How Unlicensed Law School Grads Benefit From Their JDs

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 14, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

To those who failed to get a passing mark on this last administration of the bar exam, your dreams of being able to tack the letters 'Esq.' after your name have been delayed a little longer.

Whether or not you plan on taking another crack at the bar exam, the truth of the matter is that you're most likely lawyering already...

Self-Selecting Types

There's the popular belief that a good many applicants who entered law school recently did so because they had no set direction with their undergraduate degrees and had no idea what they were going to do with their lives.

What follows will apply less to this group, but the truth is that three years of mental grind has trained you to look at the world through the eyes of a lawyer -- you have the basic tools of a risk analyst now. Some peope have a natural knack for this; and some people have to learn it. Some people go to law school to have their fundamental way of thinking changed. Others go to law school simply to have their technique polished. Either way, the benefits are real.

Thinking Like a Lawyer Every Day

If you drive down the street and see everything in the context of a potential tort, or a possible state action violating constitutional rights, that's your legal education working for you. You might not be able to practice it until you've earned your license, but you're basically already scoping out possible clients and seeing legal issues.

Great ... So What?

But without a license, what good does that do me, we hear you ask?

Your legal thinking has probably benefitted you in ways that you might not even appreciate. Perhaps you've learned to be less impulsive and rash in your decisionmaking because you've learned how emotions can lead to unforeseen and unwanted trouble in the courts. Maybe you've learned to be more diligent about records, or more concerned about organization. Believe us, these are good things ... funny too.

Add up all of the potentially dumb mistakes you may have made before getting a legal education and assess how much those mistakes have cost you, in time money and aggravation. Will a legal education keep you from making those mistakes again? You bet. Here's a bit of a depressing example: divorce.

You're a Lawyer sans the License

Remember, the license is simply a mechanism that stands between you representing someone else. Of course, that's why you got in this business in the first place.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that your time and education was a complete waste. It may have been very expensive, but it was not a complete wash.

You want to practice law? Study harder and practice, again and again. Yes, even at risk students can pass the bar.

Even if you don't eventually become a licensed attorney, your legal education will be there in the background guiding you in every venture you undertake -- whether in business, love, pleasure, personal growth. It's not as obvious as billable hours, but it is there.

If you need inspiration, check out our list of 99 things to do with your JD.

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