Oklahoma Bar Journal

Was Law School the Right Decision?

By Elaine Dowling

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            The question of what you can do with a law degree if practicing law isn’t for you has never been more relevant. In this post-pandemic world of uncertainty, stress and rapid change are fueling a desire for a reset button. Young lawyers with mortgage-sized student loan balances are going to laugh at this, but when I went to law school, there was a lot of talk about how a law school education was good training for all kinds of things, even if you never wanted to practice law.

            We have all questioned whether the practice of law is really for us. When opposing counsel is being a jerk, our clients have all gone to Google Law School, and judges – well, let’s not go there. We can forget how special our legal training really is. We are trained problem solvers. We  instinctively separate the relevant from the rest. We quickly spot critical issues. We aren’t intimidated by statutes and regulations. We understand how to formulate an argument and how to aim it at a specific audience.

            Lawyers all around us are making a difference in the world in all areas of business, compliance, public service and government. If you want to join them, I think the first step is to figure out something about the job you want to do. Think of high school career counseling questions like, if you want to work indoors or outdoors, in a city, rural area or remote. When I picked bankruptcy law (from a general practice), I made a list of what kinds of things I wanted to do when I got to the office, the areas of practice I was either competent in or could get that way quickly and who I wanted to have as clients. Then, I picked a practice area that fit. So do you want to write? Are you more visual? Do you want to deal with people? Are you sick to death of people who seemingly want to dump their lives on your desk to fix for them – but I digress.

            If I were 10 years younger and I wanted to get out of the practice, I would go back to school and get a master’s in strategic communication. I think a great niche for me would be marketing, specifically for lawyers. Why lawyers let nonlawyers write their website content for them is beyond me. You are liable for every word you put out there!

            So, to me, the real question isn’t what you can do with a law degree. The real question is what do you like to do and how can you do that while still leveraging your law degree?

            If you know a young (or not so young) lawyer feeling a bit trapped, remind them – the world is their oyster. The choice of sauce is up to them.


Ms. Dowling practices in Oklahoma City.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 4 (April 2023)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.