Changing career from Software Development to Law

By Anonymous

September 28 2007

Hi all,

I was just wondering if anyone had any experiences they might like to share
regarding a career change from Software Development to Law.

I've been a Java Developer in the UK for the last 6 years since graduating
University and no longer find it challenging or rewarding. Having looked at
various options, I find myself drawn to going back to school and studying law.
Has anyone else been in this situation? What resources are available to support
this kind of role change? Are there any pitfalls to be aware of?

I'll admit I'm really only just starting out my research and as such my
questions are still quite general. However I thought I'd ask the Groklaw
community for their take - and pointers to any resources that people are aware
of that might be of interest/use.

Many thanks,


09:13 AM EDT

Changing career from Software Development to Law


September 28 2007

We've had about a dozen members go to law school.
I might also mention that Louis Suarez-Potts is
in law school right now, last I looked. So it
can be done. Is there a particular area of law
that interests you the most?

Mark Webbink of Red Hat just retired as the
General Counsel there. He is now teaching a
class at Duke on Intellectual Property.

Also the guy who cowrote "Bound by Law," James
Boyle, teaches at Duke. And Pam Samuelson teaches
in California at Berkeley.

I guess you can tell that I would gravitate to
who teaches what. Wendy Seltzer, who is
a Perl programmer, went into
law by transitioning. She created the OpenLaw
project and the online courses for Harvard's
Berkman Center, one of which changed my life.
She's now at Northeastern U. School of Law.

There are a number of fellowships and grants
that a person might investigate. The bottom
line is: others have done it. It's harder to
change professions than to do it in one
straight line out of college, but it is
possible. Law school is hard. Lots of
memorization. It's two years you won't
much enjoy. And then there is the bar exam,
which is quite hard.

Then there is the fact that you have to be
planning what to do with your career by the
end of the first years, for sure, so you
can focus. If you are quite old, you
may find no one much wants to hire you, but
lawyers can make a living on their own,
and most lawyers don't work for large firms.

That is one piece of the Groklaw experience
that is a bit nontypical. We are seeing some
unbelievable lawyering from the cream of the
crop. Real life for most lawyers is helping
people with problems they don't know how
to handle. And a lot of it can be somewhat
routine, with disappointments in clients
along the way.

And when you first graduate, you have no idea
how to do it. You have the book knowledge, but
you do need real life experience. It's a bit
like being a doctor, but without any time in

Depending on your interest in what type of law to
practice (including being a general practitioner),
you might get a job with a DA's office or
an entity like ACLU or EFF or one of the chains.
Or try to find a mentor, someone who is willing
to train you in the office, in return for you
doing the tasks he hates.

If this didn't discourage you, you will make a
good lawyer. It does require a certain self
confidence, and a willingness to persevere.
But it's fascinating work, in my opinion.

Oh, once you are set up in an office, get the
best paralegal you can find and let her do as
much as she seems to know how to do or is willing
to learn, short of things only you are supposed
to do. Over time, she will show you the ropes,
because chances are, she knows more than you do
about it when you first start out.

10:34 AM EDT

Copyright 2007