I know what you’re thinking: Why is she writing a post about NOT going to law school when she is a little more than a year away from completing the very thing she is saying not to do. My answer is simple, really. I did a lot of research. I didn’t jump right in. I talked about it with my then, fiancé. I made sure I was 100% ready financially. Too many people choose it as a last minute resort, or choose to go for reasons that are just flat out terrible. While I love law school; anytime a friend or someone else even remotely starts to talk about law school I immediately try to talk them out of it. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should really stay away from law school:
Tuition, books, living expenses, the strong suggestion not to work during your first year. What is a student supposed to do for money? Loans and scholarships? Yep. With tuition climbing every year, it’s no wonder that students are leaving law school between $150,000-$200,000 in debt. It’s a scary thought, but very real. For the next school year, 2012-2013, my school is charging $1,350 A CREDIT HOUR, which puts tuition at $43,200 a year if taking a full course load of 16 credits a semester as an upper-classmen. Of course, schools vary on tuition price. Some charge more, some charge less. But usually schools average between $40,000-$60,000 a year. The other detail to consider is the fact that Obama recently signed the Pell Grant Protection Act, which effectively eliminated the Federal Subsidized Loan Program. Unfortunately, this makes graduate school, and law school, even more expensive. Federal subsidized loan programs helped curb the accumulation of interest until 6 months AFTER a student graduates. Now, interest will accumulate the moment a student takes out a loan. It’s definitely an awful situation for graduate students to be in.
On top of tuition there are still living expenses and books. Books can range anywhere from $100-$600 a semester depending on where they are purchased, how big they are, and so on. Amazon helps immensely, but sometimes the professor will require a specific book that he or she wrote, and it will have to be bought at the bookstore. I’ve even rented books to try to save money. In the long run, I’ve found it best to buy and sell back books on Amazon. As for living expenses, this can also vary widely depending on where you live. Places like New York and Chicago can potentially rob you blind.
Keep in mind most graduates will pay around $1500-$2,000 a month to pay off their loans for the next 10 or so years. Sounds awesome, right?
2. Emotionally, Physically, Mentally Draining
I have never been pushed so far past my limit as I have in law school. Virtually everyone is fighting for the top of the class, legal writing will consume your life, and reading 30-50 pages a night can really just suck sometimes. I’ve laughed, cried, and just down-right hated every minute. Law school will test your ability to cope, to push through when you feel like you can’t anymore, to stand up in front of your fears, to grab the reigns and run with it. Granted, first year is probably the worst in terms of fear, but second and third year is just one big hunt to find a summer associate-ship or a job. I’ve seen people drop out for lots of reasons, but I think being physically, emotionally and mentally drained is a HUGE factor. Around finals I am delirious. This is the area that no one can really prepare for. You can read all the books and do all the 1L prepping you want, but this experience will be different for everyone.
3. Potentially Can Destroy Relationships (Friendships and Personal)
Say good-bye to most of your social life. While it’s extremely important to stay in touch with friends and family and give your self a break every once in awhile, you’ll find yourself turning down nights out for school-work. Like I said, the first year is the absolute worst. But hard work correlates with grades. Law school isn’t the place where you can do last-minute work and party until 3am every weekend. Law school takes some serious prioritizing. Sometimes relationships can suffer, but this mostly stems from friends or family members who don’t understand the immense amount of work that comes with law school. I struggled to stay in touch with people during my first year especially, and I’m thankful for my understanding friends and family. Personal relationships also take a serious hit. There isn’t a lot of time to nurture new relationships or worry about the little things that comes with new relationships. Law school makes it imperative that you surround yourself with supportive people.
4. Job Market
This doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining. The job market for lawyers sucks–I don’t care what anyone has told you. While there has been a glimmer of hope in the economy repairing itself, a lawyer’s career will never be what it was 20 years ago. Starting salaries for attorneys are pretty pathetic, and some firms won’t even take free work. Finding a job takes some serious networking skills, fabulous interviewing skills, and the ability to get back to it after numerous rejections. Don’t buy into the whole “I’ll find a job, it won’t affect me.” I’m sorry to say, but yes, yes it will affect you. I was under some serious stress trying to find something for the summer and many of my friends are under that stress still. Granted, a lot of my friends have something now or lined up, but it’s important to put this into perspective. Moving somewhere where lawyers are scarce is always a good idea. I know how amazing New York or California sounds to you, but those markets are saturated. Moving somewhere like North Dakota or Oregon may increase chances of a decent job because attorneys are actually in demand. Unless you get into Harvard or Yale, be prepared to do anything short of sleeping with someone to get a job.
This sort of ties in with relationships and stress, but if your desire to be at the top of your class is great enough chances are you’ll become a work-a-holic. Not everyone is like this, but not everything comes easy to everyone. Entire weekends can be devoted to school and school only. It’s depressing, but it happens. I tend to devote my whole heart and soul to something I really want, and you might be just like me in that respect.
Oh stress. Stress is at an all-time high in law school. Especially around finals time or when a huge paper is due. It’s hard to get away from all of it, but it’s easy to get consumed in stress. There is an immense amount of pressure to do well all the time, and there is no room for mistakes. You get one shot for a grade in the class. You get one shot to turn in the perfect paper. Plus, there is the stress of finding a job or juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities during the semester.
7. Public Speaking
If you don’t like standing in front of a class to make a presentation, you are absolutely going to hate giving an oral argument. Try standing in front of three judges (normally they are professors and one third-year student) who are all testing your knowledge on a given subject. They’ll be able to point out your weaknesses stat, and you’ll have to learn how to pick up the pieces. For those who have no desire to litigate this can be a very intimidating and grueling experience. Most schools require at least one oral argument during the first year. I’ll never forget the way my heart was literately beating outside of chest. Somehow I survived, but if you’re like me, you’ll hate every minute of oral arguments. There will be other times you have to speak in front of people, so get used to it.
8. Different Structure from Undergrad
Law schools is completely different than any other type of educational atmosphere. There is one exam that decides your grade for an entire class. Not everyone can get an ‘A’. There is one hell of a grading curve. You can’t and shouldn’t procrastinate on anything. The Socratic method, a teaching style designed to foster classroom discussion where a teacher randomly calls on students to speak, can seriously suck sometimes. You can’t skip many classes or you’ll miss out on a ton that you won’t necessarily get from the reading. It’s a whole new ball-game, people. You just can’t get away with as much as you can in other programs or in undergrad.
9. Picture Perfect Required
Don’t forget about the character and fitness evaluation all law students must pass before they are officially admitted to the bar. The evaluation essentially requires your entire life history from parking tickets all the way to listing all the places you’ve lived. It’s an extremely meticulous process and you can’t hide anything. Lawyers are required to be on their utmost ethical behavior.
10. Malpractice Threats and Other Exams
Just like those working in the medical field, particularly doctors, attorneys face the on-going threat of legal malpractice litigation. While the attorney might be completely innocent, if a client is unhappy with a result chances are he or she might try to broach the matter in court. Thank god for malpractice insurance, but it’s a stressful reality to live with on a daily basis.
As for other exams, law school isn’t over right away when you graduate there is still the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam and the 2-day bar exam. Oh, its great fun and it’s a long haul to get to the “finish” line.
In the end, I think these reasons are enough to convince anyone to just not go to law school. Unless you have done your fair share of research and understand all the consequences that come along with this expensive decision, take my word for it, do something else.