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Dear Hillary: I am currently a first year law student. When I began law school, I knew it was because I wanted my law degree and I did not necessarily want to be a lawyer. However, I am now questioning my decision. The thought of being a professor or working for victims’ rights and/or criminology is more appealing to me than practicing law. It is not because the first year of law school is difficult that I am feeling this way. It is just now that I am realizing that there might be a more direct and effective way to reach a career that I will find fulfilling. My parents and family are encouraging me to get my law degree because of the financial aspects, but I am unsure of what is right. Are there many options for people who have law degrees and don’t want to practice law? Perhaps it would be more beneficial for me to earn a different degree. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, K Dear K: It’s tough to be a first-year law student, but I think you should consider sticking it out. While you are under the pressures of law school and first-year exams, it can be hard to distinguish whether you are not interested in practicing law or whether you are just extremely stressed out (which would be perfectly understandable!). If you can make it through the first year, I think you will find that things get easier. I also think you will be in a better position to determine what you really want. The careers that you mention — being a professor, working for victims’ rights, and/or criminology — are all careers in which a law degree would be beneficial. Law professors and staff attorneys at nonprofit organizations are some of the most satisfied attorneys I have met. There are a lot of law careers out there that you may not be aware of yet. It is certainly not too early for you to meet with a career counselor at your law school and with a public interest career counselor if your law school has one. I know that you don’t have a lot of free time, but talking with a career counselor may allow you to see some new options. I do think that having a law degree can open a lot of doors and enhance your general marketability. You will, however, have to do some research to figure out exactly where you fit in. If you do stick it out, you should try out potential careers while you are still in law school. For example, you could work for a law firm one summer, a nonprofit organization one summer, and take a clinical course if you can fit it in. In the meantime, good luck with first year. Things will get better! Hillary Mantis is the author of “Alternative Careers for Lawyers” and “Jobs for Lawyers.” To contact Hillary Mantis for private career counseling, or to ask a career question for the next “Help me Hillary” column, email [email protected]or go to www.mynewcareer.net.

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