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Regret going to law school?

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CNOS128

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Octavia, maybe we were separated at birth?! I also think being in law school puts a damper on the whole wedding-planning thing, by the way.

And, fleur-de-lis, in a word: YES!!! (As I look down at my pale gray shirt and dark gray sweater... I think it''s even infiltrating MY WARDROBE!).

Sigh.
In spite of being almost 30 years old and having formerly felt like I knew what I wanted out of life, and having felt pretty secure in those things and in general, I do think I''ve lost some of my identity (and as I said in another thread, I''ve lost a lot of my creativity). It''s also really difficult to be in school because you don''t have time for non-law school friends and they don''t understand why. So often those relationships drift apart...
 

Gypsy

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Date: 4/16/2009 4:16:19 PM
Author: fleur-de-lis



So, in other words, you''ve lost your certainty, not even your formerly clear goals are absolute any longer, and even your passion for this has been tempered by... SHADES OF GREY?
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It''s like... looking into a window to the past, isn''t it. Octavia and BigT. I could have written your posts. I don''t have a lot of answers, but you aren''t alone, if it helps. And 5 years out from graduation, I can say that IF I wouldn''t do it again, but I don''t think it was the biggest mistake I''ve ever made either.

And I''ll share something with you both. I was on a first name basis with each of the (3) registrar''s at my lawschool. Because I kept quitting, and then going back. I quit 13 times. It took me 5 years to graduate as a result of my indecsion, uncertainty and fear. The first time was right after my first semester. And at that point, I know NOW that I should have stayed out.
 

panda08

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Date: 4/16/2009 4:00:23 PM
Author: Octavia

Panda, what's funny is that I don't fit into a), b), or c). While my parents have always expected me to do something 'worthwhile' with my life, they didn't put pressure on me to do anything in particular. I never had expectations of making a lot of money as a lawyer, and I worked in a completely different field for three years between college and law school. I was incredibly positive going into it, but something about the law school system, and the constant emphasis on doing the 'right' activities and getting the 'right' jobs and grades, grades, grades just stripped all the joy from it. And then you start hearing from panels of practicing lawyers who say 'well, I average about 60, 65 hours a week if I'm not busy, but it actually doesn't feel like that much. Even a 100 hour week is do-able, it's just when you have two or three in a row that it feels a bit overwhelming' and you can tell that they're lying through their teeth. Blech. I don't want them to hide reality, but I also can't bring myself to accept that as my reality, no matter what the paycheck is.
Octavia and BigT,

I didn't mean to make generalizations about who are miserable in law school, that was just a statement about the people I knew.

I'm sorry to hear that your experiences have been difficult. I didn't like the "rat race" either and stayed away from it. I do think that law school focuses too much on doing everything right and going into private practice, as if that's the only thing available or worthwhile. It's heavily emphasized because private employers are the ones who take the time and money to go to campuses to recruit. But there is a whole other world out there in the profession beyond private practice that is fulfilling and enjoyable. My public defender and U.S. attorney friends love their jobs, so do the people who research or work for gov't or non-profit agencies.

I'm not encouraging you to go into the legal profession if you don't want to. But I would encourage you to explore all the options out there before deciding to forego the law altogether.
 

fleur-de-lis

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Date: 4/16/2009 4:26:21 PM
Author: Gypsy
Date: 4/16/2009 4:16:19 PM

Author: fleur-de-lis




So, in other words, you''ve lost your certainty, not even your formerly clear goals are absolute any longer, and even your passion for this has been tempered by... SHADES OF GREY?
6.gif
2.gif

It''s like... looking into a window to the past, isn''t it. Octavia and BigT. I could have written your posts. I don''t have a lot of answers, but you aren''t alone, if it helps. And 5 years out from graduation, I can say that IF I wouldn''t do it again, but I don''t think it was the biggest mistake I''ve ever made either.


And I''ll share something with you both. I was on a first name basis with each of the (3) registrar''s at my lawschool. Because I kept quitting, and then going back. I quit 13 times. It took me 5 years to graduate as a result of my indecsion, uncertainty and fear. The first time was right after my first semester. And at that point, I know NOW that I should have stayed out.

Georgetown took you back.... thirteen times?????? LOL Gypsy, I had no idea! That''s pretty funny.
 

Haven

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I went to law school and dropped out after the first semester. I knew I was going to drop out on day two, if not day one.
I don''t regret it at all.

I went for all the wrong reasons, which were:
- I hated my job, so I wanted out.
- I score freakishly well on standardized tests, so I earned a full scholarship.
- My then-boyfriend convinced me to take the LSAT to see what I could get, which led to a crazy whirlwind of scholarships and awesome opportunities, which was so exciting I allowed myself to get caught up in it all.
- I didn''t know what I really wanted to do, so it was a way to buy some time and get a free education while I was at it.

If you really want to be a lawyer, and you take the time to research the field and go in knowing what school and work will be like, and you''re still fairly certain it''s right for you, do it. I was immature and thought that I could be happy being a professional student even if I wasn''t studying something I was passionate about, and of course, I was wrong. I was bored, and it just wasn''t right for me, so I left and found my dream job, and an employer who was willing to pay for a grad program that was something I would love.

I don''t regret it because it was an interesting experience, I did get to postpone "the real world" for a semester, and when I left school it was enough of an uprooting to give me the push I needed to face the facts that it was time to make some major life changes. (I dumped the then-boyfriend, and found a profession that really suits me.) I also met some incredible people, including a prof or two, and I value the friendships that I made. Had I stayed in for the full three years, however, I may have some regrets, but only because I knew it wasn''t the right path for me.

Good luck with your decision. Spend as much time shadowing students and working lawyers as you can, and as my mother always says: If someone else isn''t asking to pay for graduate school, you probably need to retake a test or rewrite an application. There is always someone willing to pay, if you do well enough.
 

Octavia

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Date: 4/16/2009 4:27:14 PM
Author: panda08
Date: 4/16/2009 4:00:23 PM

Author: Octavia


Panda, what''s funny is that I don''t fit into a), b), or c). While my parents have always expected me to do something ''worthwhile'' with my life, they didn''t put pressure on me to do anything in particular. I never had expectations of making a lot of money as a lawyer, and I worked in a completely different field for three years between college and law school. I was incredibly positive going into it, but something about the law school system, and the constant emphasis on doing the ''right'' activities and getting the ''right'' jobs and grades, grades, grades just stripped all the joy from it. And then you start hearing from panels of practicing lawyers who say ''well, I average about 60, 65 hours a week if I''m not busy, but it actually doesn''t feel like that much. Even a 100 hour week is do-able, it''s just when you have two or three in a row that it feels a bit overwhelming'' and you can tell that they''re lying through their teeth. Blech. I don''t want them to hide reality, but I also can''t bring myself to accept that as my reality, no matter what the paycheck is.

Octavia and BigT,


I didn''t mean to make generalizations about who are miserable in law school, that was just a statement about the people I knew.


I''m sorry to hear that your experiences have been difficult. I didn''t like the ''rat race'' either and stayed away from it. I do think that law school focuses too much on doing everything right and going into private practice, as if that''s the only thing available or worthwhile. It''s heavily emphasized because private employers are the ones who take the time and money to go to campuses to recruit. But there is a whole other world out there in the profession beyond private practice that is fulfilling and enjoyable. My public defender and U.S. attorney friends love their jobs, so do the people who research or work for gov''t or non-profit agencies.


I''m not encouraging you to go into the legal profession if you don''t want to. But I would encourage you to explore all the options out there before deciding to forego the law altogether.

Panda, I actually think you''re right that a lot of miserable law students do fall into those categories, which is partly why I was surprised to be so unhappy. I thought I was beating the odds, but right now, they''re kind of beating me. With baseball bats.

Working at a federal agency would be so great, but those jobs are just looking scarce right now and are being snatched up by downsized associates and people who went to fancier schools and got better grades than I did. Sigh. There are some non-law school factors at play, too, mostly tied to my FI''s job and what we, as a couple, want from life. So it''s not 100% law school...maybe 90% or so.
 

rainwood

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Margot -

I thought I''d give a slightly different perspective. I''ve been a lawyer for 29 years. By the time I started law school, women made up a fairly large percentage of students (probably about 40%), but made up only a very small percentage of the practicing lawyers. There were parts of law school I liked, parts I didn''t. Yes, there are a lot of people who live and breathe class, and maybe think about the liability aspects of using a stair case. I wasn''t one of those people, and I didn''t hang around those people. It helps to have a life outside law school and it''s totally possible. I got married after my first year and even planned a wedding long distance that first year. Law school is an all-encompassing experience only if you choose to make it one.

What really made my law school experience was working on the law review for 2 years, first as a staff member and then as managing editor. It gave school a focus, I learned a lot about writing, and I got to hang out with some really great, really smart people, many of whom are still friends today. I wouldn''t trade that experience for anything in the world. It also gives you great marketability in the job search.

The attitude shift that Gypsy talks about is what I call "young lawyer syndrome." Yeah, it''s real but it''s a function of being a young lawyer, not a lawyer. I''ll read posts on here sometimes and I can tell the person who wrote it is a young lawyer even if they don''t reveal that information. Fortunately, most lawyers seem to get over it once they realize that a lawyer''s job is not to argue, but to persuade. Those are very different skills.

As for seeing everything in shades of gray, I think of it as being good at seeing all sides of a situation. To me, that''s an invaluable skill. One that usually comes with experience but law school gives it to you early. The biggest difference in being young is that you still believe things can be black and white, or just that simple. As you get older, you realize that almost nothing is black and white and few things are simple. Lawyers just see it earlier. And legal training (not law school so much, but certainly practicing law) gives you great analytical skills. One thing I''m really good at is figuring out what information I need to know, getting that information, putting it into a logical order, and coming up with an answer. In my present job, I''m general counsel for a company and people are always telling me how amazing it is to watch when I do that, and I look at them and think "Isn''t that what everybody should do?" I take that skill for granted, but shouldn''t. It''s a gift that being a lawyer gave me.

But being a lawyer isn''t all unicorns and rainbows. Here is what I think people should know about law school and the practice of law before deciding to go or not go.

1. Law school is a hot bed of Type A people who now want to show it off. You''ll have to figure out how to deal with that.
2. Being quick on your feet is a good skill to have, both as a law student and a lawyer.
3. Doing well at law school will give you lots more options than being in the middle of the pack or lower.
4. Coming out with significant law school debt gives you fewer options regardless of how well you did.
5. Going to a top law school and doing well is important if you don''t know where you want to practice. Going local is more important if you know that''s where you want to stay, but there''s no substitute for doing well.
6. Starting out at a firm gives you the most options if you later want to switch to smaller, in-house, government, etc. The reverse is not usually true. It''s rarer to start out in government then switch to private practice unless you''re in D.C. or certain areas of practice where government experience is considered a plus.
7. Most legal jobs are largely "sink or swim" in nature. There isn''t a lot of mentoring or in-house training. People who want and need lots of feedback and reinforcement aren''t going to be very happy with that.
8. Law is still a male-oriented profession in many respects. Certainly the hours and career demands, but also some of the qualities that are highly valued. And the litigation process (which was a lot of my practice when I was in private practice) would have looked a lot less like war if women had invented it.
9. The practice of law centers mostly on problems - either preventing them or trying to mop up after problems occur. That can be a source of stress for a lot of people, and many of your clients won''t be very happy because they''re the ones with the problems you''re trying to solve.
10. Law school and being a lawyer are "love it/hate it" experiences, often at the same time. I didn''t always love what I was doing in private practice in a big firm, but I did and still do think that many of the lawyers I worked with are some of the smartest, most interesting, well-rounded people I know. And I really enjoy my present job.
 

Gypsy

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No they didn't take me back. Oddly enough they refused to un-enroll me. They kept giving me lifelines. Semester's off. Lighter course loads. They basically held my hand through to graduation. It was very strange. If they had just... stopped talking me back into it. Telling me that I would regret it if I dropped out, that I just needed to get out and start practicing and it would be different. LIke I said, my experience was surreal. But ultimately, I am the one who kept returning.

Rainwood: "Fortunately, most lawyers seem to get over it once they realize that a lawyer's job is not to argue, but to persuade. Those are very different skills." This is so true. That is why I am effective in my job now. It was realization that took sometime to come to, as you said. And I am there. But I still don't like it, and I am young, so maybe I will get over it. But these are years of my life slipping by, trapped in this feeling of 'shades of grey". And these are precious years. So yes, I resent it.
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lucyandroger

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Well I''ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I''ve been practicing for just about 6 months now in a BIG law firm. If you''d like to see how that might affect your relationships, here''s a thread I started last week: https://www.pricescope.com/community/threads/im-afraid-work-is-killing-our-relationship.112144/

I did very well in undergrad and on the LSAT and ended up going to a very prestigious law school. I was exposed to a lifestyle that I had never experienced before and I must admit that I was quite taken by it. My professors were celebrities and my classmates were some of the smartest people I''d ever met. One of these people is my BF. So, my first year of law school was just a whirlwind of emotions. The work was HARD for sure but it was just great to be a part of it. My section-mates will always be some of my best freinds.

Then 2L year, the big law firms started recruiting us and again, I was sucked in. I was a girl who grew up staying at the Comfort Inn, and then nights at the Waldorf Astoria and W hotel became the norm. Dinners at fancy restaurants and gifts sent to our dorm rooms....

Well fast forward and now I''m a first year associate...the glamour is pretty much gone. Yes, I make a lot of money but really how much is your happiness worth? I work long hours and a lot of the work is BORING. It can also be extremely isolating. Plus, with the student loans I''m paying back, it feels like I make peanuts.

At the same time, I don''t regret my experience at all. It opened my world up to amazing opportunities that I never would have had otherwise. I don''t know if I''ll be practicing law in 10 years, but I do know that my law degree will be a benefit in any field I may wonder into. Like Gypsy said, law school changes you.

Well now that seems more like a diary entry than a helpful post
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but I would just urge you to really be creative in thinking about your career. I feel like law school is the easy path for a lot of people and the whole lifestyle can suck you in. Now I can think of a number of careers I wish I had looked into.

And if you''re looking to make money -- law school is NOT the way. First of all, unless you work at a big firm, starting salaries are not great. Second of all, you most likely have lots of loans to pay off. My mom who went to law school in the 90s actually made less as an attorney than she did at her job before law school. So beware of the stereotypical rich lawyer...
 

vespergirl

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I had actually taken my LSATs, applied and gotten accepted to law school when I decided not to go at the last minute on the urging of several lawyers that I was working for. I was working as a corporate paralegal, and was set to start law school, when the partner who I worked for, who I highly respected, urged me to reconsider because he told me how miserable he was as a lawyer. He also knew that I was engaged at the time & planning to start a family when I got married. He said that he never saw his young children, and if he could do it again, he would have never become a lawyer. About a week after that, one of the highest ranking female partners in our firm just got accepted to adopt a baby girl from China at the age of 46. She told me that as excited as she was about the adoption, if she could do it again, she would have not worked so hard in her 30s to make partner, but would have made time to have her own child instead. She said that she missed out on the chance to have her own biological child, which she would have had to do in her 30s.

After hearing those stories so close together, it made me really reconsider how I wanted to be spending my prime reproductive years (I would have been starting law school at 27). So, I decided not to go, but I left paralegal work and became an executive in our law firm''s marketing department instead.

So, I can''t say that I regret becoming a lawyer, because I never did it, but I DO NOT regret opting out of law school to get married and have a child (got pregnant with DS at 29, had him at 30).

Now I am only 32 but we have been trying unsuccessfully to have a second child, so I''m really glad that I got pregnant when I did instead of putting it off, which I would have done if I had pursued a legal career. That had to do with my choices to start grad school later than most people, but I still prefer having a less stressful lifestyle now than if I had gone to law school.
 

rainwood

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I don''t want to threadjack here, but, Gypsy, I''m really interested in finding out why you feel trapped by the "shades of gray." Do you find it unsettling or is it something else?
 

kittybean

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I regret going to law school. I was in Category C: people who have no idea what to do with their life/degree after undergrad. I didn''t really know how to do anything except do well in school, so I thought law school might be an okay choice. I hated it. It was really boring, most of my classmates drove me nuts, and I hated my internships after my first year and despised my summer associate job after my second year (even with all the nice lunches and fun outings).

At this point, I have a legal job that I actually like, and I don''t feel like law school was a totally bad decision. I do criminal law, and I am seldom bored. I have extremely reasonable hours. I have no law school debt, so my comparatively small salary isn''t a huge hindrance for me. However, I feel like I could have done bigger, better, and definitely more interesting and exciting things with the last four years. I have a graduate degree, and I''m happy I do, but I hate thinking about what "could''ve been" had I just taken a risk and done something I was actually passionate about.

As many others have said, make sure you really, really want to be a lawyer and that you know what being a lawyer entails before trucking off to law school. I think the people who did were much more satisfied with law school. My wonderful fiance (who I wouldn''t have met but for law school!) is one of those people. He truly loves the law, and it shows. He works for a big national firm, and he doesn''t mind billing 100000000 hours a year because he enjoys the work. He reads about the law in his spare time. He loves legislation and politics. Law school was an excellent choice for him.

So, I guess I only kind of regret law school (there go those shades of gray again).
 

Gypsy

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Harriet

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Onedrop,
I''d love to work at Brookings or some other think tank. I''m an academic by nature rather than a practitioner. Have you put out any feelers?
 

SarahLovesJS

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Just wanted to say thanks everyone for your insight, it's nice to get inside perspectives that are willing to give you the positive and negatives. I'll be a 1L in the fall..so it's definitely good advice.
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ETA: And if anyone has any questions about the "new" LSAT let me know..it has that new comparative reading section right now.
 

Margot

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I finally got back to reading all the posts on this thread...thank you all for your honest opinions on this!
 
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