A Quora reader recently asked why people want to become lawyers. While the answer to this question will slightly vary if you asked several prospective law students, there are some common justifications. I discuss these in the first module of my e-course Deciding on Law School, but I'm going to talk about two of those common reasons here.
Often, it’s the case that prospective law students may feel discouraged with their current job, so they may think of law school as a way of supercharging their career path. Besides the apparent prestige of law school, they’re encouraged by the fact that many renowned politicians, business leaders, and other community leaders hold law degrees. If they do not have an inherent interest in practicing law, they often think that they can suck it up, practice law for a few years to pay off their loans, and then transition into a different field. That’s the general plan for a good number of people, but it becomes complicated when they realize the true extent of their debt or if they struggle to obtain a Big Law job, for instance.
Prospective law students are also attracted to the prestige of law school and it’s almost too easy to jump onto the law school track to satisfy this desire. These candidates are often Type-A personalities, and the competitive nature of law school admissions can be addicting. For me, I treated the law school application process like a game. I enjoyed the competition and wanted to be admitted to as many prestigious, high-ranked schools as possible. These competitive feelings may intensify as you get to law school since everyone is seeking the highest possible grades and a good number of people are seeking “prestigious” jobs. Your identity becomes wrapped up in the competition. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult to walk away from the legal field and try something new, even if you don’t necessarily enjoy practicing law.
Peter Thiel has provided some insightful commentary on this idea. He reached the “last stage of the competition” by coming extremely close to obtaining a Supreme Court clerkship. Had he “won” this stage of the competition, however, he would not have pursued a different path, which has been extremely rewarding (to say the least). Ultimately, it can be difficult to jump off of the law school track. Inertia is a powerful force.