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Thread: Dissatisfied with law school; drop to pursue planning?

  1. #1

    Dissatisfied with law school; drop to pursue planning?

    Moderator note:
    (Suburb Repairman)Title was "Considering Planning (A series of muddled thoughts)". Modified for a more descriptive title to see if you get a little more response.

    Hello everyone.

    Fair warning: there might be some depressing elements to my post. And I do mention a bit about my background, but it puts my interest in planning in perspective rather than looking for "Dear Abby" advice. Also, I keep it slightly vague for anonymity's sake. It's a little whiny, and I hate being whiny. (Except in this post.)

    I am 25 years old and will be 26 in July. I am in the first semester of law school at a lower tier 2 school with a good regional reputation.

    My background is as follows: In high school, my mathematics proficiency scores were through the roof, my verbal were good, but not as good as maths. I was lazy, didn't apply myself, but decided to go on and pursue an associates. I picked my major for my associates because I thought it would be easy (I'd rather not disclose).

    I scraped by. But, in taking a semester off before applying to a 4 year university, I became more interested in politics, and thought a good career would be law. So, I busted myself, studied hard, did ok on the LSAT, and graduated with all kinds of bells, whistles, and honors. I made sure to avoid maths and sciences that might have required cumulative knowledge from my lackluster high school days out of fear they would diminish my chances of attending a good grad school. Applied to law school, got in a few of them, went to one.

    And I hate law school. Almost cannot stand it. A lot of people say the same thing, mostly out of periodic frustration with the workload. In contrast, I cry over my decision each night, dread waking up in the morning, and feel overstressed all day. I fiercely hate my life right now. And I dread joining the profession. Seems a lot of people regret their decisions to go into law, and I think I would as well. I loved taking classes before I got here. I feel like a complete shell of my old self. I've been talking to counselors in the law school, and in the university, regarding my problems here. Hopefully that experience will prove helpful.

    So, I've been digging deep into myself, trying to figure out what makes me tick. Essentially, at heart, I'm a problem solver. I like approaching puzzles, riddles, competing interests in a problem, and finding the best solution. I like approaching problems from many angles, many perspectives. I am not a contentious person. Rather, I like working within groups. I see myself as a mediator than anything else. Though I must admit, I can be shy. (The one fear I have about a career in planning is that my shyness will make it impossible to advance. Like, I may find some research niche, and not raise to a higher position because my specialization, chosen out of shyness, limits my ability to advance.)

    I have a sociological streak. I liked my political science methodology, and the senior thesis in which I utilized it. I am a bit bookish. I like studying cultural problems, both in terms of social theory and statistics. I get a kick out of analysis with SPSS.

    I also fiend to use my creativity in whatever job I may have. I haven't used Autocad since high school, but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. (And less academically, I enjoy using QuarkXpress, Photoshop, etc. immensely too.)

    I was thinking of dropping out and trying to get into a planning school nearby. I've been surfing the boards, and the profession appears to be one that'd serve my inner do-gooder-public-interest-servin-guy, creative problem solver, and mediator tenancies. I'd be curious how much creative fun the planners have compared to the landscape architects. Especially the ones like me, without a background in engineering or architecture.

    (On a tangent, I've also thought about dropping out of law school, going back to community college, taking sciences and maths, and seeing if engineering might have been my calling... Also, I've considered, looking at my interests, potentially trying my hand at financial analysis, personal financial planning.)

    But I feel as though I'm running out of time. I turn 26 in July. It took me longer than your average bear to get through the bachelors program. It includes different majors. Will soon contain a single, terminal semester of law school. I want to become established in a profession, get married, settle down, start a family. I don't need money like a doctor or lawyer make, but I've seen some low salaries reported for planners and am afraid I may not be able to progress with my life on a new planner's salary. But, staying in law school... just seems like pure hell. I think it was an ill conceived idea from an immature kid 2 years out of high school that just so happened to stubbornly stick his idea out... until the first semester. But, I really believe one has to AT LEAST find bearable what one does for 40-60 hours a week.

    And, I feel like I'm running out of time and need to get focused fast.

    Any insights?
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 28 Nov 2006 at 9:44 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Nov 2004
    Austin, TX
    I hear ya.... I will finish my bachelor's in May and will be 27 in July. Planning won't make you rich but you can make a good living once you move up the ranks. As for myself, I'm in the GIS field and struggled with going into planning, changing my mind about once a week. I've decided to stay in GIS and go with application development and programming. I'm an introvert and can't stand dealing with people, so planning isn't going to work for me anyway. I can still come on here and talk about it, though

    Good luck with your path. I would personally rather slit my wrists than go to law school

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    You certainly aren't the first story of law school like this, nor do I expect you'll be the last. Finding yourself dissatisfied with law school, or any degree program for that matter, isn't at all uncommon.

    Law & planning can coexist. With law you can specialize in any number of areas. An attorney's perspective on land policy changes can keep the dreamer's in line while still allowing you to interject some creativity. In fact, you might find it more satisfying because not only are you looking for a creative way to accomplish a particular planning goal, you also have an additional challenge of making these creative methods work within the law. Many of the most successful private sector planning firms go searching for planners with law degrees for precisely that reason. Also, larger cities often have a municipal attorney on staff specializing in planning issues.

    I guess what I'm saying is that law school is not a waste of time for a creative person with an interest in planning. However, if you are finding yourself emotionally agonized every night to the point of tears, then I'd say you need to give serious thought to dropping the thing causing agony and pursuing whatever it is you are passionate about and interested in. Your interest in analysis and the built environment is certainly compatible with planning. Planning certainly isn't all flowers and rainbows, but it sounds like it could come closer to satisfying your interests.

    You might browse the student issues subforum. We've had several people discuss planning degrees vs. law degrees, whether a lawyer can become a planner, whether a planner can become a lawyer, etc. You might find some ideas there.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    May 2006
    Toronto, ON
    Wow, I'm not sure if you still are on here, but when I saw your post, I saw myself... I'm a year younger, but basically had the same problems (last year). Hated first semester of law with a passion--lots of people hate it, of course, but pull through. But for me it wasn't about the workload either. I just disliked or out-and-out hated everything about it. Counselors told me that this is normal, to wait a bit more, etc. etc. Well, I waited until almost the end of first year when I abruptly quit because I could wait no more for 'something' to change. I think it's the best decision I ever made. I will be starting a planning program in Sep 2007 (unless for some insane reason I don't get in) and I am incredibly excited about my decision. I know it sounds cheesy, but I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  5. #5
    Aug 2006
    Wherever mediocore planning lurks
    A problem with Planning is that you won't always solve problems or the solution may never get implemented - too many actors involved and sometimes too political. It may frustrate you. I was fascinated with the prospect of planning before and during planning school. I have found professional practice to be different, paricularly since NIMBYism, short-term interests and bigotry is getting me down. Planning will also require you to interact with people.

    So as a problem solver whom is proficient in math and an introvert problem describes 9/10 engineers right there.

    Yet your cultural interests may make an ideal archeologist. You can also combine your cultural and stats interests for a census bureau looking at social phenomenon.

  6. #6
    Dec 2001
    Mr. Cool Ice
    you sound like an engineer. Pursue the engineering degree.

  7. #7
    I'm an engineer, you sound like me.......If you can wade thru the engineering sciences, the core engineering classes are very interesting. If you get into govt., you can get the political do-gooder side you wanted -yet have a science to back up your problem-solving answers. Good luck in whatever you choose, remember, someone once told me that whatever decision you make, it will be the right one.

  8. #8
    Nov 2002
    I've got both a planning and a law degree. If you absolutely hate law school - get out now... what is the point of driving up student loan debt/wasting time on something that you know you won't want to do in any form or fashion post-law school?

    Just my quick $.02

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