The first few weeks of the Trump Administration have been eventful to say the least. Undoubtedly, one of President Trump’s most controversial executive orders has been his travel ban, which prevents refugees and immigrants from seven nations from entering the United States. While legal arguments over the ban continue to make their way through the courts, law students and practicing attorneys have acted to offer pro bono legal assistance to those affected by the executive order.
Even though lawyers are often the center of too many jokes, these attorneys received overwhelmingly positive feedback for representing detained individuals at U.S. airports. Chants of “let the lawyers in” were heard in San Francisco and attorneys could be seen huddling around their laptops. Separately, CNN and other cable news channels covered the fallout from the ban by broadcasting live legal arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
For those just starting to think about law school, it can be motivating to see these attorneys in action. Attorneys at airports around the country are truly making a difference, and they can see their work reflected through the smiling faces of reunited families. The attorneys before the Ninth Circuit are engaged in high-stakes litigation that may have long-lasting effects on U.S. immigration policy. This legal work is inspiring and is why many people go to law school in the first place.
To be perfectly honest, it is extremely difficult to be in a position where you’re arguing constitutional law issues before a Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. But after graduating law school, there are opportunities to get hands-on work with clients who desperately need legal assistance. Some of these opportunities are at public interest firms or private firms specializing in immigration law.
Granted, there are some practical challenges in pursuing this type of work. The most notable thing is that your compensation may be much lower compared to other attorneys. You have to balance the practical reality of helping others versus helping yourself. But as long as you are comfortable with the idea that you may face financial struggles after graduation, I’d recommend that you perhaps consider a career in public service. As an aside, a happy medium could be completing a healthy amount of pro bono work as an attorney in private practice.
President Trump’s executive order has brought out the best in the legal profession. It has further reminded the public about the important role that lawyers play in American society. We certainly need more attorneys doing public interest work on a day-to-day basis. But before pursuing law school and fully committing yourself, you must complete your due diligence and consider the practical realities of your decision. Doing this now may help you avoid significant stress in the future.