True, the American Museum of Tort Law (and its Unsafe Pinto T-shirt) looks fun. But is that enough reason to advocate a legal career?

True, the American Museum of Tort Law (and its Unsafe Pinto T-shirt) looks fun. But is that enough reason to advocate a legal career?

Just as February begins, I’ve decided to share with you my column from this month’s issue of Arizona Attorney—for a single reason, framed as a question at the end of my column.

Namely, would you encourage someone to go to law school today? If so, what qualities would you stress that they should have or develop to maximize the value of the experience?

Here’s the piece:

 

“Bullish” is typically how I would describe my viewpoint about the future of the legal profession. We certainly face challenges, even big ones, and I do not agree with those who think things will return to “normal”—if normal means bushelfuls of billable hours, clients who don’t scrutinize invoices, the elimination of offshore legal services, and equity partnerships for those who simply put in the time.

Despite the new normal, I remain confident that the field is a worthy one to pursue—even if you accumulate some student debt along the way. In a month featuring Valentine’s Day, the law still deserves our love.

RBG Valentine via Georgetown Law Weekly

RBG Valentine via Georgetown Law Weekly

But what if I have to put my money where my mouth is? What if the lawyerly profession were to darken my own door? Would I be so sanguine?

That occurred to me over the holiday season, when my daughter was home from university. She’s a sophomore, studying a decidedly non-prelaw major. But this past semester, she took an elective on Business Law—and liked it very much. (Except for the way the instructor taught torts, which seemed pretty dull to her. I explained that when you get beyond business torts, you’re into eye-opening and awe-inspiring territory. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the American Museum of Tort Law in Connecticut!)

For the first time ever, I heard our daughter say that she would consider aiming for a law degree after college.

Gulp. Time to decide if I walk the walk.

And my hesitation to embrace a legal future for someone I care for is not unique. I recently spoke with a partner at a large multistate law firm. He had previously reached positions of national prominence in the realm of criminal and civil law, and now is a shareholder in a respected, white-shoe national firm. The law has been very good to him.

Despite that, he confessed his own hesitation when his son, a recent college graduate, mentioned he may sit for the LSAT. “I wasn’t sure what to tell him,” the attorney admitted to me. “But I certainly didn’t encourage it.”

In a time when job prospects are still sparse and the practice is shifting in numerous ways, how do we encourage future applicants in a LegalZoom era? How do we describe the field, and what core skills do we emphasize as the future of a profession? How do we characterize important elements like fulfillment, service, and meaning in 2016 and beyond?

Your thoughts are welcome at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. The legal field—and at least a few of our kids—would appreciate the input.