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January 22, 2008

Book Review - 'Later in Life Lawyers' by Charles Cooper

(It would appear I'm gaining some blogosphere status as recently I have had several authors asking me to review their books on this site.  I am very far behind in my reading so apologies to all. I appreciate your patience.  I will soon be reviewing Solo by Choice - Carolyn Elefant, and Effective Lawyering, A Checklist Approach to Legal Writing & Oral Argument - Austen L. Parrish & Dennis T. Yokoyama) 

Today I am reviewing Later in Life Lawyers, Tips for the Non-Traditional Law Student by Charles Cooper.

The introduction sums up very nicely this book's raison d'etre.

Unfortunately, most law schools are the rule - they are "traditional" in attitude, and in structure. (Most books about law school thus take the same approach.) Law schools generally have made little effort to cater to the unique needs of the significant nontraditional segment of their student body.  Other law school books focus solely on largely irrelevant factors such as rankings and employment in "prestigious" law firms. In short, while a large fraction of law students today would be considered nontraditional, there is little accurate, relevant material to help non-traditional students navigate the admissions process and ultimately succeed in law school. And that's where this guide steps in.

This book is the collective wisdom and experience of thousands of law students and applicants....

And this is my favorite part:

For many applicants, there is no worthwhile reason why they chose law.  If you're one of these people and you do not have a good reason to choose law, then don't choose it.  Take time off, figure out what you want to do with your life.  Law is too involved, too expensive, and too tedious to jump into without a good reason.  Become a teacher.  Try banking.  Travel for a while.  But until you have a good reason to study law, forget it.  There is absolutely no excuse to dump what will probably amount to a hundred thousand dollars into three years of your life without thinking it through and coming up with something more adequate than "what else can I do with a history degree?"

This is why I like this book.  There is no candy-coating because so many people are talking honestly and frankly about law school realities.  (Maybe Kirsten Wolf should have read this book?) 

The first half of this nearly 300 page manual is devoted to "Getting In," the logistical and emotional challenges facing those who choose to go back to school after a period of time in the real world.  This is very valuable information discussed honestly and peppered with dozens upon dozens of great comments from other non-trad law students like studying for the LSATs, how to figure out the best school for you, what do rankings really mean, scholarships, financial aid and more.

The next hundred pages is devoted to all the trials and tribulations of the First Year, followed by the Second Year and Beyond covering everything from housing to dating to wanting to quit, moot court, law review, managing the confusion, failing exams, on campus interviews to whether or not to get a rolling book bag and looking 'uncool' but saving your back.

It really is an incredible read filled with valuable information to make you feel less isolated through the experience because it isn't one person's voice...it's hundreds in a very well calculated presentation.  And in this regard, the book is priceless.  And I would highly recommend it to traditional law students, too.

I have to say, when I came to the end of the book it left me wanting to know about the bar exam, what to do between taking the bar exam and finding out if I've passed, experiences as an older student looking for a job and beyond.  Granted, it is a book for students....but I wanted the next installment right then and there.

So, if you are considering law school, non-traditional and traditional applicant alike, this is a must read because it is so well written and in voices you know ring true.


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Larry Brown

As a non-traditional law student myself I really enjoyed this article. I will be getting this book.

Daniel L.

I couldn't agree more that being a lawyer is not for everyone. The "glamorous" big law firms that pay the stereotypical large lawyer salaries require grueling hours and the work can be tedious at times. A lot of people dislike the job, though a rare few (like myself) really enjoy litigating. Job satisfaction tends to be higher in government or small firm jobs, but they don't pay the types of salaries that a lot of potential law students hope for.

Owen Hathaway

I just finished my first semester of law school, and I can confirm the sentiments expressed here. The friends who have decided not to continue are the ones who didn't know why they were at law school to begin with. What a waste of 4 months, $12,000, and all the brain damage associated with your first semester!

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