I Let My Dad Talk Me Into a Law Degree


Q
I graduated top of my class from a public liberal arts college with a perfectly useless double major in Spanish and sociology. I then spent a year and a half as a customer service agent for a health insurance company, talking to 100 ignorant and angry callers a day while longing for the sweet icy embrace of death.

After realizing that the real world was no place for me, I decided to look into going back to school. I considered going to study creative writing or theater. Of course, since I wanted to live indoors and not eat from dumpsters, I figured an MFA wasn’t the best use of my time. So I found a masters program in mass communications at the top in-state university. I figured that a masters in public relations and advertising would have enough emphasis on writing and theatrical flair to keep me happy, all while still being a bit more practical than an MFA.

I announced my intentions to my father who immediately discovered that the mass communications program offered a dual degree with the university’s law school—the same law school that he, my mother, and my older brother all attended.

Let me be clear: I have never wanted to be a lawyer. I lived with lawyers my whole life. They don’t seem like happy people. Besides that, I am a “sensitive” and “artsy” type, which—as I understand it—are qualities not well appreciated in the legal world.

Dad said that he would pay if I were to get into both programs. But if I only did the mass communications program, I was on my own.  He also had a list of very persuasive reasons why to study law (e.g. it opens so many doors, you can do so much with a law degree, it’s a fallback option, another tool for your tool belt, etc.).

So I figured I’d apply. And once I got in with a nice little merit scholarship, it seemed wasteful not to go.

In August, I was optimistic.  By September, I was spending every evening curled up in the fetal position weeping.  October was spent in a walking coma, as I realized life was nothing but a slow, meaningless slog to the grave.  Now here we are in early December, and thanks to a hefty dose of anti-depressants, I am lucid again.  I may even manage to pass my classes, if I get my ass in gear.

But I still don’t like law school, and I still don’t know if this is for me. I spend most of my time surfing the Internet and working on concepts for musical comedies or TV shows. I have no interest in joining any legal student organizations. I signed up for improv instead of moot court. I’ve started reading tarot cards, but not property. And come Wednesday night, belly dancing classes always seem more important than my civil procedure assignment. At this point, the only thing pushing me through the semester is the promise I made to my parents—and the possibility that legal/litigation public relations might be a good fit for me (though I am not certain you need a law degree for that).

My questions are thus:

  1. Do you know anything about legal/litigation PR, and what sort of degree would I need? (i.e. Is it worth getting a law degree for that?)
  2. How can you tell law school culture shock from a genuine dislike for the subject matter of law?
  3. Is first semester 1L year too soon to pick up and leave?  Should I “give it a chance” in hopes that I might find some interest during 2L or 3L year?  Would it be “shutting the doors” to quit now?

A
I’ll take it from the top:

  1. Going to law school to work in PR is idiotic. Just read what I told this guy. Sure, a law degree could help, but it’s hardly necessary—and not particularly helpful. In fact, it could hurt you. For example, a seasoned PR exec would never say something like, “My questions are thus.”
  2. It’s tough to separate culture shock from genuine dislike.  If you hate the hours, the pressure and the intensity of law school, but you actually like learning about the law, it’s most likely culture shock.  If you hate the hours, the pressure, the intensity, and you actually hate learning about the law, it’s most likely genuine dislike.  I, for one, actually liked law school, but hated being a lawyer.  So if you already hate law school, the odds of loving the practice of law are even more remote.  If you ask me, you’re probably in the “genuine dislike” camp.
  3. You’re hardly the first person to feel this way, but everyone’s situation is different. Given your interests, it’s never too early to quit. In fact, it’s better to quit after one semester than two. But that’s up to you, sister. It’s a tough decision, no doubt. My general advice on this: If you KNOW you don’t want to be a lawyer, don’t go to law school.
Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

22 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    December 9, 2009 at 6:12 am

    You have my sympathies.  There may be better for you to leave now, as the website person recommends.  If you are of child bearing age, I will date you.  My Aunt Ooona will be pleased that you have at least the intelligence to get into law school.  My Aunt Ooona financed my education, as my own father, Colonel Boudanu, wanted me to stay in Ghana and pursue a military career.  So you see, none of us have parents whose advice we follow.  But you will have to think about whether you are interested in relocating with me and bearing my children, because I do have a valid purpose for you

  2. itsmelen

    December 9, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Why waste your dad’s money?  Stick with the communications program.  Continuing on for the sake of continuing on is going to cause resentment for everyone. 
    I realize this is much easier said than done, but you need to sit down with your dad this winter break and tell him that you are genuinely unhappy studying law, that you don’t think you’ll be any happier in the practice, and that you want to return to your original focus.

  3. PGuy

    December 9, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I liked practicing law WAY better than I liked law school, but I HATED practicing law. I’d say everything about your path to this point indicates that being a lawyer would be hell on wheels for you. Give it up and drop out.
    I left law practice and went to library school, and it’s worked out great. It’s a good choice for creative/artsy types. You might want to look into it.

  4. BL1Y

    December 9, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Feel free to waste your dad’s money.  You’re getting the degree you want for free.  Slug it out for a few years, graduate debt-free and then pursue a job you actually want.  Just be prepared to fight with your parents over the fact that you’re not “using” your law degree.  Maybe rehearse telling your dad things like you’re using it as a fall back, to open other doors, as just another tool in your tool belt, all that shit he said to you.

  5. Definitely Bitter Lawyer

    December 9, 2009 at 8:12 am

    BL1Y – “debt free”?  Unlikely.  Whenever daddy pays for school there are strings attached.  Better to get out now, before it costs him a fortune that he’ll hold against you for the rest of your life.

  6. Craig

    December 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I agree with BL1Y.  Better to stick it out if it is getting paid for.  It is not like you were thriving before you went to law school.  You hated your other job too.  Law school gives you three years, or however long your program is, to see if you can write or act, or whatever is you want to do.  You can pass classes and write/act at the same time, especially in years 2 and 3.  Stick it out.

  7. A

    December 9, 2009 at 9:57 am

    BL1Y pretty much has it. 
    Since your job prespects are probably going to suck with your other degree anyway, take the free ride.  Even if you get a job without the law degree, can it really pay for the debt you are going to incur with the other degree? 
    Are you so lazy you would rather incur the debt? Working hard generally sucks for everyone; it is not a new concept, but you do have an opportunity. 
    Also, if you hate the law, walk away.  You should realize, however, that the law is an entire field, and you may be able to find it useful (if not enjoyable) later on – especially if you are paying zero dollars for the option.  Have you read the interviews on here from author/lawyers? 
    What else do you really like? I mean, belly dancing? You haven’t really taken a serious look into the options.  Tarot cards? Are you really that talented as a writer or do you just like dicking around (like most liberal arts people that think they are more talented/artsy/intellectual than they actually are)?  It just seems like if you really loved something else, you would be doing that instead of studying (writing or whatever), not stupid crap.
    Your parents are trying to help you, which is a much more than most of us have.  So unless you are really serious about something else (like you going to stop surfing the net and work on that 80 hrs/week), take the free education.  Will you love it? Probably not.  Will having the option of practicing law (which is useful in the day to day, btw) without debt be better than answering phones with community college kids or teaching english classes?  Yes. 
    Your problem is not happiness, it’s laziness.

  8. R Smith

    December 9, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Many kids have the same blind spot after being raised by well-off, idulgent parents. Dad is then stunned to find that after shielding you from the real world, you don’t share his antipathy to the arts as a career.  Unlike Dad, you can’t relate to the well-worn joke, “What ‘s Hollywood’s definition of an optimist?  A musician with a mortgage.” So dad didn’t really do you a favor after all: or maybe you just don’t appreciate it.  You don’t want to live in a dumpster, but don’t really want to work either–not at law anyway.  You owe it to yourself to to get off the legal career path now, before you waste your dad’s money and your youth eating a meal that will nauseate you as you eat it and will never digest. You will never appreciate law as a career, the way people who have never been hungry are casual about food.  Many have given you well-intentioned advice to stay in law school and be safe: that simply means you will hate law even more later, will delay discovering what you want to do and ruin your life. Years from now you will hate your dad and yourself.  You’ll discover your dream career when you are stuck in law and never be able to move. You’ll really need anti-depressants then. Get out now. Run.  Find your dream. Find somehting you are willing to work for. If you have to live with horrible roomates, eat crappy food and wear crappy clothes, do it for a year. Go to work as an unpaid intern at a PR agency–if you can get in. Work there for low pay and see if you can’t worm your way in. You don’t need law for that. maybe you’ll connect with a big client, break off and get rich. Then again, maybe you’ll stay in a shoebox apartment till you’re 65. But it’ll be your life, not your dad’s.

  9. Law School Burlesque

    December 9, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Full Disclosure: I wrote the letter. Very happy it was responded to, thanks!
    I appreciate the advice from all sides, except possibly A who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of hyperbole, and seems to be rockin’ a serious superiority complex.  Although, I will give you that I AM lazy when forced to abandon my own passions to pursue someone else’s dreams for my life.
    Just as an update, I started working with a professional career councilor about 3 days after I sent this letter in. Together we have found a career path which genuinely excites and interests me (Educational Coordination and Curriculum Design), which I will be starting in the fall.  And, A, when I actually have a passion for something I bust my ass until it’s done to perfection, thank you very much.  I’m just not willing to spend 40+ hours a week for the rest of my life being miserable.
    Oh! Plus, I have read MANY of BL1Ys responses on this site… if he recommends I stay, then I know I should leave. That guy is an INCREDIBLE douche.  I mean seriously, they need to come up with a more douchey word for deuche just for him. Everything he writes makes me vomit in my own mouth a bit.
    Anyways, thanks to all for the advice, especially Ex Bitter

  10. Craig

    December 9, 2009 at 11:17 am

    “Educational Coordination and Curriculum Design?” What does that mean exactly?  High School Principal?

  11. Law School Burlesque

    December 9, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    @ Craig- Some tracks take you there, but not the one I am perusing. There is a growing industry in the private sector for Educational Coordinators (google it).  Basically you create training material (like handbooks), conduct research on employee effectiveness, travel to train reps, do press releases, set up e-learning, run the twitter account, do some public speaking, etc. It’s sort of like HR, but more writing/teaching based, less benefits crap.  I’m doing the Mass Comm program in marketing first, and then the Curriculum for Businesses and Marketing program at State.  Its a perfect fit for me.  Plus it has better than expected job growth per the Occupational Outlook handbook and a good salary. Not a “lawyer” salary, but I also wont be competing with all the desperate people flooding out of law school these days.  I am one happy camper.  @ BL1Y, A and all the other Haters: don’t even try to burst my bubble just cause you hate your shitty law associate lives. I’m going to be a GREAT educational coordinator.  PEACE!

  12. nice gal

    December 9, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    hey..i think it is awesome that you found something that makes you happy. But, as a side note…you did set yourself up for some haters when you posted on here. You should have known that would happen.
    glad you are happy.

  13. A

    December 9, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    1) I understand that you weren’t literally spending all of your time belly dancing.  Also, there were several other mistakes in my post, but, I mean, I am busy.  2) I am not really a hater.  I get that there is not one profession that makes every person happy.  I am not posting to be a dick (though I realize it came off that way – and it is about to again), but just to give you a perspective I don’t think you are really considering.  In time, however, you may wish you would have.  Setting aside this idealistic happiness thing that just out of college people have, realize a few things. A) You may not love whatever this “advisor” (I would never taken career advice from these people – I know, superiority – but think about it – it’s your life not his/hers) has laid out for your future.  Then what? Quit again to be passionate about another job? because that’s the only time you work hard, right? With debt? Car payment?  You hate the law because you’re in law school – it’s not really fun for anyone, but at least you have an idea of what it takes.  What work have you actually done for this new career?  B) You are already a semester in.  Honestly tell me that part, at least part, of your motivation of quiting is not so you don’t have to buckle down this month and get shit done? Feels good to walk away from what you already started, right?  C) It’s free.  Can’t make it clear enough that this is a gift.  You’re not being “forced” to do anything. But you did decide to do it to begin with, right?  You did take the money initially?  And now you are going to trash it? I get that you don’t need a rant from someone who has clawed their way, but it really is huge.  D) Your reasons are not that strong, and you come off as kind of frivolous in your actions. I know, hater, but how much have you really looked into the reasarch of your “advisor”? Do you really know what the salaries are? Are you going to get that?  Based on what? Do you really understand the market and where it is now?  You have a ton of faith that this thing that you just learned about is going to bring you so much “happiness,” and it just exudes immaturity. E) Many people in the law do not have shitty lives.  But, based on what else I have heard, I can see why you would say that (i.e. “40 hours a week”is alot).  I get it, it is a personal judgment.  For the hater side:  Your dad probably just doesn’t want you to be a silly shit.  HR, communications, cheap cars/houses/whatever, 40 hrs/week, throwing away a free J.D. — all kinda silly shit.

  14. BL1Y

    December 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Burlesque: Here’s a better idea.  If I, who thoroughly hate legal practice and think it’s generally a terrible idea for anyone to get a law degree, think you ought to take it, maybe you should take it.  Just look at law school as the job you’re taking to pay for the degree you want, and it comes with a prize at the end, a JD!  After your 1L year, law school is easy peasy, especially if you don’t care about getting a legal job and just need mediocre grades.

  15. Lawmiss

    December 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I think people can relate because there are many parents who say get a law degree, which I do understand, but I feel like that it causes alot of people to pursue that degree that would be so much happier doing something else. That said, I am glad that I was pushed a little because it’s a very valuable degree.

  16. Libby

    December 9, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    I say. “get the JD” – It’s free and 1 semester down.
    I went to law school with a communications degree – worked as a public relations official for a MAJOR corporation (6 figure salary).

    I decided to go to Law School – not to practice Law – but to understand it AND no matter what – it is very impressive. (to non-Lawyers). 2 1/2 years later – I am done and heading back to my original field. Just because you get a JD does not mean you want to practice Law. I hated Law school the first semester. Overall, the entire experience was unpleasant for me. Do your thing and don’t get caught up in the Law school life. And, oh yea, don’t ask for advice – just do your thing – no matter what anyone else says.

  17. SFLawyer

    December 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    If your goal is to become a coordinator of business, it is a form of being an educator, and business law will be very helpful.  You can tough it out.  Think of the future and in each class just say to yourself, “I never knew that”.  Time will pass and you will know that.  Just call me Polly.

  18. Alma Federer

    December 10, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Forget law school. Quit and find a guy willing to support you in the lifestyle you deserve.  That’s my goal.  But don’t settle for just any dork.  The guy has to be able to support you and be loyal.  You don’t need some guy like Tiger either.

  19. prog

    December 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Quit law school.  You are basically throwing three years of your life down the toilet to get your dad to pay for the degree is mass communications.  Your dad is a dick for only offering to pay for school if you do what he wants you to do.  If he really supports you, he’d pay for the degree you want.  It doesn’t sound like your interest in the law has even been slightly piqued.  If so, you are not going to like it at any point.

  20. R. Smith

    December 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Don’t all these well-intentioned people sound like your parents telling you to marry the woman or man they like and you don’t?  And pass up looking for one that you want?  (“Really, Burlesque, you’ll be so content with Ann. She comes from such a good family.”). Like the fud in Love Story (old movie from the 70’s) telling his son not to marry the woman he wants? (“If you marry her Oliver, I’ll not give you the time of day”). Or Anne Bancroft in “The Graduate” insisting that her daughter marry some fraternity stiff?  If you stay in law school you might make more money later, but you’ll be miserable.  Is that going to be your life? Safe and miserable?  Miserable but safe?  If you try your dream now, you’ll live your own life. You might live to regret it, but nothing is worse than living with a woman or a career you didn’t pick.  All these people are offering a sensible, intelligent course of action: its just not what you want.

  21. You, 5 years in the future

    December 14, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Jesus dude, I was in your position 5 years back.  My Dad, a successful attorney, encouraged me to do the same.  Moreover in prepping for the whole thing we really formed a good adult relationship.  I enrolled and 2 months in I was miserable.  What a useless bunch of BS it all turned out to be.  So I planned to drop out much to the dismay of my parents.  I never really gave a crap whether my parents approved of my choices before, but this was completely different.  I ultimately went through this silly convoluted song-and-dance where I let my grades slip as far as I could while getting accepted into MITs MBA program.  It seemed like the best way out and it was patently asinine.  But with a move like this you are setting yourself not just for the waste-of-time that is the legal professions, but also all this weird parental BS that you thought you outgrew.

  22. Been There

    February 10, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Life is too short! I’d recommend taking a natural abilities test such as http://www.jocrf.org/about_us/history.html

    This helped me come up with appropriate ideas I hadn’t even thought of when I was deciding on which grad degree and career direction to take. For me it was right on target coming up with things I had never thought of. Best money ever spent. It helped me make sound decisions. Have a plan then decide what direction to go in. Good luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>