Why You Should Not Go to Law School

The decision of whether to go to law school is a monumental life-changing choice. Certainly your life will change during the three years of law school, but your opportunities and obligations will also radically shift. Many people view law school as a means to a high powered and lucrative career. Unfortunately this is not the case for most lawyers. As you decide whether a career in law is for you, gain as much information as you can and be honest with yourself to ensure that you are making a decision that you will be happy with decades down the road. There are many reasons to consider attending law school. Here are a few reasons not to go to law school.

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Law school is becoming more expensive each year.

Higher education is notoriously expensive and the cost of tuition rises annually. In the three decades spanning 1989 to 2009, undergraduate tuition rose 17%. Law school tuition, however, rose over 300%. Astounding! So what can you expect with regard to tuition? According to the American Bar Association, in 2009 the average cost of law school was as follows:
  • Average tuition for public school, residents: $18,472
  • Average tuition for public school, non-residents: $30,413
  • Average tuition for private schools: $35,743
As a law student you can expect to take out about $100,000 or more for tuition, not including living expenses or add-ons like books and fees. For some law students debt may rise to $200,000. Mortgage-level debt merits very careful consideration.

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The average lawyer earns less than you think.

Being a lawyer does not guarantee that you will earn a lot or even that you will be able to pay off your student loans easily. Over the last few years the salaries for new lawyers have dropped each year. For example, the class of 2010 earned a median salary of $9,000 less than the class of 2009. The median starting salary for lawyers was $63,000 in 2010. That may sound like a lot but recognize that this is the median across the United States. There is a tremendous variation across states and among cities, suburbs, and rural areas. More importantly, the median means that one half of new lawyers made more than this number but one half made less than the median. New lawyers who reside outside of big cities or work in the public sector make much less. Add in monthly loan payments of $1,500 or more and many new lawyers are much less financially comfortably than they planned.

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Jobs are not easy to come by.

More than 40,000 students enter law-job market annually. Only about 50% of the class of 2011 had a full time job that required a law degree . nine months after graduation. The big firms where law students often dream of employment typically often hire only the top 10% of law school classes and only at the top law schools. Jobs are hard to come by and loan payments often are crushing.

So should you bag your dreams of going to law school and becoming a lawyer? For some students, yes. That said, despite the above admonitions, a career in law is right for some students. Some law school graduates will always find success. How do you know if law school is right for you? Honestly consider whether you are ready to become part of the 40,000 strong mass of law graduates entering the workforce each year. Can you shoulder the financial burden even if you unemployed for months or even a year or more? Make sure that you know why you want to attend, what you plan to do with your degree, and that you need a degree in law to achieve your goals. Make an informed decision. Get some experience in a legal context. Speak with lawyers – new and senior. Only after doing this work should you decide to apply to law school and prepare your application.