We’ve spoken before about how law school isn’t really for anyone–it’s a difficult experience for almost everyone. But here I am pushing all lawtinas to reach this goal and for what? We definitely hear about all the downsides of law school (primarily the debt), but what are the real tangible, benefits you receive once you earn a JD?
One of the reasons I encourage more of us to become attorneys is because being a lawyer isn’t just another career option. Lawyers are leaders. They are the ones looked to during crisis. They are the ones that help create, set, and executive policies and laws that impact our loved ones’ daily lives. And whether you agree with this model or not, that is the current reality. Lawyers have the ability to gain and flex power that changes the landscape in so many ways. But even that possibility can feel nebulous and unattainable when we’re just starting our law school journey.
A more immediate benefit is how your brain is re-wired to think like a lawyer. Some people hate it, but I think it’s such a valuable skill. Thinking like a lawyer allows you to view things strategically. You are able to assess situations quickly, plan ahead, compare & contrast, view situations in ways that others not trained in law do not. It’s a common experience that after 1L year, you begin to see liability everywhere and yes, that part is a little annoying and clinical, but the point is that thinking analytically heightens your awareness and ability to assess situations in both a proactive and protective way.
Second, being a lawyer opens doors for you. Again, whether you agree that lawyers should be the ones that get so much say in how things are run, the current status quo is that lawyers are often given access, information, and deference in various settings. What does this mean? It means that you’re viewed as a leader and you’re not as easily dismissed by others for being young, or brown, or a woman. I mean, let’s be real, we still are, but overall, being an attorney changes how people see you. Of course it shouldn’t take a GD JD for you to be listened to, but we’re here to leverage every resource to our benefit.
For me, the most important benefit of becoming a lawyer is that I now know the game. You know how the game is run too and you’ll leave law school equipped with the tools to protect and defend the people you care about in a more impactful way. You’ll be a wealth of resources and knowledge for communities that are purposefully disengaged from the process. Imagine being able to help a cousin with an unlawful eviction or help a parent expand a small business just because you have the knowledge and insight to navigate those stressful, daunting, and often confusing situations.
The last benefit is, of course, shhmoney. This part is tricky because everyone’s financial situation is different and I can’t promise everyone a pot of gold. Plus, most of us end up in public interest, which does not pay extravagantly. Further still, that student loan tho…it’s always leering over our shoulder. But the reality is that money matters will likely be different than how you grew up–especially if you pursue a career in the private sector. Even the summers in big law can elevate you financially. This also increases peace of mind–I think back to my childhood and know that no matter what, I have the tools to live a much more stable financial life. If you also grew up poor, poor then you know that not experiencing that gnawing stress about money is major. Of course, you’ll still stress about bills (again, those student loans tho…) but this is at a different level–one that feels less like it’s about survival and much more manageable.
When you’re in the midst of the law school process you don’t notice these benefits or feel their effect for a while, but it’s important to highlight the good you’re gaining from this experience; even when some goals feel unattainable or classes are too esoteric, the reality is that the magic is happening. You’re becoming an attorney and soon you will be granted all the privileges that come with it.