Law Degree is Not Just for Legal Practice

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I disagree with those who say “Don’t go to law school unless you’re sure you want to practice law.” A legal education, earning a J.D., passing a bar exam – these achievements have intrinsic value even for those of us who do not practice law.

Here’s a blog post from last year that has a funny David Kelly quote about the decline in law school applications. But some of the comments argue that people unsure of their reasons for attending law school should not apply. I disagree.

Here are some of my reasons for disagreeing:

1. I do not practice law. However, my experiences as a law applicant, law student, and law school graduate led me to my career in law school administration. In turn, (although I did practice law for 3 years before doing this) I was able to open my own business as a law school admission consultant. Without my law degree, no law school would’ve hired me – at the age of 26 – to head up their entire recruiting and admissions effort. With my law degree, I was better paid -and happier- than most of my peers who were practicing law 1 year after earning a J.D.

2. My legal education changed the way I think and approach problems. It made me smarter. It made me realize what is relevant, in business and in life. I think better. That is worth every penny I’m paying back in law school loans.

3. My law background allows me to make a difference in my community. For five years, I’ve participated as a member of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League Civil Rights Committee. I now serve as Chair of this committee and am a member of the local Board of Directors. My law degree allows me to contribute to my community, whether or not I practice law.

When I applied to law school in 1995, I wrote in my personal statement that I wasn’t sure I wanted to practice law. In 1999, as the student speaker at my law school graduation, I repeated the sentiment but added that I knew the kind of life I wanted to lead and that my law degree would allow me to live that life. I stand by that statement.

2 thoughts on “Law Degree is Not Just for Legal Practice

  1. Sadikquah on said:

    Hi Ann, I know this blog post is over 2 years old but I am so glad that I read this and I had to comment. I’m 29 years old, I went back to school part time to finish my undergrad degree in Finance (I’m still working towards it) and I am planning on attending law school in the next few years. I work full time at a nationally known large financial services company and I have worked in financial services for 10 years. I love business and finance and want to stay in that industry. Even though I have always had an interest in law, a law firm is actually the last place I want to wind up at and every article and blog I read says that you shouldn’t go to law school unless you want to practice law. I was starting to rethink whether or not I should go to law school since I don’t really want to practice law, I just want to use legal knowledge in a business capacity. So I’m very excited to have read your blog and learn that law school is not just for those looking to land law firm jobs. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • My pleasure. And so many lawyers do not work in traditional private practice arenas. I’m glad you found the post and I hope you find lots more helpful advice on this topic, here and elsewhere.

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