Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Recommendation: Should You Really Be a Lawyer?

Are you planning to go to law school? You must read this book, Should You Really Be a Lawyer? The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During & After Law School

The author, Deborah Schneider, came to speak to my Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity club the summer before I attended law school, and out of all of the career decision books I have read, this is the only one that could stand the test of time. I wish I had a dollar for every time I said, "I wish I had listened to Deborah's advice," especially when, toward the end of my law school stint, I would rather have scratched my eyes out than read another legal case about murder and manslaughter (too gory for my classical pianist eyes!).

Deborah has a JD, and is the former Associate Director for Career Development at the University of California Hastings College of Law. Her book has three main audiences: prospective law students, current law students, and practicing lawyers. However, I think the career advice would apply to almost any career path.

My favorite part of the book: the assessments. Deborah and her co-author, Gary Belsky, have provided their readers with short, magazine-quiz-like assessments that challenge your assumptions about the legal world and the dazzling, high paying careers you think law will lead you to once you finish law school. For example, Decision Assessment 2 asks you to:

Check all the statements that apply to you:

I'm considering going to law school because...

A) I'm not sure what I want to do, and a law degree will keep my options open.
B) People whose opinions I trust are encouraging me to get a law degree.
C) I've thought about what I'd enjoy in a job, and the law would be a good fit for my skills, strengths, and interests.
D) The people whose jobs I'd like to have in a few years all have law degrees, even though they no longer practice.
E) I've already worked in legal and non-legal environments, and I would prefer a legal setting.
F) I was a liberal arts major, so a law degree seems like the next logical step.
G) Everyone says I would make a good lawyer.
H) I'm competitive by nature, so I think I'd enjoy law school and the legal profession.
I) My prior professional experience sparked my interest in law.

(Schneider & Belsky, 2005, p. 23-24).

At the time, I checked C and F, then eagerly proceeded to the paragraphs below my answers to read what my responses said about me and my assumptions. Once I had finished my entire assessment, I received a score of 71, which put me in the gray area. I laugh when I read the description of the gray area, because it was dead on: "You probably do have some valid reasons for going to law school and a sense of what you want from a JD, and you have done a little research. But you may be reading this book because you're still not sure that law is the right decision for you." (Schneider & Belsky, 2005, p. 44).

Was Deborah right? Absolutely! So if you are looking for a magic 8 ball to tell you if law school is the right fit, don't let the LSAT tell you that, read Should You Really Be a Lawyer? It is well worth the $21.86 bucks, which is nothing compared to the debt you will take on if you wait to address your uncertainties until after you are too invested to get out! Of course, you may read the book and decide law school is the right path for you. And if so, all the power to you.