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How did you decide to become a lawyer? Undergraduate advice needed

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Hi. Thanks for the responses and taking out the time to help!! Sorry for not replying quickly. I am indeed reading all the advice you have given me.

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Apologies for the long post

There was definitely no single "Eureka moment" for me, but I can't say there was ever a time when I didn't want to be a lawyer. What "being a lawyer" means to me has changed a great deal as I graduated from watching Law and Order as a kid (which made me want to be a crime writer for a while) to doing an undergrad in the social sciences which put me in touch with a lot of issues related to law. As I finished my bachelor's degree, I pretty much pieced together what kind of stuff I wanted to be/ saw myself doing in my career, and figured that seeking professional designation as a lawyer would allow me to do all of those things while a) learning more about how the law works (genuine interest), b) having room to explore more different types of careers than I would have access to with just an undergrad, and c) enjoying a comfortable income. I never considered a masters' degree because I always felt that it was more something people did if they wanted to go into academia (maybe I'm wrong here, just my two cents). A masters' always seemed like too much expense for too small a reward.

As to your four fears:

a) If you're generally interested in law, but aren't sure whether that means you're interested in going to law school and practicing as a lawyer, most universities have some law-related courses that you can take to help you explore those interests. I'd be happy to speak to the ones available at U of T -- I've taken a fair few of them myself.

b) You can do any undergrad you want for law school -- just get good grades. If you show genuine interest in whatever you're studying in undergrad (and put some effort into securing research positions/ good references), you'll look impressive to admissions people and you should be fine.

(c) You almost certainly can't shoot yourself in the foot by "gunning" for law school, simply because gunning for law school requires you to do well in whatever you've decided to do in your undergrad. If you start doing your psych undergrad but aren't getting grades that are competitive for law school, you're likely also not getting grades competitive for future studies in psych. On the other hand, if you get amazing grades in psych because you enjoy it a lot, that helps you whether you choose the law school path or not.

I'm getting the sense that you're worried you might end up doing a psych undergrad; not getting into law school; and thereby "failing" your family's expectations/ "letting them down" by having "merely" completed a bachelor's degree and then "struggling for a job". The thing is, it's hard to determine what is a "safe" degree for jobs anyways. Even if you don't get into law school, there are jobs out there for people with B.A and B.Sc. degrees and if you study what you like in undergrad, you're more likely to find cool opportunities that involve doing what you like as a job.

(d) If you want drunken experiences, you can definitely have those while also getting good grades and being an impressive applicant for law school. You also don't need to have them, it's up to you. In general, getting involved on campus through extracurricular activities is a good opportunity to make lots of friends/ have a great social life/ even get drunk and party -- all while doing something you can put on your CV. Model UN is a good example here. So is anything with a travel component to it, or stuff like student councils/committees etc.

On finding structure/ a plan: Personal goal-setting based on what I wanted to get out of  my university experience helped me a lot. This was not necessarily career-related or anything, I just created personal goals and objectives based on what struck me as "appealing to have" and used that to help navigate the flood of opportunities university offers. Some of these started in a pretty arbitrary place, and others developed out of work experience/ talking to people in careers that I thought were cool. For instance, when I was in high school, I was involved with the school newspaper, but I never got to be an editor in chief. When I started undergrad, one objective I set for myself was to become the editor in chief of a publication (I just had to have it!). When I got around to choosing clubs and the like, I tried to choose avenues that would lead me towards that goal (and I succeeded in third year). Of course, that goal wasn't set in stone or anything, but it just helped me filter and prioritize how I wanted to spend my time. Another goal I had was getting published in a journal. This made me more inclined overall to work harder on my essay-based courses throughout. I also added and changed goals over time. At first, I never wanted to take any unpaid work, then that goal changed into finding paid work in my field (which required me to first take an unpaid internship first). What I'm trying to get at here is that structure is something you can kind of create for yourself as you figure out what you'd like to get out of your university experience. 

Edited by Demander
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I never really had a "Eureka!" moment. I never dreamed of becoming a lawyer. I'd never even considered it until about 9 months before I ended up starting law school.

As a kid, I wanted to be all sorts of things, but the one I kept coming back to was a novelist. I made a conscious choice to try to live as much "real life" as possible to have a broad base of experience and a deep understanding of human nature. Then I ended up in the punk scene and almost didn't graduate high school. Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll.

When I eventually went to undergrad for my first (abortive) attempt, I wanted to be a sociologist. After a year and a half I dropped out - I just couldn't stand the courses I was taking. So I worked for a few years, and eventually went back to undergrad after my then-girlfriend (now wife) pointed out how badly I was wasting my strengths as a full-time security guard and part-time retail salesperson. I thought I would enjoy being a high school teacher, so that was my goal when I went back to school.

At the end of my first semester back in undergrad I was looking at the chain of courses I needed to take to have enough credits in my planned teaching areas, and realized I would have to be in school for another four years before I would be earning a paycheque. I took a look at the entrance requirements for a few other programs, and saw that law school was only 3 years, and that I could apply immediately to start the following fall. All I needed to do was make sure my grades in my last semester were nice and high, and do well on the February LSAT.

So I got my application together, spent January studying for the LSAT, wrote it on February 6, 2010, got an acceptance conditional on getting a sufficient average in my final semester, hauled ass for that last semester of undergrad, and started law school that fall. Graduated 2013 , articled right after, and got called to the bar in 2014.

I totally stumbled into this career, with very little thought put into it other than "oh hey, I think I could do that". I've worked my ass off to get here (and I work my ass off to stay here), but I honestly applied to law school on a whim. This wasn't a dream of mine. It wasn't planned. It was the quickest path I could see to a decent-paying job, and it's been a total success by that yardstick.

Now for your four fears:

On ‎5‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 1:10 PM, killyourdarlings said:

(a) I’m not sure my interest in law should exactly translate to the pursuit of a career in law? I am very much interested in legal philosophy, the relationship between minority groups and the legal system, and a bunch of other theoretical stuff that is (apparently) irrelevant to the actual practice of law. 

I think an academic interest in law is helpful for anyone that wants to go to law school and become a lawyer. It's not very relevant to most people's practices, though sometimes in litigation you can get into some of the more theoretical/academic stuff (particularly appellate litigation, which is usually on specific issues of law). It won't sustain your interest in day-to-day practice. But it will help in any situation where you need to learn the law on any particular issue.

The people that thrive as lawyers are usually interested in the problem-solving aspect - figuring out the mental puzzle of how to meet the client's objective, and executing that plan. Lawyers are fundamentally problem-solvers.

On ‎5‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 1:10 PM, killyourdarlings said:

(b) The criteria and requirements for admission to grad school for psychology vs. law school appear to be quite different. If I do decide that I want to aim for a PhD in Psychology, I expect to be completely dedicated from day one. I would be trying to get as much research/lab experience as possible and volunteer in some kind of clinical setting. However, if I decide that I want to apply to law school I fear that I will regret not focusing more on attaining a high GPA and being involved in extracurricular activities around the school.

In undergrad, do what interests you, and do it well. If your alternate plan is psychology, go for it all the way. Don't worry about trying to pad your transcript with classes you think you might be able to get better grades in. For one, you probably won't; people almost always get better grades in the undergraduate courses they're actually interested in. Also, if you don't get into law school I'm sure you'd be kicking yourself if you hadn't set yourself up to go on to graduate studies in psychology.

But be prepared to re-assess your goals throughout. Who knows, you may decide you hate academic psychology but you love computer science, or art history.

Undergrad extracurriculars are extremely overrated as resume-filler. I did exactly zero undergrad ECs, though I was more involved in law school.

On ‎5‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 1:10 PM, killyourdarlings said:

(c) I despise failure. I know that failure is unavoidable, and I’m about to contradict that statement, but I would like to avoid it at all costs. I don’t want to gun for law school and then realize I'm not competent enough to maintain a GPA high enough to actually get into law school. Then I will be left with trying to leverage my bachelor's degree in the job market. On-top of that, my mother and aunt are footing most of the bill for my education, so I really don’t want to let them down. 

Be prepared for failure. Having failed in life at numerous things along the way, I highly recommend it. You learn who you really are when you hit rock bottom and realize that not only have you failed yourself, but even worse, all of your loved ones. It's an irreplaceable learning experience.

But seriously, don't try to avoid failure "at all costs" because this will set you up for a life of mediocrity. Life is a gamble - unless you came out of the gates with a big head start, you have to take big risks for big rewards. If you're totally risk-adverse and only take the safest options, you'll only have the smallest rewards. It's like investing in the stock market versus putting your money into a basic savings account with a bank. You'll never get any meaningful return on investment from the savings account, though you'll (practically speaking) never lose your money.

Anyways, my final advice on this goes with what I said to (b) above - do what interests you, and do it well. If psychology interests you and you think you'd enjoy a career in the field, take all the psych classes you can and take them seriously. If you have what it takes academically to get into law school, your grades will be sufficient.

On ‎5‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 1:10 PM, killyourdarlings said:

(d) I don’t want to miss out on drunken university experiences because I am overly concerned about getting into grad/law school, however, I also don’t want to be 40 living in a tent wishing I had buckled up in university.

In all honesty, I don't know anyone who wishes they studied more in university, but I do know a lot of people who wish they'd spent more time getting to know their classmates, making friends, and being involved with the community. There is definitely a point where further study results in diminishing returns, and the amount of work required in ANY undergraduate program is less than that of a full-time job. Lots of people have full time job and still have fulfilling social lives.

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On 2017-05-16 at 0:10 PM, killyourdarlings said:

if I decide that I want to apply to law school I fear that I will regret not focusing more on attaining a high GPA and being involved in extracurricular activities around the school.

Aim for a high GPA regardless. This way, you will boost your chances both for grad and law. After that, time will tell. It's great that you're asking these questions now. Talk to as many people in the industry (both in Psychology and in Law) as you can. Any lab experience you have in Psych can always contribute to soft factors if you decide to apply to law school.

There was a time when I wanted to take the Psych graduate route as well but realized I didn't want to devote my life to research nor did I like the type of work clinical Psychologists do (I have been working for one for a number of years).

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I guess it was I thought I would stay in music forever when I was in my undergrad. I had law school in the back of my mind while I was growing up, but never seriously thought I would do it - I am musically gifted and I didn't think I could do anything else. At some point in my third year I started reading statutes in my spare time (because that's my idea of a fun Saturday night for some reason) and in the very last month of my undergrad I finally clued in that I really am interested enough in law to pursue it as a career. And after looking into it a little more, I realized that I grasp the subject easily.

I became a paralegal first, and I am so glad I did because 1) I don't have to go into this feeling like a complete idiot (do your worst, Estoppel Monster); and 2) I needed to do everything in my power to overcome my undergrad GPA and LSAT score and prove that neither adequately reflect my aptitude for law. I did moots in college, I've ghost-written a few chapters in law textbooks, I've done trials and arbitrations, and I basically do the work of a junior lawyer at my firm. I also have a legitimate access claim, but it still took two cycles before I finally got in.

Don't be too scared of failure. That's how people learn to procrastinate, by tricking themselves into thinking it's all or nothing. It's still early and you still have time to sort everything out. If you have to do a college program or master's degree when it's all over, then do it. And if you decide you like psychology better, do it! But there is one thing you should know about law before you decide to go into it - it is just as rewarding and fun as it is gruelling and demoralizing. If you don't love it enough that it's worth having to wade through the swamp every once in a while, don't put yourself through it.

Edited by donoghuevstevenson
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On 5/20/2017 at 10:10 PM, Demander said:

On finding structure/ a plan: Personal goal-setting based on what I wanted to get out of  my university experience helped me a lot. This was not necessarily career-related or anything, I just created personal goals and objectives based on what struck me as "appealing to have" and used that to help navigate the flood of opportunities university offers. Some of these started in a pretty arbitrary place, and others developed out of work experience/ talking to people in careers that I thought were cool. For instance, when I was in high school, I was involved with the school newspaper, but I never got to be an editor in chief. When I started undergrad, one objective I set for myself was to become the editor in chief of a publication (I just had to have it!). When I got around to choosing clubs and the like, I tried to choose avenues that would lead me towards that goal (and I succeeded in third year). Of course, that goal wasn't set in stone or anything, but it just helped me filter and prioritize how I wanted to spend my time. Another goal I had was getting published in a journal. This made me more inclined overall to work harder on my essay-based courses throughout. I also added and changed goals over time. At first, I never wanted to take any unpaid work, then that goal changed into finding paid work in my field (which required me to first take an unpaid internship first). What I'm trying to get at here is that structure is something you can kind of create for yourself as you figure out what you'd like to get out of your university experience. 

Before I single out this one part of your post this is me saying thank you for typing out the entire thing! It was really in depth. 

I really like this idea of setting personal goals rather than just exactly planning everything and hoping it works out (at least that's what I got from it). So I'll definitely try this; I think I will try to restructure my 'plan' into a series of goals and that may be less taxing on me. One non-academic goal of mine has always been to start a WordPress blog where I post about fitness and motivation (It's cheesy I know but I love that stuff) and I actually just created a page yesterday! I am going to try to take it slowly and then steadily improve, akin to what you did in terms of publication.

On 5/20/2017 at 10:10 PM, Demander said:

I'm getting the sense that you're worried you might end up doing a psych undergrad; not getting into law school; and thereby "failing" your family's expectations/ "letting them down" by having "merely" completed a bachelor's degree and then "struggling for a job". The thing is, it's hard to determine what is a "safe" degree for jobs anyways. Even if you don't get into law school, there are jobs out there for people with B.A and B.Sc. degrees and if you study what you like in undergrad, you're more likely to find cool opportunities that involve doing what you like as a job.

(d) If you want drunken experiences, you can definitely have those while also getting good grades and being an impressive applicant for law school. You also don't need to have them, it's up to you. In general, getting involved on campus through extracurricular activities is a good opportunity to make lots of friends/ have a great social life/ even get drunk and party -- all while doing something you can put on your CV. Model UN is a good example here. So is anything with a travel component to it, or stuff like student councils/committees etc.

 

In regards to point 1: Exactly. I really can't type anything else because this is what it is. My parents/aunt are: MSW, accountant, and nurse and they keep hitting me with this "We did it with no help as immigrants so you should be able to do - insert career here - without any trouble!!!" propaganda. Although I know it's because they just want the best for me and all that junk. Anyways.....to be a bit more optimistic.... I set up an appointment with my guidance counselor at school to further discuss this, and like you said, there are cool opportunities I don't know about yet! He was telling me about jobs that I would actually like but never even considered, such as working for the ministry of natural resources, being a case worker, policy-related gigs, etc. I'm aware you all also told me this already so thank you. I'm going to try to achieve my initial goals while also learning about some new stuff. 

As for point B: I will definitely try to get involved on campus. Everyone says Model UN is so school and I think I would enjoy it so I'm going to try and join next year, however that may be. And it's an added bonus that I can develop a great social life through it! I had some medical crap throughout HS that kind of disallowed me to drink lots of alcohol and whatnot so I'm definitely going to take advantage of my health now lol :)  Thanks for this and have a good day! 

 

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On 5/24/2017 at 4:56 PM, t3ctonics said:

I never really had a "Eureka!" moment. I never dreamed of becoming a lawyer. I'd never even considered it until about 9 months before I ended up starting law school.

As a kid, I wanted to be all sorts of things, but the one I kept coming back to was a novelist. I made a conscious choice to try to live as much "real life" as possible to have a broad base of experience and a deep understanding of human nature. Then I ended up in the punk scene and almost didn't graduate high school. Sex, drugs, rock'n'roll.

When I eventually went to undergrad for my first (abortive) attempt, I wanted to be a sociologist. After a year and a half I dropped out - I just couldn't stand the courses I was taking. So I worked for a few years, and eventually went back to undergrad after my then-girlfriend (now wife) pointed out how badly I was wasting my strengths as a full-time security guard and part-time retail salesperson. I thought I would enjoy being a high school teacher, so that was my goal when I went back to school.

At the end of my first semester back in undergrad I was looking at the chain of courses I needed to take to have enough credits in my planned teaching areas, and realized I would have to be in school for another four years before I would be earning a paycheque. I took a look at the entrance requirements for a few other programs, and saw that law school was only 3 years, and that I could apply immediately to start the following fall. All I needed to do was make sure my grades in my last semester were nice and high, and do well on the February LSAT.

So I got my application together, spent January studying for the LSAT, wrote it on February 6, 2010, got an acceptance conditional on getting a sufficient average in my final semester, hauled ass for that last semester of undergrad, and started law school that fall. Graduated 2013 , articled right after, and got called to the bar in 2014.

Well, I did not know you could use the word "abortive" in a non-medical way and I'm glad you did that because I learned something new today. 

Also, thanks! For all that typed btw, and not just this one part. Everything you wrote helped, this specific part just really stuck out to me. I really hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I'm glad to hear that you became a lawyer without having a structure/plan for it. It's nice to know that it's doable. And thanks for that part on mediocrity and risk/taking. I don't think I can articulate myself well enough to respond without basically repeating what you said, so I am just going to say that I am thankful. 

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18 hours ago, Psychometronic said:

Aim for a high GPA regardless. This way, you will boost your chances both for grad and law. After that, time will tell. It's great that you're asking these questions now. Talk to as many people in the industry (both in Psychology and in Law) as you can. Any lab experience you have in Psych can always contribute to soft factors if you decide to apply to law school.

There was a time when I wanted to take the Psych graduate route as well but realized I didn't want to devote my life to research nor did I like the type of work clinical Psychologists do (I have been working for one for a number of years).

Thanks! I will surely aim for a high GPA no matter what. Lab experience is definitely something I'm interested in and I'm glad it could be beneficial if I do decided to go to law school.

And I will take your advice on speaking to lots of people in the industry. Right now I am speaking with my school's law teacher who used to be a practicing lawyer about what it's like. They said they spent all day explaining things to people; it actually did not sound super exciting, but there's lots of types of lawyers so I won't let that entirely crush my dreams. 

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

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8 hours ago, donoghuevstevenson said:

I guess it was I thought I would stay in music forever when I was in my undergrad. I had law school in the back of my mind while I was growing up, but never seriously thought I would do it - I am musically gifted and I didn't think I could do anything else. At some point in my third year I started reading statutes in my spare time (because that's my idea of a fun Saturday night for some reason) and in the very last month of my undergrad I finally clued in that I really am interested enough in law to pursue it as a career. And after looking into it a little more, I realized that I grasp the subject easily.

I became a paralegal first, and I am so glad I did because 1) I don't have to go into this feeling like a complete idiot (do your worst, Estoppel Monster); and 2) I needed to do everything in my power to overcome my undergrad GPA and LSAT score and prove that neither adequately reflect my aptitude for law. I did moots in college, I've ghost-written a few chapters in law textbooks, I've done trials and arbitrations, and I basically do the work of a junior lawyer at my firm. I also have a legitimate access claim, but it still took two cycles before I finally got in.

Don't be too scared of failure. That's how people learn to procrastinate, by tricking themselves into thinking it's all or nothing. It's still early and you still have time to sort everything out. If you have to do a college program or master's degree when it's all over, then do it. And if you decide you like psychology better, do it! But there is one thing you should know about law before you decide to go into it - it is just as rewarding and fun as it is gruelling and demoralizing. If you don't love it enough that it's worth having to wade through the swamp every once in a while, don't put yourself through it.

..........You're a musically-gifted lawyer? That's actually really cool and a TV series waiting to happen.

But seriously, thank you! That is pretty much why I procrastinate every single assignment I get. I've only been able to get by because most high-school classes are really straight forward (except for biology:(). Any-who, I realize now it's still early as many of you said so I'm going to try and think a little bit more before I confine myself to one thing. With that being said, I do expect to go into school next year psychology focused and if happens that I do want to go to law school I'll just apply. I think the complications were really arising from my fears and doubts. I don't know if I actually love law yet to see if it's worth pushing myself through, but I guess I'll know within the next few years. Thanks a lot and have a good 1 

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So, I figured I’d chime in here with a few words and try to address a lot of the questions you’re struggling with right now, while also giving you a a) the perspective of a Queen’s Alumnus and b) the perspective of someone who isn’t that far removed from his undergraduate degree (I recently finished 1L).

First of all, I want to congratulate you on your admission to Queen’s University, and welcome you to the family. Queen’s is a fabulous school with a great deal of community and history, as well as a large alumni network that really does go out of the way to help each other. Realizing this fact is where my first piece of advice will come from. Recognize the value of your classes, while also recognizing the value of people within your community.

I learned a great deal in my four years at Queen’s, was exposed to a great deal of new ideas, theories, philosophies, and points of view. But I also look back and realize that maybe ¼ of what I learned came to me in class. Whether that was a result of my admitted lackluster attendance and reading habits, or the actual value of the classes I took is for you to decide. The real value I have found in my degree came from the 1am conversations I had in the Queen’s Pub, from the conversations I had with my co-workers, from attending conference and speeches. You will have a unique opportunity to meet future lobbyists, doctors, Olympians, MP’s, military officers and more, do not waste that opportunity.

One of the things I heard during frosh week at Queen’s was to “work as hard as you can to make your grades as impressive as they can be, and then work as hard as you can to make them the least impressive thing about you”, take this to heart. Get involved. Join the triathlon team, go to Queen’s Model Parliament. Take that elective class you’re interested in and then drop it when you realize that learning a new language is way too difficult. Work for TAPS or Walkhome or CoGro. Try. And Fail. And Learn. You will be better for it, and I find that the people with broad networks of both friends and experiences, even if they “just” have an undergraduate degree, are very seldom the ones “living in tents”.

Secondly, do your degree in what interests you, and figure out law school later. Treat your undergraduate as an ends in and of itself, not as a means to an end. One of my regrets in undergrad was eschewing something I was passionate about for something that would better prepare me for law school, and I really wish I could take that back. You get a general first year, use it. You might find a passion for something you never knew you had one for.

I’ll tell you a secret: in my first year political studies class of 300 in BioSci, 9/10 people I asked about future plans said law school. Of the 200 people who majored in POLS with me, maybe 30 of us wrote the LSAT, and I really only know a handful of us studying law today. I also know a handful from commerce, a handful from engineering, a handful from a number of different arts and sciences disciplines. What all these people have in common was that they enjoyed their work enough to be able to do well in undergrad. (PS: of the most successful people I know to date, many of them are people who decided to not attend law school, in fact, I often feel like the failure amongst them, so be careful not to tie your success to your goals today)

I always wanted to be a lawyer, but what that meant to me has evolved immensely over the past- call it 16- years of my life. Like many others it started from parents and teachers as “you love to argue, you should be a lawyer”, which shifted into an interest in prosecution work, putting the “bad guys” away. I went to law school “knowing” I wanted to be a litigator of some description, and after figuring out that compared to constitutional politics, constitutional law is actually fairly mundane (to me), and discovering “hey, these contracts and property courses are kinda like big puzzles I get to play with in my head”, I’ve got a much different perspective on what I want for my career.

This type of “knowing” didn’t make it any easier in my book, just to be clear. Being the person that people have said “oh he’ll go to law school” means fuck all when you show up in 1L, and it can certainly cause you to put a lot of pressure on yourself to “succeed”. In fact, about a month before my 1L finals I had myself so convinced that law wasn’t for me anymore that I spent two full days researching alternative career paths I’m neither qualified for nor interested in, on the off chance I discovered some newfangled passion I hadn’t previously explored (nope, still law).

So what I’m saying is become the best person you can be in the thing you’re most interested in now, and go from there. Allow yourself the license to change your mind. Law will be there at the end of the road if you decide it’s best for you. And if it is law school you choose, rinse and repeat, I’ll let you know if the same types of questions you’re having right now ever stop for me.  

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It's something I've always wanted to do. I have family members who are lawyers. Growing up, I saw that law (1) is a flexible career, and you can make it into what you want (e.g. anything from owning your own business/practice to being an academic), acknowledging that your grads/ambition can limit those options and (2) can provide you with a decent income.

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20 hours ago, whoknows said:

So, I figured I’d chime in here with a few words and try to address a lot of the questions you’re struggling with right now, while also giving you a a) the perspective of a Queen’s Alumnus and b) the perspective of someone who isn’t that far removed from his undergraduate degree (I recently finished 1L).

First of all, I want to congratulate you on your admission to Queen’s University, and welcome you to the family. Queen’s is a fabulous school with a great deal of community and history, as well as a large alumni network that really does go out of the way to help each other. Realizing this fact is where my first piece of advice will come from. Recognize the value of your classes, while also recognizing the value of people within your community.

I learned a great deal in my four years at Queen’s, was exposed to a great deal of new ideas, theories, philosophies, and points of view. But I also look back and realize that maybe ¼ of what I learned came to me in class. Whether that was a result of my admitted lackluster attendance and reading habits, or the actual value of the classes I took is for you to decide. The real value I have found in my degree came from the 1am conversations I had in the Queen’s Pub, from the conversations I had with my co-workers, from attending conference and speeches. You will have a unique opportunity to meet future lobbyists, doctors, Olympians, MP’s, military officers and more, do not waste that opportunity.

One of the things I heard during frosh week at Queen’s was to “work as hard as you can to make your grades as impressive as they can be, and then work as hard as you can to make them the least impressive thing about you”, take this to heart. Get involved. Join the triathlon team, go to Queen’s Model Parliament. Take that elective class you’re interested in and then drop it when you realize that learning a new language is way too difficult. Work for TAPS or Walkhome or CoGro. Try. And Fail. And Learn. You will be better for it, and I find that the people with broad networks of both friends and experiences, even if they “just” have an undergraduate degree, are very seldom the ones “living in tents”.

Secondly, do your degree in what interests you, and figure out law school later. Treat your undergraduate as an ends in and of itself, not as a means to an end. One of my regrets in undergrad was eschewing something I was passionate about for something that would better prepare me for law school, and I really wish I could take that back. You get a general first year, use it. You might find a passion for something you never knew you had one for.

I’ll tell you a secret: in my first year political studies class of 300 in BioSci, 9/10 people I asked about future plans said law school. Of the 200 people who majored in POLS with me, maybe 30 of us wrote the LSAT, and I really only know a handful of us studying law today. I also know a handful from commerce, a handful from engineering, a handful from a number of different arts and sciences disciplines. What all these people have in common was that they enjoyed their work enough to be able to do well in undergrad. (PS: of the most successful people I know to date, many of them are people who decided to not attend law school, in fact, I often feel like the failure amongst them, so be careful not to tie your success to your goals today)

I always wanted to be a lawyer, but what that meant to me has evolved immensely over the past- call it 16- years of my life. Like many others it started from parents and teachers as “you love to argue, you should be a lawyer”, which shifted into an interest in prosecution work, putting the “bad guys” away. I went to law school “knowing” I wanted to be a litigator of some description, and after figuring out that compared to constitutional politics, constitutional law is actually fairly mundane (to me), and discovering “hey, these contracts and property courses are kinda like big puzzles I get to play with in my head”, I’ve got a much different perspective on what I want for my career.

This type of “knowing” didn’t make it any easier in my book, just to be clear. Being the person that people have said “oh he’ll go to law school” means fuck all when you show up in 1L, and it can certainly cause you to put a lot of pressure on yourself to “succeed”. In fact, about a month before my 1L finals I had myself so convinced that law wasn’t for me anymore that I spent two full days researching alternative career paths I’m neither qualified for nor interested in, on the off chance I discovered some newfangled passion I hadn’t previously explored (nope, still law).

So what I’m saying is become the best person you can be in the thing you’re most interested in now, and go from there. Allow yourself the license to change your mind. Law will be there at the end of the road if you decide it’s best for you. And if it is law school you choose, rinse and repeat, I’ll let you know if the same types of questions you’re having right now ever stop for me.  

Hey! Sorry for the late reply! Preparing for prom is really time consuming :(. And thank you for this in depth response! If you don't mind, may I shoot you a PM and ask you some questions about Queen's that are completely unrelated to law and law school? 

It's good to hear you think so highly of Queen's. I've actually yet to meet anyone who has had a bad experience attending the school (although I'm sure they exist). May I ask how one exactly attends these conferences and speeches? I've always perceived conferences as these fancy get-togethers that graduate students attend where they get name cards and stuff. Do you have to be invited or can you just casually walk right in? And thanks for all the advice! The one particular quote about working hard and being impressive really made me think. :) 

As of now I don't think I have anything else to say! Mainly because this was so helpful that all I can say is thank you, and if I say anything else I think I'll just end up reinforcing what you've already said. With that being said, I really appreciate your response and even taking the time out to write it! My nerves have definitely settled after reading this and all the other posts written, which I think is what I originally needed more than anything. 

Once again, thank you!  

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, conge said:

It's something I've always wanted to do. I have family members who are lawyers. Growing up, I saw that law (1) is a flexible career, and you can make it into what you want (e.g. anything from owning your own business/practice to being an academic), acknowledging that your grads/ambition can limit those options and (2) can provide you with a decent income.

Thanks for replying! I don't know why, but I haven't fully considered that my future grades can limit me to becoming a lawyer (or psychologist and other careers for that matter). Well, I mean, I have now. After lots of reading I've found that most people believe there is little correlation between your high-school average and GPA in university, so I really don't know what to expect atm. 

Do you think that having lawyers within the family gave you a more realistic understanding of what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis? And do you know how one might go about shadowing a lawyer - this is something my brother suggested doing once I reach 2nd or 3rd year. And thank you once again!!! 

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12 hours ago, killyourdarlings said:

Thanks for replying! I don't know why, but I haven't fully considered that my future grades can limit me to becoming a lawyer (or psychologist and other careers for that matter). Well, I mean, I have now. After lots of reading I've found that most people believe there is little correlation between your high-school average and GPA in university, so I really don't know what to expect atm.  It's not something you need to worry about atm, but consider that having below average grades will limit your ability to go in to academia, article with big firm via OCIs, or do a clerkship (and prob a few other things I'm not considering). But it won't stop you from being a lawyer. Also, realistically, no one (even the gold medalist) has the full range of options that I alluded to available to them - practically speaking, that gold medalist could be a terrible sole practitioner/business owner or academic but fits well in big law. The point being, all other things being equal, good grades will open career doors and bad grades will close them.

Do you think that having lawyers within the family gave you a more realistic understanding of what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis? And do you know how one might go about shadowing a lawyer - this is something my brother suggested doing once I reach 2nd or 3rd year. And thank you once again!!! Yes, it gave me a more realistic understanding as someone entering law school, but it still wasn't a very good understanding, and it certainly wasn't any sort of advantage in law school or otherwise (aside from perhaps running into lawyers/judges that knew my family members, and in the case of at least one family member, that isn't necessarily a good thing).

Shadowing a lawyer? If you summer in a firm, you'll (hopefully) be doing a good deal of that along with research and writing. If you don't want to wait for that, then just call up lawyers in smaller firms and tell them what's up and that you'd like to shadow them for a few days, you might get positive responses.

Some answers above in bold.

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On 5/29/2017 at 7:01 PM, killyourdarlings said:

Hey! Sorry for the late reply! Preparing for prom is really time consuming . And thank you for this in depth response! If you don't mind, may I shoot you a PM and ask you some questions about Queen's that are completely unrelated to law and law school? 

It's good to hear you think so highly of Queen's. I've actually yet to meet anyone who has had a bad experience attending the school (although I'm sure they exist). May I ask how one exactly attends these conferences and speeches? I've always perceived conferences as these fancy get-togethers that graduate students attend where they get name cards and stuff. Do you have to be invited or can you just casually walk right in? And thanks for all the advice! The one particular quote about working hard and being impressive really made me think.  

As of now I don't think I have anything else to say! Mainly because this was so helpful that all I can say is thank you, and if I say anything else I think I'll just end up reinforcing what you've already said. With that being said, I really appreciate your response and even taking the time out to write it! My nerves have definitely settled after reading this and all the other posts written, which I think is what I originally needed more than anything. 

Once again, thank you!  

 

 

 

Go ahead and shoot my a PM. Undergraduate conferences are completely open for sign up, and you will find out more during frosh week. 

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