Given the overwhelming list of reasons not to go to law school (including, but in no way limited to: few jobs, high unemployment, outrageous cost, lost time, incompetent and unqualified faculty, irrelevant teaching, low career satisfaction, zero “prestige” and respect, low pay, etc.), it still amazes and frustrates me that so many people continue to blindly enroll in law school – and throw away their lives – year after year after year.
So today, let’s try a different tactic. I’m going to suggest that if you’re reading this and you’re dead set on attending law school – yes, I know you’re different from everyone else and you’re certain to succeed – then go ahead and attend.
Just not this year.
Jim Saska has an excellent article on Slate right now, entitled “You Can Do Anything With a Law Degree.” Well worth reading. Saska quotes Casey Berman (whose “Leave Law Behind” blog I’ve added to the links on this site – see the RHS of the page):
Berman believes that more college kids should focus on finding their “unique genius.” (“I know it sounds really California new age-y,” he says, adding, “what can I say, I went to Berkeley.”) If you find that specialized skillset outside of law, there’s no reason to get a J.D. “If I had the patience at 22 [for self-reflection], I wouldn’t have gone to law school,” he says.
One word stands out: patience.
Nobody needs to attend law school this year. Have a little patience. Even if your heart is set on law school and you’ve dreamed about being a lawyer ever since you were small, have a little patience. Law school will be there for you this time next year. You won’t look like the dummy who was held back a year – it’s not a race to see who can graduate the quickest and be the youngest qualified lawyer.
Once you graduate from law school, as many have pointed out, you’re pretty much locked into a career. Your debt will be so high and your qualifications so narrow that you can’t do much else other than hammer the pavement looking for some kind of job related to law. That, or eat the lost three years and the student debt and move on with your life, crippled financially and with your resume branded with one of the most useless and despised qualifications you could have obtained.
Particularly this year, with the legal education system and the economy still in turmoil, have a little patience. Sit it out, see where the dust settles. Try that other path in life – you know, the one you really dream of taking, but don’t have the courage or self-confidence to pursue. The one you think is kinda dumb and unrealistic. Stand up to your parents or whoever is pushing you into a JD. It’s just for one year. And it’s the last year you’ll be able to do this, because once you get that JD, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever have the freedom to pursue something you’ve always wanted to try.
And if all else fails during that year off, at least you tried. And then you can go to law school refreshed, happy in the knowledge that you’ve scratched something off your “things to do in life” list; one less regret. Law schools will still be around, and I promise they’ll still be more than happy – maybe even desperate – to take your money.
And you never know, you might find that your year off turns into the career you really wanted, rather than the one you’ve been told you should want.