Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
moose
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby moose » Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:33 pm

I got accepted to MVP but I'm very conflicted. I've got two issue, my specific interest in law and cost:

1. I invariably get asked if I want to be a lawyer/go to law school. Well, I definitely know I don't want biglaw. But i've come to the conclusion that I would love to do legal work within the state department (specifically the description of what legal advisers do) or something close to that effect. From what I know of it that seems like interesting work, feel free to burst that bubble if you have more information. Obviously the legal advisers is hyper competitive (i think 12-14 out of 1,000 applications, although i don't know how many of those are from t14) so what is the diversity of positions that cover the same type of issues or are related in a way that may interest me? Is it worth it to go to law school for such a narrow interest?

2. Cost. As always this is the biggest concern. I currently make roughly $70k as an analyst. I can pay about $40k cash this fall, or roughly $80k next fall if I defer (tuition is about $42k). I'm also turning 30 this year. Regarding my current job, I can tell you that I would probably enjoy working state dept legal a lot more than what I do now, whether its attainable is a different manner. What do you guys think?

moose
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby moose » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:21 pm

nobody has an opinion on this?

User avatar
worldtraveler
Posts: 7667
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:47 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby worldtraveler » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:23 pm

This is the ONLY legal job you would find interesting? Would you go to med school if you only wanted to operate on asexual midgets? That's as specific as you're being right now. Why go if you only like one job that's nearly impossible to get?

User avatar
Knock
Posts: 5152
Joined: Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:09 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby Knock » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:24 pm

moose wrote:I got accepted to MVP but I'm very conflicted. I've got two issue, my specific interest in law and cost:

1. I invariably get asked if I want to be a lawyer/go to law school. Well, I definitely know I don't want biglaw. But i've come to the conclusion that I would love to do legal work within the state department (specifically the description of what legal advisers do) or something close to that effect. From what I know of it that seems like interesting work, feel free to burst that bubble if you have more information. Obviously the legal advisers is hyper competitive (i think 12-14 out of 1,000 applications, although i don't know how many of those are from t14) so what is the diversity of positions that cover the same type of issues or are related in a way that may interest me? Is it worth it to go to law school for such a narrow interest?

2. Cost. As always this is the biggest concern. I currently make roughly $70k as an analyst. I can pay about $40k cash this fall, or roughly $80k next fall if I defer (tuition is about $42k). I'm also turning 30 this year. Regarding my current job, I can tell you that I would probably enjoy working state dept legal a lot more than what I do now, whether its attainable is a different manner. What do you guys think?


I'd keep your job paying $70k. Government jobs are tough to come by and it's a lot of cost, time, effort, and risk.

User avatar
voice of reason
Posts: 264
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:18 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby voice of reason » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:32 pm

Have you considered the Foreign Service? Cool State Department work and no law degree required.

bree
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue May 19, 2009 7:49 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby bree » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:52 pm

I second working for the Foreign Service or perhaps an intelligence agency (in which you may end up doing similar work ... or at least you'll develop country-specific knowledge).



However, I think you're really asking the "international law" question ... (i.e. "Can I work on international law?"). A lot of people will tell you, "there is no such thing" and laugh at you. However, international law does exist, but it is generally not what people think.

There are two types:

1) Public International Law (a la the State Department, the UN, etc.) [this is what everyone thinks of when they say international law]

2) Private International Law (e.g. International Arbitration)

There are VERY few Public International Law positions and they're generally extremely competitive. The exception to this is if you are a foreign national of a small country (e.g. Trinidad and Tobago). Organizations like the UN, the World Bank, etc. have a harder time filling positions from small foreign countries, so you may have a better chance if you're a foreign national.

In contrast, there are a fair number of Private International Law positions and this is a growing arena for resolving disputes. Basically, this arises when two companies from different countries (or maybe a company and a country) want to resolve a dispute. Neither company wants to go to court in the other company's native country for fear of bias. Thus, they use an international forum to resolve the issue. This work is similar to litigation and often law firms contain their international arbitration practices within litigation. The difference is that in international arbitration the rules are more fluid.

Hope that helps ...

Anonymous User
Posts: 273382
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:43 am

This past summer I worked with a summer associate who was splitting with the State Department and a junior associate who had previously split his summer with the State Department. Based on my conversations with them, the State Department will rarely hire graduates straight from law school. Even if you work for the State Department during the summer, it is uncommon for a person to return to the State Department immediately after law school. The way they explained the process to me is that if you do a satisfactory job during the summer then your name gets put on a list (obviously it's not a formal list) and you have a leg up on other applicants if a position happens to open up.

Maybe there is an honors program where they hire graduates directly from law school but I have no knowledge of such a program (haven't researched it).

moose
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby moose » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:09 am

bree wrote:I second working for the Foreign Service or perhaps an intelligence agency (in which you may end up doing similar work ... or at least you'll develop country-specific knowledge).



However, I think you're really asking the "international law" question ... (i.e. "Can I work on international law?"). A lot of people will tell you, "there is no such thing" and laugh at you. However, international law does exist, but it is generally not what people think.

There are two types:

1) Public International Law (a la the State Department, the UN, etc.) [this is what everyone thinks of when they say international law]

2) Private International Law (e.g. International Arbitration)

There are VERY few Public International Law positions and they're generally extremely competitive. The exception to this is if you are a foreign national of a small country (e.g. Trinidad and Tobago). Organizations like the UN, the World Bank, etc. have a harder time filling positions from small foreign countries, so you may have a better chance if you're a foreign national.

In contrast, there are a fair number of Private International Law positions and this is a growing arena for resolving disputes. Basically, this arises when two companies from different countries (or maybe a company and a country) want to resolve a dispute. Neither company wants to go to court in the other company's native country for fear of bias. Thus, they use an international forum to resolve the issue. This work is similar to litigation and often law firms contain their international arbitration practices within litigation. The difference is that in international arbitration the rules are more fluid.

Hope that helps ...


Thank you, this was very helpful. And the international arbitration positions are through biglaw firms I assume?

User avatar
jonas
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 6:25 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby jonas » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:16 am

Thank you, this was very helpful. And the international arbitration positions are through biglaw firms I assume?

Yes, big firms, especially in DC, London, and New York.

expat17
Posts: 96
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:17 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby expat17 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:23 am

don't go to law school unless you want to practice law. that's the ultimate mantra.

it sounds like what you want to do is work in development and legal/institution-building issues. there are plenty of places you can work in this field without a law degree. i'm currently doing it. i don't have or need a law degree. unless you literally want to be going through foreign criminal codes and proposing best practice revisions, then a law degree is a moot point. and, even if you do want to be doing that ... you have decide whether the 120k+ cost is worth the pay off for a 70k -80k job making similar to what you do now.

become an FSO or do a one year grad program and go through the PMF track instead.

User avatar
AreJay711
Posts: 3406
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:51 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby AreJay711 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:27 am

I think it might be a little different if you were admitted to HYS but it is even a long shot then. If you could go for free it might be worth it too but other than those two situations it doesn't seem like a good idea. It says we shouldn't out the specific gpa but the DOJ (which I assume is about as selective as the state department) has an average gpa of Michigan students that is well within the top 10% of the class. If the State Department is similar, it seems like a bad idea. There is other things on the economic end that might interest you and private firms that deal with immigration but if those don't interest you it seems like a bad.

expat17
Posts: 96
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:17 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby expat17 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:30 am

worldtraveler wrote:This is the ONLY legal job you would find interesting? Would you go to med school if you only wanted to operate on asexual midgets? That's as specific as you're being right now. Why go if you only like one job that's nearly impossible to get?



also, LMAO.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:35 am

State Department is like the Yale of law jobs. It's such a black box that even highly qualified applicants can't often get it and can't figure out why. Going to law school only to work there is one of the most expensive and foolish mistakes you could possibly make.

jarofsoup
Posts: 1952
Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:41 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby jarofsoup » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:40 am

There are lawyers in the state dept., but also you should consider masters programs in international relations.


These jobs are very hard to get.

iowalum
Posts: 326
Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:15 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby iowalum » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:44 am

I think there have to be other options. I am in the same boat - I want to do development work and have been thinking about law vs. masters, but many of the people I have spoken with from the State Dept. do have law degrees.

In particular, the job I found very exciting was a legal counsel that was sent to Copenhagen to negotiate and one that was sent to Afghanistan for legal work. I know these might be rare, but it's really what I want to do.

Also - when thinking about masters vs. law school I always lean towards law school because it's a tangible, hard skill that really can be applied in a lot of different jobs. I've met enough people that aren't practicing law that I don't believe in the 'don't go unless you want to practice'

User avatar
AreJay711
Posts: 3406
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:51 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby AreJay711 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:49 am

iowalum wrote:I think there have to be other options. I am in the same boat - I want to do development work and have been thinking about law vs. masters, but many of the people I have spoken with from the State Dept. do have law degrees.

In particular, the job I found very exciting was a legal counsel that was sent to Copenhagen to negotiate and one that was sent to Afghanistan for legal work. I know these might be rare, but it's really what I want to do.

Also - when thinking about masters vs. law school I always lean towards law school because it's a tangible, hard skill that really can be applied in a lot of different jobs. I've met enough people that aren't practicing law that I don't believe in the 'don't go unless you want to practice'


There are a lot of people with law degrees.

expat17
Posts: 96
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:17 am

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby expat17 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:51 am

iowalum wrote:I think there have to be other options. I am in the same boat - I want to do development work and have been thinking about law vs. masters, but many of the people I have spoken with from the State Dept. do have law degrees.

In particular, the job I found very exciting was a legal counsel that was sent to Copenhagen to negotiate and one that was sent to Afghanistan for legal work. I know these might be rare, but it's really what I want to do.

Also - when thinking about masters vs. law school I always lean towards law school because it's a tangible, hard skill that really can be applied in a lot of different jobs. I've met enough people that aren't practicing law that I don't believe in the 'don't go unless you want to practice'


i'm sure you've met enough successful people with law degrees who are not practicing law, but you have to ask yourself:

1) did they ever practice law (the answer is almost always yes -> if you get a law degree, and even if you get one and want to use it in afghanistan, you must have actual legal experience either in a firm, da's office, etc...) ie, you WILL have to pay your dues actually practicing if you want to be successful in that field ...

2) if you think you can get a law degree and absolutely never practice ... why are you spending money on a law degree? i absolutely agree with you about the tangible skills component being important, but with any other grad degree it will take 2-3 years for you to have that tangible skill in a specialized area ... ie, institution building, investment, gender mainstreaming, etc ...

i would seriously consider whether the investment of a law degree is worth it to you. if you can't imagine your life not having a jd, then go. in that case, i'd head off to the law school that gives you the most money ...

moose
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby moose » Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:53 pm

What about the cost aspect of it? If i defer, I'll probably be able to pay about 80k, or two years tuition worth. Leaving me with somewhere between 70-100k debt. And I also did not mean to suggest that the State Dept was the ONLY place I wanted to work, even though the thread title hinted at it. But certainly positions that deal with international issues of some substance. Bree's response was very helpful and she suggested the private/commercial track of international law at biglaw firms was probably the way to go. My only thing with that is basically once you commit to biglaw, you kinda have to go where you get in. I don't believe law firms will interview students for specific practices, it would be up to me to work my way through to such a position. Which I would be glad to do if I had a reasonable shot at attaining those kinds of positions within biglaw. But if the odds look anything like what they do for gov legal jobs then it won't be worth it for me.

rose711
Posts: 287
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:57 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby rose711 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:18 pm

You are probably making more money now as an analyst and no debt than you will as a law graduate. I would not invest my savings in a law school education at this point, at least not this year. Defer and do more research into how to get the kind of job you wnat.

You need to do a ton of more research into the State Dept jobs before you go to school with the idea it might help you find a job there. I also think you need to start working to make connections with the state dept no matter how indirect they may be - no one is going to get hired there if you don't have some kind of connection.

As for being the international counsel who flies off to negotiate peace and all other diplomatic government agreements, how many people do you think want to do that? (almost) Everyone dreams of being the person called on to deal with international crises. I think the competition is insanely fierce for that work. And, you better be brilliant, I mean brilliant at law, to get that work. If you are that brilliant and can show why you want a specific practice, you might be able to get a biglaw firm to hire you for a specific office, or only take a job if they give you that office - but that is rare.

User avatar
holdencaulfield
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:12 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby holdencaulfield » Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:26 pm

I think you should research doing legal work for the State department more as well as other careers that my be pursued. It's too big of a decision to make because something seems like it would be interesting work from what you've heard.

Crim
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:33 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby Crim » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:21 pm

moose wrote:What about the cost aspect of it? If i defer, I'll probably be able to pay about 80k, or two years tuition worth. Leaving me with somewhere between 70-100k debt. And I also did not mean to suggest that the State Dept was the ONLY place I wanted to work, even though the thread title hinted at it. But certainly positions that deal with international issues of some substance. Bree's response was very helpful and she suggested the private/commercial track of international law at biglaw firms was probably the way to go. My only thing with that is basically once you commit to biglaw, you kinda have to go where you get in. I don't believe law firms will interview students for specific practices, it would be up to me to work my way through to such a position. Which I would be glad to do if I had a reasonable shot at attaining those kinds of positions within biglaw. But if the odds look anything like what they do for gov legal jobs then it won't be worth it for me.


Moose, I was in a similar spot to you prior to law school, hoping to work in a government position that dealt with substantive international issues. I'm doing a joint JD/MA in international relations, but I didn't find that especially helpful, since the many internationally-fcused legal jobs seem more interested in relevant experience than academic background. A lot of what has been said above is correct with respect to how hard it is to get these kinds of legal jobs in international affairs, but I would offer a couple of caveats (from the limited perspective of a 2L).

First, one option is to go directly non-law through PMF, and try to get a position in any of the departments that cover international affairs (i.e. State, Defence, Homeland Security, USAID, etc.) If you look at PMF finalists on the website, it seems like roughly half of them are law graduates, including many from top schools, so it is certainly not out of the ordinary.

Second, and I would consider this very carefully before taking it up, is JAG. Although a lot of it is simply civilian-type legal work in the context of the military, many JAGs are more policy-oriented in their legal work, which obviously concerns international affairs. I don't know a heck of a lot about it, but it's worth checking out.

Another option (which is the one I'm taking), is to go biglaw and work at a firm that does a lot of international work (e.g. cross-border transactions, international arbitration, representing foreign client in the US, etc.). With that kind of professional experience, it may be more viable to transfer into a desired government or international organization job in the long-run. It will also allow you to pay off your debt, and the soul-crushing quality of life will keep you looking for that dream job elsewhere (unless you end up liking it, which would be great too!).

Finally, I would echo the idea that you should be sufficiently interested in the law itself that you would be happy pursuing a career in it. There's nothing wrong with reaching for those tough spots like in State legal: the competition is insane, but at the end of the day, someone gets them. That said, if you are dead-set against any more common legal career, be it criminal prosecutions, commercial litigation or real estate transactions, then the risk for you might not be worth it.

moose
Posts: 100
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:16 pm

Re: Only interested in State Dep type work, law school worth it?

Postby moose » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:39 pm

Crim wrote:
moose wrote:What about the cost aspect of it? If i defer, I'll probably be able to pay about 80k, or two years tuition worth. Leaving me with somewhere between 70-100k debt. And I also did not mean to suggest that the State Dept was the ONLY place I wanted to work, even though the thread title hinted at it. But certainly positions that deal with international issues of some substance. Bree's response was very helpful and she suggested the private/commercial track of international law at biglaw firms was probably the way to go. My only thing with that is basically once you commit to biglaw, you kinda have to go where you get in. I don't believe law firms will interview students for specific practices, it would be up to me to work my way through to such a position. Which I would be glad to do if I had a reasonable shot at attaining those kinds of positions within biglaw. But if the odds look anything like what they do for gov legal jobs then it won't be worth it for me.


Moose, I was in a similar spot to you prior to law school, hoping to work in a government position that dealt with substantive international issues. I'm doing a joint JD/MA in international relations, but I didn't find that especially helpful, since the many internationally-fcused legal jobs seem more interested in relevant experience than academic background. A lot of what has been said above is correct with respect to how hard it is to get these kinds of legal jobs in international affairs, but I would offer a couple of caveats (from the limited perspective of a 2L).

First, one option is to go directly non-law through PMF, and try to get a position in any of the departments that cover international affairs (i.e. State, Defence, Homeland Security, USAID, etc.) If you look at PMF finalists on the website, it seems like roughly half of them are law graduates, including many from top schools, so it is certainly not out of the ordinary.

Second, and I would consider this very carefully before taking it up, is JAG. Although a lot of it is simply civilian-type legal work in the context of the military, many JAGs are more policy-oriented in their legal work, which obviously concerns international affairs. I don't know a heck of a lot about it, but it's worth checking out.

Another option (which is the one I'm taking), is to go biglaw and work at a firm that does a lot of international work (e.g. cross-border transactions, international arbitration, representing foreign client in the US, etc.). With that kind of professional experience, it may be more viable to transfer into a desired government or international organization job in the long-run. It will also allow you to pay off your debt, and the soul-crushing quality of life will keep you looking for that dream job elsewhere (unless you end up liking it, which would be great too!).

Finally, I would echo the idea that you should be sufficiently interested in the law itself that you would be happy pursuing a career in it. There's nothing wrong with reaching for those tough spots like in State legal: the competition is insane, but at the end of the day, someone gets them. That said, if you are dead-set against any more common legal career, be it criminal prosecutions, commercial litigation or real estate transactions, then the risk for you might not be worth it.


Very helpful crim. Much appreciated, I'm not totally against biglaw if it gives me a chance at what I really want to do. And as for my current position, I just feel like I'm stuck in a rut. I felt that with a great law school at about 80k debt if I defer, maybe that was worth it. There are obviously no guarantees, but my biggest worry is debt moreso than ending up hating biglaw. Because ultimately, I do want to get paid. Also, the prospects of having my future decided on single semester ending exams makes me want to puke.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.