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What are the challenges and benefits of Law school?

Hi! I have some interest in possibly becoming a Criminal Defense Lawyer or a Constitutional Lawyer. I have heard that Law school is very challenging and time consuming, which has slightly discouraged me from this pathway, although I do have a lot of interest in it. I'm wondering if Law school is worth it and what are the general pros and cons?

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West’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn, you've asked a big question! I don't even know where to start, but I'll try to make it make sense. Apologies for any rambling.

First, a career in criminal or constitutional law are incredibly rewarding for those with the right ideals. I will say, as far as constitutional law is concerned, that I've heard it is a VERY small field of practice. Whereas family/immigration/personal injury lawyers, etc. are a dime a dozen, there are relatively few constitutional lawyers. I understand it is an incredibly competitive field of law. To be honest I wouldn't know how to get into that field. Maybe take as many electives as you can in the field, and intern for a campaign you believe in, and then try to get some campaign work in after law school. That's my initial thought at least. As far as criminal work, public defenders are always hiring, so an internship or two and some criminal law/moot court experience would go a very long way towards getting you criminal defense work. I'd also recommending doing your best to nail down rules of evidence as well as possible in law school. The pieces of that puzzle become clearer in practice, but the more you know earlier the better.

Don't be discouraged by the difficulty of law school. It is very difficult and very time consuming, true, but it is also very rewarding. I'm no genius, and found law school was the most difficult academic endeavor of my life. At the end of my first semester, I found myself on academic probation. By the end of law school, I was getting top grades in the class. I was a bit slower to the learning curve, but once it clicked it was fine. It is diligence, not brilliance, that makes a good lawyer.

Whether law school is worth it is very subjective, and entirely dependent on what metric you look at. I work for the government and do not make much money, yet have a ton of student debt (because I did not focus on grades/scholarships leading up to law school. This is a major regret of mine). If you can get through with scholarships or low/no debt, then great! There are also jobs out there that say they care about what tier law school you went to, and how high that law school ranked, so I'd keep that in mind when applying. The legal field can be very elitist at times. That being said, if you don't have the highest GPA, don't get the highest LSAT score, don't go to a top ranked school, and don't get the top grades, and don't pass the bar exam the first time, it's not game over. I had a 3.1 undergrad GPA, got a 148 on my LSAT, went to an unranked school (make sure it's ABA accredited at least), and passed the CA bar on my third try (then passed the TN bar on the first try) and ended up fine. I believe I do work that matters, I have a lot of opportunity for growth, and am licensed to practice law in 2, soon to be 3, states (CA, TN, and KY). I've conducted dozens and dozens of trials at this point, and I've represented giant banking institutions and the State of TN. Again, it is diligence, not brilliance, that makes a good lawyer.

Just my two cents. Hope this gives you some insight and that others can chime in and let you know their thoughts as well.

Don't be discouraged. If you want it, do it.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, this was really helpful and provided really good insight! Kaitlyn
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Amy’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn,

I agree with everything West said above. I just graduated law school this past May, and while it was time consuming and difficult, it's doable. Especially if you seek out and surround yourself with supportive faculty, staff, and fellow students. The school is there to help you succeed and should have tons of resources to help you if you start to struggle.

The more you prepare and get a sense of what to expect the better you can avoid the common "traps" that bog people down in their first year. (It's really the first year that is the hardest and then people usually figure their way and have an easier second and third year.) I listened to this podcast the summer before my first year so I knew what would likely be expected of me and when I should be preparing what - https://lawschooltoolbox.com/podcast/. Or, this link might have some helpful posts to dip your toe into and give you an idea of WHY people say law school is so hard and how to soften it up a bit - https://lawschooltoolbox.com/law-school-101/. A lot of being successful in law school is about 1. knowing what is coming down the pike 2. having a concrete strategy of how you will handle it and 3. accepting that not everything will be (or needs to be perfect) for you to succeed.

The nice part about taking on a difficult challenge is that you feel so proud of yourself afterwards! And you also form really close bonds with those you go through law school with.

Hope this helps offer some clarity and good luck with your decision!

Amy
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, this was really helpful! Kaitlyn
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sharmela’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn. Something that you feel passionate about is worthwhile even if it is challenging. Law school or any advance course of study takes dedication and hard work. In addition to being challenging, the study and practice of law is very interesting and really help to give you a better understanding of the world and make a difference, if you choose. Don't be discouraged by the possible challenge, if practicing law is really what you would. It will be worth it in the end. If you are not sure, you might want to learn more about a few different careers and base your decision on what you learn about each one and how it will fit in with the lifestyle you imagine for yourself. Best of Luck to you.
Thank you comment icon This was super helpful, thank you! Kaitlyn
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Baljit’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn,
Due to the fact you are already interested in pursuing law albeit criminal defense or constitutional lawyer, means that you are halfway there already. Criminal defender is more so largely in need compared to constitutional law. It takes a lot of effort to get to both of these careers. Law school is definitely time consuming. I remember the days where I was required to read 80 pages of constitutional law in one evening as well as writing numerous case briefs for criminal law class. Constitutional law was also my favorite subject because it applies to everyday life compared to criminal law which was more so scenarios that didn't apply to me at all. One thing I learnt upon completing law school was that it gave me confidence in myself that I had achieved one of the most highest accolades that I possibly could have gotten in education. I have a bias towards completing law school because I was always an over achiever :)
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this was helpful! Kaitlyn
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Cathy’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn - These are great areas of law! My two favorite classes were Con Law and Reproductive Controls on Women (3rd year seminar type class). And criminal defense always intrigued me as attorneys get to help people who may not understand their rights, and our justice system needs great representation here to make the system work. Yes, law school is rigorous and demanding. However, you learn along the way how to handle the new things being learned, and it all goes along okay. It was quite demanding for me. Each year got better though as I understood more about what is expected. It is great to find a mentor early in the process, and don't be shy about visiting your professors for more explanations on what is expected. Maybe even show them your notes, and sample outlines and such and get feedback. There may be a program at your school that can match you with an upper class student as well who can help with feedback. In hindsight, one thing I wish I would have done was to get a bar review study book during my first year. Once I got to the bar review class after graduation, I realized how much that framework could have helped me understand content during my first year. Is law school worth it? Yes, if it's something you always wanted to do and for which you have strong passion, otherwise consider a master's or PhD perhaps in an area of interest. (That was advice I got from a lawyer before I went to law school and I still think it's good!) It's a privilege to be an attorney, getting to help others with our specialized knowledge to do so many interesting things. Pros: very rewarding, interesting work, with potential to make a decent income, personally enriching to understand rights and liberties. Cons: Many jobs (but not all!) can be higher stress and involve working longer hours. Best wishes to you!
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