The Law Schools Are Coming… Is Law For You?
Valerie Savior, one of Oxy's pre-law advisors, has the hard questions to ask oneself when considering a career in this difficult field.
Do you know how many once pre-health-bound students come to the CDC seeking advice about law school? More than you'd think. One could argue that students who make this shift possess a mind-set that is attracted and well-suited to both medicine and law, but I think the reason is a bit more troubling…..I suspect that students and parents alike don’t realize how many professionalized, gainfully paid job options are available to liberal arts graduates. I don’t know how many occupational job titles are in the US, but Wiki Answers tells me 30,000. 30,000! This issue of students blindly seeking interest in the law is not unique to Oxy, it's nationwide. In fact two years ago on Georgetown’s Law campus, a second-year law student, a graduate of Pomona College, told our group of pre-law advisors that she switched to law after getting into medical school where she found herself fainting in front of a cadaver. She stood there as a second year law student and could NOT express why she was interested in law.
I don’t want this for you.
The legal market is not significantly improved. The days of pre-law advisors re-enforcing the transferable skills of the JD are gone. It is not that the skills of a JD aren’t transferable, they are, but still Admissions professionals will tell you that the JD primarily trains graduates to be “litigator ready”, which means you will possess the skills to graduate from law school and swiftly be able to represent a client at trial. If you spend three years and a lot of fiscal resources preparing to pass the bar exam, you have to understand that you will be trained AND incentivized to practice the law, even if only with an ambition to pay off your JD debt. Additionally, many students don’t know that in the middle of your first year of law school, you will start to have access to law clinics and internships; the students who take the time as undergraduates to thoughtfully discern if the law is really, I mean really really, the right post-bac degree, will be better prepared to snag a clinic or internship in the summer after their first year in law school. They will already have begun to think about what type of law they hope to pursue.
I don’t want you to go to law school because the degree holds clout and implies high income earning potential. I want you to go to law school because you will be a brilliant attorney utilizing the critical thinking, advocacy and writing skills Occidental and your JD will brace you with IN ADDITION to availing of the prestige and high income potential of the profession. A law degree is a stupendous degree that arms liberal arts students as advocates. It allows all personality types to practice given the range of sub-fields evident in the profession. Want to be a lawyer hoping to represent Taylor Swift? Or an international Human Rights attorney conducting case-based law for Guantanamo Bay detainees? You can. The sky’s the limit, but it is on you, and on us to help you, to figure out if you are that person.
So the law schools are coming. You have an opportunity to show them how skilled, passionate and interested you are in the law. They will invariably tell you all about the value of getting a JD and how to be competitive. That is their job. But beyond this, beyond the obvious, they are a resource for you to ask clarifying questions, so you can apply those answers to yourself and your discernment process.
Do I really need a JD? Is it the right post-bac professional degree for my career ambitions? Have I shadowed an attorney, met an attorney or interned? What do lawyers really do? How does the image of the legal professions live up to the actuality of the profession, and how does that differ based on what type of law I will end up pursuing? If I finance my legal education, how does that impact my commitment/dream to go into public interest law? These are the hard questions we want you to ask of yourself, ask of the CDC, ask of Admissions counselors, ask of your faculty. If you are scared of cadavers, sure you may make a great attorney, but let’s figure this out before you walk through the halls of your law school with 15 pounds of books.
- Valerie Savior, Pre-Law Advisor
- Phone: (323) 259-2623
- Fax: (323) 341-4900
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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