Advice For A High School Student

Credit: Bwsmith84 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dennison_High_School.jpg

Credit: Bwsmith84 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dennison_High_School.jpg

A high school student recently wrote a Quora post about his or her reservations about attending law school and becoming a lawyer.  The student is feeling nervous because he or she has heard about the unemployment statistics for law graduates and the potential debt that can be incurred by attending.

This high school student has plenty of time to make a career decision.  So I wouldn’t necessarily discount legal practice at this time.  However, the student rightly notes that many prospective law students have passed on law school, due to factors like a stagnant job market and six figure debt.  There are stories where law school graduates weren’t able to find jobs in the legal field after graduation and were relegated to becoming baristas at Starbucks, all while being burdened with their law school loans.  These are difficult circumstances and would give most individuals pause before pursuing law school.

Having said all of this, my question for the student would focus on what prompted him or her to consider law school.  Does the student have family members that are lawyers?  Is the student drawn to the prestige of law school?  Is law school attractive because some law school graduates can make nearly $200,000 right out of law school?  What does "success" mean to the student?

Law school can be a wise step if the student understands his or her justifications for attending and the consequences of the decision.  Beyond basic research, I’d recommend finding an internship in the legal industry, whether that’s at a small law firm in the students' hometown, a district attorney’s office, or a public interest firm.  By seeing the day-to-day life of attorneys and speaking with those same attorneys, the student will get a better sense of whether he or she can see themselves as a practicing lawyer.  Not many law students do this before making their decision.

Ultimately, as you enter college, I would focus on obtaining good grades, exploring your passions, and pursuing an internship or similar work experience in the legal industry. You have plenty of time to make a decision, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself at this stage.