To Law School or Not To Law School

July 20, 2022

I’m a Legal Studies major at Cal. I entered my freshman year intending to major in Political Science, but quickly switched to Legal Studies when I realized how much more the classes in that department intrigued me. At the time, I also was sure that I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde (my favorite movie) and wear pink as I argued my cases. I always thought that would be my path.

Now, as a senior, when I tell someone my major, they almost always ask me if I’m headed to law school. Freshman and sophomore year I would have proudly exclaimed “YES!”. My Legally Blonde fantasies were still at the top of my agenda when I imagined my life post-grad. But now, I’m not so sure anymore.

You always expect that the first-years are the ones that aren’t sure what they want to do, but by senior year they’ll have it all figured out. They’ll either be studying for the GRE or LSAT or MCAT and applying to grad school programs, or have a job lined up for the next year. For me, it has been a little bit of the opposite. Going into my senior year, I’m still not quite sure what I want to do, or what career to pursue. I do know, though, that I’m not headed to law school. At least not yet.

Even if other people don’t realize it, I have come to realize that my Legal Studies major does not simply equate to “pre-law-school”. Legal Studies encompasses the historical and sociological aspects of the law and legal concepts that are very different from what a law student learns. Legal Studies at Berkeley critiques our legal systems in ways that law school may not. It has given me the reading, writing, and critical thinking background that I know will benefit me in whatever job I pursue after graduation, not just in the legal field.

I also minor in Public Policy, which at times has been even more interesting to me than my major. Pursuing public policy would be a way I can still interact with law and politics, without practicing the law as an actual lawyer. I am now considering pursuing a Master of Public Policy more than a law degree (although I still haven’t ruled law school out entirely).

Aside from my fields of study, I am also very interested in education. This is something I can pursue from the policy side, or as an educator. I think being a high school teacher or a professor would be something I would really enjoy. But I’m not ready to commit to that just yet either.

I think it is okay to not have your mind made up about what you want to do after graduation, even as a senior in college. I know I’ll get a job and figure it out, and can always go back to school to get a law degree or an MPP or a teaching credential or something else later on. I think it’s also important to realize that your major doesn’t put you in a box and that there’s a whole world of careers out there that you can pursue, even if they don’t directly relate to your major. Berkeley prepares us to enter the “real world” after we graduate, whether that’s in the way we expected or not.