Is Law School For Me?

​So you you are thinking about applying to law school, but would you still do so if you knew what law school was really like? The answer may be an emphatic no.

First and foremost, don't believe what they tell you about "being able to do anything with a law degree". This is a deceptive statement because it is not entirely true. You should consider law school only if you want to practice law, otherwise all you have is a very expensive diploma. 

In order to determine whether you would want to practice law, or even attend law school, you need to first consider the potential downsides of such a choice:

Factors To Consider Before Applying To Law School

Financial Cost

Even if you want to be a lawyer, you might not want (or be able) to make the financial investment that law school requires. The unfortunate truth is that nearly every aspect of law school costs absurd amounts of money.

Here are a few examples of the financial obligations to expect: Fees for taking the LSAT, law school application fees, tuition fees, purchasing (expensive) course materials, fees for graduation, costly bar prep courses, fees for taking the bar exam, and (usually) a $10,000-$15,000 bar loan needed to pay bills during the months of studying for the bar exam.

Even if you get accepted into an economical law school you will still be looking at an absolute minimum of $100,000 in student loans, even if you live frugally. Don't mistakenly believe that you will just work your way through law school, either; most law schools have prohibitions against first years students having any kind of job, and subsequently regulate the hours worked for the more senior students. 

Emotional Costs

One downside of practicing law that most people do not consider is the emotional stress that lawyers must deal with. On top of having a job that is naturally stressful, lawyers must also witness the heart-wrenching situations facing their clients on a daily basis. 

Many fields of law bring with them serious burdens on the conscience, for example: Family Law forces lawyers to deal with heartbreaking family disputes, fights of child custody, and many other issues. Estate Law requires lawyers to witness once-close family members who are now squabbling over who will gain from the death of another human. Criminal law deals with labeling and punishing fellow human beings, sometimes even the innocent ones (or helping the guilty ones go free).

Every field of law has some aspect that could keep you up at night or jade your personality; if you are highly sensitive, you may not enjoy the life. Like they say, nobody comes to court unless they have a problem, and you are the one who will have to deal with those problems.

Low Returns On Your Investment

After making the huge financial investment to attend law school, most people would assume that lawyers would immediately begin earning sufficient incomes; but they would typically be wrong.

A handful of the top students in a graduating law school class might get a high paying job immediately, but in many states the average starting salary for a new lawyer is around $40,000; meaning that half start at salaries lower than this. Such an income is not enough money with which to pay high student loan payments, buy a car, maintain a professional wardrobe, and have a life beyond these things.

Your Personal Ethics 

If you are a person who is uncomfortable with the idea of stretching the truth, you probably won't like the work of a lawyer. This does not mean that lawyers are expected or even allowed to lie (they are not), but lawyers are sworn to zealously defend their clients to the full extent that the law allows.

Zealous defense means that a lawyer must use every tool legally available in order to benefit his client. If there is an available option that could help a client, such as a "loophole" or "technicality" in the law, a lawyer must pursue that option as a part of the "zealous defense".

Winning a case on a technicality, and not the actual merits of that case, is not usually an honorable (or even ethical) victory, but such wins are expected if they are possible. If a lawyer was to intentionally avoid such options, they could be subjected to professional discipline or malpractice suits.