Should I go to law school?: 10 things to consider before taking the LSAT

I’m a lawyer. I earned a law degree from an accredited institution, and I passed the bar exam in my home state. My license to practice law is hanging in a frame on the wall of my office where I work as in-house counsel for a financial institution. That license is a symbol of one of my life’s greatest achievements and a source of significant pride for me. But if I’m totally honest, if Warren Buffett walked into my office and said, “give me that frame and I will pay off your student loans,” I would leap over my desk like a rabid snow monkey to rip that thing off the wall and hand it to him.

I can’t say I regret going to law school. It has given me an ability to understand and analyze the inter-workings of our society in a way that typically only trained attorneys can or bother to do. It was three years of my life in which I grew up, fell in love with the law (as well as my future husband), and worked harder academically than I ever had to before. And yet, with the benefit of hindsight, I am fairly certain I would make a different choice if I had it to do all over again.

If you are considering going to law school, here’s my advice to you.

Do NOT go to law school if:

1. You want to help people for a living.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way insinuating that lawyers don’t help people. They do. Every. Single. Day. But if what moves you is using your own two hands to make a difference in people’s lives, I would warn against a law career. For me, the ‘helping people’ part ended up feeling too tenuous and, by design, driving change within the law is slow and difficult.
2. You have to take out student loans.
This is the one that really makes me want to go back in time and slap my younger self in the face. Student loans are not free money! They have to be paid back, and the payment amounts often offset any increase in salary a law degree might get you. Get scholarships, convince your rich relative to pay, save up before you go. Just think long and hard and put pencil to paper before you put on the golden handcuffs of student loans.
3. You are trying to prove you are smart.
Yep, it’s magical. Once you get into law school (and even more so after you pass the bar exam), people automatically think you’re a different degree of smart. Some refer to it as “the presumption of brilliance.” Okay, I just made that up, but I promise it is a real thing. This is not a reason to go to law school! There are so many (much cheaper) ways for the world to know you’re smart.
4. You don’t know what else to do.
Ah, the old credo, “you can do anything with a law degree.” I fell for that one. I had a B.A in English and didn’t want to teach. People said “lawyers do a lot of writing” and “a law degree is never a bad thing to have.” They weren’t wrong, but the kind of writing lawyers do is a style all its own, and while a law degree isn’t bad, see #2 above.
5. You thrive on creativity.
Of course, there are ways to use creativity in a legal career. However, if you’re like me and feel called to create, studying law may stifle that calling, at least temporarily. Personally, I think I shut down the right part of my brain during law school and a few years beyond. A big part of that was just not having the time or energy to tap into “the muse.” It wasn’t until I took deliberate steps to get it back that I realized how much I missed it.

One the flip side, DO go to law school if:

6. Someone else is paying for it.
If this is the case, just do it and disregard everything I just said. Seriously.
7. You have shadowed or interned for various types of attorneys.
If you have seen the day to day life of an attorney up close and personal and you can see yourself being fulfilled by that work, then you are making an informed, eyes wide open decision. I support that.
8. You are taking over the family practice.
My husband and I are both the first attorneys in our families, so I have no idea what this would be like. I can imagine, though, if law is a family tradition, and you have the opportunity to walk into a successful business with a plethora of family support, it might be a no-brainer.
9. You want to run for political office.
Being a lawyer is not a prerequisite for running, but I think it would be extremely helpful if your goal is to hold political office.
10. It’s your dream.
I am fully supportive of people following their dreams. I feel incredibly lucky that my dream, being a writer, is completely within my control. All I have to do is write. Check! If your dream is to be a lawyer, or if you have always just wanted to go to law school, chasing your dream gets way more complicated. If it truly is your dream, then do it! Just don’t do it blind. Understand that your dream may not align with reality.

As for me, I will continue to be as proud of my law license as I am frustrated by my student loan payments.

Should I Have More Kids?

I can’t tell you how many hours, days, and even years I have spent brain wrestling myself over this one. But finally, I found my answer. Not with the flip of a switch, but gradually, like waiting in the half-darkness of a neighborhood bonfire, moving my lawn chair around as I squinted through the smoke, finally seeing the white hot embers of a fire in ideal marshmallow-roasting condition.

That’s how I found my answer. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find yours. If you are looking for someone to answer this question for you, let me send you a coupon for a magic 8-ball. While I don’t have answers for you, I can relate, and I will give you advice. I know what these brain-wrestling matches look like, and maybe the questions that helped me the most can help you too.

First, I want to acknowledge the privilege of being able to ponder this question. The ability to conceive a child when you want to is a gift that so many people have not been given. I write this post knowing it is a moot question for too many. Truth be told, it was one reason I felt like I should have more kids. For all those moms-in-waiting who can’t have their babies or lose their babies or continue to wait for their babies, why would I not want to have more kids? What greater gift is there than growing life inside your own body? Take advantage of that privilege, dummy! On the other hand, I am one of few women I know who has not had to face the loss of a pregnancy. And why, when I have two healthy children, why would I want to risk that? Be satisfied with what you have, dummy!

As someone who has made this impossible decision, here’s my advice to you.

1. Listen to Your Heart

I remember one mom of three telling me that after she had two, “I looked in the rear view mirror, and I just knew there was an empty seat. Our family wasn’t complete.” How magical is that? I thought for sure I would have that feeling too.
After my first, I said to everyone who would listen, it’s going to be a LONG time before I do that again. But 3 years later when I laid eyes on my second daughter, I felt it so clearly, we are definitely going to do this again. (Apparently, planned C-sections don’t illicit the same snarky exhaustion as a 30 hour labor). But here we are, over four years later, and we haven’t done it again. And we won’t. The heart may be your guide, but it’s fickle.

2. Listen to Your Head

Think about the risks. Do you or your partner have any health issues? How have your other pregnancies been? How old are you?
Let’s be real. Since I’m talking to women who already have a child or two here, please consider that you are needed. If your last pregnancy almost physically killed you or mentally wore you down to the brink of a breakdown, consider that. Your pre-existing kid(s) need you.

3. Listen to Your Wallet

I know, this is so lame. But kids are expensive! Now, if you are one of those families who thrives on minimalism, makes your own clothes, and considers coupon-cutting an exciting Sunday afternoon, kudos to you! I sincerely admire that. But for the rest of you shameful consumers like me, things add up. Sometimes it is not even the things you choose, but it’s things like medical bills or high-priced organic hemp baby formula. The point is, the expenses can be unpredictable, so make sure you are prepared to take it on. Financial stress is toxic and truly is no laughing matter.

4. Listen to Your Family

If your partner in life is adamant about having or not having more kids, you need to listen. What are they truly seeking? Why do they feel so strongly?
And of course, listen to your existing kids. It might not be in their words (if they even have words yet), but you likely have an inkling as to how full your hands are. What will be the effect of another sibling on your existing ones?
Don’t forget about the grandparents if you are lucky enough to have them. Especially if they are heavily involved with the children and/or you depend on them for childcare on a regular basis, the effect on them should probably be considered. The status of your support system (i.e. the proverbial “village” that it takes) is a key factor in raising healthy children.

5. Keep Listening

Sometimes it is hard to hear your own voice over the din of other people’s opinions. Keep trying. Ask yourself, am I making my decision for the wrong reasons? As a lawyer, I fully understand we could argue all day about what the definition of a “wrong” reason is, but as a woman and a mother, might I suggest that the only wrong reason is one that’s not your own.
If you’re not having more kids because you are terrified every time the child you have gets a cold and you know deep down that your heart can’t handle more sleepless nights, then who is to say that’s the wrong reason?
If you want to have four kids because you can’t stand the thought of an odd number, who is to say that’s the wrong reason?
If you’ve always longed for an idyllic holiday season when a big group of adult children comes home to reunite, who can say that’s the wrong reason?

I think all we can do is acknowledge that this decision will be different for each family. In the end, there are just as many pros as cons, but the weight of those pros and cons depends upon who you are, what you believe, and what your circumstances are.
For me, I got comfortable with occasionally doubting my decision not to have another kid. Some days, I can tangibly feel that doubt coursing through me, my arms aching for the weight of a sleeping baby. But eventually, it shakes off of me somehow…
I guess the high-pitched screaming about who hit who first and whose turn it is with the remote kind of helps.

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