I have heard this question a million times. I am still less than five years out of law school, and it still puzzles people that I do not practice law.
Yes, I was willing to go through 3 years of tortur- ahem, I mean law school to not practice. I also took the bar and passed it only to one day never step foot into a courtroom again. So here’s the thing: If you had asked me, when I entered law school, if I would be here today, I would have laughed at you.
I went to law school to be a practicing attorney. I dreamed of being an attorney since I was 6 or 7. However, when I got to law school, my path went very differently. The change may have slowly occurred before I entered law school, but it was all in my subconscious at that point. I can list a number of reasons someone might think:
- Practicing law is nothing like what you think it is. (Now, this is true, but I interned with my Aunt, a successful attorney, so I had an idea.)
- Being a lawyer is more about writing and less about being in the courtroom. (For most, this is true, but as a blogger, I write plenty at this point in my life, so that wasn’t it either.)
- Corrupt justice system. (Eh, what system isn’t corrupt?)
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is? Go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good” – Roald Dahl
None of those reasons rang true for me. To be honest, I entered law school with the second highest scholarship, I just graduated summa cum laude from college where I was student body president among. I was on a natural high, and law school was just the next dragon I was going to slay.
Well, guess what? There was no slaying, I got slayed my first semester of law school.
In turn, my second semester of law school, I worked harder than ever before in my life to keep my scholarship and to keep my dignity. I raised my GPA astronomically. I felt like a diamond after all the pressure from that semester. After picking my face up off the floor from embarrassment, what I wanted to do with my life looked very different for me. I knew I was capable of being successful, but it was going to be hard work. I decided if I was going to work hard for the rest of my life, I wanted it to be what I wanted to do.
And that point is important for all law students to stop and consider. What is it that you want to do? Make a lots of money, make a difference, or even just skate by and have a simple life? What is it for you? In your career, more than once, you will have to stop and take a moment and consider what your values are and what is important. And it’s okay if you don’t have the answer just yet, but when you do, don’t run away from it.
After law school, I ran away from it. I had to get a legal job. Despite knowing then, I wanted to work in the community somehow, some way. I took a position in the civil rights/employment law field for three years, and the work was interesting, no case was ever the same. But I found myself more interested in preventing discrimination versus arguing that it occurred and finding evidence to support it. I started to enjoy conducting diversity trainings or networking, meeting with business, community, and civic leaders about how to make a community more welcoming. I slowly became less and less concerned with the legal system that I was a part of.
Until one day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore and wanted to work in the community in some capacity. I started interviewing for nonprofit and community engagement type positions. And I will tell you, I had to kiss a lot of frogs, because most hiring managers do not understand two words that I personally think aren’t that difficult: Transferable skills. But some do, and once they do, it’s like a whole new world opens up for you and the person that recognizes your legal background as an asset in a non-legal field.
Although my interests changed, my skills and abilities did not. I now work in community engagement, and my analytical approach to my job is an added bonus. I still believe that I was fortunate to have attended law school. To me, law school provides you with a particular set of skills. (Yes, kind of like Liam Neeson, from the movie “Taken.”) You walk into law school with certain analytical and writing skills or the ability to make a solid argument. You walk away from law school with all of those skills enhanced at a whole ‘nother level. I honestly believe law school trains you to be able to convince anyone to do almost anything. (Okay, maybe not anyone, because there are a lot of attorneys in the world, but you catch my drift.) Great education, and a variety of options.
So I want to you to walk away from this blog post thinking on these three things:
- Pursue your career in and after law school in the type of law or alternative field that fits you best;
- Your legal education is preparing you for more than you realize; and
- You can’t let people who don’t understand your purpose to keep you from it.
Live your life for you!
The girl who went to law school, to not practice law