If you’re thinking about applying to law school, you’ve probably done some research into the profession, carefully considered the pros and cons of becoming a lawyer, and, hopefully, talked to a few attorneys about how they like the profession.
That’s all useful and good, and I encourage you to continue those modes of analysis.
Here’s a different approach:
Scenario One: The Imaginary Dinner Party
Imagine you’re at a dinner party several years from now, and the person next to you asks: “What do you do?” You reply, “I’m a lawyer.”
Your dinner companion seems interested, and asks you what type of work you do specifically, and how you like it.
What do you tell him?
As you imagine having this conversation, how do you feel? Are you excited to talk about your career, or do you try to extract yourself as soon as possible from this line of questioning?
Scenario Two: There Goes the Weekend
Imagine now that you’re working as a lawyer, and you’ve just left the office to meet friends for drinks after work. It’s been a long week, and you’re looking forward to the weekend, when you can catch up on sleep and spend some quality time with your new puppy.
Your BlackBerry buzzes. It’s your boss, telling you that you’ve been selected to attend a special deposition training workshop next week. It’s a big honor, but it means you have to work on your cases for several hours this weekend.
What’s your reaction?
Are you annoyed at the imposition on your time, or are you excited to learn something that’s going to advance your career?
Scenario Three: You Own This
Finally, imagine that you’re working as a lawyer, and your boss brings you along to a client meeting.
You’re not sure why you’re there exactly, because everyone was too busy to discuss it beforehand, but you do your best to follow along and take notes about whatever’s going on. It becomes apparent that there’s an M&A deal being contemplated, but the details are a little fuzzy.
As you’re walking out of the meeting, your boss turns to you and says, “You seem competent enough to handle this, you own this deal.” In other words, your boss wants you to run the entire thing, working directly with the client.
What’s your reaction?
What is the Point of This Exercise?!?
Your immediate, gut-level reaction to the scenarios above can shed some light on whether the legal profession is your calling.
If you envision yourself happily describing your work as a lawyer in a social setting, that’s a good sign that you’ll ultimately be able to get yourself to that position. If, instead, you see yourself mumbling, “I work for a corporate law firm. It’s fine,” and immediately changing the subject to something more interesting, things may not end so well.
Similarly, if you feel like you’d be enthusiastic about working all weekend for a chance to improve your deposition skills, law might be a good fit for you. If your reaction was more, “Ugh, really? I have to do extra work?,” proceed with caution. It’s hard to avoid working a lot as a lawyer, particularly when you’re just starting out in the profession. The reality is that your job is likely to intrude on your personal life quite frequently. If this isn’t a trade off you’re willing to make, it’s better to realize this now, rather than after you’ve invested the time and money required to become a lawyer.
The final scenario is going to happen to you at some point early in your legal career, in one guise or another. It might be “You’re going to take this deposition tomorrow” rather than “You’re going to be in charge of this deal,” but the reality is that you will be thrown into the deep end on a moment’s notice, and it will be sink-or-swim time. If the thought of being in this position fills you with abject terror, and you’re not sure you’d be able to overcome the feeling to take charge of the situation, a different career path might be more suitable for you.
There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you’d prefer a job where you’re not routinely thrown to the wolves. You’re going to feel like you’re way over your head a lot as a lawyer, and for many people, that’s not a pleasant feeling. Certain people thrive on it, and, if you’re one of those people, you may enjoy being a lawyer.
For everyone else, this aspect of being a lawyer is unpleasant, stressful, and ultimately demoralizing.
The Bottom Line
Being a lawyer isn’t for everyone. It requires a certain type of personality, and a willingness to make some pretty serious work/life tradeoffs.
Before you decide to apply to law school, consult your gut. If it’s telling you that law’s not right for you, LISTEN.
Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
How to Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In
If you decide to apply, you may as well make your application great. Find out how to make every component of your law school application the best it can be:
- Perfect Your Personal Statement
- Perfect Your Law School Résumé
- Sample Law School Résumé Teardown
- Get Great Letters of Recommendation
- When to Use an Addendum
Return to Applying to Law School 101.
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