“If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up where we are headed.” -Chinese Proverb
People often feel lost when deciding when choosing career paths and whether to go to law school just as you might when looking at the sign post above – unless you speak Swedish!
There are many reasons to go to law school, but some are more geared toward success in the law than others. Most are not grounded in any real understanding of what it means to be a lawyer. Without really understanding why you are drawn to go to law school, you can’t make an informed decision. A little honest reflection now can save you regret and anxiety in the future and make you much more confident in the next steps you take. The more you know about the reality of being a lawyer, the more likely you are to be happy choosing it.
Below are some of the most commonly cited reasons for going to law school and becoming a lawyer. Print out the list below and put a check next to those that apply to you. Ask yourself honestly which of these reasons are motivating your decision. This should make you stop and think. Even as a lawyer, it did for me.
Why are you going to law school . . . ?
___ What else am I going to do? I’m a liberal arts major with no other options.
___ The economy is bad so why not go back to school to get an advanced degree.
___ I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer.
___ Lawyers make good money and get respect. I want a prestigious career.
___ A law degree is a good thing to have. It provides valuable information for everyday life.
___ I want to postpone getting a “real job” for three more years.
___ Law is a vehicle for social change, and I want to help make the world a better place.
___ I want to run for elected office someday.
___ Everyone is going to law school.
___ You need an advanced degree to be competitive in this job market.
___ I’m ready for a career change.
___ I want the intellectual challenge that law school has to offer.
___ People tell me I’d make a good lawyer. Or, the lawyers I know tell me I’d make a good lawyer.
___ I’m a good writer, or I’m diplomatic, or I’m good at arguing… so I’d make a good lawyer.
___ A law degree will help me keep my options open because I’m not sure what I want to do.
___ I’m interested in law and politics and enjoy reading about them.
___ I enjoy analytical, detailed work and have spent some time exploring the legal industry.
___ A law degree is a good general degree. It teaches you to think. You can do anything with it.
___ My family wants me to go to law school, and they’re paying.
___ A law degree will increase my earning potential.
___ I want to work with people and help them solve their problems.
If the reasons you’ve chosen above have more to do with your future lifestyle or income level, or your current need for change or direction in your professional life, then you’re at risk of ending up exactly where you’re headed – i.e. in law school without a good understanding of the legal profession and what you’re really getting yourself into.
The biggest risk is that you will discover later that the law is not for you, and you will have spent a huge amount of money and time on LSAT preparations, law school application, and tuition.
Now that you’ve reflected, what next? Consider taking the law for a little test drive to see if it’s right for you.