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The Flip Side of Law School: Negatives You Should Consider Before Taking the Plunge

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Law School has lot of positives, which is why there are so many students clamoring to get into law school each year and the law schools charging hefty fees, that keep escalating with each passing year - had there been no positives certainly so many would be aiming for an educational program that is hugely demanding and anything but easy. Surely so many people cannot be wrong.

However, there is a flip side to law school also, which all aspirants to a legal profession should know before making a decision, that could later become irreversible, should you, having taken the plunge realize that the cons outweigh the pluses and wish that you had been forewarned.


It is difficult to truly separate the positive aspects from the negative ones. You will certainly agree afterexamining the following listings, however, that there are some serious detriments to attending law school to which you need to devote careful attention.

Opportunity Costs:

Every time you take an action you engage in an activity of choice. If you choose to attend law school, you simultaneously choose not to take the other paths where your interests could lead you, or at least seriously delay taking the other paths. This is opportunity cost. If you choose law school, then you have made a conscious choice not to go to work and draw a salary for the three years during which you will be attending school. When you graduate from law school, you will be three years behind your fellow undergraduates who started work directly upon graduation from college and who, as a result, are three years advanced in seniority and potential pro-motion.

To illustrate, let's say that you could have obtained a position upon graduation that would pay, on average, twenty-five thousand dollars a year for the first three years. Instead of having made seventy-five thousand dollars, and looking toward a big promotion in the near future, you have attended law school and spent a lot of money rather than making any and have yet to begin to climb the corporate ladder.

You will also probably end your formal legal education with a significant amount of debt, such as the student loans that were used to cover those big costs like tuition and law books. Certainly, you hope to make up for the time you spent in law school by rapidly meeting and exceeding the incomes of those who did not attend law school. This is a strong likelihood, but remember that the costs you have accumulated along the way will take some time to repay and, as a result, may cause you to feel the need to play catch up during the initial period of your professional life.

Additional Costs:

In addition to opportunity costs, there are other costs associated with law school that need to be mentioned, which perhaps scholarships, grants, savings, and parental sup-port may not entirely cover. Such actual expenses include items like rent, food, clothing, travel, utilities, telephone, insurance, health care, child care, laundry and dry cleaning, existing debt service, entertainment, and other related expenses. We hate to keep emphasizing how expensive law school is, but it is one factor that must be recognized and dealt with before beginning one's legal education. A prospective law student should know how all of his or her legal education, and the incidental costs, are to be financed before ever starting law school.

Possible Effect on Health:

Physical and Mental Law students have so little free time that one of the first things they let slide is a program of regular exercise, if they ever engaged in one at all. Unless you count walking from class to class and a brief jog to the library as exercise, your typical day consists of a significant amount of sitting and reading. When you place yourself in the pressure cooker called law school and deny yourself an outlet to help work out frustrations and tensions, you are begging for a variety of problems to develop.

Possible Effect on Self-Esteem:

Many first-year law students find themselves being intellectually challenged for the first time in their lives. Before law school they were always the best in class; now they are pitted against large numbers of other very intelligent individuals and, as a result, may not be performing as they had expected to perform. There is bound to be some dissatisfaction that results from use of the ranking system by law schools because any time there is a top half of the class, there must also be a bottom half. This can have a severe impact on one's self-image.

Does Not Prepare One for the Actual Practice of Law:

Unless law students take a specific course on the practicalities of operating a law office, or become involved in a hands-on internship or clerkship, they will not possess the knowledge necessary to actually practice law upon graduation. Law school is more concerned with teaching students thinking skills than in giving them specifics on which forms to file and where to file them. Thank goodness that legal secretaries and other support staff are patient with new attorneys. After a while, attorneys tend to learn the ropes of practicing law, but there is a long learning curve.

Stressful And Calls For Considerable Sacrifice:

It is a high stress career. Meeting deadlines is a serious issue. There are billing pressures and constant client demands that have to be met round the clock, for fear of losing them should you not attend to them. 50 plus hours are the norm and not the exception, making balancing work and life a very difficult thing to do. Laws keep on changing and you have to stay updated all the time making it seem that the process of law school education is ceaseless and unending.

A survey by the American Bar Association had forty-four percent of the respondent lawyers saying that if a prospective law student came to seek their advice they would dissuade him or her from joining the profession. Moreover there have been increasing cases of depression and suicide not to speak of broken marriages.

No Guarantee Of Financial Security:

A law degree is no longer a guarantee to financial security and jobs are not very easy to come by. Job openings for lawyers have declined drastically but the enrollment of new students in law schools continues to soar. With fresh graduates in the market, the employment scenario is not going to get any better, in fact it will worsen. There are many law graduates who disenchanted with their profession seek employment in non-legal fields. Salaries for lawyers, especially first timers have plummeted and many a time inability earns enough can see your law school debt soar to unmanageable heights.

Over Cautious Paying Clients:

Clients think of legal expenses as an avoidable expenditure and would much rather they do not have to spend it. Couple with this reluctance to spend, they are now, knowing the availability of lawyers, demanding more value for their dollar, forcing law firms to become cost-effective to stay alive in the market. The modern market no longer accept and afford costly lawyers to execute work that can be done more inexpensively, speedily and equally competently by technology or by paralegals.

Modern Technology:

Traditional legal practice of the type that we see in movies has been replaced by a transformed law practices that is technology driven. Lawyers have to become computer-savvy and become proficient in using management tools, spreadsheet and billing software.

Poor Public Perception

The public image of the lawyers is very poor and lawyer jokes abound. There are umpteen stories of lawyers ensuring that cases go on for long periods, of them forcing clients to enter into frivolous avoidable lawsuits and are generally perceived as a breed best avoided.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that it is high-powered and glamorous life and that you will be arguing in court all the time. That only happens in the movies and on television shows. In reality, less than one percent of the civil cases proceed to trial and most of them are settled outside the court. You will be spending most of your legal career, not arguing in court in reviewing pleadings, drafting and taking depositions. Most of the work, far from being challenging and interesting, is repetitive, monotonous and mundane.

Be aware of these negatives and myths before you opt for the profession.


About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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