How to Decide Whether to Go to Law School

How to Decide Whether to Go to Law SchoolLadies, how did you decide whether to go to law school? How did you finance law school — and how old were you when you started law school? For those of you who decided NOT to go to law school, are you happy with your decision? Did anyone get to law school and drop out, or finish law school and decide not to practice law? For those of you who went to law school when you were older, was it a big decision to go back to school? Reader S, in her late 20s, is trying to decide whether to go to law school:

I’m in my late 20s and seriously considering law school. It’s something I’ve had on my radar since for about 10 years now, but finances always got in the way/thinking I was in some way not smart enough for law school because of a lower uni GPA. A master’s in hand and experience working as a paralegal/risk assessment for international programs in universities, and I finally feel ready. Any advice from Corporette readers who went to law school later in life, especially related to finances?

Wow, great question, Reader S — I can’t wait to hear what the readers say. I expect there will be a barrage of DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL responses, and might I add my own voice to those to say : Make sure you are going to law school because you like to argue, negotiate, and represent clients — NOT because you like to write or research. Note that a lot of legal work is drudgery, and that there are huge tranches of people with law degrees who a) cannot get work as lawyers and/or b) can barely make enough as a lawyer to pay their bills, including hefty student loans. (For those of you struggling with big debt from school loans, you may want to check out our post about how to pay off big student loans.) Be very sure you want to go to law school for the right reasons.

With that said, here’s my advice on how to decide whether to go to law school:

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How to Prepare for Law School

how to prepare for law schoolLawyers: how did you prepare for law school? Law students, what do you wish you’d done to prepare? Ladies with an MBA or other graduate degree, what did you do to prepare for grad school?  Were you more concerned with substance (such as trying to get ahead on class reading, or better educated on the topics you’d be studying), networking (such as researching the professors and adjuncts you’d be studying with), or another side of things, such as financially preparing for grad school, or emotionally preparing yourself? What are your top tips for readers heading back in a few months? 

Kate and I are working on a massive update of our last post on the best work clothing brands for different body shapes, and it’s taking too long (stay tuned!) so I thought we’d have a fun open thread instead today. For my own experience with law school, I was glad that I spent the summer beforehand doing some light reading of one or two of Glannon’s Examples and Explanations series (as recommended by another book I read that hasn’t been revised in many years), which taught me various lessons such as that a tort is NOT a dessert. Super dorky!  One of the other things that I was happy I did was to take to lunch a number of different lawyers I knew who were working in the field I thought I wanted to be in — they gave me great advice for law school itself as well as identified general opportunities to help my career path (such as clerking, law firms to work for, nonprofits to check out, etc).

In terms of what I wish I had done — I wish I had spent more time learning about different Georgetown professors and opportunities, as well. Once you get in the mix of law school it can be a little all-consuming, so doing prep work beforehand would have been a good thing.

Ladies, let’s hear from you!  How did you prepare for law school, business school, or another graduate degree program? (If you went straight through, please note that; if you had a year or more between undergrad and grad, please note how long.)

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Law School, Orientation Outfits, and Dressing For You

Law School, Orientation Outfits, and Dressing For You | CorporetteHow should you dress for law school orientation? When you’re planning which outfits to wear, how much should you worry about looking professional, or put-together, or about making a good first impression? Reader N wonders…

I am extremely excited to be starting law school in the fall but I am puzzled by the idea of picking orientation outfits. Any suggestions?

Congratulations, Reader N! I still have such fond memories of law school, and we’ve covered a lot of things about it here, such as what to wear for mock trial competitions, which bag is best for law school casebooks, hornbooks, and of course your laptop. We’ve even talked about how — if you’re shopping for clothes before law school — your money may be best spent on interview and work attire. 2Ls, 3Ls, and recent grads: Anyone care to write a guest post on what bag is best these days, as well as any other tips or tricks for marrying the digital world with the study of law? For example: Did anyone like reading cases on Kindle or taking notes on an iPad (or, gah, an iPhone)?

ANYHOO: I’m sure I worried about which outfit to wear to orientation, but I couldn’t tell you what the heck I wore if my life depended on it. I was only two years out of college when I went to Georgetown, and honestly I don’t even think anything had occurred to me as not being “work-appropriate” (beyond a super short corduroy miniskirt that one of my older editor friends had pulled me aside and told me was not appropriate). Some of the older students had already formed conservative work wardrobes (particularly those who were coming from years on the Hill); others maybe just had a preppier style.

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What to Wear to Law School

How to Build a Wardrobe for Law School | CorporetteWhat clothes should you add to your wardrobe before you attend law school?  Reader N has a great question:

I am in my mid-twenties and will be starting law school this fall. I’ve spent my time since undergrad traveling (living out of a backpack) and working with kids (only wearing clothes that could get messy).

I’ve set aside some money to buy a new wardrobe for law school, but am looking for advice on what I should invest in that will be part of my wardrobe over the next three years. The school I’m going to is in a city that has a long, cold winter, and the sense I get is that the school generally has a preppy vibe. Any advice?

Good luck to Reader N!  I’m one of those people who enjoyed law school more than the practice of law so I think fondly of my years there — they were intense but fun.* We’ve talked about which bags are great for law school (way back in 2008!) but we haven’t actually talked about what to wear to law school.  I think this is a great question, and mid-July is a perfect time to think about it. Where I went (Georgetown ’03) people wore everything from business suits to sweatpants — one professor actually gave us a list of tips during our 1L finals week that included tips like “don’t forget to bathe.” So “laid back” can be an understatement, and I suspect a lot of your wardrobe will already work just fine for the classes themselves.

So instead, let’s look at what clothes you will definitely need for job hunting and networking, and focus on that instead. [Read more…]

Bar Exam Memories — and How to Celebrate Until Work Begins

Congratulations to all of the recent JDs finishing up their bar exam today! I thought I’d start an open thread for those of us past the experience to share our stressful memories, as well as to share the fonder memories of the celebrations and relaxations that followed. I’ll start.

I always like to look at this picture, taken of my then-dorm room wall a few weeks before the bar exam. (My DC lease ended in May, but my NYC lease didn’t start until September, so I opted to spend the summer in an NYU dorm.) Along with the few pieces of “artwork” I traveled with and a few pictures of family and friends, you can see that here I’ve also Scotch-taped to the wall all the important things: papers listing important criminal procedure facts, as well as the different levels of murder that one can be charged with under both New York and multi-state law. Or something — I don’t really remember any of it now. [Read more…]

Bags for Law School

Bags for Law School | CorporetteI got an e-mail a while ago from reader A, on the hunt for stylish bags for law school. She notes that “I consider myself too old (too fabulous?) for a backpack (I’m 28) so I’m looking for a bag for law school that is stylish, comfortable, and suitable for a laptop. I am just wondering if there is anything more creative out there than the black padded messenger bag…”

2017 Update: We’ve updated links within this post. Also check out our advice for what to wear to law school, as well as how to build your working wardrobe for your summer internship.

Amelia – Ah, law school! I remember it well. Before we get to the best bags for law school, a few other words of advice for gear to stock up on:

  • a cute laptop sleeve (update: check out our 2017 roundup of the best laptop bags for work)
  • a large nylon bag — you want something durable as well as lightweight, because your law school books will definitely be heavy enough by themselves. We’ve suggested a few for you below, but in general we’d suggest looking at diaper bags and beach bags as your main campus bag. If you have back problems, you may want to look into a rolling backpack, as most of the ergonomic bags are a bit too small for law school textbooks. (Another option is to to not buy the books at all and just read the cases from Westlaw or Lexis, which would allow you to carry only the 100 or so pages being discussed in class that day, or even just store the cases electronically on your computer.)
  • A cute mini-bag (either a cosmetics case or a pencil case) to keep cords from getting tangled in your bag
  • Something to control the cords when you’re plugged in — most law school classrooms and libraries are wired so you only need about 10″ of cord, not 2′. You can keep them neat (and distinct) with velcro ties, available at hardware stores like Lowe’s for a few bucks.

Here are my suggestions for bags:

The two bags I remember seeing around law school a lot are ones that are hard to find online: the largest Longchamp bag (either Le Pliage or Planetes (often available online only in the medium, not the large size) or Herve Chapelier bags (now only on eBay!). Note that the Longchamp store in NYC has a wider variety of bags and colors (such as black leather on black nylon); I’ve also been told that black on black combo is available in Canada.) These bags are great but there isn’t much about them in the way of interior organization — but then, that’s mostly fine if you’re just going to class all day.

stylish grad school bag law school tote

Otherwise, there are lots of great bags out there that are not backpacks or messengers. We’ve admired the brand Timbuk2 for a few years, also — they’re durable and practical but cute, as well; the large size of this Classic Cargo (pictured below) is 16.5″ w x 12.2″ h x 8.5″ d, yet is only 2.25 lbs (and $90). Timbuk2 will also let you make your own bag.

stylish law school bag

LeSportsac also has a nice variety of bags with durable yet lightweight nylon. Most are available in solid black as well as the crazy colors (but come on, how happy would you be going to class every day with this bag?). The new Erika bag (below) is 15″x 19″x 5″ and $56.

bags for law school

Land’s End also has a variety of bags that are pretty good as totes — for example, this Business Tote is 15″x 12.5″x 5.5″ deep and already has a padded interior to carry a laptop. Available at Land’s End for $59.50.

stylish bags for law school

Also, we must recommend one book, at least. The summer before we went to law school, we read Planet Law School II: What You Need to Know (Before You Go), But Didn’t Know to Ask… and No One Else Will Tell You, Second Edition (well, the edition that existed then), as well as any books recommended by that book. Some of it is blowing 1L year out of proportion, some of it is great preparation.

Ladies, which were your favorite bags for law school? Which bag did you carry, and which did you see around campus the most? 

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