These days it seems that many young people are reconsidering a decision to enter or stay in law. The authors think that there are many reasons to still value a legal career. But there are also some important questions to ask of yourself in considering a career in the law.
For one, a career in law offers you not just a job – it offers you much more. Your legal career has the possibility of offering you novel and fascinating work that continually changes and brings you in touch with bright and interesting people. Your skills will be challenged at every turn.
Secondly, you learn about new things all the time. It is an intellectual exercise that can fully captivate your skills as well as your intellectual faculties. If you like dealing with novelty and overcoming obstacles on a daily basis, then a legal career has much to offer.
Thirdly, you can achieve some real and meaningful results for people – and allows you to be, in every respect of the word, a trusted professional. Lawyers have a particular place in society – they have the skills and the social legitimacy to challenge the existing order in a way that can produce change not only for your client but in a much wider sense as well. There are many lawyers who work in areas of the law that could be considered social advocacy.
Fourthly there are many legal careers that do not involve working in the BigLaw environment. For some, this is the pinnacle…but the authors have also seen many who were much better suited to other careers. Fortunately law is diverse enough that you can find a career in Government, in smaller firms, in IT, in health care, in industry – indeed the critical thinking skills that you acquire can be used in many other careers and life paths.
Of course all this is premised on one very important assumption – namely that you are, and remain, passionate about the work that you do. We think this one factor, over all, spells satisfaction with not only a legal career but indeed any other career or job for that matter.
Accordingly, if you are not passionate about working in the law – if your motivation(s) for seeking out a legal career are more closely aligned to a big paycheck or status or similar themes, then I would hazard a guess that ultimately a legal career will not be satisfactory.
In our view, any financial success that you reap from your legal career is a result of helping people and doing it well. Success in law, like many other professions, is directly tied to how well you are able to apply your skills to achieve real results for people. You have to have a drive and a desire to truly bring about meaningful change for people. Law is a skill set – you acquire the skills to be able to assist, to change, to challenge, to craft and to persuade – to bring about results that value to people.
If you care about this …really helping people by using your legal skills… then a career in law will be richly rewarding in many ways. Don’t become focused only on being in private practice in a big law firm. There are many rewarding opportunities outside of that environment.