Help Me Be Irresponsible
February 19, 2007 11:58 AM   Subscribe

(Yet-Another)What-Should-I-Do-With-My-Life-Filter: I'm almost positive I want to go to law school, but that's 18 months away. Tell me, what should I do till then. Clearly

I graduated this past spring from a top university with pretty decent grades. I was sure I wanted to go to law school for most of college, but study-abroad hijinx and my own stupidity prevented me from taking the lsats and applying, plus taking some time off sounded like a good idea. It was, in that I've realized I'm not qualified to do anything interesting, and law school sounds pretty much fantastic now (mmm grades=validation & direction). I have a "fellowship" at a PR firm right now, but it ends soon, and I'll be taking lsat classes up until the exam in June.

Then what? I have no lease, no significant other, and a bit of savings. Up until I apply in the Fall, I feel like I should have an application enhancing job. Am I wrong? And if I'm right, any ideas about what that would be?

And what about after that? I'm a geek and I love food, if that helps. Sure, I'd like to write a novel, but where and while doing what else? I'd love to travel, but I fear that would deplete my savings too quickly. Teaching English abroad? Work on a cruise ship? Sell drugs? Work in a bakery?
posted by zazerr to Work & Money (15 answers total)
(mmm grades=validation & direction)

Sure, go to law school if that equation really works for you, instead of being a tongue-in-cheek joke. And, if you can replace "grades" with "money" and have it continue to work for most of your life.

I feel like I should have an application enhancing job. Am I wrong?

Yes, you're wrong, no one gives a damn what job you did before law school, at least in terms of admissions. If you want to do something like patent law, you should work in industry before school, but you should also have gotten a science degree in that case; did you? Otherwise, you should just give yourself something interesting to write about in your personal statement. For the love of God, don't work at a law firm, if that's what you were thinking.

Er... maybe you should work at a law firm, and get a good idea of what your life would actually be like later. But don't do it thinking it'll buff up your resume.
posted by rkent at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2007

Alan Lakein's How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (a book on basic time management skills) starts with (a) choosing long-term goals, (b) identifying activities towards those goals, (c) scheduling time for those activities. You may want to take a look at it.
posted by russilwvong at 12:30 PM on February 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Apply to work as a project assistant/clerk/whatever at a law firm. It'll help you know if that kind of law-degree work is what you'd like to do. Which will help you choose a law school that will get you where you really want to be, hopefully without crippling debt.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2007

Get a REAL job and REAL life experience before deciding to go to law school. Nothing in the world is more worthless than a lawyer who never did anything but get a BS and JD before trying to deal with REAL peoples problems. They don't have a database of experience. Such lawyers tend to be narrow-minded and can not begin to see the bigger picture.

How do I know? I was 38 when I started my JD. By that time I had done everything from farming to being a realtor to being an engineer... ad nauseum. None of that helped me like the crap I saw when I practiced, but it gave me one heck of a leg-up in being able to relate to my clients. And no, I am NLAPL (no longer a practicing lawyer). Life really is too short to do something that you no longer enjoy. Even if it pays well because no man on his deathbed was ever heard to say "Damn I wish that I'd bought that bigger Cadillac!"
posted by toucano at 12:34 PM on February 19, 2007

Get a REAL job and REAL life experience before deciding to go to law school

I totally agree. I suggest something service-oriented like waiting tables or working in a hotel. In both scenarios you will probably be working with some people who are spending their lives doing that job. For me, this was the important part. Only you know to what degree you've lived in a bubble-- the idea is to get out of it and learn new ways of being validated.

If you have nothing to tie you down and some money, then you need to think about traveling or doing something "exotic." But I think you have to combine the travel with real work of some kind. A lot of hotels and resorts need people seasonally and may offer room and partial board. A cruise ship can work, but it is a confined experience and there is no escape. If you are fluent in a language you could be a tour guide or leader. You need to be careful that you don't just put yourself in a different bubble though.

I'm not qualified to do anything interesting

Hardly anyone is qualified to do anything interesting when they get out of school. That's what entry-level jobs are for. When you graduate law school you are going to be an entry-level lawyer. Law school tends to be this default position for people who are smart but aimless. And it shouldn't be. So I'd urge you to reconsider if what is above is the entirety of your argument. You have no idea how many people I know who have a law degree and don't practice. Knowledge is always a good thing, but a law degree is expensive knowledge, and most of them regret making the choice.

If you are thinking about any sort of law that will involve court-- spend a few months being one of those slightly odd people who hang out at the courthouse for entertainment. Watch the trials and hearings. It isn't like it looks on TV.
posted by Mozzie at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2007

Work as a paralegal. A lot of law firms will take undergrads as junior paralegals. Its good money, and if after doing that, you still want to be a lawyer then you'll know its the right career. I worked as a paralegal after college and NOTHING put me off the law as a career faster than knowing what it is actually like to be a lawyer. Also, please note: EVERY lawyer I know hates it.
posted by zia at 1:24 PM on February 19, 2007

Move your life in a direction that you'll be happy with in the event you don't get into a law school that you'd want to go to. Or in the event you go to law school, work as a lawyer to pay off your loans, and then do something completely different - you can go back to this line of work, but perhaps at a higher level.

Also, take the time to meet lawyers working in large and small law firms, in the public interest, for the government, and "in house" as employees of corporations. Ask them what they like and dislike about their jobs. Keep in mind that some will be trying very hard to justify the time they've put into the career, but that some may truly enjoy it.

Ask them if they're already thinking about an exit strategy from the legal profession (whether because they're dissatisfied or in the event they become dissatisfied later), what that strategy is, and where lawyers have gone if/when they don't want to practice law anymore (I've met at least two Pastry Chefs who were former lawyers, but other fields like management, lobbying, non-legal tax work, or who knows what else are game as well).

Also, in that vein, you may eventually want to work as a lawyer for a particular industry (examples: energy, farming) or group of people (mature individuals for trusts & estates work, corporations for mergers & acquisitions). Building experience in that industry will give you some knowledge and credibility later.
posted by lorrer at 1:58 PM on February 19, 2007

[Aiming for a shitty job for "real" experience is a bad idea. It will bias you against life as a non-lawyer, in my opinion. Why do food service unless you want to? Try really hard for a job you like right now - after all, it's not like your life really starts 18 months from now - it starts now, you might as well enjoy yourself.]
posted by lorrer at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2007

Thanks for the great responses.

As for getting real world experience, that's what I'm doing now. I think. Obviously two years isn't the same as twenty, but I'm getting experience, trying to escape the bubble, but I believe that I'm legitimately interested in law.

I thought about being a junior paralegal/ legal assistant, but everyone I talked to said it was incredibly boring, both attorneys and assistants. I mean literally, punching holes and filing things, maybe writing a memo once during your tenure.

Yes, smart aimless people, it's the default, which is another reason I didn't go straight from undergrad, but if I'm truly interested in the law (as I think I am), it being the default shouldn't prevent me from going.

To some extent I framed the question wrong. Thanks everyone.
posted by zazerr at 2:02 PM on February 19, 2007

What zia said has been the experience of a number of people I've known. Might be worth looking paralegal jobs to get a taste.

In general, after university, it's a bad idea to go back to school just because you can't think of what else to do. It makes sense to go back only if you know an advanced degree is needed for a job you want. Otherwise, you'll get out of the advanced degree program and face the same problem you face now: but what am I gonna do? (With law school it will be that plus huge debt, so you'll pretty much have to work as a lawyer for a while.) Try out a few different jobs in the real world. Don't apply to law school immediately. Wait a couple of years; it will still be there, but you will be more experienced and better able to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:06 PM on February 19, 2007

(sorry, should've previewed)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:06 PM on February 19, 2007

I'm legitimately interested in law

OK, then I'll stop trying to talk you out of it :) The truth is, if you said "I'm set to enlist the army in 18 months, what should I do in the meantime", I wouldn't have gone in the direction and that was sort of lawyerist of me. If you are set on law and if your overall transcript, etc is strong, and if you don't think you live in a bubble then I will address your actual question:

You should study for the LSAT etc and do all the good-student things that got you to this point. And then you should spend at least 6 months doing the most amazingly adventurous and maybe even stupid things you can think of. Travel. You are in a perfect moment of having time before you make your next move. Time before you are beholden by debt to be productive in a specific way. Don't be totally blind to the importance of your savings, but if you let that stop you from doing adventurous things you will always regret it. Read up on ways to work while on the road and then drive around the country or take off for South America or whatever speaks to your soul. Do not fall in love [this tends to keep people in one place], and don't let people talk you out of having an adventure. Don't get sucked in to thinking you need to work a cruise ship or something really formal. You are facing a ticking clock, and you want to do a little work and see a lot, not the other way around. You'll never have this chance again, and even if you do you'll be older and not up to hostels or used to more luxury.
posted by Mozzie at 5:37 PM on February 19, 2007

Take some cooking classes. I once met a med student who'd been a pastry chef, and the entire school talked about it for months. "Did you hear about the guy who was a pastry chef? Tartes tatin, little cakes," etc etc ad nauseam.

Gives you something to wax enthusiastic about during your interview. Everyone likes food.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:17 PM on February 19, 2007

Seconding Mozzie: Go travel. Yeah, you should figure out how much work you need on the LSAT. If you're in the range you need to be, take it ASAP to get it out of the way. Then go do great things. Live. Law school can completely consume three years of your life (especially if you're "achievement oriented") and lawyering can consume the rest of it (especially if you're after the kinds of jobs that "achievement oriented" law students often gun for). You might be in your 60s before you get another chance like this. Good luck.
posted by jaysus chris at 8:30 PM on February 19, 2007

Wow. Metafilterites actually changed my mind. I mean it wasn't entirely mf , but this thread did play a large part in my decision not to go.


P.S. I realized I come off as a bit of a tool in the question. I'm not.
posted by zazerr at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2007

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