Erik is poised to become one of our nation’s 8.7 trillion practicing attorneys. Is it a good idea?
Hey Judge Josh,
My name is Erik. I really dig all the insightful school and career advice Outlaw Student and has to offer. Thank you and keep up the good work!
Thanks, man! I really appreciate that!
Now, for my question: I am recent college grad with some work experience who’s considering law school.
I graduated from a university in NY with a B.A. double-major in Political Science and TV/Video Production in 2008, intending to pursue a career in the TV biz. After working in TV for less than a year, I quickly realized going to school for TV and making TV your career were very different things.
Boy, you said a mouthful there. It’s a rough business — always was, actually, but now that it’s really easy to outsource overseas any editing or post-production work for anything shot digitally, it’s even tougher.
Just as my misgivings about working in TV were coming to a head, an opportunity with a small software company came along. So I decided to give working in software a shot and left TV. I started with the software company as a client trainer.
Whoa! You’re starting to creep me out a little here. I myself left media to work with a small software company, and my first job with that software company was as a client trainer — err, “implementation specialist.” I hope your story ends better than mine did…
Just shy of one year with the company, I was promoted to business analyst, then product manager.
Oh yeah…there you go. At my job I quit three different times before I got fired (don’t ask).
I gained valuable business experience working in software, but like TV, it didn’t pique my interest as a career.
Right. A notch on the belt, priceless experience — but experience you’d like to take elsewhere. Have gun, will travel.
So a few months back, I left my job to take some time off and figure out my next move. I have given serious thought to grad school and law school, but am leaning more toward law school. Recently, I started volunteering with a legal services agency that provides legal assistance to low-income people and have really enjoyed it so far.
Excellent. Just a reminder here that if helping out the underprivileged is something you like to do, you can do a ton of it without actually becoming a lawyer, if you choose.
One that comes to mind is CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) program. CASA volunteers are trained officers of the court who advocate for abused and neglected children. They are IMMENSELY important people in the lives of these kids, and it’s an awesome program. Check out the national chapter here, the New York chapter here, or Google more localized chapters wherever you’re living.
Just a thought. Readers, any similar programs you know and would like to share?
My primary concern with taking the huge personal and financial leaps necessary to go to law school is that I’m not convinced I want to be a trial lawyer. I think I would like to do something else in law, but haven’t quite figured that out yet.
That’s OK — plenty of lawyers out there don’t do trials. You can be in-house counsel for any type of company under the sun, or you can practice estate-planning law, contract law, intellectual property law, real estate law, elder law, etc.
Those guys rarely if ever go to trial, but they still stay busy and make good money. Whether you’d enjoy that kind of work, though, only you can say.
Aside from being a practicing attorney or working for a law firm, what other vocations can a J.D. lead to or qualify someone for? I’ve heard a law degree is flexible, but don’t know what that means in terms of real-world, career prospects.
Well, I’d definitely want to be a practicing attorney if I got the law degree; otherwise, you’re just gonna be a guy with an excellent knowledge of how the law works, but no means to collect the commensurate wages in order to pay off the massive student-loan debt.
Exceptions? You could be a politician or a lobbyist. Lots of those guys start out as lawyers for no excellent reason other than…that’s what politicians and lobbyists do, apparently. Become laywers, then become lobbyists and/or run for office.
Maybe, though, you meant “trial attorney” rather than “practicing attorney” when you said that, in which case, you’ve got the suggestions above working for you.
You could also hang a shingle and start your own firm or just go solo, which is cool, but of course there’s some marketing and entrepreneurship involved there. Then again, nothing beats NOT having a boss in my opinion, but there’s a lot of mental baggage that travels with you when you own your shop. This I assure you.
Thanks for your help!
Well, not sure how much help I’ve been, actually, but I hope maybe a little. All in all, I’d advise you NOT to go to law school if you don’t want to be a lawyer of some kind, any kind.
But remember, there are tons of different kinds of *law* you can practice successfully, minus the courtroom antics that make up half of the primetime network TV shows.
— That’s all I’ve got today. Anyone else got questions, advice or comments for Erik? Let us know in the comments below!