Should I go to law school?

Pros and cons

I have thought about this a lot over the years. Moreover, I have discussed this issue with a number of students who struggled with the decision of whether or not to go to law school. I understand why -- some students went to law school who should not have gone and now regret the entire experience. But at the same time, I have had students go to law school who enjoyed the experience and are now enjoying the practice of law. I have worked with lawyers who hated what they were doing; I have worked with lawyers that couldn't see themselves doing anything else.

So how is someone supposed to know? Short answer is that there is no right choice -- the fact is that you can be happy no matter what you do (or don't do). I can tell you some of the things that you should think about first.

I would start with this: most people who go to law school become lawyers. That may seem obvious, but it's more than that. Being a lawyer means practicing law. Many people believe that a JD is a good entry point into management. It's not. Yes, there are many businesspeople who have JDs, but their success is in spite of the law background, not because of it. If your goal is to be in business, then go get an MBA.

Law school takes time. It's three years and, because of the nature of law school, it is difficult to work and go to school at the same time. Therefore, when you think about the cost of school, remember that there is an opportunity cost -- that's three years when you could be doing something else for more money.

Law school can be expensive. You have to be very careful to balance the costs of the school with your expected income after graduation.

There is a hierarchy to law schools. The fact is that when you choose a law school, there are a number of jobs that are foreclosed to you. Some law firms will only hire from certain schools. Much of this is based on geography -- OCU grads will get jobs in OKC, but may struggle if they take that degree to Dallas and try to get a job there. Law school rankings are important. It does not change your education -- you can get an excellent education no matter where you go. But unfortunately it matters to law firms. From now on the first important thing on your resume is going to be the law school you went to and you will be judged accordingly. The old saying was "go to the best law school you can get in to" and that is probably good advice. But remember, rankings are not absolute -- if you want to live in a certain region, your chances are increased by going to law school there.

But it's not all bad news. There are many reasons to go to law school. I enjoyed my time there and have no regrets about law school or practicing law.

Law school is a meritocracy. When you go to law school, it does not matter where you went to undergrad or what you majored in. You and everyone in your class are starting at the same level. I went to a small commuter school in Louisiana; one of my best friends went to Princeton. In law school we were all the same. All grading in law school is blind. Professors don't know who you are when they are grading your exams. Everyone is truly equal.

Law school is interesting. Learning about the law is really learning about the framework that society rests on. I felt like I understood for the first time how the world works.

You can make a difference. If you see a problem in society, being a lawyer empowers you to do something about it.

Being a lawyer is prestigious. People are impressed with it. That goes a long way in life.

I know this is all a lot of information. If you want to discuss it further, I would be happy to visit with you, either in person or on the phone. Law school is a huge decision so I would be happy to give you my thoughts.

Hope that helps! Griffin