One unofficially part of my university life involves counseling students about career choices. Students interested in attending law school often ask me whether they should go immediately after graduating from college. My stock answer is no, it is better to wait. These are my reasons:
- You won’t forget how to perform in school. When you graduate from college you’ve been attending school for 17 consecutive years or more. If you’ve had any success as a student—and if you haven’t, why are you thinking of going to law school?—the rhythms of academia course through your veins. Most people who’ve been good students can return to a student’s life (or, for that matter, adjust to a teacher’s life) after years away from school.
- Law school, indeed any graduate school, is extremely expensive: in the range of $100-$150,000 all-in for three years. Why not kick the tires more thoroughly before you put yourself in debt, or spend such a large pile of someone else’s money?
- Law is not for everybody. You don’t have to dig to find lawyers deeply dissatisfied with the practice of law. The legal career you desire with perfect clarity at 22 may lose its luster when you actually work with lawyers and see what we do, or as you watch your friends go through law school.
- Success as a practicing lawyer is not just about book smarts. Common sense, practical experience, and knowledge of human motivations, are all important in day-to-day practice. Whatever your life experience has been at the time you graduate from college, you’ll have that much more of it after living and working in the real world for a few years.
- Law school, particularly the first year, requires a huge commitment of time and energy. You need to be prepared to focus exclusively on law school, to immerse yourself in your law school’s community. You may have been the life of your college dorm, but your old friends will roll their eyes when you giggle uncontrollably about the Rule Against Perpetuities and Shephardizing. As unbelievably mature and wise and smart as you are at 22, you will be even wiser, smarter and more mature, and more ready to commit the time and energy required for the first year of law school, when you are, say 24.
Are there considerations–financial, intellectual, logistical–that counter these reasons? Of course. This is one-size-fits-all advice.