I’m choosing between a full ride as part of UCI’s inaugural class or a full ride MBA at Carnegie Mellon.
I want to be a lawyer. But not enough that it is a calling of mine. What I ultimately want to do is start a business, which you don’t really need a degree for. Any thoughts you could impart?
What you’re really asking is: Should I go to law school rather than business school to learn how to become an entrepreneur? Does it make sense to spend three years studying legal topics rather than business topics if you want to become a businessman?
Answer: HELL NO.
Despite popular belief, going to law school does not help make someone a businessman. In law school, you study law, not business. Not only that, you learn how to “think” like a lawyer, which means analyzing risks and identifying issues. You focus more on what might go wrong, rather than want might go right. This way of thinking actually hinders one’s ability to become a successful entrepreneur since risk-taking is such an integral part of starting a business. In other words, a seasoned lawyer is far more likely to convince Howard Schultz that opening a chain of coffee shops named after some vague aquatic creature is idiotic rather than brilliant.
So, if your goal is to start a business some day, then the answer to the question is simple: Go to business school, dude. Don’t listen to your uncle, your father’s rich friend or your roommate’s second-cousin. All of them will no doubt say something like, “A law degree is versatile.” Or, “Law school is a great training ground for business.” Trust me, they’re wrong. Law school is a great training ground for being a lawyer. Beginning, middle, end of story. Those lawyers who end up becoming great businessmen do so in spite of—not because of—their legal training. For the most part, anyway. Sure, knowing the law helps a little bit on the margin, but it doesn’t make you a businessman.
Years ago, I had an interview with a prominent New York investment firm. The first question the Boss asked was, “Why’d you go to law school?” With a hollow, confident smile, I said, “I thought it would be a great education and help me get into business some day.”
The Boss just stared at me for a few moments, and then cracked a contemptuous smile. “That might be the dumbest fucking reason for going to law school I’ve ever heard.”
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Go to Carnegie Mellon.
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