As undergraduate students with a pre-law major or membership in a pre-law society, you no doubt have heard how critical it is for you to make a sober and reasoned decision about whether you want to go to law school, and, perhaps more importantly, whether you want to be a lawyer. It is rightly framed as an important decision, but it is one that people handle in different ways.
Below, six attorneys from different legal fields discuss how they felt and what they thought when making the decision to go to law school. We ask them for one piece of advice they wished they had known, or heard, when they were younger and facing this monumental decision.
Tony Munter: A whistleblower and False Claims Act attorney in the DC-metropolitan area, who primarily handles qui tam actions fighting fraud against the government. For more information about Tony Munter and qui tam actions, click here.
Kaveh Miremadi: A federal criminal defense and OFAC sanctions attorney. He provides clients with compliance, requests for reconsideration, SDN list removal, risk assessment, and internal audits. To learn more about Kaveh Miremadi’s background and OFAC law, visit this page.
Edward Tayter: A Maryland criminal lawyer who focuses on traffic and drunk driving cases, including DUI, DWI, driving while suspended, and restricted licenses. Information about Edward Tayter is available here.
April Cockerham: An immigration attorney who works out of DC. She represents clients in deportation proceedings, family and humanitarian-based petitions for visas and asylum, and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applications for domestic abuse victims. More information about April’s background and practice is available here.
Peter Biberstein: A personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer who represents clients in Virginia and DC. He handles a variety of personal injury cases, dangerous product cases, and disability claims. Visit this page for more information on Mr. Biberstein.
Terry Eaton: A DC and federal criminal defense attorney who handles white collar and government investigation cases. He is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, and he was also a commercial litigator. Learn more about Terry’s background and practice here.
What one piece of advice do you wish you had known, or heard, when you were younger and facing the monumental decision of whether to apply to law school?
Tony Munter: Unfortunately, I think it is a much more difficult environment for young people attempting to get a law degree now to make a career through the law than it was when I was younger. Now law degrees cost much more than in the past, and the legal market is much more competitive. Therefore, an analysis of the costs and benefits makes sense. It would be most helpful to know what area of law a young person wants to pursue and or what other skills or job experience a person can add to a law degree. One thing that is almost impossible to prepare for is the degree to which going to law school, any law school, will take over every aspect of life. It’s a major commitment. So, think about what you will do with the degree when you finish. It may not work out the way you plan but even a bad plan has more chance of a serendipitous result than no plan.
Kaveh Miremadi: Be true to yourself and focus on an area of law that interests you. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the people in law school who think there is only one path to success. Identifying and then acting towards your true interests will help you succeed and find a satisfying career.
Edward Tayter: The best advice that I can give for deciding whether or not to go to law school is to really understand what the day-to-day work-life of an attorney is. Very little of a lawyer’s work is correctly portrayed in popular media. It’s extremely important to know what you are getting into, before committing three years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars of your money to a legal education.
April Cockerham: Do an internship or get a job in the legal field before you start and consider where you want to be after you graduate when choosing a law school. Often, the friends and connections you make while you’re a law student can be extremely important when you’re starting out as a new lawyer. If you’re really committed to ending up in a particular geographic region, it’s definitely something to take into consideration.
Peter Biberstein: Go work for a year or two before going back to school. Work experience will make you more a more marketable candidate, will give you a better perspective on life, and will provide a financial cushion for your future.
Terry Eaton: If I could go back and give my younger self some pre-law school advice it would be this: take your time, relax, breathe, and learn to smell the roses. I spent way too much time in law school obsessing over grades and wondering if I was smart enough. The zero sum game of cold calling on students in law school lectures and high stakes all-or-nothing final exams only breads the ultra-competitive law student behavior Scott Turrow famously characterized in his book One L. It turns out that law school is not random and the people who study hard actually do make good grades. I truly wish I had spent more time exercising, having a good diet, and spending time on the weekends with my family. My law school grades were good and at graduation I had earned a federal clerkship followed by a job at a prestigious and big Washington, DC law firm. Had I slowed down and enjoyed my experience more, I don’t think the outcome would have changed one bit. Mark Twain said it best: “I’ve been through some terrible things in life, some of which actually happened.” My advice to future law students is to study hard, but take time out for yourself to enjoy life. Believe me, you’ll be happy you did it.
Submitted by: Oliver Krischik