- Decreased Demand for Lawyers
One of the main reasons college graduates should not go to law school is that the demand for lawyers has decreased in recent years. This means that there are fewer job opportunities for lawyers, and the competition for those jobs is fierce. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for lawyers will grow at a slower rate than the average for all occupations from 2019 to 2029.
This decrease in demand for lawyers is due in part to advancements in technology that have made legal services more accessible and efficient. For example, online document preparation services and legal research tools have made it easier for individuals to handle legal matters on their own, without the need for a lawyer. Additionally, many companies are using in-house legal teams to handle their legal needs, rather than hiring outside lawyers.
- Rising Cost of Law School
Another reason why college graduates should not go to law school is the rising cost of law school. Law school is one of the most expensive graduate programs, and the cost of tuition and fees has risen dramatically in recent years. According to data from the Law School Admission Council, the average cost of tuition and fees at a private law school in the United States was over $51,000 per year in 2020.
This high cost of tuition and fees is not only a financial burden for law school students, but it also creates a significant amount of student loan debt. According to data from the Institute for College Access and Success, the average law school graduate in the United States has over $140,000 in student loan debt. This can make it difficult for law school graduates to secure a mortgage, buy a car, or save for retirement.
The cost does not stop there either. The Bar Exam has its own fees, and no one passes without a study course. This means that for the 3 months after graduation, a law school graduate is not licensed to practice and will spend $10,000 (or more) getting a license. It takes a while after the exam is given in July until the results are out. It is not uncommon for law school graduates to not be able to work until November, or 6 months after graduation.
- Low Earning Potential Compared to the Cost of the Degree
Another reason why college graduates should not go to law school is the low earning potential for many lawyers. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers was $126,830 in May 2020. While this may seem like a high salary, it is important to consider the high cost of law school and the amount of student loan debt that many law school graduates have.
Additionally, the earning potential for lawyers can vary significantly based on their area of practice, the type of law firm they work for, and their geographic location. For example, lawyers who work for large law firms in major cities may earn significantly more than lawyers who work for small law firms in rural areas. A salary of $65,000 is great for a rural or suburban attorney at the beginning. Very few law graduates start with a salary of anything over $100,000.
- Stressful and Demanding Work Environment
Lawyers often work long hours, and the work can be extremely stressful and demanding. This can lead to burnout and a high level of stress, which can have a negative impact on a lawyer's personal and professional life. Additionally, many lawyers work in high-pressure environments, where they must make quick decisions and work under tight deadlines. This can be especially challenging for those who are not well-suited to this type of work environment. Moreover, the decisions made by a lawyer have real consequences for their clients, and some lawyers cannot easily deal with the stress of those decisions and outcomes. They internalize them and drink too much, do not sleep enough and become shells of who they were before.
The Daily Life
Most people think that the life of a lawyer is spending time in Court debating and arguing. That, for most attorneys, is less than 5% of their work. Instead, its calling clients, having meetings, drafting, writing, and responding to a never-ending sea of paperwork. People think they would be a good lawyer because they can argue. Good lawyers can write (and write some more - like the equivalent of several full-length novels yearly) and can manage people and their expectations. Very little of the job is about arguing. Days start early - some of my colleagues get to the office before 5 AM - and end late, like at 10 PM. And the majority of it is spent in front of a computer and keyboard, not in a courtroom.
Finally, college graduates should not go to law school because of the intense competition for jobs. As mentioned earlier, the demand for lawyers has decreased, and there are fewer job opportunities available. Additionally, there are many law school graduates who are unable to find work in their desired area of practice, and must take jobs that are not related at all to their dedired practice area. If a law school graduate does not graduate in the top 25% of the class, they can expect their first several jobs will be lower paying, in less desirable areas of the country and I high-stress areas of the law, such as the public defender’s office, the prosecutor’s office or for a small firm. I know of several small firms around me offering new graduates $50,000 as a starting salary - which, with the hours needed to make the billable requirements, works out to a salary of about $20/hour.
So, its probably not worth it to go to law school. As much as I enjoy my career right now, it took me 15+ years to reach a place where I was not a overweight, stressed-out, miserable excuse of a human. I would rather have those 15 years back to have worked in a field I could enjoy. That all said, I do enjoy what I do now, which lets me be a much different attorney than most you might speak with. My office is only a click or a call away, but so that I can continue to enjoy what I do, I only work un uncontested cases, appeals and mediation.