Working on Capital Hill & Law School

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
caitlynn0009

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Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby caitlynn0009 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 8:30 pm

I am currently a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Science. I want to someday earn my law degree and utilize that to enter politics - I have an opportunity to intern and live in DC during an extra fall semester. However, I am wondering if I should take the extra semester to participate in that program (UCDC) or take a year off, study for the LSAT, and intern at a local political office.

Advice would be much appreciated.

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby LBJ's Hair » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:08 pm

A DC internship isn't going to do anything for your law school application, but like, I also don't think you should view every life decision through that lens? So *shrug*

albanach

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby albanach » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:44 pm

There are much easier routes to Capitol Hill than taking on $300k in loans to get a law degree.

Go to law school if you want to become a lawyer. A regular lawyer who works in a big concrete and glass office.

Lawyering on the Hill is a unicorn job. Don't bank on that ever happening. Not to say you should give up on your dreams, just don't think the current absence of a law degree is all that's stopping them from materializing.

Carl Carlson

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby Carl Carlson » Wed Apr 24, 2019 9:37 am

Yeah, definitely don't go to law school if you don't want to be a lawyer. That said, networking on the Hill is pretty much a necessity if you want to work there and interning is a good start. I don't see why you can't study for the LSAT and intern at the same time too.

nicole1994

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby nicole1994 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:24 am

Why not intern during the fall, and just start studying for LSAT after the internship?

Hill opportunities are limited, law school will always be there for you to apply to ...


caitlynn0009 wrote:I am currently a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Science. I want to someday earn my law degree and utilize that to enter politics - I have an opportunity to intern and live in DC during an extra fall semester. However, I am wondering if I should take the extra semester to participate in that program (UCDC) or take a year off, study for the LSAT, and intern at a local political office.

Advice would be much appreciated.

cavalier1138

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby cavalier1138 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:16 am

Don't go to law school for politics. Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer.

QContinuum

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby QContinuum » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:31 am

First, Caitlynn, welcome to TLS!

albanach wrote:There are much easier routes to Capitol Hill than taking on $300k in loans to get a law degree.

Go to law school if you want to become a lawyer. A regular lawyer who works in a big concrete and glass office.

Lawyering on the Hill is a unicorn job. Don't bank on that ever happening. Not to say you should give up on your dreams, just don't think the current absence of a law degree is all that's stopping them from materializing.

Beyond Hill lawyering being a unicorn job, it isn't even clear to me that Caitlynn wants to be a Hill lawyer. She writes:
caitlynn0009 wrote:I want to someday earn my law degree and utilize that to enter politics.

That suggests that her goal/dream is to enter politics, i.e., become a politician.

So I agree that it doesn't seem like law school is indicated at this point. Probably the best thing to do is to actually start getting some Hill experience, or to directly dive into local/state politics. (There's no requirement for a graduate degree of any kind to enter politics!) The best thing you can do, OP, to get your political career off the ground is to just go for it directly. Spending three years in law school won't move you closer to entering politics. But getting involved in political work - even at the local level - will.

Even if you are dead-set on obtaining a graduate credential, I would still suggest getting some political experience now - can only help. And then if you're still determined to do more schooling, then I'd recommend looking into MPA or MBA programs, or a Master's in your particular area of interest. Any of these degrees would be more versatile and directly applicable than a J.D., and any of these degrees would also save time (only 1-2 years) and (likely) tuition dollars.

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby LBJ's Hair » Wed Apr 24, 2019 12:34 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:Don't go to law school for politics. Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer.


I feel like anyone who says they "knew [they] want to be a lawyer" when they applied to law school is either lying or stupid or both. If we're being honest with ourselves, how could we know what it is to "be a lawyer" until we've done it? Even most ex-paralegals and children of lawyers don't actually know what lawyer-ing is. They've just seen people do it. They like the *idea* of being a lawyer.

I went to law school after working for a few years with lawyers in a non-legal setting because I thought I wanted to work in DoJ. I summered in DoJ, learned a lot, didn't really like it, and am...not sure I want to do that anymore? But how do I know if it was DoJ that sucked, or the specific people on my team/type of matters I was doing that sucked? Ideally I'd get broad exposure to various departments, rotate around, and then decide if DoJ was right for me. But...to do that, you've like, gotta work there for several years. Ultimately I'm gonna have to decide whether to apply with frankly pretty limited information. And that's pretty typical; most career decisions are made with a fair degree of uncertainty. All of us decided to do law and not medicine without, I'd think, spending time working at a hospital.

So IDK, "my undergraduate degree doesn't qualify me to do anything useful, I'm interested in politic-y things, and I want a job where I'm guaranteed a six-figure income if I get into one of the good schools and can fall back on it if my unicorn dreams don't work out" drives like 90% of T14 applications. Don't see anything wrong with that.

QContinuum

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby QContinuum » Wed Apr 24, 2019 4:37 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:Don't go to law school for politics. Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer.


I feel like anyone who says they "knew [they] want to be a lawyer" when they applied to law school is either lying or stupid or both. If we're being honest with ourselves, how could we know what it is to "be a lawyer" until we've done it? Even most ex-paralegals and children of lawyers don't actually know what lawyer-ing is. They've just seen people do it. They like the *idea* of being a lawyer.

Sure, we can use the language "like the *idea* of being a lawyer." But OP doesn't even say they like the *idea* of being a lawyer. They like the idea of being a politician.

LBJ's Hair wrote:So IDK, "my undergraduate degree doesn't qualify me to do anything useful, I'm interested in politic-y things, and I want a job where I'm guaranteed a six-figure income if I get into one of the good schools and can fall back on it if my unicorn dreams don't work out" drives like 90% of T14 applications. Don't see anything wrong with that.

Not really, 90% of my 1L yearmates wanted to use the law to make a difference - kinda envisioned themselves being the next Thurgood Marshall/RBG/Ted Olson/Scalia, if you will. I would absolutely not say 90% of my 1L yearmates applied to law school because they wanted to run for Congress.

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby LBJ's Hair » Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:29 pm

QContinuum wrote:
LBJ's Hair wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:Don't go to law school for politics. Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer.


I feel like anyone who says they "knew [they] want to be a lawyer" when they applied to law school is either lying or stupid or both. If we're being honest with ourselves, how could we know what it is to "be a lawyer" until we've done it? Even most ex-paralegals and children of lawyers don't actually know what lawyer-ing is. They've just seen people do it. They like the *idea* of being a lawyer.

Sure, we can use the language "like the *idea* of being a lawyer." But OP doesn't even say they like the *idea* of being a lawyer. They like the idea of being a politician.

LBJ's Hair wrote:So IDK, "my undergraduate degree doesn't qualify me to do anything useful, I'm interested in politic-y things, and I want a job where I'm guaranteed a six-figure income if I get into one of the good schools and can fall back on it if my unicorn dreams don't work out" drives like 90% of T14 applications. Don't see anything wrong with that.

Not really, 90% of my 1L yearmates wanted to use the law to make a difference - kinda envisioned themselves being the next Thurgood Marshall/RBG/Ted Olson/Scalia, if you will. I would absolutely not say 90% of my 1L yearmates applied to law school because they wanted to run for Congress.


I don't think OP said he or she wanted to run for elected office? Law school -> BigLaw in DC + schmoozing -> interesting agency role is a pretty time-honored tradition.

I dunno. I just don't think people need to have super well-fleshed out career plans at age 22 or w/e. And many people who have them change their plans as soon as they get to law school anyway. The trick is to "figure it out" at a T14 with financial aid, not a shitty law school, IMO. not saying "everyone who has no idea what they should do with their life should go to law school." just like, if someone has an intuition that law school is for them and the numbers to get into a T14, that's as good enough a reason as any

EDIT: OP may be a case study in "don't go to law school"
Last edited by LBJ's Hair on Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

caitlynn0009

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby caitlynn0009 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:39 pm

Hi everyone! I really appreciate all the replies - I didn't realize how active this site would be!

I am very interested in the political realm, particularly when it comes to immigration. I am interested in law school and understanding the law, but I don't really want to work for a law firm or other more formal settings. If anything, I would like to work for an organization like the ACLU with my law degree.

That being said, as I am looking into a career in politics, I understand that foundational knowledge of the law is essential no matter which branch of the federal government or state government I go into (although I do not want to lawyer on the Hill). I would really like to run for public office one day but I would like to get some experience in government before making that decision.

I will also comment individually but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your advice. I'm a first gen minority student so I don't have a ton of resources to go to for help! :)

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby LBJ's Hair » Wed Apr 24, 2019 6:57 pm

caitlynn0009 wrote:Hi everyone! I really appreciate all the replies - I didn't realize how active this site would be!

I am very interested in the political realm, particularly when it comes to immigration. I am interested in law school and understanding the law, but I don't really want to work for a law firm or other more formal settings. If anything, I would like to work for an organization like the ACLU with my law degree.

That being said, as I am looking into a career in politics, I understand that foundational knowledge of the law is essential no matter which branch of the federal government or state government I go into (although I do not want to lawyer on the Hill). I would really like to run for public office one day but I would like to get some experience in government before making that decision.

I will also comment individually but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your advice. I'm a first gen minority student so I don't have a ton of resources to go to for help! :)


ok, so if you are confident you do not actually want to practice law, a law degree is probably a huge waste of time money. I would do the internship. three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars is a very expensive way to learn about the Constitution

maybe time on the Hill will make you more interested in how administrative agencies operate, legislation gets written, etc

caitlynn0009

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby caitlynn0009 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:04 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
caitlynn0009 wrote:Hi everyone! I really appreciate all the replies - I didn't realize how active this site would be!

I am very interested in the political realm, particularly when it comes to immigration. I am interested in law school and understanding the law, but I don't really want to work for a law firm or other more formal settings. If anything, I would like to work for an organization like the ACLU with my law degree.

That being said, as I am looking into a career in politics, I understand that foundational knowledge of the law is essential no matter which branch of the federal government or state government I go into (although I do not want to lawyer on the Hill). I would really like to run for public office one day but I would like to get some experience in government before making that decision.

I will also comment individually but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your advice. I'm a first gen minority student so I don't have a ton of resources to go to for help! :)


ok, so if you are confident you do not actually want to practice law, a law degree is probably a huge waste of time money. I would do the internship. three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars is a very expensive way to learn about the Constitution

maybe time on the Hill will make you more interested in how administrative agencies operate, legislation gets written, etc


Thank you! I think I may try to get practical experience on the Hill and then decide whether or not a law degree is right. My only worry is that a lot of people I talk to have said that a law degree is extremely recommended for someone who wants to hold public office (looking at past presidents, presidential candidates, congress members, etc.) - what is your opinion on this?

caitlynn0009

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby caitlynn0009 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:08 pm

QContinuum wrote:
LBJ's Hair wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:Don't go to law school for politics. Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer.


I feel like anyone who says they "knew [they] want to be a lawyer" when they applied to law school is either lying or stupid or both. If we're being honest with ourselves, how could we know what it is to "be a lawyer" until we've done it? Even most ex-paralegals and children of lawyers don't actually know what lawyer-ing is. They've just seen people do it. They like the *idea* of being a lawyer.

Sure, we can use the language "like the *idea* of being a lawyer." But OP doesn't even say they like the *idea* of being a lawyer. They like the idea of being a politician.

LBJ's Hair wrote:So IDK, "my undergraduate degree doesn't qualify me to do anything useful, I'm interested in politic-y things, and I want a job where I'm guaranteed a six-figure income if I get into one of the good schools and can fall back on it if my unicorn dreams don't work out" drives like 90% of T14 applications. Don't see anything wrong with that.

Not really, 90% of my 1L yearmates wanted to use the law to make a difference - kinda envisioned themselves being the next Thurgood Marshall/RBG/Ted Olson/Scalia, if you will. I would absolutely not say 90% of my 1L yearmates applied to law school because they wanted to run for Congress.


I would really like to use a law degree to make a difference, especially in regards to immigration law - I think my desire to run for public office stems from my desire to help communities. But I don't have experience in the political field yet so I'm not sure if that is how I want to make a difference or work with an organization like the ACLU or other non-profits with or without a law degree.

cavalier1138

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby cavalier1138 » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:04 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:I just don't think people need to have super well-fleshed out career plans at age 22 or w/e. And many people who have them change their plans as soon as they get to law school anyway.


I think it makes more sense for that 22-year-old to not go to law school until they've lived a little and have had the chance to find out whether they actually want to go law school.

Yeah, you might find out that you hate a specific area of law because whatever you were exposed to before school was the opposite of your experience once you start doing internships/SA stuff. But if you went to law school because of a genuine interest in legal practice, you're probably going to find something else that interests you. The people I know who found they genuinely don't like the practice of law are the ones who came straight from undergrad (or shortly thereafter) because they felt like their undergraduate degree didn't leave them with other options.

I don't think it's reasonable for people to come in knowing exactly what they want to do. As you said, it's hard to really get a feel for what practice is like. But you can work with lawyers, interview lawyers, etc. to help figure out if it's at least a field you're interested in, even if it turns out you're not going to get paid $190k a year to do it.

QContinuum

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby QContinuum » Thu Apr 25, 2019 6:21 pm

caitlynn0009 wrote:Thank you! I think I may try to get practical experience on the Hill and then decide whether or not a law degree is right. My only worry is that a lot of people I talk to have said that a law degree is extremely recommended for someone who wants to hold public office (looking at past presidents, presidential candidates, congress members, etc.) - what is your opinion on this?

Yes, please try out working on the Hill first and see how that goes. You can learn more about yourself, gather more facts to evaluate the nature of your interest in law and policy, and get a better sense of whether you still feel law school is necessary to achieve your goals.

Who are the folks who say that a J.D. is "extremely recommended" for running for office? Correlation isn't causation, and also keep in mind that most current federal officeholders are pretty old (the current average age of Congresscritters is about 60 - a bit younger for the House and a bit older for the Senate - and I wouldn't be surprised if the plurality was >65) and went to school decades ago, when the risk/benefit calculation for law school was much different. (Tuition has shot up way, way, way faster than inflation.) Also keep in mind that most Congresscritters are very, very rich, so they can afford expensive boondoggles like unnecessary degrees. The average net worth of a U.S. Representative is $900k, and a U.S. Senator >$3 million.

In any case, I can't recall any election where being a lawyer was a selling point on the campaign trail. A graduate degree in some other field might actually add a certain amount of credibility due to how underrepresented such backgrounds are in the Congress.

caitlynn0009 wrote:I would really like to use a law degree to make a difference, especially in regards to immigration law - I think my desire to run for public office stems from my desire to help communities. But I don't have experience in the political field yet so I'm not sure if that is how I want to make a difference or work with an organization like the ACLU or other non-profits with or without a law degree.

I apologize for wording my last post a bit poorly. I should have said "make a difference as a litigator," not just "make a difference" generally.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Working on Capital Hill & Law School

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Mon May 06, 2019 11:34 am

caitlynn0009 wrote:[...] a law degree is extremely recommended for someone who wants to hold public office (looking at past presidents, presidential candidates, congress members, etc.) - what is your opinion on this?


The same correlation is true of military service, but it's obviously stupid to enlist in the Navy because you want to be a senator one day



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