Do you know what the day to day life and actual work is like for the average lawyer who practices law?
If so, and you find the work and the work life to be a fit, then law school might be an excellent idea. But, otherwise there are plenty of good reasons not to get a law degree.
We’ll start with the reasons – beyond “fit” for the work – that many young adults are interested in law.
“Being a lawyer” is wonderful for those interested in prestige. “I am going to law school” or “I am a lawyer” sure sounds better than “I don’t know what I am going to do after I graduate” or “I am working as an unpaid intern on a campaign.” Self-esteem does matter. While we are not going to suggest that this should be a big reason to spend a lot of time and money on law school, we recognize that these psychological factors do matter.
Lawyers make more money than most other occupations. While not all lawyers are wealthy, many are in the upper income brackets and some are quite affluent.
In addition, while lawyers are not immune to the after-effects of The Great Recession, lawyers, traditionally, have greater job security than those in other lines of work.
But, many people who attend law school – and many lawyers – wind up unhappy in both law school and as practicing attorneys.
The main reasons for their unhappiness are plentiful.
The first goes back to the initial question: do you know what the day to day work and work life is like for an average attorney? If you are similar to most considering law school, you probably do not.
For this reason, there exists a strange paradox that only lawyers can really understand:
Most lawyers like “being a lawyer” but only some like “doing legal work”.
While legal practices vary greatly, much legal work is not exciting and, perhaps more significantly, does not match the expectations of those who entered law based, in part, based on a false understanding of what lawyers actually do. Simply put, the big picture decision making and riveting courtroom drama in most television and movie portrayals does not capture what 99% of lawyers do on a daily basis.
The more accurate portrayal would show the lawyer working in front of computer with documents and books strewn across a crowded desk for much of the day. That would not make for good viewing but it would also prevent many would-be lawyers from entering the profession for the wrong reasons.
The disconnect between reality and expectations creates the primary reason why many lawyers are disillusioned with the actual practice of the law.
With that said, law can truly be a magificent field for some.
Many unhappy lawyers simply entered the wrong field – FOR THEM.
Specifically, law attracts many soon-to-be college graduates who do not know what to do after graduation and law school seems to be the most attractive choice. Many of these graduating collegians did well in school so the thought of continuing for another three years is not daunting and, in fact, is more comforting than working in a full time job.
In addition, the prestige of both law school and “being a lawyer” is attractive enough to many that the normal caution related to investing $100,000 and upwards, three years of life, and heading into a career path without sufficient knowledge is overcome.
In the past year, two clients illustrate approaching this question:
Client 1 was a graduate of Wesleyan. He was an English major. His passion was film. He had come to the conclusion that the instability of work as either a writer or a film maker was not for him. Law school seemed attractive, largely because no other option seemed appealing. We provided our normal interview/personality profiling testing with what should seem to be expected outcomes: his creative energy was very high and his desire to work in high structure was very low. Sorry to say, but most legal work is not creative – at least in the way that this young man defined the word. Crafting creative summations in jury trials, the stuff that convinces people that being a lawyer is exciting, is rare. And, for the most part, following strict procedures in structure is a necessity for most legal work.
Client 2 was a graduate of Quinnipiac. He was a business major. But, he thought that that law might be more suited to him. After the same interview/testing, it seemed to us that law school did make sense based on his profile. He thrived in procedural fields (he aced accounting) and liked the thought that he would be in a highly structured environment.
We help our clients figure out whether law is the right path for them by educating them about the realities of law and their potential fit for the profession.
Dropped out of the Top 100
– Chapman (93)
– Missouri-Columbia (93)
– William Mitchell (98)
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