The Only Reason to Go to Law School
There are a million things you could do with a law degree, but the only good reason to go to law school is to become a lawyer.
Yes, it’s contradictory to everything you have probably heard or been told by an academic advisor, but an advisor works for a college. I work for you. And yes, it’s true that if you get a law degree you can become a paralegal, a private investigator, a police officer, and a host of other things.
It’s also true that you can get every single one of the jobs I listed in my previous sentence without a law degree and the $100,000+ in student loan debt you’d be saddled with if you chose to attend law school and not become an attorney.
The Law School Myth
For a long time in our society, we have valued law, medical, and business advanced degrees. Those degrees once led to a life of privilege and wealth, but those dynamics are changing in modern times.
Those career paths are no longer a guarantee to a better life. Law is still seen as special, however, and I’m here to shatter the myths regarding it.
Now that I’ve made my premise clear, I’ll address the criticisms of making such a bold statement.
The first criticism I often get is that I don’t appreciate education and well-roundedness. I quickly report the fact that undergraduate general education and electives exist for the purpose of a well-rounded education, and graduate school exists for the purpose of specialization. If I didn’t appreciate education, I wouldn’t write about and research educational topics.
Another criticism I often get is that I fail to see the value that having a JD (Juris Doctor) would bring to a variety of fields related and unrelated to law.
However, people who share this criticism may not have read the countless stories from law school graduates who ended up determining law wasn’t for them, but couldn’t get so much as a paralegal job. Paralegals are not allowed to give legal advice, yet an attorney can, and therein a conflict can arise.
Employers also question why an attorney would want to take a job as a paralegal considering they do have an additional qualification.
When Reality Hits, It Hits Hard
Every day, many wide-eyed, idealistic students determine they want to go to law school. They want to study human rights law, do pro-bono work, or some other glamorous or pious sounding work. Every day, many also graduate from law school and realize the reality of the field isn’t what they thought it would be.
Students who thought they would be constantly in court find themselves covered in paperwork, spending more time sitting at a desk and shuffling said paperwork instead. They expect to make six figures when they are more likely to be lucky to make 45K. That’s if they even get hired!
There are now more attorneys than ever before. Recent graduates are also being forced to compete with better seasoned attorneys, often with ten or more years of experience. Job satisfaction is low, with a large percentage of practicing attorneys reporting they would not recommend their profession to the next generation.
What happens to the students who get through law school and determine law isn’t for them? Well, they have it the worst. Not only do they inherit a great amount of debt they need to pay off, but they also will have to explain to potential employers a three-year work history gap on their resumes.
Some graduates choose not to list their advanced degree at all for fear of being overqualified for other jobs unrelated to the field.
“But I Still Need Law School!”
Let’s say you have read all of this and you’re still set on law and you know for certain you’re not going to change your mind. There are a few things you should do.
If you’re in undergraduate school or a recent graduate of such a school, do research on the field you’re thinking about going into. Analyze your competition, analyze the costs and sacrifices you will need to make, determine how your decisions may impact your relationships, figure out how much money you’re likely to make, and come up with a plan of attack.
Some students choose their home state schools to minimize their costs, and work for a few years before entering law school to not only prep for LSAT exam, but pay their full tuition in advance and minimize their time commitment from 3 years to 2, taking on an additional student workload.
It also might be beneficial to look into obtaining a paralegal certification and working in the field to determine whether or not law is truly your calling. Shadow an attorney, and read as many books as possible about the profession before taking the dive into law school.
Have a list of schools you would like to apply to in advance, see what scholarships they offer and consider applying for them.
Preparation is key.
Try Before You Buy
For those on the fence about going to law school, the same advice applies to you. Work in the field, shadow someone in the legal profession, read about the profession, and know what you’re getting into.
It is always okay to change your mind. Try participating in an internship, externship, or virtual internship in the field or a related field and figure out what your passion is.
Law school is a noble calling for those who know for certain what they want to do with their new qualification. However, for those motivated by money, considering another field is probably the safer bet.
Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and there is no guarantee of success. The best advice I can give is to know before you go.