Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Law School Myths and Misconceptions

I spent a fair amount of time recently trying to talk a pre-law out of going to law school. Over the course of the conversation, he was surprised several times by certain things I said about law school and legal careers. I thought I would throw the debate open to you all to discuss some ideas about law school that people not familiar with it or with practice might have. If you disagree with any of these statements, please comment; I hope this may be a useful resource or at least begin a conversation. Here are some examples of statements that surprised my listener:

  • Law school does not make you more marketable in most public policy jobs. You would be better off trying to publish, speak, and raise your profile.
  • Law school will not provide more networking opportunities in the policy community than working in that community.
  • Having a law degree may make you overqualified for some jobs and lead to skepticism about hiring you.
  • Most law schools do not teach legal writing effectively.
  • Law school teaches you to read cases, not to practice law.
  • Learning to think like a lawyer is not the same as developing a "big picture" point of view in which you see how various aspects of government and law work together.
  • Even if you have a scholarship to law school, you will probably graduate with significant debt due to living expenses.
  • Going to school in the city in which you hope to work is important, unless you attend one of a few highly-regarded schools with a national profile.
  • It is very difficult obtain a J.D., work in a public policy position for a few years, and then obtain employment at a big law firm paying NY market salaries. (The reverse is easier and common.)
  • A J.D. is not a guarantee of employment, much less a guarantee of a NY market salary.
Are these true, mostly true, mostly untrue, or entirely untrue? What are some myths about law school or law practice that you could share?
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