Do I Think You Should Go to Law School?

GamblingLet’s be clear about this. If you came to me and asked if I thought you should go to law school, I’d probably say “No.”

Frankly, I have no idea what you should do, but I’d still say “No.” Why? Because I don’t want to be too encouraging. If you really, really, deep-down really want to be a lawyer, me telling you not to go to law school isn’t going to stop you. And that’s a good thing.

But if you’re on the fence, and you haven’t talked to at least a handful of lawyers about what they do all day, and you haven’t figured out where you fit into the profession (and not in some wishful thinking kind of way), you shouldn’t even consider going to law school. Seriously, just don’t do it.

We could talk all day about how much debt you’ll have to take on, and about how legal job prospects are uncertain, and about how much lawyers actually make, and about how unhappy many of them are.

And you might tell me, “Sure, but that’s not going to be me. I’ll work for a small firm and see my kids every night for dinner, and I’ll help people.” And maybe you would, and that could work out. But most likely you won’t, and you’ll either find yourself in a crazy law firm job where you work all the time, and someone else owns your life, or you’ll find yourself in excruciating debt, and you’ll only wish you had one of those crazy law firm jobs.

Knowing what I know now, here’s what I’d say:

If you’re playing the odds, law school’s not a good bet.

Is there a chance that you’ll find yourself well-compensated with a life you enjoy, twenty years after law school? Sure. There’s also a chance you’ll walk into a Vegas casino, sit down at a slot machine, and hit the jackpot.

Neither one of these scenarios is all that likely, and, in any case, it pays to do your homework. Or to learn to count cards.

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Image by vierdrie via stock.xchng.

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  1. Shelby VanHoose says

    I really admire this blog. Telling someone to go to law school when they are torn or just debating makes me upset. Most law schools I would think would want people who show passion and drive, not people wanting money or even people who are on the fence about it. I think it should be reserved for people who want nothing else than to become a lawyer because it’s going to be tough and that drive is needed to propel ones self through it.

  2. I just finished 1st semester of 1L year. I plan on withdrawing and this was the perfect post to read. Everything you’ve said is 100% spot on. Please never apply just because of status/you’re good at reading and writing/you have no other options!

  3. I am finishing up my 1L year with a pretty good GPA. I’ve gotten along with the professors, seeing as I don’t let them intimidate me. But I’ve run out of resources to pay for school. I’m in my mid-30’s with a full time day job (government) and a family to feed, plus two mortgages. I am really considering not going back for my 2L year this fall. My parents said they would help pay for law school when I was a fresh college graduate 15 years ago, but now they have reneged. I’ve contacted the dean about scholarship opportunities, but those aren’t very abundant. Plus my law school IS NOT EVEN ACCREDITED! I wasn’t planning on practicing anyway; it was just for the degree. Please talk me out of quitting…because I’m leaning towards closing this chapter in my life, cutting my losses, and looking forward to having free nights again.

    • To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure you shouldn’t quit in these circumstances. If you don’t want to be a lawyer, it’s a lot of time and effort and money for not much return. I’m not sure I see the point.

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