Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

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WhyBother?
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Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Thu Jan 14, 2010 11:23 pm

Okay, I know this forum is about choosing a law school, but I've recently been put in an interesting situation that is making me wonder if I should consider options outside of law. I am out of school already, and when I first graduated, I applied to private schools and charter schools. I don't have an undergraduate degree in education (but I do have an advanced subject-area degree), and I live in a state where alternate route is very difficult, so my options are either small (usually religious) schools where you work long days because you also coach/supervise dorms, etc, or rough charter schools in poor areas where the schools are constantly fighting too keep up with the minimum federal standards in order to not get shut down. Some of these schools have contacted me recently, because they are hiring for next year. It's not lucrative, I'm looking at around 30k. For days that run about 7am-6pm (again, this is not public school). BUT- I wouldn't have to go in over my head in debt (I would borrow everything for law school). There is a lot of doom and gloom about law on these boards, but how many of you would take the opportunity to teach in that kind of setting over law school? I am interested in the law, of course, but I am starting to wonder if an interest justifies putting my life off + ridiculous debt.

The professors who've supported me through 2 law school cycles are going to hate me. But I don't want law school to ruin my life.

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Thu Jan 14, 2010 11:38 pm

Come on...I can see that people are viewing this thread! And don't say it depends on whether I want to be a lawyer or teach. How many 0Ls know what being a lawyer is really like? I am somewhat comforted by having seen teachers in action before and having some idea of what they do.

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Aeroplane
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Aeroplane » Thu Jan 14, 2010 11:46 pm

If you went to law school, what would you want to do with that degree? What are your plans for the law degree?

What law schools do you see yourself applying to and being accepted at? Given scholarship money?

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Thu Jan 14, 2010 11:59 pm

Thanks for the reply. I've been accepted to Georgetown (PT), Fordham and my state school (ranked in the 60s) so far. I am starting to worry about my other applications (172/3.4) but my reservations have more to do with the fact that I don't ever see myself working biglaw hours. In addition to simply preference not to work myself to death, I have health issues that, although not terribly serious, I could foresee becoming problematic with the insane stress of law school and legal practice. I just don't know if it's worth it. I always intended to go into government work with my degree, preferably something geared towards education policy or representing children in foster care (the first based on my work experience, the second based on personal issues).

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Aeroplane
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Aeroplane » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:13 am

WhyBother? wrote:Thanks for the reply. I've been accepted to Georgetown (PT), Fordham and my state school (ranked in the 60s) so far. I am starting to worry about my other applications (172/3.4) but my reservations have more to do with the fact that I don't ever see myself working biglaw hours. In addition to simply preference not to work myself to death, I have health issues that, although not terribly serious, I could foresee becoming problematic with the insane stress of law school and legal practice. I just don't know if it's worth it. I always intended to go into government work with my degree, preferably something geared towards education policy or representing children in foster care (the first based on my work experience, the second based on personal issues).
IF you choose to go to law school: Given your doubts, health issues and work-life preferences, I suggest you look for a full-ride at a school w/decent local placement (like maybe your state school). Your numbers are plenty good enough for that, and I'd even expect you to be offered significant $$ at Fordham (I'd say you'd get some $ at GULC too, but I dunno if that happens for PT). You clearly aren't cut out to take on a lot of debt, and it sounds like there's a chance you may bail on law.

If you want to do stuff w/education policy, I'm pretty sure you don't need a JD for that. I don't know anything about the market in representing foster children but I'm guessing the work is moderately stressful and doesn't pay very much at all. You should probably talk to at least a couple lawyers who do what you want to do before you commit. It seems like kind of a narrow thing to want, and there are lots of ways to work with foster children & help them w/o 3 yrs of school. Not trying to be discouraging, but try to get a clearer picture before you make a decision. Good luck!

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:16 am

Aeroplane wrote:
WhyBother? wrote:Thanks for the reply. I've been accepted to Georgetown (PT), Fordham and my state school (ranked in the 60s) so far. I am starting to worry about my other applications (172/3.4) but my reservations have more to do with the fact that I don't ever see myself working biglaw hours. In addition to simply preference not to work myself to death, I have health issues that, although not terribly serious, I could foresee becoming problematic with the insane stress of law school and legal practice. I just don't know if it's worth it. I always intended to go into government work with my degree, preferably something geared towards education policy or representing children in foster care (the first based on my work experience, the second based on personal issues).
IF you choose to go to law school: Given your doubts, health issues and work-life preferences, I suggest you look for a full-ride at a school w/decent local placement (like maybe your state school). Your numbers are plenty good enough for that, and I'd even expect you to be offered significant $$ at Fordham (I'd say you'd get some $ at GULC too, but I dunno if that happens for PT). You clearly aren't cut out to take on a lot of debt, and it sounds like there's a chance you may bail on law.

If you want to do stuff w/education policy, I'm pretty sure you don't need a JD for that. I don't know anything about the market in representing foster children but I'm guessing the work is moderately stressful and doesn't pay very much at all. You should probably talk to at least a couple lawyers who do what you want to do before you commit. It seems like kind of a narrow thing to want, and there are lots of ways to work with foster children & help them w/o 3 yrs of school. Not trying to be discouraging, but try to get a clearer picture before you make a decision. Good luck!


Thanks, I have looked into what it would look like (internships and whatnot) and it's not glamorous. The pay does also tend to be low. I could attend my state school with debt under 40k (being as cynical as possible about GPA requirements, it will be more like <30k if I stay above median).

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:27 am

I'm in my 3yr of teaching high school in a rather rough area (public school).

Law school is a huge decision and its not going anywhere. If you're coming straight out of undergrad I would say teach for a few years (2-3yrs or even 1-2yrs for that matter) and then decide what you want to do. You can always go back and teach, especially once you have experience.

Two benefits of waiting:

1. The economy. Its going to get better (probably). The longer you can wait the better your job prospects coming out of school.

2. WE helps even the best law school applicant.

I've made my decision now because of my age (25, 26 when I start LS, 28 when I graduate), other life circumstances and I'm ready. Also, if I have to explain the difference between protagonist and antagonist again I am going to blow my brains out or kill a kid. (Though I would still say I like my job...notice "like" not "love")

Also, the profession of teaching is only going to get more frustrating.

PM me if you have any questions.

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macattaq
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby macattaq » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:31 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:I'm in my 3yr of teaching high school in a rather rough area (public school).

Law school is a huge decision and its not going anywhere. If you're coming straight out of undergrad I would say teach for a few years (2-3yrs or even 1-2yrs for that matter) and then decide what you want to do. You can always go back and teach, especially once you have experience.

Two benefits of waiting:

1. The economy. Its going to get better (probably). The longer you can wait the better your job prospects coming out of school.

2. WE helps even the best law school applicant.


I've made my decision now because of my age (25, 26 when I start LS, 28 when I graduate), other life circumstances and I'm ready. Also, if I have to explain the difference between protagonist and antagonist again I am going to blow my brains out or kill a kid. (Though I would still say I like my job...notice "like" not "love")

Also, the profession of teaching is only going to get more frustrating.

PM me if you have any questions.


This is exactly what I'm thinking. Also, waiting on law school in order to work could help you figure out whether you even want to pursue law at all. Give it two or three years, then see if you still want to go to law school. The economy is likely to be better then, making debt somewhat less problematic.

ughOSU
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby ughOSU » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:36 am

WhyBother? wrote:Come on...I can see that people are viewing this thread! And don't say it depends on whether I want to be a lawyer or teach. How many 0Ls know what being a lawyer is really like? I am somewhat comforted by having seen teachers in action before and having some idea of what they do.

Right... so do you want summers off or not?

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:46 am

ughOSU wrote:
WhyBother? wrote:Come on...I can see that people are viewing this thread! And don't say it depends on whether I want to be a lawyer or teach. How many 0Ls know what being a lawyer is really like? I am somewhat comforted by having seen teachers in action before and having some idea of what they do.

Right... so do you want summers off or not?


Unfortunately, at private schools, it's not a given that you get summers off. Boarding schools, especially, tend to run summer programs and it's usually part of a teacher's contract. Definitely better than biglaw, but not as awesome and union-protected as public school teaching.

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:48 am

Summers off are awesome for about two years. Its a great transition from college but then you get bored.

Also, if you want to do Education law and you're going to be dealing w/ teachers, having even a couple years of teaching experience will do wonders for you when dealing w/ future clients. Teachers love to talk about how the job is so unique and if you've never done it you could never understand yadda yadda...

Also, union protection will quickly no longer be guaranteed...oddly enough this is because of Obama!

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:51 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:Also, union protection will quickly no longer be guaranteed...oddly enough this is because of Obama!


Why is this?

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:57 am

At least in IL and I know in many other states they are trying to tier the retirement system. The effect of this is turning younger union members against older union members and diluting the power of the union. Furthermore, there is a new initiative that is pushing forth merit pay that is going to undercut unions severely and create massive amounts of in-fighting. Also, teachers unions have just about zero public support right now so if any problems are caused the PR of the situation will cause the unions to back down because they have no support other than their own (diluted) solidarity.

In other words, I'm jumping from one shitty situation to another... :roll:

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vanwinkle
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Jan 15, 2010 1:16 am

WhyBother? wrote:Come on...I can see that people are viewing this thread! And don't say it depends on whether I want to be a lawyer or teach. How many 0Ls know what being a lawyer is really like? I am somewhat comforted by having seen teachers in action before and having some idea of what they do.

I'm a 1L, and I guess you could say I know what being a lawyer is like, since I actually appeared as counsel in a couple New York Supreme Court cases last week (which just involved stating my name for the record and then letting the actually licensed attorney I was supporting speak :oops: ). However, more importantly I'm 29 as a 1L, and I have 6 years of WE I brought into law school with me.

I will make two observations. The first is that the WE really benefits you in law school and in the real world, IMO. Plus, law schools love that stuff; putting down that you were teaching (and inherently responsible for) kids shows maturity and experience. That's a win-win.

The second is that it's somewhat easy to teach for a few years and then become a lawyer, and somewhat expensive to be a lawyer for a few years and then decide you really want to teach. Do the teaching thing now. Get it out of your system. I don't regret the work I did before going to law school at all; I like that I had a full-time job where I was making a real difference in people's lives. That's an experience many of my classmates haven't yet had, and may never have, given that they're destined to become suits for a big firm somewhere. And I certainly wouldn't go do that kind of work after getting a law degree. The only time to have done it was before I went to law school.

Go teach for a few years, and then go to law school. It'll end up making you a better lawyer and a better person in the long run, I think.

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Fri Jan 15, 2010 1:19 am

+1

ughOSU
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby ughOSU » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:47 am

WhyBother? wrote:
Kobe_Teeth wrote:Also, union protection will quickly no longer be guaranteed...oddly enough this is because of Obama!


Why is this?

because inner city schools are in shambles and the unions stopped giving a shit about educating students about 30 years ago.

e: add to that some of the recent successes of certain charter schools in the inner cities and it's clear the unions can no longer blame the students for "underachieving". In some cases, they also go to great lengths to protect teachers who have sexually harrassed/abused children in school.

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Series70
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby Series70 » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:59 am

I've been teaching ever since I was out of undergrad, first EFL in France, then in a high school, then at a university. The experience has been priceless, and while I regret not applying to law school maybe a year or two earlier (I'm 29 now and will be 30 as a 1L), I still feel I made the right decision. Aside from great responsibility and increased maturity, you also get the daily experience of speaking before a group of people and trying to make them see things your way, skills that will doubtlessly come in handy if you're a trial lawyer.

My big decision this past year was whether to do alternate route and get certified to teach in public high school, or go to law school. I decided that it was now or never for law, but I could always go back to teaching when I'm in my 40s or something, having gained invaluable experience as a lawyer.

But if you're in your early 20s and definitely have an interest in teaching, by all means, go for it.

LSATfromNC
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby LSATfromNC » Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:16 am

Take a defferal at your top choice and try teaching for a year. If you love it then you just don't go to law school or vice versa. If you attend law school you probably won't become a teacher and may always regret not trying your hand at teaching (although teaching would probably qualify for the 10 year IBR!). If you like teaching then look at going to a state where alternative licensing is easy, like NC.

My wife graduated in Dec (years ago) with no job lined up, the monday after graduation she applied for a teaching job, she had multiple offers by friday and started after the christmas break. She did not have an education degree and had never thought of teaching before (full disclosure she has a science degree and there is usually only constant openings for science or math teachers). I couldn't pry her away from teaching if I tried! She loves it. And now that she has completed her third solid year she is getting her full license.

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moandersen
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby moandersen » Fri Jan 15, 2010 11:13 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:At least in IL and I know in many other states they are trying to tier the retirement system. The effect of this is turning younger union members against older union members and diluting the power of the union. Furthermore, there is a new initiative that is pushing forth merit pay that is going to undercut unions severely and create massive amounts of in-fighting. Also, teachers unions have just about zero public support right now so if any problems are caused the PR of the situation will cause the unions to back down because they have no support other than their own (diluted) solidarity.

In other words, I'm jumping from one shitty situation to another... :roll:


if you are in the same union as i am in, our contract run out in '11 (i think). im jumping ship before our benefit packages and automatic pay raises go to the pooper.

i think my experience in a high school has been a great transition from ug to law school and have given me an opportunity to coach a successful varsity program. so my advice would be similar to others - try teaching and go from there.

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:27 pm

LSATfromNC wrote:Take a defferal at your top choice and try teaching for a year. If you love it then you just don't go to law school or vice versa. If you attend law school you probably won't become a teacher and may always regret not trying your hand at teaching (although teaching would probably qualify for the 10 year IBR!). If you like teaching then look at going to a state where alternative licensing is easy, like NC.

My wife graduated in Dec (years ago) with no job lined up, the monday after graduation she applied for a teaching job, she had multiple offers by friday and started after the christmas break. She did not have an education degree and had never thought of teaching before (full disclosure she has a science degree and there is usually only constant openings for science or math teachers). I couldn't pry her away from teaching if I tried! She loves it. And now that she has completed her third solid year she is getting her full license.


FWIW, I am not straight out of undergrad. I am in my mid-twenties with a graduate degree and work experience. I am not opposed to getting more experience, but I also know that it's different starting law school at 27 or 29-30. Not that either is better, but i am cutting into the time that is reserved for me to make money and have a career. Assuming I would still have to take on substantial loans whenever I go, it seems like having less time to repay them is also risky.

waverider
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby waverider » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:14 pm

I was in the same position as you a couple of years ago. I decided to teach for a couple of years. I was able to get alternative certification. It really has been a great experience. I never imagined that I would find it so rewarding and challenging.

Nevertheless I plan on starting law school in the fall. I certainly don't regret my decision. I am better for it.

But as a warning- if your first year of teaching is anything like mine regardless of what setting your teaching in you will be working 12+ hours a day. Between grading, planning, professional development, and tutoring teaching is very time consuming for the rookie.

If I were you I would consider Teach for America. That may give you a teaching opp't in a more traditional yet challenging environment. Bonus- law schools eat it up.

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annapavlova
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby annapavlova » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:27 pm

After one semester of law school I wonder how in the world anybody who was not totally dedicated and truly interested in becoming a lawyer would be willing to subject themselves to the torture that is law school. It's a lot of pain, suffering, money, and work to get a JD, and I can't imagine making it if you're not that pumped about becoming a lawyer.

Don't worry about the doom and gloom. Unless you do shitty in your classes. Then worry. Otherwise, I'd ask myself "Do I really WANT to be a laywer?" and then go from there.

WhyBother?
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby WhyBother? » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:32 pm

Thanks for the feedback, everyone (and I welcome more, if anyone stumbles across this thread). I am definitely going to apply to TFA and as many teaching jobs as I can, but I know they are really tough to get. I did apply after undergrad so I guess I am just down about job possibilities in any field. It's definitely worth considering, though, and I don't want to go to law school unless my heart is 110% in it.

twopoodles
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Re: Choosing whether or not to go to law school (or to teach)

Postby twopoodles » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:59 pm

I agree with most of the above. It is difficult to know what you want to do without trying it and it makes a lot more sense to try teaching before taking out loans for law school. I am just finishing my BA now, 9 years after finishing high school and I am 100% convinced had I gone straight for school, and gone for what I thought I should at the time, I would have made a big mistake.

Having said that, I know a few people who got their degree in education but discovered in a year that they hating teaching, especially at the less than ideal places they were able to get a job. I think your doubt is good because if you expect any job/career to be perfect, you're probably not being realistic.




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