Law School: “To Go Or Not To Go…”

 

Spending a little time contemplating one’s future career is a worthwhile task.  First, let me state the obvious:  law school is not right for everyone.  Neither is the medical field; nor the entertainment industry; nor working as an actuary; nor being a photographer. 

No one is a perfect fit for every job, and no job is a perfect fit for every person.  As for those who are considering becoming a lawyer, I have noticed that they tend to fall into three general categories:

1.      The Student Who Really Wants To Go To Law School.

My college roommate was an example of this type of student.  He knew he wanted to be a lawyer since he was a kid.  People who are, for one reason or another, excited by the prospect of law school and being a lawyer – and have a realistic view of what it all entails – tend to like both law school and the profession itself.

If someone really wants to go to law school and feels they possess the skills that would make a good lawyer, it’s probably a good move.  Doors get opened, legal work is often intellectually stimulating, and the financial rewards can be substantial.

A secure job remains a challenge to find right now, and the legal profession is no exception.  However, it is certainly much better than it was during the heart of the recession.  If the prospect of becoming a lawyer seems exciting or intriguing, it is worth taking a long-term view of the value of a law school degree and remembering that economies are cyclical.

2.      The Student Who Really Does NOT Want To Go To Law School.

I’ve seen many of these students too.  Maybe law school isn’t their choice, but they are being pushed hard by mom or dad.  Maybe they don’t have any interest in the law, but they feel the need for an advanced degree and aren’t interested in anything else.  Maybe the law holds no allure to them, but three years of law school beats working.

Some times these students develop an interest in the law.  And let’s face it, a little push from mom or dad isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, if one is totally unenthused about the idea of law school or working as a lawyer, one increases the possibility of dropping out or not enjoying the work once one graduates.

3.      The Student Who Isn’t Sure, But Who Finds The Law Intriguing. 

I fell into this category, as do a lot of pre-law students. Since one can go to law school with any undergraduate major, many students (appropriately) contemplate other fields in college (or after college) while knowing that law school will remain a viable option.

If you (or someone you know) fit into this third group, my one suggestion would be to do some research.  Consider doing one (or more) of the following:  (a) talk to people working in the professions that interest you, (b) find a job or internship that allows you to see firsthand what the day-to-day life is like in the professions you are considering, or (c) study for the LSAT and see if you enjoy legal reasoning and get a sense of your potential law school options (but remember – many great lawyers did NOT excel on the exam!).

Working as a lawyer, like any job or profession, isn’t perfect.  But if it sounds better than the other realistic alternatives, you are likely to be happy.  To the extent possible, try envisioning your day-to-day work life, compensation, employment opportunities, personal fulfillment, etc. and see which of your possible career options sounds best to you. That’s what I did, and the decision became easy.

Conclusion

People frequently switch professions, and one certainly can recover from a career decision that does not work out.  However, when one considers the time, money and effort devoted to becoming a lawyer (or any other type of career), it is worth spending a little time upfront evaluating one’s choices.

For me, studying for the LSAT ultimately convinced me that law school was an excellent fit.  Every year I have LSAT students who become much more enthused about the prospect of becoming a lawyer after preparing for the LSAT and getting a better sense of what lawyers actually do.  I also have a few who decide that law just isn’t for them.  Either way, it is a success – if spending a little bit of time and money preparing for the LSAT helps you make a decision that will impact the rest of your life…well, that in my opinion is time and money very well spent!

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