Life after law school

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spaceman82
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Life after law school

Postby spaceman82 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:32 pm

I'm a 0L at the moment, trying to gauge my interest in and aptitude for a career in law. From everything I've read about law school so far, I think I'd be well-suited to it: I find the distinctions and thinking - and even the articles - involved more interesting than I think a lot of people do, and am not put off by the type of system described in places like Turow's 1L. With that said, that is just me going off of what I have read in various places about the intellectual challenges of "the life of the law"; I realize that the reality of law school will probably suck and that life after law school will be quite different from law school itself.

And it's this latter difference, how the practice of law differs from the study of law, that I was hoping to get some insight into here, since it's hard to find concrete information about what the day-to-day practice of law is like, perhaps because that varies so much from practice area to practice area--or perhaps because it's so tedious that no wants to talk about it. (One lawyer I've spoken to did say it was mostly tedious paperwork and consisted mostly of copying, with minor variations, the writing of old contracts to make new ones.) In any case, I'm mainly interested in non-criminal, non-governmental PI law, so I'd really like to hear anything anyone could take the time to share about what practice in that area might be like for one's first five years out of school, and especially about how much bureaucracy and frustration is involved.

Thank you in advance for your responses and for taking the time to read this post.

(Mods: I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this post; if it's not, please feel free to move it to the appropriate forum.)

Anonymous User
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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:50 am

people who love their PI jobs often hated law school, because it's so different. Direct services means the same type of case over and over forever, but different facts and a lot of hands on work.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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spaceman82
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Re: Life after law school

Postby spaceman82 » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:20 pm

Thanks for that. I'd be interested in hearing more about how the two are different if you have anything more to say. The hands-on nature of things obviously appeals to me (as I guess it does to most people) and is something I've heard before about PI; I don't want to end up like the lawyer I mentioned before (he is no longer a lawyer, by the way), just copying files from a cabinet all day long.

I'd also still be interested in hearing other people's perspectives/experiences if anyone's willing to share.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:39 pm

Law school is reading thousands of historical and current cases and BLL, knowing tiny exceptions and being able to argue for every possible outcome from every angle while typing incredibly quickly. It's a ton of reading. It's completely self-motivated. It's not law and order, and it's not OneL. It's obnoxious kids spending the entire class as if it were a conversation with the professor and making slippery slope arguments. It's high school again but no one has a sense of humor. Everyone compares everything with everyone else, and yes, it's always a contest. You'll meet some of the biggest douchebags ever but some people are nice. It's both harder and less terrible than you've heard.

Working is (if you are lucky) spending time with a small group of professionals in your area, most of whom have been practicing longer than you and are not impressed by your ability to scream, "but where is the line?!?!" or whether this or that issue has fascinating federalism and non-delegation implications. In many places, they are smart and more capable than you, and if they aren't, you can be damn sure they believe they are anyway. You still need to learn a lot about new subjects very quickly, and it still involves case and BLL. You need great attention to detail, organization, ability to follow every single possible rule and every deadline. It is still not law and order.

Past that, it depends on the job, the practice area, the city, the office, the field.

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BackToTheOldHouse
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Re: Life after law school

Postby BackToTheOldHouse » Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Law school is reading thousands of historical and current cases and BLL, knowing tiny exceptions and being able to argue for every possible outcome from every angle while typing incredibly quickly. It's a ton of reading. It's completely self-motivated. It's not law and order, and it's not OneL. It's obnoxious kids spending the entire class as if it were a conversation with the professor and making slippery slope arguments. It's high school again but no one has a sense of humor. Everyone compares everything with everyone else, and yes, it's always a contest. You'll meet some of the biggest douchebags ever but some people are nice. It's both harder and less terrible than you've heard.

Working is (if you are lucky) spending time with a small group of professionals in your area, most of whom have been practicing longer than you and are not impressed by your ability to scream, "but where is the line?!?!" or whether this or that issue has fascinating federalism and non-delegation implications. In many places, they are smart and more capable than you, and if they aren't, you can be damn sure they believe they are anyway. You still need to learn a lot about new subjects very quickly, and it still involves case and BLL. You need great attention to detail, organization, ability to follow every single possible rule and every deadline. It is still not law and order.

Past that, it depends on the job, the practice area, the city, the office, the field.

This is one of the best TLS posts I've read in a while. Thanks.

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spaceman82
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Re: Life after law school

Postby spaceman82 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Law school is reading thousands of historical and current cases and BLL, knowing tiny exceptions and being able to argue for every possible outcome from every angle while typing incredibly quickly. It's a ton of reading. It's completely self-motivated. It's not law and order, and it's not OneL. It's obnoxious kids spending the entire class as if it were a conversation with the professor and making slippery slope arguments. It's high school again but no one has a sense of humor. Everyone compares everything with everyone else, and yes, it's always a contest. You'll meet some of the biggest douchebags ever but some people are nice. It's both harder and less terrible than you've heard.

Working is (if you are lucky) spending time with a small group of professionals in your area, most of whom have been practicing longer than you and are not impressed by your ability to scream, "but where is the line?!?!" or whether this or that issue has fascinating federalism and non-delegation implications. In many places, they are smart and more capable than you, and if they aren't, you can be damn sure they believe they are anyway. You still need to learn a lot about new subjects very quickly, and it still involves case and BLL. You need great attention to detail, organization, ability to follow every single possible rule and every deadline. It is still not law and order.

Past that, it depends on the job, the practice area, the city, the office, the field.


Thanks for providing that perspective on things. I'm not expecting life as a lawyer to be anything like Law & Order, especially as I am not very interested in criminal law and don't get off on the idea of grandstanding in front of a courtroom of people, but I appreciate you listing some of the attributes that might be required of a good lawyer and talking about how lawyers view each other. I'd still like to hear more from people about what the day-to-day work of a PI lawyer might be, though, even if it is just an example.

In regard to law school, unfortunately, you described it basically as I expect it to be (which is not totally dissimilar to One L). I think I'm the type of person who might actually enjoy finding exceptions and looking at cases from multiple angles, but the competitiveness, stress, and trite in-class discussion are things I worry about. Nevertheless, I'm comfortable with that aspect of the equation, just as long as what comes after law school is worth it.
Last edited by spaceman82 on Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:44 pm

what exactly do you expect PI to be, if not litigation? some sort of transactional-for-free clinic? Doing polysci work but with a JD for some reason? Paralegal-level advice hotlines?

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:46 pm

Where can I be Jack McCoy? How can I be Jack McCoy? If my show isn't shown on NBC, can I still sleep with all my 2nd chair associates?

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spaceman82
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Re: Life after law school

Postby spaceman82 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:what exactly do you expect PI to be, if not litigation? some sort of transactional-for-free clinic? Doing polysci work but with a JD for some reason? Paralegal-level advice hotlines?


Sorry, I misrepresented myself there. I just meant to say that I'm not interested in being a lawyer just to live out a fantasy of grandstanding in front of a courtroom and saving the day in dramatic fashion thanks to a note my assistant has slipped me in the final moments of the proceeding.

meshtdagn
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Re: Life after law school

Postby meshtdagn » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:06 pm

spaceman82 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:what exactly do you expect PI to be, if not litigation? some sort of transactional-for-free clinic? Doing polysci work but with a JD for some reason? Paralegal-level advice hotlines?


Sorry, I misrepresented myself there. I just meant to say that I'm not interested in being a lawyer just to live out a fantasy of grandstanding in front of a courtroom and saving the day in dramatic fashion thanks to a note my assistant has slipped me in the final moments of the proceeding.


Dang, 2L here. This is kindof exactly why I want to be a lawyer. Guess it's not too late to change careers to hollywood actor, amiright?

MrAnon
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Re: Life after law school

Postby MrAnon » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:15 pm

Bear in mind that people with 2.8 GPAs and 150 LSATs go to law school. Its not as intellectually stimulating as you may think. How would they survive?

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:31 pm

MrAnon wrote:Bear in mind that people with 2.8 GPAs and 150 LSATs go to law school. Its not as intellectually stimulating as you may think. How would they survive?


I would say the majority of people who do well do so not because they are so intellectually engaged, but because they devote a ton of hours to just grinding.

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Jericwithers
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Re: Life after law school

Postby Jericwithers » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:31 am

I don't believe there is an afterlife, its just ancient superstition.

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patrickd139
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Re: Life after law school

Postby patrickd139 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:48 am

BackToTheOldHouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Law school is reading thousands of historical and current cases and BLL, knowing tiny exceptions and being able to argue for every possible outcome from every angle while typing incredibly quickly. It's a ton of reading. It's completely self-motivated. It's not law and order, and it's not OneL. It's obnoxious kids spending the entire class as if it were a conversation with the professor and making slippery slope arguments. It's high school again but no one has a sense of humor. Everyone compares everything with everyone else, and yes, it's always a contest. You'll meet some of the biggest douchebags ever but some people are nice. It's both harder and less terrible than you've heard.

Working is (if you are lucky) spending time with a small group of professionals in your area, most of whom have been practicing longer than you and are not impressed by your ability to scream, "but where is the line?!?!" or whether this or that issue has fascinating federalism and non-delegation implications. In many places, they are smart and more capable than you, and if they aren't, you can be damn sure they believe they are anyway. You still need to learn a lot about new subjects very quickly, and it still involves case and BLL. You need great attention to detail, organization, ability to follow every single possible rule and every deadline. It is still not law and order.

Past that, it depends on the job, the practice area, the city, the office, the field.

This is one of the best TLS posts I've read in a while. Thanks.

+1

traydeuce
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Re: Life after law school

Postby traydeuce » Fri Sep 30, 2011 4:04 pm

I would say it's both way easier and less intellectually stimulating than you're told. Basically law, as taught in law school, is a series of stale, formalist arguments, grounded in really elementary logic and/or logic fails dressed up as sound elementary logic, with roughly zero (thoughtful) regard for the real-world consequences of anything. Law is also stunningly theoretically blind and un-self-aware. People can do statutory interpretation their whole lives without ever threshing out what it means to say "a statute means x," or what it means when we say, "the court correctly/incorrectly interpreted a statute." Basically law's a field of study for smart but really unserious thinkers. That isn't to say it's a lousy field; I'm smart and unserious and hence like law. If law demanded a really thoughtful understanding of linguistics, ethics, history, interpretive theory, economics, etc., instead of the phenomenally superficial understandings of these fields it demands in fact, I wouldn't be a lawyer.

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mths
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Re: Life after law school

Postby mths » Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:28 pm

spaceman82 wrote: In any case, I'm mainly interested in non-criminal, non-governmental PI law ...

Bet you explore other options once you realize how crippling your debt is, how difficult it is to find interesting PI work, and how terrible the legal employment market is.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby twelveoaks » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:08 pm

I sincerely would not recommend going to a non-T14 school if you are taking out debt, ITE. If you don't have a 164+ score on the LSAT and a 3.5+ GPA, explore other options.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:04 pm

spaceman82 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:what exactly do you expect PI to be, if not litigation? some sort of transactional-for-free clinic? Doing polysci work but with a JD for some reason? Paralegal-level advice hotlines?


Sorry, I misrepresented myself there. I just meant to say that I'm not interested in being a lawyer just to live out a fantasy of grandstanding in front of a courtroom and saving the day in dramatic fashion thanks to a note my assistant has slipped me in the final moments of the proceeding.


can you give a single example of something you'd like to do instead of this, "as the wisest 0L to ever live, I've explored every option, considered every pitfall and know exactly what I don't want to do, despite not having been to law school and apparently not knowing what lawyers do everyday" schtick? I don't mean to be rude, but there are a lot of people who don't want advice, but rather want to show how much they know and to validate their own decisions. I'm sure someone would be happy to tell you what's it's like to do X job if you would just pick any specific job instead of a nebulous grouping of things you don't want.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:38 pm

I think the title of your post reveals the mistake in how you are approaching this. Your post essentially says, "I think very highly of my intellectual capabilities. I enjoy subtle distinctions, and that's what my vision of law school is like. I enjoy everything that the LSAT says is relevant. Therefore, I want to go to law school. What do lawyers do?"

It sounds very 0L-ish, which is fine because you are an 0L, but here's the thing. People don't come to law school for law school; people come to law school to become lawyers. People don't study because of the intellectual thrill; they study to become competitive on the job market. Law school is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

You need to really take a look at what lawyers do. And I get that that's what you were trying to do with this post, but I think you need to step back and take a different approach from "I am going to law school, now what is a lawyer." Keep an open mind and check out some careers that are not law-related. Then research various types of lawyers: those who work for big firms, those who work for small firms, those who work for the government, non-profits, etc. Read accounts on what these people do and what their day-to-day lives are like. Ask your college career counselor if there is a list of alums you can reach out to.

If you decide that you actually want to practice law as a career, then take the next step and look at law schools. As previous posters have stated, it's probably only worth it to go to certain schools. The other forums can help you out with that.

This post is a stab in the right direction, but you really need to backtrack and start at square one. People should only consider law school if they know already that they would like to be lawyers, not because "I like subtle distinctions."

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spaceman82
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Re: Life after law school

Postby spaceman82 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:58 pm

@traydeuce: Thank you. It was actually really helpful to hear that.

@mths: You might be right. I didn't say I wouldn't do it; I just said that I was mainly interested in other areas of PI.

@twelveoaks: Thank you. I've heard similar advice from others. I'm a deferred admit to a CCN school, but I'm still worried about my job prospects coming out.

@the second Anonymous User: I understand what you mean. I didn't mean to come across that way, however, especially as what made me want to apply to law school in the first place was not some notion that law school would be stimulating and exciting (or a sense of intellectual pride); it was the idea that I could do something more meaningful as a lawyer, which I now think may have been just as misguided a notion. I just posed my questions about day-to-day life as a lawyer using the vehicle of law school life because it was another aspect of my decision that I had been worrying about a lot lately; I guess that has backfired on me now, though.

With that said, what I am really trying to do is get an idea of the reality of what I may be getting myself into. I'm almost 30 and have tried out a couple of non-law-related careers, and the main thing I've realized from that experience is that sometimes the reality of a job is quite different from what it appears to be from the outside. This is why I'm asking these questions here--and I wasn't trying to be a know-it-all, sorry.

In terms of talking to people, having been out of school for a while, I do have former classmates who've already walked down the path that I'm thinking of walking down. I have tried to talk to them and to alumni, and most of what I have heard has been negative. One friend works for the government, one works for a prosecutor's office, and the alumni are/were corporate lawyers; the first two are disillusioned and the members of the second group are all worn-down and bored. I'm wondering if I can expect the same for PI lawyers working outside of the government.

@the first Anonymous User: Yeah, your reply was a bit much, but I understand what you mean. I really wasn't trying to show off, but I was trying to give an idea of where I was at so that people would feel free to focus on the question of life as a PI lawyer. I'm sorry if it came across the wrong way.

To address your question, there are so many things that I would be interested in doing that I didn't want to limit the responses I would get by listing only a few. If it would help, though, here are some examples: working as counsel for somewhere like NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, working for other policy-advocacy firms/organizations, legal services, children's/women's rights and family law, immigration law/immigrants' rights, civil liberties, etc. Maybe I sound like a bit of an idealist here, which I think I am, but that's why I'm trying to get an idea of what to realistically expect if this is what I'm shooting for.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:18 pm

Honestly, the most worn-down depressed people I know work in direct services/immigration. the work is intellectually boring and easy, you turn down so many cases you wish you could take and you take cases for people who are ungrateful and undeserving, the cases are long and most of the time you lose. You do all of that will almost no resources and for pretty bad pay. and these jobs are hard to get.

you won't jettison into some thinktank right out of law school either. maybe if you have top 5% or so CCN grades, are a superstar with published papers, a few clerkships and a prestigious fellowship first.

and your friends are not good sources of info. a lot of government attorneys are very happy with their jobs (too bad the government isn't hiring) and there are biglawyers who aren't miserable. People jump into law school and some super specific path with vague to no idea of what they want, and that makes for a lot of very miserable people.

While I'm happy with my choice to go to law school and my legal career, but it's nothing like where I thought I would be going in and so many people I know (yes, from CCN) are unemployed or miserable because they weren't realistic, pragmatic or flexible.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:24 pm

People don't come to law school for law school; people come to law school to become lawyers. People don't study because of the intellectual thrill; they study to become competitive on the job market. Law school is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Meh. I dunno. Without going as far as saying that law school is an end in and of itself, I didn't have a full picture of what being a lawyer entailed before I came to law school. I just knew it would be an intellectually challenging extension of my previous career. The kind of logic exercise I encountered on the LSAT confirmed that I had chosen the right path. Essentially, while I began exploring law school for different reasons, legal reasoning is what really want made me stay, and gets me going. I thoroughly enjoy the mechanics of arguments for their own sake. So yeah, the intellectual thrill is the main reason I am here.

Thus, I place less of a premium on things like depositions, client contact or courtroom experience (i.e., the traditional things associated with being a lawyer) than most law students. Instead, for a long time (I've kinda eased up on that a bit lately), I actually thought I wouldn't mind just be locked up in a room writing motions and briefs all day for a career.

Then I remember that part of why my previous career was so unsatisfying was precisely lack of professional human contact outside of my coworkers. So I've learned to value the traditional lawyer things more (oral arguments, client contact, blah blah blah), but they will never overshadow what will always be the center of my interest in legal practice: crafting badass legal arguments.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
People don't come to law school for law school; people come to law school to become lawyers. People don't study because of the intellectual thrill; they study to become competitive on the job market. Law school is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Meh. I dunno. Without going as far as saying that law school is an end in and of itself, I didn't have a full picture of what being a lawyer entailed before I came to law school. I just knew it would be an intellectually challenging extension of my previous career. The kind of logic exercise I encountered on the LSAT confirmed that I had chosen the right path. Essentially, while I began exploring law school for different reasons, legal reasoning is what really want made me stay, and gets me going. I thoroughly enjoy the mechanics of arguments for their own sake. So yeah, the intellectual thrill is the main reason I am here.

Thus, I place less of a premium on things like depositions, client contact or courtroom experience (i.e., the traditional things associated with being a lawyer) than most law students. Instead, for a long time (I've kinda eased up on that a bit lately), I actually thought I wouldn't mind just be locked up in a room writing motions and briefs all day for a career.

Then I remember that part of why my previous career was so unsatisfying was precisely lack of professional human contact outside of my coworkers. So I've learned to value the traditional lawyer things more (oral arguments, client contact, blah blah blah), but they will never overshadow what will always be the center of my interest in legal practice: crafting badass legal arguments.


+1. While I don't disagree that those considering law school should realize that they are also considering becoming "lawyers," it shouldn't be forgotten that a legal education can help people gain skills that apply in many fields and isn't simply a trade school. Furthermore, I have found the academic experience incredibly enjoyable and I believe anyone considering a future in legal academia would hopefully agree.

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Jericwithers
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Re: Life after law school

Postby Jericwithers » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:+1. While I don't disagree that those considering law school should realize that they are also considering becoming "lawyers," it shouldn't be forgotten that a legal education can help people gain skills that apply in many fields and isn't simply a trade school. Furthermore, I have found the academic experience incredibly enjoyable and I believe anyone considering a future in legal academia would hopefully agree.


Outed as a 0L.

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Re: Life after law school

Postby 174 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
People don't come to law school for law school; people come to law school to become lawyers. People don't study because of the intellectual thrill; they study to become competitive on the job market. Law school is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Meh. I dunno. Without going as far as saying that law school is an end in and of itself, I didn't have a full picture of what being a lawyer entailed before I came to law school. I just knew it would be an intellectually challenging extension of my previous career. The kind of logic exercise I encountered on the LSAT confirmed that I had chosen the right path. Essentially, while I began exploring law school for different reasons, legal reasoning is what really want made me stay, and gets me going. I thoroughly enjoy the mechanics of arguments for their own sake. So yeah, the intellectual thrill is the main reason I am here.

Thus, I place less of a premium on things like depositions, client contact or courtroom experience (i.e., the traditional things associated with being a lawyer) than most law students. Instead, for a long time (I've kinda eased up on that a bit lately), I actually thought I wouldn't mind just be locked up in a room writing motions and briefs all day for a career.

Then I remember that part of why my previous career was so unsatisfying was precisely lack of professional human contact outside of my coworkers. So I've learned to value the traditional lawyer things more (oral arguments, client contact, blah blah blah), but they will never overshadow what will always be the center of my interest in legal practice: crafting badass legal arguments.


+1. While I don't disagree that those considering law school should realize that they are also considering becoming "lawyers," it shouldn't be forgotten that a legal education can help people gain skills that apply in many fields and isn't simply a trade school. Furthermore, I have found the academic experience incredibly enjoyable and I believe anyone considering a future in legal academia would hopefully agree.




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