October 07 2010
Thinking of law school? Hopefully not to get rich
I'm not saying that the majority of actual lawyers are in the poorhouse. Most leave law school with huge loans and while some start right away in six figure jobs, the majority make around $50,000 to start.
But what you don't hear about is how many people drop out of school or if they finish don't practice law for very long or at all. My first year of law school (1994) we were divided in to groups of 20 to learn legal writing. Of the 20 in my group, eight dropped out, none for grades. Most just realized law school wasn't what they thought it would be or discovered it wasn't taking them where they wanted to go. Others wanted to do something altruistic like save the environment, but quickly realized they'd go bankrupt if they did.
Of the ones that did graduate and take the bar, my un-scientific survey tells me that more than 50% of them are not doing something traditional with their degree. Many are stay at home parents. I have one friend that became a fashion designer, another who writes books and a third that pursued a music career. Lots others are in business of some sort.
Law school does give you a great base for other things in life. Off the top of my head, these famous people graduated from law school, but never did much actual law firm practicing: Tony LaRussa (maybe that is why he is so surly), John Cleese, Andrea Bocelli, Jerry Springer, Former NFL QB Steve Young, Howard Cosell and President Obama to name a few.
One thing law school did probably do for them and likely does for many others is provide an exposure to many things and offers a safety net if their true passion doesn't work out. So if that is worth $120,000.00 to you then law school is probably a great fit.