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Future attorney? Paths for this?


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DS & I recently read Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy and we are both pretty convinced that we want to be like him when we grow up. 😊 The book was a catalyst for me and I've decided to go back to school this summer. I've always been a highly intelligent (I hide it well... lol) underachiever, and I feel it's finally time to put that behind me and begin anew. However, unsure if becoming an attorney is in my future since I am already past 40... so I may look for other ways I can contribute.

However - for ds. He's going to be a freshman in high school. The goal is to aim high so he will have choices as far as university choice goes (and hopefully good scholarships so he'll only have debt for law school - especially since he wants to be a poor-man's attorney) But what types of high school classes or extracurriculars are good choices for a future attorney? Debate, I imagine? I'd have to find a co-op or something for that...

For the bachelor's degree, I'm reading that anything pretty much works (specifically English, History, African American studies, etc...) but we are seeing lots of "Pre-Law" degrees. Is this a better bet for one reason or another? He's especially interested in a music degree with a pre-law option at this moment - but I'm not sure it's adequate.... will investigate this more, of course.

Stupid questions, I know - but we are just at the beginning phase of investigation and the stupid questions are always the first ones! :) We don't personally know any attorneys, so... :)

Thanks for any tips or btdt experiences with yourself or your own children! ðŸ‘

Edited by hopskipjump
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He can major in anything he wants at a semi-decent school, keep a high gpa, score very high on the LSAT (this is the most important factor) and he will likely get in everywhere he wants :) Law school admission is a numbers game IME.

As he gets closer, he can examine schools with clinics in the sort of public service law he wants to pursue, ones that are "feeder" schools for certain clerkships, etc.

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I've never met anyone who majored in pre-law, and I know an awful lot of lawyers. My advice would be to major in anything that will 1) expose you to serious reading and writing and 2) allow you to maintain a stellar GPA. There must be something more interesting than pre-law that would fit the bill.

 

Law school admissions are almost entirely based on GPA and LSAT score. The LSAT is reading and logic games. It wouldn't be crazy to start practicing the logic games now... (I'm awful at them.)

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There is no such thing as a Pre-Law degree.  There may be "pre-law" programs at some colleges that offer encouragement, but participation in such programs does not matter for law school admission.  I would suggest he major in whatever interests him, whatever would be his Plan B.  Later, he may decide to take his career in a different direction instead.

 

Law school admission is based primarily on college GPA and LSAT, a numbers game.  Rigor of the undergrad program can play a role in how the GPA is evaluated, to a point.  Extracurricular activities are barely considered at all.  Work experience after college is often a (small) plus, though many students go straight to law school.

 

Some law schools have special scholarship programs for public interest lawyers to help pay off law school debt.  Generally, the typical advice is to aim for a Top-14 law school so that a high-paying job will be more likely, in order to pay off the loans.  (It can be much harder to get those types of jobs coming out of lower-ranked law schools except for the very top few students in each class, and even then there are fewer opportunities.)  When the time comes, he should compare prices and salaries - a lot of salary info for certain types of law practices is public (NALP).

 

High school:  debate would be a nice activity; a good writing course (maybe AP Language? I'm not that familiar with it; lately I'm hearing that some AP history courses may include useful writing instruction).  I suggest understanding the logic of geometry proofs.

Edited by wapiti
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My DS set his heart for the legal field when he joined Mock Trial team in his freshman year. Mock trial, NCFCA, debate team might be a good choice for your DS's extracurricular activities. Like many people said, the major in college doesn't matter, I believe, even though it is usually physics, math, philosophy, or economic major who does well on LSAT. My DS worked as an intern at DA office and now he wants it even more!

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In case he might consider being a patent lawyer, he will need a undergrad major in the hard sciences. This is according to a friend who worked as a paralegal in a patent law office. Most, if not all, of the partners had engineering or math undergrad degrees.

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I am an advocate of having an undergraduate degree in some area of business for law school. Many courses have a business "bent" to them: contracts, business associations, property, sales transactions, secured transactions, commercial paper, decedent's estates, bankruptcy, federal taxation, etc. (though not all of these will be required). However, any degree is fine. Taking logic courses in undergrad as well as a business law or constitutional law course is also helpful IMO. I attended law school with people who had degrees in philosophy, music education, nursing, poli sci, history, economics, English, social work, and accounting. A friend with a degree in Chem E went to law school and later became a patent attorney (states often have additional requirements/coursework for becoming "specialists"). English & History folks do tend to have good reading and writing skills which are definitely necessary, but I wouldn't pursue those subjects as degrees unless the interest was there. If your ds is interested in being a "poor-man's" attorney, courses in social work at the undergraduate level could be helpful. Others have already suggested mock trial and debate. Other areas of forensics can be helpful as well. Even if one has no plans to become a trial lawyer, good speaking skills (and the ability to think on one's feet) are important.

Edited by Hoggirl
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In case he might consider being a patent lawyer, he will need a undergrad major in the hard sciences. This is according to a friend who worked as a paralegal in a patent law office. Most, if not all, of the partners had engineering or math undergrad degrees.

Patent law is the outlier. So is tax, for which you probably need an LLM on top. This kid wants public interest â¤ï¸
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If he is interest in public interest law: 1) Plan to minimize undergraduate debt. You really don't need a top shelf undergrad school to get into a top law school. Pick a solid school that will be affordable. 2) Check out Cuny Law School in Queens, which has a specific public interest focus and lower than average tuition. But regardless you want to go to the best law school you can, even public interest jobs can be competitive.

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If he is interest in public interest law: 1) Plan to minimize undergraduate debt. You really don't need a top shelf undergrad school to get into a top law school. Pick a solid school that will be affordable. 2) Check out Cuny Law School in Queens, which has a specific public interest focus and lower than average tuition. But regardless you want to go to the best law school you can, even public interest jobs can be competitive.

So true. There's very prestigious public interest positions. Large law firms have active pro bono practices which they use in part to give junior attorneys real legal experience besides doc review. So that's one way. He should obviously focus on litigation vs transactional work and if it were my child I'd strongly suggest a clerkship of some sort. Edited by madteaparty
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Thank you!! I am soaking all of this up and taking notes. This is so much nicer than all the online reading I was doing (you can find a million different "paths" and suggestions, but they all seem contradictory).

 

We'll take the degrees with "pre-law" options off the table, then! Good to know!! Those degrees DID look boring!!!

 

The current high school plan is for him to CLEP and AP as many things as he can fit in over the next four years as well as dual enrollment for the last two years of high school. Hopefully this will enable him to finish the bachelor's degree in a shorter period of time and save a lot of money in the meantime to store away towards a good law school.

 

Very good to read that some schools offer scholarships for public interest lawyers when it's time for law school. We'll start keeping a list as we come across those options.

 

Thank you Lawyer&Mom for the suggestion to investigate Cuny Law School in Queens. I've never heard of it before, so it's been added to the list! 

 

Love the idea of getting the bachelor's degree in "Plan B" and I'll have him investigate the LSAT soon to get a solid idea of what that test is all about, since it seems to be THE thing to focus on. And we'll add focused logic studies to his high school classes. Any suggestions?

 

@Job121 - you mentioned your ds did an internship with the DA office. Was this while he was in high school?

 

This kid has been toying with the idea of a music performance degree up to this point, so he seems to be determined to be broke no matter what. ;) So - starting now to help him envision "the path to take" that will not lead him to financial ruin before he's 25 years old. :)

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So true. There's very prestigious public interest positions. Large law firms have active pro bono practices which they use in part to give junior attorneys real legal experience besides doc review. So that's one way. He should obviously focus on litigation vs transactional work and if it were my child I'd strongly suggest a clerkship of some sort.

 

A clerkship - would this occur post-bachelor's degree, pre-law school --- or during one or the other?

 

I need to make a chart for myself. :o :D

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I am an advocate of having an undergraduate degree in some area of business for law school. Many courses have a business "bent" to them: contracts, business associations, property, sales transactions, secured transactions, commercial paper, decedent's estates, bankruptcy, federal taxation, etc. (though not all of these will be required). However, any degree is fine. Taking logic courses in undergrad as well as a business law or constitutional law course is also helpful IMO. I attended law school with people who had degrees in philosophy, music education, nursing, poli sci, history, economics, English, social work, and accounting. A friend with a degree in Chem E went to law school and later became a patent attorney (states often have additional requirements/coursework for becoming "specialists"). English & History folks do tend to have good reading and writing skills which are definitely necessary, but I wouldn't pursue those subjects as degrees unless the interest was there. If your ds is interested in being a "poor-man's" attorney, courses in social work at the undergraduate level could be helpful. Others have already suggested mock trial and debate. Other areas of forensics can be helpful as well. Even if one has no plans to become a trial lawyer, good speaking skills (and the ability to think on one's feet) are important.

 

I'm just making a list of all the degrees you mentioned here to show ds.

 

{deleted my forensics misunderstanding so I don't confuse anyone else... :lol: :hat:  }

 

Edited by hopskipjump
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Forensics in this context refers to Speech and Debate, not crime scenes. It's a very obscure use of the term, don't worry about it.

 

**snort** OF COURSE it does (especially when I re-read it in context, duh!)!! :smilielol5:  I'm learning, though... bit by bit... :rofl:  Thanks for helping a girl out! ;) :p

Edited by hopskipjump
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A clerkship - would this occur post-bachelor's degree, pre-law school --- or during one or the other?

 

I need to make a chart for myself. :o :D

In law school or immediately thereafter :)

Unlike business school, it really doesn't matter that much what he does before law school, experience-wise.

Edited by madteaparty
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In law school or immediately thereafter :)

Unlike business school, it really doesn't matter that much what he does before law school, experience-wise.

Great to know! 👠I'll put that into the timeline ds is looking at so he can investigate what all that means.

 

Thank you so much!! 😊

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Forensics in this context refers to Speech and Debate, not crime scenes. It's a very obscure use of the term, don't worry about it.

Mea culpa. The National Forensics League changed its name in 2013 to the National Speech and Debate Association. Around here, everyone still refers to such events as "Forensics." I wouldn't call it "obscure." But, I did date myself! :D

Edited by Hoggirl
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This kid has been toying with the idea of a music performance degree up to this point, so he seems to be determined to be broke no matter what. ;)

Kid down the street, smart but not driven, went to college for music (on a music scholarship). I think it was for organ or piano. Dropped out junior year because he thought he was smarter than everyone else and tried to get a job with an investment firm (quick money, he thought). They didn't want him without a degree. Meanwhile, he meets THE girl and she straightened him out. He moves back home and finished his degree while working a ton to minimize his debt. Studies for the LSAT and gets into the state U's law school. He's in high demand in study groups because apparently he is able to think of things differently (music thinking out of the box). Having an out-there degree hasn't hurt him.

 

Music is still there for relaxation, volunteering, and making people happy.

 

His girl married him and teaches Spanish and English ASL. :)

Edited by RootAnn
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Foreign language is useful especially in public interest law. I rarely see a job notice without a requirement of Spanish or Chinese, but I'm in California, so being bilingual opens up more job opportunities. Major law firms don't have that requirement unless you choose to go to Hong Kong as a friend did right after Harvard.

 

Overall, speaking (not to get into law school but as a student and attorney), writing, analytical, and reading skills.

 

Any degree will do but some fortunate people have been able to utilize their undergraduate degrees in a post law school job. PP mentioned patent and tax law, and others majoring in foreign languages have used them in their legal jobs. Point is, you never know when your college major can play a part in your post law school career.

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Same here.

I love this, I really do. And some passion and direction is always a thing to be valued.

But, percentage-wise, it is probably a small minority of attorneys that get to do oral arguments akin to mock trial. So long as the kids know that â¤ï¸

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I love this, I really do. And some passion and direction is always a thing to be valued.

But, percentage-wise, it is probably a small minority of attorneys that get to do oral arguments akin to mock trial. So long as the kids know that â¤ï¸

True true, big law firms don't allow associates to do oral arguments.

 

The other path would be DA's office.

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True true, big law firms don't allow associates to do oral arguments.

 

The other path would be DA's office.

 

Or Public Defender.

 

My undergrad degree was in anthropology with a minor in biology. I decided in the Navy that people were interesting so I went to college and studied them.

 

Then I decided I just wanted to help, so law school.

 

You can literally major in anything as an undergrad and go on to law school. I would encourage him to go with a passion, it'll make getting good grades easier.

 

As to you, OP...you're not too old! My DH went back to school in his late 30's and I graduated law school at 37. I was by no means the oldest person in my graduating class! Law makes a good 2nd or 3rd career, including imo post-SAHM, because you can do the work as long as your mind stays sharp. My boss is 70 and only just starting to talk about how she should maybe start training a replacement so she can retire.

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Or Public Defender.

 

My undergrad degree was in anthropology with a minor in biology. I decided in the Navy that people were interesting so I went to college and studied them.

 

Then I decided I just wanted to help, so law school.

 

You can literally major in anything as an undergrad and go on to law school. I would encourage him to go with a passion, it'll make getting good grades easier.

 

As to you, OP...you're not too old! My DH went back to school in his late 30's and I graduated law school at 37. I was by no means the oldest person in my graduating class! Law makes a good 2nd or 3rd career, including imo post-SAHM, because you can do the work as long as your mind stays sharp. My boss is 70 and only just starting to talk about how she should maybe start training a replacement so she can retire.

Our class had people ranging in age from 22 to 65+. As soon as I'm done with homeschooling or thereabouts I'm going to get an LLM in something; and I'll be 50. Eek.

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Our class had people ranging in age from 22 to 65+. As soon as I'm done with homeschooling or thereabouts I'm going to get an LLM in something; and I'll be 50. Eek.

I've thought about an LLM but I only practice law as a masochistic exercise now. Maybe an MFA in creative writing. I won't go back until mid 40s, probably.
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...I guess that makes me the slacker (as usual), sitting here looking at a late payment fee for bar dues for inactive membership (in our old state, no less) due Dec 31.  It's been 16 yrs since I practiced.  It would be a real chore to try to get bar membership reactivated in our old state and then get it in our new state - I'm not sure it could even be done within the rules without taking the exam, though I haven't looked that closely.  Why do I bother paying the inactive dues?  It's hard to let go.

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...I guess that makes me the slacker (as usual), sitting here looking at a late payment fee for bar dues for inactive membership (in our old state, no less) due Dec 31. It's been 16 yrs since I practiced. It would be a real chore to try to get bar membership reactivated in our old state and then get it in our new state - I'm not sure it could even be done within the rules without taking the exam, though I haven't looked that closely. Why do I bother paying the inactive dues? It's hard to let go.

I see your inactive dues and raise you 20 hours of CLE I have to complete in the next week or so 😳😱
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I was told during one interview that my undergraduate degrees (economics and mathematics) made me an attractive law school candidate. This was 15 years ago, though. I ended up going down the PhD route anyway, so no advice as to whether mathematics would have helped my JD coursework. I do know that a classmate with a similar application as mine did not have the same level of acceptances to law programs as I did. One big difference? She was political science/economics.

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There's a kid in my neighborhood who volunteered with a legal clinic serving the poor when he was in high school.  Seems like a great experience to learn more about the field.  (Otherwise, I know very little about law school.)

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You can literally major in anything as an undergrad and go on to law school. I would encourage him to go with a passion, it'll make getting good grades easier.

 

As to you, OP...you're not too old! My DH went back to school in his late 30's and I graduated law school at 37. I was by no means the oldest person in my graduating class! Law makes a good 2nd or 3rd career, including imo post-SAHM, because you can do the work as long as your mind stays sharp. My boss is 70 and only just starting to talk about how she should maybe start training a replacement so she can retire.

 

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm thinking paralegal might be the best bet. I really don't want to stand and argue about anything - I want to research, maybe interview, scout out information... behind the scenes stuff. So I'm thinking paralegal might be the perfect fit for what I want to do - and more easily manageable. I don't even have an undergrad degree yet, so the road to becoming a lawyer (an already long road) becomes a lot longer without that bachelor's. lol Better late than never, though, right? :laugh: So right now the complication is whether I want to finish the undergrad degree and THEN do the paralegal bit (or, at that point, decide to go for the law degree) or just do the paralegal certification now and call it good. Decisions, decisions.

 

I've told ds that what the undergrad is isn't as important as the getting-good-grades, having-good-study-habits, testing-well part is, so he's going to bide his time, focus on forming those good study habits, study for the ACT/SAT/AP/etc, and we'll see where that takes him.

 

I'm just stoked that one out of my three kids might've found his calling at the beginning of high school! DD1 was still wrestling with VERY different options well into her senior year (stressful!). DD2 has Plan A solidly in place, but wants to have a double major, so she's still in limbo on that aspect. At this point, ds might be ahead of both his sisters in the decisiveness category (which really shouldn't be a surprise.... :rolleyes: )

 

Edited by hopskipjump
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There's a kid in my neighborhood who volunteered with a legal clinic serving the poor when he was in high school.  Seems like a great experience to learn more about the field.  (Otherwise, I know very little about law school.)

 

Yes. Yes. That's a good idea and likely very doable in ds's case. I'll mention this to him when he's back home! :thumbup1:

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