Attending Law School Because You "Can"

Credit: Eustress / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cornell_Law_School.JPG

Credit: Eustress / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cornell_Law_School.JPG

A Quora reader recently asked whether to attend law school simply because he or she "can."  I found it interesting since many potential law students could theoretically attend law school if they desired, so long as they understand the consequences of their decision.  

Going back to the question, I suppose my answer depends on what the questioner means when they say that they “can” obtain a law degree.  Is this because the questioner believes they have the intelligence and work ethic to last through three difficult years of law school?  Is it because the questioner has the financial resources to attend law school for little to no cost?  Or is the questioner thinking of law school simply because they're considering their options after college?

As stated above, the decision to attend law school should not be made lightly.  Prospective law students with great work habits and solid undergraduate grades most likely will be able to graduate law school, if they choose to attend.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should.  Most importantly, they have to consider the sheer amount of debt (up to six figures) that they may incur to obtain a law degree.  There are too many stories of individuals who attended law school to work in human rights or constitutional law, but are now working in non-legal jobs while trying to cope with their massive law school debt.

The dynamic changes if someone is paying for their legal education, whether that’s a family member, friend, or the law school itself through a merit-based scholarship.  If this scenario applies to the questioner, congratulations—they've removed one of the significant risks associated with attending law school.  Yet this still doesn’t mean that they should attend law school by default.  There are opportunity costs as well.  Is the questioner willing to forego three years of income and work experience to attend law school?  These are real costs.  Another point is that a merit-based scholarship may be taken away if the questioner is unable to maintain a certain GPA, so they absolutely need to keep this in mind.

Simply put, the questioner should attend law school if they want to be a lawyer.  Sure, there are law school graduates that obtain jobs in other disciplines.  Yet I would caution the questioner from enrolling in law school if they intend to work in another field after law school.  Law school is somewhat of a trade school, and many job opportunities out of law school will be in the legal field.  I would advise you the questioner to pursue law school simply for the prestige or the “flexibility” that a law degree offers.