Sunday, January 9, 2011

Are you considering law school?

Kevin Barney at By Common Consent wrote a post entitled All About Law School. He discussed his experiences in law school and invited the commenters to do the same. As regular readers of my blog know, I've had a rather difficult and atypical law school experience. That has colored my response to the questions asked. I've reproduced my comment below.

1. The Decision to Go. I first thought about law school when I was on the mock trial team in high school. I went to college and majored in poli sci, minoring in philosophy. I wanted to be a civil rights litigator. My last year of college, I took the LSAT, did fairly well, and I started out on my applications. However, it felt like the wrong time. I went on a mission instead, and I ended up starting law school right after I got back.

2. Where to Go? I didn’t want to lose any time between coming home from my mission and starting law school, so I looked for schools that would allow me to start mid-year. (I got home from my mission in December.) At the time, I became aware of only one school that had such a program – Golden Gate University in San Francisco. I’m from the Bay Area, so this was great. I spent my P-days working on my application. I got accepted and started school 3 weeks after getting home from my mission. (GGU didn’t work out.) On my second attempt, I went to Santa Clara University. I’m now a 3L there, and I’ll be graduating in May. I’m very happy at SCU. It’s a good school with a supportive and approachable faculty.

3. The Cost. I took out loans at GGU, and at SCU, I’m working and taking out loans. I didn’t get any scholarships. I’ll graduate with about $140,000 in debt, which is atypical. This is because I lost all of my credits from GGU when I went to SCU, so I’m basically paying for 1.5 law degrees.

4. What Was It Like? I was miserable at GGU. The school got put on probation with the ABA while I was there, and it created a pretty toxic atmosphere. I also realized that my starry-eyed view of the law was not accurate. I had envisioned it as being like a continuance of a philosophy program. When GGU and I parted ways, I had abandoned my desire to be a litigator and I nearly enrolled in a PhD program in philosophy. I ended up deciding to go back to law school, but I don’t plan on practicing law. (Well, I’ll probably have to for a few years to pay back my debt.)

5. Grades. I had a bad first semester at GGU. I pulled my grades up, and I ended up getting the highest grade in the class in Constitutional Law. Anyway, by the end of my third semester, my GPA was respectable. However, the school was on probation and decided to purge my class. My Witkin Award and my disqualification letter came in the mail the same day. At SCU, I’ve been a solid B student, punctuated by a few A’s as well. I’m on a law journal. In the grand scheme of things, I’m fine with it, seeing as I’m juggling work and school at the same time, along with a chronic health condition.

6. Getting a Job. Let me get back to you on that one. I’ve decided to be a professor. I know that I’m fighting an extremely uphill battle with this one, given my grades, my false start, and given that SCU is a good school, but it isn’t Yale. I’m writing like mad, and I’m hoping that once I have a few articles to my name, somebody will take a chance on me.

7. Would I Do It Again? I don’t know. I feel very strongly that God called me to law school, so in that respect, yes. (Though I would have done it differently.) However, in the absence of an unmistakable spiritual prompting, no, I would not do it again. I would go for the PhD in philosophy.

8. What Advice Do You Have for People Considering Law School? Make sure you’ve done your research on the school you’re planning on going to before you go. Where you go can make or break your career. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. There was a time when I didn’t know how to have a conversation that didn’t revolve around law school. Don’t lose yourself like that.


C.J. said...

First, I don't know that 140,000 in loans actually *is* atypical. I know a lot of lawyers, and they all have roughly the same amount of debt. Many have more.

Second, I wonder if many of your problems weren't caused by starting midyear? For me, 99% of what made law school bearable was my friends. First year is an incredible bonding experience; everyone pretty much makes the friends they'll have throughout law school. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been, joining the other first years after they'd gone through that adjustment process.

Why do you want to be a professor?

Keri said...

Thanks for your comments, CJ. I don't think my problems were caused by starting mid-year. There were 100 people who started mid-year with me, and we were kept separate from the rest of the 1L class. So, basically, I had the 1L experience, just shifted by a few months.

I've been planning a "why I want to be a professor" post for a while. I'll try to get to it sometime this week.

C.J. said...

That's a pretty cool way to do it, actually; you got to be your own special section!

I was inspired by your post, so I took a stab at answering these myself.

I'm excited for your post on being a professor!