I won't pretend to have any great advice... but holy shit, I must admire your career aspirations. Two years of doing pretty well in college and I'm still clueless as to what I want to do.
Totally OT: Completely changing one's career path
Yeah, I'm three years out of college and still no idea what I want to do. Yeah for monthly existential crisises.
As for the OP, if you have passion for it, go for it. Don't worry about the money or the debt, it'll work itself out. Insert cliches about if you love your work you'll never work a day in your life here.
Start going to the University's career center and develop a working relationship with the staff. Get into some internships... This process should be like a part time job.
Start now so that you do not end up with the same admission to MGoBlog as a senior!
"I guess ultimately my question is this: have you ever had to reconcile what you really think you would be awesome at and what you really love with a much more stable, more concrete option?"
I went to law school at 26 as a second career and my interest is in advocacy as well, so I completely understand what you're talking about. My answer to this question is that if you pursue what you're awesome at and that you really love, it'll always be more stable and more concrete. While the other options may seem more stable, you're always going to have uncertainty in the back of your mind which will inhererently create instability. If I were you, the biggest thing I would be focusing on is finding the right law school for where you want to end up (i.e. which school has the best programs for what you want to do), which may not necessarily be the best "overall" law school. If that makes sense.
Not exactly the same but I got a BBA and needed a job in a really down market. I ended up in sales (the last thing I wanted to do). Once in sales it was difficult to get into marketing or anything else that I really wanted to do. While this was a much smaller shift than you are considering I was able to move into a non-sales role over time without a decline in income. It took longer and i had to find a company that had both the role I was coming from and the one I wanted to go into.
Is there a way to take what you are doing to an organization where you can morph into the role you want over time without the sudden change?
my wife is 28 and she has a degree in education, a job in marketing, and in the fall she's quitting to go to the Ford Public Policy school.
also, you have to give what you love a shot. i'm an engineer. i tried to make money by making music. that failed miserably, but at least now i know that i don't really want to be a musician. i still love making music, but my income doesn't depend on it.
finally, changing a career path is not a permanent action. it's not like you're burning all your bridges on the way out. (you're not burning all your bridges on the way out, right?)
You're saying that setting my building on fire when I quit is NOT a good idea?
Just curious, what type of engineering do you do? Are you in the AA area?
you should only set your building on fire if lumberg won't give you your stapler back.
i'm an automotive embedded software engineer. i live in ann arbor, but i work in novi and dearborn.
I'm guessing you work for a company like Delphi or Visteon? I'm asking because I'm looking for engineering work back home (AA/Metro Detroit) and I'm not having much luck. Is the job market still as bleak as could be? Any open positions at your company?
well, yeah, it's a supplier to Ford and GM.
the bleakness of the job market is directly proportional to the type of engineer you are. being that i'm an embedded software guy, it doesn't look too bleak to me. if you're, like, a manufacturing guy... (uncomfortably adjusts collar) eeeeee...
we are actually looking to hire someone who's good with GM embedded software..
Well right now I'm an aircraft structural engineer and do mostly aeroelastic analyses, which isn't exactly applicable to many careers in the AA/Detroit area (that I know of). I was planning on transitioning to the automotive NVH or safety field. Do you know anything about those markets?
Maybe you can take a screenshot of my MGoPoint total and submit it to your boss for me? I love to code...
aeroelastic analysis may come into play in automotive, but since the speeds are so much lower than in aircraft study, it probably would be more functional than structural. e.g. i know ford uses air intake to cool the battery in the fusion hybrid, so airflow would play some role here...
i know nearly nothing about safety, but NVH is an issue for every single part that goes into a vehicle. i mean, every part that is supplied has to go through some order of NVH testing. so, i would think that would be a pretty universal area to get into, and probably give you more job options.
Thanks for the advice. I'm not burning bridges at all, I think that's why I'm afraid to say anything--these people have been nothing but amazing to me. This was my first job out of college and I've done a lot of growing up here. I'm by far the youngest person here and everyone really looks out for me/treats me like their daughter. My boss is a high-level administrator and really, really takes care of his people. He's super loyal, and while research funding is unpredictable, he has said that as long as he's here we will always have a job, too.
I almost feel kind of guilty, because everyone has done so much for me here--taking a chance on a Poli Sci major and turning her into "med school material"--that I feel like I'm letting people down by not wanting to go through with it. (I know I care way too much about what people think of me.) I don't want to disappoint anyone but I don't think I can continue to be dishonest with myself.
The people at your current job will forgive you. Especially if you bake white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for them.
the people you work with should understand that it's nothing personal. that's the reality of the working world. sometimes people decide to do something different than they're whatever they're currently doing. that's life. i don't think you need to be worried about pissing anyone off, unless doing this will go back on some direct agreement you've made.
Then trust that they will be happy with your path.
Thank them for their time and efforts and explain that through their efforts you decided to go this other direction. Tell them you will use the knowledge you learned through them in the future - and how.
Stay in touch with them so they can be there for your successes.
They only want what is best for you. No bridges burned.
Ditch them at the last second and never look back. Bridges nuked!
You presented an equation with lots of variables, so I won't try to offer any big-picture career advice. Congratulations on doing the introspection, though. Lots of people would not (for whatever reason) bother.
* I agree with several others here that you're definitely not too old. I made a significant career change in my late 20s and another minor adjustment a few years later. Anecdotally, I know someone who just started as an associate with a top-tier Chicago firm at the age of... 43.
* Could you possibly pursue your advocacy goals through the public health route? The SPH at Michigan is excellent and I know several physicians who got an MPH along with an MD there. I'd guess that you could do something similar at Wayne State.
You can also get a joint public health / public policy masters at Michigan and I am sure plenty of other places. I'm sure you've thought about this, but just in case, give it a careful look-over. For one thing, with research assistantships you can come through many programs debt-free; for another, well, it seems really close to what you are talking about wanting to do.
Please don't do what many of my classmates did... in short, don't ignore your gut and find out going into the 3rd year and after investing over $100k that you don't actually want to be a physician. It will be the longest 7-9 years of your life, and you will never get those years back. I think the physicians you work with will be happiest if you follow your passions, and they most certainly would not want to be party to MGoJen having her spark smothered in medical school. I think you already know what your heart is telling you, now follow it.
As a side note, I have a friend who is pursuing a joint JD-MPH... maybe something you would be interested in (and there are always plenty of scholarships available for public health and social work... you might consider pursuing one of those degrees before enrolling in law-school, as when pursued in conjunction with a professional degree the sources of finance tend to dry up.) And did I mention that you might find solace in a MD-MPH? Tulane allows you to pursue them simultaneously (4-year program.)
Oh, and a side-side-note... I was two months shy of 29 when I began medical school (and it was the most fun year of my life!) You could have a JD or MPH in hand AND THEN go to medical school by then. :^)
I have a B.S. in Finance from a small liberal arts school (Lipscomb University) and have never really had a good career path. Partially, I suspect the lack of prestige of my degree and school plays into it, but I also just don't have my heart in the business world. It is hard to be sucessful in a field to which you aren't 100% committed.
I have a long-standing interest in 3D computer graphics/animation and am considering going back to school to pursue this field but have a couple of potential stumbling blocks. First, I am not artistically inclined and the field has a strong artistic component, at least in the educational portion of one's career (it's pretty specialized in actual practice and many positions don't require much artistic aptitude). The second consideration is the financial one. Going to school is an expensive endeavor when Mom and Dad aren't ponying up the dough and the compensation in the field is merely O.K. and sometimes employment is erratic (contract based).
I think I've finally decided to just "follow my heart" and go back to school for animation as it is the one field where I think I would truly enjoy my job and not spend my day "clockwatching". You only get one life; you might as well try to make it as enjoyable as possible.
I can't recall who made this quote, but it sums things up pretty nicely, "Choose a job that you love and you'll never work a day in your life."
Oh, and one last thing, don't worry about the fact that you're 26 and haven't got you life all planned out. Life is all about change and you shouldn't be surprised to find yourself moving in another direction sometime in the future.
"job that you love". because choosing a job in a field that you love is not necessarily the same thing. sometimes taking something you love and turning it into a job can sap all your enjoyment of that thing. now you resent the job because it causes you to not love this thing you used to love.
for some people, their ideal situation is a 9 to 5 job where they can go home and not think about work. the danger of working in a field where you love what you're doing is that you may never turn off. it's not just a job anymore.
"sometimes taking something you love and turning it into a job can sap all your enjoyment of that thing."
I don't know how relevant this is to the OP's situation, but it's very true. And I'd add some shades of gray and say that even when it doesn't sap all your enjoyment of what you love (which certainly isn't an assured outcome!), it still changes how you view and approach that pursuit. It has to. I took a hobby I love -- photography -- and made it my profession, and I still enjoy it. But when your income relies on it, there's a certain level of stress involved, and it's changed my relationship with that pursuit more than I thought it would. I'm much less inclined to pick up my camera when I'm off the clock (so to speak) because honestly, it's nice to have some time away from my job, and it's hard (sometimes impossible) to stop thinking of it as work.
I think I'm sounding sort of negative, so let me reiterate: I still love photography, and I have no desire to quit it as a job. It's just not the same to me as it was four years ago. And as notetoself indicated, that unavoidable change in relationship is something to consider before turning your love into a job.
yeah, i don't mean to say that you will necessarily lose your love of whatever you make your job, but that there's an inherent risk.
Good luck to you. My husband started into 3-D animation at the start of his career, but got sidelined into the software side of it. Now he's trying to work his way back into the 3-D animation side, actually using the tools he used to produce. As you say, it looks like a lot of contract work.
when I was 27, I left ernst & young, moved back in with my parents and did stand-up for a year...fuck it dude. do want you want to do, it's never too late to do anything you want. I would think at 26, you would not be near the oldest person in your law school class. best of luck and god bless, your motivation is quite admirable.
Definitely wouldn't be. My law school class had several people in their 50s and one of the classes ahead of me had someone in their 70s.
There are 40 year olds+ in my current law school class, and that is truly not abnormal. Don't rule law school out because you think you're "too old". Really do your research though, and make sure that law school is really for you -- especially in this time where law school applications are at their highest rates ever by far. Good luck!
My circumstances may be a little different than yours( I have a 3 year old and a wife), but I'm 27 and am quitting my job to go to law school as well. I definitely feel the same way as you. I won't be starting my "real" job until I'm probably around 30! My fears are a) who wants to hire an associate who's 30 or in his 30's and b) my life is going to be an extraordinarily stressful one. I know this is what I want( and wanted to do when I originally started school), but what if it doesn't work out? The truth is-it wont work out if you don't try and it could work out if you do. Also, there probably isn't a better time than this job market to spend the next couple of years in school. Why not study something that will lead you to where you, ultimately, want to go? Just take the jump and do the things necessary to make your "dream job" a reality. That's what I'm trying to do and that, atleast for me, is comforting.
"a) who wants to hire an associate who's 30 or in his 30's"
Plenty of people. Life experience and maturity are huge selling points to prospective employers.
"b) my life is going to be an extraordinarily stressful one."
Do not underestimate this one.
I'm all for persuing you dreams, money be damned; however, when deciding where to go to law school keep COST in mind. I racked up over 6 figures of debt attending a private law school. I could not afford to pay my monthly student loan payments (over $1,200 per month) if I had anything other than a high paying corporate job.
For instance, while it might be awesome to go to a top 10 law school, if that school charges 40K a year and you end up $150K in debt (factoring in living costs for 3 years) and plan to work in a job where the best you can hope for is $40K a year, you'll be putting yourself under a lot of stress come bill time.
If you want to stay in Michigan, a law degree from Wayne State may be able to take you just as far in the policy area as a law degree from Michigan at a fraction of the cost. Granted, if you want to go national at some point the Michigan name will take you much further, but no point in paying for the national name if you don't intend to capitalize on it.
I didn't really concern myself with the costs of law school and the high price of student loans when I chose to go to law school. Everyone says it will pay for itself eventually, maybe by the time I'm 60 that will be true but it isn't fun having a mortgage in the form of student debt.
Be careful with suggesting that a "public" school like Wayne State would be cheaper. Wayne State is still a $20,000+ per year school (plus expenses). Public law schools aren't really particularly cheap unless you go down south. The private school that I went to was actually cheaper than almost all of the "public" law schools since most of the public law schools in the north are actually (somehow) considered private schools (I have no idea how or why). Michigan State and Penn State are a good example of that.
I apologize if my specific example was wrong. My point was: if you can acheive your career goals by attending a cheaper (and maybe less prestigious) law school there is no reason to go to a more expensive school for the name.
I went to, and paid more for, a nationally recognized law school b/c I didn't know where I wanted to end up after graduating. After graduation I ended up staying in the city where the school is located; I could have paid 1/4 of the price and gone to a local law school in the area and gotten the same job without falling into 6 figure debt.
As for cheap southern law schools, when I applied in 2004, University of Miami (THAT MIAMI) was around 30K while FSU was under 10K for Florida residents . . .
Yeah, I knew what you meant. I was just trying to distinguish the fact that if you really want to go to a good and cheap public law school your focus had better be on the southern public schools.
The best career counselers in the sportsblogosphere! Just try to have this discussion on a Buckeye board. "Law Skewl? Y ya wanna b a cop?"
but jailhouse lawyer seems a more likely outcome for those in scarlet and gray.
Doing what you love is the best career choice and one that you won't regret in the long run.
I have always been a strong advocate of going to the best law school that you can. It opens so many more doors for you. That being said, accredited law schools are very similar in the training they provide. I should know as I transferred from DCL to UM after my first year. The classes are taught the same, the topics are the same. However, in this instance, if you are not shooting for a high-paid job, you may want to focus on those law schools with a more budget oriented outlook, keeping your debt at a minimum. Trust me, I know plenty of people stuck with their jobs because the debt is staggering. If you can live somewhere cheap and pay something cheap, you will end up ahead in the long run.
I read through the first 2/3 of your post and was completely blindsided by the fact that the resolution involved going to law school. I'd think twice (or three times) before going, unless you really think the best way for you to do you want to do is to be a lawyer (this advice isn't as obtuse as it sounds). Also, I wouldn't worry about how old you are. I'm graduating from law school tomorrow and plenty of my friends were 26 or older when they started.
But it's entirely possible that the work you want to do is only tangentially related to the practice of law, and like a lot of people with similar aspirations you're going to take out 150 grand to go to law school only to realize that you like thinking about the law and may even emerge thinking the law is a useful tool for social change, but that you don't actually want to be a lawyer.
Which, I can tell you from the front lines, is not an awesome place to be. So try to think clearly about what you imagine your life to be like when you go into work every day. If you're interested in "policy," going to law school full-time and at full tuition is probably a bad idea. Not to mention that if you're giving up a high paying job to go into debt, even if it turns out you love your job (which is the best case scenario but frequently a mirage), you're going to have 20-30 years of debt repayment to look forward to. I'd be happy to talk to you privately about the balancing act between finding a good school and taking a scholarship and how doing public interest work affects that calculus.
This article below isn't completely appropriate for your situation, but it's worth reading if the only thing you take away from it is that even graduates of top 14 law schools are having a hard time finding work. And it's not just because the economy's shitty. There's a big contraction going on in the legal market at the moment and there are way too many crappy law schools pumping out graduates.
I cosign everything this guy said. I would only go to law school if you have a very concrete plan about how you are going to use your degree to do policy work. It is not as easy as people think to get non-attorney work out of law school.
I graduated from a top 20 law school last year. I went out to dinner twice last month - the first time my busboy was a former classmate, and the second time my waitress was a former classmate. These are licensed attorneys. A law degree is not worth what it once was. I would highly recommend only going to a school that will give you a significant scholarship (paying over 50% of your tuition). Otherwise, you could find yourself in a very crappy position.
I completely agree with this, with one exception. The difference, at least to me, seems to be that at a time like this when the market for legal professionals is so poor, the graduates from the top schools and the graduates who are "big firm material" are the ones suffering the most, whereas the graduate who went to schools that are more focused on the skills of actually being a lawyer are doing much better. The basic reason for that is likely that in rough economic times firms don't want to have to waste time and money training you to do something that you should have learned in law school. In my opinion, right now at least, people are better off considering the schools that training you to be a lawyer rather than the schools that train you to be a theorist in the law. Just my opinion though.
From someone (ALMOST) 2/3 done with law school:
Do not go to law school if you do not want to be a lawyer. It is not fun. It is too hard. My brain hurts (Evidence final earlier today). It's only something to do if you want to be a lawyer AND save the world, not be a lawyer TO save the world.
The market is bad, and graduates at schools that teach more practical skills aren't getting jobs top students are missing out on if those top students want it (and depending on the situation, have geographical connections). I don't want to speak too broadly, but I would suggest that going to a lower ranked school, barring some good geographical opportunity, will make getting a job significantly harder in a climate in which they are already quite scarce. Many of those schools cull 1/3 of their 1L classes every year, and you don't know how you'll do on law finals until you take them. Based on what you said below: do NOT take Detroit over Michigan Law unless they are paying you a TON of money for it. Period.
My buddy is getting his JD-MPH here and seems happy. But he's at a T6 school and will get a job that pays well to deal with his debt. I imagine he'll make policy after that. As long as you a) want to be a lawyer, b) can afford it, and c) understand the risk that you CAN'T afford it, go for it.
I think you took what I said the wrong way. I didn't mean to say go to a lower tier school and focus on lawyering skills. I certainly didn't mean to say to choose Detroit over Michigan. Frankly, I don't know much at all about the program at either school. I was moreso meaning to say that when choosing between similarly situated schools chose the one that provides better skills training over the one that focuses more on theory. The idea being that people who develop their practical skills are more attractive to certain types of firms, which means, on a whole, they are more attractive candidates to hire because they have more practical skills. Stated a different way, don't necessarily look at overall rankings, but rather look at the sub-rankings for skills programs.
I think I missed parts of that, so my fault. I know you didn't advocate Detroit over UofM (!!), that was to something she mentioned below. My issue with the "skills" concept is that law schools generally do a crappy job of that, and even if a lower ranked school did it better, I doubt enough employers have good enough information about it to make a real difference.
But if you're going to a non-T14 school, I'd look at geography first, but yeah, my second focus would be on program rankings, so we're more or less on the same page.
Yeah, I would agree with you that the vast (vast) majority of schools do a terrible job of skills training or in any way preparing their graduates for the actual practice of law. There are a few, however, that are not "top tier" schools do an outstanding job in the skills area and whose name recognition carries very well despite not being a "top tier" school. I can speak from personal experience on that. But yes, in general you are right.
I'm in law school at Michigan (and was in a class with daveheal, actually...hey dave). The debt is huge and you really need to practice at a big firm if you want to pay back the debt in a reasonable amount of time and have a family. If you're planning on staying single for your whole life, I'd say go for it. If not, go to the best school that gives you a full ride.
And, fwiw, the people that I've seen that affect change are the ones who work hard, are great with people, and have impressive networking abilities. Degrees can't change someone who's just not an affector of change, if that makes sense.
I recently did something similar. I decided that I really didn't love stripping, and decided to take the plunge into hooking. It's only been a few weeks, but so far so good. (fingers crossed)
You should keep stripping on the side. It's a great way to meet clients.
...and the money will follow. (Eventually.)
Why a Law degree is required to do what you want to do?
Is there a way you can accomplish your goals through work experience rather than obtaining a degree? Maybe I'm naive to think this, but a PhD in a topic directly related to you field of expertise as an advocate, has to be just as valuable as a law degree.
unless you want to be a legislator, lobbyist or a practicing attorney (public interest law firm, prosecutor, etc...) then I don't see much reason to go to law school to do "advocacy." It sounds like you may be predisposed to education, but maybe you should fight that urge. You are probably much more prepared to do "advocacy" than you think, and you don't need further preparation in school.
"Advocacy" is a very dynamic term, obviously, and a lot of what I do now could be considered advocacy even though it's only ancillary to what my actual job description is.
A couple months ago when I first started really thinking about all of this, I met up with one of my mentors from undergrad (he's a Poli Sci prof at Michigan) who knows me super well. I basically came clean and told him everything, and I asked him where he suggests I go from here. (I was flirting with a PhD in Public Policy, a Masters in Public Policy and law school.)
He told me not to go the PhD route unless I want to be in academia (I don't) and that a JD is much more versatile than an MPP. He said he would even argue that if I want to stay in Detroit and build upon what I've already accomplished here, he suggests Wayne State Law or even U of D Mercy over, say, Michigan. He said it's the same reason why people who want to be in NY politics will pick Fordham or Brooklyn over NYU, namely to build connections in the field one wants to end up working in.
That said, Michigan law has an awesome dual degree program where in an extra year, one can earn a JD/MPP or JD/MSW or JD/MPH among others.
A JD is usually more versatile than a PhD. I've heard that point argued elsewhere before. But, it really depends on what you want to do with that JD. It sounds like you're leaning toward "advocacy", and I agree with the other comments on this thread that a JD is not strictly necessary if that's what you want.
As for sticking around for an extra year -- really think that through very carefully. Not only are you adding time, you're accruing substantial additional debt, (unless you're fabulously wealthy and don't care).
Finally, I don't believe in the notion that getting any other degrees is necessary in your case. You've already earned a baccalaureate and are working on the post-graduate degree. Unless your intention is to collect degrees like baseball cards, stop there, and focus on your career. Chances are, you already have every thing you need to know, have a good employer who may be willing to help you achieve want you want, and just need to decide in which direction you're going to set out. Tend to that.
And if you have any doubt that I'm right, consider that Focus:HOPE was started by a parish priest and a housewife in the middle of riot-torn Detroit in 1968. Think of what Father Cunningham and Eleanor Josaitis have accomplished. There are no degrees you can earn for that. Its just a lot of hard work.
If you find a career that you really love before you die - you win!
Are you out of your f**king mind?
Listen to this guy.
I'm not naive to the current "market" for lawyers, (I have a couple friends at Michigan Law who weren't able to secure summer jobs until very, very late), but what specifically are you referring to/should I beware of?
“I want to pursue advocacy work,”
“Money has never, ever been important to me”
“I want to affect policy head-on.”
Since you have a sense of what you want to do, I would ask yourself how a law degree will help you reach this goal. And I would suggest being pretty damn sure that a law degree will actually help you. Do you know the job you want to have? Do the people that have that job typically have law degrees? If you don’t have strong information that tells you a law degree is required, there are probably more direct degrees that will help you advance your career goals—degrees that are cheaper and less of a pain than a law degree. I don’t think you want a law degree unless you need a law degree.
Depending on what law school you go to and what financial aid you get, you could end up caring more about money than you ever intended. That because you could easily be paying $500-$1,500 a month for your student loans. If you go into public interest, it will probably be on the lower end, but that can still be significant because public interest jobs generally do not pay well.
I often wish somebody had cautioned me - not lightly suggested, but screamed at me and hit me in the mouth - against going to law school. This is not to say nobody with a law degree will find happiness, but it was the wrong decision for me, the wrong decision for many of my former classmates, and the wrong decision for many of my current colleagues.
Like so many of my classmates, I entered law school with thoughts of making a difference and left with a crushing debt. Public advocacy jobs were slim even when the legal market was booming, and I have to imagine they are now even fewer as graduates who have been rejected from Big Firm, LLP are circling like sharks. Incidentally, a law professor once mentioned to me that there are more students in law school (circa 2005) than there are practicing lawyers.
Like others, I eventually took a job to pay the bills. The pay is great, the hours are not. The work is worse and seldom rewarding. I try to remain optimistic about my practice, but it seems almost every practicing attorney I encounter, be it opposing counsel or the associate down the hall, is actively pursuing a back up plan to leave the profession.
As others have said, if your true intention is to make a difference in the community, specifically in the medical community, I think that can be accomplished without a law degree and the (potentially unnecessary) debt that follows. I would examine precisely why you are seeking a degree in law: is it for the knowledge itself? the socio-political connections? the license?
If it's the merely the knowledge, there are easier ways to obtain it. At this moment, there are thousands of quasi-lawyers sitting in prison cells with an in(ti)mate knowledge of the profession and access to nothing but a prison library. If you're seeking connections, events and fundraisers in your community can serve the same purpose. If its the license itself, inquire whether what you plan to do cannot be done without a license to practice law. Chances are, it can.
I tell interns all the time it's not too late to drop out of L school. $$$ if you want to owe someone (or now the gov't) lots of money and ultimately change your reason for entering law to pay those loans and work to pay off a mortgage but not have the house to show for it and maybe have some pretty good sex (or affairs), go to law school
I agree with the posters above who are wondering about whether or not a law degree is really the best path to achieving your goal of public policy advocacy. Although, knowledge of the law surrounding health policy is important. In order to get into an organization that is currently lobbying Congress (or whomever), a law degree is not necessary.
I also graduated from UM with a major in Pol. Sci. and now have a Ph.D. in Pol. Sci. My wife works as a women's rights advocate around the globe. In my opinion, getting involved in public policy advocacy requires the same steps you've taken in your current career. Get in at the ground floor somewhere, work your way up and make connections. It would also help to get some type of advanced degree in public policy along the way, but it is not critical and I wouldn't spend a lot of money on it. A Ph.D. in this area could help in some ways, as it would make you a more marketable "free agent" so to speak, but again not necessary.
... Is in my signature.
I still don't know what I want to do with my life, I've given up on figuring that out. I'm 34, and the only motto I have now is "do it well".
As a current medical student, it's phenomenal that you've realized that you don't want to go into medicine BEFORE medical school. There are people here that went to med school just because "that's what I always wanted to do" - when it was really just what they thought they should do, or because mom or dad is a physician. They never realize what it takes, and if they aren't 100% committed to make it through, they fail and feel awful about themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, there isn't much from the physician side of things that you can really do to affect policy change - the "powerful medical groups" are made up of people who have no real basis of policy. As far as helping in underserved areas, as a singular physician, there is not much one can do. You need to have the background in policy to make changes, to get the respect that you need at a political level. It's also important that you keep those physicians as allies, because their support through medicine will be important in your quest. We are trying to set up a free clinic in town for the underserved, and are running into two blocks: 1. We don't have any policy backers that can be our face, and 2. We don't have actual medical expertise to run the thing properly. Therefore, the city, and the college, are putting the kabosh on it. For now, at least.
Good luck in whatever you end up doing. Take it seriously, as I'm sure you will. And as far as the age thing is considered, don't worry about it. I took some time off before med school, as did a lot of my peers. I know plenty of people in Law school, as well, that aren't the "traditional" student. And 26 is not old - otherwise, I'm screwed.
I'm in a reasonably similar boat, actually. I graduated from William and Mary in 2005 with a BS in Neuroscience; at the time, I decided to put off graduate school because my father was very ill, and I knew that I could get a job near my parents and help provide support. I worked for 3 years as a biomedical engineer, which paid well, but wasn't very satisfying. During that time, I took night classes anticipating completing my MS in Engineering Mechanics.
I slowly realized that I really didn't enjoy engineering, but I loved doing the math that it involved. So I completed what amounts to a BS in Math (~45 semester hours in math) and came to OSU to do my PhD. Before I even got my application put in, I realized that I couldn't spend 5 years in school being poor while my wife worked (she's a little older than I am, and we want to have kids before we're 40).
So now I'm 27 and getting my M.Ed in math education at OSU. Yeah, I understand what it's like to reconcile what you want to do with a more stable option. You may find that Law doesn't hold your interest forever, either. Changing careers isn't the end of the world - sure, it can be stressful (particularly if you have responsibilities outside of "I need somewhere to sleep and something to eat"). Whatever you choose to pursue, though, you should do as well as you possibly can. If you're worried about regrets over choosing the less ideal but more realistic option, you can be assured that if you half-ass it then the regrets will be even harder to deal with.
In addition, remember that you are not what you do. For overachievers (and Michigan grads...I kid!), identity is often conflated with achievement. As hard as it is, try to maintain a separation between the two. It's very easy to have an identity crisis and get depressed because you haven't achieved as much as your peers who may not have changed careers 3 times.
Just some thoughts. I'm currently going through a similar situation, and I realize how ragged it can make you. Keep your chin up, though.
Your job or career or whatever you want to call it will have some aspects that piss you off. I love what I do, and I like the people I work with but sometimes the office is the last place I want to be.
My point is that just because you think you will love something or are passionate about it, doesn’t mean that it will be all puppy dogs and ice cream when you arrive.
Is the juice worth the squeeze? No one can answer that besides you because we each have our own idea of what happiness is. (minus back to back national championships)
I'm an old grizzled bastard 30 years working for tiny start-ups and huge corporations.
I found it took quite a few years to hone in to what I liked and what I was good at. Until you do something firsthand it's sometimes hard to make that determination. I'm really up for trying incremental change. Can you try what you want on the side, can you do it as a volunteer, and can you grow your current job responsibilities to add more of what you want to do?
A friend of mine quit his Engineering job at Chrysler (in his late 30's early 40's) to become a fine wood worker. Attended a prestigious wood working school in Northern California (yes they actually exist). Loved it and found out he could not make a living at it. Now maybe it was more a sabbatical than a career change but he is back as an engineer. He could have done much of what he needed to do without quitting and bearing the associated financial penalty.
The question is can you do what you what to be fulfilled incrementally without quitting, going to law school and accumulating debt? What if you do all that and find it's not exactly what you wanted? Test the water first if you can, see what incremental options existing to see if this is truly your life's goal.
I have a job now where I make up my job. How and what I do I largely control. Yet I work for a massive company where you would not expect this kind of flexibility. It took a few years to get to this point but it's really cool now.
This will mostly echo what other people have been saying, but I think it's worth you hearing it from as many people as possible: don't take on $150,000 in debt to go to law school. Especially not if you want to do relatively low-paying work after you graduate.
If you really think law school is the best way to get where you want to go (and think hard about that), study for the LSAT more seriously than you've ever studied for a test. Apply broadly so you'll have more chances to get scholarship money. If your LSAT score is above the 75th percentile score for any school, there's a chance they'll throw some money your way. Also apply for any public interest law scholarships you can find.
Imagine how you would feel right now if you had $100,000 in debt and couldn't make the career change you want. Don't let that happen to you four years from now.
Who has never been completely satisfied with any of his career choices, I can tell you that your best option might be to stay where you're at, in terms of the firm, and ask if there are opportunities available to start gaining some experience doing what you really like best. You'll find that some employers (and it appears your current employer may be one) are very willing to help bright, motivated people to take on roles that excite them the most. In other words, grow the role you have now into the one you want it to be.
The advice from "Beeks", above, is worth remembering, (he did get thown into a cage with the gorilla at the end of that movie, but he and the ape have been happily involved since the 1980s, so it worked out). Don't underestimate the amount of stress involved, especially after dropping beaucoup bucks on law school, only to find it didn't provide the path you thought it would. Other than "law" and "policy" what about a legal degree makes you think you're going to be any closer to a career in health policy?
It sounds like you need to do some due diligence regarding a law degree. A basic J.D. is going to involve a lot of studying of torts and the like, without so much as a chapter on health policy. Be sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
Do your homework regarding the path you want to take. Have you talked to anyone in the field, asked about how they got to their current positions, and asked for their advice for your own career path? Between faculties of the Ford School, the School of Social Work and the Medical School, you should find plenty of people who are able to help you.
I'm farther down the road of that decision (by about 10 years) and haven't looked back. I made no money for awhile and it was somewhat difficult financially (although not a burden), but right now I'm pretty close to being out of debt and I am in a career I absolutely love.
In my opinion, your choice is easy. You clearly want to do some type of high-level policy work. Whatever it takes to get there--schooling, debt, internships, etc--go do it.
At your age I wouldn't hesitate to change career paths that end in following your dreams and desires. I too am changing careers but in a different venue.
I started off life wanting to go into law enforcement (federal) and then changed to teaching. Ended up going into the business world and have been working in supervision for 12 years now. I am now 40 years old and about to embark upon another career change although to me its not a career, its a calling. I have just turned in my application to begin working toward ministerial credentials. I feel called to minister to children and i also feel called to do so with those whom society has rejected such as those in poverty. Its no longer about money to me but about serving and following a higher call.
I applaud your desire to work in advocacy. Follow your dreams and keep your eyes upon the goal.
My real advice is to find out what you really want to do. I find that for political science types (I have a BA in PolSci), law school is often a default choice and is littered with people who went into the career to "make a difference". I'm not anti-law, but you should be sure it's what you want to do. Do you enjoy conflict? Not all law requries conflict, but most does, and the track that you want to pursue will. Perhaps, if you were to work at a law office for a while, even a couple days, you'd know if it is for you or not. Another important point. You may not be materialistic, but going to law school will put a HUGE debt burden on you - at least $100k - which you will take years to get out from under. Not to mention the fact that public interest law is very poor-paying work in general.
I realize I am sounding negative, so let me give you some (I hope) useful advice:
1. Take an MBTI personality test. You can pay for the full-blown one or you can do an on-line assessment to get an idea of who you really are. Examples:
2. Based on your personality type, figure out what you will be really good at and what you will love. The websites above will help, and you can purchase a book called "Do what you are", which maps personality types to fitting careers:
Now honestly, I haven't quite found my match in life and I'm 40. I don’t hate my job, I like it “fine”, but it’s not that rewarding for me either. I'm a searcher like you are and I would not be surprised if we are the same personality type. But I have avoided some big mistakes for me, such as law (this would have been a disaster for me, and I even went to orientation at a law school before figuring out it was not for me). You might prefer something like a master’s in public policy where you can work in a DC think tank or non-profit and help support a cause you believe in. Take a look at:
Hope this helps. Just find out what you really love doing. You know the destination (public policy) but I think the vehicle (law or something else) is worth investigating.
some of the responses makes me feel better about my situation (a few months out of college, no plan/clue/idea of what to do now). For the time being, after re-reading "The Age of Miracles," I think I'll go check out the latest version of Tropico.
how many responses would this thread have gotten if it were someone other than MGoJen who posted it?
it was MGoJimbo
so sorry if this is repetitive. Also, sorry for any elitism contained in this post. I'm a recent law grad with a good job so I can offer some perspective.
Make sure the law school you go to has an excellent LRAP (loan repayment assistance program).
No, really, MAKE SURE YOUR LAW SCHOOL HAS AN EXCELLENT LRAP PROGRAM.
Okay. If you are truly going to pursue a policy-related job, understand that you will not make nearly enough to service your loans. LRAP, which is usually only at top schools, will pay your loans off if you commit to a public interest type job. This should be one of your top priorities in selecting a school.
I'll be blunt--the legal job market is in shambles. Complete and utter mess. Big firms have cut back hiring by 60-100% and are laying people off. This means all legal jobs are at a premium and everything is hyper-competitive. Things may improve by the time you graduate, but remember that most legal jobs are earned in the summer of your 2L year.
I'll be even blunter--if you can't get in a USNEWS top 20 or so program (only the top 14 or so are truly national degrees), do not go to law school. The value of a law degree is SERIOUSLY shaky right now. Even a full-ride at a top 50 or whatever school is a losing proposition--3 years of salary opportunity cost for a ~15% chance at a decent job.
Other random advice: ignore average reported employment stats for schools, they are doctored and false. Ignore all subspecialty rankings - being the "#3 law school for international space law" doesn't mean anything to employers, even if they specialize in international space law. If you get a degree from a regional law school be prepared to stay in that region, possibly forever. Student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and Michigan's tuition was over $44,000 last year.
This is extremely good advice, though for what you want to do, if someone will pay you to go to law school you'll probably be fine.
of an exercise to get people to consider the foregone salary from 3 years at school. Many forget that piece of the puzzle and view a full ride as a costless opportunity. Also, the scholarships are often at lower ranked schools than the applicant could otherwise get into. Taking the lower ranked school is always a HUGE gamble, even when attendance is "free," because getting any sort of job from some lower-ranked schools requires top 30% or so grades. The rest are fucked, for the most part.
If anyone thinks I'm overstating my argument, ignore this advice at your own peril. Do a lot of research before taking the plunge.
all grads who work a community/state/public welfare job get the loan forgiveness after 10 yrs. also your advice on not going to law school except if you can get into top 20 is bullshit. she has a niche that is usually created for you by succeeding at a top 20 school. she's motivated, knows her field and is probably 10x more competent than her 1L peers when she goes. this gloom and doom crap is just that: crap.
Sorry, no one cares about past experience if your grades cannot get you through the door. The lower your school is ranked, the more impressive your grades have to be. During 1L, everyone is on equal footing, everything is on a curve. A person may or may not achieve the grades necessary to get a job where they want to be. The risk increases greatly as the name on the diploma loses value.
The doom and gloom is just reality, for now.
i know people who already have jobs who had mediocre grades but were heavily niched in their education and experience. if you're trying to apply with 500 other recent grads for a firm job, sure you make sense. but your advice is specifically tailored to someone trying to do corporate law. her desire to do advocacy and the like allows her to tangent into local/state political areas during her summers so that she walks into THAT and perhaps not even have to go through a job hunting cycle
again, you didn't tailor any of your responses to her MO. you tailored it to "generic law school graduate." further you said if she couldn't get into top 20 don't try - not to go and be top 20 in her class at whatever school it may be.
Anecdotal. There will always be exceptions. People should be risk-averse when deciding if they want to go to law school.
The "go be top 20" line made me laugh out loud. You've been to law school and you know how arbitrary exam grading is. Everyone thinks they will be top 10%...only 10% will be. Plus, everyone is gunning like hell these days for good grades and when on a curve, that just means you have to outgun the gunners. Good luck if that sounds doable.
but you're the epitome of the pot calling the kettle black. i was talking about YOUR advice. i would never say someone should only go to law school if they think they're top 20 in their class. i was saying that was as far as your advice should have gone and not the top 20 schools in the country line.
i think she could be in the 50th percentile and be fine. it's about finding your niche. everyone in law school is struggling to figure out what type of lawyer they want to be - if you go in knowing, you have a lot more time to extra curricular within the general field and be that much more ahead.
"if you go in knowing, you have a lot more time to extra curricular within the general field and be that much more ahead."
Bingo. This is exactly right. I knew exactly what I wanted to do the day that I started law school, which gave me the ability to seek out every possibly area for growth within that area from day one. I was essentially able to tailor my J.D. degree to be a mini LLM (rather than taking a little of this and a little of that) because I knew exactly what area I wanted to practice in. I think a lot of time when people give advice they get trapped in the general "I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went to law school so that means that no one does" mindset when that is totally not true for everyone. In my experience, this is why second (or third) career lawyers excel in the practice of law. They might not be the best law students, but (from my personal observation) tend to get hired more quickly and do better once they start practicing.
What you describe is definitely true for people that do not change their plans over three years. I was envious of the people that knew what they wanted when they arrived and left with a jump start on that path. If your goals the year after law school are the same as they were 5 years before, everything you say is true (and I assume the unintelligible sentence you quote is true as well).
Most people I knew had a plan on day 1, though, and most changed their plan.
law students on day 1 who say they want to work at a firm = 30%
students who interview when firms come for on-campus interviews = 80%
Oh I agree with you completely. Most people will change their minds. Although my experience was that second career students were more likely to stick to their original plan. I'm definitely different in this respect, as I knew exactly what I wanted to do on day one and I am doing exactly that today.
my experience was that second career students were more likely to stick to their original plan.
I believe that is 100% correct. And especially true for the over-30 group, who, to me, also seemed to be better, more focused students.
50th percentile people are having trouble finding jobs even at top 5 schools. You keep talking about finding niches but, as I said before, this is RISKY--specialized fields are hiring less or not at all at the moment, just liek firms. With the remaining spots, they are flooded with high quality applicants that couldn't find the firm job they wanted or with biglaw refugees/layoff victims (i.e., people with experience) and everyone else.
The school you go to is an insurance policy. Further, it can be determined in advance of you making any financial committments--if you don't like where you got in you can simply not go. If you commit to a school then your grades aren't where they need to be (i.e., 50-90% of people, depending on where you want to work and where you are attending), you are straight up screwed. Remember, your grades in each class are based off of one exam. You will take something like 8-10 tests and then your fate is pretty much sealed as far as the job you will get. Only 1L grades matter. Sick the day of an exam? Have something on your mind? Get a question or 2 you aren't ready for? Bad under pressure? Sorry, that's 150k and 3 years of your life out the window.
If you got lucky or know some people that did, I'm truly happy for you/them. I got lucky myself. But to ignore the real obstacles people entering law school right now will face is just wrong. You are doing people a disservice to just say "it will all work itself out." It may not. And the consequences are huge.
A couple of things:
"Remember, your grades in each class are based off of one exam."
Not all schools do exams this way anymore.
"You will take something like 8-10 tests and then your fate is pretty much sealed as far as the job you will get. Only 1L grades matter."
This is a total load of B.S. and an extreme over-generalization. I actually have a hard time believing that you seriously believe that "only 1L grades matter". That is only true if you have nothing else to differentiate you from everyone else and if you are specifically looking for a big firm job, which (1) most people don't end up working in big firms and (2) the OP isn't looking to work in a big firm.
Almost all schools use the one exam method, particularly for 1L classes. This isn't an iron-clad rule, but it is nearly universal (still). Upper level courses can have papers and all the other stuff, true.
Most people (even outside of firms) get jobs from their 2L summer job/internship. True, many public interest jobs do not work this way. Hell, some won't hire you until you pass the bar. Regardless, you will be making your connections/handing out resumes early on in law school. 1L grades are HUGELY important and 2L/3L grades are veeeeeery unimportant in comparison. Most employers know that upper level classes are useless fluff and grade-inflated, as well. I stand by my comments.
"Regardless, you will be making your connections/handing out resumes early on in law school. 1L grades are HUGELY important and 2L/3L grades are veeeeeery unimportant in comparison. Most employers know that upper level classes are useless fluff and grade-inflated, as well. I stand by my comments."
I'm not sure where you went, or why you would have pursued a courseload that would have your 2L and 3L classes consist of fluff, but I would suggest that this statement strikes at the heart of why we see things differently. If you go and take fluff as a 2L/3L, then yes, obviously your 1L grades become much more important. However, if you pursue real substantive classes as a 2L/3L, then your 1L grades become much less important. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but my 2L/3L courses were what got me where I am right now and were significantly more challenging than my 1L courses. I specifically sought out the courses that would help me excel in what I wanted to do (which wasn't just to "get a job", but rather to gain the skills necessary to be proficient in the general area of law that I wanted to practice in). Obviously your response to me will be that my experience is anecdotal, but my overall point is that you are painting with fair too general of a brush. My other point is that if someone goes in with a plan for what exactly they want to accomplish in law school they will come out with a very different expereince from the one that you are describing.
and actually took some of the hardest upper-level classes there (e.g., securities regulation) because they were relevant to what I wanted to do and I'm not one to take the easy way out. As it turned out it didn't matter for employment purposes - I had an offer for full time employment before I even took these classes or had grades. Your mileage may vary.
But that's not even the point. Employers heavily discount 2l and 3L grades because they are often not on a curve and heavily theory-focused. It's like a master's program GPA--no one cares about it because it's always a 3.8 or higher. Employers are way more heavily focused on 1L grades, where everyone is taking the same classes and subject to equal pressures.
And yes, your story was anecdotal. It's very abnormal for an employer to take great interest in your class selection and give you an offer based on it. Most of what you learn in law school is never applied in practice. Having a plan in law school is a joke as well--very few do exactly as they planned, even if they are nontrads. The fact that we had plans and followed through on them doesn't change the general rule. Had I performed better I would have looked at COA clerkships. Had I performed worse I'd be at a smaller firm or government or something.
What is obvious in reading your posts is that you know about how your law school works and maybe not as much about how other law schools work. Maybe at your school 2L and 3L courses aren't graded on the normal curve, but that definitely isn't normal practice at most law schools. And seriously, your 2L/3L classes always result in 3.8 or higher? Must be nice. Our 3L/3L courses were curved on the exact same curve as our 1L courses. Sounds like grade inflation to me.
Also, the fact (if it is a fact) that employers don't take a great interest in 2L/3L class selection is downright foolish on their part, in my opinion, espeically in certain specialized areas like I'm in. I can say for 100% that I got my job offer in large part because of my 2L/3L class selection and how I did in those classes. I can also say 100% for certain that the people that I look to hire have to have taken and done well in those same classes or they aren't considered. I don't have time to teach people the basics of the area of law. That's something they should learn in law school since, you know, it's the law.
3.8 GPA--I said Masters Programs give those grades, not my law school.
Your legal job is an aberration if it requires applicants to know a great deal of substantive law from 2L and 3L courses.
Ah, sorry. I misread that. Fair enough.
It's not so much that my job is an aberration, but rather it's reflective of the courses that I took. As I said in another post, I treated my 2L/3L years as a mini-LLM and focused heavily on the courses that would help me be more proficient at what I currently do. It's a combination of my work being highly specialized, taking a narrowly tailored core group of classes as a 2L/3L and being lucky that the law school that I went to is one of the few in the nation that has an LLM program in my area of law. So it's probably more safe to say that "I" am an aberration, not my job. On the other hand, my point from the outset here in my discussion with you (although not well stated) was that I am fairly certain employers do actually look at 2L/3L coursework IF there is any 2L/3L coursework of any substance. The fact that there typically is not is, in my opinion, more reflective on law students and law schools, rather than an employer's interest in considering it. Because, let's be honest, 3/4 (at least) of law students are there to take the easiest classes, get the best grades, and move on. In my experience, the second career students (and some traditional students) were more apt be focused on a combination of courses that would benefit them (regardless of difficulty) and courses that interest them. Just my observational opinion, though. I guess, at the end of the day, what we both need to remember is that the reality of the situation that were are discussing lies somewhere between each of our individual experiences.
I agree, for what she wants to do, there's no need to be at a T14. However, at that point, you really don't want to go too far into debt unless you are certain you're willing to work only public interest and live like a pauper (at least in many markets) for 10 years minimum. Many of even those jobs are not incredibly easy to get now, and it's harder at a lower ranked school if you're not at the top of your class. I don't think this is too doom-and-gloom. There are entirely too many law students and too few jobs.
The only other thing I'll say is that a ton of people come in as 1Ls assuming they're more competent than their peers, find out they're mistaken, and either 1) get debt they can't pay or 2) at many lower ranked schools, get cut after the 1st year. No reason to believe Jen is one of them at all, but I've never figured out really accurate predictors for that stuff.
for going to law school to have lawyering be an "option" while using the degree for the same general public interest elements of the OP and, eventually, to teach at the college level. i already have two BAs and an MA. i have no idea where i'm going to be or what i'll be doing in three months but even i am not as pessimistic as some of the people on here. education will always have value. dropping out after 1-2 yr might be where you regret the cost but someone with another degree will have their foot in the door if not for employment at least in life experience
Well based on how eager I am to get out of school, you certainly value education more than I do haha. No, I think as long as you WANT to be a lawyer, do whatever you want with it. The idea of using the JD purely as a means to an end, when actually getting one is so exhausting, expensive, and risky, is one I'd question.
I lucked out with all this due to my uncanny ability to win meaningless 3-hour typing contests. But I didn't know how I'd do going in, and I was going $150-200k into personal debt (which I've found it best not to think about). Had I known the legal market would be like this two years ago, I might have made a different decision, and I know many of my classmates might have too.
Edit: congrats on graduating, btw!
but after talking to professors and deans of programs i would want to teach in, i found that a polisci phd and a law degree can often be of the same value with one having almost solely academic value and the other having a business value as well. i'm waiting to see if MSU pulls their 97% passage rate again this summer and, if they do, taking the Barbri in E Lansing bc let's be honest, i don't care if it's Harvard, 97% passage rate is NOT how quality the law school is.
i want to work in the political process and a law degree would be required whether i'm an aide or the man himself. i'm 25 with two BAs an MA and a JD - i've got a lot of time to loathe myself should i regret the decision. as of now it's fine.
should the loan concept be looming
i graduate law school wednesday. it's rewarding. but the one thing that's relevant to you is that there is a federal program in place that if you work for the "communal good," meaning you work in some capacity for a non-profit or government (state and fed) position, for 10 years and make whatever the payments you are required, the rest of your loans are forgiven. so if you pay $300/month for 10 yrs and you racked up $150k in loans, $120k plus interest will be disappeared [sic].
if you have any questions about anything law school related, feel free to ask me.
Congrats on graduating. You make a good point, however, I'd like to make some counterpoints:
1. With the current financial position of the federal government, and the projected situtation 10 years from now, it may be a gamble to assume that they will keep this loan forgiveness program in place. Some things are going to need to be cut, and something like this might not survive. I say the same thing to people who think the Roth IRA is such a no brainer. It is, assuming they don't change the rules, and that is a big assumption.
2. Also given the future financial condition of the federal govenment, and the looming devaluation of the dollar to deal with huge deficits, accumulating money now has to be a priority, even if you are not materialistic as the OP is. With a public interest law job I doubt you'd be able to save a dime.
Now if it's something the OP truly, truly loves, I'd still say go for it. She won't strarve. But there are tons of people who go to law school thinking they will do public interest law only to find out that 1) it pays poorly; 2) there are few jobs; 3) it's not what they thought it was going to be. The OP doesn't want to get into that financial hole (and it will be hole, especially vs. the opportunity cost of giving up her current job) without thinking it through.
is a lot of people in the academic field think that debt consolidation will occur in the next two decades where a lot of loans will be forgiven/drastically cut in order to get them paid off. not banking on it but i'll survive. i don't have $160k in loans from my undergrad like those who had to do UM out-of-state did so i feel okay about it. given i don't have aspirations beyond living comfortably, being middle class is okay by me.
My commitment is still to the underserved and always will be, but I've decided that I want to go to law school. This is terrifying because I'm 26 and feel like I'm really old (even though everyone tells me I'm not); I always thought I'd have much more accomplished in my life by age 26 than I do.
Jen, these feelings are totally natural. I would guess that 95% of people go through these feelings. It has been said that the average person goes through 3 to 5 career changes in a lifetime, even though there have never been any studies about career changes--job changes, yes, but not career changes.
As a 40-year-old who is changing careers, let me assure you that you are not old, but rather young. Do not feel insecure about yourself because of the social teachings of "the American Dream" as sold by television and movies.
I think you have a general idea of what you want to do, but not a specific one, and even if you did, you aren't quite sure how to do it.
I strongly recommend you (and everyone) buy and use the book What Color Is Your Parachute? It takes you through a very thorough process that includes some of the suggested personality and career tests mentioned above. It helps you figure out your dream job, as well as how to figure out your path towards that career.
I personally believe that the earlier you do this work, the earlier you have a jump on the rest of society. Many people spend their entire lives searching for this, and many never find it, ending up in a career in which, while secure and financially strong, they end up counting the years to retirement.
I guarantee that if you buy and use that book, you will be (at the very least) satisfied, and very likely extremely happy and grateful that you did. Skip the chapters on resume writing, interviewing, and negotiating salary and go to the part on fining your dream job. Then go back to the chapters on the details. It's not much use working on resume writing and job hunting if you're hunting after the wrong job.
I hope this helped. Good luck and God Speed.
I struggled with this a lot when I was 26 ish. I'm 30 now, and I still struggle with it from time to time. I really have nothing to complain about, I make good (not great) money, have a good reputation at work, and I've had a reasonably fast career progression so far. Any annoyance I have career-wise has more to do with being impatient/over-ambitious than it does with having a reasonable complaint. Despite all that, I want(ed) to do something else. I'm good at my job but, I think I'd be good at things that I care more about, too.
For me, it comes down to the impact on the people counting on me; my wife and kids. The reason I chose my career in the first place was so that I could support a family quickly; fatherhood was my goal. Once I realized that--and it took a while, even after I had kids!--the angst went away; just like that. If I were single I'd switch in a heart beat; screw the money. My wife would support me without hesitation--that's why the issue is so complicated--my kids are too young to know or care. I'd still like to do something else but, for me, it's the timing that's off. I still have designs on making a switch, though; Just not right now.
So, my input to you would be:
- Dont't worry about your age. You're never too old to be happy.
- Don't over- or under- emphasize money. If you were to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, the last thing you'd be worried about would be how much debt you have or how much money you make. That said, I think St. Barth's comments above are solid. The timing thing with me is strictly about money and setting up a paycutt and still be able retire at a reasonable age and help my kids through school.
- At least try and be happy. If you don't think you're on a path to get there; bust out the compass and check your bearings. Right now.
- Don't confuse your career with your life; your job is just one aspect of your life. I think this previous post is worth a read.
Since we're discussing life... anyone on here an actuary? I've had this crazy thought of becoming one (major career change) and everything I read says it's in demand and high paying, but it tends to come from slanted sources.
Not exactly on topic, but my wife is a CPA and has built two very successful businesses just crunching numbers. Good customer service is a must, but if you are good at math consider getting a CPA. Almost everyone has to file a tax return.
part time pharmacists make about $60,000 a year, to start. for counting pills in the back of a walgreens...
also requires a professional doctorate (in Michigan at least). The cost of not working for four years really isn't worth it. Actuarial jobs seem to be able to be had through self study and exam passing, which can be done without giving up your current job. I don't dislike my current career enough to give up a couple hundred thousand dollars...
I also don't think pharmacy is quite as simple as you make it out to be, for what it's worth.
Geez, after reading these comments, maybe I need to step into a time machine and choose a different career path?
First things first. Too old at 26 to go to law school? Pshaw! I started law school at 32, and I'd like to think I've got a few good years left in me before I'm too old and decrepit to contribute to society.
Next, at least some of us actually enjoyed law school -- well, mostly, anyway. Yes, it is definitely challenging, but you may not find that a bad thing. As for the financial aspect of it, yes, it's expensive, and this should be an important factor in your decision, but if you're able to save a bit in advance, pay in-state tuition, and/or get some sort of financial support, you can hopefully keep your debt at a manageable level. (And you should always keep in mind the financial advice given by one of my friends -- "Marry in a minute what you can make in a lifetime!" I say this as someone married to a successful partner at a law firm, while I pursue a less lucrative legal career.)
Finally, I emphatically agree with what's been said by many others -- if you are lucky enough to feel passionately about something and you can do it well, things are likely to work out well for you in the long run. As has been pointed out, you should carefully consider how essential a law degree is to attaining your career goals. On the other hand, it does provide a solid foundation for any number of career paths outside the "core" legal profession. So, if you can figure out a way to make law school (relatively) affordable and you think you'd enjoy the intellectual challenges of it, I wouldn't necessarily rule it out just because it's possible to attain your career goals without it. Whatever you decide, full steam ahead and don't look back -- you've got plenty of time for course corrections!
I think this posts hits the nail on the head for actually addressing several the OPs concerns rather than just getting into overall opinions about the law school and legal profession experience. Well said.
I think the notion that if you're passionate about something and work hard, you'll do well is probably dead on. And there is no way 26 is too old to go to law school; it's closer to average than anything.
But I'm not so sure about the intellectual challenges part. In class, easily 75%+ of people are online g-chatting/websurfing/mgobloging (just me for that last one). These people are bored. The law doesn't have to be boring, but most classes are. Maybe, MAYBE 8-10% of people find law school itself genuinely intellectually engaging, but honestly: it's designed to drive that out of you. I'm excited to work this summer, but I have no desire to spend one more minute in a classroom memorizing rules of evidence for a typing contest. And I felt GOOD about that exam today.
Not only is most of it not intellectually engaging, it's not really that challenging. Can you study intelligently, make good outlines, and memorize said outlines? You'll do better than 80% of the people there. There is nothing difficult, interesting, or meaningfully challenging about that.
You chose . . . poorly.
Seriously, what can I say? I did find most of my law school classes intellectually challenging and rewarding. Now, maybe I was just a complete dullard, but on the plus side, I enjoyed myself! And my wife, who didn't enjoy law school nearly as much, still would not agree that it was "not really that challenging." I can promise you she's no dummy, and one of the things she disliked about law school was the stress of feeling like she was constantly on the verge of failure.
Anyway, congrats on finishing your exam (by the way, evidence was one of my least favorite classes, largely becausee of the prof and how he taught it), and enjoy your job this summer!
Same here. I hated evidence as a class. Interestly, however, I later really excelled at (and liked) evidence in trial ad. I guess it was all about the manner of presentation, or rather actually realizing how and why it works in a practical sense rather than just learning it in the abstract.
Jen, I really appreciated your heartfelt post. I have not read the entire thread, but have read several responses. Like many, I am a semi-recent law grad.
I work at a large firm in DC now, and, much to my surprise, like it. But I generally hated law school; even at Michigan. I am often asked by hyper-ambitious late 20 somethings in DC for law admissions advice. I am usually sad for them that they have become intent on going. My opinion is only my own, but I think law school is often a place where upbeat, intellectually-curious souls go to die.
As I read your post, my thoughts were (1) this is a wonderful person, (2) oh no, she wants to go to law school. You may leave law school with your high ideals and clear, people-oriented career goals intact. I think you will be the exception if you are able to do that (not saying you won't). I went to law school with no thoughts of working in the kind of job I am now. After borrowing $150k I reevaluated my options.
The thing I kept wondering, reading your post, was: how will a law degree help you do what it is you want to do? From what you wrote, it seems that you are already on a terrific path toward impact and influence.
I think a law degree is useful for many things besides practicing law. And a legal education may be very beneficial to you along your career path. But I am curious how you see it fitting in. The true cost of law school (tuition, living expenses, lost income) may be $300k for you. Money is not the point of life. Don't just make the decision that makes financial sense. But before making the investment in a legal education I would think carefully about whether the benefits of law school are worth it to you. Perhaps you already have.
At any rate, I wish you the best of luck. You seem like a tremendous person and I am confident that you will accomplish a lot whatever path you choose.
I think nearly everything's been hit, so I'll just add this (because I've done what you are contemplating):
Consider the financial ramifications, but not the social ones. Social concerns kept me from making changes at least a couple years before I should have (including what my family would think, etc.). The career idea, as it pertains to working in a specific field for the duration of your adult life, is a nothing but a social constructon. There is nothing in particular you have to do for any length of time because someone else has a better idea in their head of the way you ought to live your life...of what is acceptable/suitable, and so on.
What I would do (after financial consideration) is sit down and go through your motivations for doing what you do now and what you think you want to do. My guess is what you're doing now has a lot to do with what you believe other people (may) think and what you're contemplating has to do with who you actually want to be.
Lot of great responses to the OP. This is certainly a decision that no one should take lightly. I know some people say follow your heart. However, the way the economy is the cost of law school is really something that needs to be taken into account. I am not saying don't do it. Just make sure it is something you really want to do. I was actually thinking of starting a thread similar to this becasue I am changing careers as well and need some advice on landing an internship. I graduated with a BA in hospitality business. I have been working in restaurants since I was 16 and I am burned out on the food service industry. Last year I took a pay cut and enrolled in the masters of accounting program through the University of Phoenix. I would have liked to go to a "traditional" university however I think it would have been too difficult for me. I would have had to really cut my hours and I don't know if I would be able to survive financially. I did end up moving back in with my parents to save money. I am 30 years old and will graduate before the end of the year.
My problem is I don't have any accounting work experience. I enjoyed taking accounting classes during my undergrad degree and this is something I have wanted to do for awhile. I will have a decent amount of student loan debt when I am done but certainly not like law school debt. I am wondering if anyone has any advice about internships? I am also wondering if the fact that my degree will be from the University of Phoenix will hold me back? Any advice would be welcome.
Skoolz 4 foolz, man.
and maybe if offered and if you have the time and $$, add a joint law degree. Then, afterward, if you really want to affect policy, intern with local, state, federal reps or politicians and then maybe get Phd and teach or publish. A law degree carries a little respect but the cost is $100k+ debt and 10-20-30 yrs of your life paying it back unless you swing a big law firm job and bury yourself for 10 yrs or so. You do in many respects sell your soul because by the time you get out, you owe some fat $$.
There are several ways to "affect policy" being a lawyer in and of itself is not one unless you are involved in lawsuits that directly relate to policy or laws. Being a lawyer sometimes or used to allow you to get your foot in the door but the profession is oversaturated and it is more of a business for the school to make $ graduating 300+ students a year. My wife has a MPH/MSW and has/had the same aspirations to affect policy. I am an attorney and was premed and did research too, both of us have done a little of everything that relates to your concerns. It is really really difficult and limited (but not impossible) to directly impact policy and it depends on what level you want to have an impact, on the streets with individuals, local/state agencies, federal, legislative, academic, non-profit, etc. Talk to someone (a prof not a career counselor) at UM to get advice.
Avoid being among the 1,000s who run or "escape" to law school to find the answers to what they think they want in their careers or life. It is costly and time consuming and costly. You don't want to be climbing that career ladder only to finally get to the top and realize it was leaning against the wrong tower.
I am going through something similar, and needed to hear I wasn't alone.
You're 26. I'm 24. We're in our twenties, man. This is our fuck-up decade. I think you know the right answer here. Being good at something doesn't make it the right thing for you to do.
Go for it.
You still have a long life ahead of you bro, and God bless you for putting people ahead of money. I've always been at need for money but found ways to serve others anyway. Make the choices that fulfill you, not the ones that necessarily make you materially well off.
What exactly, about the name "MGoJen" makes you think it's a bro?
I echo the sentiments of those saying you should check out public health. I know nothing about a law career, but your background seems well-suited to public health if you are at all still interested in the scientific/medical aspect of healthcare.
While your professor says you should favor a school like WSU/UD that is more suited to your interests, I would really consider one that will give you the best overall education. Like you have already seen, your interests may likely change. If you go to law school planning on doing advocacy work, you may end the program pursuing an entirely new direction. Attending a school that gives you excellent resources in each area will be to your benefit, rather than setting your sights on one specialty before you start.
As far as your age, don't worry about it. I'm 28 and beginning a 4 year grad program with the possibility of a few-to-several years of training afterwards. The important thing is doing what feels right. There is plenty of time.
Also, don't worry what your advisors will think. They will be happy that you have found a career path that excites you. And if somehow that's not the case, well, it's not their life.