Considering Law School? Caveat Emptor

Law school is considered by many to be a privilege and an honor. An experience that will open doors and lead to a fulfilling life of wealth and social status. In many cases it is true. In others it is anything but. While I certainly don’t regret committing to law school, others considering or entering law school should carefully consider the reality of life on the other side before engaging fully in decision that will significantly impact the direction of their life.

The Bad

1. you are entering a de facto intellectual and emotional boot camp

  • if you don’t like the idea of being worked to exhaustion on a regular basis, consider other options
  • your sense of self-esteem will be challenged on a regular basis

2. you will be pressured towards a life of corporate servitude (law school recruitment and marketing)

  • which is fine for some, after all, corporations need all the help they can get to maximize their bottom line
  • but if you’re into it for the money, be aware that the 6-figure salary can be attained in less hours in other occupations
  • you’ll be financial comfortable, but will endure significant financial discomfort to get (and stay) there
  • you will sacrifice other areas of your life; long hours mean less time for friends, family, fun and personal time

3. you won’t have much time for friends and family (or anything else!)

  • the work required to do well in law school means you will probably be making significant sacrifices in these areas
  • a rough idea of how much work will be required on a weekly basis is you need about 2-4 hours of prep (HW) time for every hour of class time. Some profs think the ratio is 6/1
  • ^meaning, you will be taking 6 courses each of which takes 3 hours/week. 18 hours of class time means you’ll add onto that 36-72 (and maybe even 108 for the eager-beavers out there) hours, and all of a sudden you’re facing 54-80 hour work weeks. (this does not include exam time during which the above numbers will be at least doubled)

4. you will be competing in a bigger pool of overachievers than you’re used to

  • you’ll be working harder for grades that are significantly lower than you’re probably used to
  • you’ll be stressed; you’ll probably always be in a state of tension; you will often think: I/my work/effort/etc is not good enough. Make sure you’re emotionally able to take this kind of stress.
  • you opinions and beliefs will be challenged, often by people more intelligent, informed, experienced and/or enlightened than you.
  • competitiveness can get ugly: missing pages of or missing textbooks aren’t uncommon, even at collegial schools.
  • people will play mind games consisting of social rumors, lies about grades, etc. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Everything depends on context, and not everything you hear is necessarily true.

The Good

1. The people you meet will be your friends, colleagues, clients and advisors. The bonds you build can be some of the strongest you will ever forge.

2. Your intellectual capacity will be strengthened and broadened.

  • you will see things differently
  • you will be less judgmental and more tolerant
  • you will be humbled
  • your self esteem will (eventually!) be increased
  • you will look at things analytically and critically; you won’t be as easily suckered or mislead as you used to be.

In short, you will simply be on another level than most others are.

3. You’ll be respected for your degree. A university education is so common its almost worthless. Even MBAs are a dime a dozen in today’s job market. Here are some palpable perks even the lowly law student often enjoys:

  • you will be taken more seriously
  • people will ask you for advice
  • your career options will be broadened
  • you’ll earn more money than you would with most other, if not all other, degrees

4. It’s fun. Socially, you’ll be invited to a bunch of open bars, networking and recruitment events. Students also are good at organizing various social functions. If you didn’t get out much before, you can develop and fine-tune your social skills, which are an absolutely essential element of social and career success.

5. You will learn to empathize. When that $400 speeding ticket seems unfair, consider the guy who got arrested for having a roach in his van. Or the man who loses his home and half his income to his cheating, entitled and jobless whore of a wife. Or the families who vainly seek justice for the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of government sponsored terrorist/militia groups.

Life isn’t fair. But most of us in the western world have it pretty damn good compared to some people who just get shanked by the system. When you’re in law school, your annoyances get put in perspective.

6. You’ll become an activist. Lawyers, for all their faults, are doers. That’s why they demand and receive 100-600$/hour. They get problems solved when shit hits the fan. Savoir faire is an increasingly rare character trait in our modern society. Law school will give you the kick in the ass to get things done, or find ways to have it done for you.

7. You will learn to express yourself clearly, calmly, concisely and compellingly. The value of this need not be elaborated, nor should it be underestimated for use on matters small and large.

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