As I’m sure many of you have read, there have been numerous articles lately discussing how in the current economic climate some clients are refusing to pay for work done by first year associates. These articles often go on to criticize law schools in general for inundating students with legal theory only, and not preparing graduates for the actual practice of law. One recent article can be found here. Other notable articles, like this one discuss whether investment in a legal education is worth the cost, and suggest that a technical education might be a better bet financially.
A true discussion on the merits of these articles could easily lead to hours of debate. In fact, given the current job market, employment statistics, and the cost of a legal education, it might be easy to agree with these authors. But I think there are benefits to legal education that can’t be measured in dollars and cents, and for me these articles are discouraging and devalue a hard earned legal education.
Thus, as alumni blogger of the month, and an employed professional, I want to use my first blog post to remind myself and others of the many ways my education at MULS prepared me for work in the professional world. So, below is my personal list for your consideration, feel free to add to it in the comment section.
1. Legal Writing and Research. Much to my dismay, while at MULS I was forced to take two semesters of legal writing, and one advanced legal research course. I wanted to learn legal theory and have exciting debates. I did not want to spend my time studying legal writing and honing my research skills. These courses were the bane of my law school existence. However, after five years in the professional world, I can honestly say I would not have had some of the successes I’ve had without these skills. I write daily. Emails to clients, technical memos, presentations, the list goes on. Clear, concise legal writing is essential to my job, and my ability to write well has been a instrumental part of my career successes thus far.
2. Critical Thinking and Reading. I know this one seems obvious. One could argue that it’s impossible to do well on the LSAT and get into law school unless you already possess these skills. But, spending three years surrounded by people who also excel at these skills forces you to really practice them. By the time you graduate, these skills will be sharp, and these skills are extremely valuable for any client service professional. I read daily. My job requires me to critically read statutes, treaties, and secondary documents and to interpret them and apply them to my clients’ situations. My clients depend on this ability, and it is an essential part of legal education.
3. Legal Theory. Legal theory should not be underrated. Legal theory gives you the basics. A strong foundation of legal theory means that when I’m given a research task, I have a general idea of what I’m looking for, I know where to start looking, and I know the correct terminology to make my research efficient. Legal theory is important and should not be scoffed at as impractical.
4. Opportunity. This last point might seem vague and general, but in an effort at brevity I wanted to find one word that summed up all of the benefits of a legal education. For me, that word is opportunity. The opportunity to learn from, and really get to know, some of the best minds in the legal professtion (thank you professors!). The opportunity to network and meet interesting and accomplished people through various activities and events. The opportunity to form life long friendships.The opportunity to improve myself, and the world around me, through volunteer opportunities. The opportunity to work in a job I love, that challenges me every day. The opportunity to travel the world. My legal education opened up a world of opportunities, many of which would have remained closed without it.
Yes, law school is expensive. Yes, I will still be paying off my law school loans when my daughter goes to college. If I was asked today, I would advise any would-be law students to be sure they passionately desire a legal education before undertaking the expense. But for me, law school was a fantastic three years, full of wonderful memories that I look back upon with pride. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, and I am proud of what I have accomplished because of it.
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