Is law school worth it even if you don’t plan to practice law? | Law Admissions
Law school demands a lot of students. It takes a major commitment of time, money and effort. Even if you receive a full scholarship, find the learning rewarding, and bond with your classmates, there are tradeoffs. After all, there are plenty of ways to spend three years of your life besides reading and discussing old legal cases.
Obviously, law school is a no-brainer if you are considering becoming a lawyer. But if you have no interest in practicing law, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits.
The advantages that law school offers you in the job market
As graduate schools and workplaces become more specialized, a JD is a relatively versatile degree.
Of course, some of the arcane legal rules you learn in law school may never show up in life, unless you’re caught up in a complex contract dispute or a dramatic inheritance fight. And most law students focus on a legal specialty, especially in their third year.
However, the skills you learn in law school have broad applicability across a range of fields. Law school will strengthen your ability to think, sift through evidence, analyze risk, and methodically solve complex problems.
More concretely, law school is helpful when you need to sign contracts, resolve disputes, interpret laws, or understand court proceedings.
A JD’s degree also signals an ability to handle rigorous coursework and handle stressful demands, especially if you earn it from a reputable law school.
Many potential employers view law school graduates favorably, especially in fields like business, professional services, politics, mediation, communications, and social justice. And many law graduates gain the confidence to succeed on their own as consultants, journalists, and entrepreneurs.
It is now common for law graduates to fill positions considered “advantage JD” or “preferred JD”, roles in which a law degree is highly valued but not strictly required. I’ve had many jobs that fall into this category, as a researcher, professor, policy consultant, and law school admissions coach.
The Value of Law School for Non-Lawyers
If a law school graduate succeeds in a non-legal field, did his degree help? If another ends up becoming a disgruntled lawyer, was law school a bad choice?
To put these results into context, it’s important to consider realistic alternatives, not just an idealized vision of success. And unfortunately, it’s hard to know if law school is a good investment until it’s too late to change course.
Carefully consider opportunity costs. If you skipped law school, what are the chances that you would spend that time taking crucial steps toward a life goal? If you feel uncertain or unenthusiastic about your current career trajectory, law school may be a low-stakes decision, even if you have no intention of practicing.
Also think realistically about your career path. In what type of environment do you perform best? What type of work-life balance do you envision? What kind of daily tasks do you hate and which do you find energizing or fulfilling?
If you’re not sure, do more research. Make time to pursue internships or volunteer opportunities or conduct informational interviews with people in various fields. Ask them how much a law degree is worth, instead of trying to evaluate it in the abstract.
For example, imagine you want to work for a healthcare startup. Perhaps a law degree would help you deal with complex regulations and risk management. Or maybe getting some real-world experience, a master’s degree in science or technology, or an MBA would be more helpful. Ultimately, professionals in the field are in the best position to answer this question.
Finally, if you view law school as a step toward a non-legal career, note that it can be difficult to stray from a legal path. Law graduates often face significant financial and social pressure to practice law. The lure of well-paid legal work can be irresistible, and it can be difficult to give up the security of such work.
Admittedly, many lawyers only practice briefly before changing careers – myself included! But leaving is not as easy as it seems at the start of your journey.