A while back I asked readers to write in with what they think are legitimate reasons to go to law school with the prediction that no one would be able to come up with two reasons good enough to justify the tuition, opportunity costs, and the time, effort and stress of actually going to law school. And then I was a bad BL1Y and didn’t get around to finish posting the responses I got, but now I’m back in the saddle.
[Click here for Reasons #1-3, and #4-5.]
I’m enjoying your blog, and am intrigued by your challenge. Not that I think law school is a great investment, but the immense cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing while studying the bar has helped me come up with a few reasons:
1. Lawyers know more about what the hell is going on than the average person. When I’m in the dentist’s chair, and the dentist mumbles some words to the hygienist, I want to know what he’s saying. Is it a cavity? A broken crown? A fucking midget in there? I have no clue. Well, that’s how non-lawyers feel in much of their everyday lives. “Can the store charge me for this?” “What would happen if I don’t pay my mechanic?” “Can cops really stick their batons THERE?” etc. And any lawyer/law student realizes how many such questions come up for the layperson, if only because such laypeople constantly ask us. This is only compounded by the fact that law is often esoteric and counterintuitive. So, because law touches every part of our lives, and non-lawyers can never hope to understand much of it, going to law school genuinely helps us know what is going on, and more so than any other profession.
2. It makes one marketable despite a worthless undergrad degree. I got a religious studies undergrad degree. There are no realistic options with that degree, besides a career in academia, which would require at least a doctorate just to get paid even less than crappy lawyers. Even in the current climate, I am considerably more marketable with a law degree than with the same amount of schooling in religious studies. Perhaps there are other graduate degrees (MBAs?) that one can get without taking a single related class in undergrad, but in all of those, your classmates will be likely people with related majors. I would not like to sit in an MBA class filled with marketing and accounting majors. And once graduated from MBA school, I would like to compete with such people even less.
And there it is. Fire at will. And keep up the good blogging!
@ University of Nebraska – Lincoln
US News #93, $26,600/yr (out of state), $12,154/yr (in state)
1. To become a more informed citizen
Yes and no. If you’re watching My Cousin Vinny, having gone to law school and taken evidence will probably give a slightly better understanding of what’s going on. Taking criminal procedure will make you understand why the verdict in 12 Angry Men should have been thrown out (jurors can’t conduct experiments). But, in general a fresh law grad won’t understand the legal world they live in any better than lay people. You won’t learn in law school that burping just before being administered a breathalyzer will invalidate the test (only in certain states). If anything, law school will make you worse at understanding everyday legal concepts because law school doesn’t work at ground level. You learn about Erie Doctrine, promissory estoppel, and the rule against perpetuities, you know, shit you don’t actually use. Law students go around thinking everything is a tort that they can sue over, but don’t understand the costs of prosecuting will outweigh any potential award. If you’re really interested in becoming more educated about the law, pick up a couple text books and study guides and just teach yourself the material. It’s a lot cheaper, and you won’t have to suffer through other classes that will never be relevant to your life.
2. The only degree worse than Women’s Studies
Religious studies? The hell were you thinking? I guess for you, yeah, you become more marketable with a law degree. But, a JD is not the “open every door” kind of degree law schools like to tell you it is. You are now qualified for exactly one additional career: lawyer. If that’s what you want to be for at least the next 15 years of your life, then it is a good degree to get. Otherwise, you’re spending a lot of time and money to expand your marketability by a very small amount. Also, in law school and in the legal market you will still have to compete with people who have related undergraduate degrees. The people with political science and economics degrees will kick your ass when it comes to answering the social policy questions on exams. The people with science backgrounds will push you out of the IP law practice, and the kids with accounting background will grab all the tax law jobs. Employers will look at your resume, see your degree in legal studies and know you only went to law school because you had no other options, not because you’re the kind of robot that wants to spend 100 hours a week in the office.
[Do you think you have some good reasons to go to law school? E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll happily tell you why you're wrong.]