should I go to law school if I don’t want to practice law?

A reader writes:

As a college senior, I applied to law school and deferred admission to a top-3 law school. (I mention this to help mitigate concerns over the crumbling state of the legal profession.) I was never very interested in law, but I majored in sociology and didn’t know what other grad school I’d be a good fit for.

I have been working as a business analyst at a major consulting firm for the past two years. Each spring, I’ve reassessed whether I’m ready for law school. Last year I definitely was not ready for law school because the thought of law school was just entirely unappealing. This year… well, on the surface my role seems fancy. I work with name-brand clients and, even cooler, I relocated to a foreign country last August to serve a client on a year-long assignment. There are a lot of perks living abroad with a global team. I know that very few recent college grads get to have the life experience I’m having. But I’m realizing that I’ve done two years of project management now. I’ve ordered lunches, ordered dinners, booked cars, helped with hotel reservations, etc. People treat me a lot like their personal secretary, which I don’t like.

I committed to going to law school several months ago, considering the above negatives of my job. (I also can’t defer for more than two years, so I’m at my maximum already.) However, I’m still playing with the idea of staying here at my job. There will continue to be international opportunities after this assignment concludes (as the project will move onto another country outside of the U.S.). Living and working abroad entices me, but the actual day-to-day work does not. And no one’s been able to give me a solid, concrete plan going forward for my role, which is the problem. My counselor and managers acknowledge I need to get experience outside of project management, but haven’t necessarily been able to funnel me in that direction.

Recently a partner at my firm suggested there might be an opportunity for me to continue living where I am now in a non-project management role, after my project concludes. I would be interested in this opportunity, and told this partner I would want to explore what that could look like “just to keep all of my options open.” I did tell her I needed to be cognizant of the timeline (since law school starts in August), and she said she could gauge the possibility of the opportunity with her leadership team by hopefully early July.

I need to be at law school at the end of August. My project goes live the following week. I’m trying to contemplate how to let my team know for advance planning when I myself haven’t even decided what I’m doing. This feels hard and awkward to me because it’s not like college, where people naturally graduate after, say, four years. I’ve never left a job before and I don’t know how to tell my team or when. If I only give two weeks’ notice or something, I feel like they’ll feel wronged, because there’s no way I just found out about law school. But I really am still deciding. I also don’t want to give my team the impression that I’m selfishly leaving the client in a bind just before the project goes live.

This is also hard because I’m living and working abroad, which adds another layer of complexity. Any replacement that they find for me would need to be based out of the U.S., which is not an issue, but it would leave my global team here without a project management person for about two months before things really conclude. Any advice you have would be very much appreciated.

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “Why are you even considering law school if you’re not enthusiastic about the idea of practicing law?”

The response:

I think my job prospects would be better with skills versus just project management (where I’ve been responsible for booking car reservations for my team, etc.). And a top-3 law school isn’t a bad option to get skills even if just for the name brand and the network that could open. I’m also not super enthused about HR consulting (which is what I’m currently doing).

Nooooo! Nooooo, nooooo!

Any lawyer will tell you this is a bad idea. You go to law school if you want to practice law. That’s it — seriously. Law school is not some sort of general graduate degree to enhance your skills; it’s an intensive three years of your life to train you to practice law.

Going to law school for the reasons you’ve described is actually likely to make your job search harder, not easier. The job market for people coming out of law school is really, really tight. The sorts of jobs that like to hire lawyers for things other than straight lawyering — like policy and public interest work — are highly competitive. And employers are going to consider you overqualified for a bunch of other jobs, just because you have the J.D.

You didn’t mention whether you’d be taking out loans to cover school or not, but if you do, your job options will also be severely constrained by the fact that you’ll only be able to consider jobs that pay enough to pay back your loans.

And law school is going to be even more stressful than it usually is because you don’t have a passion for what you’ll be studying.

This is a bad idea, in case that’s not yet clear.

Really, I think the key to all of this confusion lies in the third sentence of your letter, where you say, “I was never very interested in law, but I majored in sociology and didn’t know what other grad school I’d be a good fit for.” Here’s the missing piece in your thinking: Grad school is not the default next step after undergrad. You go to grad school if you want a career that requires it. You don’t go just to go. You definitely don’t go if you don’t have a clear path for afterwards. And you really definitely don’t go when you’re not particularly interested in the field you’d be studying.

This is how people end up miserable. Miserable and in debt.

You don’t sound like you should be attending law school. I don’t know if the other opportunity that the partner at your company mentioned is the right one for you, but it sounds like a way better bet than a graduate program you don’t actually need or want. Say no to law school, keep exploring this other possibility, and do some serious thinking about other, non-school options as well. Your choices aren’t just law school or staying where you are — expand the options you’re considering to other paths too.

P.S. Read this.

{ 379 comments… read them below }

  1. MJH*

    100% agree with Allison. Even more so than other grad schools, law school is not for networking or adding skills that an employer will find impressive (you can’t even study every area of law in law school, so it’s just an overview; you learn the real skills when you are actually lawyer-ing). Law school is for becoming a lawyer. Period. (And some people find out half-way through, or a few years into their law careers that they actually hate being lawyers).

    Seriously. Unless your job goal is lawyer, and you can’t imagine doing anything else, DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL. It’s expensive, stressful, and doesn’t necessarily even lead to a job.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree, agree, agree.

      I read somewhere that often when you are wrestling with a decision like this, it is usually because what you want to do and what you think you should do are in conflict. When what you want to do and what you should do are the same, you’re not even conscious of making a decision.

      So, using that model, it sounds like you think you should go to law school (for some pretty nebulous reasons), but don’t want to. If you wanted to go, you’d be excited to do so, and planning your next few years around it…not planning your next few months of work and trying to figure out how to avoid school.

      We’re all here to tell you that you don’t have to go. You have other choices. There are other paths in graduate school, and there are other jobs that will give you the experience you need.

      Also, law school is not going anywhere. If in 5 years you change your mind, you can apply again.

    2. Marcy Marketer*

      To be perfectly honest, a business analyst is radically different than a project manager, neither of which should be booking travel or anything like that.

      1. Wonder Woman*

        I came in to say this. Project management is not booking travel and ordering lunches. Neither is business analysis.

        1. Banana*

          Yes! Go look at what is required for PMI licensing! Sounds like you’re an admin of sorts.
          You sound kind of like you should go to business school, to be honest…

      2. Wendy Darling*

        As a business/data analyst… yes. If someone asked me to book travel or order them lunch I’d look at them like they’d grown a second head. It sounds like OP is being used as an admin assistant, whatever their title is.

      3. Artemesia*

        I wondered about that too. My daughter does project management and it is in another universe than ordering lunches and booking travel; that is the work of an administrative assistant.

    3. ThatGirl*

      One of my best friends decided she wanted a career in HR-related fields, and thought that going to law school and studying employment law would help her break in. And it did — to work at an employment law firm. She felt stuck there, for 10 years. She was good at her job, but it wasn’t what she really wanted to do. She finally got an HR-related job, and her knowledge of employment law is useful to some degree, but she definitely did not need her J.D. and tons of debt to get there, and I think she regrets it now.

      So, you know, just to echo everyone else. :)

      1. Ann Cognito*

        This could have been me! By the time I finished my undergrad degree, I knew I wanted to work in HR (I had work experience in HR as I was an older undergrad student (26) and had worked for a few years in HR before I went back to school for my undergrad degree). So I decided I wanted to go to grad school right after undergrad.

        I went back and forth between a JD and a Masters in HR Management, and ultimately decided on the MSc in HRM, and have been working in HR since graduation in increasingly responsible positions. The MSc was definitely the right move, since it backed-up the actual work experience I already had, and I’ve always gotten a good response to my resume.

        Over the years since though, I’ve played with the idea about a JD, as employment law is a huge part of my job, which I really enjoy. But I love a lot of other aspects of HR not just employment law, and a JD would have narrowed (and still would narrow), things too much I think. So, I’m glad I didn’t get one at the time, and in the meantime, a couple of years ago I decided it wouldn’t be worth the investment now either, as it wouldn’t open any additional career opportunities beyond what I already have – it would only pigeon-hole me more I think – nor would it increase my earning potential by much, if at all.

        All that to say I so agree that you should only get a JD if you love law, and want to be an attorney!

    4. Blue Dog*

      As a 25 year lawyer, let me give you a piece of advice: Do not go to law school unless you are absolutely and positively clear that you want to be a lawyer for the rest of your life. And I don’t mean just that you want to be either a doctor or lawyer or engineer and you think lawyer fits you best. Take a gap year and intern in a law firm and see what it is really like. Talk to some lawyers and see if you can find a happy one. Consider whether you want to spend the next 40 years of your life dividing your life into 6 minute segments. And, even worse, becoming a lawyer will change the way you think, the way you relate to people, and the way you deal with your family. Being involved with a lawyer is no picnic and has caused the end to many relationships which people thought were rock solid. Bottom Line: Unless you have an all-consuming drive to practice law, don’t do this.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Being involved with a lawyer is no picnic and has caused the end to many relationships which people thought were rock solid.

        Unless you marry another lawyer. All the lawyers I know who are still married to their first spouse and are still relatively happy are married to other attorneys. I think it’s because no one else could put up with their mess.

        1. Temperance*

          Okay I’m an attorney, and I don’t agree with you. The most successful relationships I’ve seen are between attorneys and non-attorneys with demanding careers or advanced degrees. I don’ t think it’s an issue of us being a “mess”.

    5. Jenn*

      I actually disagree with Allison. I went to grad school (not law) because I figured it would be better to have an advanced degree to just get my foot in the door. I can’t say I am passionate about the subject of my degree, but I know it’s versatile enough to work in an array of industries. Because the OP is considering law, I’d say it still is a very versatile degree. I know tons of JDs that don’t practice law and they’re quite successful. The fact is most people don’t really know what they want to do. Well, actually, most people don’t know what it is that will make them happy AND can provide a living for themselves. Either they fall into something that pays the bills and can deal with it or they genuinely find something they do love.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Jenn, you may disagree, but the vast majority of people with an actual law degree (me included) are telling the OP that this is a bad idea. You say that you know “tons” of people with law degrees who don’t practice yet are “quite successful”–but are they successful BECAUSE they have a JD? Non-law jobs where you need a law degree or are better off with a law degree are not very common, and they aren’t spread across many fields. The question isn’t whether you can get a job that isn’t in the law when you have a JD (although that’s not that easy to do), it’s whether you should spend money and three years of your life on difficult school work to get a job that you could have already been working and earning a reputation in without the degree. For the vast majority of people, it is not worth it. They would be better off figuring out what they want to do in the first place.

      2. SG*

        I know lawyers from NYU, Yale, Harvard, Chicago & UCLA and literally every single one would disagree.

      3. Honeybee*

        In addition to the specifically law related commentary you’ve gotten:

        1) It’s not always better to have an advanced degree, and advanced degrees don’t always “get your foot in the door.” In fact, experience is far better at getting your foot in the door of most fields than a degree.

        2) Of course it’s okay not to know what you want to do, but the answer to that is to work around a little bit and find out what you do want to do. Graduate school is expensive and grueling and takes a lot of time. It wouldn’t do to, for example, get an MPA only to find out that what you really needed was an MA in HR because you really love human resources. It makes more sense to work for a few years first and get a handle on the kinds of things you like.

    6. OP*

      Hi everyone,

      Thank you so much to all who have weighed in (and especially to Alison, whose advice I absolutely trust – I’ve been reading this blog since college). As a catch-all response to all of the feedback here, directed at no one in particular:

      As for my job, it’s somewhat common for my company to slot younger business analysts into “project management” roles that are heavily administrative. But my title is still “business analyst,” and not every analyst at my company gets assigned into a project management role. (Some get opportunities to develop core consulting skills, which is one thing I don’t like about my company. The training opportunities are all project-based, and everyone’s projects look different based on what client staffing needs are.)

      Outside of the admin work, the project management role includes putting together status reports, projecting screens in status meetings, etc. I am pretty good at it – we just had our promotion announcements last week and I was promoted to consultant level. (This is par for the course, though; the analyst program is two years.) My evaluations on this current project (from August) have been “outstanding” from every reviewer. I am fairly involved in firm initiatives outside of client work, which did get noticed in my evaluations. I’m not in a bad spot with my current job. It’s just that my actual day-to-day work is so heavily administrative and it’s not what I want to be doing. I am not interested in it. In my role I have visibility to the work other people on the project are doing, too, and I’m not interested in that either.

      What I do think would be cool is that potential opportunity with the partner, who is relocating to my current country in the fall to do 3 years of client relationship management for this region. She has visited my current location two times now, and both times we hit it off well – leading her to raise the potential of helping her in a client relationship management support role. This would move me out of project management (I appreciate all of the advice to go after a PMP certification, but don’t want to continue down the PMO path). Client relationship management sounds cool, better than continuing with my current project to the next country. At the end of the day, I don’t see myself long-term doing this kind of HR consulting because my interests don’t lie here. Still, the opportunity with the partner hasn’t materialized and it’d be a tough sell for my company. The partner is pitching the idea to her leadership, but did forewarn me it would be an investment as no one’s considered the need for a support role. I feel like I don’t have good options if the client relationship opportunity doesn’t work out. But the thing is, they aren’t bad options. Continuing with HR consulting, even if it’s not what I’m interested in, would still bring in cash flow and I know my company is a pretty good place. A top-3 law school also isn’t a bad option, I don’t think…

      Regarding finances, this isn’t too big of an issue for me. My mom can cover the cost of school. But, while I recognize this is a huge privilege, I don’t take this privilege lightly, and I’m not coasting on that either. I can actually cover the cost of tuition on my own; in addition to my consulting job, I write and tutor on the side and have earned/saved enough in my two years post-college to fully cover tuition.

      That said, I am hearing the resounding “nos” to law school loud and clear. One thing I didn’t mention: I am more interested in business and if I do go to law school, would want to leverage that eventually into business. People have said a law degree could be useful in the business world (public interest and policy have no appeal to me). I am aware of BigLaw and the hours it entails (I work very long hours now in my current role, partially due to the time difference between my location and my US-based team). I am also not someone who needs to love my job; I know that I get paid to do a job and it’s not a hobby for a reason. I hear all of the comments about doing the MBA route but with my history of booking car reservations and the like, I don’t have really deep business experience for that. On the other hand, a top-3 law school sounds like such a shiny option. It’s on the table, it’s right in front of me, I already applied for campus housing, everything’s all set. Whoever said “golden handcuffs” is right, though. I kind of feel locked into this law school route.

      I’m 23, turning 24 next month – in some ways I feel like I’m young and shouldn’t need to stress out so much about a 40+ year career, but I’m really feeling the pressure anyways. There are only so many narrow windows of time in my life when I can either live abroad or be a student. Seriously!

      This is a long response to everyone’s comments, but I really can’t thank all of you enough for taking the time to help me out.

      1. Parcae*

        I hear you: you don’t like your job. It’s too administrative. You don’t have much substantive work experience, and law school is your obvious golden ticket. You feel like the window of opportunity for “I’m young; I can do anything!” is closing quickly, and law school seems like the obvious solution.

        I’ve been there; done that. Well, the law school I graduated from was top six, not top three, but let’s agree not to quibble about that. ;) Ten years ago, I saw my gift for standardized tests as my clear route to Success. I didn’t have any particular work-related interests and my resume was pretty thin, but a fancy law school wanted me and everyone I knew thought I’d make a decent lawyer, so I signed up.

        I didn’t hate law school. I made some nice friends; I like the coursework OK; I lived in a fun city. It was a decent way to spend three years. But then I graduated and had to find work. I didn’t have a very high opinion of the legal profession by that point, but I did my 2L summer at a high-paying firm and duly signed up a few years of drudgery. You have to pay your dues, right?

        Were you paying attention when I said “ten years ago”? No? Well, I graduated law school in 2009 and promptly lost my job in the Great Recession. It was, hand to God, the best thing that ever happened to me, even though it felt like the worst at the time. My non-legal job search was awful. I ended up taking a job no one else wanted in a place I didn’t want to live, just because I needed to eat and pay rent. I felt like a failure.

        I made it work, eventually. I found a career I enjoy, semi-adjacent to law. I found an employer willing to look past the albatross of a JD on my resume. I’m paying off my student loans. It’s fine. But gosh, I know I’m lucky to have escaped that Big Law firm and landed on my feet. My parents still think my law degree is the bestest thing ever, but if I had it to do over again, I’d find a holdover job or internship or something and skip the whole law school business. What a waste of three years and $150,000.

      2. Panda Bandit*

        “People have said a law degree could be useful in the business world”

        It w0n’t be. Companies will see your law degree and skip over you because they consider you a flight risk. Why hire and train you when you could leave at any time for one of those high-paying lawyer positions?

      3. Sarah*

        I’ve worked in consulting and seen the use of “business analyst” in that manner. You basically do whatever the partner/project needs. It isn’t ideally so much admin work, but sometimes it is. I too was frustrated at the lack of control I (or anyone, really) seemed to have over my career at a lower level. (Ultimately, I left for a different job.)

        More to the point… Don’t go to law school it just because it is the easy option and right there on the table. You need to put more options on the table, and then only choose law school if it really truly is your best next step. Identify what you really want to do, and do that instead.

        Here are some other ideas to consider. Apply for another global consulting firm to get a less admin-based role (if other types of consulting might be of longer term interest to you). Apply for an MBA – an international MBA might be up your ally. If you don’t think you have the skills to get into a good MBA program, then figure out how to get them. Apply for peace corp or some other life changing volunteer position with another group you believe in.

        If you have law school tuition saved up, you have so many options right now! Going to law school is not just a big cost in terms of money, it’s time. The opportunity cost is huge! You are choosing law school and forgoing the alternate experiences that you could have in those years. Make sure you understand what you might be saying “no” to if you go with the flow and just show up at law school. You are not locked into the law school route. Find your route. Figure out what you really want to do next.

      4. Dot Warner*

        I saw this comment on a blog a number of years ago and wish I could attribute it to the original author:

        “If you don’t want to be a lawyer, instead of law school I suggest you get someone to kick you in the [posterior] about 5000 times. It’s a similar experience to law school but much less expensive.”

        OP, I’m not a lawyer but I did attend a doctorate-level professional school, and occasionally I hear from students who think the type of school I attended will prepare them for medical school. No – in fact, people in my field have the *worst* odds of getting into med school because med school adcoms think that if Person X bolted on their first doctorate degree to go to med school, who’s to say they won’t change their mind about being a doctor too? While in law school, you might realize that some other graduate program is a better fit for you, but chances are you won’t get accepted to another graduate program if you have a JD or dropped out of a JD program.

        Don’t make yourself miserable, and don’t take a law school spot away from someone who really wants it.

      5. Government Worker*

        OP, what do you mean when you say “I am more interested in business and if I do go to law school, would want to leverage that eventually into business”? “Business” is a hugely broad, catch-all term. Do you want to start your own business? Mergers and acquisitions between huge companies? Do internal audits to make processes more efficient? Be in charge of developing and launching a new product line? Do more substantive work in a consulting job, working for lots of different companies? Sales? Marketing? Finance? Accounting? HR?

        You mention your alma mater below, and I know they’ve got a strong alumni network. One thing that really helped me when I was changing careers a few years ago was to find people in the alumni directory who were working in areas that sounded interesting and to email and ask for a 20-minute informational interview by phone. I got a great response rate and learned a ton – what people with different job titles actually do all day, how they got to where they are, mistakes they’d made along the way, etc. That sort of process seems like it could be hugely valuable for you right now. For me it ended with going to grad school at 32, for an unusual program in a field I’d only been vaguely aware of a couple of years prior. It was a great fit for me, and a few months into my first job in that field I absolutely love it.

      6. SG*

        Why not just get a MBA? You don’t actually need deep business experience for that- MBAs are where you make the connections, learn how to leverage whatever skills you do have and move yourself towards the career you want. From everything you say, it will be a huge mistake to go to law school. You seem to be focusing more on the prestige of this three year school- which when you get out of school at 27, the only skills you will have picked up are ones relating directly to law. And that is to say NOTHING of overwhelming number of lawyers already. My mom is an extremely successful lawyer (corporate), and she feels so awful for all these new grads who think they’ll get good jobs. Her last job was turned away Yale and Harvard degrees by the dozen because the jobs just don’t exist.

      7. Broke Law Student*

        FYI, don’t go to law school to network for non-law opportunities. I’m at a T3 school and I have forced myself to get over my networking phobia, but most people want to talk about what do you want to do, what are you doing in law school/summer jobs that will help that, what’s your 5-year-plan, etc. They’re not going to stick their neck out for you or offer you a job if they sense that you’re at law school to get a business job.

        Law school is also an intense experience. There is a ton of work for classes, and if you want to do things outside of regular academic work, like clinics, student orgs, journals, etc., then it can be pretty overwhelming. I know that at the end of this I want to be a lawyer and that’s how I’m getting through. I’m not sure how I could do this for 3 years if I didn’t, to be honest. Plus, it takes you out of the work force for 3 years–it’s ok if you want to be a lawyer, since all lawyers are on a level playing field as far as that goes, but less ok if you don’t since you’ll be competing with people who were in the workforce that whole time. Sorry if I’m repeating anything other people said, just wanted to put in my $.02!

        (Also, not sure which school you’re looking at, but my school officially says you can only defer X years but really you can keep deferring indefinitely and they don’t care, so you could always just defer again if it’s too much to up and quit all at once.)

          1. Broke Law Student*

            At my school, yeah. I can’t speak for the others, but I know of at least one person who just kept deferring until the school was like “so you coming back or nah” and at that point the person officially turned them down.

      8. NK*

        I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but seriously – get an MBA! Given the information you’ve given here, you are the perfect candidate for it. We had a good handful of ex-lawyers in my top tier MBA program because they wanted to get into business. Don’t be that person if you already know you don’t want a law degree!

        Also, I think you are seriously selling yourself short here when you say you’re just making car reservations and so you don’t think you’re MBA material. TRUST me, you do not need “deep business experience”. My roommate in my program was an elementary school teacher for three years. And she was awesome and has an awesome job in business now. I know plenty of HR consultants who probably did the same exact thing as you are doing now who got into the program as well. You just have to be good about framing your experiences. Not to mention your side businesses – B-school admissions eats that up!

        You’re really well timed for this; take the GMAT soon and apply this fall. Or apply next fall. Seriously, don’t go to law school.

        1. OP*

          I did see this! I am reading every comment here and taking everyone’s input seriously. Thank you for backing up the MBA idea. I would love to go to a top MBA program, actually; it’d just take a lot more work to get there. The path of least resistance – one that I don’t have to work toward at all – is a good law school! (Yes, I know from everyone here that the path of least resistance is not necessarily a smart path.) I’m also cognizant that school is just the means to the end, not the end itself.

          1. Honeybee*

            Well, it wouldn’t take more work than the work you’ve already done, if you get my meaning. It’s just that you’ve already applied to law school so that application process is in the past now.

      9. Patsy Stone*

        A bit late, but I thought I would throw in my thoughts anyway. You mention that “in some ways I feel like I’m young and shouldn’t need to stress out so much about a 40+ year career…there are only so many narrow windows of time in my life when I can either live abroad or be a student”. Your early 20s aren’t the only windows of time when you can live abroad or be a student. I had a very successful 20-year career in hospitality and tourism management working with many internationally recognized companies….and I first moved abroad when I was 35. I never thought I would grow tired of living abroad and working in tourism management, but one day I did. So I did something I would never in a million years have thought of doing when I was in my early 20s…..I entered nursing school when I was 43, and will be graduating in a couple of months. Once I get enough experience in a couple years, I plan on going abroad again to (hopefully) work with MSF as a nurse. And I will be, ahem, just over 50 by then…

        You are right…you are young. You have a world of opportunity ahead of you, and you don’t know where your 40-year career will take you. It may very well change in ways you can’t imagine now. If I can offer up any advice based on my experiences so far, it’s that there are no time limits set as to when you can do things in life, and that you just don’t know where life will take you. If you do go to law school now, and ten or fifteen years down the road regret not doing an MBA or something else more in line with what you want…who says you can’t become a student again? Nobody! You’re not locked into a career….it may not be easy to change it (believe me, I know!), but it’s definitely possible!

        I saw that you also say further down that “…if I were to go to another job (or apply for a different degree), intangibles wouldn’t be sufficient to prove I’d be a valuable contributor.” Many of the intangible skills I built over twenty years in my past career contributed directly to my earning highly competitive and coveted positions throughout my nursing program…I developed the same skill set throughout the nursing programs as my classmates, but it was the intangibles I brought with me that made the difference. Don’t take those intangible skills for granted or think they’re not going to get you places. They will.

        1. Anonygoose*

          I think the problem is that society tends to give the impression that you can only do these things when you are young. I love to travel, and have lived abroad, but I’m only 24. When I tell people what I’ve done, they tell me that I’m lucky I did it when I’m young, because “you can’t travel/live abroad when you have a career/have a family/buy a house/insert *milestone* here”. Even though there are countless people who prove that is, in fact, not true, it’s hard not to start to believe that message when you hear it from every person in your life.

      10. Honeybee*

        Another person chiming in saying for the MBA. You don’t need deep business experience for that; in fact, a 2-year business analyst role at a consulting firm is EXACTLY the kind of experience a lot of top MBAs are looking for in their admits (it’s a pretty common role for graduates from elite colleges).

        Even if your mom and your savings can cover the cost of school, you could potentially use that for other things – travel, purchasing a home, an emergency fund, investments.

  2. Laurel Gray*

    Don’t go.

    Your role sounds like a project coordinator or assistant. Is it possible to ask for more complex work on the projects? Some training courses in particular parts of the project could help. Maybe it would interest you in pursuing something like getting the PMP cert which costs significantly less and would open you up to great job prospects if you ever come back to the states. Definitely don’t go to law school, get your JD via law dramas on Netflix, it’s more fun and only like $10-15 a month. :)

    1. I'm not Julie, My Name is Lisa*

      Right – I’m a PM, and I have never booked travel for anyone other than myself. That sounds way more like a project admin or project coordinator, and if OP’s company is calling her a PM, that’s an unorthodox use of a Project Manager.

      you can take some relatively inexpensive online, at your own pace, PM courses to see if true project management is something that interests you, but I agree with everyone else that you shouldn’t go to law school if you don’t plan to be a lawyer.

      1. Annoying Question*

        Where would one start to look for online PM courses? I’m interested in pursuing possible project management careers (my job is along project management lines, but is not called that or specifically categorized as such, so it would sort of be a field change), and looking at courses would probably be a good start while I’m at my current job. Thanks for any suggestions!

        1. LQ*

          I know Coursera was mentioned elsewhere but it does have a bunch of PM classes. I don’t know if they lead to a certification, but I know we’ve done some at my work because some of the work we do is PM so it is a good place to start with the foundations.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Lots of schools offer a certificate in project management, or online coursework toward a PMP (project management professional). The classes are usually aimed at working professionals, not part of a degree program, and may be part of a separate continuing education or corporate education department, or may be part of the business school. When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, they brought in a person to run a 2-day project management class every year that was the same as the he taught at the local state school, and it was an excellent foundation – but of course, it’s what you do with what you learn in the class that is key. I’m considering following up with some online classes from the University of Cincinnati, although I’m still looking for other options too if anyone has any suggestions.

        3. I'm not Julie, My Name is Lisa*

          I took a bunch through ed2go, but they’ve increased their prices a bit (classes range about $150 now directly through ed2go, they were $70 two years ago through my local community college, YMMV.) Coursera is also a good option, as are most community colleges and 4 year universities who offer certificate courses.

        4. Milton Waddams*

          That depends — do you mean learning the skillset, or getting the certification?

          Unfortunately, the field of project management is sort of like a fine wine slowly turning to vinegar — the mother of vinegar being management fad-ism.

          The Wikipedia definition is remarkably precise here; it lists the symptoms as:

          * New jargon for existing business processes.

          * External consultants who specialize in the implementation of the fad.

          * A certification or appraisal process performed by an external agency for a fee.

          *Amending the job titles of existing employees to include references to the fad.

          *Claims of a measurable business improvement via measurement of a metric (e.g. key performance indicator) that is defined by the fad itself.

          *An internal sponsoring department or individual that gains influence due to the fad’s implementation.

          Project management is suffering from all of these, sadly.

          To get your cert, take online courses from anywhere — so long as they are PMI-certified. Don’t expect to learn much other than the jargon that will be on the exam.

          For first principles and actually learning the skill-set, I would actually start with The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick Brooks. ( While the tools have changed, many of the fundamentals are all there.

          I would also suggest Sylvain Lenfle’s essay “Sidewinder and the management of exploratory projects” on the origins of the Sidewinder missile project ( a great piece of modern research in a field with a lot of noise-to-signal on the academic side.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        Lunch is a powerful tool in organizations where you’re stuck being a PM without a project charter. It turns your role from being “the suit who makes those flowcharts everyone ignores” into someone with the personal relationships needed to get commitments without formal authority.

    2. Koko*

      Yes, I came here to make sure this was raised! What OP describes sounds more like administrative function than project management. She should be aware of that when looking at jobs in the future, because project management is usually much more about, well, the actual project. Coming up with a strategy, implementing it into steps, making sure all the pieces are coming together on the correct timeline, making sure the final product is good and works, etc.

      Her company seems like they are weirdly calling their assistants “project managers.”

      1. Witty Nickname*

        I was job searching last year, and came across several roles listed as “Project manager & receptionist,” that paid $40k per year (in a market where the average salary for project managers in entry level pm roles is somewhere around double that). Some companies just don’t know what actual project management is or don’t distinguish between project coordinators or project schedulers, etc.

        I’ve moved into program management, and am finding a lot of people don’t understand what that is either.

        1. Wonder Woman*

          I totally agree. I took a project manager job at one of the big banks (10 years experience and a PMP, so the salary was more like 3x that salary you quote), official job title Project Manager IV and everything. I proceeded to work on what they needed help with (recent department reorg, so RACI matrix, process flows, worked with the teams on a little change acceptance because they had just straight up FIRED half the group, etc). They kind of turned their noses up at everything I produced nd I spent the next year taking meeting minutes and proofreading powerpoint presentations.

      2. LQ*

        I think Project Manager is a title that varies a lot. When I was at a Very Small Place I was a PM. That included stuff like ordering lunch and cleaning the office. But it also included all the strategy and implementation too. Calling me an assistant would have ignored all the high level stuff I did. A lot of it was just the nature at working at a place that was so small. I don’t think it is that strange. But it is important to look at the job duties when applying for a job, not just the title for that exact reason.

    3. Defunct Lawyer*

      Do not go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. Period. End of story.

      I went to law school after undergrad really knowing in my gut that I did not want to practice law. I knew I wanted to do something in business just like you said. I thought the knowledge and background I would get in law school would make me an ideal candidate to get my foot in the door at a business. It did not. I got passed over for jobs I honestly would have LOVED because I was overqualified and a “flight risk.” HR departments looked at my resume like I was just trying to “find a job,” and would “leave in a heartbeat,” when in reality those jobs were things I was actually passionate about. I actually loved the law school experience and I learned so many amazing and useful things, but that is not a reason to go to law school. You can learn many of those useful things on your own using Google and TedTalks. That’s not a slam on law school, it’s just a reality. Law school does nothing to prepare you for the real world of working in a business. And even though practicing law is a form of business, it is not like other businesses and firms are run very differently.

      I finally got a job in human resources which I love a few years ago after floundering for 4 years in practice which I hated almost every day. Admittedly, my practical experience in employment law helped me get in the field, but if it had not been for a family friend who’s business desperately needed a HR manager and didn’t want to spend time hiring people, I don’t know that it would have been easy at all for me to get into it. Now I’ve been able to move up to a better position, with a better company because they liked the skills I have now … And every single interview I went on in between I was asked why I would want to work in human resources instead of practice law and guess what, most of the businesses didn’t buy my answer.

      If you are passionate about practicing law and making a difference GO TO LAW SCHOOL. If you are not, just don’t do it … You will be absolutely miserable and will hear for the rest of your life “Why are you doing X when you have a law degree?”

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      If the letter writer really is going to a top 3 law school (Harvard, Yale, or Stanford), then they should have no worries about finding a job afterwards. That is, if they intended to practice law.

      But there’s no reason to go to law school other than as a prerequisite to practicing law. What you learn in law school isn’t all that relevant to actually practicing law either. But in most states you need the law school degree (JD) to be eligible to take the bar examine to be eligible to practice law.

      1. Elysian*

        Even if they get a job, that doesn’t mean the job they get would cover the debt you incur if you have to take out loans! And most people have to take out loans. So maybe you’ll get a job paying $75,000 a year and you’ll have $250,000 worth of non-discharged law school debt. Or you’ll sell your soul and get the big paying job that actually covers your debt and be even more miserable than you are now. There is really no winning here if you won’t even actually like what you can do when you get out.

        1. LawLady*

          This isn’t quite true. I’m at one of those top 3 law schools. At those, she’s basically guaranteed a job and the entry level pay is $180k, so paying it off isn’t so very hard. (This really only holds true for Harvard, Stanford and Yale. At all other schools, your chances of getting a BigLaw job diminish significantly.)

          That said, I agree and think the general-use degree OP is looking for is actually an MBA.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But you’re talking about a Big Law job, right? (Which it sounds like she doesn’t want.)

            (I know you’re responding to a different aspect of this, but I just want to clarify that point for poor OP.)

            1. LawLady*

              Ah yes, I do mean BigLaw. And it is definitely, absolutely true that you should know all about BigLaw before you sign up for it, because it is A LOT. (I’m typing this from my BigLaw internship now.)

              1. LawLady*

                Though, to be clear, I don’t think I’ve sold my soul. The hours are long, but the responsibility is huge and the work feels substantial. For a certain kind of person, it’s a great job. The OP *might* be one of those kinds of people, but I agree that she should figure that out before starting law school. Most people are not those kinds of people.

                1. Elysian*

                  I mean, maybe? But she doesn’t even want to be a lawyer. I would never advise someone to go to law school, take out the debt, and then consider if you would be the kind of person who would succeed in BigLaw, if they know from the outset they don’t even want to be a lawyer. That limits the income potential pretty significantly.

                2. LawLady*

                  Well she didn’t explicitly say that she didn’t want to be a lawyer. (Though she also said nothing indicating she did want to be a lawyer.) Mostly I meant that for someone looking for responsibility and high-level work (which it sounds like she is), it can be a good job.

                  Obviously I agree that you figure that out FIRST and then go to law school.

            2. Kelly F*

              The LRAP programs at the T3 are SUPER generous though (OP, research exactly what the terms are, however, because they vary in how long you have to work before it’s actually paid off and what sort of jobs qualify), and T3 graduates have job opportunities that the rest don’t have at all (like academia). T3 law school pretty much is a golden ticket, but maybe not to a ride OP wants, but a golden ticket nonetheless.

          2. Stephanie*

            Yeah, MBA sounds like a better fit as well. Consulting to MBA is a pretty common jump. Depending on where she currently works, the assumption is that she’ll probably leave for b school in a couple of years anyway. A couple of friends who have worked at those elite consulting firms make it sound like the career tracks are set up for employees to do that.

            1. OP*

              Hi Stephanie, I left a catch-all response to the thread in an above comment. But, wanted to specially say hi to you. I’ve been reading AAM for a while and have seen your name come up before. We went to the same undergrad. ;-) Brown ’14.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Also, learning that you we went to the same undergrad gives me a little more context. Ok, so if you got into Alma Mater and did well enough there to get into a Top 3 LS and a consulting job, clearly you’re a smart cookie. You’ve also probably got the push that you need to be hyper successful immediately post-college.

                  Have you tried talking to Career Services? Hopefully they’ve gotten better since I graduated in the late 00s and can help out. It wasn’t that they were bad, per se, they were just really good at placing new grads into energy jobs or the type of consulting job you’re currently in and not much else. They weren’t a ton of help when I had my own post-grad career flailing (coincidentally enough, in a field auxiliary to law) and were like “Errrr, we can give you a MBTI assessment…during the summer after recruiting is over.”

                  Have you thought about reaching out to any of your old sociology profs? If it’s any of the same group who was there when I was there (I wasn’t a sociology major, but a lot of them were faculty sponsors of a club I was pretty heavily involved in), they’re all pretty friendly and could connect you to other alums. I reached out to some old professors of mine (like six or seven years after I graduated) and they remembered me and were happy to chat.

                  Good luck!

                2. OP*

                  Thanks, Stephanie. All good advice. I am still in touch with the soc department – my hesitation with Career Services is that they love to tell you to follow your passions, which is such broad advice that I didn’t find it useful as an undergrad. Tough because what else can you expect people to tell you when you ask a question like this? I want to be successful (in my own admittedly narrow definition of success)… and I recognize a job is a job for a reason (I think it’s rare for people to be totally passionate about their work). At any rate – I do appreciate the thoughts you’ve given here and it’s given me a few takeaways that I’ll look into. Thank you.

                3. SG*

                  Not a Brown alum, but I have gone to your campus on a cappella tour =P

                  OP, I know about 20-30 people who went to Ivies then off to Ivy MBAs after working a year or two in consulting or wealth management or whatever. You are way more qualified as an MBA applicant than you are letting yourself think.

              1. OP*

                Just wanted to note that the name I left here was the name of my residential college (i.e. dorm), not my university. :-) We lived in residential colleges, like in Harry Potter.

          3. Melissa*

            From the work experience described, I don’t necessarily think that OP will benefit from an MBA very much. Honestly at this point it just sounds like it’s time to get a different job that isn’t administrative in nature. And then maybe with some non-admin experience in hand, THEN it’s time to consider MBA or other grad school options.

            As for law school, big no all around based on OP’s letter and comments.

  3. Ann O'Nemity*

    These are the questions I ask anyone considering law school:

    Do you understand that the job market is dismal and there’s a good chance you won’t get a job practicing law?
    Do you understand that you’ll be taking on staggering student loan debt that will take decades to pay off?
    Are you convinced that there is nothing else in the world that would make you happy?

    If the answer to all is yes, I still encourage folks to rethink going to law school!
    And if there’s any no’s or even vague doubt, I say DON’T GO.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      Coming out of HSY she probably wouldn’t have a problem finding a job. But it will be a job as a lawyer.

      1. LawLady*

        Though one caveat is that the big consulting firms and investment banks also hire out of HYS. Unlike most law schools, it is indeed possible to do something else with the degree. But it’s a roundabout way to do those things, and an MBA definitely makes more sense.

        1. Stephanie*

          Although I don’t think a job at a big consulting firm or investment bank is much better in terms of hours or lifestyle. :)

  4. SeltzerFizz*

    OMG everything Alison said times a million!

    I went to law school without the clearest perspective of what I wanted to do with my degree once I graduated. Without knowing exactly what I wanted to do, multiplied with job scarcity, my job search was totally scattered and unfocused. I lost a lot of traction in the immediate 2 years after graduating from law school. 5 years later plus thousands of dollars of student loan debt I still need to repay, I’ve finally gotten to a place in my career where I know what I want to do but it’s been a really stressful and scary uphill climb. In hindsight, I should probably should have gotten my public policy degree instead, but what’s done is done. Please listen to Alison – I really wish had this advice before I making my decision to go to law school.

    1. LawBee*

      I could have written this comment almost word-for-word – except I would have to say tens of thousands of dollars of debt (ok, like six figures of debt). I love the job I have now, but would I do it all again, knowing what I know now?

      Not on my life, not on the life of my cat. No.

      1. LawPancake*

        Yup, I’m in exactly the same boat. I like my position and enjoy the practice of law but if I could go back in time I would break both my legs if that’s what I had to do to prevent myself from going to law school.

        1. Honeybee*

          I have a several friends who are lawyers, and every single one of them has said some version of this same thing before.

      2. SeltzerFizz*

        We’re definitely not alone! So many friends and friends-of-friends are in our boat. Not sure if you agree with this, and this might be an unpopular comment, but if the OP ends up going to law school and realizes after the first semester/first year/second year this wasn’t the right decision, DON’T FINISH! You’ll save year(s), thousands of dollars, and stress of finding the right job after graduation. I felt like a couple of students in my class were like, oh well, I’m here and now it’s too late. But the kids that realized law school wasn’t for them ended up going a different grad school track or back to the job market. I kept in touch with someone of these people and none of them regret leaving law school, unlike so many law school grads I know.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          This sounds like a guy I used to work with. He said he should have dropped out when he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer (he only went to law school because he had a BS in Psych and no clue what to do next since he didn’t want to be a psychologist/psychiatrist), but he doesn’t quit things. He liked the paperwork part of being a lawyer, but he just didn’t like litigation. And the non-litigation jobs in our area are not plentiful.

  5. GreenTeaPot*

    Sounds like business school might be a better fit, if further education is even necessary.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Yeah, if OP can get into a top 3 law school they can probably get into a top 5 or so business school. If you’re just looking to get skillz and a network, that’s a better way to go by far than law school (though it’s still, at best, probably even-money on just working at a different job those 3 years instead!)

      1. NK*

        I came here to say the same thing. Not to dismiss Alison’s point below, because maybe grad school doesn’t make sense at all. But if it does, a top-tier MBA program sounds like the right place for the OP, which she should have no problem getting into given the details provided.

        Also, we had a lot of people in my MBA program who were sponsored by their major consulting firms to attend. Yes, they went 2 years without salary, but they came out with guaranteed jobs with a big bump in pay and no debt other than any they incurred for living expenses during school. And it’s the type of thing OP would do 3-5 years out of school (so 1-3 years from now), so there’s not the looming deadline that there is with this law school opportunity. I also completely agree with everyone else that the law school route is a bad idea.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’m in total agreement with Alison that this OP shouldn’t be shopping for grad schools, but I want to push back on your statement “Though it’s still, at best, probably even-money on just working at a different job those 3 years instead!”

        For a very specific subset of people (people who want to work in marketing, consulting, finance, or investments), a top business school can pay off big time. My husband nearly tripled his salary in two years by attending business school; the same is true for most of his friends. Even for folks who pay the full cost, it can “pay off” in just a couple of years.

        1. JuniorMinion*

          Agreed – if you are currently not doing finance / consulting / marketing etc a top business school can help you break into those fields. For the OP though, who it seems is in a similar boat to me where he/she is already working and getting good feedback it seems in one of those fields, he or she is likely better served by seeing what organic opportunities are out there, and b school is likely not to add additional career prospects unless the OP wants to go from say consulting to marketing or something like that.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But I really, really want to emphasize: The OP should not be shopping around for grad school ideas. She needs to figure out what career path she wants first, and then see if more schooling is necessary for that particular path.

      Career path first, then school if it’s needed. Not the other way around.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes! And if the OP is looking for more school to learn things / expand / explore and wants it to also open doors….

        I’d drop the second half of that, and use online free courses from Coursera (lots of well-known universities there) or one of its competitors (or a mix thereof) to do the studying/exploring. Won’t give you anything to show a potential employer (unless you pay, which I wouldn’t, to be clear, in this case). But it will give you some knowledge of the area of the course, and if you find something you love…then you can explore whether a graduate degree is useful in that field or not. (And if not, you can explore more free courses to broaden what you can talk about in that area, if you want to.)

      2. penny*

        I blame this mind set a lot on the schools. Just from recruiting at universities,you can tell they really push this idea on students that they need a master’s ($$$ for the school). I know this is the case in certain fields, but for the types of jobs we hire a Bach & someone’s just Associate is good enough,yet students are always going on about grad school.

        Work will give you more skills than school. I’d only go to grad school if it leads to a very specific career you want to pursue or it will enhance your knowledge or promotibility (as in you are told that it will) for your current career.

      3. AD*

        Agreed with Alison here. An MBA isn’t a one-size-fits-all advancement/networking opportunity, especially if someone’s background is program/project administration.

        OP, please do not go to law school for all the reasons mentioned here. It will not help you in your particular situation, and will only increase your debt dramatically.

      4. danr*

        This… a thousand times. My wife went to law school at night while working full time. It was a conscious choice and a third career move. She loved law and litigation while it lasted. Then law became a business and not a profession and it lost all appeal. In five or six years, the idea of being a lawyer might appeal to you because you want to do it… not because it’s some vague next step.

      5. ThatGirl*

        Yes! Post-college I felt bad for awhile that most of my friends were going on to grad school and I was the lowly copy editor with a B.A.
        But then I realized that a) I was in the career path I wanted to be in b) I was gaining work experience while they were still in school and c) I have zero student loan debt. Some of them make more than me or have more prestigious jobs, but I would not have been happy in law school or on the path to a doctorate for no good reason.

        1. Honeybee*

          And the grass is always greener. While you felt like a “lowly” BA, your friends in grad school (especially the ones in the doctoral programs) were looking over at you with your steady salary and your free time and wondering why the heck they chose to get a doctorate in a field with no jobs anyway. Or at least, that’s what I was doing. I won’t say that I regret my PhD, but if I could do it all over again I wouldn’t do it – I’d spend that 6 years working and getting experience in a field I liked, making money, gaining experience. Now I feel like I’m behind my peers in terms of savings and financial investments like homebuying – because of my 7 years in my PhD and my postdoc I don’t have a lot of savings and I’m basically starting from scratch in that area. Sigh.

      6. Bwmn*

        I second this so strongly.

        I graduate school immediately after undergrad – and academically I made a wise choice – but career wise it really didn’t add up to much. This led me to the place where I made a still dubious choice of going to grad school again, but at least this time it was in what I wanted to do. Up until age 28, I had a mix of work and school that was hugely about figuring out what I wanted to do – and while I don’t feel badly about that, it doesn’t change the reality that in getting two degrees it was wildly expensive.

        I think more so than grad school shopping, a recreational job search sounds more productive. What are the OP’s dream jobs? What are the stretch jobs? What are the jobs that are worth applying – and what skills, experiences or degrees seem wildly absent? I think that engaging in a semi-serious job search and hopefully going on some interviews may help bring a lot more clarity than thinking in terms of grad school.

      7. Mazzy*

        I don’t know if there is a general rule on this, but this is my thinking. I keep a spreadsheet of applicants and one of the fields I have besides “no cover letter,” which is the most popular, is “over-educated/under-experienced.” Seriously. If you’ve never made more than $30K or $40K in your life you’re not all of a sudden going to get propelled into an $80K role without work experience. Also, when I’m reviewing resumes, getting a degree does not make up for spotty work history. There are too many applicants with solid work histories. Lastly, since school is usually put in a separate section on the resume, going to school full time leaves a visible gap in the employment area.

        1. Ann Cognito*

          I agree with everything you’ve said here! Recruiting is part of my job, and time after time someone with solid work experience but no degree is going to go into the “yes” pile (to phone screen), ahead of someone with lots of schooling but little-to-no experience.

          When the position is higher-level, you just end-up thinking “why did you apply; you don’t have any experience and the job posting clearly says 7-10 years experience required?” (or whatever), and when it’s a lower-paying position, I just think the person is going to want far more money than we’re paying for the role, or maybe they’d accept the position (if we even offered it to them, but unlikely to even be interviewed since no experience), but continue to look for something higher paying, meaning they’ll leave pretty quickly.

          A friend asked me last year if I’d be willing to speak with someone she knew who was in school getting a degree in HR Management, so that she could ask me for some advice, as someone working in the field. When I spoke with her, she had some good questions, including whether her degree would put her at the top of the pile because of her education. I told her the single most important thing she could do would be to get some work experience, because experience AND a degree would give her a much higher chance of getting an interview.

          She was shocked when I told her that, plus what I said above (that someone with years of experience and no degree) would have a huge advantage over someone with degrees but no experience, but very thankful! A couple of months later she emailed me to let me know she’d managed to set-up an internship through her school, and it was because of the advice I’d given her, because until I said it to her, she hadn’t realized how important work experience is.

      8. SG*

        Truth! My parents both have v. v. shiny graduate degrees and undergrad degrees, they are both extremely successful in their fields, they are both Ivy League grads like OP- and they have warned me against graduate school so many times I can’t even count. Do not go to graduate school unless you know exactly why you are going and what you will gain in your field from it.

    3. CM*

      I was thinking the exact same thing, but not immediately. Everybody else has already given a lot of great advice above and below, so OP, I’m going to give you an imaginary career timeline.
      1. Stay at your current job. Move on to another project. Redefine your role so it’s more aligned with your interests; you’ll have more leverage to do this as you continue to perform well and people get to know you.
      2. Eventually, probably in 1-3 years, get to the point where you want to try something different. At this point, consider whether you need different skills to take your next step, and how you can acquire those skills. If you decide that you really need another degree, it’s probably an MBA. But don’t get it unless your company pays for it or you have a lot of money saved up and you’re confident that it will pay off in future earnings.
      If you’re smart enough to get into HYS, I’m sure you’ll do just fine. You don’t need the JD unless you decide, later on down the line, that you really want to be a lawyer. And, you can still get into law school later on. In fact, law schools like people who have real-life experience and didn’t just spend a year being a paralegal after college. So you’re not foreclosing this possibility if (when) you say no to law school now.

      1. CM*

        One other thing: you’re two years out of school, right? Junior people have to pay their dues. People who are treating you like their secretary are doing it because you’re young, not because they don’t see you as management material. It sounds like your responsibilities are already increasing, so I doubt the lunch reservations part of your job will last forever.

        1. Smithy*

          This may be an age thing – but my advice would be a modification that after 1-3 years at a “paying your dues” job – start applying for new jobs. Because unless you’ve noticed otherwise where you’re working, I find it very rare these days for organizations to actually promote from within.

          Where I work, say the Ethical Treatment of Teapot Disposal, there are a few young staff members in assorted administrative support positions to fundraising teams. When positions open that would be a step up, every time these young people have applied the knock they get is that what they’re doing now isn’t fundraising and someone with “some” fundraising experience gets hired. However, when they’ve applied externally for similar positions – the way they’re able to talk about their work, even if it is just “supporting the face to face fundraising team activities, including……” – they interview brilliantly.

          Sure the OP is doing a lot of travel planning and lunches, but she’s also done more than she thinks she has. And interviewing elsewhere, that will read far more strongly than internally where it’s very well known what the division of tasks is.

  6. Person of Interest*

    “Here’s the missing piece in your thinking: Grad school is not the default next step after undergrad. ”

    This!!! In my senior year of college, I was the only person graduating from the history department of my university who did not go to grad school or law school straight from undergrad and everyone thought I was a weirdo. After 15 years of working and building up a career I figured out what aspect of my field I really wanted to focus on (public policy). THEN I finally went to grad school and got the training I needed to move ahead with that kind of work for the next phase of my career. It was so worth it to wait and get some work experience before committing to a grad program. Please don’t feel like grad school is the only logical step after undergrad, especially since it doesn’t sounds like you now what you want to do yet.

    1. Francis J. Dillon*

      Ha. My partner in crime graduated with a history degree. She didn’t want to teach, and couldn’t afford grad school yet, so she found a job in a law office as a copy clerk. When they went paperless, guess who they asked to head the entire project? Oh yeah, the girl with archival experience who can read, scan, and organize.

      She’s thinking of going back -not for history-but to get a paralegal degree.

      1. AK*

        History degree with a paralegal certificate here – they go together really well, in my opinion!

    2. Laura*

      YESSSSSS. I was a history major too, but I never intended to use my history degree directly. Your degree doesn’t matter that much– what you do with yourself does.

    3. BadPlanning*

      Every once in a while, I check in with myself and whether I should consider grad school. I consider if/how much it would help my current job (none), a future job (maybe), if there’s some topic I’m dying to study that’s still related to work (not really, I’m good with learning stuff on the job/at my job) and why I think I should go to grad school. Usually the last answer is that I just talked to someone starting or finishing grad school so had a feeling of “everyone’s doing it.”

    4. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Co-sign as an English major who didn’t want to go into teaching and only has a BA. I’m happily in the 18th year of a career in tech writing with branches into business analysis, project management, and training.

  7. Dawn*

    As someone who was where you are now when I was 24 (two years out of college) let me break down your letter a little bit from the perspective of someone who’s 10 years beyond the point you’re at now:

    “I work with name-brand clients”
    – If this includes working DIRECTLY with them, as is helping them get their needs met directly and talking to them on the phone/in person, this is HUGE. Huge, huge, huge, and has the potential to have an enormous impact on your career. Companies don’t let just anyone talk directly to clients. This is a great big gold star for you.

    “I relocated to a foreign country last August to serve a client on a year-long assignment.”
    – I’m assuming you did this because your company wanted you to be on that assignment. That’s HUGE. Being skilled enough that your company looks at everyone working there and goes “Hey, OP, we think you’d kick butt at living in a foreign country and work directly with this client for a year” is just… it speaks VOLUMES about your performance.

    “There are a lot of perks living abroad with a global team.”
    This is massive professional and personal development right here and jumps you way, way up in hiring manager’s opinions. I would absolutely be interested in calling you in for an interview *just based on this fact* and I don’t even know what you do- the fact your company sent you overseas for a year at such a young age is huuuuuuge. Huge. Can’t overstate that.

    “But I’m realizing that I’ve done two years of project management now.”
    Ain’t nothing wrong with Project Management. Good project managers are hard to find and incredibly valued in the working world. You might not want to do it for the rest of your life, but having a solid foundation in PM will absolutely serve you well *no matter what else you end up doing*

    “I’ve ordered lunches, ordered dinners, booked cars, helped with hotel reservations, etc. ”
    Two things- one, if this is not your job and you’re “just being helpful”, you might be hurting your perspective at the company with this kind of behavior ( which could contribute to “People treat me a lot like their personal secretary, which I don’t like.”) However, if this is expected of your role, do not look at these tasks as being “menial” or “beneath you”. Firstly, because that’s really condescending to people who perform those tasks as a routine part of their job, and secondly, because being helpful and being The Person Who Gets Shit Done is a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge boon to you! TPWGSD is the first go-to whenever anything critical needs to happen, and if you are TPWGSD and build up a reputation of solidly solving issues quickly no matter what the issue is then you’ll foster goodwill and amazing recommendations wherever you go. The working world needs more PWGSD, lots more. I’m currently involved in two hiring processes for finding more PWGSD and am having a really hard time finding any! And here you are, two years outta college, not only kicking butt hard enough that you’re in a foreign country on a special assignment but building up a reputation as being a PWGSD.

    Go forth, and build up your rep as being a PWGSD. That will make you stand out way, way more and serve you much, much better than being Yet Another Meodicre Law School Grad.

    1. F.*

      To elaborate: build up your reputation as a PWGSD *AS A PROJECT MANAGER*. I am very good at Getting Shit Done, too, but have been sidelined into the role of administrative/executive assistant nearly all of my career (mostly due to the cultural expectations of women at the time I entered the workforce). There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I consider myself to be a kick-ass office manager/admin and enjoy keeping things running behind the scenes, but you crave more. As you finish out the role you have been in (or at least if you transition to a new position when this assignment is over), try to delegate away the more mundane admin-type duties (ordering lunch, booking cars, dinner planning, etc.) and focus on the higher level PM duties. Those are the accomplishments that will get you noticed even more than you already have been this early in your career.

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes. You might have to move companies to make the kind of transition F. is talking about, as it can be hard to shake the assistant perception. But it’s easy to do that – you fill your CV, covering letters and interviews with examples of the more high level stuff, and recast the less high level stuff in a slightly different light.

    2. Amber T*


      “Should I go to law school if I don’t want to practice law?” – it almost didn’t matter what was in your letter. The answer is just immediately NO!

    3. LQ*

      I think this is a great break down and addresses basically everything I wanted to. (Especially the ordering lunches bit.)
      I also want to say that at 24 I had no idea how much I didn’t know about the world and the opportunities that managed to open up to me when I said, “Hey, can I take on that project?” or “I ran across this grant that fits into x work, could I apply for it?” Nothing has done more for me or my career than being willing to take on new work and actually get it done.

    4. A PWGSD*

      I am also a PWGSD and I really love being that go to. I’m also a self-taught PM.

      DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL if you don’t want to practice Law. I fell into project management and marketing and I don’t have any advanced certifications or degree. And that’s ok, I’ve gotten where I am by being a person who gets shit done when it needs to be done and building up my reputation. My reputation precedes me and it recently helped get me an interview for a higher level job at my current company. I didn’t get said job, but my the fact that anyone who the hiring manager talked to said I was awesome and got shit done all the time really carried it’s weight in gold.

      1. Dawn*

        “…said I was awesome and got shit done all the time really carried it’s weight in gold”

        OP, THIS is what you want. THIS is what *everyone* strives for in the working world, and THIS is what companies wanna hire. Not people with advanced degrees, not people who went to top schools, THIS.

        On resumes, I wanna see a long list of shit you got done. In your cover letter, I want to read about HOW you got all that shit done. In your interviews, I want to hear stories about how when the chips were down and the cards stacked against you, you rolled up your sleeves and Got Shit Done. When I call your references I want to here how you were amazing and awesome and incredible and you’d be hired back with no hesitation because when someone told you to do something, It. Got. Done.

        If the only thing “notable” about you on your resume is that you have a degree from a top law school, I’m going to wonder why you have a law degree and aren’t practicing law and then not give you a callback because you don’t have a history of Getting Shit Done.

    5. Meg Murry*

      Yes – +1 to being a PWGSD – all companies need this kind of person. I think the other key is that a lot of PWGSD don’t realize that it is a skill that doesn’t come easily to a lot of the general public because they see it as being so easy and common sense and obvious – but it’s actually the kind of thing that gets screwed up or forgotten about way too often. Also, being the person who can talk to the important clients and keep them happy is also a bigger deal than a lot of people realize – and again, the kind of skill that people who have it take for granted. I’ve worked with an awful lot of people who are good at what they do but who we try to minimize direct interactions with customers, because they either manage to completely put their feet in their mouths, manage to accidentally offend the client, or otherwise are just so awkward that it’s painful for everyone involved.

      Are these lunch ordering, hotel booking, etc duties a big chunk of most of your days? Or are they just the things that annoy you and you feel shouldn’t be part of your job? Are the people that are treating you like their Personal Secretary supposed to be your peers, or are you the most junior person on the team? Because right now at any job OP goes to she is probably going to be the most junior person on the team, and the most junior person almost always gets a lot of the crappy work that just needs to get done – whether that be ordering lunches, making photocopies, copying and pasting into spreadsheets, etc. If OP is doing this work for people who are senior to her, is that freeing them up to be able to train/mentor her? Does she get to go to meetings that she otherwise wouldn’t be invited to at her level of experience, by virtue of being the person who ordered the lunch?

      Are you actually any “business analyst” work? Or is there work that you should have been handling as a business analyst but had to be handled by others because you haven’t had the training? Can you talk to your boss/mentor about what kind to experience you need to get another assignment?

      1. Koko*

        Because right now at any job OP goes to she is probably going to be the most junior person on the team, and the most junior person almost always gets a lot of the crappy work that just needs to get done – whether that be ordering lunches, making photocopies, copying and pasting into spreadsheets, etc.

        This is a very good point. We’ve had some other letters/threads before about how recent grads often have unrealistic expectations of what their job will look like when they are fresh out of school and are disappointed that they’re not being promoted to management or getting to design strategies and come up with big ideas 2 years on the job. It takes much longer to get to that stage of your career and we seem to have done a poor job as a culture in conveying that to college students. It’s probably related to most college graduates coming from professional/white-collar families and also a degree carrying a lot more weight for the Boomer generation than it does now.

      2. AnotherHRPro*

        Yes, and even after law school the most junior person on the team will still be doing the most junior work (i.e., sometimes ordering lunches). The OP would just be doing it in 3 years with $100k in debt and a law degree that she doesn’t actually want. So, no. Do not go to law school.

        1. Kelly F*

          It depends. If OP goes to a firm, then yes. Certain government positions, however, start with a lot of responsibility upfront. As in you have a caseload. Of your cases. Just you. Obviously you will have a supervisor who should be supervising you, but otherwise you’re pretty much a team of one.

    6. Wheezy Weasel*

      +1 on Dawn’s comment. You’re 2 years out of college and doing all of this: this is what people who have been to law school and are six figures in debt dream about doing 10 years after they graduate. You’re already doing it! Don’t look back!

      Also, look at the Project Management Institute and their Certified Associate in Project Management certification. You’re likely going to be able to pass this exam with a little in-person learning in the next year without adding much study time. Then in a few years once you’re doing more traditionally aligned project management work (setting the project scope, finding the critical path, updating the schedules, work breakdown structure, budgeting) you can sit for your Project Management Professional certification.

      1. Dawn*

        This this this this this! Also OH MY GOD if you can sit for the CAPM and work towards a PMP cert it is absolutely worth the money ($4000-ish) and is much, much cheaper than a law degree. Being a PMP is phenomenal in the right business circles and even though I’m a Business Analyst I really want to get my cert because it’s viewed very favorably.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          I’m in finance and plan on getting mine down the line. I would totally rather people do a $4k PMP with regrets than $100k law degree.

          p.s. Totally adding PWGSD to my vocab, vision board, and life. Love it.

    7. Anon Moose*

      ALSO- they want to promote OP. A partner wants OP on another project, in a different role. Even if that role doesn’t pan out, there may be another one. (Or one from a client, or a manager who leaves or a competitor or or…). HUGE.

      It also sounds like there’s lots of support for OP in the company too from a “counselor and managers.” Sit tight for a bit, see what there is at the company or take your PWGSD skills elsewhere.

      You’re allowed not to want to be an assistant forever. But it really seems like they are trying to help you out. STAY THERE AND WORK THAT NETWORK rather than jumping ship.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, this is very important too. OP, you may see these lower level tasks as administrative or as a personal secretary, but but it is possible that you are being tasked with them because a fairly high power-that-is trusts you not to screw it up and is starting to see you as their right hand (wo)man. Gaining the trust of a powerful ally is *huge* in the business world – because often as that person advances they can pull you with them, or serve as a key reference to get you into your next big role.

    8. Honeybee*

      Man, I wish that instead of getting a PhD I had gotten a job straight out of college as The Person Who Gets Shit Done. I LOVE being that person.

  8. Francis J. Dillon*

    Public relations person here. Only one person out of my office has her Master’s. Not even the two partners have a degree above bachelor’s degree. I’d like to go back to school to study organizational communications, and may be able to even find a job in it (my name may give away my interests.), but really I don’t actually WANT to enough.

    My career won’t stagnate without a higher degree, so it’s kind of like, “Why bother?”

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m also a PR person. My dad wants me to get a grad degree just for the sake of doing it. I looked at grad classes, and I could teach most of the classes myself!!!! Waste of money.

      1. Amber T*

        More education = better everything, right?

        I’m about three years into the professional world. I had considered getting my MBA because that would mean I’m super smart and it would open up a million opportunities, right? There aren’t too many programs that would even look at my application without 2 years experience minimum (the best program I had hoped to do recommended applying after 5 years). Funny thing, once I hit that 2 year mark, I realized that in my particular profession and career, an MBA isn’t necessary. In fact, it wouldn’t even make sense. Now I’m not knocking MBAs or any graduate degrees, and for some fields they are absolutely necessary. But just as it’s ridiculous to expect an 18 year old to know what they want to do with their life, it’s ridiculous to expect that you will know your career path within the first three-ish years of graduating.

        (And I swear, not a week goes by that my dad doesn’t ask me if I’ve begun applying for MBA programs.)

    2. Koko*

      PR is definitely a results-based field. Nobody cares what degree you have nearly as much as they care how well you do your job – of which there is usually a very public record!

      1. Pwyll*

        Absolutely. It’s funny, the PR firm I used to work at only 1 consultant had a Master’s. People actually gently ribbed him about it, given how it’s really not all that necessary to be in the field.

        Then, the CEO had to go back to school to get one, because he wanted to “give back” by teaching part-time, and the school has a policy against hiring faculty without advanced degrees. Suddenly the gentle ribbing wasn’t all that funny anymore.

    3. H.C.*

      Another PR person here and oddly enough, in my team almost everyone on the communications team – myself included – have some sort of graduate degree (and those with bachelor’s are either attending or looking into going to grad schools themselves.)

      While I agree that it’s not necessary to have a master’s in PR to practice it, it was right for me (I was pivoting away from an academic career path). And all other things being equal, my former classmates and I felt the program & degree gave us a step up in interview/promotion process (the program was primarily night-school classes, so we weren’t necessarily putting our careers on hold for two years to get the M.A.)

  9. JuniorMinion*

    Just want to second Allison’s statement. Don’t go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. The advantage of the network / brand / reputation of top tier law school is useful in getting you a job in the AmLaw 100.

    I also want to do my part in ending this destructive ideology that grad school is always necessary. It is a tool – and can be a great tool for people who are at point X and want to get to point Z and the only way to do so is by obtaining graduate degree Y from a subset of schools. But it isn’t necessary, and can in some cases be detrimental if your organic career growth prospects are greater than whatever positions typically hire out of graduate school Y. I always thought I would get an MBA, but when I look at my prospects from my current position, I am likely better served by staying in the workforce.

    If you are a business analyst at a consulting firm can you look into positioning yourself for a senior analyst / consultant position? Potentially move practice areas? Depending on your interest I know some people who have really enjoyed business valuations / Transactions Advisory experience – if you are currently in an operational consulting role maybe there is a place on an integrations team / M&A due diligence that would bring to bear your project management skills in a bit different atmosphere? If I were to give you a piece of advice it would be to see how what you currently doing plays out – especially if you have a partner who thinks highly enough of you that he or she is willing to try to help you find a next slot in your current firm.

    Finally, just wanted to address the car booking and administrative tasks portion of what you wrote. I know it seems like these things should go away, but they never completely do. If you are being trusted with higher level work also, I wouldn’t stress too much about doing some administrative tasks. In my experience these tasks in the heat of the moment or with an important senior audience like the CEO / CFO tend to go to those who are most trusted to complete them correctly.

    Signed, Former Investment Banker who used to get tons of inquiries from law students who were ineligible for hire (we had undergrad / MBA processes)

  10. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Absolutely not. Don’t go. Listen to Alison.

    I have been intrigued by studying law more than once in my life. I actually enjoy dealing with contracts (possibly the least-liked subjects among law students) in my work (construction) and have sometimes considered going into that. I stopped thinking like that during my divorce. Once you make that switch, you will be going into Law, not something else to use your nifty new skill set.

    The Law is interesting to many. But, if that is not your interest, DON’T DO IT!!

  11. bridget*

    Alison is right that law school prepares you to practice law. Now, there are a lot of different *kinds* of law practice, and it’s perfectly possible you will find one that you love that looks very different from the law you see now. But it will 99% be practicing law nonetheless.

    That said, a top-3 law school is a really different financial cost/benefit analysis than law school in general. Assuming you mean H/Y/S, you at the very least don’t have to worry significantly about not finding a job and being unable to pay your loans after law school. What you have to *do* worry about is hating your career and finding yourself locked in golden handcuffs to pay off your very expensive education (which luckily you will be able to do because it’s also very lucrative). But that’s at least 6 years of your life (and opportunity cost) incurring debt and then paying it off, in order to ultimately end up where you are now: breaking even money-wise and dreading practicing law. Why?

    1. bridget*

      And as Junior Minton mentioned above, those lucrative positions that you are most likely to get coming from H/Y/S are not terribly diverse – they’re at big law firms that infamously grind associates into a miserable pulp. The “fun” law jobs are *much much much* more difficult to get into, as Alison notes, and make it almost impossible to pay off loans.

      1. bridget*

        True; my co-worker is on YLS’s loan repayment. But while generous, even that comes with strings, in that there are a lot of rules about what kinds of public interest programs count, and how long you have to stay in them, etc. etc. The public interest fellowships available to Yale grads that qualify for this program are extremely competitive for this reason (my co-worker got one and feels very fortunate). You basically trade in your debt by promising you’ll stay at $40k/year jobs for years and years (which plenty of people are fine with, but probably not why most people go to law school).

        1. Anon21*

          Actually, YLS’s COAP has no restrictions at all around type of work–it doesn’t need to be public-interest or even legal work. If you are employed and your income is below the cutoff, you get help paying your student loans (including bar study and undergraduate loans) back. It’s a very generous program, but as everyone else has said, not a sufficient reason to go to law school if you don’t think you’ll practice.

        2. Kate Nepveu*

          Yeah, what Anon21 said; other programs might be like that but you’re not accurate about this one, as the link plainly states.

    2. Megs*

      Absolutely agree. My husband and best law school friend are both in big law (or as big as it gets away from the coasts) and it is absolutely not the life for everyone, hefty paychecks or not. And even going to a top-three school isn’t a 100% guarantee to get one of those jobs – the big firms that used to scoop up tons of people assuming that many or most of them would quit after a few years are getting a lot more picky after the market collapse. If you hate it (and can’t hide that), or if you don’t have the sort of natural charisma that makes them think you might be a rainmaker, not even a top school will save you.

      And all that said, don’t worry about being out of deferral time. If you got into a top-3 school two years ago, you’ll be able to get into a good law school in a few years if you change your mind.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    As someone who went back to school three times (as ill-advised as going to law school when you don’t want to be a lawyer) and ended up in debt, DON’T DO IT. Seriously. Student loans are not set up to be paid back. They make money off the interest. The longer it takes, the more money they make. (If they really wanted you to pay it back, they’d suspend the interest while you were making payments.) Unless I win the lottery, I can never retire, and I can never pay it all back. I will literally die with this hanging around my neck. I really didn’t get much out of school other than the ability to check the Bachelor’s degree box on a job application.

    Don’t do it.

    1. Anon Moose*

      (If you’re American, and they’re federal loans you should look into Income based repayment and loan forgiveness options.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I am on income-based and it’s still hard.

        What really chaps my butt is that if I didn’t have to pay a mortgage payment all by my effing self I could whack that puppy down in no time. If only I could find free housing, I could make huge payments and be done with it!!!!

        1. Not Karen*

          Income-based repayment plans offer forgiveness after 20-25 years, so no, you will not “die with this hanging around your neck.” (Yes, you probably will have to pay taxes on the amount forgiven, but it should be far less than the loan amount.)

    2. Kiki*

      Doesn’t that heavily depend on the type of loan? Aren’t government backed students loans relatively low interest? I am sincerely curious. I’ve never had a loan where they suspend interest while paying the principal — except the loan from my mom and I had to negotiate for that! :0

      1. Elizabeth West*

        As far as I know, NO loan suspends interest while you’re paying it off. That’s my point. If they really wanted you to, they would. And for a long time, I couldn’t afford to pay much / anything at all, which did not help because the amount just got bigger and bigger.

          1. an anon*

            You are expressing skepticism of Elizabeth West’s own account of her financial situation to a degree that is coming off as rude.

        1. Kiki*

          I hear you — I owed $14K at graduation at a time when an executive salary was $25K. I also had to suspend mine for a while as I was only making $400/month and the payments were $95. In the end, I got 4 part-time jobs and started to make progress on the principal. They sent me a thank you note when I paid it off! lol. I wish you well, and I hope that you get through this. You are certainly not alone.

        2. Honeybee*

          If lenders suspended interest while you were paying off the loan, they wouldn’t make any money. Lenders get into the lending business because they make money off your loans via interest. I don’t think that has anything to do with whether or not they want you to pay it off.

      2. MindoverMoneyChick*

        Student loans are relatively low interest. Income-based repayment plans are for people who just can’t afford the standard payment plan of 10 years. It is very true that in an income-based plan your are really going to be stuck for a long time. You are not paying down enough of the principle to get our from under in less that 20 years or so.

        Income-based plans were put in place because for reasons I don’t understand creditors (federal and otherwise) will let you borrow way more for education than makes any kind of sense. And for so long we heard that college debt was “good debt” people just trusted this would work out for them. And probably thought of course they wouldn’t be loaned more than they could pay back. But my very strong advice is unless you know the ROI on the cost of a grad school program, do NOT go into debt for it.

        Seriously, my job now helping people dig out of debt they acquired starting in there teens with no understanding of what it would mean to their adult lives. And because of what I see, my mission and passion is helping young people run the ROI on grad school loans before they take them out. Sadly it’s much easier to find people in the former situation who know they need my help then it is people in the latter :(

        1. swingbattabatta*

          My loans are decidedly not low interest. The highest interest rates were/are in the mid-8s, and the lowest are at 5%. I wish I had more fully grasped what I was getting into when I went to law school, but at the time (pre-recession), nobody thought that repayment would be any kind of issue, so nobody really sat down with me to talk through it. Definitely not making that mistake with my kids.

          1. MindoverMoneyChick*

            Yes, this! The part about talking to your kids. Not enough people do- I just had a client who’s parent’s advised her to go into a grad school program were the debt vs the salary would have kept her living on the edge for 20 years!

            She felt wary about it but didn’t really know how to think through all of the numbers. By they time we were done she was focusing on programs where she would be able to pay off the debt in 10 years.

        2. JuniorMinion*

          I feel like student loans WERE low interest… My federal unsubsidized loans were ~6.5% and my private loans through sallie mae were Libor +9%(!! on the corporate side you would have to be in the C range or mezzanine to get this rate). Mine were taken out in the 2005 – 2009 period. This is not what I would call low interest debt personally. I had friends who took on more debt and some of their interest rates ballooned to Libor +12%.

          I like your mission and I would encourage more people to think about it the way you are recommending!

          1. MindoverMoneyChick*

            Yes federal student loan rates are set by Congress are meant to be reasonable and since the variable interest rates were introduced have been tied to the rates of T-bills or now I think 10 year treasury notes + a mark up. Often there has been a cap on how high they could go. T-bills and treasury notes are very low risk investments and therefore don’t pay much interest. Which means student loan rates are tied to a low interest rate as a benchmark.

            BTW at the risk of sounding like a cranky old person the lowest rates of my student loans were 8% and others were up to 10%. The 2000’s were a better time for borrowers than the 90s were. :)

    3. Not Karen*

      Student loans are not set up to be paid back.

      Actually, if you don’t go overboard on the loan amount, they are set up to paid back within a reasonable amount of time. The rule of thumb is if your total student debt is less than your annual income, you should be able to pay back your loan in 10 years or less.

      1. Kiki*

        That’s the key. Don’t go overboard. I lived so small in college! I had grad school classmates that graduated $65K in debt — about $160K in today’s dollars. That must have been an impossible mountain to climb.

      2. MindoverMoneyChick*

        It’s so hard to know what overboard is when you are 18, 19, 20 years old for a lot of people. If they were raised with the idea that student loan debt is “good debt” and don’t know how to run the numbers on what their post college expenses and income will be it’s all very abstract. And no one has a vested interest in teaching young people how to think through this if their parents aren’t savvy about it. And many aren’t.

        1. Kiki*

          Good role models help. You guys also have the benefit of loads of information at your fingertips. But the role models — even a frugal classmate or two — worked best for me. I just never went over budget. I am still pretty frugal I suppose.

          I really love what the NFL is doing now with financial advice for rookies. I really think colleges, or, better, high schools, should have a program modeled on that.

          1. MindoverMoneyChick*

            Oooh…I have not heard about what the NFL is doing. I’m off to look that up. I am also fascinated with the forces that cause pro-athletes to wind up broke after their careers end and I didn’t realize pro-sports were doing anything to counteract them.

          2. Honeybee*

            I have an idle dream of starting a nonprofit that deals with financial education for college-bound high schoolers. I’ve done volunteer work in college access for low-income and disadvantaged students for over 10 years, and in my experience the programs always hype up getting kids into great colleges and celebrate when it happens…but don’t focus on finances for these kids when they do apply, assuming that they’ll be offered financial aid or scholarships, and then don’t have tough conversations with the kids once they do get in.

        2. Not Karen*

          I definitely agree with you, but I’m frustrated with people blaming student loans in of themselves for a problem that actually lies with the lack of education on how to use the system properly. (Hello, a prime example of someone who went overboard in student loans because they were taught to use them improperly is yours truly.)

          1. Megs*

            To be fair, this particular conversation is about law school specifically, where it is unbelievably difficult to attend in any way that doesn’t result in enormous amounts of debt. In-state tuition discounts barely exist at the better schools, even low-ranked schools cost a fortune, scholarship opportunities are scarce and often require both going to a lower ranked school and keeping a high GPA, and the workload makes it very difficult to attend full time while working anything resembling a well-paying job unless you go to a part time program, which are generally not offered at the best schools.

            1. anncakes*

              Yes, good points. Professional school is a whole other game. There’s no way to cut costs like you can with undergrad, where you may be able to start off at a community college and transfer to a cheap in-state school. Your average student can’t go to professional school without taking out student loans unless they luck into some rare scholarships or funding opportunities. Without student loans, law school, medical school, dental school, and veterinary medical school become options available only to people from wealthy families who are willing to foot the bill or in the case of the health professions, the rare few who get accepted into the extremely competitive military scholarship programs. The only veterinarians I know who aren’t paying off student loans are those over the age of 45 who went to school before tuition skyrocketed or those whose families helped put them to school and buy into practices.

        3. SimontheGrey*

          This is so true. If you are a first-generation college student, you may have no one in your family to help; and if you are from a smaller town where almost no one goes to college (the situation one of my very good friends is in), then no one at your school really helps counsel you either.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m not going to Google it for you, but I’m shocked you haven’t heard about the nightmare stories about law school grads going back to 2009. 

    One woman said that her law school debt felt more like gambling debt.  The only job she could find was being a legal secretary, which not only didn’t require a JD but she ended up making less than she did BEFORE she went to law school.  And there are some law students who sued their schools because the voluntary (!) employment stats were manipulated, e.g. if a grad took a job as a barista that counted as regular employment.

    Here are some easy rules to remember about grad degrees:

    If you want to practice law and/or be a judge, go to law school.

    If you want to be a doctor, go to medical school.

    If you want to be a vet, get a DVM.

    If you want to be an engineer, get the proper degree(s) and hopefully a license.

    The only exception to this is getting a PhD.  If you want to be a professor, not only should you not get a PhD but please give up all hope of being one for awhile because the chances of getting a livable wage with tenure are nil.

    I applaud you for asking the question, but I’m a little surprised at your naivete about the whole thing.  In all your preparation, did you really not come across how detrimental a JD can be?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the OP is assuming that going to top-3 law school will combat some of the normal concerns about going to law school right now. I think she’s not factoring in that that will help if she wants a corporate law firm job, but won’t solve the law school issues otherwise.

      1. Kelly F*

        But it will? The job opportunities for t6 right now are great (I went to one recently) and t3 is even better. Not wanting to be a lawyer is a good reason to not go, but the usual money/job concerns don’t apply with the t3.

    2. blackcat*

      The PhD is highly field dependent. Folks in my department (a science) routinely go work for various companies after completing their PhD, often earning 80k+ immediately out. If you are in science, want to learn more about that science, are aiming for a program where you can say “peace out” and leave with a masters in 2 years, and want dick around for a couple years, a PhD program may be for you.

      But, yeah, don’t go get a PhD in a humanities or social science field. Just don’t.

      1. Honeybee*

        I 100% agree with you not to get a PhD…pretty much at all, sciences included. But I have a PhD in the social sciences, and people from my department who choose to leave academia also routinely go work for various companies earning $80K+ immediately out. There are some social sciences that actually are at varying levels of demand in the business world (mine is actually in relatively robust demand in the technology field, which is where I work. Not as much as a computer science or statistics PhD, of course, but more than a biology or chemistry PhD). I think the science vs. social science divide is somewhat artificial; a PhD in biology won’t necessarily have better prospects on the non-academic market (or, frankly, the academic market) than a PhD in quantitative or industrial/organizational psychology.

        But that’s the key…leaving academia. Even in the hardest science fields, the academic prospects are bad and the path is long, arduous and low-paying. We’re talking 5-6 years of PhD study plus an additional 3-5 years as a postdoctoral scientist making $40K. And then you won’t get on the tenure track. But in the unlikely case that you do get on the tenure-track, it’ll probably be at a smaller regional school that pays around $60-70K. The jobs at the R1 schools that actually pay anything approaching what you’d expect 6 years of grad school plus 4 years of fellowship training should get you are really, really, really scarce and really, really, really hard to get. Really.

        It’s even worse in the humanities and social sciences.

  14. LawCat*

    Nooooo, Alison’s advise is spot on. OP, you seem to have a vague idea that you can use law school to get “skills”, but what do you think these skills are? The #1 skill you will get is to think legalistically. Very little about law school is about practical skills for actually being a lawyer, and I didn’t learn anything about business skills in law school.

  15. Van Wilder*


    I’m an MBA grad from a brand name business school and I’m doing more or less what I would have been doing without the degree, for more or less the same money. The only difference is that I’m minus $100k. All because I just thought grad school was the next step and didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the degree. Save yourself.

  16. Cat*

    The thing about going to a Top 3 law school is that you’re taking the financial risk out of it for the most part, but you’re not taking the financial burden out of the equation. I am assuming you’re not independently wealthy and that you’re family isn’t footing the bill – if you are or they are and you want to spend three years taking classes like “Law and Film,” have at it. It can be a lot of fun.

    But otherwise, six figures of student loan debt are an enormous burden even if you’re not actually worried about getting a job that allows you to make the payments. There’s only three options for someone in that situation who doesn’t want to be a lawyer: (1) you’re going to take a job you don’t want and that works you like a dog so you can pay the loans and have a decent standard of living; (2) you take a medium-paid job which is the kind you could get now if you hustled but your standard of living is just worse because you’re paying so much on your loans; and (3) you take a public service job and the school covers your loan payments, but you will be behind all your peers financially.

    All of those are fine options if you actually need law school to get the job you want. I took option (2) and I don’t regret it, but that’s because I enjoy being a lawyer. If I didn’t, I’d resent the mortgage-sized amount I pay every month on student loans like nothing else on Earth.

  17. dmk*

    Do not go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. Though your job prospects will be better coming out of a top-3 law school, those job prospects will be for legal jobs — that is, being a lawyer. If you don’t want to be a lawyer, those relatively better job prospects do you no good — because you don’t want to be a lawyer! Also, the job prospects for non-lawyer jobs out of law school are not great because companies don’t want to hire people with a JD to do non-lawyer work because they think people with a JD want to be lawyers (or at least expect more money just because they have a JD).

    In short, if you don’t want to be a lawyer, if you don’t EXPECT to be a lawyer, do not go to law school. Parlay your (so far excellent) experience into some other job. Seek out other opportunities at your current company, or look for other opportunities at other companies, and gain additional skills the way most people do — on the job.

    1. MJH*

      You’ll also take a top tier spot away from someone who *does* want to be a lawyer. This is only a small part of the whole, and obviously LW has to do what’s right for them, but it’s frustrating to imagine someone excited about the law getting bumped down a tier because LW unenthusiastically takes a spot.

  18. KYLawyer*

    Don’t do it.
    Do. Not. Do. It.

    There might have been a day when what OP describes was a good idea, but not anymore.

    Law school is grueling and expensive, and you’ve got to really want it and know what your goal is. It’s not for everyone, even if they’re smart and hard-working. Plus the market is brutal.

    If you’ve been admitted to a T3 school, you’re smart enough and qualified enough to go do something that actually tracks with your career goals.

  19. OlympiasEpiriot*


    If you want to be an engineer, get the proper degree(s) and hopefully a license.

    NO! Nothing hopeful about it. If you are not in academia, getting the license is necessary. Masters degree has become necessary, but, even that needs to be targeted, not a general thing. And, even with the MEng, you still need the license.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Oops, I intended for that to be a reply to Snarkus Aurelius (a name I love, btw) @ 2:19.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Depends on the kind of engineer, I’d imagine. Software engineers don’t have licensing.

      Given some of the things I’ve seen in my career, we probably should. But we don’t.

      1. Judy*

        Yes, there is a Software PE, has been for 4 years. The majority of states now have it.

        Check the NCEES site for details.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Huh. Fascinating. This is not a thing I have ever seen nor heard discussed in…any software engineering job, ever. Fascinating.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          What is the purpose?

          Nicole mentioned the industry exemption below. I’d think most software engineering would fall under this. I am imagining a custom software development project that some munis would now require bidders to have software PEs in order to submit proposals. (Which sounds ridiculous. What about at the company level? In my industry (power), the company has to be licensed with the state to do engineering, in addition to having individuals registered. What about E&O insurance? Is that something software companies would otherwise have?)

          1. Judy*

            Most software engineering does fall under the industry exemption. But even in industry, in the companies I’ve worked at, I’d say 5% of the degreed (electrical, mechanical, etc.) engineers have it. Mostly just to say they do, I think. The email signatures and business cards list the license, but no one has stamps and stamps drawing. Once they started offering it for software, I did it pretty much to just say I was able to do it. It also came into existence at a point when I was preparing to leave a job, and I thought it would be an interesting differentiator in my job search. It’s certainly much more about “software engineering” than “coding”. Requirements, design, process, testing are all heavily weighted. All of the questions about construction use pseudo code, not a particular coding language.

            Many states require PEs on staff if the LLC or corporation title has the word “engineering” in it, I believe. My state does, but it seems like they don’t enforce it unless there is a complaint.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Thanks for explaining this!

              Your reason makes sense. Honestly, I’ve never stamped a drawing, either. I’m only licensed in my home state, and the particular stuff I worked on when I was the lead design engineer didn’t get stamped. Now I just PM stuff, and any engineering I do is at the conceptual level. (Incidentally, now my company does stamp that same stuff. . .change of philosophy, I suppose.)

            2. F.*

              PA does. I work for a civil engineering firm. If you do work in other states, you have to have their P.E., too. Some reciprocate with payment of a fee (WV), and some make you take a difficult and expensive test (OH and NY).

          2. OlympiasEpiriot*

            I have no idea what a software PE would be for, except perhaps set some minimum body of knowledge standard.

            In my work (civ. eng.), building codes are fussy about who is allowed to sign off on certain design and construction. My firm’s E&O insurance gives us a better rate depending on the percentage of PEs we’ve got. Different states have differing standards about inspection of construction. NYC, for example, requires a PE to do pile installation inspection. NJ, otoh, just over the river, doesn’t, not even a NJ PE. A PE license implies a certain level of experience. You can’t just take it coming out of school, even with a PhD. It is supposed to be a practical exam.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I have a mechanical PE, so I understand what the traditional one does for you. : )

              That’s why I was confused about software engineering. It doesn’t seem it would follow the norms of the regular engineering PEs.

              1. Judy*

                I believe in the ideal world the software PE would sign off that the end product met the requirements and was designed and tested adequately, for items sourced for public safety. I’m quite sure we are not there yet.

                There is a difference between a company or individual selling engineering services and a company or individual selling a product that was engineered. The second one is what the industry exemption is all about.

                Generally those with PEs covered under the corporate exemption are using it (and this includes mechanical and electrical) to prove a body of knowledge, whether to themselves or others. As I said above, there generally was a small but not trivial component of engineers in the corporate settings who had it, and the corporation paid the licensing fees and the exam fees. Usually the fees for the continuing education requirements are also paid for by the corporation.

              2. OlympiasEpiriot*

                Weeeeeeell, there’s plenty of people I know who refuse to call the majority of people who write software engineers. That’s an old argument and, depending on the context, not one with a right answer.

        3. AnotherAlison*

          Do they also have an EIT? What about the requirement to have training under registered PEs for 4 years? I realize that could be impossible, with a new license and few people in the workforce with the license, so I’m guessing there’s a waiver or something right now.

          1. Judy*

            You need recommendations from PEs (in my state, I think 2 of 5 recommendations) so I had 2 PEs I worked adjacent to fill those out, and had the other 3 recommendations from my manager and other leads.

            I work on embedded software, so I come in close proximity to electrical and mechanical engineers on a day to day basis.

        4. Student*

          Just because there exists a test, doesn’t mean anyone cares about it. Nobody important in software cares about any tests or licenses. A few places that have been sold a load of baloney by testing companies use them to screen people, but they are widely viewed as entirely worthless in the industry. There are a handful of very specific exceptions in very narrow parts of the field.

          1. Judy*

            Yep, the IEEE* Computer Society is nobody important. They’re the ones who write the test that is administered by NCEES**, a nonprofit that administers all of the engineering license exams in the US. No one is using them to screen people, it’s just another license exam, it’s not available to use any other way.

            *Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
            **National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

            Alison, sorry for the snark.

        5. nonegiven*

          My son went from senior software dev to senior software engineer by switching companies. He’s doing the same type of job.

    3. Nicole*

      I don’t have a license. What I do is definitely engineering, but there’s an industrial exemption. There are many very complex things that can be engineered without a license, where it’s not even a consideration.

    4. Student*

      If you want to be an engineer without a license, you go into physics. They let us do all sorts of mad things with no licensing requirements, just a PhD. Our PhDs tend to take a lot longer to get, though.

    5. Emilia Bedelia*

      The only reason you need a license is to submit official drawings or formally seal documents. There are more fields than not where a PE license is not necessary to practice. Civil/structural and maybe mechanical or electrical depending on your field are the fields that jump to mind- other than that a license is not really necessary. If you’re not building a building, it’s not as crucial as you’re making it out to be

    6. Stephanie*

      Civil, I understood it was pretty much required. My background’s mechanical. I know a few MEs who have it (or have an EIT), depending on their industry. A lot of people I went to undergrad with pursued that since they went into oil and gas and did facilities work.

    7. Alice*

      There was a great Atlantic article about the title engineer, and how it comes with an understanding that engineers undertake not to screw up important infrastructure projects – and how software engineers don’t take the same responsibility. Link to follow.

      1. Judy*

        I agree with much of that article. Companies have to decide for themselves what level of engineering they need to do for their products.

        I just think that in my niche, which is embedded software, there truly needs to be software engineers. My career has been software engineering over the past 20 years, in automotive, appliances and heavy industry. I work closely with the electrical and mechanical engineers to design the system. Coding is at most 10% of my job. We have to elicit requirements, design the system, design the software and modules, code the software, review software and documentation from my team, test it and support it in the field.

        Writing software that goes on existing known hardware is much different than engineering a system with hardware and software co-design. Untested circuit boards plus untested embedded software plus untested transmission/engine/refrigerator/oven equals a chicken and egg scenario that requires engineering discipline to make a robust product.

  20. AnotherAlison*

    If I could go back to the two-years-out-of-college me, I would smack her. Hard. I didn’t know a good opportunity when it was staring me in the face. I hated my job (for what turned out to be lousy reasons, now that I have a decade and a half under my belt), and couldn’t look past the immediate future.

    Like Alison, I certainly would not advise the OP to go to law school. Stay the course. You have a good thing going. See how the next few years play out. You’re not going to be in your current position forever. You’ll move on to new challenges. You really do have a great foundation under you, and appear to have good opportunities in front of you.

    1. Anon Moose*

      Yeah, one of the best things anyone ever told me was that you’re allowed to not like your job all the time- that’s why they have to pay you vs. you doing it for free/ for the love of it. And every entry level job will suck in its own way. Even- especially?- first year associate positions in law firms.

  21. Vicki*

    I totally agree about law school. I somewhat disagree about grad school. Every experience is different.

    >> You definitely don’t go if you don’t have a clear path for afterwards. And you really definitely don’t go when you’re not particularly interested in the field you’d be studying.

    This is why I did go to grad school and it was absolutely the best choice I could make. I have 0 regrets. Everything that’s happened since came out of that experience.

    I had a BS in Microbiology and no interest whatsoever in getting a job at a lab bench. I had coursework in Computer Science but not enough experience. I went to grad school.

    I entered a Microbiology program (because I had the coursework and the knowledge). I added more Comp Sci courses. I found a thesis project that let me do a statistical analysis of microbiological data.
    My thesis project was instrumental in getting me my first job. The programming skills I learned and polished were instrumental in getting me my second job.

    I met my spouse when I was in grad school. I’m co-author of a programming book we did together; I dedicated my part of the book to my thesis advisor.

    Everyone is different, but I will never tell anyone not to consider grad school if they don’t have a clear path for afterwards. College (and even grad school) let you take multiple courses and learn more about what you like doing. Staying in school (or going back to school) can open options you didn’t know were available.

    That’s “normal” grad school or college programs, however. Not med school. No law school. If you decide to go back to school, pick a program that won’t lock you in. Use it for the experience, the experimenting, and the opportunities it provides.

    1. blackcat*

      I think there’s a big difference between quantitative vs non quantitative grad school stuff.

      Going to grad school and learning to program (either through coursework or for research) can be a great way to figure out what you want to do. You end up with a thesis that proves you can execute a complex project and write good code. These are valuable skills. Plus, PhDs in these fields are mostly funded.

      Someone can do this in science (physics, chem, bio, and the variants thereof), economics, and a couple other social sciences. You will not be necessarily *more* employable after finishing, but you can delay entry into the work force with a relatively low opportunity cost. I’ve seen it work out well for many folks.

    2. learningToCode*

      I started grad school a week ago… all these gloom and doom comments had me concerned!

      But my position doesn’t use my degree other than high level soft skills, and my grad degree will be the intersection of my job and my undergrad to wrap it all up in a nice package overall. Plus I enjoy learning as a hobby, so there’s that, too. Paying for courses isn’t too much worse than then video game spending habits I used to have ;)

      Glad to hear your perspective on the matter of grad school :)

    3. Kiki*

      I agree. Life changes you and so do your experiences. You might plan to go down one path and end up somewhere entirely unexpected. I wouldn’t go heavily into debt for a degree I didn’t want, but I think an Ivy law school will probably have pretty good aid. You should look at the whole package. And don’t law degrees get you into the door in politics, law enforcement, comp sci/law enforcement, hospital administration, accounting…I am sure there is more.

      (My degree is a DVM. I work in computer science.)

      1. Honeybee*

        Ivy League law schools do not have good financial aid – they expect their students to borrow the full cost of attendance (or have a family member pay). Luckily the OP has mentioned that their mother would cover the cost and that they themselves have saved enough to cover tuition.

        And don’t law degrees get you into the door in politics, law enforcement, comp sci/law enforcement, hospital administration, accounting…I am sure there is more

        No, there are several threads addressing how this is mostly a myth.

    4. Honeybee*

      The concern with this, though, is that there’s no counterfactual experience in individual cases. A person may go to graduate school, have a great time, graduate and get a job they like – maybe even one that is indirectly to achievements they made in graduate school. But there’s no saying that the same person wouldn’t have had an equally successful route without going to graduate school.

      And the thing is, that hardly matters if you like grad school, with the exception of one thing: Debt. Oh, and time, in the case of a PhD program. It’s one thing to be a little unsure what you want to do and spend two years getting a master’s at low or no cost – that’s fine. It’s quite another thing to spend 6 years of potential earning/experience time getting a PhD, or going into significant debt for a professional degree, only to find out later that you didn’t need graduate school at all to do what you end up doing.

      Besides, it sounds like you did have a decent idea of what you liked doing (computer science and statistical analysis), and you made a conscious decision to attend a program that you weren’t totally interested in as a ‘backdoor’ way to get more experience in those areas so you could enter that field. I think that’s qualitatively different from having little to no idea of what one likes but going to graduate school anyway just because one feels like that’s what one should do next.

  22. Jubilance*

    Don’t go to law school. Nope Nope Nope.

    Really, don’t go to grad school at all unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you want to study, and why, and how it will help you in your career.

    Do you feel like you “should” be doing something more? Are you comparing yourself to colleagues or former classmates? The best thing you can learn is to stop making those comparisons now, it will only get worse as you get older. Figure out what YOU want and what’s best for you, and forget about keeping up with everyone else.

    If you want to do more in your current job, your first conversation needs to be with your boss. Everytime I’ve gone to my manager and said “I’m interested in learning X and Y, I want to take on more stuff”, they have indulged me. Don’t wait for them to come to you, take suggestions and ideas to them!

    And most of all, give yourself some time. You’re only 2 years out of school, you aren’t supposed to be in your “forever career” or have it all figured out already.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Really, don’t go to grad school at all unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you want to study, and why, and how it will help you in your career.

      +a million

      And while it doesn’t apply to the OP, don’t actually go to any post-secondary school until you know what you want to do. My dear sister got a BS in biology, a master’s in education, and finally a BS in nursing to ultimately become an RN. . .which she could have done with a 2-year community college nursing degree. Not to say her educational experiences didn’t add some personal value for her, but my goodness, that was probably $100,000 worth of education that she’s paying off at age 30 instead of buying a house or whatever.

      1. Joseph*

        “And while it doesn’t apply to the OP, don’t actually go to any post-secondary school until you know what you want to do.”

        True. Not to get all soap-boxy, but it’s kinda crazy that our society doesn’t fully trust people to *rent a car* until they turn 25, yet we expect people to have their entire career path selected by the start of their junior year at age 20.

        1. Emmie*


          What problem are you trying to solve for, OP? Is it better employment opportunities, more challenges, to open more doors, or to figure out your career path? Law school will not help you achieve those goals.

          I completed law school, and I *really really* wanted to be a lawyer…. to argue cases in court. It is burdensome enough to be a lawyer in this market for the reasons everyone has said (low job prospects, high cost of education, the negative impact the long hours has on your quality of life, being overqualified for other jobs). I recommend you spend some time gaining more experience in more roles whether that is volunteering, or through employment. You will find your path.

          If you did well enough to get into a tier three law school, you must be a high achiever. It is hard to acclimate to the post-school world where you are not able to make those serious accomplishments initially that you did in school. Keep working at it.

        2. Jubilance*

          And it’s weird when our society judges those who specifically take time off to figure it out! I’m thinking about kids taking a “gap year” and how they are painted as spoiled and self-indulged. Really every student needs a year or 2 to figure what they want to do without paying $$$ for the privilege.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Such a great point.

            My husband went to school when he was “older” and finished when he was ~25 (technical training, not a 4-year degree). He originally wanted to be a mechanic, and then he worked as a mechanic and hated being greasy all the time, so he went to school for electrical instead. (He grew up around mechanics and working with his dad on school breaks, so he had some idea, but it took doing it day after day to know it wasn’t for him.)

            I would love to see apprenticeships make a come back, even for professional positions. Like, what if you could pay money to a consortium of companies instead of a university and go shadow various positions for a year? I have to think that would be more useful than that random elective in oceanography. Maybe it exists somewhere.

          2. Nina*

            Co-sign on the gap year. I was a wreck at 18, no where near ready to go to college, let alone decide what to do for the rest of my life. But at my school, the kids who took a year off were looked down on and seen as lazy. In reality, it can be the best choice you make before you go to college.

            Saw one kid on the news taking a gap year, but he knows exactly where he wants to go and what to study. The year off is to save up money because he knows scholarships won’t cover all of his costs.

            1. Rater Z*

              I was the same way, not ready for college but my Dad somewhat pressured me to go. I lasted one year and flunked out. After that, I went into the Air Force and lasted three weeks. My Dad paid for me to go to truck driver school and I couldn’t handle a truck. BUT…from that, I then landed a job as a billing clerk for a trucking company, moved up to dispatching second shift while still billing. Then, I took a home study course in logistics, learned how to figure freight charges when it was all done on paper from the actual tariffs and spent 38 years absolutely loving the work. (I still label myself as a rate-and-bill guy.) Except..for me, it wasn’t a job but something I loved doing and my Dad, later on, would say he could see that my interest in statistics and working with baseball numbers as a teenage foreshadowed what I wound up doing.

              As a teenager, I considered law, didn’t follow it up but wound up dealing with transportation law as a result of working as a rate clerk. I also dealt with tax law as a result of preparing tax returns as a part time job for ten years. I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed law school and being a lawyer as I am more a person who wants to know why not do things differently than what the codes require for things. I am also more an introvert than a person comfortable dealing with others.

              The important thing is to find out what you enjoy doing and go with that. My Dad had a PhD in bio-chemistry and did a lot of the research on mass-producing penicillin but I wasn’t interested in science and was horrible in it in school. I an thankful that he just wanted me to do something I enjoyed. Looked back over the past 71 years of my life, I just wished I had learned computers as they eventually wiped out what I was doing and combing the two fields probably would have helped me work longer at what I liked.

              So, don’t go to law school. Find out what you like and develop that. A job is not just a job. It is a part of what makes life worth living.

          3. Honeybee*

            Yes. I sometimes envy my husband because he went back to college when he was 27, and just finished this past year at 31, after gaining 8 years of professional experience. Having had that experience he was fairly certain what he wanted to major in and what kind of jobs he wanted to do, so he didn’t have existential crises about his major or what kind of experience to get or anything like that. I think college would be so much more helpful to students if they had 2 years after high school to explore/intern/volunteer/travel and learn about the world of careers AND what they like to do, then started college.

      2. Honeybee*

        Well, I sort of disagree with the second part. Undergraduate degrees are different in that the major you study doesn’t really matter for your future career in many cases. I mean, obviously if you want to be an engineer you need a B.S. in engineering, and more technical careers are going to want you to have a technical major (although quiet as kept, a lot of them will take a non-technical major who managed to take the right classes and get the right kind of experience). But there are lots of jobs out there that are sort of major agnostic that you could do with a BA in history or biology or linguistics or whatever. And after a certain while, it’s really your skills and work experience that matters more than what you studied.

        Also, as an aside, even though they are both RNs a BSN is a much better career prospect than the ADN. A lot of hospitals are only hiring new grads with BSNs, especially those in urban areas with lots of competition from different nursing prep programs. And BSNs can also go into a lot of other nursing careers that aren’t med/surg (like research nursing, consulting, etc.) that ADNs are really limited in. BSNs are also more likely to advance up the management path.

  23. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Your current job is a REALLY good stepping stone (to other jobs in business). Working at a top consulting firm is a great entry to strategy work elsewhere – or to business school, if that’s something you’re interested in.

    In fact, if you’re interested in management consulting, marketing, corporate finance or investments, business school could provide the sort of benefits (networking, etc.) that you’re looking for in law school. Given your accomplishments it seems likely you could get into a top-tier business school, which could launch you very successfully in one of those directions.

      1. Stephanie*

        I hit enter too soon. I don’t know the number of applicants for these roles, but I definitely see postings for junior PM or strategy jobs at startups that value consulting experience. Now startups have their own issues, but the consulting experience is helpful.

  24. Government Worker*

    My wife went to a top three law school, and through her clerkships and classmates I know a lot of other people who did. My sense if that if the OP goes to a top 3 law school, she will be able to get a legal job, and probably even a good legal job, despite the tightness of the market for new law grads, because law is pretty snooty about your educational pedigree. However, if you decide you don’t like law, you may well have to either suck it up and be a BigLaw lawyer for a few years (which is pretty soul-crushing – my wife just left Big Law after 3+ years for a normal job and the difference is incredible), or find another way to pay off $200k+ in debt. Harvard and Stanford have loan forgiveness programs that will pay off your loans for you over time if you are working as a lawyer but your income is below a threshold or meets certain criteria for being in the public interest. Last I heard, Yale offers loan forgiveness that isn’t contingent on remaining in the industry. Given the OP’s lack of passion for the law, going to Yale *might* be non-disastrous. Anywhere else is a disaster waiting to happen.

    But OP, there are more than two options for your life. It sounds to me like if the new work at your current job doesn’t materialize, you need to look for a new job, not go to grad school. No job is perfect, but trying something else for a while will give you good information about what sort of things you actually do want to do. And if you want to feel like you’re building skills and taking on more responsibilities, look for someplace smaller, where you might get a chance to work on a lot of different projects.

    Consulting and law school, especially a top 3 law school, are both the kinds of competitive things that really bright, good students end up in because all their lives they’ve been the best and they’re what “everyone” wants to do and they happen as a sort of default. OP, it’s time to take a step back and think hard about what you actually want, and stop letting yourself get sucked into the most obvious path.

  25. Gwensoul*

    Don’t do it! I went to law school wanting to be a lawyer and realized a few years out that I really didn’t. everyone said that my degree should help, and just as Alison says it closed doors.

    Oddly I ended up in project management now.

  26. Anna*

    Oh OP, listen to what you’re saying. You wanting to go to law school to develop skills is like someone saying they want to go to medical school to develop skills. There are some graduate programs you go to only if you plan on a career in those fields. Law and Medical school are those programs.

    1. sam*

      Law schools will try to sell you on the idea that the degree is “versatile”, and that they teach you skills that are translatable into many fields (what they refer to as “JD+” instead of “JD required”). These are lies. There are a slim, exceedingly slim, number of jobs that are truly JD+, and people who get those jobs often rely more on political connections than on their school/GPA.

      I say this as a lawyer. You should only. ever. go. to. law. school. if. you. want. to. be. a. lawyer. AND IF YOU KNOW WHAT THAT REALLY ENTAILS.

      Because for 99% of us, it’s not what you see on TV. For most of us, it’s the incredibly not-friendly-for-TV stuff of sitting at a desk behind a computer for 16-18 hours a day.

      For some read Paul Campos, who has been on a mission to destroy the myth of law school as a multipurpose enterprise, first here, and then continuing at his “normal blog” here.

      There will be some other references if you read through. His fight is more against the lower tier schools that are truly “scams”, but no school is safe.

      And regardless of how good a school you got into, you should not go, and you should not spend $250,000 (!!) (whether you have to borrow it or not) and three years of your life and earning potential, getting qualified to do something you have no interest in actually doing.

  27. Lindsay J*

    Don’t go.

    My boyfriend went to law school, didn’t become a lawyer, got his MLIS and didn’t become a law librarian like he planned to. He has around $150,000 in student loan debt for degrees he doesn’t need to do his current job.

    Law school does nothing for your resume unless you want to be a lawyer (or maybe go into policy).

    He has it on his resume, and it seems like it’s at best a curiosity, and at worst a hindrance. The only real question he ever gets is, “If you went to law school, why are you applying for this job?”

    It’s not even going to give you solid skills. Pretty much everything you learn in law school is directly related to practicing law. The only real generalized skills you might pick up would be honing your writing and analytical skills, but there are much better and cheaper ways to do that than going to law school.

    You would do much better enrolling in a project management certificate, or gaining skills on a type of software specific to your field or something.

    1. Megs*

      To be honest, if you can get into a T1 law school, your writing and analytical skills probably don’t need honing.

      I don’t want to pile on, but I agree with everything pretty much everyone has said here. And I did go to law school because I felt like I wasn’t advancing in my career and it seemed like a good idea at the time. LUCKILY I love the legal profession and got good grades and good jobs while in school. Unluckily, my job search is now floundering four years out because I want to work in the public sector and jobs are unbelievably competitive. And those are the fairly low paying jobs, even, that actually require a JD.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Believe me. Plenty of people do astoundingly well in law school with crappy writing and analytical skills.

        1. Megs*

          Yeah, I’m not sure what I was going for there – I was a student instructor at my T25 law school and saw a ton of crap that blew my mind. I will maintain, however, that law school not likely to help anyone improve their writing or analytic skills broadly.

    2. Talvi*

      I have to say, law librarianship is the only thing I can think of that you’d need a JD for that wasn’t practising law. And even then, you don’t need a law degree – according to the American Association of Law Libraries, only about 20% of law library positions require both an MLIS and a JD.

  28. Alton*

    Even if you wanted to be a lawyer, going to law school right now is a risky move. There are more law school grads than jobs, and law school can be expensive. I love law, but I decided not to go to law school because I knew I didn’t want the pressure of trying to support myself and possibly pay off loans, especially since the type of law I’m interested in (constitutional law and public defender criminal law) would be unlikely to earn a whole lot. I don’t need to be rich, but I’m not willing to invest in very expensive schooling when I don’t expect to earn enough to cover it. I also have reservations about law being a good fit for my personality. Having so much responsibility over the outcomes of people’s cases would eat me up.

    And this is coming from someone who really loves law. Don’t make such a huge investment in something you don’t even like. You’ll just waste your time and money, and it’s going to be challenging to excel at it if you don’t have much interest.

      1. Alton*

        I actually decided to enroll in a paralegal studies certificate program, thinking that being a paralegal might be a better fit or that it would at least give me a chance to decide if becoming a lawyer would really be a good enough fit for me that law school might be a worthwhile move. But I ended up putting my studies on hold because I got a new job in between semesters and felt that I needed to take some time acclimate myself (I’d been working part-time previously, so going full-time was an adjustment even without classes on top of that). I did enjoy my paralegal classes a lot, so I’d like to go back to it. Though, I’m also coming to suspect that working in a law firm might not be the best fit for me, so I’m not sure.

        1. Emmie*

          I look forward to hearing what you decide! I found a very affordable community college paralegal program that I was discouraged from enrolling in. A person told me that I should just go to law school (like I would have done anyways) and not to “waste” my time. In hindsight, it would have better prepared me for the law by allowing me to have more experience. A very affordable paralegal program may be a good choice for someone who loves the work, but I do not know much about the job market or work environments. I comment frequently here, so feel free to reach out. Full-time studies are an adjustment. I attended both undergrad and law part-time.

  29. V2*

    I have a friend who got a law degree despite no interest in practicing law (he thought he wanted to go into politics, where law degrees are fairly common, but he realized politics wasn’t for him). He ultimately ended up taking his JD off of his resume because it was hurting him in looking for (tech) work. Happily, he found a job in his newly chosen field, but years later he’s still paying off his law school loans for a degree that gave him nothing.

    1. KR*

      A big difference though is that Elle Woods is a damn good lawyer and she loves being one.

      1. Allison*

        But she still went to law school without any plans of becoming a lawyer, she just wanted to achieve something to prove to her douchebag ex-boyfriend she was smart. She just got lucky and found her passion.

  30. rozin*

    Agreed with everyone do not do law unless you really want to be a lawyer. I can’t help but wonder if you have a relative strongly “encouraging” you to go through this route with hopes that you’ll realize you “love” law and become a lawyer. I had a similar relative that insisted that unless I was a doctor, I’d never make a living even though I hate everything related to medicine. Don’t listen to them. Arguably I’m not making as much as if I became a doctor, but I’m making a fine living doing video production and graphic design.

  31. Sandy*

    I normally don’t suggest this, because so many people have told me it’s their “law school back-up plan”, but…

    Have you considered applying to join the State Department?

    A lot of the things you list in your letter are things that are common to FSO positions with State. Project management, international work experience, willingness (and desire) to work abroad. Depending on the position(s), you could also get to work with a lot of legal issues that DON’T require a law school background.

    With a ‘rotational’ system (ie you have to change jobs every two years or so), you could effectively try out a lot of different jobs but not get that dreaded job-hopper designation.

    And, hey, that way, when you’re booking someone’s hotel reservations, it’s because they are for the Secretary of State and his/her team… [no easy pass out of that one, I’m afraid]

    1. Ell like L*

      Could suggestion. It’s competitive, but so are Top 3 law schools.

      OP could also consider doing non-profit work for an org that works internationally. Business Analyst is a position that’s in demand in a lot of different types of organizations. It seems like OP is smart and competent, they can move into something they like more without going to law school.

    2. Anon Moose*

      Not a terrible idea but the process to get into the state department as a Foreign Service Officer is ridiculous. You technically don’t need a (international relations) masters degree to do it, but it helps. A lot. The hiring is down so much in recent years that it is very very very competitive. It should never be anyone’s plan A because it takes forever to get in and there are no guarantees.
      The process takes over a year and involves: the test, personal narratives reviewed by a committee, an oral exam, language testing, ranking on a list with possible selection for the A-100 classes (but they only take a small portion of the highest scorers into the class to become foreign service officers- i.e. you can make it all the way to the list and not become an FSO.) Each of these steps is more and more competitive. If you don’t pass any step, you have to start all over in a year. Not to mention stringent medical and security clearance requirements.
      Its not a good backup plan for law school either but if OP is interested, they could look into it, or international relations in general (which is more than the State Department as well). There’s also a UN program for young professionals and other development, government and international business positions that would allow you to work abroad.

      1. Sandy*

        It’s hugely competitive, yes. But so is getting into a T1 law school, staying there, and making it out on to the job market market afterwards!

        (doesn’t get much easier once you’re IN as an FSO either, as it turns out)

        One advantage the State Department path has over three years of law school is that you can (and should) still work throughout the process. You don’t have the tuition burden of law school plus three years of opportunity costs.

        You can keep building up your skills and reputation where you are now, and then IF you get in, decide if you want to make the jump.

        1. Anna*

          And the difference is you come out of the State Department process (ideally) with a job rather than a ton of debt and no intention to practice law.

  32. Ell like L*

    Pretty much echoing what Alison and everyone here has already said, don’t do it yo.

    My Brother in law just graduated from a top law school. He originally wanted to become a human rights lawyer (like pretty much everyone else in his class) for a few years before moving into human rights policy. Then he figured out that there are jobs for like 1% of the folks who study human rights law, and smartly went into a more in-demand (and snooze worthy) field instead. The chances he’ll end up doing policy work even in his new boring field anytime in the next decade are slim to none.

    Even if you wanted to practice law, there’s a huge glut of law school grads who now can’t find work. They end up doing jobs like yours except they have huge amounts of debt they can’t pay off. This just isn’t the ticket out you’re looking for.

    1. sam*

      That’s the other thing – schools sell you on these idealistic areas of law that are not actually things people practice in the real world…

      “International Law”? Not actually a thing. are you talking about cross-border financing? prosecuting war criminals at the Hague? Maritime law? Those are all things that happen ostensibly “internationally”, but they’re all completely different areas of expertise that have nothing to do with each other. When someone tells me they want to practice “international law”, I now ask them to explain to me what that is. Invariably it’s some lofty “Hague” thing, which, like, six people in the world do. And I can guarantee you that some first year nobody graduating with a cast of thousands is not going to be one of those six.

  33. littlemoose*

    I’ll join the chorus – do NOT go to law school unless you are really, truly, 100% sure you want to practice law, which it sounds like is not your situation. I went to a mid-tier law school on a partial scholarship and have a decent paying job now (upper five figures), but the student loan payments are still over $1,000 per month. It would be incredibly difficult to save up for a house or really get ahead if I didn’t live with my boyfriend. It’s such a financial drag on your future that you have to be sure it’s what you want.

    The legal job market is very tight, as Alison said. As others pointed out, your employment prospects might be decent in BigLaw with a Top-3 degree, but you’re also going to work like hell and probably get very burned out. The profession can be really grueling, and burnout is high. As a result, the competition for the policy-type jobs that I think you’re leaning toward is really fierce. I’m fortunate to have an administrative law job in government, so my work-life balance is good, but I am definitely in the minority among my law school friends. My 40-hour workweek is an anomaly for sure, and I know I got this job partly out of luck. I wouldn’t count on finding something like that – and as I mentioned, I make less than a lot of my lawyer friends, so the debt burden is significant.

    Just… don’t do it. Please. It sounds like it’s not what you want, and law school is a very crummy and expensive Plan B. You sound like you’re very smart and awesome at your job, so I have no doubt that you can find some other terrific opportunities. I wish you the best of luck!

    1. littlemoose*

      Also, I was underemployed for a year and a half after graduating despite strong grades and class rank, and passing the bar. This was 2008-2009, so the economy was really in the tank then, but the legal job market is still struggling.

      1. hellcat*

        If your loans are federal, have you looked into the income-based repayment plans? I saw you were in public service, which could mean forgiveness of the loan balance after 10 years of service and on-time payments, as well. Not to butt in, but I’m in a similar boat – graduated in 2008, government attorney, crazy debt amounts. I love my job (most days), but the loans are only manageable because of the repayment options, and the early forgiveness is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  34. nerfmobile*

    I can tell you that at my 25th college reunion last year (at a “West Coast Ivy”), the aisles were positively littered with people who said “Well I went to law school and then 2/5/10/15 years later decided that I didn’t want to be a lawyer and it took 2/5/10 years to figure out what I really wanted to do.” Note that these were all extremely smart, driven people. I probably met more people who were not-a-lawyer after law school than I met people who were happily lawyering. So, unless you passionately want to be a lawyer of some sort, just skip the whole detour through law school before figuring out what you really want to do. If you hate your current job – fine, find a new one. But don’t do law school just because you aren’t sure what to do next.

    And grad school later in life is a perfectly viable option and can be very rewarding. I followed my initial career path (not in the law!), and eventually found a gap between what my profession did and what I wanted to do and thought I could do for people. I went to grad school at 35. got my MS degree (that did give me concrete skills in order to switch my work), changed careers, and 10 years later am very happy and successful in what I do now.

  35. Karyn*

    If I can convince just one person not to go to law school, I will consider my life a success.

    I have a J.D. I may or may not take the bar exam for numerous reasons. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it. Yes, I have an education. I also have $300,000 worth of debt to show for it (ten years of private school in total and living expenses because I could only work so much). It wasn’t worth it.

    Please, please, OP, don’t do this. A law degree will lock you out of more jobs than it will open for you. Trust me on this.

  36. Marketing Grad*

    OP, I think you’re discounting the experiences you’ve had in your current position. First jobs out of college are almost never exactly what you want to do and that’s part of the game. Just because it’s “only” project management doesn’t mean you can’t further your career and make the connections you want. It sounds like you’re performing well and opportunities down the line are attractive to you.

    Also, counselors and managers are useful tools as you search for a new role, but it’s not up to them to “funnel” you into a position outside of project management. Blindly taking the opportunities they send your way most likely will lead you down the same path of not knowing what you want to do. Start seriously considering what you WANT your future to look like and go after it. The sheer pressure of the law school decision over the years should be enough to know it’s not the right choice for you right now.

  37. Rubyrose*

    No law school.
    You need to figure out what you are doing now, so you can plan on how to move forward.
    You start off saying you are doing business analysis, then it turns into project management, then you are describing coordinator/assistant duties. For an entry position I tend to think it is really the latter. Nothing wrong with that, but as you say, you are ready for something else.
    So what is it that you want?

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Right. OP’s description of her job was all over the place, but it sounds like she is building up a lot of goodwill at her current company and may be able to use that to better define what she does next.

  38. Chickaletta*

    Stick with what you’re doing right now. Even if you don’t like the day-to-day duties, it will get better. Don’t make the mistake I did in thinking that just because a job felt “beneath me” that I had to quit and start over somewhere else. I know now that you have to stick with something like this, sometimes for several years, before moving up and getting better responsibilities. Otherwise you’re always just starting over, always starting at the bottom, and one day you’ll wake up in your 30s in an entry level job.

    Also, project management is so much more than just making reservations and coordinating the coffee. It sounds like what you’re doing right now is more like project assistant, which is what I did for awhile right out of college. I know several people who work in project management who oversee large groups of people, manage seven+ figure budgets, and are the driving force behind large corporate initiatives. Have you looked into any project management certifications?

  39. Anon Moose*

    From what I have learned from the lawyers I work with, law school is actually not all that good at teaching skills. Its a lot of theory. And any writing skills, researching skills are specifically tailored to law and not transferable. Also, every lawyer I’ve ever met has said not to go to law school if you’re not sure, much less if you’re not interested. And, OP, you don’t want to! If you are not interested in law as a career, there are many other ways to get where you want to go than three years in a difficult and ultimately (for you) useless degree.
    You are two years out of undergrad. You are so early on in your career and there are ways and ways to get different experience in other areas. You do not have to go to graduate school, or if you do decide you want to, you have several years to figure it out. (The median age for many professional programs is late 20s.) You need to let go of the deferment to a school you don’t want to go to (and any deposits too unfortunately, but its still cheaper than tuition). Its way too much money and time for something you are not sure of. You are closing the law school door (but actually, there is nothing stopping you from applying again later if you decide you really want to practice law), but that is what adulthood is.
    It sounds like instead you need to look into a different JOB, not school, if you are unhappy. Or look for different opportunities within your company. Network- can you do informational interviews with more experienced people in fields you’re interested in? Ask how they got where they did and their advice, what kind of experience you need- you can do this for multiple fields! As far as skills, what skills do you want to work on? Get some professional development training through your company or on your own time. You can also job search for something you are more interested in at the same time! And even in a letter, you sound much more excited about the project opportunity than law school. DO IT and not law school.

  40. WhiskeyTango*

    First of all – Allison is completely 100% right.

    Second of all, I went through this about 15 years ago – when I was finished with college, I was too burned out to go to law school. (One key difference, however, is that I wanted to be a lawyer… and planned to go to law school from day 1 of my freshman year of college). I put it off a year or two and then indefinitely. I spent a lot of time doing what you are doing now – and going through a bit of the same. I didn’t want to be a party planner or an administrator. But that’s what I was frequently hired to do. I hated it.

    I actually DID go to law school. When I was 28. I’m glad I waited. I’m glad I had other experience. Personally, when I have the opportunity to hire someone who has other business experience and chose law as a second career, I do. They are usually far more rounded, grounded and they have more to offer me than a newly minted lawyer without any real world experience.

    So my advice is keep looking for what excites you – law school will always be there if you decide to go later. (I think back to a woman who was a classmate in law school, she was 62 and it was her dream.) But you can do a lot more with your law degree if you have business experience behind you and a plan ahead of you.

  41. The IT Manager*

    What Alison said and everyone else echoed, but Project Management is not booking cars, flights, and lunches. That might be what they call you but if that’s the only thing you’re doing you’re not really performing in a project management role.

    1. EA*

      So for one data-point. The PMs at my company do the administrative tasks on their projects, so they would be booking cars, ordering lunches, but this is probably 20% of their job – they also do a lot of technical work/client work/ budgets for projects.

      1. Allison*

        I wonder if what OP really wants is a project manager role where they’re not taking care of the admin side of the project, and they have a project assistant, admin assistant, coordinator, or intern doing it for them so they have more time and energy to focus on high-level PM work.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Have to agree with IT Manager here. Maybe the OP has more of a coordinator role but only focused on the job duties she doesn’t like. Those duties are more “project assistant” like. If the OP stays with her company (she should if there is opportunity) she should make a case to take on more complex work within the projects. It would be hours that could contribute to the requirements for the PMP which would be a helpful (and much cheaper than law school) certification if she is interested in remaining in PM.

  42. Linda*

    I would say the same goes for medical school as well. Do NOT go to medical school unless you want to become a (practicing) physician! Being interested in science, etc is not good enough. There is almost no way to get out from under the crushing school debt unless you practice. Industry (ie, pharmaceuticals) positions are extremely competitive and rare, so you can’t count on that.

    I had a life-changing illness during my last year of medical school, and while I managed to complete residency and fellowship, I am unable to practice due to disability. After many years of collecting disability insurance, I managed to get an industry position and though it pays about half the salary of a physician, it is better than sitting at home. If I had known, I would’ve done it all much much differently.

    1. Joseph*

      Really, the same goes for any of the “classic” professions (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc): A degree in them is not a magic spell to open every single door, but is specifically targeted to address the problem of “I want to be an X and require specialized training in X”.

      Here’s the thing: Whatever you want to be, if it isn’t “practicing lawyer”, then a law degree isn’t helping you as much as three dedicated years where you focus on doing *that*. You want to get into politics? Spend three years volunteering for your chosen party, assisting in elections (there’s a big one this year!), and being active in your local government. You’ll be much further in your political career in 2019 doing this than if you spent the next three years studying law. Same thing with banking, private industry upper management, and anything else you think of.

  43. EA*

    Oh, I feel for the OP.

    So almost went to law school. It was always the plan. I paralegalled for 2 years out of college to get experience/and a reference from a top firm. That is when I decided that I HATED it. I ended up taking an admin/EA position in another field that had other non- administrative elements in the job description, and I am hoping to transition in a few years. I know what job I want and what skills I need to get there. I didn’t have much experience from being a paralegal in anything other than filing documents and admin work. I’m not going to lie, it has been really rough. I use to be the smart, future-lawyer person. Now my friends/family (particularly family)- think of me as a loser secretary who is diluting herself and will never get promoted, because “once a secretary, always a secretary”

    I think a lot of what the OP is afraid of is lack of path. She has probably had this path for a long time, and it is hard to be unsure, especially considering she is probably someone who was always smart/successful thus far. I don’t have all the answers on this – but when I didn’t go to law school, I remember thinking I would rather try and do something else and fail, then go to law school knowing it was wrong for me and made me unhappy, due to fear.

    1. Anon Moose*

      The difference for OP is that it sounds like OP already has the opportunity to transition out of an admin role into something else within the company.

  44. K.*

    I know a lot of lawyers of various kinds & at various levels and I don’t think any of them would recommend going to law school even if you DO want to practice law, because of the shortage of jobs and the expense. At the very least, they’d ask really specific questions – what kind of law do you want to practice? In what part of the country? What schools are you considering? Who’s paying for it?

    Going to law school because you don’t know what else to do is a terrible idea. My friend’s ex did this. It took years for him to even pass the bar and he ended up doing something that has nothing to do with law. He doesn’t even have his JD on his resume now. Law school was an enormous waste of time & money (so. Much. Money. Barring a windfall, he’ll probably be in debt until he’s a senior citizen) for him.

    Don’t do it, OP! It’s just really, really not going to help you.

  45. Matt*

    Unless the OP is seriously committed to becoming a practicing attorney AND is comfortable with potentially spending the rest of their life paying off upwards of $200,000 in student loan debt depending on where they matriculate, it’s not worth it.

  46. Allison*

    When I was a freshman political science student at Northeastern, Micheal Dukakis (yes, former Democratic presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Dukakis) advised us all to NOT go to law school unless you want to become a lawyer. It’s hard, it’s 3 years of your life, it’s very expensive, and a law degree is really only necessary if you want to become a lawyer. He said this because a lot of people think it’s necessary if you want a career in public service, or possibly other humanitarian fields, but it isn’t.

    I’d even say that any continuing education, be it grad school, business school, med school, etc. should only be done if it’s absolutely required to achieve a specific dream you have. Again, it’s a lot of time and a lot of money, and won’t always improve your candidacy when looking for jobs. In fact, my company is looking to hire a contracts manager, and the hiring manager specifically told us she doesn’t want someone with a law degree.

  47. Legalchef*

    No. No. Nonononononononono. No.

    Unless you actually want to be a lawyer, you aren’t going to get any skills that will really help you. Law school is 3 years of teaching someone to think like a lawyer. And it’s stressful. And most people really dislike it. And it’s expensive! Unless you are getting a full ride, you will have to work for years to pay off loans for something you aren’t dedicated to in the first place!

  48. Kaybee*

    OP, It sounds like your coordinator/administrative-type duties are bothering you, but I *promise* you that if you go to law or any other type of non-STEM graduate school, your first job out also will require a lot of coordination-type duties. It’s hard to avoid, and you’ll feel the same way you feel now, except potentially with a lot more debt and this is key: you’ll have lost 3+ years you otherwise would have spent advancing up the ladder.

    There are a lot of public policy-type jobs that require a master’s of public policy or similar, and if those are the jobs you’re interested in, then maybe it’s something to consider – knowing that you’re still likely going to be coordinating all kinds of things when you graduate. That’s just the nature of entry-level jobs for graduate students; you won’t graduate straight into being the director of a think tank or partner of a lobbying/public affairs firm But if you aren’t interested in jobs that overwhelmingly and explicitly are asking for a specific graduate degree – and it doesn’t sound like you are – then I think there’s a good chance you’ll end up regretting the years you lost in school.

    1. Anon Moose*

      A public policy/ IR degree is maybe something to consider in a few years, once you have more experience, IF that is what you want to do.

    2. Megs*

      Eeh, I don’t really know any entry level attorney jobs that require coordination-type duties. Not that that’s a reason to go to law school, and there is certainly a lot of horribly tedious stuff unique to lawyering.

      1. Pwyll*

        Depends on the size of the firm. I spent my first year doing a ton of coordination-type duties for my Partner, including typing her handwritten contract edits into the computer, and anything really that might require a computer. Only some of which would count towards my billable hour requirement. While it was invaluable to see how and why she changed certain things, and she’s a gifted Attorney, it was very much not fun.

        In the current lawyer job market, you take what you can get.

        1. Megs*

          This is true – and of course, it you try the hang-a-shingle route (lol) you’ll be doing everything PLUS doc review to make the bills.

      2. Kaybee*

        Oops, I should have been clear that I was thinking about the entry level jobs OP would take if she went to law school but didn’t practice law, e.g. analyst level roles in lobbying firms. That said, I’ve done a lot of event and meeting planning (dais seating charts, invitee lists, looooong discussions on whose logo gets the more prominent locations, whose VIP gets the keynote spot, how close the venue is to the airport, etc. etc.) where, when law firms or legal departments of large organizations/government agencies were involved, my counterpart was one of the junior attorneys.

  49. kraken*

    I started paralegal school a few terms ago, because I am really interested in the law, but not in being a lawyer. I’m hoping that wasn’t a huge mistake. I feel pretty good about the decision, because it’s relatively inexpensive and I am learning quite a bit, plus gaining some valuable contacts. I have enough experience in other areas that if it turns out being a paralegal is not for me, I can tailor my resume to different industries. I’m reasonably assured that this is the career path for me, just not assured enough to take on the risk and the expense of law school.

    1. AK*

      I think you’re doing the smart thing.
      I am a paralegal and I trained specifically to be a paralegal because I love law, but I was an older graduate and didn’t want to take on the debt required for law school. (Even though my LSAT scores were good.) I love being a paralegal, even though I’ll never make lawyer money, and I graduated in 2012 and have never had an issue finding a job – but I have had jobs where I worked right alongside law school graduates, earning the same amount of money.
      I know being a paralegal isn’t nearly as prestigious as being a lawyer, but it’s also a good deal less risky. And, if you do decide to go to law school later, you’ll have a bit of a headstart depending on how strong your program is.

      Plus, if you discover you absolutely hate it, you didn’t spend nearly as much money to find that out.

    2. Dixieland Lawyer*

      GREAT choice – the star paralegals in my firm are worth triple their weight in gold (and, frankly, some are better than the attorneys they support). Paralegal training is actually training (unlike law school) and can be helpful in many ways. Plus, the world needs more paralegals who actually like doing paralegal work and are not doing it just to “get experience” before they go to law school.

  50. Former Borders Refugee*


    Went to law school, have the license, can’t get a job, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY. No, not even for a top-3. You have better things to do to create that kind of stress. Like swim with actual sharks.

  51. Ultraviolet*

    OP, it sounds like you’re frustrated with the entry-level aspects of your job–doing administrative tasks and having other people’s uninteresting work pushed off on you on the implicit grounds that their time is more valuable and they have better things to do. I can sympathize. But it sounds like you might be thinking that getting a law degree will accelerate you past this career stage and get you more substantive work even if the degree is not related to the job. I think this is really unlikely to be the case. You’re more likely to have an interesting, higher-powered role five years from now if you keep working and gain experience than if you take time off for a degree that’s not directly related to your work. And I think that that’s true even if you switch career paths this summer.

    1. Aurion*

      I’ll also add that a newly minted lawyer also has to do a lot of uninteresting work–they get to delegate some of it to the paralegals, legal assistants, etc., but there’s a reason they’re starting at the bottom of the food chain lawyer-wise. They could be dealing with the uninteresting cases, the bad clients, etc. And the hours suck.

      OP, please heed the caution. I had considered going to school for law, and I’m so glad I didn’t.

      1. Pwyll*

        My first year out of law school at a small firm I . . . ordered food for my Partner, arranged hundreds of copies of contracts for signing ceremonies, and put in ungodly hours reading Partners’ handwriting scrawl because they didn’t use a computer, and we were not permitted to offload our work on paralegals or legal assistants. 8 AM to 8 PM every day, more some days.

        I 100% agree with what you’ve written here.

  52. Juli G.*

    Please don’t lose sight of the fact you have more than the two options of law school and staying in your current job (or even the third choice suggested). There are hundreds of paths to take! Don’t limit yourself to the one that’s the most convienient.

  53. CoffeeLover*

    I’m a management consulting at Big 4 and my brother is in law. First of all, I want to say I feel your pain about being stuck on projects that don’t align with your skills and/or wants, while others around you are getting more interesting work. I’ll disagree with some others to say that I don’t necessarily think you need to be in love with law to get your law degree, but you do need to be willing to devote at least 5(ish) years working in law after you graduate (the degree itself doesn’t get you a whole lot, but the experience will). Most lawyers don’t stay in law anyway, but will move to law-related fields (which I’m guessing appeal to you). As others pointed out though, the first few years of law are a lot of grunt work.

    That being said, there are other (potentially better, potentially faster) ways to go about getting what you want:
    1) Network within your firm to land other projects, move geographic locations, etc. (what you’re already doing), and be willing to say no to projects that don’t align with what you want
    2) Look at other consulting firms (aka jump ship to a competitor)
    3) Look at industry; companies love hiring consultants and even “boring” PM duties sound good on a resume
    4) Go the MBA route – if you can get into a prestigious MBA program, you’ll get the benefits you described about law school, but without the degree that’s completely unrelated to what you want to do (money is a big factor here, but can be worth it especially if you want to move into strategy consulting or change career paths)

  54. ouimadame*

    An ex of mine went to law school because his wealthy parents told him they’d cut him off financially if he didn’t. They controlled his two other brothers the same way, but forced them into different professions.

    He went to a good school, hated law school, is a lawyer now and hates every minute of it. Hates hates hates it.

  55. Pwyll*

    My first response was literally Alison’s first line. Don’t do it. Stop thinking about it.

    Law school was literally the worst years of my life. Law school is a terrible, terrible existence. Even the people I know who LOVE being a lawyer absolutely hated law school. The people I know who were pressured into attending by family or work were so miserable I was very concerned for their mental health. You really have to know why you’re going through it in order for the stress and heartache to be justified.

    That said, I’ll echo the sentiments above: if you’ve liked the global travel and like the type of work your bosses are doing, an MBA might be a better choice. But I would stick it out with your current company for awhile longer, not least because you’re getting to be overseas and it sounds like you’re still early in your career. In fact, some consulting firms (especially the ones willing to relocate their staff overseas for long stretches of time) are willing to pay for MBA degrees for their analysts. That may be a better solution, as an MBA really can be a general purpose degree, whereas a law degree is NOT NOT NOT a general purpose graduate degree.

    Your career is a long time, and unlike college there is no rush or artificial deadline for when you need to decide where the endpoint is. You should absolutely not go to any graduate program until you know what it is that you want in your career. And that day is not today.

    1. Adam*

      I will never forget the story from a law student of my alma matter that went into the school paper. Law school goes like this: Year 1 they scare you to death. Year 2 they work you to death. Year 3 they bore you to death.

      I related this to my dad who is a lawyer and he was laughing before I could even finish the joke.

      1. Adam*

        Or maybe it just felt like he started laughing right away. Either way he really liked being a lawyer and thought I would too though he never pressured me into it, but he was always honest about what a nightmare the job could be at times.

      2. Pwyll*

        Hah! We had a similar saying at my school (went at night for 4 years):

        First year they scare you, second year they kill you, third year they forget about you, fourth year YOU forget about THEM.

    2. Dawn*

      Agree with “an MBA really can be a general purpose degree.” However, do NOT get an MBA unless it’s a hard requirement for the next step in your career- I see so many people getting an MBA because they can’t figure out what else to do and either going out and being really terrible Business Analysts or getting out and not understanding why they’re not magically getting a fantastic job (hint- it’s because the degree is worthless if you can’t back it up with someone substantial.)

      I’m a Business Analyst, I don’t have an MBA, and I don’t plan on getting one unless I get to a point where it’s either impossible to get a promotion without it OR the company I work for wants me to get one *and* is gonna pay for it.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Dawn, I am loving your comments today! I always enjoy the discussion/debate that letters pertaining to education and career spark. Why? Because at the time when we need it the most (HS or college senior) we don’t/can’t get it. When I was 18, no one around me was making an argument about why X degree is better than Y or how I could explore Z for the next year or so until I get a better understanding of my interests. Nope, adults were just excited I was going. I went to public high school, I don’t think these discussions exist. When you are 18, heck, when you are 22 and a fresh grad you are still getting the “you can be whatever you want if you put your mind to it” 1990s after school special pep talks from most adults.

        1. JuniorMinion*

          Laurel I agree! as someone who is now almost 30(!!) there is a plethora of stuff I wish there had been more information / guidance on when I was in high school / college / shortly thereafter

        2. Honeybee*

          OMG, so true. When I went off to get a PhD everyone around me was just so happy I was getting a PhD – I was a first-generation college student from a working-class background. Nobody in my family or social circles did college, much less graduate school, period. So it was assumed that a PhD (at an Ivy League!) was a guaranteed golden ticket to a job. I wish I had known someone who could’ve sat down with me and told me what it was really like, and helped me have an honest and deep conversation about what I really wanted.

          And I got so many accolades for ‘knowing exactly what I wanted to do’ and having my career all planned out…I wish someone had told me that it was okay not to know, okay to try things out, okay to slow down and flounder and make mistakes.

  56. Adam*

    Believe it or not: law is a passion career. As many posters have said, the stress is enormous as is the debt. And with the glut of lawyers into the market, most of which are self-employed and not under established firms, finding work is a real challenge.

    I work for the organization that licenses and disciplines lawyers in my state, and there is approximately one active lawyer for every 200 people in my state. That is really tight competition on the private side and being legal counsel for a company or government isn’t necessarily easy either. I would never dissuade someone from going into law if they understood the field and were truly committed and inspired to do so, but anyone who isn’t 100% there I would definitely counsel to think five times before jumping on that train.

    Good luck!

  57. Cordelia Naismith*

    This is how people end up miserable. Miserable and in debt.

    QUOTED FOR TRUTH. OP, please don’t do this unless you suddenly realize you want to practice law after all. If you don’t want to practice law, don’t go to law school.

  58. MsChanandlerBong*

    I would strongly caution you not to go to law school if you don’t want to practice. I am not a lawyer, so my opinion isn’t that important, but I have been watching my best friend struggle because of this exact situation. Her mom is very set on the idea of having children with “prestigious” occupations. My best friend has no desire to be a lawyer, but her mother picked and picked and picked until my friend gave in and went to law school. She now has $70,000 in loans and a contract job that pays less than $40,000 per year. Forty grand doesn’t sound bad, but her loan payment is $700 per month, the contract job has no benefits, and she has to pay self-employment taxes. Her job requires her to travel within a three-hour radius of her county, but she receives no mileage reimbursement, no gas credit, or anything like that, so she is spending a ton on gas and beating the crap out of her vehicle.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      And I forgot to mention that it took her over a year to find this job. Until two months ago, she was working as a tax preparer for $8/hour. She couldn’t pay $700/month in loans on $8/hour in compensation, so now she also owes her mother thousands of dollars.

  59. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    Off topic.. I get redirected all the time but only when I use my IPhone. Wanted to let you know :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please fill out the ad report form linked above the comment box (and include your email address)! Trying to funnel any issues to that form.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, but meanwhile, here are two solutions that they say have worked for other people:

        Change Cookie Settings
        1. Click Settings on your iPhone
        2. Select Safari
        3. Scroll down and click Block Cookies
        4. Select Allow for Current Website Only

        Clear All Website Data
        1. Double-click your home button and close Safari
        2. Go to Settings
        3. Select Safari
        4. Scroll down and click Clear History and Website Data
        – Note: This will close all of your Safari browser windows

  60. Martina*

    Do NOT do this!!

    My husband went to law school when he didn’t really know if he wanted to practice law, and it was a terrible decision. Despite having amazing undergrad grades, he ended up failing his first year because he couldn’t get into the subject matter and found the work insanely difficult compared to his B.A.. In the end, he ended up with five figures in debt, serious depression, a deep hatred for the whole study of law, and no idea what to do with his life. It has taken 4-5 years of working at a job that doesn’t require any university degree (he primarily took it because it is the polar opposite of law) to pay off the debt, regain his self-confidence, and this fall he will be entering a graduate program that he knows he is passionate about, with a clear career path, full financial support, and a job after graduation.

    Please don’t go to law school if you don’t want to be a lawyer.

  61. MindoverMoneyChick*

    Agree 1000% with everyone how says don’t go. I work with people trying to pay off heavy grad school debt and it is a level of stress you do not need. It will only detract from the quality of your life, trust me.

    Also something to consider is your job sounds like it’s a mix of entry level grunt work plus some measure of real responsibility. This is totally normal the first few years in your career and it does NOT mean you won’t grow into positions of greater responsibility and less grunt work without grad school. Keep doing good work and try to get yourself into as many high visibility projects as you can and likely you will be able to leverage your work experience into higher level roles without the debt.

  62. Noah*

    As a lawyer, I agree with everything about the answer except this: “it’s an intensive three years of your life to train you to practice law.”

    Law school does not train you to practice law.

    1. LawBee*

      TRUTH. Law school trains you to take the bar exam, and if it’s a good school, be a competent researcher and writer.

      1. sam*

        It doesn’t do that either. BarBri or one of the other (newer) Bar review courses train you to take the bar exam. Law school provides you with the JD that is a required prerequisite to sit for the bar exam in most states.

  63. Colorado*

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments but what I gathered from your letter was that you have a college degree, enjoy working abroad, have a responsible job and seem to be very good at it. Yes, you’re getting bored with it but work hard and you will get promoted. If you don’t get promoted, you’ll have enough experience to move on. No need to jump into grad school. No need at all. Enjoy your time abroad, breathe, take in all that is around you and consider all the options you have available to you, enjoy your life, and do good work.

  64. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    As a law grad who struggled through recession, failing the bar, and luckily having fallbacks plus extra credentials and scholarships…I say:
    Go to law school ONLY if:
    -You are 10000% passionate about practicing law/doing something amazing with your legal education AND you have a 100% ironclad way of 100% paying for all of law school that is through scholarships or a rich relative/friend or won lotto (NOT through student loans).
    -You are so excited to do legal research at 4 am for law review AND can handle being the first one in a coffee shop at 5 am, nearly every Friday morning and studying 24/7 weekends.
    -You have added skillsets (ie. real estate, gov, other internships/work) so that if you fail the bar or it’s impossible to compete with other grads, you ca still have a safety net and employability.

    Finally, you have to willing to put your heart and soul on the line knowing law school grades can seem arbitrary, plus knowing that on you’re out, it’s Hunger Games while competing for very very scarce job openings.

  65. Milton Waddams*

    “As a college senior, I applied to law school and deferred admission to a top-3 law school. (I mention this to help mitigate concerns over the crumbling state of the legal profession.) I was never very interested in law, but I majored in sociology and didn’t know what other grad school I’d be a good fit for.”

    This is an important paragraph that I think many people are misunderstanding. If you’ve got a degree in law from Harvard, it doesn’t matter that the degree is in law, provided you have also taken advantage of the other resources available at the school.

    People tend to ignore this facet of education because it is horribly classist — it says that a person from a Good Family who graduated from a Good School deserves more success than the child of a burger-flipper who has crawled up the ladder from Fayetteville State, regardless of their actual skills or major.

    For a sobering look, check out Payscale’s ROI on colleges — the difference between the Ivy Leagues Masters of the Universe, their tech servants at MIT and Caltech, and everyone else is striking. Many colleges provide a negative ROI regardless of what you major in, simply because of where you majored.

    People don’t want it to be true, and colleges looking to keep enrollments up are happy to oblige them. It’s certainly a difficult problem to struggle through.

    1. Pwyll*

      I understand what you (and more importantly, OP) are intending to say here, but I don’t think the “elite degree” mentality actually makes law school a good idea. While, yes, having Harvard (or other T3) will be helpful on a resume in the long-run, if OP has no intention of practicing law, having attended Harvard LAW will be damaging to career prospects for the exact reason Alison (and the article she links to moreso) point out: non-lawyer recruiters will immediately deem the OP as “too expensive” or “indecisive”.

      I think your points are absolutely correct when we’re talking about undergraduate degrees. But attending law school and then not practicing law can make the job search far more difficult, no matter that OP attended Harvard/Yale/Stanford. In fact, perhaps the T3 could even hurt their prospects.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I actually agree that having the T3 JD on someone’s resume might be more harmful than a lower tier school. I’ve seen a couple of JD resumes come through for jobs we’ve hired from lower-ranked schools, and my first question has always been why they are applying for a job that clearly has nothing to do with law. I think that I would be even more skeptical/concerned about a candidate’s interest in our non-law jobs if I saw that they had attended Harvard Law.

        To me, there’s something about making it into and then completing a top tier program that suggests you are really, really interested in being a lawyer, so if your application comes through for our non-law job I’m going to be very confused.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          *jobs we’ve hired FOR from lower-ranked schools.

          So far, none of the JDs have been hired because everyone else on my team has had the same concerns.

    2. Joseph*

      First off, the comparison if OP is already ambivalent and not really jazzed about going, are you really sure that OP is going to actually finish? Look at the comments above – even the lawyers who say they wanted to be lawyers are saying that law school is horrific; how much worse would it be for someone without any real desire to be there?

      More importantly, your comparison isn’t really relevant for this particular scenario. If the choice was between Harvard and Northeastern Jackson State Community College*, yes, the name on your diploma absolutely matters and you’re correct. BUT, that isn’t the case here. Here, the choice is:
      1.) Spend three years gaining active experience in a field that OP actually wants to go into, while presumably getting paid something for her time.
      2.) Spend three years getting a law degree which does not appear to be relevant to her field – and paying $100k+ for it.

  66. hellcat*

    I’m a lawyer, and I really enjoyed law school and have a government job that pays well and that I’m happy doing. I also have about $1000/month in student loan debt, and that’s with an income-based repayment plan. I didn’t go to a top three law school, but it wasn’t far off from that, and most of my classmates had BigLaw offers lined up early on. Even with all that, I still wouldn’t advise law school unless you actually want to practice law of some sort – it’s just too much time and money and stress to put into something if you’re not enthusiastic about it.

  67. Ellie H.*

    I just finished my 2nd year of a PhD program (at a “prestigious” university) and have never been more unhappy in my life. I am actively trying to get out, apply to jobs etc. Alison couldn’t be more correct that it is even more stressful to be doing grad school work without being passionate about it – I have this and it is one of the worst feelings I can imagine. Grad school is such pressure and you need to be dedicated to get through it or find it rewarding enough. I hate every second of what I do and spend 24 hours a day feeling cripplingly self-critical for not being committed enough to put true dedication into it. I was doing academic administrative work before and I was SO happy. I would do anything to have my old job and happy life back. Your current job sounds incredibly fantastic to me and it also sounds like you actually like it more than you claim. Don’t go to grad school!

    1. Jubilance*

      I was exactly where you are – in my 2nd year of my PhD program, going through qualifying exams, and miserable. It was so bad that I couldn’t make it through the day without a migraine that drove me from the lab, so I couldn’t get any work done. You’re doing the right thing by looking for a job or another opportunity. Get out while you can! My life and health got so much better when I left that program, and 10 years later, I know I made the best decision. Best of luck!

    2. anncakes*

      I was there, too. In a highly-regarded program but completely miserable. Completing the work was like pulling teeth. I left after finishing the second year, having completed the requirements for the Masters, and it immediately felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. It was very difficult to leave that kind of environment, but it was the best decision. You feel like you’re quitting because you’re not tough enough or good enough or dedicated enough or whatever it is. That if you were more dedicated and took it more seriously, it’d stop being such a miserable experience. But know that it has nothing to do with your abilities or work ethic or dedication or anything like that. It’s just not the right fit and not the right work for you. There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting to leave. You’re making the right choice. I wish you the best!

      1. CanadianKat*

        I had a similar experience with grad school. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go in the first place, but it was a top-5 school in an exotic (for me) location, and they offered me a generous scholarship, so I went.

        I ended up being miserable: my classmates were much smarter than me, I didn’t have a topic that I was interested in, and I didn’t want to pursue the academic career after graduation (pretty much the only career path in this field). I left after completing a Master’s. It didn’t give me any useful skills, but looked good on my resume (just as a “wow, you must be smart” factor), so it probably did help me land a job.

        Overall, going there worked out well for me, but that’s because I knew that I was doing it for the experience. The place was awesome, and they paid me well. But when it got too hard, that wasn’t enough motivation to continue.

    3. Honeybee*

      Aw, Ellie, *hugs*. Been there, done that – I finished my PhD, also at a prestigious university two years ago. If I could go back in time, I would’ve left after my MA (or not gone at all). And I actually loved my field, was (and still am) passionate about it, and wanted to work in it. But the work and the time and effort were just so grueling for so little reward both in the short and the long run.

      The upside is that I did find a professional position after graduating and am happy again now. So there is a way through – there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep looking for jobs. The happy part is that you actually have some professional experience to fall back on, so brava for you.

      Check out – that was a tremendous resource in me framing my job search and learning how to leave (they have resources that will help anyone leaving a PhD program, too, because a lot of it is framing how to leave academia).

  68. Florida*

    Most parents should not be allowed to give career or school advice. My mother pushed me to go to graduate school because my mother wanted to be able to say that all of her kids have graduate degrees. I can’t really say it has benefited me. It didn’t hurt anything. (She paid. No debt.) I enjoyed it because I like school. But in terms of my career, it hasn’t really helped me except that I am now much better at determining what education opportunities are appropriate for me.

  69. swingbattabatta*

    Oh my god, so many nopes. The amount of debt you will incur and the stress of law school just does not justify going to graduate school in lieu of figuring out a life plan. I went to a top three law school, and it is exhausting, high stress, and an incredible amount of work. You don’t learn general skills – law school arguably doesn’t even prepare you for the actual practice of law, unless you take a specific clinic/course. Also, I’m trying to picture how you would explain this random piece of your resume to future employers – I didn’t know what else to do, so I went to law school?

    Don’t do it. Focus on your career, and make a plan for yourself that makes sense in the long-term.

  70. went to law school, am not a lawyer*

    As most everyone else here has said, do not go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. I did, and realized after my first year that I did not want to be a lawyer. Unlike some of my smarter peers who realized the same thing and dropped out after the first year, I continued! And graduated! And took and passed the bar exam! All with no intention of being a lawyer.

    It has not helped me one bit. In fact, it’s caused problems because people think I am a lawyer and I need to explain that I am not. I have to say “no” to certain requests at work, otherwise I risk practicing law without a license. I have to explain that, yes, I did pass the bar exam, but no, I do not want to be a lawyer. I have a moderate amount of student debt. I actually make LESS now (in real dollars not adjusted for inflation) than I did prior to law school.

    If I had to do it again, I would have taken a different path. I was in an extremely bad situation at work and in my personal life and felt this was the best way out. It was not well-thought-out, I see that now; though at the time it seemed to be. You are lucky that you wrote in and have all these smart people telling you not to go. Only one person expressed doubts about my decision to go to law school and she ended up being the only one who was correct. My family was too dazzled by the thought of having a lawyer in the family, even while they were not listening to me say I did not want to be a lawyer and was doing it to gain skills (oh, are you me???)

    Others have also mentioned that your tasks sound more like project administrative or coordination work, not project management work. I agree. Prior to law school, I worked my way up from similar work as you are doing to high-level project management work with clients, with assistants who did the work you are describing. Project management skills are great skills to have and are transferable. Those have been more useful to me than my law degree. You really do not learn skills in law school. You learn concepts and know just enough to be dangerous. You really need to be a lawyer and work with other lawyers to develop the knowledge and skills that you begin to learn in law school.

    My advice is to see if you can grow your career where you are, or look for other opportunities where you can transfer your skills and grow. Project management skills really open a variety of doors. Don’t go to law school unless you want to be lawyer.

  71. Not Karen*

    You definitely don’t go [to grad school] if you don’t have a clear path for afterwards. And you really definitely don’t go when you’re not particularly interested in the field you’d be studying.

    This is how people end up miserable. Miserable and in debt.

    Welcome to my life.

    I would edit: “particularly interested in working in the field you’d be studying”
    I was and still am interested in my field of study. I just don’t like working in it.

  72. Stephanie*

    While impressive, a Top 3 law school is going to funnel you into corporate law (assuming you’re paying for it via loans). Public interest is an option, but that stuff is competitive.

    Corporate law is a pretty tough gig even if you are interested in the work. One of my best friends is a corporate attorney and when I saw him last weekend, he had to cut our hike short so we could get back to somewhere with wifi/cell service to do work (this was on a Sunday). I’ve seen him dictate emails on runs before. He seems to like his work (and the paycheck), but I’d imagine that’d be hell for anyone who wasn’t even remotely interested.

    1. neverjaunty*

      A friend of mine who went to a T10 law school (where the guy whose name is on the hornbook is your professor, kind of school) tells me that in their first week of class, one of the professors said “All of you think you’re going into international human rights law. After you graduate, 99% of you will end up working for big corporations one way or another.”

      This pissed most of the class off, but he was right.

  73. Dean Jackson*

    I’m sorry to rant on this… but doing admin work isn’t project management; project manager is a job that’s quite a bit more central to the organization, in the cases I’ve seen.

  74. MindoverMoneyChick*

    OP – if you’d like me to walk your through the steps I use to help my clients determine the the ROI on their perspective grad school programs and the impact that debt will have on their lives over the next 10 years or so, send me an email. That way you can use the process to evaluate your next steps.

    Seriously I am on a crusade against overwhelming student debt. It’s my thing :)

  75. Lauren*

    I totally understand why you are leaning this way. I was an English major, and I thought that going to law school was a decent next step as well. I wasn’t passionate about law, but I took the LSAT and started applying and did an internship at a legal aid. I am so glad multiple people gave me the same advise that Alison gave. I decided not to go. I did a brief internship in internal communications, and I hated it. I thought I had made the wrong decision for sure, until it opened some doors to a career in PR. This career path is perfect for me. It just took a little while to get there. I am so, so glad I did not go to law school. Unless you are dying to be a lawyer, you should not go. It is very scary when you’re still new to the workforce and don’t like what you do, especially when everyone preaches “follow your passion”. You’ve identified the parts of your job that you like, you should try to find something at your current company or a different company that highlights those elements. That helped me. Good luck!

  76. neverjaunty*

    OP, as a practicing lawyer who really enjoys being a lawyer, I concur with everything everyone has said here. A law degree is not what you do because it’s a ‘next step’. It’s not something you get because you think it will be a resume boost.

    The most miserable, unpleasant people I have to deal with are those who clearly didn’t want to be lawyers (or at least, to end up in the kind of law I practice) and are miserable and bitter. That’s no way to spend your life.

  77. AnotherHRPro*

    At times like this, we need voting buttons to that the OP can visually see a bar chart representing all of the “Heck No!” comments and the big old zero for “Yes, go into debt for no reason at all”.


  78. Megs*

    I really should not have spent today following this thread, certainly not on a Monday, which are already fairly predictably “cry on the way home from work over ruining my life, potential, and financial future” days. For real OP, I can tell you first hand that even loving law school, getting good grades, going to a decent school, having good employment leading up to and just after graduation, and loving pretty much everything about being a lawyer isn’t necessarily enough. If there was anything else in the world I wanted to do and were remotely qualified for, I’d do it.

  79. Meg Murry*

    For some concrete steps OP can take:
    -Meet with the partner again to discuss what the new position staying in the current country might look like, even if the position isn’t firmed up. Don’t tell them about “keeping your options open” – if you are interested, enthusiastically tell them you are interested in learning more. No one is going to go to bat to create a new position for someone that is viewing it as a fallback option instead of something that they are excited about. Would it mean leaving your current employer and working for the client? Is some kind of non-compete or non-poaching policy that would prevent you from doing that?
    -Meet with your current bosses and talk to them about their career paths and how they got to where they are. Does your firm only do HR consulting, or is there other business consulting as well? Ask about what kind of projects other employees have gone on to, and what kind of skills you need to be developing. Think about the parts of your job you *do* like, and figure out if there is a way you can do more of that.
    -Think about what you have accomplished at this job, and how you can spin it into a more positive light. Yes, on the day to day you may be coordinating hotel rooms and ordering lunches – but is that really “planned and executed all aspects of a conference for 30 participants, including lodging, meals and travel visas”? or “Coordinated interviews with Y candidates to fill X positions for MegaGiantImpressive Client”. If you can find a way to say “did really big thing with a really big budget” or “did a really impressive thing while holding tight to really small budget” or “saved $X by doing Y” that’s even more impressive.
    -Call or write to the law school and politely decline the seat. Thank them for the opportunity, but explain that law school isn’t in the cards for you right now. Think about how you’ll probably be opening up a seat on the waitlist to someone else who’s really excited to be there. And if you are losing a deposit, don’t worry about it – it’s a sunk cost that you spent at one point to keep your options open, and it’s a small price to pay compared to the 6 figures of debt that law school would cost.
    *Send an email to the professors who wrote your law school recommendations. Let them know you are doing well, and thank them for writing that recommendation, but that you’ve decided to stay at your current job rather than go on to law school. Keep in touch every so often (and let them know how awesome you are, you don’t need to tell them you spend a lot of time ordering lunches and making hotel reservations) because if you decide to go to grad school in a few years or move on to another job you may need them as references since you only have had the one job.
    -You can also ask those professors or your alumni office what your fellow alums with sociology degrees are doing. Your school may have an alumni database where you can look this information up yourself. You can use this information to see what else people with your background are doing with their sociology degrees besides law school or PhDs.
    -Think about why you considered going to law school. Are you interested in the law in general, and would you be better off just taking some continuing education classes or reading some books on business law, or law and society, etc? Do you enjoy researching or writing, and that’s what interested you? Or just the excitement of learning new things? Were you interested in the idea of helping people or changing the world? Or did you like the idea of being rich and powerful? Think about what appealed to you about law school, and see what you can do to acheive the interesting part, without actually going to law school.

    Also, OP, it’s ok if you haven’t really figured out what it is you do want to do with your life and career, and are just figuring it out by determining what is NOT a good fit for you. There are a lot of us out here that still haven’t figured out what we when we grow up – despite the fact that we’re 15+ years into our careers and appear from the outside to have it all figured out. A heck of a lot of us are just making it up as we go along, or putting on a bright smile and a good show to the outside world while being totally confused inside.

    1. EW*

      Great advice, especially the last paragraph! No one ever has all the answers. You just have to take it one step at a time!

  80. YouHaveBeenWarned*

    Like many others here, I went to law school without much of any desire to practice law, just because it seemed like a good way to get a “better job.”

    I went to a top law school. I got good grades and made lovely friends. I got a biglaw job, where I’ve done well. I’m a reasonably senior associate and we’re starting to have the partner discussions. I really like almost all my coworkers. I make a whole lot of money.

    And yet I am so envious of you, OP. You can do anything and be anyone. Go have experiences and take risks and if you decide that the law really is for you after all, it will still be here.

    1. neverjaunty*

      You can do the same. Set aside some of those gobs of money and plan your next move. You don’t have to work at BigLaw all your life if you don’t want to.

  81. De Minimis*

    I know at least a few times I considered law school for similar reasons [not sure what else to do, felt like a “next step,”]
    I’m so glad I didn’t take the plunge–I don’t think it would have ended well for me! Also, the main people who advised me against it were actual lawyers. I think that’s probably the biggest reason why I didn’t do it.

  82. LENEL*

    My only caveat to Alison’s advice is that it’s not international and a Law degree can be good preparation for quasi legal roles, at least in Australia. The OP seems to be squarely talking about the US, but I thought I would chime in with my thoughts for any Australian residents.

    If you have a Law degree in Australia there are a huge number of alternative career paths available to you. Here a Law degree is an undergraduate degree and there is a separate 1 year qualification you do to be able to practice (though not intending to practice I did complete this before my time was up to keep my future options available).

    I never had a strong urge to practice law. I’ve ended up in Local Government after a graduate position in State Government where I do quasi legal things not requiring my degree or qualifications but they definitely come very much in handy. A few of the things I tinker with are delegations (decision making powers under legislation devolving down because there’s no way the government could make every decision themselves), administrative complaints investigations and decisions, draft template decision notices, manage risk, make decisions on Freedom of Information applications, amend Local Laws, coordinate corporate reporting and write submissions to legislative reviews.

    A number of my friends and cohort are working in similar roles in government and our law degrees prepared us well for the way of thinking needed.

    Alison’s advice on not taking on crazy debt (like education costs in the States, although my Law Degree and secondary degree plus my Grad Degree cost around 35-45000 AUD so it’s pretty cheap in comparison to US costs for college) is spot on though! If you’re not particularly interested in the career path or a related career, it’s not a great idea to get qualified.

    At the time I had spent time in a government legal department and loved it, but those jobs permanently are like hens teeth. If I had stayed in State Government long enough I’m sure I would have gotten in, but I took a job with a greatly reduced commute and bundles of work life balance.

    1. sam*

      But this is one area where you REALLY can’t compare the educational systems in other countries. In the US, law school is a specialized graduate/professional program. In europe/elsewhere, you can major in law as an undergrad – that’s a completely different ball of wax.

      When I lived in Italy that was also the way it worked – people when to what was essentially college to study law, and then if they actually wanted to be lawyers, the apprenticed for a period of time before taking the equivalent of the bar exam. But having an undergrad degree in law is like my undergrad degree in political science/women’s studies – a more general studies bachelor’s degree that concentrated in one/two areas.

      If you actually get a law degree overseas and then want to practice in the US, you actually have to get another degree (LLM at a minimum, and some firms will still only hire you with a JD, even though an LLM is technically higher than a JD) and take the bar here to have a chance at a job.

      (and if you wonder why a “Master of Laws – LLM” is higher than a Juris Doctor, that’s because lawyers are snobs and lobbied a few decades ago to get the name of the basic professional law degree changed from LLB – “Bachelor of Laws” to JD because they thought it was ridiculous that we went to an additional three years of school after undergrad and were only awarded “another bachelors degree”. But the degree itself is still the same thing – you still see a few holdout law schools still awarding LLBs. This is also why it is a Juris “Doctor” (or technically “Doctoris” if you’re a woman) and not “Doctorate”, like a PhD /end lawyer-nerd lesson).

  83. EW*

    1,000% agree with Alison and all the posters. And I say this as a fellow sociology major who also had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated college. :) I get it — it’s tempting to choose the “certainty” of grad school when the alternative seems completely uncertain and, well, harder to figure out. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking law/grad school is your only option!

    Clearly, you’re unhappy with your current role and want to move on to something better. Good for you! But please, please realize you have more options than just ‘stay where you are’ and ‘go to law school.’ You could also forget them both and look for another job and another field altogether. It might not be smooth sailing – but now is exactly the time in your career to do some soul-searching, think about what you might like to be doing, and try it! But whatever you do, DON’T go to law school or grad school in any field you’re not positive you want to stay in. This is not like undergrad where it’s ok/expected that you’re trying out different fields and may well end up not working in the field you studied. The time to search around and find your passion for a field/area is before, not after, you go to grad school.

    Good luck!! It’s not easy, but you can do better than going to an expensive grad school for a degree that — if you don’t plan to use it — will be nearly worthless to you.

  84. PABJ*

    I would like to agree with Alison, but you could become a law librarian with your J.D. instead. Of course, you’d also probably need an MLIS to go with that, and it won’t pay remotely near enough to justify getting two advanced degrees, but it is an option, although a very bad one.

    1. Iphigenia*

      Bad? Try terrible. There are a lot more MLIS graduates than there are jobs; they don’t get paid anywhere near BigLaw money and most of them still end up in debt. Getting a full-time job out of school is often like trying to catch a unicorn. A lot of new graduates have to take auxiliary positions at multiple libraries just to stay afloat and that’s if they’re even interviewed in the first place. The things people are saying about law school apply equally to getting an MLIS. Only do it if you’re certain you want to become a librarian and even then reconsider it.

  85. DrAtos*

    I agree with everything Alison said. I went to law school and considered it to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life! I have been extremely fortunate, however, despite failing to get a legal job during the economic recession. I went into a different field entirely that offered me a decent salary and travel opportunities, but I had to sacrifice a lot as well. I tried applying to jobs unrelated to the law and received rejection after rejection, and I believe it was my JD that made employers believe I was overqualified or damaged goods. I finally decided if I ever wanted another job I’d have to return to the legal field, and I got a job offer relatively quickly. My experience was that only jobs related to the law (law schools, law firms, governmental departments run by attorneys) were the only places that were interested in me. If you don’t want to practice the law, the JD will prevent you from ever finding any other job besides a legal one. Don’t go. Absolutely, do not go to law school.

  86. Gaara*

    I’m a lawyer who went to a top school, albeit not Stanford or a top-3 school. I could not agree with Alison more strongly. Don’t do it! Seriously, don’t.

    The network from Harvard or wherever would be super helpful if you were going to be a lawyer. It won’t be that helpful to a non-lawyer. The JD is going to make your non-law job search harder, or at least not easier. And the amount of debt (or opportunity cost at the very least) will be tremendous.

    If you really want to do something other than your current job, do that. If you eventually find yourself in a position where a career path you want requires a graduate degree, go to the correct graduate school at that time. But I think the odds are very, very high that you will regret going to law school, if you do.

  87. Yamikuronue*

    I work with a lot of business analysts and project managers. The job isn’t and shouldn’t be nothing but admin tasks; maybe it’s time to apply to other companies for similar roles and see if anyone has an opening on a team that has a different breakdown of duties, rather than going school you’re not all that keen on?

  88. Dixieland Lawyer*

    OP, you say “I already applied for campus housing, everything’s all set. Whoever said “golden handcuffs” is right, though. I kind of feel locked into this law school route.”

    You are absolutely NOT locked into law school. You haven’t even started. In my 1L section, we lost 10 people over the course of the first year – one of my good friends dropped out about a month in when he realized it just wasn’t for him, a few more dropped off after one semester, and the rest never returned for 2L year. Heck, I had a friend drop out second semester of 3L year (that move was, perhaps, not as smart). If you are this unsure, do not let go of your current job for the uncertainty of the legal market/profession. Law school’s not going anywhere (even if your current application doesn’t last forever, if you’re motivated enough to go, you’ll make the time to apply again). And though I know everyone’s experience is different – a lot of your junior associate years are also heavily administrative (maybe not booking travel, but doc review, proofreading, etc. fall to you).

    Echoing the commenters above, it truly does sound like you have some great opportunities at your current job. MOST entry-level jobs are heavily administrative. I did far more admin work than I wanted to for those first few years after college. I will say that the big jump came around the two year mark as my peers left to go back to school and I stuck around – I worked for four years between undergrad and law school and years 2-4 provided me with much more substantive work. So much so that I almost ditched my law school plans because I enjoyed what I was doing.

    I know others have mentioned, but a note about admin work too – it seems unimpressive and simplistic when you’re doing it, but decades later, you really see the value in learning how to coordinate well. Plus, if you’re traveling with a big group or participating in a meeting that goes awry AND you’re able to fix things because the admin is second nature – you are now the project HERO. People don’t forget that. I’d say stick around your current company for awhile longer – see what this new opportunity turns out to be before you leave it behind for something you’re not excited about.

    1. OP*

      At what point is a job not a good opportunity? From a first job perspective, I would think gaining core skills is really important, and that’s what I’m lacking in my current role since my time is so disproportionately allocated to admin work. At the same time, many of the commenters here have said that rote tasks commonly fall to junior resources no matter what the industry or role. Many have also shared the sentiment that younger people need to pay dues before moving up. I agree with these thoughts, but at what point should I be saying I’ve paid enough dues? I know most AAM readers have more work experience than I do, and it seems you collectively believe I’m doing well and am in a good spot (good enough to stick around)… even when it doesn’t feel that way to me.

      Alison has previously given advice to other recent grads, saying you learn a lot of intangibles at your first job (like professionalism and timeliness). I never interned in college – this is my first “office” job – so I am picking up the intangibles. But if I were to go to another job (or apply for a different degree), intangibles wouldn’t be sufficient to prove I’d be a valuable contributor.

      1. Honeybee*

        It’s hard to tell and is probably dependent a lot on your field (there are some fields in which you will always do administrative work). But 2 years is still early enough, I think, that you can still be paying your dues. I’ve seen a lot of job ads that still define anyone with less than 3 years as entry-level or junior.

  89. Gaara*

    OP, one thing I want to emphasize is that you have time. There’s no clock on this. If you can get into Harvard, Stanford or Yale law school once, your can get in again. Your law school application credentials will not get worse; they may actually get better as you get some professional work history.

  90. Starchasm*

    This letter could have been written by me. I was working in London when I accepted law school because I didn’t know what else to do.

    I’ve been an attorney for ten years. I HATE it, but everything Alison says in this post is true. It’s almost impossible to even get an interview with a law degree, and almost impossible to fudge your resume to leave it off. I finally found a law-related job that didn’t require me to practice, and after three and a half years they’re closing the office so now law firms don’t want to hire me either (because I haven’t practiced for 3.5 years).

    I recently had my 10 year law school reunion and the only people who weren’t miserable were the ones who 1) managed to get out, or 2) were very excited about practicing law when they first got to law school. I tell everyone I know not to go to law school unless they’re very passionate about practicing law. They all respond with a variation of “Stop being so negative!” Every single one has come back after their first year to say “You were right.”

  91. Dulcinea*

    I don’t have time to read all the comments so this might be repetitive, but I am lawyer so I thought I’d weigh in. You do not actually learn much in the way of “skills” in law school at all. In fact, many employers lament that recent law grads don’t actually know how to *do* anything. Most of what you learn is extremely specific knowledge that is only applicable to practicing law: google: “the rule against perpetuities”, “defeasible fees”, “the Chevron doctrine”, “the Erie doctrine”, “voidable vs void mortgage assignment”, “ultra vires act,” and the “difference between personal and subject matter jurisdiction,” just to get a taste of what I am talking about. Hell, go to a law school library and ask to look over some of the textbooks.

    Nowadays a lot of law schools are emphasizing skills classes/clinics more than they have in the past, but the overwhelming majority of what you learn in law school is law-related, law specific information.

    1. CanadianKat*

      Even the skills classes / clinics don’t really teach you that much that’s transferrable to other jobs. And you don’t go to law school so that you can learn customer service while volunteering in a legal aid clinic. For that, you can find other volunteer positions not requiring paying high tuition fees and reading a minimum of 200 pages of Dickensian sentences per day.

  92. Kelly F*

    Honestly, OP, a lot of the opinions on law school here are pretty uniformed (although advice about other avenues is good). Got to TLS forums to get a better more specific response about various legal fields and possibilities that take into account your position. They are pretty rude and negative, but usually a good repository of knowledge.

    1. Honeybee*

      There’s a whole bevy of people on here who are lawyers and/or have gone to law school that are giving advice. The people who aren’t lawyers are giving basic general advice and also clearly identifying themselves.

  93. CanadianKat*

    Another lawyer commenting :)
    I agree with Alison. Law school is not the new B.A., just to add to your resume for “general education”.

    1. First, it’s going to be hard. Especially in a top-3 school. When it gets hard, you have to know why you’re doing it. Otherwise you won’t have enough motivation. The reason doesn’t have to be “I’m absolutely passionate about law, and want to be a lawyer for the rest of my life.” But it has to be sufficiently solid. I wrote out my reasons at the beginning of first year, so that I could refer to them when it got tough.

    2. Second, the money. Boring, but very important. If you (or your family) can pay for law school and the 3 years off work to do it, – go ahead and enjoy. Don’t count on summer associate jobs. They may be hard to come by. (I’m in Canada, so get local info on this.) Don’t count on part-time work. (Where I went, nobody worked part-time. Maybe as a research assistant or something similar, but those are hard to get and don’t pay much.) If you have to get into debt, you have to be prepared to be a lawyer. Usually, that means long hours in an office. Often, you’ll work for clients whose values you do not share.

    Don’t count on social justice -type jobs. There aren’t that many. Those that do exist look for people with real passion in the area. And things aren’t always as they sound. (Environmental law may sound like you’ll be defending the Earth from pollution, etc. But unless you’re volunteering, it’s more likely to be defending corporations who do the polluting.)

    I know a few people who went to law school for “other” reasons. I don’t know if they regret it, but I’m pretty sure they would if they had to incur significant debt. Examples (all graduated):
    1. A deaf girl, who had trouble getting a job and thought this would make her more attractive to employers. The law itself didn’t interest her. She now works as a hotel maid, and does stand-up comedy (her passion).
    2. An engineer, who didn’t like engineering. She got a combined JD and MS in something environmental. She worked as a government tax lawyer for a couple of years, now does creative writing, comic art and music. Don’t know if she’s paid for any of this.
    3. A social worker. After the JD, she got a master’s in social work. Works in her field. The JD was a detour that did not help her career.

  94. myjah*

    The letter writer is the perfect example of someone who absolutely should not go to law school.

  95. July*

    You are SOOOO concerned only 2 years into your first job about your career going forward for the next few decades that you have become so narrowly focused on this idea. I know you likely wont see this comment as I am days late (was on vacation) catching up to the blog but I just had to get this out!

    You are brand NEW to the work world and to your career. You are climbing in the consulting firm the way that yo are supposed to. Analyst>consultant>senior consultant — then management? industry? etc. You are doing well, but you don’t seem to think so. I think this is your naivety and your youth and inexperience playing a big part here.

    You seem to be very bright, and a go-getter and hard worker, and can probably do well anywhere, however you don’t seem to even KNOW what you want to do, but you definitely know that you DON’T wish to practice LAW so DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL.

    You are only 24. You are so young. This sounds cliche and will continue to sound cliche until you are 32 or so, lol Then you will be told you are so young by people in their mid 4o’s… but we are all right. You are young. You don’t have the life experience yet and that’s not a slight on your intelligence, just a fact of the matter.

    Spend some more time working. Then maybe an MBA, AFTER you figure out what you want to do. You know you don’t want to do law, so congrats on getting in – youve clearly got the juice, but you really need to let the idea go. You have nothing to prove to anyone, you do need to find some semblance of happiness at work even if you aren’t in love with what you do.

    But imagine if you were working something you truly enjoyed, how much better your work days would actually be as opposed to knowing you’re just at work to do a job and get paid. There is a difference and you CAN find it. Relax a little bit/ you have plenty of time to create your own path.

  96. ElaineS*

    I worked for a top tier consulting firm out of college – and “project management” was a more senior level position—not administrative work. Have titles changed?

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