Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
bycron77

New
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:04 am

Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby bycron77 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:14 am

I wrote this initially as a comment to this article: http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/ar ... law-school. But TLS is a more widely read site, and I have read a lot of good things here, so I wanted to post here and see if I could get any good feedback. Thanks for reading. Here's my situation:

I am studying for the LSATs and am having doubts about law school. I have suffered from depression and related psychological issues, in one form or another, since puberty (I'm in my late twenties now), am unsatisfied with my current and longstanding life situation, and enjoy and have shown aptitude for legal work. I am hoping that law school and a legal career could bring me intellectual and professional fulfillment.

I have a paralegal certificate from a good program in which I did well, and have a decent, stable job as a legal assistant in a usually low stress environment where I very rarely work more than 40 hours a week. My job is secure, I received an outstanding performance review and am good at what I do (though I don't think it requires a great deal of intellectual talent), and probably have the potential to move up into a paralegal position eventually, with solid salary and benefits (which are already pretty good for an entry-level position). The people I work with are kind and friendly, and I am well liked. The lawyers where I work seem happy and satisfied with their jobs and life (I know the word "seems" is key, but I truly think that, by and large, they genuinely don't fit into the lawyers-who-despise-their-jobs category), but where I work is a relatively uncommon legal work environment. The jobs there, as far as I can tell, are extremely hard to get and tend to go to very accomplished people who have gone to the very best or among the very best law schools (at least a few Yales, at least plenty of Harvards, and tons of top tens).

The problem is that I am intelligent and need intellectual stimulation to be satisfied. Although the former quality is conducive to success in my job, the latter remains totally unfulfilled and, from everything I have learned, experienced, and observed about paralegal work, will never be fulfilled in a sustained, meaningful way if I continue on my current career trajectory. The only way I would be remotely likely to advance to a position where I could do something interesting that I enjoy, in the legal field, is getting a law degree. I am widely regarded as an excellent writer, obviously an important skill as a lawyer, and I enjoy writing more than any other intellectual endeavor. But I don't have the sort of passion for, or disciplined approach toward, writing where I am going to, or even want to, pursue a long shot career as a creative writer or an MFA or anything like that. I am not the entrepreneurial, major risk-taking type. I know law school these days doesn't exactly fall into the low-risk category, but I think I need a fairly carved-out, established career path to follow.

When I began my pursuit of a paralegal career (if it can be called a real "career"), I sort of thought of it as my last hope for a remotely respectable, secure, and satisfying professional life, based on my age and past failures. I was "settling"; it was not my dream to be a paralegal. My dream initially was another field in which I pursued a doctorate in my early/mid twenties and essentially failed out. I know now that I am better suited for law than that field, even though I thought I would enjoy it and thought I was suited for it, and am far more mature and responsible than I was back then. I have begun to think I am capable of more than just "settling." I am sort of a pessimistic realist -- not the sunshine and rainbows type -- so even suggesting something might be my "dream" sort of makes me cringe.

I come from an upper-middle class family in which I perceive myself as a disappointment and underachiever, even though others in the family may not think that's the case or may not think less of me even if they do. My dad has a Ph.D., both my parents make six figures, there are multiple doctors in the family, etc. I know it's shallow, but it bothers me that I am not on the same sort of path because I have the same aptitude as many people who do achieve a high degree of professional success and fulfillment.

Also, to clarify, I care more about the professional/personal fulfillment element than the money element, though more of the latter would be nice too. Within the scope of professional/personal fulfillment, I probably care more about the intellectually interesting element than the doing good element, though I don't think I could do something I thought was invariably and totally evil. I know that lawyers spend a lot of their time doing stuff that's not intellectually scintillating, but compared to what I do now...well, you get the idea. Where I work now is a place where, I think most would agree, the lawyers "do good." Again, not to say that it is rare for lawyers to do good, but generally speaking, where I work is not a common legal work environment on which it would be reasonable for me to bank all of my legal career aspirations. In other words, I wouldn't go to law school if it was this or bust. I have tried to be somewhat vague, but as you have probably inferred, I do not work in the private sector.

Growing up, I went to an elite private school where high achievement is expected and many people go to Ivy League schools or schools of that caliber. I went to a good, but not top-of-the-line rankings-wise, private liberal arts college. My parents would never say this, but if I were them I would probably think, "God, over the course of his lifetime we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his education, and the best he's likely to do is paralegal?" Again, they wouldn't say this, but I think that over the course of my life, their expectations have probably lowered from my being happy and successful to my being remotely happy and remotely successful in a job/career I don't totally hate all the time.

I am generally well liked, am introverted but have decent but not great social skills, and am decent-looking. But I have no social or romantic life. I have always struggled to maintain friends and have a social life, and am a natural isolator. The only possible romantic prospect I see is getting back together with my ex-girlfriend, whom I dated for many years and with whom I am still close, but that seems like a bit of a long shot. In other words, I don't really have any other life I would be "sacrificing" for law school. I live with my parents and am likely to be alone and lonely for the rest of my life, so I'm starting to think maybe I should at least pursue a career I might give a damn about. If I went to law school in my area, I would almost certainly continue to live with my parents to save money. They will help me out with the law school expense and said they will find a way to make sure the finances "work out," but I will contribute substantially and possibly primarily to the cost, and will have to take out loan(s) -- I don't know how much yet, as we haven't gone into that much detail. I would not go to a terrible law school just because I could do so cheaply, but a major financial difference between good schools would definitely factor into my decision-making process.

I think that if I had more courage to act, I likely would have at least attempted suicide multiple times in my life. I have never made a sincere attempt but have had lots of ideation and self-destructive behavior. And yes, I have sought out, have received for years, and am currently receiving mental health treatment.

Anyway, sorry for going on for so long. I guess I am feeling despondent about the fact that I either have to stay on a soul-crushingly boring career path that brings me no joy or take a chance on a potentially but not definitely satisfying career as a lawyer that has the potential for a great deal of financial and emotional damage, and at which I may or may not fail. I would prefer to go to at least a lower-end top 14 law school ideally, but my undergrad GPA is a bit below a 3.5, and I feel I need to get, but face fairly steep odds against getting, my LSAT score to the high 160s. I am taking it in June and started studying for it a bit less than a month ago. I study every day. I am starting a prep course in February and, thus far, I am getting about 80% right on the Logical Reasoning question types I have studied, under timed but less-tightly-timed-than-test-day conditions. I don't think I would go to any school below the top 25, and even then I'm not sure. The legal market is so competitive, full of Type A people just as smart or smarter than me, and although I am capable of dedication and strong work ethic at least in stretches, am not naturally a Type A, "Go, go, go!" type.

My law school application "intangibles" would probably be pretty good. I have legal work/real life experience, am probably more mature than the average 0L/1L, and would likely have an excellent personal statement and excellent letters of recommendation.

So any advice as to what I should do? Should I stick with the boring, secure, underachieving path or, keeping in mind my demonstrated susceptibility to the types of mental health issues that are more common even among lawyers without pre-law school symptoms, risk it to pursue a career as a lawyer? If you have other alternatives to suggest, I would be interested in those too, though I find it hard to imagine choosing anything other than one of those two options. I am not saying I definitely "shouldn't" pursue an alternative, I just think it's unlikely that I will. I guess I still hold out some hope that maybe I'll be able find some kind of fulfillment in my personal life, despite my belief that I won't, and am reluctant to try anything too "out there" that would further delay and decrease any chance I might have of getting married and having a happy family life. But if you have a convincing suggestion, go for it. I am all ears.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I apologize for the rambling.

lavarman84

Platinum
Posts: 7726
Joined: Thu May 28, 2015 5:01 pm

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:55 am

Do you have any idea of what you want to do in the legal world? Do you want to work for a big law firm? Government? Public Interest? Are you interest in litigation or transactional work? Do you just see this as an out of your current predicament and a way to make your parents proud? Do you believe you can keep your mental health under control in stressful environments?

Nebby

Diamond
Posts: 31197
Joined: Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:23 pm

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby Nebby » Sun Jan 01, 2017 3:09 am

Go to law school. You'll fit right in

bycron77

New
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:04 am

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby bycron77 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:00 am

lawman84 wrote:Do you have any idea of what you want to do in the legal world? Do you want to work for a big law firm? Government? Public Interest? Are you interest in litigation or transactional work? Do you just see this as an out of your current predicament and a way to make your parents proud? Do you believe you can keep your mental health under control in stressful environments?


I work in civil litigation now, and that seems interesting, though I know the hours can be rough. When I was looking for paralegal jobs through a legal staffing agency, the recruiter I was working with thought I was well suited to litigation. I don't know much about transactional work, but on its face litigation sounds more interesting to me. Right now, though, my involvement is peripheral. For instance, I help prep for a lot of depositions (but don't actually sit in on the depos), but that prep basically involves printing out lots of exhibits, creating binders, scheduling court reporters, etc. The most high-level stuff I get to do in preparation is document review. That's relatively interesting within the context of my job, but that's not what I want to do forever, and I also wouldn't want to go to law school if I thought I would be stuck being a contract attorney who does nothing but document review for years and years. There are some people who appear to fit that description in my office, but that's a small minority. If I were never going to get to do more than document review or something similar, I would just as soon stay where I am and forego the time and debt. Other than doc review, the most high-level thing I do is probably proofreading and occasionally cite-checking, but that is not the norm for people in my position. It's just that some of the attorneys know I am good at that, so they ask me to do it.

I don't think I would want to work in BigLaw long-term, but I won't totally rule it out at least in the short term. I think I would ideally like to work in the federal government. What exactly is the difference between public interest and government? I always see PI defined vaguely. I guess I know that PI doesn't have to be in government but am not sure I know what kind of government work isn't considered PI -- do you have any examples?

My current predicament definitely has something to do with my wanting a change, but it's not just a "I don't know what to do with my life, am not math and sciency, and law school seems prestigious/logical" sort of thing. At this point, I don't even think it matters that much to my parents whether I do law school. The idea was totally my own. They just want me to do it if I think it will make me happy. One way in which I have matured is that I have been able to set goals that are actually based on what I want to do and not on what I think other people would want me to do/be impressed by. I guess I still care about that stuff, but I don't make life-changing decisions on that basis. I actually like the law, legal writing and research, reading cases, etc. I think I have a realistic sense of the potential pros and cons, risks and rewards. I think I have informed myself well and needed the time to get the maturity to figure out some things I didn't want to do to realize this is something I think I genuinely want to do.

As far as managing mental health issues, I have gotten better at that, but that is probably contingent on not despising what I do for a living. I think if I am doing something that I enjoy, I will be motivated and able to keep it together. I'm actually very good at performing under pressure, unexpected unreasonable deadlines (because lawyers love to procrastinate and then say, "oh shit, I forgot, I need you to do X yesterday"), etc. However, although I can keep it together externally, it takes a toll on me, but I suppose that's probably true for many people. I can deal with work environments where there are sometimes extremely stressful or busy days or periods, but I don't know about doing that every single day. I'm not including law school in that analysis -- I know that will involve crazy amounts of work on a daily basis, but I am at least somewhat confident that I can find a way to manage that for a few years.

lavarman84

Platinum
Posts: 7726
Joined: Thu May 28, 2015 5:01 pm

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:51 am

If you think you can handle it, go for it. Seems like you've put thought into it. I would caution you do a lot of research into biglaw before you pursue that path. A lot of people say it can be extremely stressful. If that's something that could cause problems with your mental health, it may not be worth risking it.

As for public interest vs. government, there is some overlap. The way I think of public interest is that you're fighting for the "little guy." Working for the ACLU is an example of public interest work. Working as an ADA prosecuting felonies is an example of government work that I wouldn't consider public interest work.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 5069
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:16 am

I always disagree with the weird line in the sand some people draw between "real" PI and prosecution. I think that pretty much all government jobs are a form of PI, because the very nature of government work involves working in the public interest. All you have to determine is which part of the public you think most deserves representation.

OP: You seem to know what you want. You just probably don't want to focus on doing biglaw, because it sounds like you've put a time limit on work overload.

User avatar
BaiAilian2013

Silver
Posts: 954
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 4:05 pm

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby BaiAilian2013 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:45 am

I left a a non-intellectual field to go to law school and it was definitely the right choice for me. I would go to law school in your position. Just be aware that not every field of law is intellectually demanding, so aim and market yourself carefully for fields that will actually make you happy.

bycron77

New
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:04 am

Re: Life crossroads - should I go to law school?

Postby bycron77 » Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:28 pm

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. I really appreciate it. Yeah, it definitely sounds like biglaw wouldn't really be my scene, which is consistent with what I've always thought. I know there are people who genuinely like the biglaw environment, but the common story I've seen is that people go into it to pay off debt, and they end up sort of stuck there, either because they have a lot of debt or, by the time they've been there a while, they're too attached to that kind of money to leave. I work at the type of place where some of the lawyers are coming in after several years of doing biglaw to pay off debt/accumulate some money. I suspect the pay for lawyers where I work is, at least by my standards and relative to the overall distribution of income in the country, still plenty. At least once they've been there a while. I've heard some people leave law firms and take about a 50% pay cut when they come here, which I think says a lot about the difference in quality of life.

It seems as though the distinction between PI and government varies somewhat from person to person. If you go by the prosecutor/fight for the little guy distinction, what I do now might be called government that is not PI, which I'm okay with. Where I work is sort of the civil version of prosecution, if you will. Basically, we help the taxpayers in an arguably indirect fashion, but there isn't really any direct contact with oppressed individuals. I guess that's comparable to being a prosecutor who is arguably indirectly helping the public by protecting it from people who do bad things. So I think I'm definitely more interested in the government/PI side of things. Money isn't as important to me as it is to many people who go to law school, but I won't pretend it's irrelevant. I don't think that I would want to work for a complete pittance. I've heard the ACLU used as the prototypical example of a place where lawyers do a lot of good but get paid nothing, so I probably wouldn't want to be in that extreme of a scenario, but I am definitely more in that direction than the big money/high status/helping large corporations do shitty things direction.



Return to “Law School Admissions Forum�

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Exabot [Bot] and 12 guests