Why We Keep Hearing Discouraging Things About Law School

Reading a newspaper

Most prospective law students are excited about the prospect of law school, yet are nervous about making their ultimate decision. It's true that there is still much negative news about law school, especially the debt that law graduates carry. But having said this, I think there is so much discouraging information about law school because, for most law students and law school graduates, expectations are incongruent with reality.

Expectations Versus Reality

This misalignment of expectations and reality often starts when people begin thinking about law school. They see lawyers in popular culture and wish to emulate their heroes. Or they see politicians, business leaders, and other public figures with law degrees and think “Well, I could always transition into another career since you can do anything with a law degree.”

Upon entering law school, you quickly discover that reality is often not what you expected. Unless you’re lucky to have a hefty scholarship or family members to provide financial assistance, you will have loans that you’ll ultimately need to pay off. Further, the job market continues to be challenging. Law school is competitive and there are more law school graduates than available jobs each year. You may see yourself becoming an assistant district attorney or “Big Law” associate after law school but later discover that you cannot find a job. If that happens, you’ll need to rely on a backup plan or develop one as quickly as possible.

Variables

There are a number of variables to consider, but at this early stage, I’d recommend looking at (1) your ultimate goals or reasons for attending law school; (2) your LSAT score (or practice LSAT scores); and (3) your current financial circumstances and willingness to take on more debt. Take some time to self-reflect and really think about why you’re interested in law school. If you’ve been influenced by close family members or friends, think of law school as a solid backup plan, or think of law school as a way to obtain a much higher income, I’d be cautious about proceeding. At this stage, I’d also take a hard look at your LSAT score (or if you haven’t yet taken the LSAT, your practice LSAT scores) and try projecting your chances at your target schools. Prestige matters within the legal field, and you’ll discover that you’ll have an easier time obtaining your dream job if you attend a prestigious law school. Finally, take a look at your current financial circumstances. You may be on the hook for six figures of debt if you attend law school, so you absolutely need to understand this risk and at least be somewhat comfortable with loan payments into the foreseeable future.