chill wrote:Can you talk a bit about your specific career path? I'm very interested in doing some sort of work with higher education & am pretty drawn to the idea of ultimately landing in an admissions dean position somewhere. You mentioned you have a JD- how did you get from graduation to where you are now?
How I got here is a bit of a story, but I'll try to abbreviate it a bit.
I use myself as an example of what not to do. I did not go to law school with a burning desire to become an attorney. I saw masters degrees as being too limiting and narrow of focus, and I, like many of us here, was told at some point by someone "You like to argue. You should go to law school." I really enjoyed law school, though, as it is a nexus for many different disciplines. I found the work interesting and challenging, and I have found the training I received to be beneficial in many aspects of my professional life. But back in olden days when I went, around the turn of the century, my law school's tuition was less than $10,000 (I think my 1L year it was like $7,500). The interest rates on student loans when I graduated were around 2%. As you guys know, this is no longer the case.
So, in law school I sort of gravitated more towards courses that ended with "and the law" and away from those that might actually prepare me for the practice of law. I also chose to study abroad the fall of my 3L year which did 2 things: 1) I went to Australia so the semester started in July so I wasn't able to find a summer clerkship that fit, and 2) I wasn't around for OCI.
When I started my job search (too late, really), I asked myself two questions. First, what kinds of jobs would my resume make me competitive for, and second, what did I really enjoy in law school. The answer to the second question was my position as a student recruiter. UTLaw has a student group called the Student Recruitment & Orientation Committee. I was in it three years, chairing it for two. I've given more tours of Townes Hall that pretty much anyone alive, I think. I really enjoyed being able to help students separate the hype from the truth. Much of my resume was also related to education (tutoring, mentoring, job with education law firm). So I thought I'd try to find a job in this area.
The best I could have hoped for would have been a position as an Admissions Counselor somewhere, then move up the ladder. The pay for these is pretty low ($35k or less), but I was fortunate enough to be in a position that this wouldn't be a deal breaker. I was lucky enough to get hired as the Director of Admissions (bigger title, but not that much more money) at the University of Idaho College of Law two weeks before the Texas Bar Exam. Not bad for a 26 year old, I though. I also applied for jobs in undergrad admission, but didn't get any responses at all to those. My guess is that there are hundreds of universities cranking out thousands of M.Ed.'s and UG admissions offices are more familiar and comfortable with that profile. I wasn't any more successful in applying for non-law school, mostly student affairs-type positions even with several years of experience in law school admissions.
It took me six years to reach "dean" level, but it can often take much longer depending on the org chart at the school you're at (e.g. at Idaho we just had a Director of Admissions and no Asst. Dean for admissions), whether you're willing to move, and things like that.
About half of law school admissions officers don't have JDs, though. Many have advanced degrees in other areas. Others come from sales/marketing backgrounds and wind up working their way up from admissions counselor-type positions. Some admissions deans are hired out of practice. The percentage of JDs increases as you get to the higher positions like dean, though.
I also did development/fundraising at Idaho Law. An alum with a JD can be a very effective fundraiser for a law school. Many schools also have lawyers in their Planned Giving offices since that aspect of fundraising deals exclusively with trusts, bequests, and the tax implications for people that leave schools money in their wills.
It is true that you can do anything with a law degree. However, I always point out that I believe there is an asterisk to this statement. I think most (although admittedly I have no data to back this up) people with JDs who are not practicing law are either doing something they were doing before they went to law school or practiced law in an area for some period of time before venturing on to that other thing. One should not go to law school with the goal of pursuing some other career that is unrelated to their past experience and/or law. I think this is doubly true now considering the reality of what law school costs. I consider myself very fortunate to have found this career while in law school and to be able to do what I do day in and day out. I love coming to work every day, and that's the truth.
If anyone has follow up questions, I'd be happy to answer them.