I had coffee with a friend earlier this week. She mentioned her sister texted her excitedly the day before about something on my professional networking page. It was strangely flattering and bewildering at the same time. Lately, it seems I get asked a lot about careers and success. I want to come clean and say, “Beats me.” I’m grateful for the trials I’ve endured for teaching me what I needed to learn and grateful for my successes because they’ve come at times when I’ve needed them most.
Since I get asked numerous times by friends, relatives, friends of friends, family friends, children of my mother’s acquaintances, regular acquaintances, random people on the street, strangers over the internet, co-workers, dates, etc. as to whether I have any advice about law school and the legal profession, perhaps the best way is just to write about it. If you’ve been thinking of law school or grad school, here are some things to ask and do when considering a legal career.
1) Why do you want to be a lawyer?
2) Where do you envision your career 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road?
3) What are your biggest dreams? How will becoming a lawyer help you to achieve them?
Practical Advice and Things to Consider:
1) Do you have any experience working in a legal environment? If not, volunteer or work in the area of law you think you’d like to work in. This will give you a better sense of the work you will be doing for your dream career. If you love it, you know you’re in the right place. If you don’t, at least you won’t have indebted yourself to a private bank/government loan institution for $150K – $180K for 30 years.
2) Ask yourself: Would you still want to do this kind of work even if it didn’t pay well? A lot of attorneys I know are not well paid. Some of the small law firms salaries start at $25 – $45K. Even after a few years, attorney salaries may be comparable to positions that did not require an advanced degree. For many lawyers I know, law isn’t the gold mine or the sure-thing profession they had once believed it would be.
3) Ask yourself: Would you be a lawyer if there wasn’t any prestige to be gained? When I’ve asked people why they are considering law school, many mention the respect and prestige as a big factor. Also, that law is a smart profession that makes tons of money. Ok. That’s understandable. That’s one thing. However, it is entirely another to base your career on what other people think of you and the stuff you own. Building confidence in your own talents and enjoying what you do will carry you through many years longer than a Rolex and knowledge of Tort law ever could.
4) Do a long range cost-benefit analysis. List practical, mental, and emotional considerations. Sometimes when you write things down, it’s easier to see what matters to you and what doesn’t.
If you know what you like doing, you’ll know what you’re good at. Once you know, make your decision. A career is a major decision. It’s a very real thing. Make it based on true values, not based on what other people will think of you.
So how will you go out and conquer the world? What are your plans for world domination? Share them!