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Should I go to law school?

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I am interested in pursuing a career in public policy. A lot of people are telling me I should go to law school, but I don't really have that much interest in actually practicing law; rather, a lot of jobs I am interested in are dominated by former/current lawyers (ex: state legislator). Would a Masters in Public Policy/Public Affairs be useful? I am currently an economics major. #law #lawyer #law-school #attorney #law-practice #policy #degree

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Kim’s Answer

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My answer is questions. I'm sure as an economics major you are very analytically minded. Have you written down the pro's and con's? Do you have to be an elected official in the limelight? Can you be happy being the Chief of Staff, Chief of Constituent Affairs, or some other high ranking title in an elected official's staff? Why do you want to be an elected official? What do you hope to accomplish? What other positions are there where you could accomplish the same thing without going to law school? What percentage of elected officials are not lawyers? Is the trend towards more or less lawyers being elected? If you do not feel strongly motivated to go to law school, will you be able to apply yourself to the rigorous studies for 3 years? Do you know how much debt you will incur? What type of law do you plan to practice while working your way into an elected position?


Okay, I think that's enough questions! Personally, if you do not feel it calling you, I think it will be difficult. But, if you really feel this is the path to where you want to be, then go for it. But, please, seriously consider some of the questions I have posed!!


Kim

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Toral’s Answer

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There are many paths to enter any field: a law degree is one path, but not the only one! Considering you are still in college, I'd suggest pursuing internship and/or entry level experience during summers and post-graduation. This will provide valuable insight into the roles of interest, how people got there, and whether it is the right fit for you.


My own path to public policy at a tech company has been circuitous, but unified by the desire to shape policymaking. After getting a Bachelor's degree in Geography and Political Science, I worked abroad in international development, specifically on urban and environmental planning issues. I then pursued a Master in City Planning (which has many similarities to an MPP but differs in scale). This degree has equipped me to work effectively with City governments, communities, and now a major tech company on issues of local importance.


Long ways of saying: often the more indirect paths of learning can be the most enriching - for both you and future potential employers. A law degree may be incredibly valuable - but as Kim suggests, only pursue it if it truly calls to you.

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Julie’s Answer

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Shaping policy requires number of skills, and while law expertise is one it's not the only. I've found one of the most important components of policy shaping is being an expert on the issue you are trying to shape, understanding our audience and what compels them to make decisions, and bridging to change by negotiating and advancing incremental steps. A masters in public policy/affairs is definitely a way to learn the field. Personally, I studied Spanish and Chemistry, leveraged this expertise to get work experience, and then pursed a public health degree.

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