I’m a licensed lawyer, and my goal in writing these posts was simply to help prospective law students make a better, more informed decision about choosing to go to law school than I did. So if you’re unsure about whether the legal profession is the right path for you, you’ve come to the right place!
Should You Go to Law School?
Note: If law school has been your dream since you were a kid, and you’re certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the legal profession is right for you, then I wish you all possible success. This isn’t intended for you.
I wrote these posts after having a conversation with a friend who was preparing for the LSAT and applying to law school. We talked about all the things I wish I’d known, but somehow didn’t ask…
We talked about the types of jobs within the legal profession, working at a law firm, living under the billable hour, salaries, and student loans. I even pulled out my monthly student loan invoice to show her what I pay for the privilege of being a lawyer and having gone to law school. She practically choked, and I became convinced that I need to start CLS. Too many people jump into law school without having the right information. I know, I was one of them.
When I stop to think about how I decided to go to law school, I’m sincerely thankfully that I enjoy being a lawyer as much as I do. I’m proof that a poor decision making process doesn’t necessarily result in a bad decision. But seriously, why take that risk!
What’s Motivating You?
I believe that going to law school and being a lawyer is NOT right for everyone, but I have no vested interest in whether you decide to go to law school or whether you decide to do something completely different with your life! The only goal is to help you think about the important questions surrounding this big decision, especially the ones you may not know to ask, so that you can be sure of your choice.
- I’m not trying to persuade you to go to law school. Being a lawyer is tough and unrelenting. There are easier ways to make money and gain social standing or prestige.
- I’m not trying to dissuade you from going to law school either. Lawyers do important, meaningful work, and without lawyers the rule of law and our freedoms would evaporate.
In the end, I believe that the best kind of lawyers are the ones who are passionate about their work and suited to the practice of law. It’s as simple as that.
Choosing Law School 101
There’s far more to the question of whether you should go to law school than simply whether you will get in and do well. Law school is just the first step in the long, expensive process of becoming a lawyer, and way too many people only think about the steps that come before they pass the bar exam. I speak from experience because I was one of them.
My goal is to help you learn a little more about what it means to be a lawyer and the costs and benefits that should be weighed before embarking on a career in the legal profession. I simply want to help you make a well educated decision and to provide you with my perspective as a lawyer and the benefit of my hindsight.
Step 1: Question Yourself
Why do you want to be a lawyer? If you don’t want to be a lawyer, then why do you want to go to law school?
Before you do anything else, ask yourself why you’re interested in going to law school The questions above are not metaphorical, rhetorical, or even general. You should literally get out a piece of paper and answer them right now, in that order. Then compare your answer to the many common reasons that people go to law school and ask yourself which of those apply to you.
There are many unstated assumptions people make about law school and lawyers. Actually writing down an answer will help you come to the real reasons you’re considering going to law school. Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you don’t want to be a lawyer, you should have a damn good reason for going to law school because a law degree is not a general degree. It’s intended to prepare you to be a lawyer, and it’s expensive. Very expensive.
Step 2: Learn the Facts
It’s critical to consider whether you will enjoy being a lawyer. I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky notion of loving every minute of every day of your job. In every job there are things people don’t want to do and days that suck. I’m talking about a a fulfilling satisfaction at the end of the day and a genuine passion and interest in the content of your job.
The question “should I go to law school?” is often relegated to the first, small chapter of books about how to get in to law school or how to succeed in law school. It’s rarely give the weight it deserves especially considering the challenges facing the legal industry, the number of lawyers who don’t like their jobs, and the rising costs of tuition and in turn student loans burdens.
It can be challenging to get a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to work in the legal profession. There’s more than enough media coverage of the legal industry, both glorifying and vilifying, but as with everything reality is somewhere in the middle.
The legal profession is a common target and the butt of many jokes! Everyone has an opinion, and there’s no way that any one opinion or point of view can adequately capture what it means to be a lawyer. We’ll do our best to lay out the facts and opinions from as many different perspectives as we can make available to you, but we’re mostly focused on getting you the information that typically doesn’t find it’s way those applying for law school.
Step 3: Make Your Own Decision
My goal is not to get you to 100% certainty. It doesn’t exist. My goal is for you to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt – the standard of proof required in a criminal trial. If it’s good enough to sentence people to jail, I think it’s good enough for us!
Clearly, the specific considerations will be different for everyone, but please don’t go to law school because your family wants it for you or for any reason that’s not entirely your own. You’re the final judge here. It’s your decision to go to law school and your name on the loans and the law license.
Here are some other posts I’ve written about law and law school: