"Law school is for people who WANT to be lawyers! Period! If you do not want to be a lawyer, then don't go to law school! It's just that simple!!! If you actually WANT to be a lawyer, and PRACTICE law, then you should go to law school! Not because your parents want you to; Not because you think you will make a lot of money; Not because you think people/friends will look up to you; Not because you think you will have more standing in the community; You should go to law school because whether you make $20,000.00 annually or $100,000.00 annually, advocating for others is what you want to do for a living and you are willing to do it no matter how much money is on the table."
I have wrestled with this concept before. What about the people who "want" to be lawyers? (Overlooking, for the time being, the fact that most prospective law students have an extremely warped idea about what the practice of law really entails.) It seems odd to tell someone who really wants to be a lawyer that they should not apply. But it's really not that simple. Even if you want to be a lawyer and some law school in the country accepts you, there is no guarantee in this economic climate that you actually will be able to get any kind of legal job. That's a really big risk to take unless you get into one of the best schools.
Another anonymous commenter summed it up well;
"I agree with the sentiment that you should go to law school if your heart is in it and you actually plan to "practice" law. That being said though, the risk/reward ratio is very different from what it was even 10 years ago. Today, you will be going in hock to get that degree and there may not be any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, only a lot of debt and no reasonable way of paying it off. Truth be told, I doubt I would attend law school at this time. It's just too expensive to justify. In the early 2000's, my law school charged $20,000 per year. Not even a decade later, they are charging $40,000 per year. Yet salaries have stagnated decreased provided you can even get a job. I took another bar exam last week and met a recent student who told me she was $300,000 in debt. She graduated from a 4th tier crap hole, which is not going to open many doors. Despite my own misery at my current debt level, it has become easier to manage over time. But when you're talking about $300,000 of debt, you're in a whole different ball game. That's insane debt, which will have severe repercussions on one's life, i.e., the ability to afford a house, have children, find a suitable spouse, etc. You're basically a debt slave when you're carrying that level of debt. Game over. So the bottom line is, the analysis of whether to attend law school in today's current climate goes well beyond doing what you "want" to do or what you perceive will make you happy. There is a definite cost component that, whether you want to admit it or not, will crush your soul in the long run."
Emphasis mine. Read that sentence over and over again. There is more to consider when making long term life decisions than some abstract whim. Okay, in theory you might think you like practicing law. The question you have to ask yourself is whether this notion that practicing law is what you want to do or what will make you happy is worth a very heavy financial investment that has a decent chance of not paying off. People will say you shouldn't worry about how much money you make if practicing law is what you love. But there's a huge difference between working for a $25,000 salary with no student loan debt, or doing something you love for $25,000 with upwards of $100K in debt. With no debt, if you change your mind about your career path you can do so. You might struggle, but you have at least a little flexibility. If you have $100K or more in student loan debt, that debt is not going anywhere. You are stuck with it. It will own you. The reason I try to discourage people from going into such debt if at all possible is that you can't really fathom what carrying that debt load is like until you have it. Until it has a major impact on all of the other decisions and milestones you face down the road, including your career, home ownership, marriage and family. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who gets a great job and pays off their student loan debt without a problem. I would be lying if I said there are no success stories. Of course there are. But you have to look at the odds.
I am an anonymous blogger. There is no reason for someone to take my advice as the last word on any given issue. Educate yourself. Look beyond my blog. But make sure you look beyond the numbers and employment statistics put out by the law schools themselves. Talk to recent law graduates of the schools you are considering, and similarly ranked schools. Read other blogs and publications. Crunch the numbers on how much debt you will incur and how much you will need to earn to make the payments manageable. You might decide to take the plunge anyway, but please don't be afraid to arrive at the conclusion that law school, or any graduate school, could be a bad investment. If you have been thinking about going to law school for the past decade, or if you are far along in the application or enrollment process, this might be a scary decision to make. There is no shame in it. but whatever decision you make, it should be an informed one.