If you are thinking about law school, you should be thinking about life as a lawyer. Whatever your motivation for entering the profession, you should be well informed. Learn as much as you can about the profession before investing your time and money. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to become a lawyer? Why do I want to go to law school?"
Students are entering the law profession in record numbers. There are fewer jobs for recent graduates of law schools. There is a high "burnout" rate among those who work as lawyers. There are enormous expenses, both financial and emotional, associated with the commitment to law school. Both the ABA and the New York Times have recent articles on this subject (ABA article; NYT article). Make an informed decision.
Deborah Arron, author of What can you do with a Law Degree? (Seattle: Niche Press, 1994), has developed a list of traits shared by contented lawyers. These traits may help determine your potential satisfaction with the profession:
- Display a love of learning
- Pay attention to details
- Repect the rules
- Possess strong analytical abilities
- Achievement oriented
- Steady and stable
- Patient and persistent
- More realistic than idealistic
- More conventional than innovative
- More dispassionate than emotional
Similarly, Arron has developed a personality preference quiz to help determine if the law is for you:
- Do you like to get emotionally involved with your work?
- Do you dislike or attempt to avoid conflict?
- In resolving conflict, do you prefer deciding what's fair based on the circumstances of each situation?
- Do you like to create or start projects and let others finish or maintain them?
- Do you dislike paying attention to details?
- Do you prefer short-term projects?
- Do you value efficiency?
- Do you like to do things your own way, on your own schedule, and in order of your own priorities?
- Do you get more satisfaction being part of a team than being a solo act?
Do you want to change the world?
Arron says that a "yes" answer to any of these questions ought to raise serious questions about the wisdom of using a law degree to practice law and should push you toward a more thorough self-assessment and consideration of other career paths.
But not everyone who earns a law degree chooses to practice law. A Juris Doctorate can serve you well in careers in business, administration, politics, academia, and many non-practitioner jobs within the profession including the legal products and services industry.