Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder
As someone who went to law school, I hear this a lot - from colleagues, clients, friends and family. When people feel as though their job isn't moving forward, furthering their education is one of the first ideas that they gravitate to. To be clear, I'm all about learning and think pursuing higher education is great. That said, it's also expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes the return on the investment isn't as high as you think it will be.
That's why, when someone comes to me asking if they should go to law school or business school to get ahead in their career, I push them to think long and hard about what they actually want from that experience and if it's the right path. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. If you're asking yourself the "should I go to law school?" question, here's my advice to you.
Ask yourself some questions
- What are you actually trying to do with this degree? If it's practice law, great! You're done. Apply.
- If it's something else, keep reading. You don't want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a "maybe" do you?
- If you think you might want to practice, have you done the research to really know what that job is like? Have you talked to or shadowed attorneys? Done some legal research or taken an online class about the law? If not, I'd recommend doing all of the above before applying to law school to see if it's the right fit.
- Identify the skills you're actually trying to grow - what's the most effective way to do that? Are you actually looking for a legal education or would changing jobs be a better fit?
- Do you want to do policy or nonprofit work? A masters degree in any number of fields might be a better option. Masters programs are often less expensive than a law degree and may even be more closely tailored to the kind of work you want to be doing.
Consider other ways to get "un-stuck"
- Work with a coach. Coaches are skilled at asking you challenging questions and helping you think about what you really want.
- Do a skills identification exercise like this one from MindTools or try some job sculpting exercises from CultureWorks' "What Motivates Me?"
- Take some online courses in your area of interest as a first step before diving full-on into a graduate degree. Some of my favorite course providers:
- Check out some bootcamps or in-person coursework
- Via networking and informational interviews, you can explore new roles and help identify potential next-steps by talking to people fields that are interesting to you
- Talk to your manager or HR about moving internally within your company
- Move externally to a new job
- Elevate your current job by doing a day or weekend training that will give you a fresh take on your work
- Pick up a money-making hobby
- Launch a side-hustle - in addition to adding more income, you can tap some things you're passionate about and it might even become your main-hustle over time
- Change your routine
- A friend of mine told me once, “for me being stuck usually has little to do with my career or current job and more to do with my mindset and attitude."
- Something as simple as adding starting to journal, reading or listening to some personal development books or podcasts, or changing up your work schedule can drive a shift that helps get you unstuck.
I loved my legal education; it taught me to think in a certain way, gave me clout as a fairly young woman running an organization, and put me on the path I'm on today. But, there are definitely times I wonder if I would have taken on the ever-looming student debt if I had sat down and thought long and hard about what I wanted out of my professional growth and path. At 22, I don't blame myself for not knowing, but I hope this helps a few of you think about it a bit and design the best path for you to get un-stuck in your career, whether it's law school or something else.