Many pursue law school because of the supposed flexibility that a law degree offers. It's true that there are a good number of lawyers that leave the profession to try something else. In fact, this scenario is relevant to me. I graduated from law school in 2014 and practiced at a Big Law firm for two-and-a-half years. I recently left to start a startup in New York City.
Looking back, I'd argue that there are several benefits that come to mind if you ultimately leave legal practice to try something else. Some of those benefits are (1) the credibility of a law degree and (2) various skills that you pick up in law school and legal practice.
As a starting point, a law degree provides some semblance of credibility.
While the legal industry does face its challenges, a law degree is still respected within American society. By introducing yourself as a lawyer (or ex-lawyer), you signal that you are an intelligent, hard-working person who can work under pressure. You also signal that you are a person who sticks with long-term commitments—like three years of law school and the bar exam.
That said, the “prestige” of a law degree may be less helpful if you’re trying to enter the startup world. A law degree often signals conservatism. Lawyers are naturally risk averse and it certainly helps if you are more of a perfectionist. This makes sense: as a client, you pay your lawyer to minimize risk. But perfectionism and intense risk aversion aren’t helpful if you’re creating (or working for) a startup. It doesn’t jive with the whole mantra of “moving fast and breaking things.”
As a former lawyer entering the business world, you can also leverage skills from your legal career.
By navigating law school and practicing law, you learn critical thinking skills and attention to detail. You’re able to juggle multiple perspectives and take an objective look at a discrete set of facts. You learn this in law school and you practice this skill on a daily basis.
One other skill that I’ve found especially helpful is attention to detail. In today’s world, there is a large emphasis on multitasking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with multitasking, but you often sacrifice accuracy in the process. As a former lawyer, attention to detail can be your competitive advantage.
Granted, attention to detail requires you to slow down. But you’ll be able to catch details that your colleagues (or competitors) miss. You can then leverage those details in whatever project or task that is in front of you.
Obviously, I wouldn’t say you should go to law school just to pick up these skills. But they will still be valuable if you do decide to leave the legal field.