Enrolling in Law School for the Wrong Reasons

  1. Your parents want you to be a lawyer. Live your own life. If you are still being influenced to this extent by your parents, you are by definition not yet mature enough to choose a career.
  2. You like to argue. Get married instead.
  3. You are afraid to enter the workforce. Get a grip. Starting a first job is not nearly as difficult as starting college was. In fact, the consequences of failure are much less, too. If you are bounced by your first employer after a month, this need never even show up on your resume. You will be able to gain other employment quite easily.

  4. You do not know what else to do. If you are still at college or recently graduated, look at the career literature, discuss matters with friends and a high-quality career counselor (probably one in private practice rather than at college), and shadow people working in jobs that sound as if they might fit you. Do not worry that you might make a mistake. Your twenties are made for sampling. If you are substantially older, do all of the above, but focus your efforts on some in-depth career counseling, starting with an assessment of your needs and interests. In either case, do not feel you need to choose the exact right career immediately. Each job you have should allow you, with suitable reflection and analysis, to understand better how you fit into the world of work.
  5. You want to help people. This is a fine starting point, but practicing law is hardly the only way to help others. You should still want to find a career that will fit you; you will not be much use to others if you hate your career, in spite of being of benefit to others. (Most of those who enter law school intending to pursue public interest law careers do not actually do so. Thus, you may find yourself going in a different direction from that which you intended; this is not a bad thing, per se, but it does undercut the initial reason for going.)
  6. You want to increase your options. Unfortunately, a law degree effectively closes many if not most non-law options.
  7. You want a glamorous field. Law may sound glamorous to those who do not know much about it, but it is actually a matter of very hard work, attention to detail, and working at the behest of others (partners, clients, etc).
  8. You want to enter a genteel profession rather than a business. Law is no longer an exclusive club whose members are guaranteed a good living without having to jostle one another and outsiders, too. Instead, it has become a cutthroat business. Firms go out of business, partners (not just young associates) are fired for not producing enough revenue—just like in any business. And, as in any business environment, lawyers need to manage their careers actively. (Check with lawyers to find out when they last revised their resumes in case they need to seek new employment.)
  9. You want to make a lot of money. It is not terribly difficult to make money in law if you go to a top school and then enter a corporate practice. (Of course, it is not clear whether you are getting paid for one job or two, given the number of hours you will log.) Having said this, however, you risk failure if you find that you do not enjoy practicing law (or the type of law that pays particularly well).
  10. You also risk personal troubles if you force yourself to do something you dislike (especially for 80 hours a week). In addition, there are other ways to make a lot of money. In sum, this is a perfectly reasonable rationale for going to law school, but only if law will be a good fit for you in other regards.
  11. You need another degree. There are some pretty interesting and valuable degrees other than JDs available.

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