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Advice for New College Grads - Should I Go To Law School?

When trying to decide about law school, the first question is: “Do I want to be a lawyer?”  A legal expert offers some advice.

By
Adam Freedman
October 15, 2011

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Today’s topic: Should I go to law school? 

And now, your daily dose of legalese:  This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.  In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer.  In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.

Should You Go to Law School?

“Should I go to law school?”  It’s a question that thousands of people ask themselves every year.  If you’re a college senior contemplating life after school, or if you’re a recent graduate trying to figure out what to do with your life, law school might be beckoning you at this very moment.  Why not?  You get 3 more years in a cozy academic incubator before making your grand entrance in the real world.  But if you’re one of the people pondering this question, I have to break it to you: you’re asking the wrong question.  Once we figure out the right question, then we’ll talk about law school – in just a minute.

Do You Want to be a Lawyer?

People often ask themselves, or their friends, “should I go to law school?” as though law school were an end in itself.  It isn’t.  Law school is a professional school; that is, it’s a vocational school – just like those places where they teach home heating and plumbing.  And yet, few people ask themselves: “Should I go to plumbing school?”  Instead, they ask themselves: “Should I become a plumber?”

That’s the way to think about law school.  The question to ask yourself is: “Do I want to be a lawyer?”   That’s not to deny that law school offers many benefits to the general student: it’s intellectually stimulating, it improves critical thinking, and it sharpens your attention to detail.  But for most people, those advantages do not justify the expense and time commitment of spending 3 years in a professional school – unless, at the end of it, you plan to practice law.

I emphasize this point because there is a long-standing misconception that a law degree is a ticket to any profession.  If only that were true, I would be an astronaut now!  Or a plumber.  It is true that many people with law degrees are doing non-legal jobs; say, in business, finance, and journalism.   But that doesn’t mean that a law degree is the best credential for those fields.  The more likely explanation for this phenomenon is that many people embark on law school without really figuring out if they wanted to practice law in the first place.  

Okay, but those law school applications are sitting in your inbox, and you’re still undecided about applying. 

Here are 3 Quick and Dirty steps to help you make a decision:

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