Book By: Gary Belsky and Deborah Schneider
Review By: Julie Givans
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Arizona State University
“From Day One, I told my advisors that I wanted to go to law school, and not once did any of them ask ‘why?’… I wish now I had been shown other options open to me, and had been encouraged to explore them prior to making a decision” (p. 45).
Academic advisors help students achieve their goals. But frequently, the best thing we can do for students is ask the hard questions that teach them to look inside and examine their goals. Too often, students choose to attend law school for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to practice law. They subsequently end up with expensive law degrees, mountains of debt, and jobs they hate. The authors of this text challenge many common reasons for pursuing law, confront fallacies, and provide facts about careers in law as they present a concrete, step-by-step strategy for making good career choices.
Using a series of ‘decision assessment checklists,’ Schneider and Belsky examine common student reasons for going to law school. They systematically expose each reason as a decision-making trap based on faulty logic and myths about law. For example, many advisors have heard, “my friends say I’d be a great attorney.” Such reasoning is an example of confirmation bias, the acceptance of what others say without reflection on the source. This is a poor way to choose a profession.
In addition to the insights into the student decision-making process, authors supply valuable information about legal practice areas and settings, information that may grab the attention of pre-law students. For example, students interested in sports law as a vehicle to become an agent may be interested in knowing that currently there are more licensed sports agents than professional athletes (p. 175). This book contains facts such as this for several specialty areas; facts that advisors can use to open conversations about the importance of researching careers.
Authors do a fantastic job providing concrete steps to career decision making. Chapter by chapter, they explain the necessary steps: learn about law school, do self–assessment, research what attorneys do, and get experience working in the field. Not only do they provide self-assessment tools, they make suggestions for the other steps such as who to contact to sit in on a law class and where to get legal experience. The ‘tool kit’ at the end of the book provides additional information including Web sites, text resources, and tips on preparing for and conducting informational interviews.
Unfortunately Sections III and IV – for readers already in law school or working as attorneys – are just rehash of the same information found in Section II. Also, the edition I reviewed was marred by typographical errors suggesting that a final edit was not properly done before the book went to press.
However, on the whole, this book contains a wealth of information for academic advisors. Information is presented in an accessible way and provides insights into the field of law. Components of sound career planning are extolled and exercises and concrete steps are included for researching careers – exercises and steps that would benefit any student. This is a good book to have on your shelf, to read yourself, and to loan to students.
Should You Really Be a Lawyer? The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During, and After Law School
. (2005). Book by Schneider, Deborah & Belsky, Gary. Review by Julie Givens. Seattle: Decision Books. 248 pp. Price $21.95. ISBN #0-9406-7557-9