Five Myths About Law School - And a Career as a Lawyer
There are plenty of misconceptions out there about law school—and the subsequent career as a lawyer you’ll hopefully start after graduation. Here are just a few misguided ideas that may affect your expectations—of both law school and being a lawyer.
You should take the LSAT “just to see how you’ll do.”
This is always a bad idea. The reason is because law schools often average all your LSAT scores together to develop a more complete picture of you as a student—and it’s hard to overcome a low score on the LSAT even if you do well a second time. Never take the LSAT without being fully prepared.
Law school provides thorough preparation for the Bar
Not really. In online law school, you’ll learn the legal knowledge you need to be a practicing attorney—but a lot of successful practice is learned through experience. Law school
doesn’t teach you how to apply the information you learn in
real-life legal situations. The Bar exam will assess your basic
book knowledge as well as your practical savvy—and
many students need extra training to prepare.
Getting a law degree and passing the bar won’t give you an easy pass to a lucrative, exciting, and stimulating career. It’s more likely it’ll give you an easy pass to heavy student debt—as well as an uncertain job market, low starting salary, and the monotony of tedious daily work.
It’s not unusual to assume that lawyers make a lot of money. It’s kind of a cultural myth that going to law school prepares you for a lucrative career. And if you look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, they’ll tell you the median earnings for lawyers are around $112,760 as of 2010—not bad, right? But that’s not the whole story.
According to a report by the NALP detailing 2009 lawyer earnings, the salary field for lawyers is actually bimodal—with a small percentage earning over $160,000 at top law firms and a much larger percentage earning around $40,000-$65,000, especially at the start of their careers. Few people actually earn within the median range. While you have a chance at earning a lot, it’s more likely you’ll be stuck with huge student loan debt and a $50,000-per-year job.
You’ll always find a job as a lawyer
Both corporations and government agencies need lawyers—that’s certainly true. And according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for lawyers are expected to grow about 10% in the next decade—similar to growth in the job market in general. However, there are several reasons why you could still have trouble finding a job.
One reason is that more people are graduating from law school than there are law jobs available. According to the National Association for Law Placement as reported in this article in the Columbus Dispatch, the employment rate for law school grads was 87.6% in 2010—the lowest percentage since 1996. Even more depressingly, only 68% of those jobs actually require a law degree. 27% are temporary, while 11% are part-time.
A career in law is exciting, intellectually stimulating, and challenging
In many cases, a career in law is just the opposite—full of monotonous legal research, completion of paperwork, and other routine and tedious work. While you can get a job that includes exciting trial argument, few cases go to trial—and many courts actively work to prevent it.
Getting a law degree and passing the bar won’t give you an easy pass to a lucrative, exciting, and stimulating career. It’s more likely it’ll give you an easy pass to heavy student debt—as well as an uncertain job market, low starting salary, and the monotony of tedious daily work. Be sure to consider the realities of the job market before going to law school—and be sure you still want to be a lawyer, regardless of the difficulties.
ABA Journal: What America’s Lawyers Earn
Columbus Dispatch: Law Grads: Lots of Debt, Few Jobs
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Lawyers
CollegeTimes: Six Myths About Law School and Lawyers in General
Distance-Education.org: Low GPA? How to Get Into Law School Anyway
Distance-Education.org: How to Get Into Top Law Schools
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