Should You Go to Law School? Well, What Do You Like?

BookcaseCareer coaches are fond of telling everyone to “Do what you love!”

I’m not entirely convinced that’s the right approach — what if what you love is sleeping late and puttering around the house? — but you should, at a minimum, like what you do.

Fair enough, but what’s the best way to figure out what you actually like, when most people have been conditioned from childhood to do what they were told?

Here’s one approach:

  • Imagine walking into a bookstore, with no particular goal in mind other than to purchase a book to read for fun. What sections do you gravitate towards?
  • Take a look at your bookshelf. What types of books are there, and which ones do you find yourself reaching for over and over again?
  • What type of books did you like to read as a child?
  • Think about the websites or newspapers you’ve read in the last few days simply because you found them interesting. Are there particular types of articles you find yourself reading routinely?
  • Do you recall high school or college classes where you eagerly did the reading, maybe even reading things that weren’t specifically assigned? What topics did these classes cover?
  • How would you describe the material you routinely read for pleasure?

Are any of your favorite areas related to the law?

You’re Telling Me People Read About the Law For Fun?

If this question makes you recoil in horror (“Read about the law for fun? Are you kidding?!?”), I promise you there are people who do, indeed, read law-related books for pleasure. Some of these people may be your law school classmates.

Who do you think is going to be happier and more successful in law school? My guess is that it’s the person who’s actually interested in the material.

If you have little interest in the law, as demonstrated by what you’ve chosen to read and study over the course of your life, this is the time to admit it. You have my permission to stop reading right now, and go live a very happy life working on something you’re actually interested in.

Trust me, it’s a good decision!

Hum…I Appear to Be a Natural Lawyer

If you look over your list and see that you’ve been devouring Perry Mason books since you were a child, that your favorite classes were US Government and Politics, European Legal History, and Internet Policy, and that you’ve recently read and enjoyed A People’s History of the Supreme Court and an article on privacy laws in the European Union, law might be a natural fit for you.

You still need to make sure this is the right time for you to go to law school, and think about whether it’s financially feasible, but chances are good you’re on the right path.

Magic 8 Ball Says “Ask Again”

What if you’re in the middle? Maybe you preferred mystery books as a child, and found a couple of political theory courses mildly interesting, but not fascinating. You’ve got a copy of the Constitution on your bookshelf, but you can’t remember if you ever read the whole thing. However, you enjoy reading stories about what goes on behind the scenes at a trial, and you love watching television shows about lawyers.

You’re in the “maybe” category. You’re not repelled by the idea of the law, but you’re not totally gung ho, either.

This is the trickiest category to be in. Your interest is worth exploring further, but, in the end, you might reasonably decide that there are other things you’d rather spend your time doing.

Still undecided? Check out Should You Go to Law School? A Slightly Weird Approach to Help You Decide or What’s Your Motivation? for two other approaches.

If you’re sure you want to apply, head over to Applying to Law School 101 and learn how to make your application awesome.

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  1. I was once in a seminar for prospective corporate managers. At several points, the facilitator played clips from The Karate Kid. The last such clip was at the big karate competition, when the Kid triumphs over adversity and wins the big prize.

    The facilitation switched the clip off as soon as the cheering started. “If you’re identifying with the Kid and not with Mr. Miyagi,” he said, “Maybe you shouldn’t go into management.”

    I see this as consistent with your post — not so much hard advice as a suggested point of view, one that many people could benefit from.

  2. This is well-rounded advice for how to make a complex decision. This article is also so helpful when considering if law school is a good fit!

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