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Why Do Students continue to Attend Law School?

Published on October 14, 2014, by
Graduate School has always been a path for those who do not know exactly what they want to do with their lives after college, or who get caught in a career “rut”. There are various graduate degrees to choose from, but many lean towards the Juris Doctorate as their degree of choice. I have often asked myself why this the case when students are well aware of the tough job market,  debt, and the amount of unhappy lawyers in the world. Here are my thoughts:

1. Medical School is too hard to attend on a whim. In order to become a doctor, you need to plan. It’s very hard to go to medical school “just because”.  Business school is always an option, but if you are not sure you want to go into business or finance, the law degree is usually lingering somewhere in the back of your mind.

2. When someone first thinks about a Lawyer, they often think “successful”, “smart”, perhaps even “wealthy”.  On more than one occasion, I have heard someone say, “Well, he’s a lawyer, so he’s no dummy”. Those of us who practiced law, know that this may not very well be the case. However, those adjectives are generally associated with the practice of law, and people are still attracted to this fantasy.

3. Further, many people at the beginning of their careers have trouble looking at the big picture and planning ahead (myself included). When a twenty-something is considering what to do with their life and career, especially after college, optimism takes over.  Even though the facts are there, black and white, they turn the other cheek and hope for the best.

3. Lastly, there seems to be a growing generalization that a law degree is versatile, and can be applied to a multitude of jobs and careers. I do not disagree. In fact, I have worked in the insurance industry for over seven years and my law degree played a large part in getting me where I am today. I entered law school as the person who thought I was going to save the world, and drive around in a Bentley at the same time. After two years enduring the stress and anxiety of working at a New York City firm, I realized my life equated more to the “Devil Wears Prada”  than to “A Time to Kill” . I then used my law degree to help me parlay my skills into a corporate job. I now spend my rare spare time helping other lawyers do the same.

4. Many would disagree with my positive spin on law school, but a law degree can never go to waste. While earning my J.D.,  I learned how to argue, negotiate, read contracts, deal with people, stand up for myself and become an all around stronger person. No, I don’t practice, and had I the chance to go back and do it again, I probably would do something completely different. However,  the skills I learned  are used on a daily basis not only in my day job, but also in daily life.  (Car salesman run when they see me coming).

For all of the above reasons, this is why law schools are still packed, and in my opinion will continue to fill up year after year.

2 Responses

  1. I found the JD (I never practiced) to be a qualifier of sorts – if you can get through law school, well, people assume you are not a complete idiot. I now work in technology strategy, and I see myself getting a bit larger amount of latitude to ask dumb questions than others, largely because my colleagues assume that I am operating from a position of competence. That assumption is entirely predicated on my academic background; without the JD, I would be just another run of the mill Bachelors. With a JD, I can operate from a position of power because I (ostensibly) have knowledge in a field that is for most people a very big black box – law and its operations.

    What I learned in law school was essentially useless, as it wouldve been even if I had practiced law (a whole different can of worms there…). However, if perception is reality, then I spent $150k on getting people to perceive that I am a capable individual, without me even having to open my mouth. Money not so much well spent, but definitely not the worst way you could spend it.

    • Lainee

      I completely agree!I think you make some very good points here, and I happen to feel the same way. You add an MBA to the JD and you are golden!

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