Law School. Yes, I know.

So I am thinking, like many classicists and other failed academics, of going to law school.

Here’s the catch, however. Two catches, actually.

Despite my academic snobbery, I think I would be better suited at the kind of school in which one can earn a fine education and incur very little debt.

Second, though I am considering law school, under no uncertain terms do I actually want to practice law in any conventional sense. Hence I do not want to even try to apply to an expensive private school that would leave me tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

So this question goes out to all of my favorite JDs, soon-to-be JDs, and any others in the know.

Besides practicing law, what can you do with the degree?

Well, you could become a law professor. That would probably require going to a top school, getting good grades, getting a prestigious clerkship etc.

I know a couple law school graduates who have worked on political campaigns.

Some of the big consulting firms used to recruit at law schools. Don’t know if they still do.

I bet a lot of law graduates become lobbyists, but I don’t know any.

I’m sure there’s other stuff too, but it seems to me that 3 years of law school is a long time for someone who isn’t interested in practicing law, but that’s just my opinion and not responsive to your question.

Be an FBI agent, be a sports agent (I met Penny Hardaway’s lawyer/agent at a conference), go into politics, all kinds of stuff!

What exactly do you mean by not practicing in the conventional sense? No litigation, no researching?

A woman named Deborah Aron wrote a book you might find helpful called “What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Careers Inside, Outside, and Around the Law” that you might find helpful. I’ve only browsed through it, but it seemed helpful.

Good Luck!

Hmmm. I wrot "you might find helpful twice in one sentence. That looks kind of stupid, doesn’t it? :slight_smile:

I also mispelled wrote and left off some punctuation…

By the way, good English skills are helpful in law school.

My God, I misspelled “misspelled”!!!

Pravnik, you are no different than any attorney I have ever worked for…16 drafts of a three sentence thank you card is about par for the course.

There are a lot of things to do with a law degree. I will refrain from mentioning the obscene. Almost any job would be enhanced with some legal background - real estate, journalism, dotcoms, or any managerial position. However, going through law school is no walk in the park - even the most motivated students feel like tossing in the towel after the first semester.
You might want to try a paralegal night school course first…cheaper and, to be honest, when you are finished, you’ll know about as much about law as many attorneys.

I think that the only reason to go to law school is if you want to be a lawyer and won’t be able to get over the want any other way. I suppose law professors and judges need to go to law school to. But practically speaking, judges need to be lawyers for a decade or two first. And while I now that there are some law professors out there that have never practiced, I can’t imagine that they would be any good as teachers.

The best advice I can give is to pick a law school where you want to eventually practice. The contacts you make in law school are crucial for getting a job during the first few years of practice, and for getting referrals once you are established.

Don’t worry too much about what you can do other than be a lawyer. There are so many types of law to practice that, so long as you enjoy critical thinking and communicating with people, you will find something to do.



That probably would be a state school, of which there are many very fine ones and don’t let anyone tell you any different(ly).

Well, most people who go to law school know what they want to do with their degree once they get it, and for most of them, that means practicing law. If you’re planning on going to school just to be in school – well, I guess you could go to law school for that reason, but it’s a hell of a lot of hard work to do as an academic exercise. If, on the other hand, you want to go to school (some school, further school, any school) to prepare for some career, then you have to first ask – what career? What do I want to do? (Even a list of hypothetical jobs would be helpful.) Then you can see whether going to law school would help you in getting from A (where you are now) to B (where you want to go). Because if it ends up you want to, say, teach history (and not history of law), then you might find you’ve invested three years of your life in getting a degree you’ll just never use.

Law school is a huge investment of time, energy and money. Even state schools will set you back $20,000+ for tuition alone. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, but it’s a huge investment for a degree you’ll only maybe use.

Having been a bit of a Jeremiah, I will say that there a several good books about non-legal things you can do with a law degree, though most of them are geared to people who get the degree intending to practice but then realize they hate practicing. There’s no reason they couldn’t be equally as useful to you.

Besides which, I would say that you are being hasty to say you absolutely don’t want to practice law. There are many, many different areas of law and many, many different ways to practice – not everybody’s in court all the time (or ever); not everybody argues every day (or ever); not all law is adversarial. You might not want to be a trial lawyer, but maybe you could work for a non-profit as a lobbyist, or draft policy, or issue ethics opinions? Or whatever?

But if you’re serious in want to not practice any law, though, two jobs I can think of off the top of my head where a JD would be helpful are: Law librarian – JD required, good money, helping people, get to be around books – and non-profit work – program directing or grant writing or whatever, where the analytical and writing skills of a legal background can make a candidate very attractive. You don’t need a law degree to do that, but it can be helpful.


Maeglin, if you’re going to law school just for the experience, here’s the best advice I can give you. . .


There are a lot of things you can do with a law degree besides practice law, but unfortunately most of them involve various bodily functions and/or orifices. Trust me on this one.

I had the misfortune to get my JD in 1995, when the market for first-year associates bottomed out, broke through the floor and kept falling. My fallback was to go back into the business world but I suddenly became overqualified for anything that didn’t involve legal work. That led me to a solo practice and then my current job, but that’s another story.

If you want to kill some time and get a graduate degree of some sort, find another field. Don’t go to law school unless you’re really interested in making the commitment to put yourself through three years of hell to enter a specialized field.


DMark, a managerial position? Good sweet bippy, are you crazy? Have you ever been managed by a lawyer? Combative, argumentative, self-centered, etc. all the training that makes for a good lawyer makes for a lousy manager.

Your crack about Pravnik and his 16 drafts is an excellent example of just this. It was so funny because it is so true. Lawyers make awful managers. But great cruel slave drivers.

Thank you for all of the responses. Just by way of clarification…

I am not interested in going just for the experience. It would be a career-oriented decision. I feel that my peculiar set of talents suits me either for an academic career (which is at the moment closed), an endless string of entry-level jobs, or a career in law. :slight_smile:

Second, it appears that I have spoken too broadly. When I say I do not want to practice, I mean that I do not want the conventional law firm experience. I have been a paralegal for two major New York City law firms for the past year. Suffice to say that it is not the lifestyle I wish for myself. I am not a huge Emerson fan, but he has one phrase I would love to say, over and over, to all of the attorneys I have ever worked for.

So I do not want to have the standard “Firm” experience. I would consider doing something law-related working in business, for the government, etc. It is to that end that I solicit suggestions.

Thanks, and keep them coming if you can.


I don’t have any advice on whether or not you should attend law school, but I do want to address your concerns about debt.

First of all, don’t rule out private schools immediately just because of high tuition. Remember that at many private schools scholarships are generous. You may be able to pay $7,000 per year tuition at your home state school, but you’d be better off with a $20,000 scholarship to that $25,000 private school.

Also: many schools now have loan repayment assistance programs for students who intend to do public interest work. At my school, if you take a job doing just about anything in the public interest that pays less than $40,000/year, the school will pay back all or part of your loans. While these programs are not available at most schools and vary greatly at schools where they are available, they are worth investigating if you think you want to do legal aid work, government work, etc.

All that said, I took out $40,000 in loans this year. :eek:


You can be a policy wonk.

You can work for a non-profit, either directing operations or providing legal aid.

You can draft and review business documents (potentially big money, especially in the realm of finance and securities).

You can handle business transactions (real estate deals, sales of goods, etc.).

You can get into law enforcement, or regulatory enforcement.

You can draft and revise proposed legislation (see “policy wonk,” above).

You can offer legal advice as “of counsel” to any number of organizations, from the U.S. Senate to Microsoft to Bob’s House O’ Pancakes.

You can be an (ugh) tax lawyer (potentially really big money).

You can draw up people’s wills and set up trusts for them.

You can administer trusts and estates, giving people money or explaining why you won’t, even though it’s technically their money (because you, as the trustee, decide disbursements).

You can run a mutual fund.

You can act as a guardian ad litem to abused and/or neglected kids.

You can be a private investigator.

You can assist in drafting new legal policy and/or procedure (once again, see “policy wonk,” above).

A law degree is either necessary or helpful in all off the above. Again, I think the question is: What do you think you want to do? And how will law school help you get there from here?

Good luck! :slight_smile:

Maeglin: Heh heh heh heh heh. :slight_smile:

Oh, and what Jodi said. Heck, I don’t want to be a lawyer…though more and more, regulatory and/or agency work is looking pretty darn interesting.

(Which is another consideration, by the way; there’s a good chance–especially given your intellectual curiosity–that once you’re in law school, you’ll find a field that completely fascinates you. Like maritime law! Like I said…heh heh heh heh heh.)

Someone I work with has a law degree. He’s a bike messenger. Not really sure how he ended up doing that.

My law school story in a “nutshell”

While I was in college, I played music. I grew dreadlocks, pierced everything, and got many hideous tattoos. I was convinced I would spend the rest of my life as a professional musician. Luckily, my band broke up eventually, and I found time to actually graduate college. I moved to Prague after graduation to start a new band with some former bandmates, and got more hideous tattoos. I stayed there for two years and had a great time, but that band petered out as well. So I moved home to America (in with my folks).

So I was 28, living at home again, and no idea what I wanted to do. My dad is a lawyer, and I’d grown up around it (won mock trial in high school!), and as all I knew was going to school and playing music, I decided to give law school a try. Largely so I could move out of my parents house asap.

So there I was, a passive, unargumentative artsy-fartsy type starting law school because I couldn’t think of anything better to do…and I LOVED it. It was like being handed a complex puzzle everyday and being told to solve it, and being challenged to react to pressure with grace. I was a good musician, at least fun to watch, but I found I was much more gifted as a lawyer.

I didn’t really go to law school with a career in mind; I suppose I was hoping to get back into music. Now I’m about to be hooded (graduate) in about three weeks, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I can’t tell you it will be right for you; many, many people can’t stand it or just find it isn’t for them. But if you have an analytical and inquisitive mind it’s definitely something to at least think about.

Also keep in mind that major NYC law firms are not really “conventional” law firms. NY is the premiere market for lawyers so you get a lot of high-strung type A folks at the big firms.

You can always practice at a smaller firm in NYC or go to a different city. Generally, the atmosphere in other places is more laid back than NYC. That’s not to say there’s no pressure, but your experience is at the top of the pressure pyramid.