(This article was featured in our print issue, which was published on Nov. 10, 2012.)
Stephanie is a 2012 graduate of Northwestern Law.
If I could go back, would I go to law school again? Well, I guess I was able to obtain gainful employment upon graduating, so I suppose it’s hard to complain. Many of my fellow recent graduates have not been so lucky. Their answer might likely be different than mine – it’s tough to swallow moving back in with your parents when you’ve earned the right to put letters after your name. I think this reflects the best advice I personally received about whether to go to law school: don’t take anyone’s advice. The choice of going to any graduate school is a very individual decision based on your passions and plans for the future. Matriculated lawyers will always have the bias of their own personal experience. That said, here’s my advice, don’t go to law school unless you’re really serious about it (or unless you still have mom and dad’s money to blow and feel like reading a lot for the next three years). If you don’t have a passion for law, you’ll probably either end up hating your life for three years or dropping out, which wastes both your time and your money.
Admittedly, I was a child of the 2009 recession grad school rush. Graduating with a degree in international studies (arguably only slightly more usable than women and gender studies unless you speak five languages and get recruited by the CIA), I fled back into the comfy confines of the ivory tower. I had a passion for the law, had worked in a law firm, and generally knew what I was getting myself into. Still, the most important thing I learned in law school is that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. But I definitely don’t regret the experience. The networks I made led to my current employment as a policy analyst at the AMA. I’ll be forever grateful to my first year legal writing teacher who taught me how to write, and to all of my professors for teaching me a whole new way to think. These skills definitely helped me bring a different perspective to my job. Though I’m not currently practicing law, I wouldn’t be where I am without my law degree. I think that’s the moral of the story, or at least of my story. It’s never too late to change your mind about what you want to do, or who you want to be. And if you do change careers, you’ll bring a unique perspective with you on your new adventure.
Wherever you go, you will always have the skills you learned at Northwestern – and that’s a very valuable tool kit. Jerry Reinsdorf was the law school commencement speaker this past year, and I’m happy I can claim to remember at least one piece of advice he gave the Northwestern Law Class of 2012. “Work harder than everyone else,” he told us. It sounds almost stupidly obvious, but in the end it’s your work ethic (something most Northwestern students are not short on) that really takes you places. So go to law school, or don’t go to law school – the choice is yours. Just remember to bring what you’ve learned with you.