Blogs seem to attract more than their fair share of lawyers, law students and people who want to be lawyers. As a 27 year veteran of the bar, pro bono publico, I am giving my top ten reasons why people should consider not going to law school.
1. There are too many of us. 1, 143, 358 active attorneys in the US according to the American Bar Association in 2007.
2. While all careers have their tedious moments, the law consists mostly of tedium. The first year of law school amply demonstrates that as you stay up till the wee hours studying hundreds of pages of usually intensely boring cases. A high tolerance for boredom is a plus for any aspiring member of the bar.
3. Most attorneys are fairly modestly compensated, believe it or not, until well into their careers. My first year out I was called in by the IRS because the local office couldn’t believe that an attorney was earning so little.
4. Lawyers often see people at their very worst. Nothing like a criminal prosecution, a divorce, an eviction suit, etc to bring out the milk of human kindness in all involved!
5. Public respect for lawyers usually hovers somewhere slightly above plague rats. That is tolerable. What is intolerable is that too often the lack of esteem is well deserved due to the antics of too many attorneys.
6. The fun stuff, to me that has always involved trial work, is only a small portion of an attorney’s life, which more often involves unending tons of paper work. At the conclusion of any successful win in court is a desk clogged with waiting paper work and phone messages to return.
7. The cost of a legal education has become frighteningly high. Being a newly minted attorney, earning $40,000.00 a year and having 100k of debt, is not a good situation. I graduated with $7,000.00 of debt by comparison in 82, and I thought that was frighteningly high at the time.
8. The practice of law has a fairly high jerk quotient. Most attorneys and judges are not jerks, but the portion who are cause endless problems for those who are not.
9. Most law schools do a rather poor job of preparing attorneys to actually practice law. The break-in period is usually three to five years and is often fairly stressful.
10. More than a few lawyers hate the profession. This survey in England indicating a quarter of attorneys would like to be doing something else jibes nicely with my own experience. I’d say at least 10% have a visceral hatred for what they do.
Now I have enjoyed my career at the bar, but it is not for everyone. I think too many attorneys go into the profession without a clear idea of the downside. If you are thinking of going to law school investigate the profession carefully before you decide to invest three years of your life and a great deal of money. If you do become an attorney, also heed this piece of advice: incarcerated clients can be touchy.