6 Reasons Why Law School is “Worth It”
- If you want to be a lawyer, attending law school is the only way to go. You can run a company without an MBA (or even a high school diploma) but you can’t give legal advice without a law degree and passing the bar.
- It’s possible to get scholarships to law school, especially if you choose schools where your LSAT and GPA are at or above the 75th percentile. So, you may not actually be taking on that much debt to begin with, hence negating the debt issue (#1, above)
- Law school does teach you to think in a different way. You solve problems differently, learn to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant facts, and become smarter with respect to just about everything. (But it does ruin your enjoyment of mystery novels, in the interest of full disclosure.)
- You will meet intelligent people, engage in interesting ideas, and challenge yourself academically, socially and professionally.
- You will earn something that no one can take away from you – a professional license that allows you to open shop practicing law and have the opportunity to earn a living for yourself. I consider self-employment to be the only true job security.
- Despite negative news about the BigLaw job market in recent years, the average attorney salary is above $100,000. There aren’t too many professions where that’s the case. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a lawyer is $129,000, putting lawyers fourth behind doctors, CEOs and dentists. And remember, doctors and MBAs and dentists usually go into even more debt for their education than lawyers. There is no free ride to the top of the food chain.
Three Considerations of Sacrifice
If this sounds great, and you’re wondering where the sacrifice comes in, then here are the three key things you need to consider:
- Debt: It’s common for people to take out more than $100,000 in student loans. In some places (not California, of course) that’s a mortgage. Law school can cost $50,000 a year, and starting salaries for lawyers may not be much more than that, depending on the type of law you practice when you graduate.
- Opportunity cost: What else you could be doing, money you could be earning, and what else you might be giving up by spending 3-4 years in law school. Will you delay getting married, buying a house? Will you give up three years of a good salary, maybe even higher than you might make during your first few years as a lawyer?
- Relationships: When I started law school, the dean looked at our entering class during Orientation and said, “Look to the left, look to the right, one of you will be divorced in three years.” He was right. (And, yes, I was among them….). Law school is demanding and stressful and changes who you are as a person – for me, it was a great change and I really learned who I was and what I was capable of doing. It was a confidence builder. But that doesn’t always work well in a relationship.
For more food for thought on this topic:
Take some time to listen to my free podcasts (also downloadable from iTunes under Ann Levine) on the following topics: The Future of Legal Education: A Dean’s Perspective; Financial Aid Issues for Law Students; and Job Prospects and Law School Rankings.
Check out The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers for more in depth information about lawyer salaries and all the other information you need to decide whether to go to law school.