Mark Bennett, a fellow blogger posted a detailed post citing reasons not to go to law school. Below is a brief excerpt of that article, but it is available in its entirety here.
Even assuming that other opportunities would not have appeared in the ten years you would have (had you chosen more wisely) spent in the workforce, and that the contract work isn’t offshored to India, ten years after you begin you’re just starting to break even.
What’s going to happen in your life in the next ten years? What has happened in the last ten? What’s going to happen in the world in the next ten years? What’s the practice of law going to look like?
While in part I agree with what Mark is saying … that the money may not be the same in law as it once was, it remains one of the better professions, especially if you are motivated, personable, and want to practice law. And, just because the money is not as high as it may have been, what is growing, besides healthcare? And, as long as the insurance lobby continues to hold sway over lawmakers, who knows how much longer that will be true….
However, I cannot agree with Mark’s assessment that I quoted above. To answer those questions one would have to see into the future. While it may be that the economy is in recession and that the next few years look bleak, that does not mean someone should not go to law school because the world will always be changing, the practice of law will evolve to meet society’s needs, and someone has to be there to help people sort out their problems.
Please keep in mind, I’m writing this from the perspective of a solo practitioner. I am also writing this from someone who has tried on various hats within the legal arena and took several years to find the perfect niche for me. I was first a prosecutor, enjoyed the work, but felt that there was no room to advance, at least not as quickly as I would have liked. Looking back, that was just impatience on my part — people who started after I did are now in elevated positions within that office. Is that saying I regret my decision to leave… not today. Would things be different had I stayed, possibly. Did I make a bad or wrong decision by leaving… absolutely not.
Then, I went into civil litigation, insurance defense work. I really liked the people that I worked with but the type of work was not for me. I wanted to develop a criminal defense practice, where I could work with people and help them with real problems, rather than just shuffle documents and try to minimize insurance companies expenses. If this is the area that Mark is really focusing on, then I would tend to agree with him more, as the limitations and restrictions that were being implemented by insurance companies made doing the work very difficult, when backed up against the demand of partners wanting you to bill X hundred hours per year.
Finally, I opened my own office, and I do not regret it and will never go back… unless something unknown to me at the time I am writing this entry forces me to do so. That being said, this goes to the future predictions and unknown factors that Mark seems to raise.
To conclude, I would agree with Mark that if the motivating reason for going to law school is money, then don’t do it, because it is not what it once was, but I would disagree in that law school will not pay for itself. However, if you want a solid, well-rounded education, which no one can take from you no matter what, then law school is an excellent way to go. I thought it was ludicrous when I heard, "We teach you to think like a lawyer…" but law school really does. You will leave with the ability to see things from multiple angles and perspectives.
And remember, the market is changing, jobs are off-shored, but being flexible and finding your niche is what really is important.