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Richey

Should you go to law school?

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I visited this site when I was making choice about going to school and where I should go, and figured that as someone who is done school now and currently articling I could let people who might be interested what my overall thoughts were.

As you can tell from the title I am maybe not quite as gung-ho about law school as most of the people you talk to are. Little back ground on me I waited four years after finishing undergrad before going back to law school. I'm articling at a smaller family law firm and I'm not super keen on family law.  

So to address the topic: should you go to law school? My thoughts are as follows:

1. Do you have a good reason to go? My friend referred to law school as "a refuge for the uninspired" and I was in this post. I had a poli sci degree and figured it would open some interesting doors. This might be true but it's a hard road to make it to those doors. I was interested in maybe doing something in foreign affairs with the government and law school was not the most direct path to get there. For one thing once you write that LSAT it's a hard road to get off. You've invested that time, and then once you've started classes you've invested that money. Once your in school you see that you can make that money back and have good self esteem by applying for OCI jobs so you do that. Maybe you get one maybe you don't but you can probably find an articling job and after three years of school you at least want to be called to the bar so you can call yourself a lawyer. So you see how it just sort of sucks you in. The associate dean at my school did say she never met anyone who wasn't unhappy after dropping out, but you have just made a bunch of new friends and it is hard.

That was a bit of a digression to say, don't go if it is just because you have nothing better to do.

2. Know what kind of law you want to do, and know what practicing it is actually like. Turns out lots of people in law school's parents were lawyers, and then know what the job is like. Mine were not. If your parents are not lawyers try working in a law firm as a para legal or at a court registry, I wish I had done that. When you get to school you need to make up your mind pretty darn quick what kind of law you want to practice, and this needs to be based not just on that you find it interesting but what the lifestyle is going to be like. I.e. you can't really do immigration law in a small town, you can't have a life doing big firm corporate law ;), your going to spending lots of time with criminals if you do crim defence, if you don't like hearing about your friends bad break up don't go into family... cause it's all the time.

 

3. Do work hard in first year and get those grads, (hot tip practice exams are way more useful than a beautifully formatted outline.) But then you need to leverage those grades into work experience. Don't be afraid to take something unpaid in your 1L summer if it means getting a good experience, or even a bad experience that can narrow your future interests.  

 

 

  

 

 

 

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I agree with chunks of what was said here. I think many people think "Hey maybe I should become a lawyer" without knowing too much. Then once you invest time into studying for the LSAT and you do well (enough) you kind of want to see it through. And of course once you get to law school you feel the need to "finish what you started". This was certainly me. I only had a vague inclination of what being a lawyer would actually entail. Fortunately, I dont hate it (yet)

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Just out of curiosity op, did you know you didn't like practicing family before your started articling with that firm? 

 

I agree with some of your points (I'm constantly surprised by how many of my friends/classmates have dad/mom's who are lawyers) however I dont think you need to know what area of law you want to go into that soon. 

By 2nd year ideally but even if you don't know by then there are plenty of firms you can article with that practice in a variety of practice areas. Get in with one of those firms and you'll at least be able to get some practical experience summering/articling which will help guide you into whichever area of law you find you prefer. 

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17 hours ago, Richey said:

...

2. Know what kind of law you want to do, and know what practicing it is actually like. Turns out lots of people in law school's parents were lawyers, and then know what the job is like. Mine were not. If your parents are not lawyers try working in a law firm as a para legal or at a court registry, I wish I had done that. When you get to school you need to make up your mind pretty darn quick what kind of law you want to practice, and this needs to be based not just on that you find it interesting but what the lifestyle is going to be like. I.e. you can't really do immigration law in a small town, you can't have a life doing big firm corporate law ;), your going to spending lots of time with criminals if you do crim defence, if you don't like hearing about your friends bad break up don't go into family... cause it's all the time.

...

This is the part of your post I really disagree with. Yes, interest and lifestyle and practicality are all things that should be taken into account when figuring out what practice area you want to pursue, but by no means is it necessary to figure all of that out before going to school (or even deciding to apply). Law school is designed to help you figure out what you want to do - courses can help you figure out what interests you, lots of clubs have firm tours and panels with practicing lawyers in different fields and networking events where you can meet lawyers and find out what practice is really like, there are different kinds of clinics to give you hands-on experience with practice and clients. Sure, I think it's good to go into law school with a somewhat realistic view of what being a lawyer is like (e.g. there's a base level of demanding that you probably can't avoid, you can't realistically expect to earn a six-figure salary right out of the gate while working 9-5 hours, you likely aren't going to be an international human rights lawyer), but you certainly don't have to have everything figured out in advance.

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16 hours ago, healthlaw said:

I agree with chunks of what was said here. I think many people think "Hey maybe I should become a lawyer" without knowing too much. Then once you invest time into studying for the LSAT and you do well (enough) you kind of want to see it through. And of course once you get to law school you feel the need to "finish what you started". This was certainly me. I only had a vague inclination of what being a lawyer would actually entail. Fortunately, I dont hate it (yet)

In fairness, that's true for pretty much every type of schooling except for medical school, which is reserved just for science students who don't know what they want to do and say "Hey, maybe I should become a doctor."

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Well the OP's language is all over the place, but basically he or she is saying:

1. Don't go to law school unless you want to become a lawyer.

2. Try and find out what kind of law you want to practice, and get experience in that kind of law; and

3. It's important to get good grades in first year.

I can't disagree with any of that, and if anything would just repeat it for emphasis.

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If you don't like reading a lot then don't go to law school. I still can't believe how much I read in a day (hint - it's way more in practice than I ever did in law school). 

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"don't go if it is just because you have nothing better to do" - I dunno, that is basically why I went to law school and it turned out OK for me. I generally enjoyed law school, and I like the job I got as a result. 

Also, I'd generally recommend ppl not try and figure out what type of law they want to do before law school - there are many, many areas of law that aren't even on the average person's radar; this is best left for when you are in the last two years of school, or arguably even during articles. Hell, some lawyers don't know until after they become lawyers.

Ppl have all kinds of advice for others based on their own personal experiences. I'm not sure it's as universally relevant as they often think it is...

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1 hour ago, conge said:

"don't go if it is just because you have nothing better to do" - I dunno, that is basically why I went to law school and it turned out OK for me. I generally enjoyed law school, and I like the job I got as a result. 

Also, I'd generally recommend ppl not try and figure out what type of law they want to do before law school - there are many, many areas of law that aren't even on the average person's radar; this is best left for when you are in the last two years of school, or arguably even during articles. Hell, some lawyers don't know until after they become lawyers.

Ppl have all kinds of advice for others based on their own personal experiences. I'm not sure it's as universally relevant as they often think it is...

If you have nothing better to do then looking at law school is not a bad idea.  But you should look into what it entails and decide if you think it's something you would like to do, rather than just "well I'm going to graduate and I don't know what to do - I'll write the LSAT just to buy time until I figure out what I want to do".  A JD might be useful in some non-law-jobs, but it generally isn't 'worth it' if you aren't going to become a lawyer.

You don't need to know what kind of law you want to do before law school, but by the time second year starts you'd better be able to articulate what you'd like to do.  I sat in on interviews with prospective articling students who would answer "I don't know what kind of law I'd like to do - I figure I'll decide during articling'.  They didn't do very well in my experience.

And I see you didn't argue about first year grades. :)

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On 11/24/2017 at 5:02 PM, providence said:

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was clerking - worked out ok for me.

I went to law school as a default choice. Took a bit after graduating to get my bearings. Now I'm loving it. 

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Any post that reminds applicants to make sure that the job in their dreams and on TV actually exists in real life before spending $150,000 chasing it is a good post.

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I think the idea that people would come into law school knowing what kind of law they want to practice or knowing what a law career looks like comes from a certain place of privilege. I remember at the beginning of 1L, people were discussing this, and many of them had parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/siblings/family friends who were lawyers and knew all about Bay Street, big law, clerking, wills and estates, family law etc. So of course they had an idea of what it was like and what to do.

I was the first person in my family to finish high school. I really didn’t know what a non-minimum wage menial job looked like. I only knew about criminal lawyers from Legal Aid and had a pretty negative view of them. It was essential for me to have the time in law school to even learn what my options were. 

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5 hours ago, providence said:

I think the idea that people would come into law school knowing what kind of law they want to practice or knowing what a law career looks like comes from a certain place of privilege. I remember at the beginning of 1L, people were discussing this, and many of them had parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/siblings/family friends who were lawyers and knew all about Bay Street, big law, clerking, wills and estates, family law etc. So of course they had an idea of what it was like and what to do.

I was the first person in my family to finish high school. I really didn’t know what a non-minimum wage menial job looked like. I only knew about criminal lawyers from Legal Aid and had a pretty negative view of them. It was essential for me to have the time in law school to even learn what my options were. 

Heck, I had a lawyer in the family, and I had no idea what the areas of law that I actually work in entailed or even that they existed at all. So I'm with you.  

That said, I think it is important, once in law school, to try to learn as much as possible about what your options are and what you might see yourself doing, because it can be hard to get a job when your ambition is merely to be a [generic] lawyer.  

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I had never met a lawyer before I went to law school.  But when I got to law school, I knew I was interested in labour law because of previous personal experience. But most people don't start to figure it out until 2nd and 3rd year, or even articling/clerking. Or even after spending time being a lawyer and learning that you don't like what you do.

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10 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

I had never met a lawyer before I went to law school.  But when I got to law school, I knew I was interested in labour law because of previous personal experience. But most people don't start to figure it out until 2nd and 3rd year, or even articling/clerking. Or even after spending time being a lawyer and learning that you don't like what you do.

It's tricky though. I mean if you go to biglaw route, articling or summering is a big buffet of practice areas you can try - sample them, see if you like them. No doubt that's part of the appeal of that path (yes, money too). But, even there, you've already made a bit of a call - you're less likely to be a family or criminal lawyer. And going the otherway, if you think you want to be a criminal lawyer, because Jack McCoy on Law and Order was the bomb (my pre-law school ambitions), by them time you're articling and realize you hate dealing with criminals, you've effectively limited your options.  

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