I Went to Law School to Change the World. Did I Make a Mistake? – Part Two of Two

(Updated on 8/21/13 to add a link to the Part 1 post.)

Today’s post is the second part of the two part series begun yesterday. You can read part one here. Both posts were inspired by Jordan Rushie’s statement on his blog that if you don’t want to represent people in court, you should not go to law school. I discussed why I went to law school and how law school is hindering and not helping my career progression. Today’s post will conclude the discussion analyzing whether it was a mistake for me to go to law school and will solicit your feedback.

Was My Decision to go to Law School a Mistake?

Jordan Rushie would probably say that it was. Me? I’m not sure.

My expectations to learn to be an agent of social change and to “save the world,” though naïve, were understandable. Lawyers who have not been involved strictly in representation have, indeed, played important roles in our society.

Further, I know that there are other pre-law and law students that share my bold but still not-yet-fully-formed ambition to “change the world.” These students may be unsure about what they want to do specifically but they bring their desires to try to solve the world’s problems to law school with much of the same desire with which clients come seeking problem-solving assistance from their lawyers: they know they want to fix something but they’re not exactly sure what the problem is or how to resolve it. We know that lawyers succeed in solving clients’ undefined problems. It is reasonable to expect that law school be a similar catalyst for law students who want to solve the world’s problems but who just don’t know exactly what those problems are yet.

That said a law degree and law school shouldn’t and can’t be everything to everyone. There is significant value in our society in a lawyer’s role as trusted counselor, advisor, advocate, andrepresentative and those skills are difficult and expensive to teach and develop. We need law schools to teach these skills and train law students to practice them, and practice them well.

In sum, I don’t know if my decision to attend law school was a mistake. Honestly, five years of practice is too short a period to evaluate the effectiveness and relative success of a lifelong career choice. However, at this point I do agree with Jordan that law school generally serves those who want to “represent people.” Someone with my more amorphous ambitions should think hard about the decision to go to law school particularly in light of what it costs and the skills it emphasizes.

What Do You Think?

Most importantly, though, what do you think? Am I misguided in thinking that law schools should make room for those seeking skills broader than those directly related to representing a person/corporation/or government entity? Are my expectations for legal education too high, too amorphous, or even misdirected?  Or is it time for our profession to be more honest and direct, as Jordan has, about who should and does go to law school and why?

Please provide your comments. I look forward to your feedback.

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