Some general career advice for people thinking of going to law school
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I launched a video about whether or not you should go to law school and it has generated a good amount of hits so far. Click on the picture above to go to my Attorney Steve Youtube Channel. Since then, I have received a good number of responses and emails, and so I wish to share a little bit more for anyone that is interested. The following are a few responses I gave to questions that might be helpful if you have this difficult decision to make.
Should I go to law school?
1. It is a very professional career and to me, the sky is the limit. We wake up every day and solve difficult problems for our clients, and we never know what issue we are going to be working on next.
2. It is hard work, alot of reading, writing, analyzing, phone calls, letters, pleadings (if you litigate like we do), etc. So in my opinion, the profession is best for someone who likes to work hard, and enjoys tackling problems
3. If you are thinking of law school, picking a “niche” is always important. As far as taxes, everyone has to pay taxes (that’s a pretty big market to begin with), and if you can carve out your niche within that area, that will help you.
4. As far as whether its best for you or not, you have to look at what your other options are (do you have any better prospects as far as a career), and I always advise people “if you think you want to do it, go see if you can clerk for a local tax firm for a summer to see if you like it.” There is no substitute for being on the job and seeing if you like it or not.
5. Costs is always another issue to consider, what school will you go to, will you go full or part time?
6. For me, I worked all through law school, and went to night school – I loved it. Loved meeting other professionals, and I was in no hurry to get my license – just enjoying the process of learning, and being in law school. For me, it made all the difference in the world. Let me know if you have any other questions. I can give you the name of the tax lawyer from AZ if you want to talk to him, he is a nice guy and I am sure he could tell you his experience.
I want to go to law school because it “opens doors to other careers”
I know there are a lot of people who get the JD because it “opens doors” or it is a “great education” or that “you can do so much with a law degree.” I also believe that to be true, just look around, there are people from all industries that have legal backgrounds. So that alone is a great reason. For me, as one law professor told us as a first year law student…..does anyone else in your family have a doctorate degree? If not, then you will be the first.” Pretty powerful, and the juris doctorate degree is a great degree for so many different professions. You also have to keep in mind that I am an optimist by nature. What I wanted out of law school was the education, SO THAT I could be a lawyer. I wanted to draft contracts, argue cases in Court, show up at depositions, counsel and advise people with serious problems. For me, it was the ideal job, and it still is. But I always like better the person that has the plan to go to law school to make it in law, and to find their niche in the legal profession.
There are too many lawyers already – the world doesn’t need another lawyer!
Some people say “well there are too many lawyers.” I say, there are not enough good ones, and like a microbrew beer or wine (in a crowded marketplace) there is always room for a great new product. If you think that you are that type of person to bring that to the table, then also a good reason weighing in favor of going to law school.
What are the critical qualities I need to have to make law school a good choice for me?
1. I think you have to have a passion for several things to be a really good lawyer (and we are always “practicing” these things because it takes so much work to perfect yourself, I work at it everyday, which is challenging, and keeps me pushing):
A. Reading and research: To me, there are not enough people really willing to dig into the law books and find that case you need, or legal argument you need. Having the ability to enjoy finding the needle in the haystack is a great legal skill to have, and to master
B. Drafting letters, briefs, motions, – enjoying writing is something that you cannot live without. It is a big part of the business, and to me, you have to love drafting great legal letters, contract, etc.
C. Arguing cases – Law and motion. Showing up and putting your research on trial, and making the arguments raised in your briefs. This requires a love of oral advocacy. This is another thing that will improve with time, but it’s nice to have a strong interest in wanting to be in Court in the first place.
D. You have to be good with handling stress – you get it because you end up with a lot of Client with legal needs. Part of this is learning how to manage clients. The other part is learning how to be more organized and managing your own time. These may sound like simple things, but when you get busy in law, you find you have a lot to do. Which for me, is great. I love being busy with things to do. But for some this is a stressful event that they have a hard time coping with.
3. Law is a great business. For example, today I quoted $75,000 retainer fee on a case (financial elder abuse). There is a good chance I will get it. Litigation case. These opportunities are present. Not too many jobs can offer you that potential, which is why I never think about using my JD for another field, and why I think its important to focus on your legal niche early on. I also recently filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit that has the potential for four million dollar verdict. This is just two cases, you can get so many more going.
Can you guarantee I will succeed as a lawyer or attorney?
No, but you can. So, while I cannot guarantee any type of success, or tell you which field to get into, for me personally, law is the greatest job there is. As owner of my own firm (2 attorneys) we get to call our own shots, advise clients according to our gut, and make our own hours. I know there are many disgruntled people in law, and I always feel sorry for them and why they picked a career that was not best for them, understanding who they are, what motivates them, and what types of sacrifices they are willing to make to advance their own careers by helping clients. There really is no greater direct way to help people (aside from the other learned professions) than being a lawyer. Yes, technology is changing things, but with a growing population, increasing rules and regulations, international e-commerce, etc., you can be assured there will be no shortage of problems to solve.
Is law school right for me?
For me, it’s the only game in town. You have to search your own heart and decide if it’s right for you. You also have to keep in mind, I am an ex-baseball player. When I was done playing I was not sure what I wanted to do next, and after a few years in various sales jobs, I knew I needed do plant some roots.
For you, talk to people, run the math, think about what legal niche you would fill (assuming you want to be a lawyer), or try to identify what non-legal job you would like to pursue. My general two cents is if you are looking for a non-legal job, there might be a better way to get there than law school. Maybe, maybe not. But you should look.
Go to Courts, intern at a local law firm for the summer. You have to check it out in advance. I spent about a year investigating before I finally decided to put my fears aside and just go for it, all in, win or lose. Did I have fear I would not pass the bar exam? Sure. I busted my butt anyway and worked as hard as I could, thought positively and believed in myself. If you fail the bar, you can always take it over again.
Does California have a law office study program where you can become a lawyer without actually having to go to law school?
So that is my experience and general observations. As they say in the movies “follow your heart” but only after you have done your due diligence and investigation to make sure it is right for you. We wish you nothing but the best success. In the meantime, we would appreciate any referrals for business, real estate, personal injury, insurance and intellectual property litigation cases.
-Attorney Steve Vondran-
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