My answer: probably not. Here’s the e-mail I just sent to a kid who asked me for advice about whether he should apply to law school.
Dear Young Wanna-Be Lawyer,
Thanks for your note! Teach for America sounds like such a good program — good for you for doing it. As for law school, here’s my advice: the market is incredibly tough for all kinds of entry-level jobs, from law firm jobs to government positions. The days of people with English degrees going to law school, doing well, and getting whatever job they wanted, are long gone.
And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, if it’s THAT hard to get a job, maybe it will make you wonder, as it’s making you wonder, whether this is something you REALLY want. If I had to do it again, I’d only go to law school if I loved the law, or thought I did — or if I had something I really wanted to accomplish as a lawyer and felt driven to do it and saw the law as the proper instrument for that.
I don’t know if you’re the person whose destiny it is to be a lawyer, but I think it’s worth spending some time really thinking about what kind of work you’d do for free because you love it so much. That’s the kind of work you should pursue. And if what you love doesn’t come in job form at all, because maybe what you love pays nothing, then you might want to consider getting a job that allows you to pursue the thing you love, a job that isn’t going to demand all your time (which is very much what being a lawyer requires, at least in the beginning.)
The truth is that being a lawyer in the wrong job is hell. Being a lawyer doing work you really believe in and enjoy is heaven. The latter is a rare situation, but if you’re that person you WILL find a job — a job that doesn’t pay much, but a job nevertheless. But whatever you do, stay out of debt, keep your expenses to a minimum and do the thing you’re pretty sure you love. I wish someone had told me this when I embarked on my own legal career, which is why I tell it to you.
All the best to you,
So, here’s my question, dear readers — are you doing what you love? If so, how did you get to that point? What advice did you get that got you on that track?
And if you’re not, how come? I could write volumes about my own twisting trail to becoming a lawyer and THEN a writer, when maybe I could have skipped the lawyer part altogether and gotten right to the writing part. But this morning, I’m really interested in what you have to say.