Chances are since you’re reading this, you’re in the clammy grips of an early midlife crisis. And with every hour that slides past, you get closer to having to make one of the biggest decisions of your life … should you go to law school?
Right about now, your mind is a maelstrom of questions:
- Should I go to law school?
- Is this something I really want?
- Am I doing this for the right reasons?
- Am I even cut out for the challenge?
- Do I really want to be a lawyer?
Well, whether you’re reading this because you’re under pressure to decide your next steps, are staring down the barrel of the Law School Admissions Test or LSAT; OR are just looking for a little validation, you’re in the right place.
Also, you are NOT alone.
I’d dare say that the vast majority of students preparing to take the LSAT ask themselves if going to law school is the right choice for them. It’s an important question and, in this guide, we’re going to help you figure out the answer for you. Not for mom, not for dad, and not for your culture or society’s expectations … FOR YOU.
To do this, Brainscape gathered together our team of legal experts, led by attorney Grace Bowden, and asked them how they knew they had made the right decision to go into law ... and why they think going to law school might be the right or wrong decision for people who are still trying to figure things out.
What they had to say we now proudly present to you in this guide, which covers the following key topics:
- 5 Reasons law school could SUCK for you
- 5 Reasons law school could be AWESOME for you
- 7 Reasons you definitely SHOULDN’T go to law school for
After considering these points, you should have a much more formalized understanding of where you stand and the answer to your question: “should I go to law school?”
Pro Tip: Check out Brainscape’s Law Academy guide ‘Best law YouTube channels for law students’ to put your passion to the test. If you find the videos in these channels totally uninspiring and boring, you might want to rethink going to law school!
Also, if you are preparing for the LSAT, check out Brainscape’s top LSAT flashcards. More of them in a bit ...
5 Reasons going to law school could SUCK for you
Whether you’re passionate about becoming a lawyer or seriously in doubt, one immutable truth remains: law school is HARD. And there will be times in the three years you’re there that you will seriously question what the heck you’re doing. Here are five things that could suck about law school for you ...
Law school is E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E.
Law school is unbelievably expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, only a small percentage of graduates land big firms jobs that pay them enough to squash their student debt within a few years. Others can be stuck for decades.
Put it this way: you wouldn’t buy a horse if you weren’t prepared to pay for its stabling, care, food, and vet bills, so if you’re not prepared to pay potentially thousands of dollars a month in law school loan repayments, you might want to think through other options.
Having said that, if becoming a lawyer is your dream, but you’re concerned about the cost, there are scholarship options. Please do your research as early on as possible so that you can meet their requirements and get your applications in!
The workload (and lack of direction)
Every day, law school is a relentless avalanche of reading assignments, note-taking, and law memorization. And to make matters more challenging, there is often minimal direction on how well you’re doing until right at the end of the semester when you take exams.
Questions like: “Are you on the right track?” “Are you spending your time efficiently?” and “Should you be taking such detailed notes on case briefings and trials?” will only be answered after final exams when you look back at all the work you did and realize that a huge portion of it wasn’t all that necessary.
Pro Tip: The best way around this is to speak with law students ahead of you, professors, and even lawyers about what, in their experience, is important for you to know. Seriously, if you go into law school with a healthy perspective on where you should be allocating your time, you’ll feel far less overwhelmed.
Also, to see if you even like the type of material you'll eventually be facing on the bar exam, check out Brainscape’s certified MBE flashcards.
Chronic stress and anxiety
Hand-in-hand with the aforementioned workload is the crushing stress many law students deal with daily. But it’s not just the amount of work you have to do every day, or the alienating feeling of imposter syndrome, or not knowing whether you’re on track with your studies, or having to prepare for the biggest exam of your life: the MBE.
It’s the fact that your job opportunities and career trajectory are CONTINGENT on you doing really well on the bar. In other words: it’s not good enough to squeak by. Your grades essentially determine the size and prestige (and paycheck) of the law firms that will be interested in hiring you. This pretty much puts your law career on the line.
Pro Tip: Get your stress levels in check before embarking on law school. Even now, you’re (possibly) preparing to take the LSAT, which can be just as stressful for students as the bar. Figure out what works for you as a coping mechanism, whether it’s making time for exercise, yoga, meditation, or even speaking to friends, family, therapists, or mentors.
You will feel stressed in law school so go prepared, and that starts right here with our awesome guide, ‘How to deal with bar exam stress’. While it’s written for law grads, there are MANY pearls of wisdom you should find more than a little helpful.
Many law schools are stuck in the dark ages.
Many if not most law schools have a tried-and-tested way of teaching, and because of that—and the fact that many of their faculty have outlived the dinosaurs—very few of them have changed over the decades or even centuries.
The material is the same, and the lecture halls are the same, the mode of delivery and teaching methods are the same, and, as I alluded to before, many professors are the same. The only thing that seems to be different is the student body, which now uses laptops to take notes and actually includes women and people of color.
Pssst! Should you go to law school when you’re tired of the patriarchy? Read ‘Five female lawyers you should know!’ to get inspired!
Law school doesn’t prepare you to practice law.
Law school equips you with a detailed working knowledge of the law, with historical and contemporary examples of its applications, AND it teaches you to think like a lawyer. That’s pretty awesome!
But for all the hard work, sleepless nights, crippling stress, and student loans, law school doesn’t actually prepare you to practice as a lawyer. In other words: you won’t walk out of law school, into a job, and know what the heck you’re doing. And while many schools offer great clinics and externship programs to give you real-world skills, you won’t know the nitty-gritty of doing lawyer stuff—like filing complaints, defending clients, or practicing law in a courtroom—until you start your first job.
These are the practical aspects you’ll learn outside of law school, in an epic game of trial and error (pun intended), when you land your first job.
If you’re seriously asking yourself, “should I go to law school” some or all of these reasons might give you a definitive push towards the answer “no.” However, it’s important to remember that even students excited about studying law will grapple with the same problems.
What you need to decide if any of these reasons are deal-breakers for you because if they are at this point before you’ve even enrolled for law school or early on in your education, they will very likely derail you later on. And you don’t want to take on thousands of dollars of student debt just to come to that conclusion.
And, remember, if you are preparing for the LSAT, get your hands on the best of Brainscape’s user-generated LSAT flashcards! The LSAT is notoriously tricky to study for. But these flashcards will drill you on the kinds of questions you can expect to come across, equipping you with the knowledge and sharp reasoning skills you need to set yourself apart from your peers!
5 Reasons going to law school could be AWESOME for you
Okay, enough with the negative. Let’s now turn our attention to the five reasons going to law school could be one of the best experiences of your life, as it has been for so many of the people who have passed through its halls!
Law school makes a lawyer out of you!
Uhm … DUH! Isn’t that obvious?
Let me tell you: when you’re ears’ deep in first-year law—drowning in case briefs, study notes, and textbooks, and feeling crushed and overwhelmed—remembering that you’ve got a career in law waiting for you on the other end is enormously motivating.
It’s a prestigious and noble profession (well, the “noble” part is up to you, really) and incredibly lucrative if you do it right. So, focus on what’s waiting for you on the other side of law school, and you’ll get through it!
It’s an eye-opening, horizon-expanding experience.
Why go to law school? Well, it’s an incredible experience that will shatter your preconceptions of what you’re capable of and expand your understanding of how human society works (and can work) on many levels!
To quote Devin James Stone (the attorney and YouTuber behind LegalEagle), “Every day of law school is like going into a foreign language class you didn’t prepare for and learning a whole new set of vocabulary.”
What at first feels overwhelming and complex straightens itself out with time, and, before long, you’ll look back at and realize just how much you’ve learned in such a short amount of time.
Find your tribe
Where most people’s interest in the law is fleeting, to say the least (“Oh, you’re a lawyer? How interesting!”), at law school, you will meet a tribe of people who live, breathe, and sleep the law. You’ll be engulfed by students who are just as smart, inquisitive, and passionate about the law as you, if not more so. And because you’re all “in the trenches” together, fighting tooth and nail to get your law degrees, you will find yourself forging friendships that last a lifetime.
There’s something to be said for being in a room with people who inspire and excite you and with whom you have so much in common. And it’s at law school that you will meet these kinds of people.
Learn to think like a lawyer
Become a critical thinking and reasoning machine; follow your inquiring mind down dark and fascinating rabbit holes to uncover corporate corruption or understand why people commit crimes; swiftly process nuance and complexity, and employ your skepticism and sound judgment to navigate not only your career but life on a whole … this is what it is to think like a lawyer and, if nothing else, law school will gift this to you.
A unique knowledge base that makes you an asset
Finally, one of the greatest benefits of going to law school is that it takes you on a deep dive into a vast suite of specific topics, from criminal law to civil procedure and 50 shades of law in between. This experience, in itself, makes going to law school a worthwhile journey. But it also suits you up with a knowledge base that few other individuals possess, which makes you an asset whether you choose to pursue a career in law or something else entirely!
7 Reasons you definitely SHOULDN’T go to law school for
The final component of this guide is geared at helping you figure out if you’re going to law school for the right reasons because, believe it or not, many people sign up for terrible reasons. These end up derailing them when they discover that they don’t have the passion, grit, drive, or self-motivation to make it through law school and the bar exam.
So, if any of these is your PRIMARY answer* to the question “why go to law school?” you may want to do some introspection before you take the LSAT:
- You’re unsure, so you “may as well” get a law degree: Ha! That’s funny. Tell another one! Seriously, though. Apathy or indecision are terrible reasons to go to law school. You need a fire in your belly and a bucket of grit to get through law school!
- Your family/society is putting pressure on you: YOU have to go through law school. YOU have to pass the bar. YOU have to feel fulfilled as a lawyer. This is your life and not your family’s. So if law school is something you’re thinking about to shut your parents up, you could be making a grave mistake.
- You enjoy confrontation and debate: There is so much more to practicing law than arguing in a courtroom. In fact, that’s only 10% of the picture, so if you’re not dedicated to and compatible with the other 90% of the job, you may find yourself utterly miserable.
- You want to “help people”: That’s nice of you, but there are many other things you can do to be of service that won’t cost you a few hundred thousand dollars in law school fees. Yes, lawyers often help people, but you need more than just a desire to be of service to get through law school and be an effective lawyer.
- You want career options: One doesn’t claw their way through law school simply because they want to have a qualification that gives them career options. Law school prepares you for a career in LAW. Not business or any other side hustle. Besides, this speaks to your current indecision, and the very last baggage you should take into law school with you is indecision.
- You want a prestigious job and lots of respect: Sure, these can be perks of being a lawyer, but they should be FAR from your primary reason for going to law school. Besides, all that courtroom drama you see on TV is only 5% of the picture, if that. The reality is more like an 80-hour workweek spent filling out paperwork behind a desk.
- You want to make a ton of money: Attorneys can certainly make a lot of money—and many of them do—but it takes several years to get there, even a decade, as you master the profession, work your way up, and pay off your student loan, etc.
*Naturally, some of these reasons may play a minor role in your decision (I mean, who doesn’t want to make a lot of money?), but they shouldn’t be your main motivating reason for going to law school.
P.S. Have you thought about what specialty you’d like to go into when you graduate and become licensed? Start getting excited about the possibilities by reading: ‘How to decide what type of law to practice.’
Final thoughts on the question: “should you go to law school?”
Why do you want to become a lawyer? Have you been called to study law because you consider it a noble career? Because you want to help people, make a difference, and fight for just causes? Or is it more the money, prestige, and security you believe such a career offers? And if so, it is more you or your family’s drive that’s compelling you?
We compiled this guide to help you navigate the choppy waters surrounding these questions—“should I go to law school?” and “Why go to law school?”—and we hope at this point that you have a much clearer understanding of where your ambitions lie. Remember, it’s healthy to be asking these questions as you prepare to take the LSAT, and it’s normal to feel trepidation before taking the leap and going to law school.
What’s important is that YOU decide because you think a career in law would suit your ambitions, personality, and tolerance for hard work and unpredictable schedules. So if, after reading this, you STILL want to become a lawyer, then you most certainly should go to law school. If not, there’s nothing wrong with that.
You can and will make a difference in any chosen career field!
P.S. Preparing for the LSAT? Get your hands on the best of Brainscape’s LSAT flashcards! These have been compiled by Brainscape’s top users (and consistently rated highly by others) and will drill you on the kinds of questions you can expect to come across in the LSAT.