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Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:02 pm
by Llewellyon
I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:55 pm
by Nebby
You'll need to attend a T6 to make this a realistic possibility and you'll have to hustle and market yourself well. Even then, you still might come up empty. It's one of the most niche fields and therefore opportunities are scant.

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 6:38 pm
by mcmand
Maybe explore New York T6 schools (Columbia and NYU)? This is pure anecdote, but a friend of mine who graduated from Columbia (transferred there after 1L) seemed to do OK landing good human rights-related internship opportunities while in law school, and she's in BigLaw presently.

Good luck.

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:59 am
by Slytherpuff
It's easy enough to get human rights experience while in law school (especially if you're at a school that gives you a stipend for a 1L/2L summer internship), but it's extremely difficult to get those kind of jobs after graduation. Your best bet is to aim for a top 6 school, like Nebby said, and realistically you should try to aim for HYS for better chances.

While in school, get as much work experience as possible and try to build strong relationships with professors or clinical faculty who work in the field. You'll need great recommendations and personal connections in order to stand a chance in human rights hiring. You might also need to set your sight for school-funded fellowships for after graduation, since if you get a human rights position they won't be paying you much.

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:32 pm
by nealric
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:44 pm
by Nebby
nealric wrote:
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

I agree with all but the bolded. This was the case 10 years ago, but not so in recent years with the introduction of income based repayment and LRAP programs.

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:59 pm
by nealric
Nebby wrote:
nealric wrote:
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

I agree with all but the bolded. This was the case 10 years ago, but not so in recent years with the introduction of income based repayment and LRAP programs.


T14 schools had LRAP programs 10 years ago- I believe well before even that. But my point goes beyond debt (which OP doesn't have to worry about). Even with none, living in NYC or DC on a public interest salary can be tight on the budget unless you are comfortable living like a student for the duration of your career or have a spouse who is the primary bread winner. It's one of those things that sounds fine as a single 25 year old, but starts looking rather worrysome if you are pricing child care.

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:49 pm
by Nebby
nealric wrote:
Nebby wrote:
nealric wrote:
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

I agree with all but the bolded. This was the case 10 years ago, but not so in recent years with the introduction of income based repayment and LRAP programs.


T14 schools had LRAP programs 10 years ago- I believe well before even that. But my point goes beyond debt (which OP doesn't have to worry about). Even with none, living in NYC or DC on a public interest salary can be tight on the budget unless you are comfortable living like a student for the duration of your career or have a spouse who is the primary bread winner. It's one of those things that sounds fine as a single 25 year old, but starts looking rather worrysome if you are pricing child care.

I agree

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:21 pm
by Llewellyon
nealric wrote:
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

If I don't end up doing human rights, I would at least like to do something LGBT rights related, which actually hits a bit closer to home personally and seems a bit more pressing right now, in the US at least. If I couldn't do anything even remotely related to human rights, probably be a public defender?

Re: Another "Should I go to law school?" Thread

Posted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 5:42 pm
by nealric
Llewellyon wrote:
nealric wrote:
Llewellyon wrote:I am looking to get into human rights law eventually at a big organization like Human Rights Coalition or Human Rights Watch. I was a Naval officer for 5 years out of college, so I have the GI Bill to pay for pretty much any school I get into, thus my paycheck is not a concern. I have a 3.9X undergrad GPA and am taking the LSAT this month, so assuming I do well, I am hoping I can get into NYU or Georgetown at least. I guess my biggest concern is that I go through all the trouble of law school to find that I can't get the job I want, or even worse that I turn out to not like it? Any suggestions on law school or what to do if I get in to maximize my job opportunities?


My observation is that the percentage of people who enter law school with the goal of working for a large human rights organization who actually ended up doing so was sub 10%. And that's for people at T14 schools. There's a few reasons for that:

1) The work can be a grind. Yes, it sounds sexy, but a lot of people who do human rights work find it incredibly frustrating- you don't really get clear wins, and it can be unclear if you are doing any good at all.

2) There are a lot of politics surrounding the activities of any NGO, especially one that seeks to influence government or paragovernmental policies.

3) Full time jobs at organizations like these are extraordinarily rare, and are dependent on fundraising. If the organization loses a grant, you may be given the boot.

4) Pay is an issue. It's easy for people to say that they are fine making a public interest salary, but when pared with big-city living and trying to start a family, etc., it tends to grind people down. The dirty little secret of the public interest legal community is that a lot of attorneys in the field have family money and aren't relying on the job to pay the bills (but that doesn't stop them from looking down on lawyers at firms who need to work to pay the bills for "selling out").

5) The hiring schedule for new attorneys requires that you take enormous risks. Biglaw set you up with a job when you are essentially only 1/3 of the way done with law school. With a few exceptions, most PI jobs won't offer that sort of security until after graduation- meaning people take the biglaw job "just in case" and then let inertia take hold.

So the question I'd ask myself is: what happens if human rights doesn't end up working out? Would you be happy doing other legal work?

If I don't end up doing human rights, I would at least like to do something LGBT rights related, which actually hits a bit closer to home personally and seems a bit more pressing right now, in the US at least. If I couldn't do anything even remotely related to human rights, probably be a public defender?


I'd say the human right points apply equally to LGBT rights work (and there's considerable overlap).

More power to you if you'd be happy as a public defender. It requires the patience of Job and the emotional detachment of a Vulcan, and of course requires the vow of poverty in most jurisdictions. I suppose how difficult it is depends on whether you are in a jurisdiction that merely underfunds its public defender's office, or one where underfunding has gotten so bad that Gideon might as well not have happened.