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Should you go to law school?

I get a lot of emails from students asking for career advice, but by far the number one thing I’m asked is whether you should go to law school.

This is a tough one for me to answer. I have never regretted going to law school. I also have no idea if I would be where I am if I hadn’t gone to law school. If you’ve read about my road to ESPN, you know it all started with a paper I wrote in Tax Law about MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

That being said, law school is not a magic ticket into sports. I talk to countless lawyers who want to work in sports and haven’t broken in yet, and each year a new crop of students goes to law school wanting to work in sports in some capacity. There are always going to be more people who want to work in sports than jobs available. A law degree alone will not set you apart from the crowd.

I think if you can go to law school for free, you should. Not only are there a vast array of jobs and industries that will allow you to utilize that degree, I think it gives you a lot of practical knowledge from being able to read a contract to what happens if you don’t have a will to how to protect yourself from legal liability in many everyday situations. I use the knowledge I gained in law school every day, and not always for something work-related.

However, law school is expensive. I have no idea how long I’ll be paying back my student loans. I know lawyers my age who have defaulted on their loans because the job market for lawyers has been tough the past few years. There’s no guarantee you’ll find a job after law school that allows you to pay back those loans and live comfortably. That’s why I say law school is only a no-brainer if you’ve received a scholarship and can go for free.

If you’re only contemplating law school because you think it will give you a leg up in the sports industry, I’m not sure it’s right for you. Again, it’s not a magic ticket into sports. Law school is hard. I watched several people in my first-year class drop out because they couldn’t push themselves to put in the work because their heart wasn’t in it.

I started talking about being a lawyer when I was five, according to my mother. I worked in a law firm throughout college and in another firm for a year after college. I understood what being a lawyer entailed on a day-to-day basis, and I still wanted to go to law school.

I also worked alongside several other people my age at those law firms who decided after that experience that they no longer wanted to be a lawyer. For that reason, I always suggest people try to work in a law firm prior to law school.

Also, working in sports was never my primary goal, just something I thought would be great if it worked out. I was ecstatic to accept a job practicing in the area of real estate finance after law school.

Ultimately, my law degree wasn’t the reason I ended up at ESPN. It was simply a building block for me. I took that legal knowledge and applied it to sports. I wrote a legal journal article on collective bargaining in MLB. Then I took that paper and turned it into a book. Then I started doing legal analysis (in my spare time, for little or no pay) for Forbes and Comcast Sports Southeast. Then I started BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Then I got noticed by ESPN and got a full-time job in sports media. You can read the longer version of that story here.

Would I have gotten to where I am without my law degree? Not in the manner that I did, but I firmly believe that when you’re passionate about something you do the work that gets you noticed. This site is filled with career and networking advice that absolutely anyone reading it can apply – without a law degree.

If you would be happy being an attorney in a field other than sports, and you can afford law school – then, by all means, I encourage you to go. I enjoyed law school (as much as you can enjoy that sort of torture), and I have never one day regretted putting in the work to get my law degree or making payments on those loans.

However, if you would only be happy in sports, and you have any doubt about the expense, do some more research. It’s a huge commitment and there’s no guarantee it will get you into sports.

2 Responses to "Should you go to law school?"

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    Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 9:12 am Reply

    […] week, I answered the question I get asked most by students looking to work in sports: should you go to law school? This week, I’m going to tackle the question I get asked almost as much: what are the […]

  • Mailbag: Should I go to Law School? |
    Monday, March 25, 2013 - 5:45 pm Reply

    […] this person indicated, I have written about whether you should attend law school in the past. To sum it up, my general answer to whether you should go to law school is to ask if […]

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