idea of being a writer, journalist or teacher. I am not very creative or very patient - so viola! Law school it was. I am not kidding when I say that I went to law school because I didn't know what else to do with myself and because I thought I would probably be good at it. Emphasis on probably. I didn't take any time off.

    I went to Vermont Law School, graduated in 1997. Most definitely NOT with honors! :-) I liked the fact that at that time, the school was very progressive, with a heavy focus on environmental law and public interest work. I say "at that time" only because I don't know what it is like now. But I do know that it is still very well known for environmental law. It was definitely a liberal progressive environment when I was there - republican students felt very persecuted and would complain. But it is a very small school too - fish bowl effect - there is no undergraduate school and VLS is in South Royalton, not Burlington (it is a private school, not affiliated with the University of Vermont). Absolutely beautiful location though, especially if you like skiing, and mawing Ben and Jerry's on the cheap. And pretty foliage. And I also felt like it wasn't hyper competitive like some other schools I looked at. Some students in my class were intense, but no one was trying to get a leg up on anyone else by stealing books out of the library or anything. It was pretty friendly.

    I thought that I wanted to be an environmental lawyer and, you know, help the trees, but I quickly found that I preferred real human clients. I gravitated to public interest work. VLS has a legal aid clinic so I interned with them and loved it. I had to borrow a LOT of money to go to law school - and now, 11 years later, I still have a crippling student loan payment. It's a mortgage.

    I know people that got out of law school and took a corporate law job that paid a bazillion dollars, and did that for a few years to pay off their debt, only then to quit and find their true calling in law or otherwise. Me, I couldn't sacrifice like that - I couldn't be miserable at a job for one week, much less three or four years, even if it paid really well. It wasn't really an option for me anyway because I was not on law review and didn't graduate from law school with honors - big corporate firm jobs were never in the cards for me, which suits me just fine.

    My first job was with Vermont Legal Aid - they paid me something like $10 an hour! I then went on to work for legal aid here in Portland, OR. All told, I was a legal aid lawyer for three years. I loved the work (representing low income individuals - helping them get disability and public assistance benefits). This was the most fulfilling work I have ever done. But I hated the pay. The most I ever made was $26k and I was really struggling. I was lucky though - I had a lot of help from my parents who chipped in and covered my student loan payments and the occasional rent check for a few years. A huge sacrifice on their part and I was and am incredibly grateful to them because it was the only way I could have done that work. I also did get some loan forgiveness from VLS, which helped.

    Financial constraints dictated that I make more money, so I went into private practice. I did plaintiffs' side asbestos litigation with one firm for awhile (in Portland, and then for a time in the San Francisco Bay area) and now I work for a very small firm in Portland - we represent individuals in claims for disability, life and health benefits under ERISA and non-ERISA insurance plans. So we help people go up against insurance companies. It is very laid back - I wear jeans to work mostly. I don't work 150 hours a week. I don't make big bucks, but I do just fine. I really like my co-workers and my clients. It's work I find interesting. I feel we are on the right side of karma for the most part.

    Would I do it again? Probably. But it has occurred to me that I could do most of what I do now if I was a paralegal and not a lawyer. And I wouldn't have the debt. That is really huge - I had no real concept of what the debt load I was taking on really meant when I signed all those loan papers. If you are going to borrow money, think long and hard about what those payments will be and for how long. I am still paying more than $700.00 a month and that is 11 years out. After consolidation. And with a relatively low interest rate. And consider that you will be borrowing much more money (assuming you are taking out loans) than I did 11 years ago. Law school is much more expensive now. Also, I really do wish I had taken time off in between college and law school. At the time, I was really afraid that if I waited it would somehow be bad, that I would lose some momentum, or end up not going. I was an idiot. A break would have been a grand idea, and I could have taken more time off than I can now - since now I have to work to pay off those loans.

    Best of luck to you no matter what you choose! If you choose carefully, I think you can have a really fulfilling career in the law - always learning new things and hopefully feeling like you make a real difference.

    If you have any specific questions you want to ask me, you can email me. My address in my profile.

    Hope is bulletproof. Truth, just hard to hit. -Christopher Moore

    by negev79 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 04:55:07 PM PDT

  •  I wanted to go to law school but ultimately (0+ / 0-)

    realized that it wasn't for me. When I fared poorly on the LSAT and saw the hell that my friends were going through during their first year of school I decided against it. I wanted to do criminal prosecution but realized that most attorneys end up working for law firms that do mergers, acquisitions, banking, tax, and corporate law. Those types of law bore me to death. I also had an interest in divorce and family law, but realized that it wasn't for me.

    The question that you need to ask yourself is if you can handle the tough three years associated with law school. The other question is the level of debt. Going to law school will almost certainly put you in debt between 150K and 200K. I have friends who went to law school who are carrying high levels of debt. They work very long hours; and while the pay is good, it doesn't seem like they have lives either.

    What you need to really do is figure out what types of law that you want to get into, find out what the annual salaries of lawyers right of school is in those fields, and then figure out if you can afford to live on that post-tax income and pay off your loans. If you can't then I would suggest that you not go to law school.

    Finally I would be very careful about posting information about where you go to school and where you work. There are some sick people out on the Internet who will not hesitate to take their disagreements offline. There have been some Kossacks who have been harassed at their workplaces.

  •  I went to law school... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cityduck

    ....and while I enjoyed it at times, I wasn't ready to go, even though I took off 14 months between law school and college, to be a tour guide. Five years after starting law school, I'm back to being a tour guide and I'm an unbarred attorney. My biggest problem with law school was the fact that I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. You do seem pretty self-directed, so that will be an important thing in law school. Because I definitely did not jump through the right hoops there, and I missed important opportunities.

  •  Couple of things (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UncleCharlie, Marcion

    I both graduated from Rutgers law and passed the NJ and PA bar exams last year.  

    Here's my observations.

    -Law books will be your life for the next 3 years

    -In other words you will have no life for the next 3 years.  

    If you graduate, Congratulations!
    You are now entitled to take a very difficult test to prove that you have what it takes to be a lawyer.

    -Your degree is useless unless you pass the bar exam.

    -So after you graduate you will stress about this test more than anything in your life up to that point. This can apparently result in some amusing psychosomatic conditions.  For example, peanut butter smelled like fish to my wife when she took the bar. Everything smelled like car exhaust to me when it was my turn. My brother had a sensation like his leg was floating from his body.

    If you pass, Congratulations! you will:
    -Most likely be in a large amount of debt.
    -Most likely not get the job you want.
    -Most likely not get the salary that you need to pay  back your loans.

    But hey, maybe you'll have more luck than my wife and I, what with the booming economy and all ;)

    Bottom line...Go to Med School or Business School.

           

  •  I am a blissfully recovering attorney (0+ / 0-)

    Law school was the best three years of my life.  I highly recommend it and truly believe it will serve you well no matter how you choose to make a living down the road.  I went to Indiana University and then went into corporate litigation for three years.  The drudgery and stress of litigation wore me down, and I left to get an MBA and find a more interesting career.  Still, I would definitely go to law school if I could do it over again.

    Here are my two cents:

    Take time off before law school.  I worked for a year and a half after college, and as many commenters have said, it focused my goals and motivations in law school.

    Live like a student, not a lawyer, while in school.  Have roommates, eat ramen, drink cheap beer.  SAVE SAVE SAVE.  The less you take out in loans, the more flexible you will be to do what you really want after you graduate.  For that matter, start living like a student now and save up until the moment you have to pay tuition.

    Get a joint degree.  IU had a joint-degree program with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.  Lots of people do a JD/MBA.  A guy in my class did a Masters in Music during law school and still finished in three years.  It's worth an extra year to build more of that flexibility down the road.

    Study abroad.  If I could go back, I would skip interning my first summer and instead go to China and learn Chinese while teaching English and seeing the world.  I would also have spent at least half a year, if not more, studying abroad somewhere.  This is your last chance.  Do it.

    Good luck.

  •  IF you take time off (0+ / 0-)

    I dont know that it's any better to take time off versus not taking time off.

    But, if you DO take time off, do something useful. Try to work for a court, intern with a local government agency, or something else law related. This will help you learn some of the jargon that you'll encounter all at once during your first couple of weeks at law school.

    If you're just taking time off to work in any 'ol office, then I don't see how it's beneficial. Other than rest I guess?

    Lots of people get to school and figure out that the practice of law is so different than the study of law or the undergraduate study of legal issues. You might find that the case with environmental law, but maybe not. It's a lot of complex litigation, a lot of evidence, etc.

    But, workign for the EPA or state environmental agency definitely makes you very marketable to a firm later, where you'll make a lot more money.

  •  2 downsides to taking time off... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Petrox
    1. The job market for graduates is abysmal right now so unless you are independently wealthy, that should be considered.  Finding meaningful work could be very tough for the foreseeable future.
    1. If you still qualify for medical insurance under your parents' policy, taking time off from being a student may force you off of that and needing to get your own.  That can cost a LOT. Going directly on ot l.s. could give you continuous coverage.

    "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." - Mark Twain

    by cyberKosFan on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 05:45:53 PM PDT

  •  one more comment re interpretation (0+ / 0-)

    Read the negative comments, including my own, with the understanding that it is standard in this industry to be highly negative of it. Dentists, for example, have a higher rate of suicide than lawyers, but they tend to be upbeat when you talk to them, whereas a lawyer will likely tell you how shitty his or her job is. It's sort of a badge of honor or a custom of the tribe. In addition, many already misearable people become lawyers, because their liberal arts dreams of being writers and professors and whatever were too much for them so they pussied out and became lawyers. They are miserable not because of the practice of law, but because they are miserable bastards who hate their own weakness and indecision at the critical moment of pikcing one's career.

    Do not rejoice in Hiterl's defeat, for though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. Bertolt Brecht

    by Marcion on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 06:00:52 PM PDT

  •  From an incoming 1L (0+ / 0-)

    I start at Temple-Beasley (evening program) next month.  I haven't been inside an academic classroom in 15 years.  I have an MBA, and never found it useful in my engineering career.  If you want an MBA get one.  If you want a JD, get one.  You make your own decision.

    I decided to make the plunge because of my environmental engineering career.  I know, I'm the black plague because I'm an industry lobbyist (as a small part of my job) and Obama gave me my money back (I'm not regiestered since I don't work the Hill), so I probably won't be doing public interest - may end up at EPA at the end of the day under some scenarios.  If environmental makes you tick, come on along.  Way too many environmental lawyers are clueless.  Have you ever worked in manufacturing?  It really helps you to understand policy issues to have to live them.  

    Work if you can before making the plunge.  Save a few $$$ to take the sting off the debt load.  Most schools won't let full-time day 1Ls work at all, or only work 10-15 hr/week.  I won't see that side, since I'm not quitting my day job (it pays enough to pay the whole bill).  Any experience helps you with the review committees.  The law school advisers place a very heavy weight on work experience - to the point of accepting people with 5-10 point LSAT deficits vs. straight-from-undergrad students.  

    Good luck.  And by the way, Temple (among others) has a very extensive loan forgiveness program for public interest students.

  •  plenty of advice here (0+ / 0-)

    and a lot of it is good.

    I'm a lawyer with a large firm, but am about to quit for good.  I did quit once before and took 2 years off, and then ended up going back because of the money.  As many comments have said already, the money is a big issue.  Law school is expensive, and unless you are wealthy or can get scholarships or can go to a school that will do loan forgiveness for public interest work, it is very easy to get sucked into a big firm.

    I went to a big NY firm and had this idea that within a few years I could pay the debt off, but it's a lot harder than you might think.  Manhattan is expensive, and when you work 80 hours a week you want to enjoy a nice dinner or a fun vacation when you get some free time, etc.  

    what especially struck me about your post was this comment.  

    I have always wanted to go to law school, pretty much since participating in Mock Trial in 7th grade. The experience was so much fun and so exciting I was hooked. I have since found out that being an attorney isn't really like mock trial...

    It reminded me of my 1st year officemate, who is still (6 years later) one of my very good friends.  She had also enjoyed mock trial, and it was part of the reason she went to law school and became a litigator.  At one point she realized that really what she'd enjoyed about it was the preparation part, and the acting part.  What she really wanted to be was an actress!  But $120,000 later... she was a 1st year corporate attorney.

    although it's getting late, you still have plenty of time

    by maracuja on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 06:28:50 PM PDT

  •  Go to the best law school (0+ / 0-)

    which you can afford and are accepted.  It will be a good investment in having options/choices.  I went to Univ. of Chgo law school and it was great.  Practicing law is/was another story.

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