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1977 Letter answering the question "Should I go to Law School?"

skaplan9190skaplan9190 Alum Member
in General 137 karma
Back in the late 70s, my dad was trying to figure out what to do as far as careers go and his brother had casually suggested law school as an option. Not knowing much my dad reached out to his Uncle Stan, a successful trial lawyer in New Jersey, for advice. The following is the letter that Stan wrote by hand and which to this day is very insightful and I thought, relevant, to so many of us who are contemplating this intense future. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Saturday 9/7/77

Dear Robbie,

How are you? We are all fine. And so without further adieu, as the say, and in response to your recent letter.

An old law school professor of mine stressed that there is no such thing as “the law.” What he was trying to bring out is that the law is dynamic. It mirrors life. It is not static, it changes. True it’s always ten years behind what ought to be, but that’s another story.

The law has been likened to a seamless web, and by that is meant it has many facets, many areas of interest and at the same time is interesting and without end. There is no limit to the time that can be spent studying, applying, analyzing, interpreting. And for that it is also called a jealous mistress. You can keep your options open and gravitate towards that which interests you - contract law, corporate, criminal, trial work (which I find most interesting and rewarding), estates, tax, labor, to name only a few areas - and in each you can spend a lifetime and still continue to learn new things every day.

In the practice of law you live by your wits, and by that I mean it’s a thinking man’s profession. It takes time to learn the tools, which is true in any field of endeavor you choose, and these are blended with life’s experience. The student who graduates with all A’s may not be prepared for this if his time has been limited solely to books and libraries. The graduate with experience in assorted life’s jobs, with a feel for people, will do better as he’s better equipped.

Before considering the law as a profession ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price. Sacrifices have to be made. Three years of constant study are gruelling in the sense that the work is cumulative, continual, absorbing but sometimes tedious, all with a view towards making the student realize that each incident in life has many issues and how to evaluate them. No one day is terribly difficult, yet the total sum of all studies is burdensome. Along the way about one-third will drop out, if not more, and of those who graduate only about one-third will become full time practitioners, and of those who do last it will take each about three years of actual practice before he becomes worth something and can command a decent salary or be able to strike out into private practice.

Is it worth all that time, effort and money? Absolutely! It’s stimulating, fascinating, challenging, rewarding, gratifying, ego inflating and financially renumerative. As you get older and stay in the practice, the value of the attorney increases - as opposed to other non-professions, e.g. salesmen. But one has to be ready to make the sacrifices in the beginning, to desire, to want it.

Should you attempt to do it? I think it’s a great idea, but don’t count on instant rewards. Project ahead a steady growth for each year, improving your prospects, and of knowing that the cream will rise to the top, and if you can demonstrate that patience and motivation you will be guaranteed the eventual exhilarance of the practice of law, and I know you’ll do well.


P.S. you can see lawyers tend to talk a lot especially if they are asked a question and have a captive audience that they love.


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