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IvanSinclair

How do I know if law school and the legal field is right for me?

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I recently turned 25 and I am nearing the end of my undergrad degree (last semester). My grades are decent enough to get into law school and I am feeling the parental pressure to make a decision on my future. To tell the truth I am more interested in the medical field (neurology specifically) but I would require at least an additional 1-1.5 years of schooling to solidify my scientific understanding and prepare for the mcat. And med admissions in Canada is really tough most people apply for 3 years before they get accepted so there is no guarantee even after all the hard work. In comparison I am already in a position where I could apply for the next law school cycle. I would apply broadly (at least 10 schools) and solely based on my stats, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I would likely get into at least 1 program.

The thing is I don't know if law is for me. I don't think I could shadow a lawyer given the current situation. I've browsed this forum for a few weeks and I see some users express regrets about going to law school, mulling career changes, etc. I have researched the field a bit. I know it's a lot of work, long 50-60+ hour weeks, the pay is not nearly what a lot of people think it is, it usually takes at least 5 years before you are making 100k+, and some students struggle to find articling positions. People say "don't knock it till you try it" and although I have never really had a passion for the law, a part of me would like to come into this with an open mind and see if I enjoy it. If not, I have told myself I can always make a career change or go to grad/med school sometime in my 30s but I'm sure that is easier said than done. I'm rambling a bit at this point but I'm pretty confused about what the next step should be and would be grateful for any insight. Thanks. 

 

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In the long run - in the let’s say 50 years of working life ahead of you - 18 months to go after what you really want is worth it. 

Law is not a consolation prize. It is not an easy avenue to impress your parents and peers. The real task in front of you now is to take control and responsibility for your own life.
 

This is a key part of transitioning from young adult to adult. Hold off on expensive undertakings until you are alone in your own head and certain that your choices are your own. 

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Okay, so I can't tell you whether law is right for you, because I'm just an applicant. But I do know that pursuing your JD, a large commitment, as a "backup" with the idea that if you hate it you can just switch to medicine in your 30s will be rough and very expensive. Med school is long, and if you want to be anything that isn't a GP you require even more time after your MD/residency to specialize. It can also have just as bad of a work-life balance as law. Switching to grad school instead would be less jarring, but unless you have an idea of what you'd want to do with a grad degree, you may be wasting your time.

I understand the familial pressure. Law was/is my choice, but I won't lie and say my family hasn't latched onto its "prestige." But it's your life. Taking the extra year to get your science courses can both buy you time and prep you for med school if you choose to go for it. Or you can graduate this winter and work for a year to allow yourself clarity away from academia. You seem like you're more interested in medicine - if you knew you could get in, would you be questioning it? 

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If you really want to keep your options open and you want to come with an open mind, as you say, you could apply for law school. If you get accepted somewhere then you have one more option available to you to pursue. 

But I would have to agree with Hegdis that the better approach is to go after what you really want. Law school and legal practice aren't a walk in the park either. So if you're going to dedicate time and energy to something, you should do it in the field you know you are interested in. In 40 years from now when you're retiring, you'll probably be glad that you chose a career path you liked (rather than one that you fell into due to parental pressure). 

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At this 10 seconds, it's clear to me law school is not right for you. Your reason for applying to law school is because med school is too hard and you want to impress your parents. 

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4 hours ago, Hegdis said:

In the long run - in the let’s say 50 years of working life ahead of you - 18 months to go after what you really want is worth it. 

Law is not a consolation prize. It is not an easy avenue to impress your parents and peers. The real task in front of you now is to take control and responsibility for your own life.
 

This is a key part of transitioning from young adult to adult. Hold off on expensive undertakings until you are alone in your own head and certain that your choices are your own. 

 

3 hours ago, lh22 said:

Okay, so I can't tell you whether law is right for you, because I'm just an applicant. But I do know that pursuing your JD, a large commitment, as a "backup" with the idea that if you hate it you can just switch to medicine in your 30s will be rough and very expensive. Med school is long, and if you want to be anything that isn't a GP you require even more time after your MD/residency to specialize. It can also have just as bad of a work-life balance as law. Switching to grad school instead would be less jarring, but unless you have an idea of what you'd want to do with a grad degree, you may be wasting your time.

I understand the familial pressure. Law was/is my choice, but I won't lie and say my family hasn't latched onto its "prestige." But it's your life. Taking the extra year to get your science courses can both buy you time and prep you for med school if you choose to go for it. Or you can graduate this winter and work for a year to allow yourself clarity away from academia. You seem like you're more interested in medicine - if you knew you could get in, would you be questioning it? 

 

2 hours ago, gg092 said:

If you really want to keep your options open and you want to come with an open mind, as you say, you could apply for law school. If you get accepted somewhere then you have one more option available to you to pursue. 

But I would have to agree with Hegdis that the better approach is to go after what you really want. Law school and legal practice aren't a walk in the park either. So if you're going to dedicate time and energy to something, you should do it in the field you know you are interested in. In 40 years from now when you're retiring, you'll probably be glad that you chose a career path you liked (rather than one that you fell into due to parental pressure). 

Thank you all for the advice, I really appreciate it. It's definitely not an easy decision to make and I see the long term logic in what you are saying. In the grand scheme of things taking an extra 12-18 months isn't that big of a deal in a career that spans the next 40-50 years. I think I have a tendency to get a bit ahead of myself and cave into the pressure to decide now.

 

1 hour ago, conge said:

At this 10 seconds, it's clear to me law school is not right for you. Your reason for applying to law school is because med school is too hard and you want to impress your parents. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. For your info my degree is in mathematics and the difficulty of med or law school is irrelevant. The central factors in my dilemma are time & money. I have already taken an extra year in undergrad which I did not pay for. I am under pressure to make some critical decisions. You are an incredibly rude individual.

Edited by IvanSinclair

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19 minutes ago, IvanSinclair said:

Nothing could be further from the truth. For your info my degree is in mathematics and the difficulty of med or law school is irrelevant. The central factors in my dilemma are time & money. I have already taken an extra year in undergrad which I did not pay for. I am under pressure to make some critical decisions. You are an incredibly rude individual.

A bit sensitive, eh? That's OK. 

Quote

 I would require at least an additional 1-1.5 years of schooling to solidify my scientific understanding and prepare for the mcat. And med admissions in Canada is really tough most people apply for 3 years before they get accepted so there is no guarantee even after all the hard work. In comparison I am already in a position where I could apply for the next law school cycle. 

I thought you wanted an honest assessment and it seems to me that you aren't interested in the extra work for med school admissions but still want to alleviate parental pressure, and that's fine, but those aren't good reasons to go to law school IMHO, so I'd say it's not right for you (right now).

 

 

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You should go to med school. You say that one of your biggest concerns is time - but think about that in the grand scheme. You spend an extra few years or so to dive into the field you're passionate about, but then you get to spend the rest of your long life exploring that career. When it comes to time, in a large sense, a few years is nothing.

I've often wondered to myself "If I don't get into law school this year do I really want to wait a whole other year before I can try again?" and the answer is always yes. Because this is the field I want to be in, and really man, we live quite a long time these days.

Most professional school admissions are very competitive but the risk is worth the reward if they're what you want to do with your life. It will cost time and money, but you'll make that money back after med school and get to spend your subsequent time in a way that you care about much more.

Applying to law school when you're lukewarm about it can be really costly, in a lot of ways. It can potentionally make you waste time if you're then stuck thinking about what-could-have-been.

I hope you figure things out my dude. Good luck.

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Don't go to law school because you can't get into medical school. What your parents think of your life decisions will matter less and less to you as you mature and ultimately it's your life. Believe it or not there are options out there that don't involve going into a profession or pursuing a degree with "Doctor" in the name.... Speaking as someone who did the dual Medicine/Law application route I worry when I hear people jumping between professional programs without a strong "Why this field?" reason. Parental pressure to make decisions and choose something "prestigious" can lead to bad decisions. 

6 hours ago, IvanSinclair said:

If not, I have told myself I can always make a career change or go to grad/med school sometime in my 30s but I'm sure that is easier said than done. 

 

You're severely discounting the time and opportunity costs of going to law school with an escape plan already preformed. I mean, law school is hard (as I can gather, I didn't go), and if you already have a preconceived escape plan you're going to be more likely to go for it, and then what? Some medical schools will count your B-curved law grades in their formulas, and the ones that don't are insanely competitive. Even if you write the LSAT and start attending law school at 26/27, realize it's not for you at 27/28, and then need to spend time studying for the MCAT/applying to medicine (which you may never obtain) and get in at an average of 3 tries you'll be 31/32 when you get in. 3-4 years of medical school makes you 34/35, and at that point are you interested in doing a 5 year residency, plus usually a 1 year fellowship, to finally be "done" school at 40/41? Do you want to own a house, have a family, etc.? It would be tough in this scenario vs. committing to one field and rolling with it. 

If you really love "Neurology" go to a neuroscience grad program. 

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1 hour ago, IvanSinclair said:

Nothing could be further from the truth. For your info my degree is in mathematics and the difficulty of med or law school is irrelevant. The central factors in my dilemma are time & money. I have already taken an extra year in undergrad which I did not pay for. I am under pressure to make some critical decisions. You are an incredibly rude individual.

You're on a forum for lawyers, legal professions, law students, and law school applicants. We're all under pressure to make critical decisions in our academic, personal, and professional lives. You feel subjective urgency to make a decision, but you need to put things into perspective. Common sense tells us that making snap decisions when we're under a proverbial gun is the worst time to do so, usually because we unnecessarily focus attention on the wrong factors or attribute the wrong weight to considerations. 

My original reply to your question was going to suggest that you not pursue law because of your disheartened approach because I know the difficulty of staying engaged with content I have no interest. You are clear that it's not about difficulty, and seem to afford less weight to whether you are intrinsically interested by the pursuit of law. Honestly? If you're motivated by prestige, long term earning capacity, and are driven to get there regardless of the obstacles - you will find a lot of opportunity in the law. On the other hand, it's going to cost upfront investment and an enduring loss of time.

Time's a finite resource and it's your responsibility to decide how, when and for what purpose to use it. You're going to spend three years in law school (and another Articling), you're spending even more in med school. You'll lose two years if you pursue a Master's and longer if you're after a PhD. At work, you're going to lose time working 9-5 and a lot longer when you enter a profession. Law degrees and Med degrees make families proud, but how much does it matter when never time to visit or enjoy their company? You'll find many different perspectives on the time-money-lifestyle trade-off here, and it's something only you can figure out... as long as you give yourself the room to think about it. 

Have you spoken to your family or loves ones about it, about your career path and their expectations/wishes for you? We spend a lot of time trying to guess and estimate expectations, and we usually want to please the people we care about, but often do so on inference alone. Taking some time to air your concerns and the stress of the decisions you're making might provide you with helpful information, and it'll likely be beneficial to verbally process what you're experiencing. 

As best you can, try to prioritize what actually matters to you career-wise, family/relationship-wise, prestige-wise, money-wise, etc. and then start mapping out your plan to get there. You're in the right place to ask direct, clear questions about the study and practice of law but we need to know what it is you need to know, or what information would be valuable to your decision-making process. Once we know what you want long-term, we can help.

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Law school is a lot more reading than a math degree. A math degree (BSc followed by MSc) has many uses. I don't see a reason to go to law school. Personally, I regret immensely having not chosen math or physics when I was 17. 

Edited by Groucho

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I think you're better off working a couple years and taking time off from school to decide what you want to do. Speak to lawyers and try to really understand what they actually do before you commit to a path simply because of the alluring prestige of the profession and parental pressure. Making rash decisions like this simply because you feel like you're in a time crunch is just a recipe for disaster. 

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My advice to anyone who is thinking about law school: don't do law school unless you 100% want it. This is not an easy path and there are setbacks every step of the way. The only way to get through this is by being determined, and in my experience, my determination has stemmed from an absolute belief that this is the career that I want. 

I would do the 18 months to prep for medical school and continue pondering your interest in the law. Then, you could apply to both med and law school if you're still interested, and see where it takes you from there. 

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OP's decision is not as simple as picking one or the other. OP says:

Quote

I would apply broadly (at least 10 schools) and solely based on my stats, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I would likely get into at least 1 program. 

This is a strong signal that their grades are not very competitive for medicine. Generally speaking, the grade requirements for Canadian med school are much higher than Canadian law school. To have a good shot at a Canadian med school most people need the kind of grades that would make them competitive at U of T law.  

Edited by BringBackCrunchBerries
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3 hours ago, BringBackCrunchBerries said:

OP's decision is not as simple as picking one or the other. OP says:

This is a strong signal that their grades are not very competitive for medicine. Generally speaking, the grade requirements for Canadian med school are much higher than Canadian law school. To have a good shot at a Canadian med school most people need the kind of grades that would make them competitive at U of T law.  

My OMSAS cGPA is 3.75, but with a various weighted formula's that look at the best 2 years/last two years/only full time years or drop your worst year which many med schools do my GPA varies but is in the 3.8-3.88 range. From what I understand for law cGPA is more important and I believe 3.7+ is competitive. Not so much for medicine but med schools tend to look at your wGPA more. Correct me if I am wrong. Like I said, grades are not my concern, I came here for genuine advice, not to hear internet Sherlock holmes try to play detective. I am hugely appreciative to the majority of people here who have taken the time to give me that. I don't see why some of you have to start scrutinizing details that are irrelevant or scoffing at me. I'm not here for anything but a cordial discussion. If you don't wish to help simply don't respond.

6 hours ago, Phaedrus said:

 

You're on a forum for lawyers, legal professions, law students, and law school applicants. We're all under pressure to make critical decisions in our academic, personal, and professional lives. You feel subjective urgency to make a decision, but you need to put things into perspective. Common sense tells us that making snap decisions when we're under a proverbial gun is the worst time to do so, usually because we unnecessarily focus attention on the wrong factors or attribute the wrong weight to considerations. 

My original reply to your question was going to suggest that you not pursue law because of your disheartened approach because I know the difficulty of staying engaged with content I have no interest. You are clear that it's not about difficulty, and seem to afford less weight to whether you are intrinsically interested by the pursuit of law. Honestly? If you're motivated by prestige, long term earning capacity, and are driven to get there regardless of the obstacles - you will find a lot of opportunity in the law. On the other hand, it's going to cost upfront investment and an enduring loss of time.

Time's a finite resource and it's your responsibility to decide how, when and for what purpose to use it. You're going to spend three years in law school (and another Articling), you're spending even more in med school. You'll lose two years if you pursue a Master's and longer if you're after a PhD. At work, you're going to lose time working 9-5 and a lot longer when you enter a profession. Law degrees and Med degrees make families proud, but how much does it matter when never time to visit or enjoy their company? You'll find many different perspectives on the time-money-lifestyle trade-off here, and it's something only you can figure out... as long as you give yourself the room to think about it. 

Have you spoken to your family or loves ones about it, about your career path and their expectations/wishes for you? We spend a lot of time trying to guess and estimate expectations, and we usually want to please the people we care about, but often do so on inference alone. Taking some time to air your concerns and the stress of the decisions you're making might provide you with helpful information, and it'll likely be beneficial to verbally process what you're experiencing. 

As best you can, try to prioritize what actually matters to you career-wise, family/relationship-wise, prestige-wise, money-wise, etc. and then start mapping out your plan to get there. You're in the right place to ask direct, clear questions about the study and practice of law but we need to know what it is you need to know, or what information would be valuable to your decision-making process. Once we know what you want long-term, we can help.

Thank you for this.  I have spoken with my parents. They are honestly old school and were not very familiar with how the educational system here is structured. I explained to them it's undergrand-->law/med/grad--->residency/articling, etc.They are pretty clear they want me to expedite my decision (because they are the ones paying for it and in all fairness it has taken me a while to get to this point). My dad for example was confused why I needed to take another year of undergrad because where he comes from a country where most programs like medicine and law are undergrad program you go into right away from high school. I think they are getting impatient with me. If I tell them "oh by the way I need to do another year of sciences to prepare for med school" they would not be pleased I am sure.

As cliche as it might sound my priority is to be fulfilled by my career and also make my parents happy. Money is not very important to me as long as I am making something reasonable like 90-150k (basically enough to have a home, small family, and live comfortably). I have absolutely no aspiration to be that "big shot well dressed corporate lawyer on Yonge street" like some people do. On the contrary I'd be happy working in a rural or semi rural area. As far as law goes I think solicitor>litigator is more my style. No interest in family or criminal law at least based on the research I have done. Wills & Estates seems like something I could maybe get on board with legally speaking as I do enjoy the idea of mediating disputes over a contested estate or drafting wills for an elderly couple. Are there many legal opportunities in such areas for something like that?

 

5 hours ago, Groucho said:

Law school is a lot more reading than a math degree. A math degree (BSc followed by MSc) has many uses. I don't see a reason to go to law school. Personally, I regret immensely having not chosen math or physics when I was 17. 

Oh I don't doubt that. I did a minor in philosophy so I'm no stranger to reading (and I read a lot of classic English/Irish lit for fun). May I ask what makes you regret not choosing math or physics? I am assuming you're in law school or a practicing attorney now. What are some of the pros/con of the field in your opinion? Are you happy or unsatisfied? 

 

Edited by IvanSinclair
Typo

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17 minutes ago, IvanSinclair said:

Oh I don't doubt that. I did a minor in philosophy so I'm no stranger to reading (and I read a lot of classic English/Irish lit for fun). May I ask what makes you regret not choosing math or physics? I am assuming you're in law school or a practicing attorney now. What are some of the pros/con of the field in your opinion? Are you happy or unsatisfied? 

 

Actually, I was a successful law school applicant at McGill with a previous B.A. There are pros and cons to humanities, but in the end I was itching for science and pursued a BSc in biochemistry with several math courses. I will work in either biostatistics or related fields. Options should be open to me because I have extremely high grades in both Arts and Science. I became passionate about physics relatively late in life, and have enjoyed math courses thoroughly.

To give you an expectation of law school, in my time at McGill Law (which I left because I wanted science and because my entrance was...strange), they dumped hundreds of pages of readings on me a week - all verbose readings. The grading curve was harsh and skewed towards a B average, similar to humanities with a B or B+. I did not want to go through that again. You study philosophy so it should be similar.

Based on your situation I would pursue medicine or math. If medicine is your passion, go for it. Law is hard work, often thankless, and not necessarily high paying unless you get into a big law firm. A lot of it relies on networking skills and soft factors. Medicine and math don't rely nearly as much on these factors. Several of my friends are lawyers, and most took awhile to get a foothold in the industry even with connected lawyer parents.

Edited by Groucho
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12 minutes ago, IvanSinclair said:

My OMSAS cGPA is 3.75, but with a various weighted formula's that look at the best 2 years/last two years/only full time years or drop your worst year which many med schools do my GPA varies but is in the 3.8-3.88 range. From what I understand for law cGPA is more important and I believe 3.7+ is competitive. Not so much for medicine but med schools tend to look at your wGPA more. Correct me if I am wrong. Like I said, grades are not my concern, I came here for genuine advice, not to hear internet Sherlock holmes try to play detective. I am hugely appreciative to the majority of people here who have taken the time to give me that. I don't see why some of you have to start scrutinizing details that are irrelevant or scoffing at me. I'm not here for anything but a cordial discussion. If you don't wish to help simply don't respond.

lol.

Look, your grades are a critical part of your decision. If you have a 90% chance to get into law school but a 20% chance to get into med school, maybe, if you apply 3+ times, then you need to factor those chances into your decision. 

From your added information about grades it looks like you would have no chance to perhaps a very slim chance of getting into at least four of the Ontario med schools. Perhaps a puncher's chance at Mac or Western. 

My comment was as much for you as it was for the other posters saying things like "go to med school" and "you should only go to law school if you are 100% into it." It's not that simple. 

I am a practicing lawyer who had an OMSAS cGPA of like 3.79 IIRC and tried without success to get into an Ontario medical school for two years before reluctantly attending law school. Now, from talking to doctors and thinking about my decision over the years and into my career, I am not so sure that I would have even been happier as a doctor.  

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13 hours ago, IvanSinclair said:

People say "don't knock it till you try it" and although I have never really had a passion for the law, a part of me would like to come into this with an open mind and see if I enjoy it.

FWIW, several people in my year who started law school with this mindset dropped out after first semester. Law school isn't well suited for a try-before-you-buy approach. 

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20 minutes ago, IvanSinclair said:

They are pretty clear they want me to expedite my decision (because they are the ones paying for it and in all fairness it has taken me a while to get to this point).

If your parents' pressure is taking you where you don't want to go, you should consider financing your own degree. The expense itself may help you make a decision, especially in regards to your chances getting in to either med or law.

20 minutes ago, IvanSinclair said:

As cliche as it might sound my priority is to be fulfilled by my career and also make my parents happy. Money is not very important to me as long as I am making something reasonable like 90-150k (basically enough to have a home, small family, and live comfortably).

The average Canadian wage is $40k. $90-150k is not "reasonable." It's a lot of money that the majority of Canadians never touch. If you're wanting to earn that while being a lawyer or doctor, sure - lots of people want that in order to repay their degrees, and to make up for the time/work they put in for their education. But plenty of lawyers earn less than six figures so making big money is no guarantee. Practicing lawyers will be able to give you a better picture of that than me though, obviously. 

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