Should I Go to Law School?
Why You Shouldn't Go to Law School
Should you go to law school? Before you make that decision, let me tell you why dropping out was the best decision I ever made.
Don't Go If You Don't Know What to Do Next
What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a simple question best answered with the imagination of a child. When I was about 8, my answer was an astronaut — I wasn't going to live my whole life without traveling to outer space! Then, I saw a film dramatizing the dangers of space travel and got scared. Scratch the astronaut plan. After that, I never really gave my future career much thought. Until at 19, as a political science major with a 3.9 GPA, I stumbled into the answer many otherwise-directionless overachievers come to: lawyer.
At least I should try, I thought. Keeping my options open would be the responsible thing to do. So I signed up for an unpaid internship with the San Francisco public defender the Summer after my sophomore year in college. It was an eye-opening 10 weeks that involved meeting with clients inside the county jail to conduct one-on-one interviews about their cases. While the issues of justice reform and support for the disadvantaged engaged me, the actual work didn't. But I chalked that up to being the lowest on the food chain and kept on my prelaw path.
Don't Go If It's Your Fallback Plan
The next Summer was LSAT Summer. I signed up and studied just in case. When I got back a decent score, I figured I should just apply and see where I got in. When I got into a good law school in my hometown that had relatively affordable in-state tuition, I decided that I should just go! A law degree can't hurt. Maybe I wouldn't even be a lawyer — I could work for a nonprofit or the government.
After I graduated college, I got a job at a small private practice to gain experience. I loved the co-workers, but again, I didn't love the work. By August, I was 21 and starting my first week as a 1L. And it wasn't so bad. I had the school thing down. When it came time to choose my first Summer internship, I had to decide between working for a policy NGO that worked on homelessness or for a federal judge. The federal judge internship was the more traditional option, so I chose it — just in case. I couldn't turn down the opportunity.
But that Summer, my eyes started to open. I remember calling the public defender I worked for to ask him for a recommendation for my internship, and he said something like, "Oh no! I thought you were one of the smart ones! Do you really want to be a lawyer?!" He seemed genuinely disappointed to hear I was in law school. Was I making a huge mistake?
Don't Go Because You Want to "Change the World"
Working for the judge, I loved watching trials but hated doing the research for the opinions — you know, actual legal work. I would sit in my windowless office and try to focus on personal jurisdiction law and not the latest news on the political, celebrity, or fashion blogs I was obsessed with.
With my second year approaching, the reality that I did not want to be a lawyer sank in. Going along the traditional path — just in case — had gotten me in this situation. If I didn't snap out of it and consider what I really could and not should do with my passion for current events, reading, and writing, I would end up with a career I felt pretty meh about.
Despite having the "hardest year" of law school under my belt and the semester starting in a week, I pulled the plug. I asked for a leave of absence. With the support of my friends and family, I finally gave myself space to answer the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
My experience in the legal profession wasn't a waste. It taught me that I was more interested in the news being made by cases than the actual law. I also knew I didn't want to work in an old-fashioned industry that often required me to follow inflexible norms and use outdated software like WordPerfect (remember that?!). With a fresh imagination, I decided to target young companies and a career in media.
After a challenging couple months feeling untethered and a bit reckless for the first time in my life, I found a job as the assistant news editor at POPSUGAR. At the time (it was 2007) people didn't quite get "blogs" as much as they did law firms. But quickly I knew I had made the right decision. Now it was my job to read — and create — the articles I loved to devour on my breaks. I haven't looked back.
Don't Go If You're Not 100 Percent Sure You Want to Be a Lawyer
If you're considering going to law school, you should be completely honest with yourself as you answer this question: do you want to be a lawyer? If you don't want to be a lawyer, don't go to law school. In addition to student loans, law school comes with opportunity costs, including three years of your life and a lack of pay. Think of the risks you could take during that time to actually follow your dreams. Taking those risks was the best decision I ever made.