November 22, 2011
Ahhhh, the Juris Doctorate degree. So prestigious, so desired. Maybe you have dreamed of getting that degree since you were a child. Maybe you are considering law school because of the potential earnings. At a good firm, (in which you will be working most of your life) you stand to make 6 figures. You can buy all the things you dreamed of having, pay off some loans and you get to be the person in the cocktail party that says, “I’m an attorney”. But, what you may not know is that the law school landscape is rapidly changing and becoming what many in the legal field are calling “oversaturated”. In the New York Times’ article, Is Law School A Losing Game? they discuss the declining number of legal firms, inflated projections of post-graduate salaries, and even went as far to say that the “Juris Doctorate degree is the new B.A”. Ouch. Whatever reasons you have, law school is not for everyone who applies, and dare I say it: not for everyone who is fortunate enough to be accepted into a law school.
As someone who went through the dreaded 1L year (1L=first year of law school), I saw plenty of people leave after their first year: I was one of them. After graduating USC faster than expected (3 ½ years), I was like most college graduates: No job, broke, and up to my neck in school loan debt. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. Then I had an epiphany: Apply to law school. I thought, “I like to argue, and hey, what else am I going to do?” So, I began the process of applying and to my surprise: I was accepted to a pretty decent law school.
Everything isn’t for everyone, and law school is no exception. Even for the most intelligent, most dedicated person, law school is by no means “easy”. It’s the type of professional program that commands every single moment of your life for 3 years. From studying, to networking, to reading, to writing and reading some more--law school becomes your life. If you are not comfortable with the idea of law school becoming your main priority for 3 years, law school is not for you. During your first year of law school, your schedule is handed to you. You are literally being told what to do and when to do it for at least one year.
Above all other things, law school really is not for the person who has unfulfilled dreams outside of law. When a person comes to law school with unfulfilled dreams, the result can be devastating to a person’s spirit. It is such an isolating experience and if a person is not fully invested law school and committed to practicing law, their mind can drift to the “what ifs” of life. Law school is not a supportive environment when one lacks focus; in fact, the environment can become downright hostile.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably picked up some kind of self-help book and read about other people “finding themselves” and “the journey”. I can say one thing for sure: everyone’s journey is different. We all would love to have some money in the bank, but from personal experience, being a Made Woman is about doing what you love. If you love law and are prepared for the task at hand, DO IT. If you don’t, it is okay to say hey, this isn’t for me. Have faith that the money will come even if you don’t cart a briefcase to court. Find a path that is uniquely your own and you will be so fulfilled that money will just be the icing on the cake: not the only reward for all of your hard work.