5 Myths about going to law school

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By Stephen Seckler, Managing Director, Boston Office, BCG Attorney Search and author of the blog Counsel to Counsel.

The cost of a legal education is now reaching stratospheric proportions. Anyone contemplating this enormous investment of time and money should think long and hard before applying.

Here are five common myths about what law school will do for you:

Myth 1: I’ll be able to use the law degree in whatever career I decide to choose.
Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer. But don’t go if you believe it will “open doors” for you. It won’t. By the end of law school you may still have no idea what you “want” from your career; only now you are likely to limited by huge law school debt.

Myth 2: I’ll get a job when I graduate law school.
If you graduate near the top of your class from a top school, then your job prospects are likely to be strong. But if you have an average performance from a second-tier school, finding your first job may be a big challenge.

Myth 3: I’ll get to be in court and try cases.
Most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom. About 95% of all civil law suits that are filed are settled before trial. Much of the work of a “litigator” involves reviewing documents, preparing court filings and negotiating with the lawyer from the other side of the case.

Myth 4: I’ll be able to advocate for the little guy.
If you are independently wealthy, you can advocate for the poor, fight for environmental justice, defend civil rights, etc. But if you are like the typical law school graduate today, you will finish with substantial debt. Public interest jobs are too low paying to accommodate a heavy debt burden. Some law schools have a debt-forgiveness program for people going into public interest jobs, but the salaries are so low that they are often hard to manage even in light of debt forgiveness.

Myth 5: I’ll have intellectually challenging work.
Early in your career, you will probably spend a lot of time reviewing documents all day rather than tackling great intellectual issues. Even litigators – many of whom go into law to argue exciting, constitutional issues — will spend most of their time researching mundane procedural issues at the beginning of their career.

If you’re thinking of going to law school, make sure you have a clear plan for how you will make that degree useful (and essential) when you graduate. Find some practicing lawyers and spend time with them to find out what they really do for a living.

If you are already in law school and reading this, don’t panic. Rather, start doing some of the harder thinking that you put off and figure out how you want to make the best use of your degree when you do graduate. The work you do now will surely pay off in the long run.


232 replies
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  1. MJ
    MJ says:

    Annie – one thing to do is ditch Political Science and major in something you like. Tons of Poly Sci majors go into law, too many in fact – study something that really excites you (you can get into law school with a music degree, math degree, arts degree etc. or maybe you should really work for a year or two before you get back into school) or something that excites you enough and also produces a salary (teaching, etc.). Poly Sci is NOT a pre-req to law school.

  2. Slava
    Slava says:

    I am simply unable to comprehend how someone would fork over $100k for a job that pays around $50k or, worse yet, no real guarantee of anything. The truth that no one seems to be mentioning here is that more attorneys are minted each year than the market can absorb- it’s a numbers thing. The whole personal enrichment thing is a crock- if you want that go to the library and read some books and join a debate club or something. I went to a 2nd tier public law school for about a third of the $100k. I understand the school has raised rates some since I graduated in 05, but certainly not to the $1000 a credit range I read about. Also, if you’re a prospective student and think you will go to LS and get the best grades in the class- most of you can think again. An error a lot of students make is not differentiating themselves to employers by picking a substantive area to specialize in. When these students get out of school they blast their resumes to any and every firm they can find, usually with little success and end up doing personal injury or its counterpart insurance defense (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The rest of the equation is really not all that surprising (if you still want to go to law school knowing everything here): go to the best school you can possibly get into, get the best grades you can possibly get and take every opportunity in school to get job experience that a prosepctive employer might be interested in, whether paid or not. You will be bound to much of above-mentioned myths/truths about the profession (such as the imganiry cutoff line between the exeptional and mediocre student)but at least you will have a fighting chance.

  3. Ann
    Ann says:

    I love this topic! I’ve been working a non-legal job (where I’m the only lawyer) since I graduated from law school.

    After a year in school, I realized that I didn’t want to do traditional legal practice, so I embraced that decision and ran with it. Time I could’ve spent wandering through the OCI process (which many ambivalent students did by default) was instead spent volunteering, interning, and networking with non-lawyers. This made it easy for me to find a non-legal job after graduation. However, I did submit a few resumes to non-legal jobs where I didn’t know the employer very well, and received basically no callbacks. This is why it’s especially key to network — you want to make sure that people understand that you’re not just “lost” and that this is actually part of your career plan.

    I think this is extra-challenging for young JDs because the legal community is so insular. New JDs come out of law school with basically no new skills other than legal skills. Sure, we learn how to think more clearly and be analytical, which is great, but those skills are way too abstract to get you a specific job.

    I think most people really respect a law degree. A person who has relevant skills *AND* a JD is going to be a compelling candidate for many non-legal jobs that technically require a different graduate degree. However, having a JD is never going to trump the fact that you have no experience or relevant skills in a particular field.

  4. Travis
    Travis says:

    I am a first year, first semester student and I am dropping out due to many of the reasons listed here. Many people (including my pre-law school self) think you fight through the hell of law school for a better life, but it’s just not true. The debt one acquires from law school, combined with the abundance of lawyers in the country, leads many young lawyers to be forced to sell themselves for bottomed out bargain prices. It’s quite embarrassing for a person with so much education.

    I went to law school because I was too proud and naive to see how depressing a life I would have as a lawyer. I thought I was smart enough to be a lawyer, and it would be a waste of my intelligence to not challenge myself. I did not want to back out of law school and 25 years later think what if? Now even though I am upset that I blew so much money, I am happy I realize the error in my way before I blow 6 times as much money.

    To all prospective law students, the best advice I can give is think about the work you will be doing in law school. Picture yourself reading and briefing boring cases for hours at a time, outlining all the material you have so that the entire course makes some sense to you, and then drilling all of that information into your head every day (not to mention legal writing which you don’t even want to know about). All the while, you are tired, frustrated, and borderline depressed from having no life but the law. Moreover, no matter how hard you work, there isn’t a threshold that you have to meet, rather there are students you have to beat in order for you to get ahead. It’s a competition where everyone loses. If you aren’t prepared to do this at least 40 hours a week, in addition to class and legal writing, and you aren’t either in a top school, have a free ride scholarship, or have great connections, don’t go. You may be placed even in the top 1/3 of your class if you are lucky, but all the hell you go through will not be worth it. You will likely live a life you do not want to live for many years, if not for the rest of your life.

    As for those who think they can still handle law school, give yourself a test. Work 6 hours every day on LSAT prep in addition to doing your regular work. If you can manage that, law school might be for you, but if not, don’t bother. Those study habits and the high pressure environment of the LSAT come comparably close (keep in mind only slightly though) to the stress you will be under in law school. If you don’t enjoy that slave pressure, (i don’t) find another profession. You will be much happier and have more money.

  5. Walter
    Walter says:

    I’m a fourth year engineering student who is simply burnt out. I never cared for being an engineer, but only did it for pragmatic reasons. I have come to the conclusion that unless I develop a new found love for it, I’m don’t think I’m ever going to make much of an engineer. Sure the pay might be okay and the work not too stressful, but I feel as if I could’ve made something of myself in another field like law. The idea of having to go to graduate school of engineering makes me want to puke. It has gotten to the point where I can’t go a day without feeling trapped and regret. How can I go to graduate school with that attitude. I spend all my days and nights studying studying in a well-ranked science school, have a low GPA to show for it (3.0), and feel as if I’m missing out on better opportunities.

    Frankly I find law to be a more intellectually challenging field than engineering. I think that something along the lines of international law would be interesting, or even patent law given my science background and the law of science majors in law. I’m also considering doing something along the lines of working in the foreign service or some type of international job. I honestly don’t know what I want to do. I need to figure it out.

    I guess my question is given my low GPA, can I still get into a decent law school. I mean I’ve heard people say that its easier for an engineering major to get into law school given the intensity of their major. If that’s true, what does my GPA translate to for someone from a field such as political science.

    I’m also wondering if I should even consider law school. I mean I know in the long run I’d like it more than engineering, unless I could get through grad school, which I seriously doubt I can. In the short run it might be difficult, a high stress job with little pay.

    For those of you who think that I shouldn’t consider law school if I can’t handle grad school, trust me I can. Given my abilities, I know I can make a better law student than engineering student.

    • Wilton
      Wilton says:

      Speaking purely on an admissions standpoint, forget your GPA, focus on your LSAT. Your points on GPA are somewhat correct in that it is easier to get into a decent law school GPA wise with a hard major as opposed to a soft major but the largest factor in admissions decisions is the LSAT. If you are able to score a 170 (taking your GPA into consideration), you may be able to get into a top 30. But hey, ppl do transfer ::shrugs::

    • JenJen
      JenJen says:

      With your background, you would be a great candidate for IP law, which is one of the better specialties from what I’ve seen/heard as far as pay, job security, and civility among attorneys. (Disclaimer: this is all hearsay.)

      I’d second the comment from Wilton. Invest everything you’ve got in mastering the LSAT and your grades will matter much less. If the games sections are the most difficult for you (they were for me and most people I’ve tutored), I worked for a couple of different LSAT courses and Get Prepped has a manual that deals only with “puzzle games” that is one of the most helpful out there. Otherwise, I checked study books out of the local library before the LSAT and spent 3 hours a night studying after my regular job. Saves the $20-50/manual.

      Best of luck in finding a happier career path!!

  6. Brad
    Brad says:

    These myths pretty much sum things up. Finding a job as a lawyer can be difficult. It depends on what kind of law one has specialized in, how the market is doing and so on. I have heard great success stories as well as great failure stories. These days one degree is not enough even if it is a law degree.

  7. Faye
    Faye says:

    I wish I had read this in college but I don’t know that it would have made a difference. I am a creative type A person with a borderline personality disorder i.e. every other person at my law school. Needless to say, 99% of the people I still talk to have serious doubts about their choice to be a lawyer. The soul-crushing debt doesn’t help. But then neither does the ridiculous hours you can work on a normal basis or the overwhelming fear of failure that such close proximity to other insane people can generate.

    I agree with all the advice from the post and would add that going to a top ranked school is very important. If you step outside the top fifteen schools you need to be in the top 10% of your class. Or have a darn good story. While there are a lot of markets wihout top tier schools, there are a lot of top tier students in every market. Especially right now.

    As a final note, I wonder if the unhappy people in law would just be unhappy people in yet another field. I must admit that I am not happy. But I can’t think of a profession that would make me “happy”. I think some people just don’t get that kind of satisfaction from a job.

  8. G Man
    G Man says:

    Seeking Advice.

    I am a professional writer with a background in public service work going into law school for a blend of practical and some ideals: career stability, intellectual challenge, and an interst in law…. These comments have sparked many thoughts. Right now I am balancing going to a Tier III school for free (setting me up for a public service position debt free) or a top-50 school or top-30 with various amounts of scholarship and debt. How should I judge all this? 1) My gut says (based on my own work experience) that one has to be tenacious to get a job anyway, and having $60,000-plus in debt would be a new stress to add onto that. Many do it though. 2) On the other hand, at some of the better schools my professors would be people who really accomplished something in their private and public sector fields before (and even during) dipping their hands into the classroom. Advice welcomed.

  9. JK
    JK says:

    Dear Seeking Advice,

    First, don’t go into law for “career stability”, get a job with the federal government if you want stability. Sometimes it is easier to get a job in the fed gov w/out a law degree.
    In addition,as a practicing attorney, who worked for Biglaw until the mortgage market crash, and is now unemployed, I don’t see a whole lot of stability in this field. Even without the layoff, the typical career path for an attorney in Biglaw is work your butt off for five years until you make partner. If you work your butt off for five years and don’t make partner, you’re out of the firm, and left to either find another firm, find government work, or start your own firm. I will add that most law firm consider you “damaged goods” if you didn’t make partner at your old firm.

    Second, whether you go to a T3 or T1 school depends on what you want to do and how comfortable with debt you are. I went to a T4 school, with a full ride, and got a fancy appellate clerkship right after. Then to big law. I wanted to do international work (impossible in the midwest). The market crashed and now I can’t even find a secretary job b/c of my law degree. BUT, I am ever grateful that I’m not paying much in student loans. Conversely, I also know a lot of T1 law grads, one of whom clerked with me, who are temping as document review attorneys ($25 hr, no benefits), working as sales folks at Westlaw, or are unemployed. I have many friends whose monthly loan payments are $900 or more.

    Here’s what you know: you know that T1 doesn’t guarantee you a job, only better chances at getting a job. You also know that going to T3 doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it does guarantee you less debt. I’d go the T3 route if I were you.

    • JenJen
      JenJen says:

      I’d also vote for the T3 route. There are no guarantees, and the less debt you burden yourself with, the better. At least with the T3, you will have the option at any time over the next 3 years or thereafter to simply change directions if you become unhappy. You won’t have to deal with the “golden handcuffs,” so to speak. Plus, if you do very well there, you can always transfer to improve your chances later on if your grades merit it or you find that the networking opportunities you’ve received make transferring a smart choice.

      Plus, most of us found that law school, and then legal practice, was different in person no matter how much research we did prior to enrolling. It’s hard to predict whether you’ll love it and flourish in that environment, or find that you are wretchedly miserable no matter how high your class rank is until you’ve tried it. The less you commit early on, the better, IMO.

  10. vshape_UCLA
    vshape_UCLA says:

    MINORITIES IN LAW – €“ Dealing with the Good Old Boys Network
    Can anyone shed light on being a minority and prospects for law firm offers? I’m Latino, recent grad from UCLA currently in a Law Fellowship Program at the UCLA School of Law. I am prepping for my LSAT. My application range will be from top 7 – €“ 25 schools. I know this issue is off topic a bit, but if I have to deal with this on top all the issues brought forth on this forum — May God force me into an 8 to 5 paper-pushing job now.

    Being fully aware of the racial disparities that exist in the in common workplace, I am wondering whether this is intensified in the law field . It hasn't been difficult to find paper-pushing jobs that pay $15-$20 an hour with my B.A. At this level of pay my race isn't such a factor. My concern pertains to this law-field of predominantly Caucasian men. I’m worried that even with a strong undergrad background and god-willing doing well in law school I will not get offers because of my racial background.
    What racial disparities are apparent when seeking clerkships, internships, applying to firms and making partner? Any guidance, thoughts and advice is much appreciated.

    My cousin put it simply "you're now seeking a white man's job. Be ready to prove yourself to be good-enough and even then expect doors to be cordially closed on you." I seek to go into M&As having worked for a renown professor in this field at UCLA for 3 years. However, I keep feeling like people expect me to go into immigration law because I'm Latino. Is this their subtle way of telling me I shouldn't attempt to enter the M&A law realm where the "good old boy network guy" will get the job over the hard working Latino? FYI I'm by no means racists against white men, just realistic – €“ so I would appreciate candor.

    • Ruben A Yustor
      Ruben A Yustor says:

      Its not your skin color oor yoru race I have friends doing the same type of work you want to do, and they are neither white and some are not even men. Its hard its not rewarding except for the 120k you get and you end up burnt out as the partners implement what is called “churn and burn”. They take young lawyers kill them with tedious cases and unrealistic billable requirements and put the carrot of partner in front of their noses who ever goes the farthest wins and the rest need to find employment elsewhere. My best friend from law school a Mexican women ended up in a job like what you want. She represented ENRON in Texas for her firm. She loves her work but does not always feel that she contributes to the betterment of humanity. I on the other hand am an immigration lawyer and feel that every day my work helps my clients achieve their dreams. Its not all bad and its not all about race or sex either.

      • Pablo
        Pablo says:

        To the UCLA student: you have an odd view of the world that is a bit–how shall I say–stunted and narrow. You categorically and irrationally impugn on a whole field characteristics that are far from the norm, all based on stereotypes you may have heard on the off-chance and from biased sources. In short, I don’t think you have the logical skills to make a decent lawyer, much less a good one. And I’m not white or privileged. I’m a poor Latino like yourself, going to a top law school. The view from the inside is quite interesting–under-represented minorities are sought after and wanted by most employers. You can get lower grades than whites or Asians, and still have opportunities that may be denied them. As to the racism once you make it into one of these coveted positions: it’s there, but it’s not bad. It will lead to some stunted opportunities, but there are other opportutnities opened to you that are closed to others. So, I don’t know who you’re speaking to, but you should a) stop and b) think and do more research. You’d be surprised how not ‘good-old boy’ network-y the legal field really is (at least that’s been my personal experience, and I, rationally will say that it may not be representative or even close to the norm).

  11. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    HaHa–Sorry I didn’t include that Michael. She wears a 5 1/2. I don’t know about him. I’ll have to get back to you on that. Have a great day.

  12. Ruben A Yustor
    Ruben A Yustor says:

    My advice become a professor and get your Phd. You do it in about the same amount of time as law school. You have a better chance at applying what you know in a low stress environment, and you get to write papers when you feel like it that broaden your mind but don’t mean life or death to your client. A new professor gets about 90k and if she publishes enough and politics enough she ends up with a job for life. For get Law School enroll in a PHD program.

    Written by a current lawyer in private practice.

    • BG
      BG says:

      You have got to be kidding. First off, law school is 3 years. A masters and PhD is a minimum of 4 more likely 5years. And 90K for a new prof? Maybe at some of the elite engineering and business schools on the coasts. Full professors in the humanities are lucky if they see that after 30 years, then again with all the adjuncts out there humanities professors are lucky they have full time jobs. Professors start out as assistant profs where they try to publish anything they can get away with and bring in as much research money to the school for their first 7 years so they can get tenure. Yeah it isn’t life or death for any client, but its not an easy job. Once they get tenure its certainly a lot easier, but they’re in their mid 30s by that point and had they gone the law route they could be a partner making way more than a new full professor.

      If you love doing research, then the professorship route is a great way to go, but its far less lucrative than law, though its probably less stressful especially once you get tenure.

  13. Tommy
    Tommy says:

    This is blog is full of negative Nancy’s. I completed my undergrad degree at a school that is not even ranked, but had plenty of job offers upon graduation. I graduated from a California State University, and my first job paid $54K–this was in 2005. Not much, but I knew folks who graduated from “competitive” universities that were making less than I was, and some of those grads couldn’t even find work! I also knew people who graduated from the same school as myself, and still, till this day, blame their financial situation on the lack of recognition that our university receives. The difference between myself and them? I’m positive, not lazy, and I apply myself. I, myself am thinking about law school, and I think I can possibly get into a top 20 school, but even if I don’t, I know that I WILL find a job that pays well…PERIOD.

    Life is what you make of it, as is education. Don’t be a loser. Hustle, apply yourself, and stay positive. Don’t let people pass their failures onto you. I think blogs like this attract people with second thoughts, or lawyers that are unhappy/bored. Lawyers actually doing something with their careers are much too busy to waste their time reading negative comments.

    That’s my two cents.

    Good luck!

    • JenJen
      JenJen says:

      I hope to hear from you after you attend law school and work in the legal field for a bit. Hopefully you will be able to tell the rest of us how to do it better by not being so lazy.

  14. marie
    marie says:

    My husband returned to grad school after many years out. His background is in the arts. He is at a top tier law school …actually the number 1 school in the country. He is also a minority.
    He is finding it really tough as most of the other students are very young, very white and very bright. My husband, let’s call him Bill, is a very intelligent guy but is a little disheartened as he really is trying his best and cannot seem to get honors(he is at a school with a pass fail system where an H will be given out sometimes). He also found out that he is a bit below the average, though a prospective employer would never know this with the pass fail system. He has a summer job lined up (and he is just a 1L) with a government office. What do you think his prospects may be as a slightly older black man(38),who graduates from the top school in the country which has a pass fail system but who doesn’t get honors himself. He is not into going to a big firm….is interested in government(museums, etc) or suchlike. His debts will not be astronomical but maybe $50,000 or so as he has scholarships.

    • Tommy
      Tommy says:

      If your husband is going to the top law school in the country, then he’s at Harvard. Of course he’s going to find it harder to be above average at a school that sets the bar higher than any other! Age. Hmmm…I think it is always harder to change careers the older you get. As far as race is concerned–look at Obama. If that isn’t motivation enough, I don’t know what is. Not sure why your husband is so concerned with age, race, being below average, etc. The matter of the fact is that he is not going to be competing for a $160K salary, since he doesn’t want to work for a big law firm.

      Harvard grads, are harvard grads….I think people who have problems graduate from tier 2 schools.

  15. David
    David says:

    I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years and I think this is an excellent cautionary article. Many, many lawyers have rather humdrum or difficult jobs making far less money than people imagine. Yes, of course, if you go to a top-20 law school and graduate in the top part of your class — or if you go to Harvard Yale or Stanford, period — you will have great prospects. But you have lots of career anyway or you wouldn’t have been accepted.

    I hate to see so many kids (forgive me, I’m 52) coming out of middling or worse law schools with anywhere from 50 to 100k in loan debt and job prospects that do not remotely jusstify that kind of baggage. Choices like that can limit your options for decades. I would not go to law school again – and I had a top 2 percent LSAT score.

  16. Meagan
    Meagan says:

    I’m a sophomore in junior standing…that is i will graduate next year from a university in N.C! I’m a poli sci major and wish that i would have majored in english. I really do want to go to law school, but am currently afraid that i might not get into a good law school. I want to attend the Univ. of chicage law school, but am very afriad for my LSAT Scores and GPA! I currently have a 3.08 and am hoping to increase it in the final semesters. I’m rushing through undergrad b/c my parents can’t afford it and well they aren’t that educated and don’t understand the matters that go along with higher education! I really want to go to law school because my entire undergraduate career and experiences have surrounded its essence. I’d like to study family law or education law! I’m passionate about both types. I don’t want to get stuck! Please tell me what i should do! I’m so confused!

  17. Bittersweet
    Bittersweet says:

    Hey Meagan –

    Bittersweet here again. If you really have your heart set on law school, do some research first to make sure you know what your are getting into. Start to frequent legal websites like “Tom the Temp” and “JDUnderground” and you can get a feel for what a lot of the profession is like.

    If you are serious about becoming a lawyer, I would HIGHLY recommend that you work for a year as a paralegal or legal assistant. It is nothing like it is portrayed on tv. It can be tedious and mind numbing, or it can be interesting and ground breaking. Given my comments above, I bet you can guess what the majority of my work has been.

    No one should tell you what you should do – you have to decide that for yourself. Just make certain that you realize exactly what your are getting into. Talk to attorneys in the fields your are interested in. See if you can shadow them. See if they would do it over if they were given the chance. Look and see if they are content with the choices that they made. Ask them what they think of the idea of going to law school now, given the time and amount of money you would need to borrow. Make sure you are going in with your eyes open.

    And marrying well wouldn’t hurt either. :)

    Good luck.

  18. Jeremy B
    Jeremy B says:

    This is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read in my life. Sure, law school is hard! Sure, debt is incurred. And most definitely, if you aren’t sure that you will like the responsibilities involved and have no background information to base a decision on…..there’s no way you should walk onto campus as an L1! However, one of the most important rules to remember…no matter what your profession is….ITS WHO YOU KNOW! I can’t tell you how far I’ve gotten networking and using connections! Get up off your ass and show folks what you’ve got! I did it! Im graduating from college in May and I got into law school a couple of months ago. I will be starting my L1 year in August. All of the attorneys I talked to(MANY) said do well in school and you will be fine! Which is a given! The fact of the matter is….every industry needs legal experts! As well, there aren’t enough graduates even coming out of the top tier law schools or for that matter, graduating top of their class, to fill the numerous positions! Theres no way in the world you can convince me or anyone else that there is, considering the ubiquity of attorney positions available all across the country (50 states) for some who might not know! Just as much, experiences are valuable! Create opportunities where there arent any! Diversify your experience! Intern in areas that might not be directly tied to law! Banking,Financial Services, Entertainment, etc. Seek out such responsibilites as managing, promoting, marketing, developing and etc…..ALL golden terms on resumes! Add a Juris Doctorate and voila! Also, be positive! Stop being so boringly demure! It shows in your attitude and appearance! Im not just talking either! I learned from the best and most powerful people in my city and state-these lessons! Peace and may God be with all of my fellow legal eagles this Easter!

  19. David
    David says:

    Bittersweet, your overcaffeinated post (read any style book on !!!s) ignores the fact that the points listed in the article as “Five Myths About Law School” are by and large accurate. Yes if you go to a Top Ten school or do law review at a top-quartile school, you should have a wide array of choice legal jobs, many of them prestigious and lucrative ones. But many people end up disappointed.

    Meagan, you say your heart is set on law school — I wouldn’t dream of trying to talk anyone out of it. Some people love being lawyers. As far as your options of law schools go, there are plenty of resources to tell you how many applicants got into a particular school with a given LSAT and GPA. No sane person would apply to U of Chicago (or any single top school) as their only choice.

    You also mention “family law.” Much of that work is done by solo or small practices, is not the least bit glamorous, and can be downright ugly — proving which parent doesn’t deserve to have the kid. (Often both parents, it turns out.)

    Whatever you do, good luck. Career choices are hard in this country. What I hate to see is so many young people going to law school and incurring mortgage-size debt without even considering their options. For far too many graduates, law school becomes the default choice in a society that does a lousy job of helping people choose careers. There is a private law school in my hometown that ranked in the bottom quartile of the US News surveys. Its graduates averaged over $100,000 per year in loan debt several years back — I’m sure that has grown. I have little doubt that many of those grads might have made different choices if they knew law school was often not the Magic Carpet to Career Fulfillment many believe it to be.

    • Bittersweet
      Bittersweet says:

      Overcaffeinated? I’m just saying that she should make her decision herself with full information. I have no intention of dismissing the original author’s comments. I still stand by the comments that I made above on 2/2/08 which agreed with the original poster. My follow up comment was to Meagan (and others like her), that have their hearts set on law school and won’t listen to the naysayers. And I wholeheartedly put myself in that category. So many think “Oh, So-and-so is just bitter. That can’t/won’t happen to me.” And then it happens to a whole lot of them anyway.

      If people take the time to really get into the profession, they have a better chance of learning for themselves than if naysayers just try to scare them away.

      Far be it from me to crush somebody’s dream. But a reality check can be really useful before all the eggs are put in one basket.

  20. Josh
    Josh says:

    Thank you so much for creating this blog and creating these helpful discussions. My story probably goes along with a lot of those that would read this blog.

    I graduated 2 years ago from a very well known University in North Carolina. I majored in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Professional Legal Studies, basically its a pre-law degree. I was fully prepared to go straight on to law school after college. The LSAT ended up being a little more difficult then I imagined and I decided to take a year or two off. I had interned at the Public Defender’s Office at my home town for a summer during school and ended up loving it so I went for and earned a job as a Legal Assistant there.

    Everyday I thought about law school, I ate, breathed, and slept the thought of going to law school. I took an LSAT class (don’t use Kaplan) and did fairly well on the test. I applied to and got into a fair amount of tier 3 and 4 schools and one that would have only cost me about $15,000. However, things changed for me really without even knowing it.

    I love the attorneys I work with but over time my desire to follow in their footsteps waned. When you eat and work with these people everyday you really get to know them and the issues that exist in the field. Many of the younger attorneys have 2nd jobs and live very modest life styles and I realize that working as a Public Defender isn’t very lucrative but that is no excuse for having to get a second job when you have a JD. Even though I work in the PD’s Office I still have a lot of interaction with private attorneys as well as other government lawyers and everyone agrees that there are SIGNIFICANT downsides being a lawyer. This blog touches on the most important ones, especially enjoying what you do.

    To make a long story end a little bit faster, I decided to take a look at other options out there. I’ve decided after many sleepless nights to turn down law school and attend the Institute of World Politics. I will be earning a Masters in Strategic Intelligence Studies. I’m so happy that I took the time to learn first hand about the legal field and would encourage ANYONE that’s thinking about law school to at least shadow someone to learn more about what they will be doing the rest of their lives.

  21. Kevin Davies
    Kevin Davies says:

    You may be right about a US Law degree as let’s face it anyone can obtain one of those. I have \ real LLB from the Uk and never intended to be a Lawyer. I am a Comercial Director in a large utility company and my LLB proved invaluable in not only obtaining the job but also in doing it so well.

    In addition to this I rescently successfully sued a company which caused me injury and but for my knowledge of ‘the eggshell theory’ in Tort I would not now have 250k in my bank account. My so called Lawyer was prepared to accept a reduced award on the basis that the Defendant did not know about my pre existing medical problem… God save us from idiot Lawyers!

    Stop misleading people.

    • David Scott
      David Scott says:

      Why you arrogant and obnoxious twit. “Anyone can obtain a US law degree?” The best US law schools are as good as any in the world, and even top 40 or top 50 schools have outstanding faculty and bright students.

      I think far too many US undergrads go to law school and for all the wrong reasons. They don’t know what else to do after college. They skipped math and science. They think all lawyers make 100k salaries (many do and many don’t). They’re in denial about the loan debt. And they don’t know what lawyers do, which ranges from incredibly stimulating for some to drudgery for many others.

      But the last thing I need to read here is some arrogant generalized put down of US law schools. What tripe.

  22. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    As a previous poster said, it’s all about attitude. I might add that it’s about perspective as well. As an undergrad in the class of 2007, I debated between attending law school and pursuing a career as a magazine editor. I decided to try the latter before going into debt pursuing the former. Here I am two years later. I’ve had great internships, some of them paid, and I’ve done some freelancing. Journalism jobs, especially at magazines, are incredibly hard to come by and once you obtain a coveted editorial assistant or assistant editor job, you will only make about $25,000 in a small city or $35,000 in NYC. Even as a senior editor 20 years down the road, you’ll probably be making no more than $150,000 in NYC or $80,000 in a small city–and that’s if you’re lucky and you know your stuff!
    After dipping my toes in journalism, I find the complaints lawyers make about the job market and salaries absolutely ridiculous. So what if I don’t make $160,000 at my first job out of law school? Even if I make $50,000 at my first job–and have law school debt–I’ll still be doing far, far better than I would have been as an aspiring journalist.

    Stop complaining, people!! Be grateful for the job opportunities you have.

    • JenJen
      JenJen says:

      I’m a prior journalist as well, and you’re right that financially you are better as an attorney MOST of the time. There’s no guarantee that you will be “far, far better” though – the improvement COULD be much better, but it could also be very marginal, or non-existent. Plus, the improvement will occur after three years of ZERO progress in the working world and a high cost to your personal life. So include the cost of three years of no progress in your calculations. If you still love the law, then the other advice on this board from practicing attorneys is very solid. Best of luck.

    • Ohio lawyer
      Ohio lawyer says:

      Comparing the possibilities of law school to journalism is a little akin to saying law school isn’t so bad because you could be making buggy whips.

  23. Jim
    Jim says:

    If you know people waiting to hire you upon passing the bar, go to law school. If you think law might be the best road to clear 100k per year from an oak-and-leather office with support staff, please turn off the TV.

    I sold my PI practice last year after four years in business. Why? Liability. In my opinion, people in general are scoping out anyone making a good living, looking for ways to scam them out of money. I’ve seen it within and without the ranks of lawyers. As this economy deepens, people will get more desperate and will do more desperate things to earn ‘free’ money. Law in the West has become a game of survival… and the predators are also the game.

    If you have another option, where you know people who want to work with you in whatever field, consider it equally with law. Unless you can sell ice to an Eskimo, law really is about who you know, your pedigree and how much you are willing to stretch the truth.

  24. Cassandra
    Cassandra says:

    Oh my God, this blog is so depressing. But undoubtedly honest and helpful with a hint of realistic humor. I find it funny that someone suggested becoming an engineer. That person perhaps doesn’t realize that most law students have liberal arts backgrounds and either despise mathematics or failed miserably at it because their strengths lie in communications, writing, research, etc…. I WISH I could have been an engineer but always struggled in math and excelled in verbal. Oh the unbalanced SATs of my youth…..after my undergrad I was accepted to two top law schools. Something made me want to throw up when I considered actually going….oh yeah, it was the expense and potential debt that made me ill….with the fact that my dad had died early in life and my mom spent all their retirement funds trying to save him from cancer – so there was no silver spoon for me to suck on while attending law school. I decided to forgo the opportunity and did some other very interesting things for awhile. However, the monkey on my back ( getting accepted to top schools in the first place) wouldn’t leave me alone and I thought I would dip my toe into at least experiencing the life of law. So….I became a paralegal. I landed a really good job, paid very well with a real estate law firm. I was making really good money within two years but quickly found myself taking two and three hour lunches with one of the managing partners when we both found ourselves bored out of our minds. I quickly hated every single moment of working in law and watched the four attorneys on my team wiggle through their days with resentment and boredom. Yes, they drove nice cars, had nice houses to sleep in, and picked up the tab at Morton’s steak house form lunch, but…..they were overworked and under-stimulated most days. I quit after two years, never went to law school and even though I’m struggling a little financially at the moment ( mostly because of a divorce during bad timing with the economic downturn) I am quite happy to have no debt and I work for a non-profit doing some really meaningful and intellectually challenging stuff. I kicked that monkey to the curb and don’t regret not going to law school or continuing to work in a miserably boring career of law. So, why am I on here reading this if I’m over it and confident with my decision? Let’s be honest, the monkey is still knocking on my door. I suppose there is a part of me that really wants to be an attorney. In fact, I’ll be honest, I would actually like to work in family law…..I’m narcissistic perhaps.

  25. AJU
    AJU says:

    While the article stated some particular truths, I am still a believer in one’s own initiative and perserverance. I do agree with the statement that you should not pursue a career in law if all you want is money. I will give an example of myself. Having just graduated with an undergrad in Finance and Accounting, I was fortunate to find a job at one of the best financial firms in the world. And on top of that, I am working in corporate securities, a field that I would entertain should I decide to go to law school. I am a strong believer in the 2-4 yrs work stipulation before law school. Law school should not be about trying to put your name on a high risk trade a person doesn’t have any keen interest towards. It should be about being firm and confident in your resolve and abilities in pursuing a career, not a job. And I really think that cannot be established without garnering work experience, and also knowing the true value of a dollar. Best of luck to anyone pursuing a law degree.

    All else, there are many opportunities with a J.D. available if a person decides not to pursue the lawyer path. My motivation would also stem from the point of view that a law degree is a universally respected degree!

    • Ohio lawyer
      Ohio lawyer says:

      Unless you have time and money to burn, I am very dubious of the idea that it is worth three years of hard work and considerable expense to get a JD if you don’t plan to practice law.

  26. Anon
    Anon says:

    It is unwise to underestimate the impact that hating your job will have on your life. I graduated top of my class from a top state school, so I did get THE job at a large law firm and had no debt. I was basically just pocketing cash, and after 4 years I had saved a ton of money. It didn’t help. The job was so stressful and time-consuming, the partners and senior associates so abusive, that I either cried or worked out until I passed out every day after work. I dreaded every Monday. It impacted my marriage, my family life, everything. Although I have left the profession, I don’t think I will ever fully “get over” staying in a career I hated from the first day of law school. I have met lawyers who are happy, but they tend to fit into one of two camps: (1) extremely introverted individuals who are uber-nerds and control freaks and (2) litigators who love people, love drama and love the game. If I had it to do over again, I would have quit law school and never looked back.

  27. whigrose
    whigrose says:

    You know what really drives me crazy? Sure, part of the reason I went to law school was uncertainty about my future career. After all, I was an English major in undergrad. Still, I decided I really wanted to work with discrimination law in some way. And if I could do that, I’d be happy. I did intern with the EEOC for a year, but with a hiring freeze when I graduated in 2003, I was locked out. After a year and a half of looking, I found a state level clerkship. It was great! Well, work wise it was great, though the pay sucked of course. I handled all sorts of cases–even one on adverse possession. Bet that’s something you lawyers out there never thought you’d see in real life. I had fun for the 3 years I was there. But the reality of it was, my husband and I needed more money. We were in a big city (which we wanted to leave anyway) and were having trouble making ends meet. So, I took a job which doubled my pay overnight starting in 2008. It wasn’t exactly the field I wanted. Yes, it was insurance defense, Workers Comp to be exact. I thought the job was going to last and even if it didn’t, hey, it wasn’t too far from employment law so it would just be another feather in my cap. Sadly, it didn’t last. With the recession setting in, their workload tanked. But of course, I still got blamed for not making those precious billables. Besides that, I was interviewed by the firm’s Chief Financial Officer (not even a lawyer!) and sent to work in an office where no one had the chance to meet me. Needless to say, they didn’t welcome me with open arms. The situation was horrendous from the start and I ended up quitting so I wouldn’t have to say they fired me or even asked me to leave. Now, I’m out of work and looking again. Going on another year and a half without a job. We’ve moved since then. My hubby is thankfully in a high demand career field so he’s doing well. The town we moved to, well, it is less than friendly to outside attorneys coming in. There’s a federal job I applied for which closed out on Monday that I really, really want. It would envolve EEO work plus contracts–right up my alley. But if I don’t get it, there aren’t a lot of other opportunities out there. I feel very trapped and disgusted by my situation. So at the end of the day, I’d have to steer people away from getting a JD too. I guess I’m a rarity, in a way. I went to law school for partly bad reasons, partly good ones, and at the end of it all, decided being a lawyer wouldn’t be so bad if I could find the right fit for me. But oh how hard it is to find that right fit! And yes, my grades still haunt me. I went to a top tier school (ranked mid 30’s) but had only middle of the road grades. Infuriates me that people still ask about that even though I’m so far out and have a clerkship under my belt. So here’s hoping lightening strikes, the tide turns, fortune shines upon me–whatever turn of phrase you care to use–and I land my dream job within the next month or so. ‘Cause if I don’t, who knows what I’ll be able to do with that blasted law degree?

  28. Paul
    Paul says:

    I recently completed my engineering degree and am trying to get into law school next year. I don’t care much for the top tier universities since I can get into my local tier 3 law school without having to take out any loans.

    However, my true goal is to get into politics, preferably local politics such as city council. I’ve found that most politicians either get into the game two ways: they have family connections or they have a law degree. Since I don’t have any politicians as relatives, law school seems like the logical path for me.

    I don’t see any need to waste money on a top tier school when almost every local politician I see attended law school at the same tier 3 school I am applying to.

    I just thought I’d throw politics into the mix, since I hadn’t seen it mentioned on here yet. If anyone has anything to comment on that path, I’d be happy to hear from you.

    I came across this article while researching engineers and law school. I got my engineering degree with relative ease. I rarely studied or put in work and I graduated with honors. I took a couple engineering law electives with law students in school. My teacher was a lawyer/engineer. He told me that he had never seen an engineer who could not make it through law school, but he rarely saw a law student that could make it through engineering.

  29. Nando
    Nando says:

    To irrationally optimististic pre-law students: Law school is a trap for most. Many go to law school for idealistic reasons. However, once one takes on six-figure student loan debt, representing indigent defendants loses some of its appeal.

    Optimism often comes with a high price. You have been warned by many lawyers and JDs on this board and others. Most do not have an axe to grind; they simply want you to avoid the mistake they made, i.e. deciding to attend law school.

    The reality is that the market for lawyers has been saturated for DECADES. This is not merely a symptom of the current state of the economy. There are nowhere near enough lawyer jobs to satisfy 45,000 fresh JDs every year.

    Your legal education will make you overqualified for most non-law jobs. Employers will think you are crazy for not joining a firm and becoming a “wealthy lawyer.” Others will be leery to hire and train someone who they think will wait for a lawyer job to come up.

    To AJU, a J.D. is not universally respected. Yes, it shows drive and initiative. But the average American despises lawyers and the “profession” of law. They recognize law as a racket.

  30. Wilbert
    Wilbert says:

    I had considered going to law school for a while when in college. Even though I took politics I always though i could make a good lawyer. Then I decided against it because it was something that I knew that wouldn’t make me happy. Plus I hate internships…

  31. curious canadian
    curious canadian says:

    After reading all this talk about the top Law schools, I wonder how can one determine which schools are “top schools”? Who does the rankings? How accurate or those rankings? Are the rankings subjective? What methodolgy if any is used to rate the “top” schools”?

    • Ohio Lawyer
      Ohio Lawyer says:

      All academic rankings are somewhat arbitrary. But I think you’ll find a rough consensus about what is a top ten school, a top forty school, or a bottom quartile school. And it matters — lots — in terms of the opportunities and starting salaries (and future possibilities) open to a law school’s grads.

      What kinds of things matter? Selectivity of admissions. Where grads end up practicing, and starting salaries. How good the faculty are — where they went and what they’ve published. Library size. Endowment. You can get a great legal education at a top-40 law school. But when you go out into the career world, you wont get the offers you get from a top ten school. And I doubt you’ll have the same caliber of experience as a student.

  32. MouseMouth
    MouseMouth says:

    To those who addressed engineers entering law schools:

    Law schools love engineers. I have both a BS and MS in engineering and will be going to law school next year. I have gotten into every first tier school to which I have applied. I fully expect to be able to find a job after graduation because in some aspects of the legal profession, my science background is considered necessary by many law firms and corporations.

    If you tried to apply to an engineering graduate program with a pre-law background, admissions boards would think you were out of your mind. It’s not a two-way street. And I wholeheartedly disagree with the statement that “if you are smart enough to get into a second tier law school, you are smart enough to be an engineer”. Being smart enough to get into a Tier 2 law school is necessary, but not sufficient, to get into the field of engineering…(LSAT joke).

    Many of my 1L friends complain about their workloads and how difficult law school is. Their complaints are solely due to the fact that they have not ever had large workloads during their undergrad. So law school can be sort of a “baptism by fire” for someone who was in some sort of “pre-law” program at their undergraduate institution. However, as an engineering graduate student, I expected the large workloads and long hours toiling in the laboratory. So graduate school was not and law school will not be a huge shock for me.

    Great comment BG.

  33. S.G.
    S.G. says:

    Hmm–one kid went to law school on a full ride (SMU–because boyfriend now husband was going there–UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, etc. all offered her the same deal {full ride plus living stipend} after graduating from Duke w/a double major in French & Econ–summa cum laude). She went on to clerk w/a federal judge before joining a law firm. Other kid went to graduate school for engineering on a full ride at Stanford.

    Lawyer kid did some high profile cases in white collar crime (even on TV) & her husband wasn’t happy w/his job so they moved to another state. He is extremely happy; she was not. So she decided to become a law prof. Absolutely loves it, though they live in 2 different states.

    I don’t think a JD is the kind of thing that is positive on your resume if you are not going to practice.

    I am a college drop-out & was a full-time mother so I have nothing to brag about…

  34. Chris
    Chris says:

    I came across this blog today, and this article is on point. I went to a tier 3 school and got average grades. Needless to say, my job prospects were poor upon graduation. All the advice out there is go to a tier 1 school and get in the top 10%. Sure, I'm right on it. Folks, this is such a small percentage of graduates from all the law schools, what do the rest do?

    The mindset for me at graduation was instead of finding my dream job or a very good job, I was hoping or any job! Not a good feeling, considering the 60K debt at the time. I had to take an out of the way clerkship only to link on to an insurance defense firm at a less than impressive salary. That was a few years ago, and now, I'm out of private practice looking for alternatives. It's sick how my career has gone.

    If I had to do it all over again, no way would I have gone to law school. It was so not worth the B.S. If anyone asks me about law school, I'm completely honest – think long and hard about it, otherwise you'll be basically giving 60K to charity, or whatever the cost of law school is these days.

    • Ben
      Ben says:

      I agree with your last comment – people should think long and hard about it before making the decision and taking on the debt.

      “I went to a tier 3 school and got average grades.”

      Again, we all need to remember that going to tier 3 or even 4 isn’t a catastrophe — there are not enough Top 20 school graduates to fill the demand for lawyers in this country – that being said – I do not know why you got average grades nor can I even begin to make assumptions. Some people are smart and do try really hard and still get only average grades (for any number of reasons) – other people, I know these people too – pretended law school was a 5th or 6th year of college. Law school doesn’t have to be bad, I’ve actually had quite a bit of fun and going out — but those taking on loans and treating law school as if it was party central and loans as if they were “free money” are and will be out on their luck come graduation. For them, I’m sorry to say I feel little to no sympathy. The best advice to be given to anyone thinking about law school is (1) understand the high risks and potentially high, but just as likely very low rewards and once they do make the decision to go, (2) treat it as a serious investment and not an excuse to extend college life.

  35. Chris
    Chris says:


    I'm responding to your post and thank you for same. Honestly, I worked very hard in law school, studied hard, went out very little during the first year, and still got average grades. I have no axe to grind, though. After all, I chose to go to law school. Nobody made that choice for me.

    However, I'd just like to warn pre-law students to think very, very carefully about proceeding to law school. Those students getting jobs in this market are at the top of their class. Seriously, what do all the others do? This is a big pool of graduates. And this problem compounds every year. You said, “there aren’t enough Top 20 school graduates to fill the demand for lawyers in this country?” Really? Come on…I find that hard to believe.

    Many applicants are cocky, too; they feel they'll have no problem landing in the top of their class. They don't realize everyone is just as smart as them. For many of them, they'll learn the hard way. With that said, if I can spread the message on blogs such as this and persuade 1 person out there to not go to law school, I think my message would be successful.

  36. Ben
    Ben says:

    Thanks for the response Chris. I do have to stand by my comment though that there are not enough top-20 grads to fill this country’s demand for lawyers. If there are 300 per class, times that by 20 and you get 6,000. Six thousand lawyers entering the market in a huge country of 300 million people is probably just not enough. So top-20 school is not the be all and end all by any means.

    However, your point about being very careful in deciding to go to law school is well taken. Heck, I have plenty of quality job interviews lined up but I still don’t have a job yet, so I may be in for suffering as well despite my hard work. Nevertheless, even if one cannot make the top 10% of class, one should not be disheartened — statistically speaking, the top 40% end up being happier than the top 10% b/c the top 10% end up working in big firms and big firms might equal big salary but it also invariably leads to miserable people. Those in smaller firms and military and govt are much much happier. So in some respects, the not-top-10% of the class gets the last laugh. Everyone should work hard though, I know I have, and join journal, moot court, or preferably both. People shouldn’t think that just because they are not at a top-20 law school or the top 10% of their class that all is lost. BUT, law school is an investment and not a gamble — those who go there b/c they have no other clue what they can or want to do end up being very upset, even if they manage to do well gradewise.

  37. Chris
    Chris says:


    I stumbled across the below article from U.S. News. It wasn’t the article so much that was entertaining, it was the comments that followed that were interesting. I didn’t read them all, but I read the first few and you can get a quick flavor of the growing problem that’s occurring in this country, and the multiple opinions that are being shared across blogs. It really speaks for itself.


    I wish you the best in your career.

  38. A disgruntled associate
    A disgruntled associate says:

    I came across this blog post today and so wish I had seen it before going to law school. I hate my job and I hate this profession, and I went to a Tier 1 law school and yes, I graduated in the top 10%. While I know I am lucky to have a job in this market, I would give anything to get back my $70K in debt and my pre-law school job. I’m doing my best to get out of this back into the business/policy world – where I was before law school – but it’s pretty depressing and difficult to do right now. I am lucky to have a science/math undergraduate degree which I think is more transferable than my law degree in many ways. I really enjoyed law school but what comes after it is a complete and utter disappointment (and a stress and pressure-fileld disappointment at that).

  39. Full-of-it
    Full-of-it says:

    Its funny how everybody on the internet is top 10% at top 15 school…. yeah, what are the odds…. that you would on the internet whining like a baby. All this internet stuff is such BS. I go to a T4, we have the lowest mandatory GPA curve in the country. Just getting in to a top 50l is a ticket to graduation, the bottom tiers are by a consensus here (between UNC and Duke friends) much more difficult to do well at. Thats because the curve is a c-. Those of you on a pass/fail… please be quiet. Anyway, I am not here to argue with intellectual powerhouses here. The truth is that everything, including law school is what you make of it. And all this top firm stuff is MOSTLY a pyramid scheme and if you want to be a gerbil and work 70hrs a week for a douche more power to you, and when you dont make partner your realize youve been duped. The fact is that you can always hang a shingle, and you might not get rich, but at least you dont have to be a slave. So many of you work so hard to impress somebody who is dumber than you. Most of these big firms and persons are old money and connected. You will never be one of them unless you already are. Law is about who you know and your personality, along with grades etc. It is much more who you know and being at the right place at the right time. Many law students or grads from anywhere couldn’t work at best buy… and then they are surprised when they don’t get a job. You have to be presentable and professional, motivated and have some charisma… no school will teach you that. The last key is hustle. If you put in work, you will get reward. If you go out and hang a shingle and bust your chops you will get wealthy. I dont know my rank right now, but im looking to graduate with honors, law review and published 3 times with clinical and practical experience. But im not top of my class or anything, and one thing you will learn really quick is that law grades are RANDOM, and your knowledge of the material WILL NOT CORRELATE to good grades in every class. But I can tell you that reputation of the school in the legal community is just as important as rank (if you want to work in state). I have received a fantastic education. My school is a regional state school. Which my other tid bit of advice if you dont go top 50, then your state law schools are going to be your best bet, because they still carry heavy legitimacy in state, regardless of rank. You also need to remember who makes these rankings and its a self perpetuating system. Most of it is based on the idiot LSAT. Your LSAT has NOTHING to do with how good a lawyer you will be. It is MEANINGLESS. However, that is the point, schools want to know if you will dedicate months and years to a meaningless tedious task… just like being the new B***** a big law firm. I cam from a blue collar family and my mistake was not taking a year to study for the LSAT. That said, once you get out of school and practice… nobody gives a rat’s a## where you went to school or what your grades are. So beware of the chatty pattys and negative nancys… there is a reason they troll the dulldrums of the internet.

  40. Attorney desperately seeking employment
    Attorney desperately seeking employment says:

    WE NEED AN ORGANIZATION THAT UNITES ATTORNEYS AGAINST ABA. If med schools can limit their number to 131 and Dentists can limit dental schools to about 58, then we can surely keep the number of law schools under control. The whole thing is a scam. I graduated from Texas Southern University law school – some of my professors were barely literate. Except for a few good professors, most did nothing for me. They have a mysterious double grading system that undercuts students who secure good grades on their merit. There are other terrible law schools out there and plenty of terrible lawyers because of it. The law schools, including mine, inflate their post-graduation employment figures by hiring graduates from menial temporary jobs or by outright lying. ABA leadership is heavily composed of law school administrators and Big Law attorneys, while majority of Attorneys in america dont fall into the big-law category and these are the people who are struggling to find jobs. The average lawyer is severely unpaid, her/his pay undercut by the huge numbers of graduates being churned out of diploma mill law schools every year. On top of that , ABA has allowed outsourcing, this has severely cut the basic work unemployed attorneys depended on – document review. The average attorney is squeezed from all sides with ABA doing more to hurt her/him. The medical field takes care of its own. The dental field takes care of its own. But the only people the ABA takes care of are 1. the deans of trashy law schools like mine who make a million or more a year and 2. the Big law firms that benefit from getting their document work done by ridiculously underpaid attorneys in the US or abroad. ABA, please stop this madness! stop this corruption! You have destroyed not only our livelihood but the prestige we worked so hard to get.

    • BG
      BG says:

      I understand your point, but the fact that the AMA stops the opening of new medical schools is not a good thing for this country so I’d rather not see that sort of thing in the law (or any other) profession. It’s obviously a good thing for the select few students that don’t let the odds stop them from applying to begin with and who actually get accepted into medical school, but this nonsense is breaking our healthcare system.

      What we need in law (and most other fields too) is for the government or someone to force the universities to give kids a realistic view of their future job prospects and future salary before any school starts taking their tuition money. We need to dismiss this crazy idea that if school (undergrad) didn’t get you a job what you really need to fix that is more school. Show them a plot of the salaries coming out of that school – not just the average. Show them how many kids didn’t return a survey and then assume anyone who doesn’t return the employment survey does not have a job. Then, if after being told that law is a winner-take-all game, if the kid still goes to a third tier school he knows what he’s in for and can’t complain.

      Also, I’m assuming you realize that if law schools were limited like med schools that you would not have been admitted to one because the entire fourth tier and most of the third tier wouldn’t exist. I mean you knowingly went to a fourth tier school. It was public so it didn’t cost you too much ($12800/yr is the 2010 tuition), but you shouldn’t have had any illusions about it being prestigious. The admissions office probably overstated your possible job prospects but to be honest if you’re some poly sci, history, or english major you had no job prospects to begin with. Three years at a cheap law school, while maybe not the best move, will probably open some door for you in the future. I mean you didn’t even spend $35K in total tuition. Do you know how many undergrads spend that every year at some fancy (though not prestigious) private school only to have zero job prospects at graduation? Really, if push comes to shove, you can always join the marines and they’ll probably pay off your loans.

  41. Greg
    Greg says:

    Great Post. I’m finishing up college and I’m seriously considering a career in law. I’ve taken my LSAT and I am thinking about applying for fall of 2011. I’ll definitely think about what you said and do some research and checking around. But great read for anyone considering going to law school.

    • Ben
      Ben says:

      Greg, I really, really, really encourage you to read “Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Lawyer” http://www.averyindex.com/happy_healthy_ethical.php

      It is very well balanced. I also would tell you to read some of the posts here with a grain of salt. From this you would think that all or most lawyers are miserable – there is indeed some truth to this – the number of depressed lawyers is shocking. That being said, there are many happy ones, usually they are the ones who have worked hard and eventually made partner in a smaller to mid-size firm or have opened up their own practice. Also, government attorneys, at least at the Fed level, have a better quality of life.

      Also, if it makes you feel any better, I thought law school would be hell, but in truth, I’ve had a great, even fun time, and still did well academically. It is possible. But again, do read the link provided, its long but well worth it.

  42. After reading this I will not go to law school
    After reading this I will not go to law school says:

    You guys win! I’m not going to law school. There’s just too many current student and lawyers on this board that are saying the same thing.

    Thank you. I don’t want to be miserable.

  43. Dean Smith
    Dean Smith says:

    Lawyers! I have a number of close friends who chose Law and I can support a number of points, but one that has not been identified is that the majority of successful Lawyers are first and foremost “actors” and have a unique approach towards social justice. All of my lawyer friends belong, or did belong to serious arts and theater groups.

    There passion for their work is undeniable, and yes it is boring work for the most part, as is most professions, however, when they provide a service that results in a positive outcome for their clients, my friends describe an absolute elation and satisfaction. Yes, the financial rewards are not always great, however, the respect you gain, the satisfaction of achievement and the ongoing challenge must compensate. I have issue with decisions that are based on “financial returns”. Wealth is far greater than “money”!

  44. Juniper
    Juniper says:

    I am an airline pilot / lawyer. I think the issue with a lot of commenters here and on other similar pages is the lack of life experience.

    Go to any aviation board and post that you want to be a pilot and would like advice. I guarantee that you will be met with replies telling you not to do it, the lifestyle sucks, the money sucks, and you will be in debt forever.

    But, like many law students, pilots plug their ears and push on through. IF you do so because of passion, you will ultimately be ok. If you do so for any other reason (money, prestige, fame, thinking it will be easy) you are screwed.

    I didn’t go to a top tier school. Nor did I with aviation. I paid my way through lower ranks and worked side by side with pilots who had 6 figure debt. While making the nothing that a pilot makes isn’t easy, it is a lot easier if you don’t have debt. I focused on networking and playing the game. They only had their degree to get them in. I never struggled to find work.

    The same tactic works for law school. If you know how to network, are smart about how you approach the field, and don’t care about working for a huge firm (please, go for the large firm. More jobs for the rest of us) then don’t worry about a top tier school. You will graduate and have options because you aren’t a slave to that debt. You can go work in that labor firm that sets your heart afire, or try your hand at private practice. Just as in aviation, your education in law doesn’t begin until your first job. Don’t believe for one second that the best teachers are at the top tier schools. Only the most secure, tenured, don’t care about even trying any more, teachers are there. Don’t be suckered by the hype.

  45. IL Student
    IL Student says:

    While most of these myths may bear some truth, I just wanted to add my 2 cents. First off, in regards to grades…now this goes for ANY field, it depends on what you want to do. If you want to work in those big law firms, then yeah grades will be a major factor. If you want to work for a corporation, well, that may depend on a number of things. It may depend on what kind of law you want to practice. For example, someone with a well seasoned resume with years of experience with big name corporations, let’s say maybe an engineer who’s making a career switch to the legal field…this person will most certainly be weighed on a totally different scale than your average 22/24 year old right out of law school with little professional experience.

    I think it’s very misinformed to say grades will make and break you. At the end of the day, again I emphasize in any field (depending on what you want to do), it’s what YOU bring to the table. For example, there are various fields in law itself that require more than just grades. Intellectual Property requires more than just coming right out of school with little experience and a 3.8 gpa. Usually fields like patent, copyright, intellectual property etc look for people with a science background. So a person with a 3 gpa (but with sufficient professional experience) versus a 23 year old with a maybe even a 4.0, may actually have the upper hand over the youngster.

    So for all of you who have seen this article and decided that you don’t have the numbers for the law field, just remember it takes a lot more than just numbers to make it anywhere.

  46. J
    J says:

    Just be careful. The article cited above from the fed judge is awesome. In the end, the practice of law is very tedious and boring.

    Please do not discount how bad the work is. Deposition summaries, drafting discovery, research, sitting in court rooms for hours to spend 2 minutes in front of a judge to stamp your order, arguing over where depositions will occur, arguing over the language of orders and the context of transcripts, dealing with obnoxious counsel, etc.

    I wish you luck with your decision.

  47. Jack
    Jack says:

    Andrew keeps getting on spell check, but the mistakes are for homonyms, spell chack doesn’t catch those as they are not mis-spelled, duh. Additionally, I would like to add that most of the “myths” are actually quite accurate. I do agree you will probably not be able to advocate for the little guy if you do not have an independent source of income, but if you are flexible on what you would be willing to do there are plenty of positions out there for attorney’s and there are plenty of adjacent fields where a JD really gives you a leg up. This article does not fit with anything else I have heard in researching law school, nor with any of my experience as a paralegal over the last ten plus years. I do not understand what the point is, why tell someone they are bound to fail and not to even try?

  48. Mark
    Mark says:

    Good point. But for instance if you wanted to be an astronomer – very few will actually land work as an astronomer after their PhD. I don’t think academics will mind the grunt work and low pay at the beginning, but they do mind that the physical sciences and academia overall is an “industry” unable to support all the qualified geniuses that wanted to work in that field, and telling these geniuses when it is too late, that they should have known better, that academic departments need to keep their funding and numbers up destie the reality of the job market…

    People are wondering if this is the state of law. I agree many industries are like this. These young folks should be getting real information about industries and the choices in front of them. how many IT guys and engineers are in this same boat? People keep talking about how we’re not producing enough brains and leaders in science and math – well where are they supposed to work?

  49. JL
    JL says:

    Maybe you have to push for it, but I got into T1s with small scholarships and the T3s were not offering me full scholarships. The most I was getting was $20k a year I think, which would cover about 2/3rds of tuition or so, still giving me debt, albeit small.

    My numbers put me a bit out of the T14, although Top 20 and Top 30 I was competitive for. If it takes getting into a T14 or at the worst a T20 to get a full ride scholarship at the Tier 3 and Tier 4s, I am not sure how viable that is for most people. Right now you’d definitely want to go into a Top 5 law school, and you’re okay with full sticker on that. Anything below that, unless the scholarship is full, it’s probably not a good idea.

    If you are great at networking and are really socially outgoing…don’t go to law school. Instead focus your efforts on another field. If you are terrible at those two, don’t go to law school, unless you get into a top 5 law school. You’ll be totally screwed over.

    A law degree is a total liability for most graduates, especially those with little experience before law school. Good luck to everyone, don’t let the experience of those from 20 years ago or a few that got lucky make you miss the general rules now. You’re going to law school because you don’t believe you have the capability to be the best in other fields. You would want to go to law school because you want to avoid risk. If this weren’t true, you’d start a business or work in any field, as the top earners in virtually any field earn lots of money. This even includes retail, theoretically you can go from stock room to store or district manager if you are truly talented. And anybody can get a job at retail to start out.

    But not everybody can get a job as an attorney, in fact most can not, plus you are in serious debt. Even in “boom” periods legal employment was only at about 50%.

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