Our reasons for pursuing a career in law may differ, but the remarks and accusations we overwhelmingly face remain the same. Law is heavily immersed in our culture, and is the focus of many novels, movies and TV shows. Because of this saturation, many misconceptions are bred and fostered in the minds of many, leaving many pre-law students with the constant need to defend their choice and deflect ignorance.
We've heard it all, and quite frankly, we're kind of sick of it.
Here are 10 things all pre-law students are sick of hearing:
1. "I bet you're just in it for the money."
Misconception number 1: not all attorneys are swimming in cash. I realize this shatters your quintessential perception of lawyers, so I apologize for that. While there is plenty of wealth in some facets of law, such as business, real-estate, and civil law, other concentrations are not as lucrative, such as family and criminal law. But that's OK. Lawyers are not merely fueled by the motivation of money -- they're also greatly motivated by the desire to help those in need and enact change. And before we can really make a profit, we'll have to pay off all our mounting student debt. So, no, I'm not in it for the money, because this elusive "money" you speak of does not exist in criminal law. Instead, I strive to provide voices for the voiceless, represent the forgotten, and carry out justice in this cruel, justice-less world.
2. "So... you're going to help the bad guys?"
I get this one a lot, and it's always worth a chuckle or two. Believe it or not, law is a lot more than criminal defense. That is only one small aspect of this very diverse and versatile career field. But I guess I can't really fault them. Hollywood is very much enticed by the narrative of the bold and crass criminal defense attorney representing the 16-year-old who killed her rich parents. No one really cares about Joe the environmental attorney (though they should!).
3. "That's a lot of schooling, you must be crazy."
This is not a new revelation; it's something I've pondered deeply and accepted. Three years of extra schooling may seem like a form of torture to you, but to me it is a reality that does not unease, or unsettle me. In fact, it kind of excites me. I wouldn't have chosen law if I didn't love learning or attending classes. It may not be something you will ever understand, but please do not call me crazy for it. We all have our happy places, mine just happens to be within the confines of a classroom.
4. "You must be really rich to want to go to law school."
Some of us undoubtedly come from money, but the vast majority of use are just like you: a broke college kid drowning in student loan debt, working two part-time jobs just to get by. Just like you, we will accept a lifetime accumulation of debt to make a difference in this world. It won't be happily, and we'll resent our debt, but we refuse to let the barrier of money hinder our dreams.
5. "Your parents must be lawyers/your parents are probably the ones pressuring you to pursue law."
No. Believe it or not, children are not always carbon-copies of their parents. They do possess a free-thinking brain of their own. My parents, much like your own I'm sure, always taught me that I was capable of doing anything, and ultimately, being anything I wanted. They never pushed me in any particular direction, they merely gave me the tools of choice. They loved and supported me when I was a journalism major just as much as they've loved and supported me as a pre-law major. Law, albeit ambitious, is something I willingly chose on my own. I know it's hard to grasp that a child, when presented with an endless plethora of options, would choose something that requires eight years of schooling, a complicated entrance exam, and two-day long bar exam, but it isn't as unusual as you may think.
6. "OK, but what if you don't get accepted into law school?"
Trust me, I am fully aware that it is not an easy feat getting accepted into law school, so please spare me the reminder. I have an array of alternative plans if I do not get accepted, but I shouldn't have to present you with the complete list just to soothe your worried mind. Pre-law majors need support, not criticism and condemnation. Be the motivation that propels us forward, not the the bitter voice in our heads reminding us of defeat and failure, while ebbing away at our confidence.
7. "So will you go to Harvard?"
Yes, people really do think that Harvard Law is the only law school out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending Harvard for my J.D., but thanks for the vote of confidence!
8. "You must be a good arguer."
Being a lawyer is not about "arguing;" it's about presenting facts and persuading jurors with the depiction of truth they believe the most. Reducing our work to "arguing" is extremely patronizing, and undermines the enormity of our job. Our job does not encompass court room squabbles -- it's much more than that, more respectful. Besides, very few cases make it to the courtroom. Majority of criminal law cases end in settlements, or plea-bargains.
9. "You never seemed like the kind of person who'd go to law school."
In other words, you don't think I can handle it. Sorry, I left my pretentiousness and briefcase at home today. I was not aware that there was a standard for law students that I somehow do not meet. I guess my GPA and LSAT score mean nothing if I don't fit the preconceived notion you had created in your mind. This can be particularly infuriating for females, as we feel the sting that accompanies challenging gender expectations. Yes, I am a woman, and yes I can do this.
10. "So you'll help me out if I ever need a lawyer, right?"
Every time I tell someone I want to be a lawyer, they instantly perk up and assume they now have their own personal lawyer they can use at their disposal. I'm not just going to take on your case pro-bono because you sat next to me in biology sophomore year of high school. That's not how this works, buddy. Besides, I won't be able to help you as a prosecuting attorney. Remember, not all attorneys handle defense -- but I can certainly put you behind bars. That I can do.
So whether you're pursuing cooperate, administrative, international, health, tax, civil, criminal, family, entertainment, animal rights, property or bankruptcy law, I think you agree we're kind of sick of all the damn questions. But it's important to never let the criticism wound or scathe you. Keep trudging forward, champ. Kill your LSAT's. Survive law school. Make that bar exam your bitch. And whatever it is you choose to do, be great, but more importantly, do great. The world needs us.