I recently wrote a post addressing a question I often receive: Should I go to law school? My post, while some thought a bit negative, I believe to be realistic. The legal market is not in good shape right now, and it is extremely hard to find a job. Many job listings are looking for mid-level associates (those with 3-5 years of experience – hard to get if you just graduate and only have maybe a year and a half of internship experience) or for those with at least 10 years of experience (I don’t think I need to get into that one).
Despite the grim state of the legal market (right now), it is much better than it was a few years ago, and according to some news outlets, it is bouncing back. So, why should you go to law school?
Because you love the law. If you have a passion for law and all things legal, law school is for you. The 3 years you are there are spent reading about the law, writing about the law, being awkwardly called on spontaneously and mostly without warning about the law, doing internships, and other activities involving the law, etc. You will enjoy law school and definitely enjoy whatever job you land after you graduate.
Because you want to help people. Being a lawyer, for the most part, is about helping people. In all of my internships, I have helped various members of the population from different demographics. It can be depressing, but knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life makes it worth it at the end of the day. Plus, there are so many areas of the law in which you can help people that you are bound to find something that interests you whether its the law of older people (yes, that exists), family law, personal injury law, etc. You will be making a difference in your client’s life, and that is especially rewarding.
Because you have a passion for working long hours. Law involves long hours, especially if you work at a big firm. However, not everyone minds working long hours. If you’re one of those people, then aiming for a big law job might be the perfect idea for you. I have friends that work from 8:30 in the morning until 7 at night. I know others than work from 9 am to 3 am, if they’re lucky. Being comfortable with working crazy, long, and sometimes unreasonable hours is essential, especially if you are aiming to work for a big law firm, and if you’re okay with that, the legal profession is definitely right for you. Note: Not all legal jobs are like this. Government and public sector jobs tend to be 9 to 5, as are corporate jobs, for the most part.
Because you want to make money. It’s not a secret that the legal profession, if you get the right job, pays a lot of money. Many law firms will start first year associates at a six figure salary. If you also clerk for a judge the year before you join the law firm, you may get a bonus. I found a firm once that offered a six figure starting salary plus a $50,000 bonus just for clerking. Like I said in my last post, don’t go into the legal profession because you want to make money – you’re not guaranteed to get a job like the one I mentioned above – but if you do well and go to a good school, you’re more likely get hired by one of those companies that pays their lawyers very, very well.
Because you want to learn the intricacies of the legal system and be a part of that world. If you want to be a part of the legal world and know how the legal system works, going to law school is the perfect way to learn. You are highly encouraged to take internships during your summers and even during the semester at law school. These are extremely important for experience, job prospects, and for learning. Law school doesn’t do much to prepare you for legal practice – though it does prepare you on how to read and interpret cases. However, those internships will do wonders for your experience and immersion into the legal world.
You can’t imagine yourself being anything other than an attorney. I think this speaks for itself. If you have always wanted to be an attorney and can’t imagine not being one, then obviously law school is right for you.
You are willing to make certain sacrifices early on to be financially stable and successful later in life. Sometimes your career will involve long hours. You may have to forego riding; seeing your friends, family, or significant other; going out on the weekends; or even eating normal meals when it comes to your job. Your plan for having a family by 30 may be put on hold due to the long hours being asked of you at a firm. You will be asked to make sacrifices. I highlighted some of the ones I’ve heard of in my previous post. But – if you don’t mind doing so, then by all means, law may be right for you – especially a job at a big law firm – one that may not let you go home at 5 because there’s a huge trial happening the next day. The upside of making these sacrifices? You may make partner in a firm or at least become a senior associate a lot faster than those who aren’t willing to make the sacrifices. Being a partner or senior associate not only means a higher paycheck but also a more stable, satisfying job (Read: Remember when you were a lowly associate? Now you will have your own that reports to you).
While law school and the legal profession can be miserable, taxing, and downright frustrating, there are many rewards associated with it. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize those, especially when you are down on your job. Not everything about being a lawyer is completely negative, and if this is something you want to do, it’s best to educate yourself on both sides of the profession – not just the positive and not just the negative. Weigh the pros and cons, and consider what’s in your heart. You will make the right decision.
As always, I am always here to answer any questions having gone through the law school application process, law school, internships, job searching, post-graduate work, etc. If you have a question, you can tweet me, Facebook me, or shoot me an email. I would love to hear from you and give you advice, if I can!