Saturday, June 20, 2009

Failing Out of Law School

It all started with a simple post about Seva Brodsky failing out of law school and filing an ADA claim based on his "memory and organizational deficits." That post remains one of the most popular Lawffice Space entries to date. My analytics indicate, however, that the people coming here to read that post are not concerned with Brodsky, they're concerned with failing out of law school. That is why I am writing this post. This is my advice for those left wondering what to do after failing out of law school.

Step 1: Keep Your Head Up!
OK, you probably feel a little down and that's understandable. Now is not the time to curl up into a ball and hide from the world. Quite the opposite, now is the time you need to take action! Many prominent people have hit roadblocks along the way, including law-related setbacks. Joe Biden was practically last in his law school class (and failed a course for plagiarism) and he's VP. Hillary Clinton failed the DC bar yet went on to be the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation and is currently the Secretary of State! Failing out of law school is a hurdle not the end of the road.

Step 2: Soul Searching
Why are you in law school? If you don't love it, get out now. I viewed law school (and now practicing law) as a lifestyle. I loved law school, love the work I do now, love reading new Supreme Court cases in my spare time, and love writing this blog. If you are in law school because you think it will lead to money, your parents made you, or you're avoiding the "real world" with more school... I'm afraid you are heading for misery. If you are dedicated to a legal profession, then move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Stay in School
If you decide you want to dedicate yourself to the pursuit of a JD then don't go down without a fight! A friend of mine thought she'd failed out of law school (technically, I think she did). She begged, pleaded, and talked to every person who would listen (records office, professors, deans, and local judges). She volunteered for some research assistant work, and an internship, and agreed to some kind of academic probation. Sure enough, the school let her stay so long as she performed well in her internship/assistant duties and hit a certain GPA the rest of her time in school. She went on to graduate on schedule and even earned some kind of award for her volunteer activities. You could be that person!

Alternatively, if that doesn't work or you decide you want a fresh start, you might want to look into a different school. Don't worry about rankings. Unless you want to be a Supreme Court Justice or Harvard Law Prof you can build a nice practice with a degree from any accredited school.

There's a popular law school saying that goes something like: 'A' students become professors, 'B' students become judges, and 'C' students become millionaires. There's probably some truth to that.

Step 4: Legal Work
In addition to getting a legal education, you may also wish to look into alternative careers that are law-related. There are several career opportunities for people interested in the law but who are not attorneys. You could be a paralegal, a legal assistant, work in a court, research for a public interest firm, write about the law for a publication... I could go on forever. You could also combine a passion of yours with a legal career. There are computer folks making a killing in e-discovery right now.

If you still have your heart set on being an attorney then perhaps getting some alternative legal experience will help you get back into law school.

Conclusion
Failing out of law school is not the end of the world. Pick yourself up and decide what you want to do with your life. If it's a career in law then you're gonna have to work. Talk to everyone in your school about ways to stay in school. Talk to everyone you know in the legal community about opportunities to demonstrate your passion for the law. Failing out of law school is just like any other challenge you face in your life. It's up to you to decide whether you want to work past the obstacle or if it's a sign to take another road. I hope my advice has been helpful, please feel free to drop a comment if you have any questions.