1. The school you attend is not in the top-tier.
I went to a third tier law. This was a bad move from a career standpoint. I think I received a fine education from this school. I think I learned to think critically, write concisely and communicate effectively. But law firms do not respect third tier law schools. If I planned to start my own law firm or just needed a law degree so I could work for a law firm that would guarantee me a job (a family firm for example) then it would not matter what law school I went to. For me this was not the case.
2. The law school you attend is in Louisiana and you do not plan to practice there.
Not only was the law school I went to third tier, it was in New Orleans, Louisiana. Don’t get me wrong. Living in New Orleans for three years was a blast and I toyed with the idea of staying there. But then I met my wife and married her between second and third year (something else I would not recommend doing from a career perspective). After her mother died we moved to her home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Her father, a reporter for the Scranton Times and covering the courthouse got me a job clerking for a judge he knew. All that said, if you don’t plan on practicing in Louisiana it probably is not a great idea to go to a law school there because Louisiana is the only U.S. state following the civil law (based on the Napoleonic code). Other states think this is weird. Even though the school I attended also taught common law I still had to deal with this issue in interviews.
3. Practicing law is boring, tedious and depressing
I loved clerking for the judge. I researched the law and wrote opinions. It did not pay the bills. We moved from Scranton to Philadelphia and I managed to land a job with a prestigious law firm as a Staff Attorney. This firm only hired Associates from top-tier law schools. However, they had a special group of attorneys they called Staff Attorneys to perform document review for the tobacco litigation. It paid great but the job was boring as hell. For nine hours a day I looked at corporate documents to determine whether the attorney client privilege applied. If so, the opposing counsel did not get to see them. I don’t think this privilege legitimately applied to even one out of a thousand documents. A few months after working there I felt trapped. I hated the work but felt I could not leave because of the salary. At the same time I was not learning how to be a lawyer. I ended up working this job for eight years before being laid off in the recession
4. Too many lawyers makes it hard to find a job
There are lots of law schools in the U.S. creating more lawyers than there are positions to fill. Again, if you go to a lower tier law school it makes it all the more difficult unless you go out on your own which leads to the next reason to rethink going to law school.
5. Too many lawyers are not good for society because it encourages frivolous lawsuits.
Lawyers who go to lower tier law firms who then go out on their own generally become personal injury attorneys. This is not always the case but I would venture to say it describes 90% of them. And of course the world needs personal injury attorneys to protect the rights of ordinary citizens without the means or expertise to fight back against the man. But if there are more personal injury attorneys than there are legitimate plaintiffs to represent, in order to make a living they are going to have to invent cases. I don’t think this is a good thing for society.
6. Lawyers are assholes.
Not all lawyers are assholes but most of the ones I ever dealt with are. On one hand this is easy enough to understand. Lawyers argue for a living. To be effective they probably have to enjoy what they do. On the other hand I have experienced an unnecessary amount of scorn and judgment from the lawyers I worked with. The firm I worked for was all about status and hierarchy. The partners looked down on the associates because they made more money. The associates looked down upon the staff attorneys because they made more money and went to better law schools. The staff attorneys looked down on the contact attorneys because they could. It was all shame based when it did not have to be. Technically we were all on the same team but you would never know it based on the daily interactions. Of course there were exceptions but this was definitely the case the majority of the time.
7. Your father was a lawyer
My father was a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer would make him respect me. It did at first, especially when I went to work for a large firm. But it did not last long especially after it was clear I hated what I was doing. If there is something else you are good at and enjoy I highly recommend following that path and wish someone had given me that advice when I made the decision to go to law school. Although I probably would not have listened to them because of the next reason.
8. You are motivated by having a respectable answer when someone asks you what you do for a living.
If this is your reason for going to law school you are living an inauthentic life. I say this not to shame you. I say this out of compassion because I know what you are going through. Your issue is shame. See a Gestalt therapist before you go to law school.
9. You will have to take out student loans.
I know lots of people still paying student loans 15 years after graduating. This is definitely something to consider. This also relates to reason number 5. If there are too many lawyers out there who need to pay off student loans they are going to pursue the money-making opportunities. Not everyone will do this but most certainly will.
10. Lawyers in general have a bad reputation.
I run across many people who have reacted scornfully upon hearing that I am a lawyer. This, of course, is a shame based proposition. The person with the scorn is shame based otherwise he would not be so judgmental. If you are shame based you probably don’t want to be in the position of being judged because it is hard to handle. If you are not shame based then this reason does not apply to you. You probably went to a top-tier law school and when you go to work for a prestigious law firm you will have enough sense, integrity and compassion to treat those below you on the hierarchy with the decency and respect everyone deserves.
- Why It’s So Incredibly Depressing To Be A Lawyer (businessinsider.com)
- How did I get here? (attyontherun.wordpress.com)
- Should law schools invest in law firm start-ups? (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- The Truth About Lawyers – What Every CEO Must Know (ceo.com)
- Why Wreck-It Ralph Went to Law School (slaw.ca)
- Law School 101 // Yelena answers – LSAT Scores (livingmylifeasiknowit.wordpress.com)
- You’ve Been Having Bad Dreams If Being A Lawyer Is Your ‘Dream Job’ (abovethelaw.com)
- R.I.P. The End Of The Law Futurist (abovethelaw.com)
- Marc Luber: What They Don’t Teach You in Law School (huffingtonpost.com)