Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Because The Future Never Quite Turns Out The Way We Imagine It In Our Heads

And sometimes, that's ok too. 

For a long time, a few years at least, I've been convinced that law school was an essential part of my future.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  For starters, it's important for me to prove to people, my detractors, that I'm something.  A law school graduate certainly is something.  Also, I have an interest in the field of real estate and I thought being a real estate attorney would be a good way to really understand real estate.  (And yes, I just used the words "real estate" three times in one sentence.)  Finally, I've always been really impressed with how lawyers think.  I think the catch phrase is "critical analysis" - the ability to analyze everything critically and rationally.  I've always liked that concept.

So the plan was simple.  Graduate, go to a decent law school, then work in a firm for a couple of years to learn something and eventually end up in a real estate shop.

But recently, the plan has been shifting.  For starters, I've been speaking to a bunch of lawyers or lawyers to be.  Many cannot find work at all.  The ones who are working - they are killing themselves.  They all seem so miserable.  Their extreme misery would be a post in it of itself.

And then there's my "boss".  I use quotations because I don't get paid so I'm not really an employee.  Anyway, he's general counsel to this real estate place.  And he's really the most wonderful guy.  And he's been telling me that you cannot learn law in a couple of years at a firm.  It takes much longer than that.  To really know what you are talking about can take 4 or 5 years.  And this guy is a genius.

So lemme get this straight.  Three years of education at over a hundred grand all in?  Four or five years slaving away in some law firm?  Totally miserable existence? Where do I sign up?

And what I've been noticing is that you can learn the field of real estate without holding a law degree.  In fact, the business side is an entirely different animal.  And that's the side that I think really interests me.

So I'm really on the fence.  Actually, that's not true.  I'm really off the fence. 

I don't want to do it.

Except part of me feels like I'm quitting on something I haven't even tried yet.  And that's a crappy feeling.  And I was so dead set on it for a while - now all of a sudden it's the wrong move?

And the doubts creep in.  Maybe it's really because I'm not willing to put in all the hard work.  The three years of studying followed by the gruelling labor of law firm life.  Maybe I'm just too lazy.

So here I sit, staring at a New Post window wondering about my suddenly shifting future. 

Funny how it never plays out like it does in your dreams.


  1. Not everyone works at law firms, by the way. Some people work for the government or small businesses, or do their own thing. You could also just get your license and go straight into real estate. You don't HAVE to work for a big law firm. That's an old stereotype, and that model is shifting very quickly.

  2. But how do you learn the law then?

  3. A few quick thoughts from a current 3L:

    1) It's great that you're asking yourself these questions now, before investing so much time and energy into the process that you can't turn back. I waited until senior year of college to ask myself some of the same questions, at which point I felt it was too late to rock the boat. Three years later, I wish I had sat down and thought hard about my decision at an earlier point. I might have still chosen to go to law school, but I probably would have felt a lot better about my choice later on.

    2) Before doing anything else, read this - it's the single most important piece I've seen on choosing whether to become a lawyer:


    3) Irina's right. As Judge Schiltz's article points out, there are many alternatives to working at a large firm. True, you don't get paid as well, but you get to have a life outside of work. He also addresses your question about learning the law in a non-firm job.

    4) This may be somewhat controversial, but...do NOT enroll in a law school outside of the U.S. News top 25 unless you (a) get a scholarship, (b) have a (significant) source of outside funds, (c) don't mind being in debt for the next 10 years or more, or (d) really really REALLY want to go to law school. There are just too many lawyers on the market right now, and too few jobs available. (Also, don't believe what law school recruiters tell you. Try running the search "new york times law school" on Google - the results are more than a little disturbing.)

  4. http://shorty129.blogspot.com/2011/07/truth-about-law-school.html

  5. Anon 1 - Thanks so much! That article was a real eye opener. I spent a really long time with it. It confirms alot of what i was thinking. If you don't mind, perhaps you can email me?

    Anon 2 - I've seen Jill's blog before but thanks for the link. It's good to see I'm looking at the right sources :)