Should You Go To Law School If You Don’t Want to be a Lawyer?


Most people attend law school with the intention of becoming a lawyer. Most students may not know exactly what they want to practice but they do plan to become a lawyer. There are some students, however, that attend law school with no intention of practicing law afterwards.

If you are thinking about applying to law school but you don’t think you want to become a lawyer, you are probably wondering whether spending tens of thousands of dollars and three years of your life is worth it. As a general rule, you should not go to law school if you do not want to become a lawyer. Law school is incredibly expensive, time consuming, and a law degree will narrow your career options down the road. There are some benefits of attending law school even with no intention of becoming a lawyer but they are outweighed by the costs.

Read on to learn about the various things you should consider if you are thinking of attending law school but don’t want to become a lawyer.

Law School is Great for Skills Development

Despite the naysayers opinions that I have seen online, I can honestly tell you that that law students learn skills that are highly applicable to a variety of fields and in your daily life outside of work. Three years of law school have done wonders for me in developing marketable skills. Skills that law school can help students develop include critical thinking, time management, communication, decision-making, effective writing and many more.

Law school teaches you how to effectively organize your time. You can develop time management skills in a variety of places, but lawyers tend to stick out as highly effective time managers. Lawyers have to manage court calendars, clients, litigation, and a variety of other things. Law students, especially 2Ls, have to manage readings, internships, job applications, extracurriculars and journals. It’s an extremely heavy load and it forces law students to become extremely effective time managers. Law students also learn how to dissect countless amounts of information and discern important matters from trivial information. These skills are always going to be sought after in the job market in a wide variety of positions.

A Law Degree Can Open Doors to Certain Fields

Although, a law degree is only required in a limited number of jobs (namely if you want to become a lawyer), it may open doors to other fields. Knowledge of the law can be helpful in a variety of careers from politics to business administration and management. There is a reason why so many of our nation’s politicians have a law degree. For one, many politicians stack their offices with law students. This offers valuable experience and connections to law students before they begin their formal careers. In addition, many of the skills that students hone in law school are transferable to careers in politics and policy-making.

Law School is Expensive

Law School is expensive and depending on the school you attend it may be extremely expensive. Just to give you an idea, the law school I attended charged more than $60,000 a year for tuition in 2020! That is before you consider housing and other living expenses, and before you consider the three years of lost income.

You need to consider whether you are really interested in potentially going more than $200,000 in debt for a law degree that you may or may not ever use. Even if you are willing to take on a lot of debt, your options after law school will be limited because you will need to find a job that can help you pay down those massive student loans. If you are serious about law school, my suggestion is that you work to obtain as many scholarships as possible so you can decrease your student loan bill upon graduation.

Law School is Time Intensive

student studying

Law school is significantly more time consuming than other graduate degrees. You will not have much time for hobbies, old friends or any other pursuits while you’re in law school. I had an online business that I felt I could manage during my 1L year of law school. By the end of my fall semester my sales were tanking because I didn’t have any time to manage it, and I was forced to sell.

The bottom line is that if you don’t want to be a lawyer you probably have other interests that you would like to pursue while you’re in law school. Law school will make it extremely difficult to pursue those interests and may lead you to premature burnout.

A Law Degree May Make it More Difficult to Find a Job

I mentioned that a JD can open some doors in the job market, but the inverse is also true. Many employers may skip over your resume believing that you are overqualified because you have a JD. One of the stereotypes about lawyers (whether it is actually true is neither here nor there) is that they tend to be risk-adverse in the extreme. This is a great attribute to have if you are a practicing attorney analyzing your client’s litigation risk profile but if you are looking to make a jump into an innovative field like tech, you may find that many employers view a law degree as extra baggage. Another issue is that jobs with a preference for non-lawyer JD holders tend to be extremely competitive.

Law School is Not a General Graduate Degree

Law school in reality is a trade school that doesn’t really train students to practice the law. Students don’t learn how to practice the law, they learn various aspects of the blackletter law and to some degree learn how to “think like a lawyer”. The legal field is tailored to the realities of the legal profession where young lawyers learn how to practice on the job through trial and error as junior associates.

Choosing to attend law school because you want a general graduate degree comes with the cost that law school is highly tailored to training students for a legal career. The good news is that you can develop many of the same skills that law students develop with a more generalized graduate degree. MBAs are extremely popular graduate degrees that offer their students a variety of potential jobs in a large number of fields. The advantage of an MBA over a JD is that if you know you don’t want to be a lawyer, an MBA will leave the door open for you to select a career in a wide variety of areas. An MBA will also typically cost significantly less than a JD.

Conclusion

There are costs to attending law school for any student, including those who do intend to become a lawyer. For those considering law school but do not want to become a lawyer you will generally find that the costs outweigh the benefits. That being said, hopefully this article has assisted you in sorting out the various things to consider when thinking about law school. Law school is a major undertaking and it deserves a lot of thought, especially if you don’t want to be a practicing attorney.

Stephen Metellus

I am a 3L law student in Washington D.C and owner of theartoflawschool.com! I started law school with a lot of hopes and expectations, and it has certainly been a wild ride from the start! My goal is writing articles that help you in navigating through law school.

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