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Crohn's Disease Forum » Your Story » Thinking about law school, but worried about health.


10-22-2012, 06:04 AM   #1
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Thinking about law school, but worried about health.

Hey All,

This is my first post on this forum, but it is not my first time on the forum. In the past 3 years I have been reading many posts by members and am amazed at how supportive everyone is. I hope that I can contribute in a beneficial way as well.

Short Life Story as understood through my sickness (Crohn's):
Well, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease about 7 years ago. The doc told me that I had mild-moderate Crohn's. When I was first diagnosed it was not all the devestating. I popped a few pills, avoided certain foods (especially alcohol), visited my GI doctor every 5 months. At my university, I studied political science and psychology. My studies did not come without struggle. I overcame a few blockages, anemia and a clear progression of my disease. Nonetheless, I graduated with high honors and won a prestigious scholarship to continue my studies in a top-tier graduate school (Where I am today).

I am currently taking Remicade, although I can tell that its not working as well as it once did (I expect to move to humira).

After my studies at this graduate school, I plan on applying to a law school, where I will most likely focus on corporate law. Choosing to go to law school is a major choice (they arent cheap...150k+ for three years). I work well in the structured environment of academia so I have no doubt that I can suceed in reaching the top 10% of my class. The issue is whether my health can withstand the intense pressure of actually practicing law in a major law firm in a city like New York City. Yes, my condition has been mostly stable (due to remicade, entocort). But, i have only been in an academic setting, real life is something else. I worry that I will enter into the working world and will slowly deterioate to an unworkable point.

I scoured the internet looking for testimonials of people who have a sucessful career with Crohn's disease. I have yet to read any positive stories about regular folk. I am not looking to read about the A-list celebrities with Crohn's, such as Anastacia or David Garrard.

Are there any practising lawyers that can comment? I would also appreciate input from one who has led a life with responibilities that may at times be stressfull. Examples: establishing a family, anyone that has gone to medical school and is a doctor, corporate world, etc...

I appreciate any advice that anyone can give. I have speculated on this and have come up with many scenarios. I do not mind further speculation on what I can or cannot do, or such optimistic texts as "don't let your disease control you" or even such philosophical statements as "do it, or else risk regret". But, I am extremely interested in reading about some experetial accounts. That is, actual stories of people who have tamed their sickness in the face of the stresses of real life

Thank you for lending me your eyes, and allowing me to discuss my own worries and struggles. I hope that I have not ranted too much, and I hope to read some interesting reply posts.
10-22-2012, 06:43 AM   #2
shalin
 
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Dear persuit, I have a family went to school part time and worked full time as manger. At this time my spouse was out of work due to the economy. I did very well. I did have to get put on prozac due to anxiety attacks. Which was great, I was so upright and stressed. I decided to take a yoga and a pilaties class for the time needed through the day to relax and regroup. I don't know how stressful law school is but just being in school working full time and running a family, I can say there are ways to get through it and succeed. Good luck in law school.
10-22-2012, 07:33 AM   #3
katiesue1506
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I'm post undergrad (diagnosed freshman year 6 years ago) and currently putting in time as a cadet before I can be promoted to police officer. Is police officer a stressful job? Yes. I basically go to work and deal with people who are either having the worst day of their life, fighting with me or others, or upset about something (the other day I listened to an old lady complain about her neighbor putting sticks in her yard for 30 mins-- bigger fish lady).

But I've actually found that I'm less stressed out working in this line of work than I was when I was in more docile situations such as when I was in undergrad full time and working part time in retail. I kept my health in check in undergrad by skipping the bars, going to bed at a decent hour and going to class. My grades suffered in my first year when I was diagnosed due to health issues, but after that first year I worked my butt off to raise my GPA enough to graduate cum laude.

My current line of work is also less stressful than when I only worked part time in banking.

Stress is all in what you make it and if you have a type A personality, you tend to thrive in a stressful situation. You just have to be able to realize when its taking its toll on you and you have to have some outlet.

I am currently on light duty at work due to a bowel perforation during a routine colonoscopy and my employer has been very understanding. You have to find a corp/company to work for that works for you too.

I had considered law school after undergrad but I was told by a lot of other current practicing partners that the market is flooded with J.D.'s and the only way to secure a job is to be top of your class at a good school. Sounds like you are on the right path.

The other thing you should consider is that there are a lot of other careers that open up for you once you have a J.D.-other than practicing lawyer. Lots of governmental jobs require a J.D. They may start with lower pay, but have the opportunity for growth and promotion.

I also think your definition of "successful career" may only be motivated by the amount of money you make. Sometimes when you have other cards on the table you have to redefine things. One can have a successful career without making six figures. If a law career would make you happy- the actual working part of the career, then I say its a great fit.... but if you are only going in for the money it will be a lot more stressful. Just a thought.

Good luck!
10-22-2012, 08:36 AM   #4
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A friend of mine who has UC worked for 5 years as a lawyer for a big law firm in the Netherlands before she decided to become a journalist. It can be done.
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10-22-2012, 09:31 AM   #5
CrohnsChicago
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Paralegal school is considered to many a foot-in-the-door approach to law school, since paralegals are trained to work alongside attorneys (legal/factual research, drafting, evidence gathering, trial preparation, among many other tasks)....they offer certificate programs which take only a few months do a year to complete, depending on how much time you have to commit to it.

I went this route myself and received my certificate of completion from one of the American Bar Association approved Paralegal programs. There are bachelor programs as well but it sounds like you have a more than qualified background to where you would only need to go the certificate route. It doesn't cost nearly as much as it would a law degree, and you can work this route to get an insiders perspective both at school and on the job to see if being a lawyer is really what you feel you can handle. And depending on where you live and what area of law you choose to assist in, paralegals get paid very decently.

As of right now, the market is more favorable towards Paralegals in general because they are more of a benefit to a law firm than hiring tons of attorneys at 6-figure salaries. One of the major benefits of paralegals to a firm is that attorneys can reassign tasks they typically do but don't require a license to practice law to perform over to a paralegal.(see the tasks I mentioned above). This frees up an attorneys time go give their attention to more/bigger clients and generate more income. It's a win-win for both lawyers and paralegals.

And should you choose to go into law school, you would already have some background experience to help you through. If you don't go to law school, you have a great change to advance in the Paralegal field as a manager, analyst or many other titles and sub-fields related to legal work (ex. become an arbitrator/mediator).

Have you ever considered this option?
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10-22-2012, 10:04 AM   #6
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Paralegal school is considered to many a foot-in-the-door approach to law school, since paralegals are trained to work alongside attorneys (legal/factual research, drafting, evidence gathering, trial preparation, among many other tasks)....they offer certificate programs which take only a few months do a year to complete, depending on how much time you have to commit to it.

I went this route myself and received my certificate of completion from one of the American Bar Association approved Paralegal programs. There are bachelor programs as well but it sounds like you have a more than qualified background to where you would only need to go the certificate route. It doesn't cost nearly as much as it would a law degree, and you can work this route to get an insiders perspective both at school and on the job to see if being a lawyer is really what you feel you can handle. And depending on where you live and what area of law you choose to assist in, paralegals get paid very decently.

As of right now, the market is more favorable towards Paralegals in general because they are more of a benefit to a law firm than hiring tons of attorneys at 6-figure salaries. One of the major benefits of paralegals to a firm is that attorneys can reassign tasks they typically do but don't require a license to practice law to perform over to a paralegal.(see the tasks I mentioned above). This frees up an attorneys time go give their attention to more/bigger clients and generate more income. It's a win-win for both lawyers and paralegals.

And should you choose to go into law school, you would already have some background experience to help you through. If you don't go to law school, you have a great change to advance in the Paralegal field as a manager, analyst or many other titles and sub-fields related to legal work (ex. become an arbitrator/mediator).

Have you ever considered this option?
Hello all!

I would like to thank you all for replying so quickly. All these comments of advice and support made my day

katiesue1506: Thank you for such a long reply! You are right about not choosing to pursue a career just for money. I am always checking myself to make sure that I have my priorities set right Also, I never considered working for the government if I ever get a JD. That seems like a good choice given the apparent benefits that governmetn employees enjoy.



Crohnschicago: I have spoken to many advisors about becoming a paralegal. But, I never considered it that seriously. I think that your information gave me a few new ideas about my future. I think that I will look into the paralegal profession more seriously and see what's out there. I especially like the fact that, as a paralegal, one can move up the corporate ladder (in other words, its not a dead-end job). Thank you for your insight!

In regards to health, have you balanced it out ok? Are your employers respectful or supportive? Or is it dog-eats-dog competition?
10-22-2012, 10:38 AM   #7
KWalker
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You can do anything you want if you have crohns as long as as you apply yourself and don't let crohns get in the way. There are a lot worse things that could happen which I'd take crohns anyday over some of the other things people have to face.

I'm going to university and working towards getting my doctorate eventually. If you set goals for yourself, manage your health, and don't let others dictate your future you can do whatever if you want.

Can I ask where you live? 150k seems a bit high for school. The highest I found was 21k a year. For 3 years, that is quite a bit cheaper. I'm not saying you're wrong by any means, but maybe you should apply to other schools lol
10-22-2012, 10:44 AM   #8
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You can do anything you want if you have crohns as long as as you apply yourself and don't let crohns get in the way. There are a lot worse things that could happen which I'd take crohns anyday over some of the other things people have to face.

I'm going to university and working towards getting my doctorate eventually. If you set goals for yourself, manage your health, and don't let others dictate your future you can do whatever if you want.

Can I ask where you live? 150k seems a bit high for school. The highest I found was 21k a year. For 3 years, that is quite a bit cheaper. I'm not saying you're wrong by any means, but maybe you should apply to other schools lol
New York City. Maybe, I exaggerated with 150k. But, even 60k for 3 years is a substntial amount.
10-22-2012, 10:45 AM   #9
CrohnsChicago
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I have done two things thus far with my paralegal certificate since achieving it:

I became a legal specialist for a mortgage insurance company. I was responsible for collecting on certain debts, recruiting and working with attorneys nation-wide to pursue these debts. This was a corporate environment. It is definitely a high pressured, dog-eat-dog world. I think all the pressure made me more sick at times.

I have heard stories from friends who are paralegals in law firms who also feel the same way. However, status/seniority do play key roles as well so you have to stay on your toes if you want to advance.

I currently work for a school district (technically the government since this particular district is overseen by the City) as a Paralegal. This is an in-house position working for the General Counsel. It is less of a dog-eat-dog atmosphere and the pressures are there, but lessened significantly because you only have one client (the school district, which pays your salary) and you typically specialize in only a few types of cases related to the business of the client (employment discrimination, general litigation, contracts, union negotiations)

I have come to learn that with my disease, I fare better in the in-house field. There is a bit more flexibility and team-environment. The benefits are very decent (especially in government) and while variety does exist, there is more of a basic structure to your day which in turn can help reduce stress levels which you may deal with more in law firms. In in-house I feel you also get a chance to build more of a relationship with your attorneys and support staff because you work so closely together as a group. It makes the work environment more tolerable. I also only work 9 to 5. Overtime is rarely allowed.

In-house is generally moments of fast-paced, deadline-fueled days followed by a few periods of down-time because you only have one client and thus often fewer demands coming in day-to-day compared to a large firm. This is great for times when I need to just slow down for a minute and allow my mind/body to rest from stupid crohns. I have gotten sick and I have explained to them my situation, and for the most part everyone is understanding, but there still needs to be a job done and I understand that. And while it is noticed, I don't have people huffing and puffing over my shoulder because I did not show up for work due to my illness.

A few things to consider when deciding what is going to be the best legal environment for you to work in...
  • What is the ratio of paralegals to attorneys (will you be working under one attorney, or 5?)

    Do you prefer working in a law firm, or in-house for a corporation, non-profit or government (among other environments)?

    What types of opportunities for advancement are there (you may have more opportunities in law firms than in-house)?

    What area do you feel most comfortable working in?

    Are you willing to work overtime, long hours as needed (this is a likely scenario in many environments)? Would you be okay if the opportunity to work overtime is not available to you (commonly found in government jobs)?

    Attorneys are mostly hit-or-miss to work for. They can be either really decent to work for or, at their worst, incompetent asses because they are trained in school to argue cases, not run an office. (sorry to those attorneys I may have offended here, but from a support staff perspective, this has proven to be very true by many).
10-22-2012, 11:39 AM   #10
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You can do anything you want if you have crohns as long as as you apply yourself and don't let crohns get in the way. There are a lot worse things that could happen which I'd take crohns anyday over some of the other things people have to face.
Just wanted to jump in and agree with this statement!

I plan on going to medical school, and I don't expect my Crohn's to keep me from it. Instead, I think about how this experience will make me better at it. I'm more determined and understanding, and I already have quite a bit of knowledge about Crohn's disease, haha.
10-22-2012, 12:44 PM   #11
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Not personal experience, but I have a relative who is married, has a child, and works full-time as a petrochemical engineer. He travels all over the world dealing with international clients. I'm sure that this involves stresses of many sorts (eating while travelling and coping with different time zones comes to mind for me!) Remicade has been working for him. When he was struggling with his health he moved to a company where he didn't have to travel. When the Remicade started working well, the original company re-hired him--with a higher wage!

Don't let your health hold you back. Do what you want to do. No one knows what the future holds-- you could have no problems working while living with your disease, or something else completely unrelated to your disease could turn your world upside down. (May your experience be the former.)

Good luck with your decision.

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10-23-2012, 02:21 AM   #12
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All of these points are important to consider! I'll be honest, working for the government seems to be a great idea. I need to keep it in my options.
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