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Fletcher Reed

Don't go to University or Law School "Just Cause"

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Trades and resource jobs will bust. Alberta can't do oil when it's any less than $100/barrel (probably more like $110). 

 

There's a reason why there is a glut of university grads in our generation: in the late 80s there was a glut of trades people and the whole system became obsessed with university. All these McLean's articles and news of the gold rush out west working as a rig pig will slow down Canadian university enrolment (can't stop the asians) and in 5-10 years there will be a glut of trades people collecting EI.

 

 

If you want a consistent and profitable business, work the corners. 

 

But stop whining about how it's hard to get a job. If you can't get a job, make one for yourself. 

 

A message from a 1L with an undergraduate degree is a subject most unemployable. 

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First off, I totally agree that university is too often portrayed as a Golden Ticket - its not. If find it curious, however, that you are attempting to inject some realisim into the debate about the value of a university degree while simutaniously presenting an uncritical, almost idealized, vision of the trades.

 

I think people need to realize that that path is also not a garunteer of success or a satisfying career. Certainly it is less of an investment (both financially and time-wise) and you are of course more likley to find a job related to your degree/diploma/whatever than a BA or BSci student, but its not the sure thing you portary it to be. I live in/around Edmonton and pleanty of my friends who went to trade school are having difficulty getting apprenticeships.

 

Of course you can always go to the Promised Land of the Oil Patch. My friends who have done that are certainly "well on their way to a great financial life." However, ALL of them are not enjoying their quality of life. And I am not for a moment saying you have to be a lawyer/doctor/buiness executive to have a good quality of life. And you also do not need a university degree for it either. But the reality is for a lot of trade work you are trading quality of life for that "great financial life." Lots people luck out and get an apprenceship with a small buiness or independant contractor and may be looking at a long, fullfilling career. But many end up having to start out in the Oil Patch where a lot of the work is. My friends that are doing this look forward to 12+ straight working days punctuated by monthy flights between Edmonton and Fort Mac. They live in camp for weeks at a time and work long days, outdoors.

 

Even if you don't go "up north" its not easy. My dad is a carpenter and worked for a local construction company. He travelled all over the province because you had to go where the projects were. He never broke into managment and was stuck in the same job doing dangerous, difficult work away from his family. He started his own contruction buiness. He has one other guy working for him and does pretty well now. But running your own buiness is most definitely not a low-stress career.

 

I am not trying to suggest that trades are bad or even that most people in the trades have a tough time at it. I just want to point out that a trade, like every career, is what you make of it. I think most people tend to compare their job unfavorably to other jobs. Lawyers, law students and people from lawyer families know the ins and outs of the profession. They see how the job is potrayed in the media. They know that in the public mind it is idealized. And they know how disconectted this ficitionalized and idealized version of the profession is from reality. But they only have an outsiders view of other jobs. I think professionals tend to idealize the trades, just as a lot of people tend to idealize doctors and lawyers. People focus on the positive aspects of the job they don't have (trades: no student debt, good pay, better employment prospects) without really considering the negative aspects of the job (trades: manual work, dangerous/unhealthy work enviroment, travel). I know my family does this with "university jobs" (doctors, lawyers, teachers). 

 

So what I'm trying to say is that we need to realize that all jobs have their pros and cons. People need to decide what things they really want out of their career and what shitty things they are willing to put up with. I don't think the default position should be "trades are the best path to a good-paying job" any more than "university is the way to an important, fullfilling career."

 

This is an awesome post. Thanks for saying this.

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This is the kind of thing people say before any exposure to law and it only makes sense then.

 

It sounds almost like trying to convince yourself this is a perfect move for you without any risks. Of course you will be happy as a lawyer, because you are fascinated with law. I can tell you though, I know a lot more people that are unhappy with entering the legal profession that started with your perspective than I know that started with something closer to Fletchers. Reality is assuredly going to conflict with this type of outlook. Reality is not necessarily going to conflict with thinking of the legal profession as a pretty good albeit sometimes tedious career.

 

Actually this kind of thing reminds me of this:

 

I am actually not jaded about law school. It was a good decision for me. But there wasn't any certainty that it would be and if you are piling on a lot of debt there is a lot of risk.

Thank you for your advice I Appreciate it. I would like to point out that I have worked for three law firms for five years and have been very well exposed to various forms of law and the duties of a lawyer in every-day life so I know exactly what I am getting into. Nevertheless, I appreciate your input.

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First off, I totally agree that university is too often portrayed as a Golden Ticket - its not. If find it curious, however, that you are attempting to inject some realisim into the debate about the value of a university degree while simutaniously presenting an uncritical, almost idealized, vision of the trades.

 

I think people need to realize that that path is also not a garunteer of success or a satisfying career. Certainly it is less of an investment (both financially and time-wise) and you are of course more likley to find a job related to your degree/diploma/whatever than a BA or BSci student, but its not the sure thing you portary it to be. I live in/around Edmonton and pleanty of my friends who went to trade school are having difficulty getting apprenticeships.

 

Of course you can always go to the Promised Land of the Oil Patch. My friends who have done that are certainly "well on their way to a great financial life." However, ALL of them are not enjoying their quality of life. And I am not for a moment saying you have to be a lawyer/doctor/buiness executive to have a good quality of life. And you also do not need a university degree for it either. But the reality is for a lot of trade work you are trading quality of life for that "great financial life." Lots people luck out and get an apprenceship with a small buiness or independant contractor and may be looking at a long, fullfilling career. But many end up having to start out in the Oil Patch where a lot of the work is. My friends that are doing this look forward to 12+ straight working days punctuated by monthy flights between Edmonton and Fort Mac. They live in camp for weeks at a time and work long days, outdoors.

 

Even if you don't go "up north" its not easy. My dad is a carpenter and worked for a local construction company. He travelled all over the province because you had to go where the projects were. He never broke into managment and was stuck in the same job doing dangerous, difficult work away from his family. He started his own contruction buiness. He has one other guy working for him and does pretty well now. But running your own buiness is most definitely not a low-stress career.

 

I am not trying to suggest that trades are bad or even that most people in the trades have a tough time at it. I just want to point out that a trade, like every career, is what you make of it. I think most people tend to compare their job unfavorably to other jobs. Lawyers, law students and people from lawyer families know the ins and outs of the profession. They see how the job is potrayed in the media. They know that in the public mind it is idealized. And they know how disconectted this ficitionalized and idealized version of the profession is from reality. But they only have an outsiders view of other jobs. I think professionals tend to idealize the trades, just as a lot of people tend to idealize doctors and lawyers. People focus on the positive aspects of the job they don't have (trades: no student debt, good pay, better employment prospects) without really considering the negative aspects of the job (trades: manual work, dangerous/unhealthy work enviroment, travel). I know my family does this with "university jobs" (doctors, lawyers, teachers). 

 

So what I'm trying to say is that we need to realize that all jobs have their pros and cons. People need to decide what things they really want out of their career and what shitty things they are willing to put up with. I don't think the default position should be "trades are the best path to a good-paying job" any more than "university is the way to an important, fullfilling career."

 

If anything, my perceived idealism of the trades comes from the anger I felt in high school when I never saw the trades presented to me* (or anyone of my peers) as an option (FYI, I graduated in 2002).  I'm sure you have seen that Albert Einstein meme that has been going around the past year of him saying something along the lines of "Everyone is a genius, but a fish would spend their whole life feeling stupid if all it did was try to walk".  I have no idea if he actually said that and I certainly don't think that everyone is a genius.  However, not everyone is meant for the same thing.  Not everyone was meant to go to University and then to law school.  

 

Regardless, thanks for pointing that out.  This is an issue that I am quite passionate about and don't want to accidentally come across as uncritical one way or the other.  And, I pretty much agree with everything else you said.  The trades are demanding but just in other ways.  Furthermore, trades have an analogous problem to University - just like degrees, not all trades are treated equal. 

 

If you get an engineering degree you are probably going to end up with a decent job in your field.  If you get a BA in Political Science - you are not barred from working but you probably won't end up with anything even remotely related to the subject area.  

 

When someone says that you should "learn a trade" it is not as simple as just picking one at random.  Some of the trades need people desperately whereas some don't.  My best friend went to school to become a car mechanic and had a horrible time finding a job.  He would work for a place for 4-5 months and then get laid this.  This process repeated itself for about 5 years until he finally said **** it and went to do something else.  

 

Anyways, my main point throughout this entire discussion is that there is no golden ticket.  NONE.  There are multiple tickets, some that fit your hands better than others.  When choosing a career, take a realistic assessment of ALL of the Pro's and Con's of as many different career paths as possible and see what (in the long run) is best for you.  And this point goes to everyone: high school students who have no idea what to do, University graduates who are finding that their BA isn't helping them get a job and need to go back for something else and even law students (like me) and lawyers who found themselves hating what they are doing and decide to go a different path.  

 

I think this calls for some Moby: 

 

*For the record, if I went back in time there are things I would have done differently.  But I don't think I would have gone into the trades as I highly doubt I could hack it. 

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Anyways, my main point throughout this entire discussion is that there is no golden ticket.  NONE.  There are multiple tickets, some that fit your hands better than others.  When choosing a career, take a realistic assessment of ALL of the Pro's and Con's of as many different career paths as possible and see what (in the long run) is best for you.  

 

I think this is good. It sort of frustrates me when everyone says, "Don't go to law school! University is a waste of time! Go into the trades—that's where the money is." Because for me, the trades are exactly what I'm not good at. They are probably the thing I am least good at. For me, assessing my strengths and interests and heading in a direction that capitalizes on them actually does mean going the university route. When people say, "You could be making $200,000 as a plumber without taking on all this debt," I think, well, maybe someone can, but I sure can't.

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Okay, people also need to learn to differentiate between being a tradesperson and being both a tradesperson and business owner.

 

Seems to be a common theme here, but what the hell: I've worked in the trades and, living in Alberta and growing up in the area I did, have a lot of family and friends working in the trades. It's a mixed bag, for sure. Some really enjoy it, some don't. Most who are older now have health issues (maybe it's the drinking and smoking, but back-related problems and muscle soreness too, so not just that). Anyways, this idea that people working in the trades are dumb and that "the trades" can be your back-up plan when the lawyer thing doesn't pan out is a pompous joke that I find insulting. Working in the trades often requires intelligence and definitely requires a work ethic. Seriously. If you don't have a good work ethic, the people you work with are going to tear you apart. I've seen it happen first-hand. People getting violently yelled and sworn at, made fun of, etc. In my experience, the kind of behaviour in a nice air-conditioned office is not the kind you deal with in a lot of trades. Thick skin and all that...

So yeah, I would also think not just about the type of work you're going to be doing, but the type of people you might find yourself working with too...I have seen people get absolutely crushed by working in the oil patch in trades jobs, for example. They start doing the crazy shifts out in Fort Mac and eventually become fucked. Cocaine and other drugs, erratic behaviour, etc. Anyways, I'm probably talking to the wrong people here, but I just want to agree with the other poster that said there's no golden ticket. It's probably largely your approach to your job that makes or breaks it. If you're a positive person, you're going to pick out the good things about your job and focus on them. If you're not, you're probably going to be depressed and hate your job...

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UpAboveIt:

Sorry if I made a strawman out of your post, I only meant to use it as a segway to mention that getting into and succeding in the trades can be a challenge too. My opinion on this question is probably also influenced by my past experience. Except, I've had the opposite experience as you where I felt there was a lot of pressure to not go the university route (except from my family). The "go into trades and make a lot of quick money" argument is even stronger in Alberta with the Oil Sands where you have <20 high school graduates making upwards of $100,000. I know so many people who thought they were hot shit becuase they were making mad cash up north either leave the patch or complain about working there all the time. While the Oil Sands is an extreme version I think the same principles apply to trades in general. People assume that its the best way to make money without realizing the difficult and sometimes transient nature of the business. Having said that, I may be a little biased against the trades because I see how hard my dad works and remember the difficult time he had before he went on his own.

 

Darwin: I hope I didn't imply tradespeople are dumb or that trade work is easy. My dad is a tradesman and he's one of the smartest and hardest working person I know.

 

Also, sorry the grammar and spelling in my last post was so shoddy. I do enough editing for my papers!

Edited by TheLastBestWest
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I lived in Edmonton for a few years, and yes... the "get rich" culture surrounding both the oil sands, and trades in general, is definitely there. A friend of mine once memorably told me, "The money's great there, Steve, but you'll work your bag off."

 

Though perhaps that was only memorable because my name isn't even remotely close to "Steve."

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So... the grief and uncertainty in this thread basically amounts to telling us we should all go to med school instead?

 

Dammit!

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Thank you for your advice I Appreciate it. I would like to point out that I have worked for three law firms for five years and have been very well exposed to various forms of law and the duties of a lawyer in every-day life so I know exactly what I am getting into. Nevertheless, I appreciate your input.

 

 

Thank you for your advice I Appreciate it. I would like to point out that I have worked for three law firms for five years and have been very well exposed to various forms of law and the duties of a lawyer in every-day life so I know exactly what I am getting into. Nevertheless, I appreciate your input.

Hahahahahahahahhaaha I just watched this! hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You will be poor except with more debt!

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The only reason I'm going to law school is so I can beat people in internet arguments. 

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This is the kind of thing people say before any exposure to law and it only makes sense then.

 

It sounds almost like trying to convince yourself this is a perfect move for you without any risks. Of course you will be happy as a lawyer, because you are fascinated with law. I can tell you though, I know a lot more people that are unhappy with entering the legal profession that started with your perspective than I know that started with something closer to Fletchers. Reality is assuredly going to conflict with this type of outlook. Reality is not necessarily going to conflict with thinking of the legal profession as a pretty good albeit sometimes tedious career.

 

Actually this kind of thing reminds me of this:

 

I am actually not jaded about law school. It was a good decision for me. But there wasn't any certainty that it would be and if you are piling on a lot of debt there is a lot of risk.

 

You know, I finally got around to watching this youtube video, and it depressed the hell out of me. If all of those things are bad reasons for going to law school, then what is a good reason for going to law school?

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You know, I finally got around to watching this youtube video, and it depressed the hell out of me. If all of those things are bad reasons for going to law school, then what is a good reason for going to law school?

 

I might be wrong, as I didn't post this video, but my guess would be that this video was put up to highlight the hyperbole on both sides (not just the naivety of the prospective law student), and to suggest that both exaggerations might be at play in this thread.

 

That said, I think the video hints at some good points. It indicates that you shouldn't go to law school expecting to do 'sexy law' (like being a war-criminal prosecutor at Den Haag, or whatever the hell Erin Brockovich was up to), either right away or at all. It indicates that some, if not all, of your most time-consuming cases might well be over things that may not seem otherwise at all important or noble to you. It indicates that you shouldn't go to law school expecting to be a paragon of justice for those that can't afford an attorney, or expect that those you defend against the state are always (or even usually) innocent victims. It indicates that, depending on where you attend, you can expect to incur a large amount of debt without necessarily having an easy and immediate way of paying down that debt. It indicates that there are facets of the job that are not a part of the cultural mythology of lawyers, and may not be known to many who enter law school... like being on call, dealing with clients who pay dearly for your services and make sure that you know it, dealing with clients who pay nothing for your services but still eat up most of your time in a day, etc. It indicates that law isn't always going to be 'fun,' and that a lot of your day-to-day will be spent with tedious and boring tasks that will require many hours of your week... and so on, and so on.

 

I wasn't aware of most of this when I first got the notion to attend law school, and began studying for the LSATs and so forth, but some research and poking around revealed that TV-law and IRL-law are pretty different beasts, for the most part. Thus far into the program, it hasn't kept me from continuing on with my application, and starting out at law school in September. Maybe that's just because I'm not *really* aware of how bad it can be, and maybe it's just because this stuff seems to be either only as bad or not quite as bad as some of the other frequently tedious, boring, stressful, ignoble, and unglamorous jobs I've worked in the past. I'll hopefully get a sense of that soon enough.

 

With all this in mind, I'm hoping to become a lawyer not because I expect a romantic job, and not because I've got a bunch of degrees and I don't know what to do next (although a glance at my credentials might give that impression...), but because it presently seems to be by far the best of a handful of options that I've got in the hopper. It seems as though it'll be work that I enjoy doing, at least some of the time. Long, late hours, and tedious bean-counting research and exposition (small-scope or otherwise: I'd gladly spend months or years on that font case the video was discussing) fit my personality quite nicely. My debt load will be well under $30k, if that, as the school I've applied to is comparatively inexpensive ($12.5k/yr, tuition + books/fees), and I'm already married to a working stiff who seems glad enough to help pay my ass through a J.D.

 

TL:DR = go to law school if you think you want to become a lawyer, if you've taken steps to make yourself aware of the nature of the job and the challenges both it and law school will pose, and if it's not financial suicide to do so. And, with any luck, in three years time, I'll be able to say more or less the same thing.

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I might be wrong, as I didn't post this video, but my guess would be that this video was put up to highlight the hyperbole on both sides (not just the naivety of the prospective law student), and to suggest that both exaggerations might be at play in this thread.

 

That said, I think the video hints at some good points. It indicates that you shouldn't go to law school expecting to do 'sexy law' (like being a war-criminal prosecutor at Den Haag, or whatever the hell Erin Brockovich was up to), either right away or at all. It indicates that some, if not all, of your most time-consuming cases might well be over things that may not seem otherwise at all important or noble to you. It indicates that you shouldn't go to law school expecting to be a paragon of justice for those that can't afford an attorney, or expect that those you defend against the state are always (or even usually) innocent victims. It indicates that, depending on where you attend, you can expect to incur a large amount of debt without necessarily having an easy and immediate way of paying down that debt. It indicates that there are facets of the job that are not a part of the cultural mythology of lawyers, and may not be known to many who enter law school... like being on call, dealing with clients who pay dearly for your services and make sure that you know it, dealing with clients who pay nothing for your services but still eat up most of your time in a day, etc. It indicates that law isn't always going to be 'fun,' and that a lot of your day-to-day will be spent with tedious and boring tasks that will require many hours of your week... and so on, and so on.

 

I wasn't aware of most of this when I first got the notion to attend law school, and began studying for the LSATs and so forth, but some research and poking around revealed that TV-law and IRL-law are pretty different beasts, for the most part. Thus far into the program, it hasn't kept me from continuing on with my application, and starting out at law school in September. Maybe that's just because I'm not *really* aware of how bad it can be, and maybe it's just because this stuff seems to be either only as bad or not quite as bad as some of the other frequently tedious, boring, stressful, ignoble, and unglamorous jobs I've worked in the past. I'll hopefully get a sense of that soon enough.

 

With all this in mind, I'm hoping to become a lawyer not because I expect a romantic job, and not because I've got a bunch of degrees and I don't know what to do next (although a glance at my credentials might give that impression...), but because it presently seems to be by far the best of a handful of options that I've got in the hopper. It seems as though it'll be work that I enjoy doing, at least some of the time. Long, late hours, and tedious bean-counting research and exposition (small-scope or otherwise: I'd gladly spend months or years on that font case the video was discussing) fit my personality quite nicely. My debt load will be well under $30k, if that, as the school I've applied to is comparatively inexpensive ($12.5k/yr, tuition + books/fees), and I'm already married to a working stiff who seems glad enough to help pay my ass through a J.D.

 

TL:DR = go to law school if you think you want to become a lawyer, if you've taken steps to make yourself aware of the nature of the job and the challenges both it and law school will pose, and if it's not financial suicide to do so. And, with any luck, in three years time, I'll be able to say more or less the same thing.

 

 

This is the reaction I was trying to get.

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If you're exceptionally good at school, and you've always been good at academics, where can that get you? If you can go through university getting As, even in comparatively tough courses, how can you leverage this ability to read/write/think? If you can find a path that uses these skills, which by now you should know definitively whether you possess, you may find it a wise choice to pursue that path. Even if the money isn't as good as less tiring jobs and the hours suck, isn't it inherently fulfilling to accomplish something that uses your creative potential (exploitable skills) to its fullest? (even if it's not your ultimate god-given talent or calling that you were put on this Earth to perform) Why does it seem like this argument is never appealed to? And why does it seem like so many of the arguments against the profession/law school treat all of us as incentive driven machines that are looking for the largest output with the least comparative input - "You don't want this because there's too much doing x y z and not enough return on x y z".

 

Now I can understand the criticism of the people who want to get into law because of glamour or fortune or doing "noble deeds". IMO these people simply don't understand what a career is supposed to be about. They don't understand that the work you choose to do should primarily be done to satisfy your own desire for creativity and industry, and not for some reasons related to external validation. And that problem really doesn't have anything to do with how much law sucks or how much of a ripoff law school is, that's just a matter of doing a bit more growing and learning before you jump into anything that probably will not be satisfying to you.

Edited by someonenew
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I personally do not care at all about debt relative to anything else. It's just money people what are you saving up for the next life? If you want to be a lawyer then do whatever it takes, if you're not sure then live a little, think through your decisions as thoroughly as possible and if in the end you figure it's not for you then at least you tried and hopefully learned something, Time is only wasted if you're not trying to actively pursue something that you believe at that time you want, and think it will satisfy you and make you happy. If over time those opinions and beliefs change and are directed more towards something else, then that's life

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I personally do not care at all about debt relative to anything else. It's just money people what are you saving up for the next life? If you want to be a lawyer then do whatever it takes, if you're not sure then live a little, think through your decisions as thoroughly as possible and if in the end you figure it's not for you then at least you tried and hopefully learned something, Time is only wasted if you're not trying to actively pursue something that you believe at that time you want, and think it will satisfy you and make you happy. If over time those opinions and beliefs change and are directed more towards something else, then that's life

 

Maybe some people want to be able to leave an inheritance to their children and grandchildren to make sure they are taken care of? 

 

Don't act like taking on debt isn't an important consideration--it is. Some people are extremely reckless with taking on debt. Example, those going to hideously overpriced T3/T4 schools in the US where they are looking at more than six figure debt for a bleak job market. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. 

 

Law school may or may not be a good investment for you. Just don't act like debt is something to be taken lightly. Debt is a form of slavery.

Edited by Ptolemy
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Maybe some people want to be able to leave an inheritance to their children and grandchildren to make sure they are taken care of? 

 

Don't act like taking on debt isn't an important consideration--it is. Some people are extremely reckless with taking on debt. Example, those going to hideously overpriced T3/T4 schools in the US where they are looking at more than six figure debt for a bleak job market. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. 

 

Law school may or may not be a good investment for you. Just don't act like debt is something to be taken lightly. Debt is a form of slavery.

 

 

Maybe some people want to be able to leave an inheritance to their children and grandchildren to make sure they are taken care of? 

 

Don't act like taking on debt isn't an important consideration--it is. Some people are extremely reckless with taking on debt. Example, those going to hideously overpriced T3/T4 schools in the US where they are looking at more than six figure debt for a bleak job market. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. 

 

Law school may or may not be a good investment for you. Just don't act like debt is something to be taken lightly. Debt is a form of slavery.

 

Debt is ridiculous if you're getting it for ridiculous reasons, but if it's necessary to pursue your passion then who cares

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You will, when your pursuit of passion has made it impossible to purchase a home or has wrecked your credit rating or trapped you in a job you hate but can't afford to quit. Lawyers are vulnerable all of the above just like anyone else.

 

Debt can get in the way of pursuing your passion. It's a liability, not an asset. You have to be extremely careful with incurring it. Whatever your reasons.

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    • I am considering a career change from tech to law, and have a background in software development & technology sales. My interest in pursuing law would fall squarely within the realm of privacy, data governance, and emerging technology (specifically explainable AI). In looking around I see there are a few schools that have named institutes or a general focus on law and tech (Dal, UofO, York, UofT, Ryerson), but I am interested in how much of those cirricula relate to IP/patent law vs. privacy and data governance. I assume that IP law and data governance might have significant overlap or will in the near future. I am not really interested in patent law or software licenses. Can anyone who is familiar with these streams comment on your experience and what the focus tends to be at your institution? Do I have an unrealistic expectation of what law school is by thinking I can focus on this narrow intersection of law and tech? I am in the process of reaching out to admissions but I would also like to hear first-hand experiences. Thanks for your time!

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