Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

What motivated you to go into law? Money? Status? Idealism?

Most of my classmates went into law because they were ideali ericcrapton04/16/17
I was always much better at verbal stuff than math, but ende therewillbeblood04/16/17
Vaguely similar story. I got my engineering degree, but I b dupednontraditional04/17/17
I had a college class on constitutional law that I really li perkinwarbeck04/16/17
I wish I had a better reason, but I was bartending after gra sobeitunion04/16/17
girlfriend was going to med school and i felt underdegreed defensivelawyer04/16/17
Stupidity vohod04/16/17
beat me to it. sjlawyer04/17/17
Idealistic, did not really know what practice of law entail cranky04/16/17
Idealism. When I started law school, it was still the time w elle30104/16/17
How did this "flexible" degree lie gain so much currency? Wa perkinwarbeck04/16/17
At the top end of the spectrum, law has always had some of t dingbat04/17/17
The myth of flexibility isn't entirely a myth. It's more lik onehell04/17/17
Wanted to use my skills to draft documents and argue stuff. junkwired04/17/17
All about the Benjamins. No other reason. wutwutwut04/17/17
It was all about making straight cash homie. Plus status is isthisit04/17/17
How else was I going to justify a $160,00 philosophy degree? themapmaster04/17/17
I suppose "idealism" but really, it was about trying to hold qdllc04/17/17
mixture of things - idealism but also, a problem for a lot o youngbuck04/17/17
I always wanted to practice criminal law. And being an ADA w adamb04/17/17
Partly I was idealistic. Partly for prestige. Like most tcpaul04/17/17
Idealism and lack of concrete information. Like a lot of peo ejs201704/17/17
I reached the top, I had to stop, and that was bothering me. dingbat04/17/17
My parents were both attorneys. So it was easy for me to fa ruralattorney04/17/17
I wanted to serve as a JAG but the competition was just too david6198304/17/17
I couldn't think of anything better to do and the job I had johnsmith04/17/17
I had no vague ambition of changing the world through law. I cocolawyer04/17/17
You made $100k with a BA degree at 23 years old? I won't eve loblawyer04/17/17
I couldn't think of anything better to do with my life. It w trickydick04/17/17
I was idealistic and I hated math and manual labor. I was al onehell04/17/17
Have you considered a new practice area? Much easier with yo adamb04/17/17
Appellate work would be great for you if you like research a ericcrapton04/17/17
I guess money - basically I just wanted to make more than I uknownvalue04/17/17
Reckless, impassioned, ill-researched libertarian idealism o sunny04/17/17
You will all see the irony in this. I was a philosophy majo soupcansham04/18/17
My desire to leave my cube where I made cold calls to sell c jd4hire04/18/17
I am a boring, risk-adverse, straightlaced kind of individua shuntiii04/18/17

ericcrapton (Apr 16, 2017 - 8:56 pm)

Most of my classmates went into law because they were idealistic. I went into it thinking I would do criminal defense, it would be an adventurous job, and it would beat working a 9-5 for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I did not choose wisely.

What motivated you go to into law?

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therewillbeblood (Apr 16, 2017 - 9:04 pm)

I was always much better at verbal stuff than math, but ended up working in IT after college. I was doing low-level stuff and realized I wasn't really motivated to get really good at it, and whatever I ended up in I wanted to be elite in. I applied to PhD programs but didn't get in to the few I applied for, so law was my backup. 14 years later I still can't figure out if it was a good move or not.

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dupednontraditional (Apr 17, 2017 - 9:47 am)

Vaguely similar story. I got my engineering degree, but I bludgeoned my way through the math to get there. Realized that it was a "cog" job and that the "real" issues were contractual and labor-oriented, with some business thrown in. Idealism is solving "those" problems, I guess, since I wasn't getting to solve actual engineering problems but was told to "yield through it" again and again and again.

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perkinwarbeck (Apr 16, 2017 - 9:55 pm)

I had a college class on constitutional law that I really liked. It also meant that I never had to wonder what I was going to do after college.

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sobeitunion (Apr 16, 2017 - 10:27 pm)

I wish I had a better reason, but I was bartending after graduating with a philosophy degree and my then girlfriend told me I should take the LSAT. So I did and I scored really high - top 2%. It got me into a bunch of schools and I jumped on the first full-ride offer I got.

I was uninformed with no direction in life. In hindsight, I should have either (a) kept bartending or (b) done a little research and paid to go to any of the significantly better schools that accepted me with less than a full ride - I got into several T20 schools. Tricked by "free money" and my own negligence.

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defensivelawyer (Apr 16, 2017 - 10:34 pm)

girlfriend was going to med school and i felt underdegreed

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vohod (Apr 16, 2017 - 10:40 pm)

Stupidity

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sjlawyer (Apr 17, 2017 - 8:56 am)

beat me to it.

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cranky (Apr 16, 2017 - 11:06 pm)

Idealistic, did not really know what practice of law entailed. Had no lawyers in the family and didn't know about the bimodal salary distribution. Thought I could change society and have prestige, make a great living, etc.

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elle301 (Apr 16, 2017 - 11:13 pm)

Idealism. When I started law school, it was still the time when everyone touted a law degree as a better, more flexible graduate degree that opened doors and created opportunities.

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perkinwarbeck (Apr 16, 2017 - 11:42 pm)

How did this "flexible" degree lie gain so much currency? Was it just the law schools promoting it? I remember how everyone on The West Wing seemed to have a law degree. I think that was part of it for me.

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dingbat (Apr 17, 2017 - 1:27 pm)

At the top end of the spectrum, law has always had some of the best and brightest be their top performers, who probably would have been successful anyway. After an illustrious legal career, those top performers who leave have opportunities open up in the upper echelons of the business world or in politics.

Once upon a time, people generally elected the best and brightest to office, and the top lawyers in town often fit that billing. On top of that, who better to write laws than the lawyers who understand the law? (I think every incoming politician should be mandated to take some kind of legal education)

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onehell (Apr 17, 2017 - 1:34 pm)

The myth of flexibility isn't entirely a myth. It's more like something that is technically true but misleading.

There are a ton of JDs doing other things, often very cool things, and people basically confuse correlation with causation. Just because a person happens to have a JD doesn't mean that their unconventional career path was made possible by the JD.

For a JD to be "flexible," it must be combined with other things in your background, like work experience or connections. It substitutes for nothing, and is neither necessary nor sufficient for anything other than practicing law. But when combined with the right experience/connections, people who happen to have JDs have done a lot of different things. People then erroneously draw the conclusion that they, too, can do a lot of different things with that JD, when in reality they would probably be more "flexible" without it if they have been in school since kindergarten and have nothing else in their background.

Also, a lot of people doing weird/cool things with a JD predate the glut. You know what else used to be flexible? A BA. But that was before any idiot could get one and also before the era of hyper-specialization when employers started to expect degrees to be actual job training as opposed to a generalized signal of relatively high intelligence. It used to be that a bachelor's degree was beyond the reach of 90% of the population, and having one meant you were something special and could learn whatever you needed to teach them. A law degree was even more indicative of high intelligence, and still is from the elite schools. But like everything else, the increased supply has reduced the value of the product, not just in the specific field of law but for everything else one might do with it as well.

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junkwired (Apr 17, 2017 - 12:22 am)

Wanted to use my skills to draft documents and argue stuff.

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wutwutwut (Apr 17, 2017 - 12:30 am)

All about the Benjamins. No other reason.

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isthisit (Apr 17, 2017 - 1:09 am)

It was all about making straight cash homie. Plus status is always nice.

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themapmaster (Apr 17, 2017 - 1:51 am)

How else was I going to justify a $160,00 philosophy degree?

Gotta give me some credit though. Never applied and never would have gone to a crappy law school. Just managed to make less than graduates from crappy law schools, for the time being.

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qdllc (Apr 17, 2017 - 6:48 am)

I suppose "idealism" but really, it was about trying to hold on to something lost.

My passion was to work in law enforcement, but doors weren't opening for me...no matter how hard I tried. It seemed like going into law was "up my alley," but I was using law as a surrogate for what I really wanted. Once I accepted my passion would never be realized, I had zero motivation to finish my degree other than "well, I've come this far." I should have just dropped out and kept the JD off my resume.

To be fair, the more I learned about how the law actually worked, the more jaded it made me about everything in the criminal justice system, so it was somewhat a lose-lose proposition.

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youngbuck (Apr 17, 2017 - 7:49 am)

mixture of things - idealism but also, a problem for a lot of millennials I'm sure, I had always been made to feel that I was a special snowflake, so the thought of following my other interests and being "just a cop" or "just a teacher" seemed beneath me - would kill to be one of those now

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adamb (Apr 17, 2017 - 7:56 am)

I always wanted to practice criminal law. And being an ADA with a gym body gets me laid at any party. Also - lots of hot gays in nypd.

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tcpaul (Apr 17, 2017 - 8:11 am)

Partly I was idealistic. Partly for prestige.

Like most people, I don't love it but recognize that I've gotten pretty lucky and make good money. Although I'm not doing what I foolishly thought I'd do, NGO/international glamor law.

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ejs2017 (Apr 17, 2017 - 9:57 am)

Idealism and lack of concrete information. Like a lot of people my undergraduate background was basically useless. I also bought the story that a law degree would open a lot of doors and that I wouldn't be limited to being just an attorney. I make decent money but I've always regretted the decision.

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dingbat (Apr 17, 2017 - 10:39 am)

I reached the top, I had to stop, and that was bothering me. [The Jungle Book, Walt Disney Productions, 1967].

I kinda fell into a unique career, at the convergence of law and finance. It was a very narrow field, there are maybe 5 people in the world who could do what I did, and not many more who could understand it. I became the foremost expert in XYZ specialty.
Unfortunately, there have only been a handful of companies that did what I did, and guess who had a non-compete with each one of them? Also, it being a complete niche, my skill set is not directly transferable, and there are very few people who understood what it even entailed

When the financial crisis hit, I survived because I was literally irreplaceable. But it also made me realize something. I got bored and complacent, and so I decided to change things up a bit. so, I went to law school.

Financially, it might not have been the best decision, but for my area of law I'm working with the undisputed expert in my region, and when said expert retires, I'll have reached the top (locally)

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ruralattorney (Apr 17, 2017 - 10:44 am)

My parents were both attorneys. So it was easy for me to fall in line. However, I've always blazed my own trail rather than work for family. Maybe that's why I still have a good relationship with my parents.

Do I have regrets? Well, I have always chosen work-life balance over money. For example, my first job right out of law school in 1997 was as an ADA making $28,000 per year. So I can't say that I have earned a ton of money, but I've also had a good life in exchange. But litigation wears you down - especially family law. Courts are such an awful way of solving problems, that unless you have no heart it begins to get to you. I got to a point where I knew that I had to get out of litigation.

I have finally found a corporate job (my third legal job) that pays very well (by my standards - I make in the upper $100s and live in flyover country) but does not require anything more than 40 hours per week. Only about 5% of what I do is litigation. As I sit right now I feel as if I have found the holy grail. But when you work for someone else it can all get pulled out from under you. And I don't have a good plan B. That gives me some anxiety.

While I would not encourage someone else to enter into law, I really can't complain. But that's probably because I had minimal student loans when I graduated and never wanted to be in biglaw anyway.

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david61983 (Apr 17, 2017 - 10:46 am)

I wanted to serve as a JAG but the competition was just too great to get accepted.

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johnsmith (Apr 17, 2017 - 11:28 am)

I couldn't think of anything better to do and the job I had at the time paid less than $30,000.

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cocolawyer (Apr 17, 2017 - 12:04 pm)

I had no vague ambition of changing the world through law. I didn't even really want to practice law. I knew enough people who were lawyers to see how miserable they were.

I wanted to change the world through politics. Almost every congressional leader had a JD. I figured that would give me an opening to possibly sit at the table. Around my 2L year I discovered how horrific my choice was. I was already invested at this point. I decided at least I would be paid well. Wrong...well sort of.

I made more with a BA at 23 years old then I did with a JD at 29 my first two years (I worked for a marketing firm in San Francisco making 100k per year). Now I make more but if I had just stayed at that firm I would likely be VP of Strategic Development and make 325k (my less successful friend that worked there with me is now in that position). I make half that now, with overwhelming student loan debt.

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loblawyer (Apr 17, 2017 - 10:22 pm)

You made $100k with a BA degree at 23 years old? I won't even address the VP number, that's incomprehensible. Guessing that money is not typical in marketing starting out, but what ever made you want to leave that for law?

The upside is, your $150k plus salary now is still a complete success story, especially by this board's standards (well I think so; that salary thread last year did change my opinion of this place a bit, even accounting for self selection bias).

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trickydick (Apr 17, 2017 - 2:16 pm)

I couldn't think of anything better to do with my life. It was either this or try and sell stuff to people that they didn't need or want.

That said, I despise anyone who got into the field because they wanted to help people or make the world a better place. It's pretty much impossible to do either of those things as an attorney.

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onehell (Apr 17, 2017 - 2:44 pm)

I was idealistic and I hated math and manual labor. I was also introverted and risk-averse but loved to research and write. Turns out, unfortunately, that those affinities are very well-suited for law school but pretty ill-suited for most forms of practice, and by the time I learned this, it was too late. Plus, I got pretty good at it so the money got better and the golden handcuffs eventually attached. It really sucks to be good at something you don't particularly like. At least if I'd sucked at it I might have exited before I got too old to go back to school for something else.

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adamb (Apr 17, 2017 - 3:35 pm)

Have you considered a new practice area? Much easier with your experience.

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ericcrapton (Apr 17, 2017 - 7:46 pm)

Appellate work would be great for you if you like research and writing.

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uknownvalue (Apr 17, 2017 - 4:46 pm)

I guess money - basically I just wanted to make more than I did while working at the mall. Back then (and even now, sort of) I thought 50k a year was a lot.

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sunny (Apr 17, 2017 - 11:10 pm)

Reckless, impassioned, ill-researched libertarian idealism of curbing the government's rampant unconstitutional acts. I wanted to work for one of the nonprofits that fights this type of stuff. I strongly do not recommend this path - a few will succeed but it is usually not worth the financial risk and opportunity cost.

On a side note, I miss causa.

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soupcansham (Apr 18, 2017 - 8:09 am)

You will all see the irony in this. I was a philosophy major and I really loved trying to solve problems in a principled way.

One day I was sitting at some sort of conference with a couple of big wigs duking it out. I had this moment of clarity that these guys could come up with the best practical solution around and nobody would ever hear it because they're busy gabbing in a tiny room with eight people. I thought, "There must be a better way to use logic to solve problems in a way that actually has an impact."

Hence, law school. If anyone should ever find him- or herself in a similar boat, I'd be glad to offer some alternatives.

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jd4hire (Apr 18, 2017 - 9:52 am)

My desire to leave my cube where I made cold calls to sell computer software under the false impression that I would make more money. I now miss that cube, the posh benefits, the work travel, and my lack of debt.

My friends who stayed make more than me and have zero debt. I have a flashy JD that cost close to 200k and will result in a long period of indentured servitude and the uneasy feeling of what will happen to loan forgiveness plans over the next two decades and the fact that my tax bomb at the end will nearly equate to the original amount borrowed - so then I'll get to sign up for a sweet IRS payment plan. At least I'll be able to file jointly at that point in my life. Oh, my unborn children will hopefully be in college then too.

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shuntiii (Apr 18, 2017 - 2:38 pm)

I am a boring, risk-adverse, straightlaced kind of individual. I wanted a safe 9-5 75k/year type job. I was stupid and thought law was the easy ticket to that. I messed up twice. Once was when a mentor told me you don't need to go to law school for that, just target some easy F500 or gov't type job. Should have listened.

Then I messed up by going BIGLAW when that opportunity presented itself, instead of targeting government jobs.

If I hadn't made those mistakes, I might have gotten what I wanted without the debt.

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