Everyday Life

“Don’t Go to Law School.”

How many times have I heard that phrase? Let me rewind.

When I applied to college, I thought I was going to be a vet. I was prepared to take on science (one of my weakest strengths) and all the hard work and sad animal days that went along with it. About midway through my first semester of Evolutionary Biology, I realized that pre-vet/biology was not quite my forte. Apparently you have to stay awake in those lectures  and pass the class or something like that. 

Thank goodness that happened. I got the chance to turn into my real interests. I am one of those cheesy people that, at every job interview or interview in general, says that I want to change the world. It doesn’t even have to be the world–I just want to make a difference in someone’s life. I want to make it so that the playing fields are even, so that they do not have to bear the burden alone and so that they realize that there is still hope in the world. I want to give back everything that I have received. I am a very lucky person and I want to make someone else’s life even luckier than mine. 

In my head, that directly translated into Peace Corps./outreach work and/or law school. I would still do the Peace Corps., but I have to admit I would be terrified of it. I’ve heard rumors and I, apparently, believe them. Outreach work usually requires funding from my own pocket, which is less than ideal. However, let’s be honest, I always leaned more towards law school. I want to be an immigration lawyer and study international law. I know, in my heartest of hearts, that this is what I’m meant to do. This is my way of giving back without throwing myself in the jungle. I would get to help people find a place in the United States, land of dreams, and, if I’m lucky enough, bring justice to the world.

Now, back to people telling me not to go to law school. They will never sway me, as I have realized. I am stubborn and have no Plan C. Also, I have invested four years into training for this career path and like hell some bitter lawyer is going to change my mind.

The first time I heard this was before I even decided I wanted to go to law school. It came from my Global History professor. I don’t remember the context, to be honest. It was 8:15 a.m. and about five years ago, but I remember hearing it and wondering where the hell that came from. Since then, it’s been said in passing. I never paid too much attention to it.

It wasn’t until my junior year of college, when I formally switched my major, again, and declared Political Science with a pre-law and international studies concentration. My brand new (and awesome) advisor looked at me and smiled. She asked me if I was absolutely certain about that idea. Of course I was. She asked if there was anything else I had in mind. Because I am unusually ornery when questioned, I said no. The proper response should have been something a little more curious. Regardless, she knew me better than I did and told me more information about alternative career paths, what I could do without an advanced degree and printed it all out after emailing me notes from the meeting. She was still very supportive of my decision to go to law school. She said that when it was time, she would help me get everything in order. 

God, I adored her. She was amazing. 

However, she was also the first person of importance that made me question my decision and dream. If my own advisor was telling me not to go to law school, what in the world does that mean? Should I not go? Should I really come up with Plans D through H? Do I need to switch my major again? Is it too late to turn to Econ? 

I honestly panicked for two days, which is pretty significant in Marcie-Land. However, that didn’t say me in the end. I made up my mind that moment. Through rain, fire, or hell, I would go to law school and become the best lawyer that I could be. 

It’s a good thing I made that decision too. I took International Law that same semester with one of the best/worst and craziest professors I have ever met. He is Mr. Paul Diehl… the man wore a medallion at graduation. He was the chair of the international studies department of political science. He was some type of important international scholar. He was infamous in the major. He was pretty much the most epic professor man ever. He made me want to be a lawyer. He was the one that played the movie that made me want to be the best lawyer in the world. That movie moved me to tears. I walked out of that classroom confident in my choice to become a lawyer, and an international lawyer at that. It was funny… because at least once a week (class met twice a week) he would remind everyone not to apply for law school and give an alternative job suggestion. He was really trying to sell risk analyst to the class. His word was pretty important. This man was telling me not to go to law school. 

It was ignored, but with difficulty. 

The next semester I took a history of law class. It was taught by the law school dean and required a substantial and heavy book, just like in all the law school movies. I thought it would change my life. It didn’t, but it left me something to chew on. The dean of the law school at my university and his Ph.D.’d, and also law school graduate, T.A. told the whole class to reconsider law school. Let that sink in and then feel it with me. Of course, he didn’t blatantly say “Don’t go,” like everyone else… but still. Daunting, me thinks.

Then my super amazing advisor left me. Great for her, since she got a full time teaching position on the east coast, but that left me in the dust. I was switched over to another advisor. This advisor was advisor to many of my friends. One of which was law school bound and the other of which was… less bound by anything. They both had less than praising comments on him. I knew that, though. He was infamous for being a mediocre advisor. He was also infamous for discouraging students from going to law school. No joke here. He smashed the hopes of lawyerly political science majors. One of my friends claimed to be banned from doing pre-law because he said no. I’m not sure that’s the case–he probably hounded and convinced her that she was bound to fail if she went to law school. 

He tried to do the same with me when I went in for my final advising appointment. By the time I had switched, it was my senior year. I was completely done with my major. I had all but one of my general classes left and I was ready to be sent packing. It was too late for him to change my major plan of study and I was too old for him to harass into doing what he wanted. That didn’t stop him from saying, every five minutes, that law school was a horrible idea. He emailed me an overview, where he then reiterated three more times, that law school was a bad idea. 

Actually, I was bombarded with “Don’t go to law school” quite frequently in my senior year of college. It was too late then, obviously. Not that I would have changed my mind. It might have been because I was overloaded on law courses. I took the intro to law course, human rights, law and representation, criminology (while it is sociology, it was taught by a former lawyer and she incorporated more law into it than I expected), and more courses like that. They all preached it from their lecture desk. What could I do but smile and nod and disregard it?

Outside of academics, my bosses have mentioned multiple times that law school was not a great idea. At my job interview, my boss said that law school is expensive with not a great payoff. I nodded and responded with my usual: “I know, and you’re not the first to say that, but I know what I want to do and I know that this is what I need to do.”  My other boss said it again, but in Spanish. I couldn’t give my wise response in Spanish, but I said that it was what I needed to do. That has happened a few times since from those very same people. 

This is turning into a very long post about people discouraging me from law school. It continues, but now I might actually have a point. 

Today, in my trial advocacy class, we had a speaker come in. She is a public defender, criminal lawyer, and she talked to us about a double homicide. She refused to show us the gory pictures, but maybe that was for the best (I’m still not convinced it is). She ended her lovely presentation by saying “Don’t make the mistake of going to law school, like I did.” See, she had been a paralegal and then decided to go to law school. She advised us that we should just stay paralegals, but find a place that we like and that treats us right. She said being a paralegal is much better. She also said that we wouldn’t be left with the crippling loans of law school since paralegal certificates and their classes are paid for out of the pocket. Law school, to her, was not worth the buck. 

How great that I decided to quit my job and start studying for the LSAT.

Honestly, it won’t stop me. Nothing will stop me. I have survived this long with people not only telling me that I shouldn’t do it, but that I couldn’t do it (my horrible advisor, for example). I know what I want in this aspect–this is probably the only thing that I know I want. And being a paralegal is not cutting it for me. Admittedly, I am a legal assistant and I don’t do too much in the way of being a full-out paralegal, but I already know it’s not what I want. I want to know, I want to be there and understand the situation, I want to solve the problems, and I want to be a whole lot nicer than my bosses. I want to do what they do. I will never achieve that by being a paralegal. 

I understand that law school is abusively expensive. Honestly, WTF law schools? I understand that the market is overinflated. The market is overinflated for everyone. I understand that being a lawyer is exhausting and stressful. These people are preaching to the wrong person.

Law school is expensive, yes, but so was my undergraduate degree and that’s worth way less than a Juris Doctorate. I have always been taught to think about the money after. First thing always was to make sure that I was following my dream and doing something that would make me happy. Afterwards was money. Even if I am paying off those loans for the rest of my life, I don’t care. It would have all been worth it. I’ve had friends look at me weird when I say that, but it is something that I truly believe. I will bury myself in a hole if it means I’m happy. Besides, money will come, especially if I’m an awesome lawyer. 

It doesn’t just apply to law school. It can apply to med school, vet school, grad school–any school or the Peace Corps. People may start with the “don’t do it because ________.” Do it. Just do it. If you know it to the deepest growth platelets in your bones, then do it and belly flop right in. The money will be there. Your family will be there. You will survive. You will be happy. Isn’t that all that matters? 

People need to stop thinking about the worst case scenario. Yes, I could go to law school, drop out, and find myself $80K in the hole, or go to law school, graduate, fail the bar or not get a job and find myself $120K in the hole… plus the additional $30K from my undergrad. I could, but I don’t know that for sure. Right now, I know that I want to go to and that I am going to work my butt off to get there. I have had so many friends talk themselves down from their dreams because they are scared of the worst case scenario. They look at me and wonder why the hell I am not heeding anyone’s warnings. Other people’s experiences are not your experiences and, contrary to what the pessimists want us to think, not everything is going to fall apart. Good things happen to good people. Good things happen to the people that work for it. Good things happen to the people that believe they can and deserve those good things. Good things even happen to bad people. Honestly, good things are happening everywhere! Why focus on the worst thing that could possibly happen? 

So, I will go to law school, thank you very much. I will go and I will hate every living second of it. But then when I graduate, when I pass the bar, when I get my job, when I win my first case, and when I start my own firm, I will know that it was worth it. It’s my dream come true.

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