Law School: Where I Stand

Today I spoke with the law students at my position this summer, and with some of the lawyers who work there. What they said fits with what I have heard from lawyers starting at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and continuing through Human Rights USA and my uncle Pete:

  1. Most people should wait before going to law school, because working in the world will give you the experiences you need to fuel your studies in law school.
  2. Your life does not stop at law school, so attend a school that is somewhere you would like to live, and perhaps practice law.
  3. Keep your head in law school by remaining a rounded person. Surprisingly, none of the lawyers or law students in the room had encountered the Two Body Problem and had in fact found being in a relationship in law school stabilizing and healthy.
  4. Law school and practice are centered on the tasks of reading, writing, and understanding. If you enjoy these things, you have a better chance of enjoying law school.
  5. The LSAT, law school and the bar have nearly nothing to do with each other in terms of preparation, and you should see them all as separate tasks.

I have been struggling to decide if I should go to law school. Most of the blogs I have read seem to indicate there is one specific thing which separates people into classes of those who should and should not go to law school. I do not think it is that simple, or unambiguous. For me, there are significant costs associated with law school (some quite literal), but also some awesome chances.

I will keep writing about it here, and try to see more clearly.

Inspirational Quote:

Aequitas sequitur legem.


  1. I’ve recently met two very interesting lawyers here in Palo Alto. If you’re around for a visit this summer, I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you about their approach. Neither of them is working now because they have a small kid, not all law jobs are compatible with a law job, and even ones that are might not be interesting to them. I believe in a little while Gwen will look for a public interest legal position, and Gene wants to write.

    I get the sense that they don’t regret going to law school despite their current dissatisfaction with mainstream jobs for lawyers. They both had very interesting, very different classes at Stanford, where (if I understand correctly) a professor selects an incoming class and that set of students can interestingly reflect the views and personality of that professor.

    I’m also working with lawyers at Linden Lab now, where there are some *very* interesting questions about protecting copyright on digital goods in virtual reality. Ping me if you want to talk more!

  2. As we talked about the other day, the biggest problem I find with law school is the incredible amount of debt you typically need to take on. There’s simply a non-functional market here, because you really have none of the information you need before being forced to commit. The critical question is, I think, do I actually want to be a lawyer?

    It’s one of those questions it’s impossible to answer accurately in advance. What’s happening to far too many people is that they go to a law school being promised a secure income, taken another $100K+ in debt, and then, after law school, one of two things: (1) they really don’t like practicing law (it’s not for everyone); or (2) they still don’t know if they like practicing law because they can’t find jobs. And, generally, all those “things you could do with a law degree” don’t pay enough to make those loan payments.

    Law school itself was great – I had a mostly fantastic experience, and I feel like I grew several sizes intellectually. But I went to a fairly good school and graduated magna, so I didn’t have much trouble finding a job. I have a lot of friends from law school who either hated practicing law, got laid off in the recent downturn, or both.

    I wouldn’t want to discourage you from going to law school if that’s really what you want. But I’d recommend not going because it kind of seems like fun.

  3. Thank you Lisa and Matt for the comments! I am thinking more and more that Silicon Valley is really where I will end up living, because it has the geekiness (which leads to great IP questions) and the human rights and the opera. And I definitely agree with Matt–going to law school would be an extremely expensive lark. One of my colleagues chose to go to a fairly unknown school because they offered him a full-ride and he refused to have any debt. I am not sure if that is the route for me, but after this summer of scraping by financially, I am a lot more aware of what law school would mean in financial stress.

    Law school is still my plan, but working at Polaris has shown me how much good work I can do without a law degree, or with a business degree, or a Masters of Social Work (not that I’m cut out for Social Work–I think the Introversion and Judging in INTJ are handicaps there). Anyhoo, off to work!

Get in touch

%d bloggers like this: