A lot of people wonder whether they should go to law school. And here’s a secret– a lot of lawyers wonder whether they made the right choice by going to law school. To make sure you don’t end up in the latter group, and put in all that time and money only to find yourself three years older (with a lot more debt), still no closer to finding a career you’ll enjoy, you really need to ask yourself one question:
Do I want to be a lawyer?
So simple, right? But you would be shocked at how many people show up at law school, even top law schools, without asking themselves this basic question. And to help you answer it, I put together a little list of what I think are some of the best reasons to go to law school, and some of the worst…
Best Reasons to go to Law School
- You like and respect the law – This might seems pretty obvious, but make sure you actually like the law before you decide you want to go to law school. Do you like justice? Do you believe in fairness? Do you believe in the rule of law? Do you want to use the law to make the world a better place? Honestly, I’ve found it very reaffirming when I’m feeling overwhelmed with work or the status of the world to know that I’m participating in a system that I deeply believe in, and that I think makes the world a better, more just place. There are so many opportunities to do good as a lawyer, and that’s, in my opinion, the best part about the law. Becoming a lawyer and being a lawyer is a lot of hard work, and you need to believe in what you’re doing to push through those rough patches.
- You like learning new things and challenging yourself – One thing I appreciate about being a lawyer (especially a very junior one!) is that I’m always learning. Right now it seems like everything I do is brand new, but even as I get more familiar with basic litigation tasks, each new case provides a whole new area of expertise and a whole new set of facts to familiarize myself with. It keeps things interesting and keeps you growing!
- You like reading and writing – No matter what type of law you do, the biggest part of your job will be reading and writing. Now that could mean writing and reading contracts or appellate briefs, but whatever it is, at the end of the day you’d better enjoy the act of reading and writing– because you’ll be doing a LOT of it.
Worst Reasons to go to Law School
- You studied the humanities and are good at taking tests: I can’t tell you how many people show up at law school because they don’t know what else to do but they got a good LSAT score so they figure, why not? There are a ton of awesome, fulfilling careers out there, and just because you’re good at taking tests does not mean you’re destined to go to law school or that you’ll like being a lawyer. I think these are often the people who choose not to get jobs in the law or even take the bar, because they realize that they actually don’t want to be a lawyer. Except they just spent like $200,000 to do so.
- You like Law and Order – Now I’ll be honest, I love Legally Blonde and find it very inspiring, but it is not an accurate representation of what it’s like to be a lawyer. Now, there are different types of law that you can practice, but the crazy fast-paced cases, with shocking revelations on the witness stand, coupled with witty banter in between, is NOT the norm (and if you’re a lawyer and this is your daily life, call me because I need to know how you do it!). At a big law firm, you will likely not stand up in court for a paying client for a looooong time, and cases go on for years and years. There’s a lot less glamour, and a lot more solo research sessions at a computer. So just know that going in, this will still be an office job, and prepare yourself for that.
- You want to be rich but don’t want to be a doctor- The law can be a very rewarding career, both existentially and financially. But don’t view the law solely as a path to riches, or you could find yourself a) disappointed, or b) trapped by golden handcuffs. There are lots of other ways to make money, like banking or consulting or going to business school, not to mention going into medicine or computer science or becoming a pop star. So think very hard about whether you want to be a lawyer because you like the law (see number one, above), or just because you don’t know what else to do and want to make some money.
Any other lawyers out there have other reasons to add to the list? What was it that made you go to law school?