How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

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scifiguy
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby scifiguy » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:08 pm

Bronte wrote:Of those graduates who do get jobs, most probably go to law firms and, of those, the vast majority go to big law firms. Big law firms almost exclusively represent large companies. Thus, a very large portion of students who are "successful" in law school in the sense of finding gainful employment end up practicing what can broadly be characterized as "business law."

This is very important because many of these same people have no interest whatsoever in business and finance--i.e., they're liberal arts students who came to law school interested in matters like civil rights, foreign affairs, etc.--but end up practicing in this area anyway. I think this is a major source of the general discontent in the legal profession.

Thus, an initial question you might ask yourself is, do you have an interest in general business issues? Since you, OP, went to business school, that's a decent indicator that you do. Still, you should ask yourself whether you enjoyed that kind of stuff enough to continue in that vein. In particular, the fact that you shied away from finance is a bit concerning, as much law firm work is finance related.



Out of curiosity, does one need to have a good mathematical understanding of business to do well in big law. I see the connection you're making above, but wonder just how much of a business/econ/finance background a person needs to work for those big firms?

I'm a philosophy major (with English minor). Have taken statistics and calculus, but really no finance related classes.

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Tuco Salamanca
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby Tuco Salamanca » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:33 pm

scifiguy wrote:
Bronte wrote:To understand whether you want to be a lawyer, you have to understand a little bit about the legal market.

Law school graduates usually end up doing one of five things after law school: working for a "big law" firm, working for a non-big law firm, working for the government, working for a public interest organization, or not finding work. Unfortunately, of those five, the most common by far is not finding work. For the roughly 40,000 new JDs in 2011, there were only about 20,000 jobs. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 58142.html.


But aren't you excluding jobs outside of law? Your "five things" makes #1-4 all legal jobs and then #5 unemployed.


You don't go to law school to get a job outside of law. The idea that a JD degree is "flexible" is mostly bs.

Edit: To the OP: most people know they want to be lawyers once they realize that their liberal arts degree will be useless in obtaining employment and that law school will be their only chance to obtain the earning potential of a biglaw attorney.

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Bronte
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby Bronte » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:50 pm

scifiguy wrote:But aren't you excluding jobs outside of law? Your "five things" makes #1-4 all legal jobs and then #5 unemployed.


A very small percentage of graduates get nonlegal jobs. Of those, very few are professional jobs. For the most part, people who get nonlegal jobs are not getting good jobs; they're getting low-paying jobs that they could have gotten without a JD. Those that do get nonlegal professional jobs--again, a very, very small group--are doing consulting and even more rarely investment banking. These people are doing business-related work, so that doesn't detract from my point.

scifiguy wrote:Out of curiosity, does one need to have a good mathematical understanding of business to do well in big law. I see the connection you're making above, but wonder just how much of a business/econ/finance background a person needs to work for those big firms?

I'm a philosophy major (with English minor). Have taken statistics and calculus, but really no finance related classes.


No, you do not need to have any mathematical understanding of anything to succeed in big law. Most big law associates have liberal arts backgrounds. My point is that it will be very difficult to enjoy big law if you have no interest in business-related work (not in a mathematical sense but just in a general sense). Many law students go to law school not only lacking any interest in business work but actually being constitutionally opposed to that kind of work.

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:15 pm

spleenworship wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:


So the first few years as an associate I'd ONLY be "drafting, editing, and reading documents"? Aren't there some firms that let you get more involved with litigation/trial, maybe do some pro bono work? There are so many firms out there, they can't ALL be the same... I can't imagine anyone (barring sociopaths) would actually enjoy getting intimate with legal paperwork 12 hours a day. There's gotta be more to the job than that!!! Otherwise you're basically just a "white collar janitor" as someone said in another thread I was reading.

I'll check out those links too, thanks.


re the bolded: they are called small firms. Or working for the government. Biglaw doesn't let you touch any of that your first few years unless, by some coincidence, the entirety of the partners in your firm had heart attacks all at once.

re the italicized: f**k you. I do like it and I will spend 12 hours doing it.... and I'm pretty sure I'm not a sociopath. Probably.


ETA: if you want more experience quickly, you need to go outside of the biglaw box. The only realistic way to do that is make sure you aggressively manage your debt. The smaller the better.

My list of things that make good attorneys:
Quick reader
smart
good writer
detail oriented
willing to fight over sh*t they don't really care about.
doesn't mind that almost all opposing counsel are as**oles
doesn't mind that almost all opposing counsel thinks he/she is an as**ole/b**ch
is willing to stand up in front of strangers and talk (if that person wants to do litigation/trial work)


I meant no offense. I'm still not familiar enough with that type of work to form a opinion.

But since you are clearly in the minority, it would be great if you could expand on what you enjoy about this type of work(that most would find unbearably mundane)?

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spleenworship
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby spleenworship » Thu Sep 20, 2012 12:51 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:
I meant no offense. I'm still not familiar enough with that type of work to form a opinion.

But since you are clearly in the minority, it would be great if you could expand on what you enjoy about this type of work(that most would find unbearably mundane)?



I wasn't offended. I was joking. I should've put up a smiley.

And I have always enjoyed going through minutia. Spending hours making sure that I find every single transaction that is fishy, maybe 200, out of 4000 documents... that's sweet. But I'm serious that you don't have to be a sociopath... I think you just have to be really anal and find joy in strange places.

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:35 pm

spleenworship wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
I meant no offense. I'm still not familiar enough with that type of work to form a opinion.

But since you are clearly in the minority, it would be great if you could expand on what you enjoy about this type of work(that most would find unbearably mundane)?



I wasn't offended. I was joking. I should've put up a smiley.

And I have always enjoyed going through minutia. Spending hours making sure that I find every single transaction that is fishy, maybe 200, out of 4000 documents... that's sweet. But I'm serious that you don't have to be a sociopath... I think you just have to be really anal and find joy in strange places.


Excuse my naivety, but does the bolded imply that you do mostly "transactional" work vs. Litigation? I'm looking at doing litigation so I wonder if my typical day-to-day would still be foraging through 4000 documents for minor inconsistencies.

My main goal as of now is to experience what it's like to be a lawyer(or something extremely similar) before I actually become a lawyer / go to LS. Any advice on how to achieve this would be greatly appreciated.

If you had to compare the type of work you do to any other career that someone WITHOUT a JD could do straight out of undergrad, which would hold the most direct similarities? (Direct, as in not an analogy such as being a "white collar janitor")

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Bronte
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby Bronte » Thu Sep 20, 2012 1:51 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:
spleenworship wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
I meant no offense. I'm still not familiar enough with that type of work to form a opinion.

But since you are clearly in the minority, it would be great if you could expand on what you enjoy about this type of work(that most would find unbearably mundane)?



I wasn't offended. I was joking. I should've put up a smiley.

And I have always enjoyed going through minutia. Spending hours making sure that I find every single transaction that is fishy, maybe 200, out of 4000 documents... that's sweet. But I'm serious that you don't have to be a sociopath... I think you just have to be really anal and find joy in strange places.


Excuse my naivety, but does the bolded imply that you do mostly "transactional" work vs. Litigation? I'm looking at doing litigation so I wonder if my typical day-to-day would still be foraging through 4000 documents for minor inconsistencies.

My main goal as of now is to experience what it's like to be a lawyer(or something extremely similar) before I actually become a lawyer / go to LS. Any advice on how to achieve this would be greatly appreciated.

If you had to compare the type of work you do to any other career that someone WITHOUT a JD could do straight out of undergrad, which would hold the most direct similarities? (Direct, as in not an analogy such as being a "white collar janitor")


Both transactional and litigation practice have a component that involves "foraging through . . . documents for minor inconsistencies." In transactional practice, it's called due diligence (often, "diligence"); in litigation practice, it's called document review (often, "doc review"). If one practice area is more notorious for this type of work, it's litigation.

As to experiencing what it's like to be a lawyer before becoming a lawyer, you're touching on a major catch-22 in this field. People frequently ask, "Why do you want to be a lawyer?" Just as frequently, people say, "You can't know what it's like to practice law until you do so."

Obviously, given the number of people who end up going to law school and becoming lawyers, there has to be some way out of this catch-22. The most common path is becoming a paralegal, although its efficacy is debated. Otherwise, I think you pretty much just have to do what you're doing now, which is talk to people about it and read about it.

I've enjoyed law school and legal practice (one summer with federal government, one summer in big law) pretty well. I enjoy research and technical writing, so writing memos and briefs appeals to me. I like organizing disparate and conflicting sources into a coherent argument as to what the law is and how it applies to facts. I also enjoy style--syntax, grammar, typography, etc.--so the world of citations and formatting is not repulsive to me.

Very few if any people enjoy grunt work (i.e., diligence and doc review). You just have to hope that you work at a firm where they farm a lot of this out to temp attorneys or a practice area where they farm a lot of this out to other practice areas. Further, the grunt work subsides as you become more senior.

Keep in mind that a lot of sources tend to give biased assessments. In real life, people will tend to give overly optimistic assessments. On TLS, people will tend to give overly pessimistic assessments. You'll have to try to draw your own conclusions.

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:14 pm

Bronte wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
spleenworship wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
I meant no offense. I'm still not familiar enough with that type of work to form a opinion.

But since you are clearly in the minority, it would be great if you could expand on what you enjoy about this type of work(that most would find unbearably mundane)?



I wasn't offended. I was joking. I should've put up a smiley.

And I have always enjoyed going through minutia. Spending hours making sure that I find every single transaction that is fishy, maybe 200, out of 4000 documents... that's sweet. But I'm serious that you don't have to be a sociopath... I think you just have to be really anal and find joy in strange places.


Excuse my naivety, but does the bolded imply that you do mostly "transactional" work vs. Litigation? I'm looking at doing litigation so I wonder if my typical day-to-day would still be foraging through 4000 documents for minor inconsistencies.

My main goal as of now is to experience what it's like to be a lawyer(or something extremely similar) before I actually become a lawyer / go to LS. Any advice on how to achieve this would be greatly appreciated.

If you had to compare the type of work you do to any other career that someone WITHOUT a JD could do straight out of undergrad, which would hold the most direct similarities? (Direct, as in not an analogy such as being a "white collar janitor")


Both transactional and litigation practice have a component that involves "foraging through . . . documents for minor inconsistencies." In transactional practice, it's called due diligence (often, "diligence"); in litigation practice, it's called document review (often, "doc review"). If one practice area is more notorious for this type of work, it's litigation.

As to experiencing what it's like to be a lawyer before becoming a lawyer, you're touching on a major catch-22 in this field. People frequently ask, "Why do you want to be a lawyer?" Just as frequently, people say, "You can't know what it's like to practice law until you do so."

Obviously, given the number of people who end up going to law school and becoming lawyers, there has to be some way out of this catch-22. The most common path is becoming a paralegal, although its efficacy is debated. Otherwise, I think you pretty much just have to do what you're doing now, which is talk to people about it and read about it.

I've enjoyed law school and legal practice (one summer with federal government, one summer in big law) pretty well. I enjoy research and technical writing, so writing memos and briefs appeals to me. I like organizing disparate and conflicting sources into a coherent argument as to what the law is and how it applies to facts. I also enjoy style--syntax, grammar, typography, etc.--so the world of citations and formatting is not repulsive to me.

Very few if any people enjoy grunt work (i.e., diligence and doc review). You just have to hope that you work at a firm where they farm a lot of this out to temp attorneys or a practice area where they farm a lot of this out to other practice areas. Further, the grunt work subsides as you become more senior.

Keep in mind that a lot of sources tend to give biased assessments. In real life, people will tend to give overly optimistic assessments. On TLS, people will tend to give overly pessimistic assessments. You'll have to try to draw your own conclusions.


Thanks for your response. I've always enjoyed creative writing more than technical, but I suppose writing is writing in the end. Organizing facts into an argument actually sounds like somethng I'd enjoy. I definitely look forward to moving past grunt work into more substantial intellectual "big picture" type work. But again, this is all just speculation.

Right now I'm just trying to figure out if there's some aspect of the inevitable grunt work/labor that would make the experience tolerable (or even occasionally enjoyable) for me. Perhaps a good place to start for me would be looking up some sample memos and briefs and seeing the kind of documents I'd be "Reviewing" and "drafting" as a lawyer.

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piccolittle
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby piccolittle » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:26 pm

I'm sure this has been said a million times since I couldn't be bothered to read every post in the thread, but it can never be emphasized enough. Work experience, work experience, work experience. There is no time that isn't worth taking to make sure you're making the right choice when you commit to law school. You need to KNOW that you want to be a lawyer (and know what a lawyer does) when you come to law school to make it worthwhile. Work experience in the legal field is never a bad thing. The kids who came straight through because they've known they wanted to be lawyers since they were five struggled the most during OCI, because they had nothing convincing in their backgrounds. How should an employer know you want to be a lawyer when you can't point to anything concrete that supports it? Even internships help. Some DA offices will take college-level interns; any exposure to legal work is good.

You sound like you've really put thought into this, and that is the best step you can take. Work a non-law related job for a while, get experience, and see if you can find a legal assistant position somewhere. Professional work experience is the best thing you can do for your maturity, peace of mind, and job prospects. You can even apply to schools now if you feel ready and defer while you work a year or two. You're on the right track - stick to it. (End rant)

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:01 pm

piccolittle wrote:I'm sure this has been said a million times since I couldn't be bothered to read every post in the thread, but it can never be emphasized enough. Work experience, work experience, work experience. There is no time that isn't worth taking to make sure you're making the right choice when you commit to law school. You need to KNOW that you want to be a lawyer (and know what a lawyer does) when you come to law school to make it worthwhile. Work experience in the legal field is never a bad thing. The kids who came straight through because they've known they wanted to be lawyers since they were five struggled the most during OCI, because they had nothing convincing in their backgrounds. How should an employer know you want to be a lawyer when you can't point to anything concrete that supports it? Even internships help. Some DA offices will take college-level interns; any exposure to legal work is good.

You sound like you've really put thought into this, and that is the best step you can take. Work a non-law related job for a while, get experience, and see if you can find a legal assistant position somewhere. Professional work experience is the best thing you can do for your maturity, peace of mind, and job prospects. You can even apply to schools now if you feel ready and defer while you work a year or two. You're on the right track - stick to it. (End rant)


Thanks and I most definitely agree. I'm working as a paralegal right now I'm just a temp and the position is 99.99% administrative. I wasn't really looking at government internships, but I think I'm going to try to find something like that ASAP. As much as I would hate to take something unpaid due to my financial situation, my future is well worth the risk... Thanks again for your input.

dazzleberry
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby dazzleberry » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:07 am

No one wants to be a lawyer. Don't go to law school.

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Bronte
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Re: How do I know if I want to be a lawyer?

Postby Bronte » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:22 am

dazzleberry wrote:No one wants to be a lawyer. Don't go to law school.


Don't bump threads to say unconstructive things.




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