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Student Lawyer: There are many paths to the career you’ll love

Path to Law

It can be incredibly isolating to feel like your experience is dramatically different from that of everybody else around you and that few others will understand where you come from. That can feel especially true in law school, where the vast majority of students are young, single, child-free adults who’ve just graduated from college, and that’s far from your situation. The most successful nontraditional students, however, quickly recognize that they bring life experiences that their colleagues haven’t yet encountered—and that can be an advantage.

Here, not-your-typical law students and first-generation law students tell how they adjusted to and even thrived in law school.

Later-than-most to law school
Late to LawWhen making the decision to go to law school, I didn’t consider how my age might factor into the academic experience or later job searches. After arriving on campus and learning that the woman sitting behind me was celebrating her 21st birthday, I realized just how nontraditional this experience would be.

Life as a parent in law school
Law School ParentingI first took the LSAT on my 21st birthday and then took it for the second time on my 34th birthday. I’d wanted to go to law school right after undergrad, but life didn’t work out that way, and here I am. My two children, my husband, and I uprooted our idyllic, comfortable life in a small beach town on the east coast to move to Tallahassee for me to become a law student.

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and the Road to Brown v. Board of Education
Ada Lois Sipuel FisherOn the north side of the University of Oklahoma campus, marble steps lead up to a limestone-clad law school. Few would guess that in January 1946, as Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher walked up those steps, hers would be the first to prime a nation and the U.S. Supreme Court for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Uncommon ground: How I found my career fit

Not feeling the traditional legal career thing? We hear you, and you should take comfort that your feelings are way more common than many of your peers would probably admit. The good news is that lots of lawyers were in your shoes (mentally, we mean) and figured out how they could use their legal training outside of the traditional legal mold.

Death becomes her: Unearthing a career in funeral law
Emily AlbrechtDeath freaks people out. Popular misconceptions aside, lawyers are still people, too. And, as such, death freaks many—if not most—of them out. That’s where I come in. My practice is focused on mortuary law, or that which concerns the disposition of human remains and regulates the funeral industry, including funeral homes, funeral directors, embalmers, cemeteries, and crematories.

Your legal experience is an asset, not a trap
Law School SkillsAs a professional development coach for lawyers, I don’t use many technical legal skills in my day-to-day work. However, going to law school and practicing corporate litigation for a few years were critical to helping me figure out what I wanted to do with my career in the long term.

From J.D. to Plan B
Plan BI was in law school for less than a week when I realized I’d never practice law. I entered the University of Connecticut overconfident and certain that I was going to be the next Floyd Abrams. Within a few days, I was scrambling for a Plan B.

First-generation students face unique challenges

What’s a first-gen student? The definitions vary. But ultimately, a consensus centers on the question: Did you grow up in a household where either of your parents had a bachelor’s degree? There’s also a first-gen law student experience. It appears to be underresearched, but some trends are clear.

What it means to thrive as a first-generation law student
First GenLike many other law students, I’ve been called smart my entire life. But being called smart rings differently as a first-generation Latina law student.

The first-generation law student job search: Different and difficult
Job SearchBeing the only law student ever in my family definitely meant a disadvantage when it came to the job hunt. For many of my classmates, joining the family business was a given. Or they seamlessly returned to their hometowns and entered the legal community there.

Be ready to build your own network, first-gen law students
Build Your Own NetworkMany students enter their first year having been groomed to go to law school by one or more family members in the legal industry. Their path may have been set out long before they were born. The potential paths of many other students aren’t so clear. Still others enter law school having taken a 180-degree turn from the path on which they appeared to be set.

The 2020 Study Abroad Guide

One of the most rewarding ways to spend your summer as a law student is a study abroad program. Here you’ll find our comprehensive directory of study abroad options for law students.

More Stories

Why competitions are worth your time
CompetitionsSometimes it’s difficult just keeping up with your classes. Competitions sound fun, but are they worth the effort? Connie Smothermon reached out to students who participated in interscholastic competitions at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Texas Tech University School of Law, and they all agree: Yes, they’re worth the effort.

ABA Grassroots: Taking action to foster legislative change
ABA GrassrootsWhether you’re interested in politics or you want to help facilitate certain changes in your future practice area, the ABA’s Grassroots Action Center is the absolute best place for you to get involved.

Student Lawyer Columns

To be, or not to be? Tradition isn’t the only answer

CareersTradition, especially in the law, means a lot. Traditions connect us to people and ideas that came before. They can add meaning to the things we say and do. But tradition can also hold us back from addressing choices that need rethinking. It’s OK to start fresh every now and then.

Bar Passage
Your GPS to summer bar success
Bar PassageIntensive bar preparation is a “long, strange trip” (apologies to the Grateful Dead). You need your Bar Success GPS—something you don’t want to be frantically pulling together in June and July. Start early. Start now.

I Wish I’d Known
Alberto R. Gonzales
Alberto GonzalesHow others will judge my achievements and my legacy is out of my hands. I’ll be long gone when the work of historians is completed. Since I can’t control how others will judge me in the future, I try not to worry about achievements and my legacy. While I’m proud of the things I’ve done, I treasure most my relationships with my wife and my sons.

Head of the Class
Law student lends her voice to opera about prisoners claiming innocence
Dana MusialOnly 314 law school applicants for the 2017-2018 academic year—not even a half a percent— were music majors, according to the Law School Admissions Council. Dana Musial, a 3L at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in Ohio, was one of them.

Editor’s Note
Inspiration from those not like me
Editor's NoteIf you look around your classroom, you’ll see a tapestry of unique people, all with diverse backgrounds and interesting stories to tell.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.