Monday, September 3, 2007

Law school is the wrong choice for most people

In several of my smaller law school classes, professors would ask students to tell the class on the first day something about themselves or why they went to law school. One very common response was: "I was a(n) [English, Literature, History, Sociology, Gender Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, or other Liberal Arts major] and I couldn't do much with that degree." In a nutshell, people went to law school because they didn't know what to do with their Liberal Arts BA, and they thought a law degree was a path to gainful, secure employment. This is a terrible reason to go to law school. Why?

(1) A law degree will generally lock a person into the law profession, at least for a few years. A new law graduate looking for a non-legal job will inevitably observe two types of responses from prospective employers. First, most employers will say the JD holder is overqualified. Why pay for a JD when a kid fresh out of college will work for less? And there's always the lingering fear on the part of the employer that the JD holder will eventually run to a firm. Second, some employers will question the quality of a law graduate seeking non-legal work. A person who went to law school with no clear goals is not a person who thinks ahead. Also, I get the sense that there is some stigma attached to those who want to leave the law. The public perceives this legal "profession" as a surefire path to wealth and power. This leads people to believe that those want to leave just aren't good workers because they were on easy street, and still can't do well.

(2) Law school is expensive. Three years of tuition and living expenses, and three years of lost earnings are not trivial. As I wrote in April, law school expenses can easily add up to $50,000/year. It is foolhardy to spend so much money for no reason other than "I don't know what to do."

(3) Law school is boring. Reading cases and debating policy is fun at first, but the fun wears off quickly. Digging through thousands of pages of cases to glean principles and rules of black letter law is time consuming and monotonous. Debating policy is an endless cycle of weighing values, with no right answer, and often little reasoning. By the end of my 3L year, I didn't know anyone who wasn't tired of the whole rat race.

To sum up: Don't go to law school just because you think you have nothing better to do. It closes doors outside of the law profession because a law degree makes you overqualified. It is horribly expensive. It is also boring. Save your money. Save yourself. Don't go to law school because you lack direction at the moment.

2 comments:

AJ said...

Tucker Max says the same thing:

http://www.tuckermax.com/archives/entries/should_i_go_to_law_school_the_speech_text.phtml

I went because I was under the familial pressure to obtain something beyond a bachelor degree. Medical school was my first choice, but when I learned that I couldn't cut it in science and organic chemistry, I quit and law was sort of a default "please the parents" option.

smith said...

Most incoming law students have no idea what they are getting into and find the results of all of their hard work and skills stretched to the breaking point during their first year of law school.

considering law school