I’m going to bet that many of you have considered going to law school. Whether you’re a scientist, a doctor, an engineer, a businesswoman, or a stereotypical liberal arts grad, you might have thought that law school would help you with something.
Most of the time, it won’t.
Here’s why law school is a terrible idea for most people:
It’s super expensive. At Georgetown, where I am a third-year law student, tuition runs about $56,000 a year. You’re almost certainly going to take out loans. They are going to be massive, probably around $100,000. And if you don’t have to take out loans, there are better ways to spend $200,000. Invest in a house, for example.
You won’t make as much money as you think. Many law schools have now been sued for fudging employment numbers, including top-tier law schools. The market for lawyers is just that much worse than what you’re made to think. Even if you land one of the highest-paying corporate law jobs at $180,000 a year in starting salary, at the hours you’d be working, that’s about $50 an hour. There are tons of other careers that will pay you $50 an hour and not require three years of education, never seeing your friends, and $100,000 in debt.
It’s not going to help you be a better entertainer, journalist, or politician. Law school teaches you to be a lawyer and nothing but a lawyer. Even if you specialize in entertainment law or copyright law (and there are few jobs there), one of the first things you learn in law school is not to represent yourself. If you want to be a good politician, go into policy and work on Capitol Hill. If you want to be a journalist, write. If you want to be a businessman, start a business. Don’t go to law school.
It brainwashes you. Lawyers all think, talk, and behave a certain way – at least the “good” ones. Law school is going to force you to find one tiny area of the law that interests you, specialize in it, and get a job in it. It’s going to make you meaner and make you compare yourself to other people all the time. If you choose to turn down a firm job or don’t get one at the beginning of your second year (when many people get one), you’re going to begrudge everyone who does for the next two years, even if you’re a person with the best of morals and the nicest of demeanors.
It’s not going to “teach you how to think.” Law school is first and foremost a professional school. From your 1L grades to being on journal to the ridiculous ritual that is On-Campus Interviewing, schools want you to be a useful job statistic. You’re going to be pressured into taking classes you hate, doing things you dislike, and tallying the number of offers you have against everyone else. And even if you do find it intellectually stimulating, there are other much less expensive ways of keeping your mind busy.
Law is boring. It’s nothing like what you see on TV. You’re not going to be sitting at a carved wooden table, questioning the applicability of Citizens United to a new Supreme Court case. You’re also not going to be tearing down a witness on a stand. You’re going to be sitting in a cubicle and cranking out memos.
Law is not going to help you save the world. In fact, you’re probably going to have to do the opposite – work for a corporate law firm and watch your billable hours – just to pay back your loans. Most nonprofits don’t even hire straight out of law school.
It’s not the only thing to do with your humanities degree. You could, for example, get a job in project management, policy, content writing, or anything else.
Law is not going to make your parents/friends/significant other happy or proud of you. Or even if it does now, it’s not going to 10 years down the road when you’re miserable, never keep in touch with them, and are still paying off your debt.
Of course, many of you will read this, understand it, and still go to law school. Maybe if you do, you really are in the 1 percent for whom law school is right. In that case, good luck! You’ll need it.