Is law school really for you?

Many of my students decide to go on to law school. Sometimes I worry that the decision is made for not the best reasons: a person is smart, wants to make money in a way that commands a certain degree of respect, and isn’t sure what else to do, so — law school. I haven’t gone to law school or been a lawyer, so I can’t really give a lot of advice about it. So I write letters of recommendation and hope everything works out.

But a couple of years ago I came across this interesting essay by Paul Gowder. It offers interesting insights about choosing a career in the law, and knowing whether it’s right for you. I highly recommend it to everyone thinking “law school.”

Also, you might want to read this further post: Why You Shouldn’t Go To Law School. (Answers: the jobs suck, lawyers are unhappy, you’ll be surrounded by jerks, have I mentioned the debt?, and the law will make you into the worst kind of person.) Just food for thought.

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4 thoughts on “Is law school really for you?

  1. Doug

    Wow, his essay’s most certainly give those that are trying to decide whether or not to go to law school something to think about; however, it does seem that he only focuses on those that choose to practice law for either big firms or non-profits.

    The writer does fail to mention that nearly half of all law school students, choose to use their law degree for something other than practicing law. For example, Congress employs hundreds of lawyers for writing and interpreting laws in order to pass “meaningful” legislation (I put quotes on meaningful since that may be a loose term).

    I would also advise any student thinking of attending law school to look up the financial statistics for the schools they intend to attend. Many of these schools in the top 70, have high rates of job placement (University of Minnesota has a 99%) with salary range from $40,000-$160,000. The wage depends upon whether you choose to practice in either a public office (defender/prosecutor/etc) or private practice which tends to offer a much higher wage.

    I would also argue that law school should be on every Philosophy Major’s mind if they do not intend to teach philosophy (which from everything I have read is harder to find employment, then to practice law). In the practice of law, each law is subject to different interpretation and application. The same exact laws can be changed or overturned depending on the moral and ethical values in any given time frame (for example: Plessy vs. Ferguson 1896 was overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education 1954; however; the same law was argued in both cases).

    As Philosophy Major’s we are taught to examine every statement with the utmost scrutiny. We are to examine every argument’s logical implications, as well as formulate our own arguments as to why or why not something is logical or rational to assume. This sounds exactly like what you are expected to learn in law school. Not to mention, the method so famously used in a philosophy class for helping students understand their own arguments, is used regularly in law school (Socratic Method)

    I guess what I am trying to say is that for you students that truly want to shape law, and make a difference in communities; law may not be a bad place for you. If you are only interested in big money to spend on beach houses,etc…Good luck to you! It is VERY competitive and although you do not need to go to a top 10 school to achieve dreams of big money, you must be top 10% of your class to be considered for a big firm.

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  2. Huenemann Post author

    Doug makes some very sensible points. There certainly is a huge overlap between training for philosophy and training for law. The students who have gone on to law school consistently report that their background in philosophy puts them several steps ahead of their fellow students who majored in other things. But students should get a clear idea of exactly what sort of career they are getting themselves into — lots of the practice of law seems to be doing paperwork, rather than offering dramatic arguments in court.

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  3. source

    That said, I’m glad that I now have a good reply for when my parents say:

    PARENTS: “You’re a philosophy major. Why don’t you go to law school?”

    ME: “Well ma, I have a soul. I’d like to keep it that way.”

    (No offense to any lawyers intended; I’m sure you all have souls. Shrively broken souls, yes; but souls nonetheless.)

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