Is Law School Right for You? Ask Yourself 5 Simple Questions.


The law is an amazing profession, but it’s not for everyone.  In fact, it’s not for the vast majority of people.  And when it’s not a good fit, the downside is awful.  Mismatched lawyers are miserable.  Their lives can really suck.  They may be very good at what they do, but it’s not particularly fulfilling.  Or it’s too time-consuming, preventing them from doing the other stuff that would be fulfilling.  Maybe they can’t stand dealing with other lawyers.  And if they’re not very good at what they do, their clients can suffer far far worse.

But for those who belong here, the law is a wonderful place to be.  It challenges the intellect, inspires ideas, and gives you a chance to really make a difference.  And that is huge.  It doesn’t matter what kind of law you practice; you’re dealing with real people, with real lives, and you’re helping them with a real need.  A life in the law is deeply fulfilling, and a life well spent.

Unfortunately, most mismatched lawyers don’t figure it out (if ever) until far too late, when they’re already practicing.  Some cut their losses and start a new career.  But most don’t.  Maybe they’re in a large law firm and just hate it, but can’t leave the paycheck.  Maybe they feel they’ve invested too much of their lives in law school and advancing through the profession, and so are unwilling to chuck it all and start over doing something else.  Maybe they sincerely can’t think of anything else to do.  And they wind up getting more and more miserable.  It’s no wonder that alcoholism, depression and divorce are rampant among lawyers.

The best time to figure it out, of course, is before going to law school.  Some people wisely drop out (or, thankfully, wash out), but that’s rare.  No, once a mismatched lawyer is admitted to law school, the odds are they’re going to stick it out and become a sinkhole of misery.  Far better to have turned away and pursued a more fulfilling life before ever going to law school in the first place.

But how can you tell if the law’s going to be a good fit for you?  It’s tough, if you haven’t tried it out first.  Whether you’d be happy or not is all hypothetical until you start working.

Fortunately, you know yourself pretty well.  Nothing hypothetical there.  If you’re honest with yourself, you know what traits you have and don’t have.

And fortunately, we’ve known plenty of other happy lawyers, and had the chance to observe what traits we all seem to share.

So if you’re wondering whether you ought to go to law school, you might want to ask yourself a few very simple questions:


1.  Do you want to be a lawyer?

If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t go to law school.  Sure, lots of people say it prepares you for other kinds of work, and trains your brain to do marvelous things.  But if that’s all you want out of it, go take some continuing ed courses in History, Philosophy and Economics.  A rigorous study of History will give you the same issue-spotting, researching and detail-checking that you’d get from law school — probably better.  Philosophy will certainly give you a better grounding in logic, analysis, and reasoned argument.  And Economics, along with the other two, will give you enough grounding in how people actually work, and why they do what they do.  There is nothing else that law school teaches if you’re not planning to be a lawyer.

Law school serves a single function: it is a trade school for those who would practice law.  And it’s fucking expensive.  Would you spend a hundred grand to go to plumbing school and apprentice as a plumber if you weren’t planning on being a plumber?  (And yes, that’s a valid comparison.  Plenty of lawyers make about as much as the average plumber.)  If you don’t want to be a lawyer, don’t go to law school.

“I don’t know” is not a good answer.  “I don’t know” is the same as “no.”  “No” does not mean you’re opposed to the idea of being a lawyer — that’s not what we asked.  We’re only asking if you actually desire to be one.  If the honest answer is anything other than an unqualified “yes,” then stop right here.  Do not go to law school.

But if the answer is yes, then keep reading.

2.  Why do you want to be a lawyer?

If you want to be a lawyer because lawyers make good money, then you shouldn’t go to law school.  Yes, some lawyers make great money, but that’s still no reason to be one.  If a major part of why you want to be a lawyer is the money, then in all sincerity you lack the single biggest trait of a good lawyer, and you do not belong in the profession.  If you can’t think of what that missing trait is on your own, you doubly don’t belong here.  Put simply, that trait is not putting yourself first.  The number-one thing that separates the law from almost every other endeavor is that the client’s interests always always always come first.  If you’re in it for the dough, you’re in it for you, and you’re not in it for the client.  (And if you’re in it for the dough, unless you’re going to be one of the top 1% of lawyers, you’re an idiot.  Because most aren’t going to make huge bucks.  Idiots don’t belong, either.)

If you want to be a lawyer because of the prestige, job security, or other benefits to yourself, the same goes for you.  You’re putting yourself first, and you probably have an unrealistic idea of what being a lawyer is like as well.  Please find something else to do with your life.  We’ll all be better off for it.

Do you want to be a lawyer because… well… you don’t know for sure?  Or because going to law school is some kind of default, because you still don’t know what to do with your life?  Or because you don’t want to be blue-collar, but didn’t get a background in science or engineering, don’t have the chops to do business, and didn’t develop any marketable skills in college?  Be warned: the law is not a default career.  Don’t count on discovering an aptitude and love of the law by chance during law school — it ain’t gonna happen.  Please go somewhere else.

But if you want to be a lawyer because of a genuine desire to help others — with what, it doesn’t matter — then you might be one of us!  Keep reading.

3.  Are you smart? Are you a good person?

This is really two questions in one.  Intelligence has nothing to do with whether you’re a good person.  But we’re lumping them here because what we’re really asking is whether you are the right kind of person for the job.

You don’t need to be a genius to be a good lawyer.  But you do need to have above-average intelligence.  You need to be able to learn new things quickly all the time, figure out what’s important, and deal with it right there.  Most people can’t really do this well enough.  It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means the law isn’t for them.

On top of basic intelligence, you need some basic maturity and good judgment.  You’re going to be making decisions that affect your clients’ lives in important ways, so you need to be able to make the right decision.  Intelligence only gets you to the point where you know what decision has to be made, and helps you identify what options you have.  Judgment and maturity (and experience) are how you make the right decision.

“Smart,” however, means more than just intelligent and wise.  It also means you know stuff.  A good lawyer is going to be a well-rounded person.  Every case, every matter, involves new issues to learn, new situations to figure out, and new people to deal with.  The more and varied your life experience, the better you will be able to deal with it.  Taking lots of different courses in college helps.  Doing lots of different activities and working different kinds of jobs helps more.  There’s a reason all that stuff looks good on a resume.

Beyond smarts, a lawyer must have a diligent work ethic.  You don’t need to be chained to your desk, but the law is a time-consuming profession, and you need to be able to put in the time to do it right.  That doesn’t mean you need to be chained to your desk every waking moment — unless you’re on trial or dealing with an emergency, there’s no reason why you’d need to forego your non-work life.  In fact, the most successful lawyers always seem to have time for family and personal pursuits, despite the fact that they work very hard.  And throughout law school and throughout the practice of law, the people who perform better are not the smartest ones, but the ones who put in the time to prepare more thoroughly.  It can’t be done quickly, and it can’t be crammed.  Those with a diligent work ethic will shine.  The rest will suffer.

And a lawyer must have strong morals, and a basic sense of decency.  This should go without saying, but there’s a popular misconception that the law is filled with assholes, and that assholes make better lawyers.  Nothing could be more wrong.  The lawyers who get ahead are without exception, trustworthy, fair and honest.  The rest of us make sure that those who aren’t don’t get very far.  It may seem like there’s a glut of lawyers in the world, but within the profession it’s a very small world indeed.  A lawyer who lies, who cheats, or who steals will not last very long at all.

4.  What kind of law are you thinking of practicing?

“I don’t know” is a perfectly valid answer here.  If you’ve made it this far, you probably have at least the bare minimum of threshold personality traits to practice law.  But let’s fine-tune it a little more.  What you want to do with that law degree will affect not only whether getting it makes sense, but also where you ought to go to school.  There are countless combinations of law schools and kinds of practice, but here are a few for comparison:

If you want to practice large-scale corporate law, helping big deals get made, doing M&A work, structuring intricate financial matters, etc., then your best bet’s going to be working in “biglaw” — the super-sized firms that work for major corporations.  The pay there is the best, the hours are the worst, and getting in is the hardest.  Because they pay far more than the true value of a freshly-minted JD, there is an oversupply of candidates for the jobs.  So they get to cherry-pick only the best candidates, which usually means those with the best grades from the most prestigious schools.  (Note, we did not say the “best” schools.)  If that’s your goal, you’re going to need to ace the LSAT and either have a near-perfect undergrad GPA or some awesome real-life experiences.  Otherwise, you’re not going to get into those top schools, and you’re not going to work at biglaw.

If you want a career studying the law, maybe shaping it, then academia is the place for you.  Oh, did we say biglaw was the hardest job to get?  We lied.  Legal academia is way harder.  In addition to a JD from a top school and law review, you’re probably also going to want to wrangle a federal appellate clerkship.  More importantly, you’re going to have to get published.  Not self-published.  Not a blog.  Not articles in Forbes.  You need to publish law review articles (even though nobody outside of academia ever reads or uses them).  The more the better.  At this point, however, you’re going to need to get into a top school.  If you can’t, then your chances of success here are low.

But you don’t need to go to one of the most prestigious schools if you want to practice local, small-scale law.  St. John’s and Cardozo prepare people far better for general local practice in New York than does Harvard.  However, you do need to go to a school that’s good at what it does.  The better the school, the better you’ll be taught, and the better you’ll be at what you do, and the better your chances of success.  Go somewhere in the top 100.  If you can get into one of the more prestigious ones, and can afford it, then by all means do — it really opens doors throughout your career — but it’s by no means necessary.  (And if you can’t get into a top 100 school, then you might want to rethink whether you meet the threshold requirements for practicing law in the first place.  Seriously.)

Do consider the fact that you’ll need to get a job, and even in the best of economic climates the lower your school’s ranked, the less likely you are to be hired.  The better your school, and the better your class rank there, the more likely you are to get hired.  Someone who had what it takes to get into Yale, but only did average there, is still going to be more marketable than someone who did great at Gonzaga.

5.  So how are those grades, anyway?

As you may have gathered by now, your grades and scores are pretty damn important.  As well they should be.  More than just determining how good a law school you can get into, they’re a great indicator of how well-suited you are for the legal profession.  If you don’t have the grades and the LSAT to get into a decent school, you’re probably going to be happier doing something else.

“But my grades don’t truly reflect me as a person,” we can hear you saying.  And you’re right, they don’t.  Grades and test scores don’t have any correlation to being a good person, having awesome potential, or your value as a person.

But grades are an outstanding indicator of whether you’re the kind of person who will achieve.  Face it, if you’re in college, you’re a grown adult.  You’re not a child.  If you’re not achieving now, what makes you’re going to start later?  Law school is not going to be kind to you if you don’t already have what it takes to earn great grades.  And if you have what it takes, why aren’t you getting those grades now?

And test scores like the LSAT are, like it or not, strong indicators of how well you’ll do in law school and beyond.  The LSAT tests logical thinking, reading comprehension, and issue spotting.  If you’re not really good at these now, you’re simply not going to do well in law school and beyond.  You’re not.  Don’t insist that you are, you’re not.

So as we said before, if you don’t have what it takes to get into at least a top 100 school, you really need to rethink whether the law is a good fit for you.

But if you’ve gotten this far, and you’ve got the grades and scores to get into one of those schools, or better yet one of the more prestigious schools, then come on in.  You’re probably going to love it in here.  And we’d love to have you.  People may complain that there are too many lawyers, but what they really mean is there are too many crappy ones.  There’s always room for more good ones.  Always.  So yes, we’d love to have you.

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116 Responses

  1. Aislinn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this- it has been extremely helpful!

    I do have a remaining question. To preface; I graduated from UC Berkeley with a 3.89 and a double major, I plan to study hard for the LSATs, and I know exactly what kind of law I want to practice (animal law, if that helps). I have at least some of the traits you mentioned above; I don’t procrastinate, I have a good work ethic, etc. But how can I be sure, without doing some type of law work beforehand, that I won’t hate being a lawyer when it actually comes down to it? Is doing some type of work in a law office critical to being sure this is something I want? I appreciate any advice you can offer!

    • Nathan says:

      Working in a law office that does the kind of law you want to practice could give you a glimpse of what your life might be like. But it’s not critical. Nice, but not at all necessary.

      Keep in mind that the work will look different depending on your perspective. The daily grind of a law practice can be incredibly stimulating to the lawyer who’s doing the research and writing and crafting, yet look incredibly boring to an observer. Similarly, a legal job that looks glamorous and impressive to an observer can be mind-numbing and soul-crushing to the poor sod who has to do it.

  2. Kerry says:

    Hi! We recently completed a mock trial in a civics class I take at school. I’m only 15, but I’ve been considering going to school to be a music teacher but after enjoying the mock trial (and winning) I’ve began to contemplate law as a profession. I’ve always enjoyed politics, history, and government. Do you have any advice for me?
    I make good grades and am a very dedicated student.

    • Nathan says:

      You still have a couple of years of high school left before college, so there’s no need to decide right this very minute. Plus, you wouldn’t be applying to law schools for another four years after that. There’s plenty of time.

      Along the way, study what interests you! Study music! Take classes in different kinds of history, to learn how societies function. Take some economics, psychology, and maybe even some statistics or game theory, to learn how people behave. Study philosophy to start getting a handle on why. Get involved in a cause you believe in, to learn about making a difference. If this stuff really grabs you, you’ll know. And you might decide law’s really not for you, or maybe it’s the sum of everything you want to be.

      So my advice is take advantage of the years ahead of you to learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Law schools don’t care what your major was in college, so go ahead and major in music, or in anthropology if you choose, or mathematics or whatever. You may discover another more powerful connection that you never dreamed of until you took that class in post-Soviet literature. But if you keep studying subjects like the ones I mentioned, you’ll get a better idea if the law is right for you while at the same time preparing yourself to be awesome at it.

      Congratulations on winning the mock trial, and good luck!

      PS — I’ve coached and judged tons of high school mock trials, and I have to say the kids tend to be at least as good — if not better — than many lawyers I’ve seen in action in real trials. The reason is because they’re prepared. Preparation wins trials. The lawyer who knows the facts better than anyone else in that room wins, not the one who’s best at thinking on his feet, not the one who knows the most intricacies of the law. If you want to be a trial lawyer, you’ll have to learn how to truly study and master a subject. Because before they can make their arguments or objections or strategies, the best trial lawyers must first master their case. So take the time in these coming years to learn how to be a great student, because if you’re a trial lawyer that’s what you’ll be for the rest of your life. And speaking as a trial lawyer, it’s wonderful!

  3. Aislinn says:

    Thanks very much, Nathan.

  4. Kerry says:

    Thanks so much!! I did not realize you didn’t have to major in law to go to law school. That’s a really great thing to know! Thanks for all of the info and the quick response!

  5. jason says:

    Thanks for this. I feel more encouraged in my decision and less intimidated by the constant market-influx of new attorneys.

  6. Khaled shweiki says:

    Hello there: Am planning to study law on line if there is and if it’s a good idea,am fourty four years old and always looking for something that I feel that I will be good in it
    I know my self that am honest and like to help people

    • Nathan says:

      I am extremely enthusiastic about online learning. MIT and Harvard have a good thing going with EdX, and there are one or two others that are worthwhile. They’re managing to teach some really demanding courses, with student participation and collaboration on projects, and the online platform lets them bring in all kinds of media to help get the concepts across. Online learning is GREAT!

      That said, however, I am unaware of any online law school curricula that are worthwhile. There’s no reason why that should be — law school is designed to maximize the student-teacher ratio, most classes require zero coursework like papers or projects, and the only grade is the final exam. It would be easy as pie to put law school online.

      But if anyone’s done it well, I haven’t seen it. And if you want an actual job as a lawyer, you’re going to have to attend an accredited law school, and I don’t think any online law courses are accredited.

      A much better plan would be to attend law school as an evening student, part-time. Lots of famous lawyers (and a few Supreme Court justices) started out this way. Many of the top law schools have evening programs, and welcome adult students. If you want to actually work as a lawyer, online sadly isn’t the way to go.

      Not now, anyway.

  7. kassidy says:

    I think law is for me. Im a freshman at high school and have been thnking about law for years now. I want to study family and juvenile law. I’ve been through a lot and know I can make it. no matter what.

  8. Jimmy Coltrane says:

    Thought this was going to be an insightful piece from someone inside the profession that benefited those of us outside it. It could have been.

    Instead, it comes across as an attempt at moralising.

    “you can’t put yourself first, bla bla”- yeah, lawyers have a reputation for being selfless don’t they

    You seriously think people apply to BigLaw firms thinking ‘I’m not in it for the money at all, if BigLaw paid a fraction as much, I’ll still apply, as long as I can make all those faceless corporations happy!! I just really want to put them first, not me!!!’

    If you do, you’re seriously deluded. Being very money motivated is a very good reason to consider BigLaw.
    You have to take great care of the client’s interests, of course, that is your job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t put yourself first. What does it even mean to not put yourself first- is that even possible given we are by nature self-motivated?

  9. marry says:

    tnxs for this article i know i wanna b a lawyer

  10. Destiny says:

    Being a lawyer has been my passion for sometime now. I really have the needy at heart. Want to always fend for the rights of people Who are wrongly accused. Being a lawyer will help me tackle issues relating to criminal injustice in our society. I really want to be a lawyer this is the reason why I want to rewrite some of my papers. But also need a scholarship to back my studies in the law field. I am also a good public speaker. Am from Ghana. How can I get a scholarship?

  11. Kelli says:

    I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, but have been concerned about there being too many lawyers and not enough jobs. Now I am double majoring in Computer Science and Statistics, but I still feel like being a lawyer is my dream job and fits my personality best. I expect to graduate with a GPA at around 3.5 or 3.6 due to the challenging courses that I am taking but will probably end up with a LSAT in the upper 170’s. Is that enough to get into a good law school and eventually a secure job? I also will have had 3 CS/IT internships by the time I graduate.


  13. Shaye Scott says:

    Hi, I’m going to be a college freshman in the next few months, and I was wondering what you think about a Criminal Justice major before law school? I have been seriously thinking about law school for many years, and although I know I still have time to decide, I was just wondering if there is a “better” option. I am also wondering about an appropriate minor. I was thinking either financing or accounting. Any advise?

    • Nathan says:

      Don’t major in pre-law or any other law-related thing during undergrad. There’s little evidence that such majors produce students any better prepared for law school (and more importantly, the practice of law) than any other.

      Seriously, a broad liberal education is going to prepare you best for law. Law is nothing more than humanity written down — the rules of the game of life, the dictates of society, the distillation of all we aspire to and the recognition of what we’re really like.

      You want to be an awesome lawyer? Study History, Literature, and Philosophy. Absorb Mathematics, Science, and Statistics. Delve deep into Economics, Anthropology, and Psychology. Take classes in acting, finance, creative or persuasive writing, rhetoric, fucking logic, art for chris’sakes.

      Don’t go to school to be a drone. Drones are miserable. Drones in the law, even more so. Go to school to try to understand the world and the people who live in it. Then you might be prepared for the law.

  14. Rachel says:

    Awesome and straight talking. a breath of fresh air, quite honestly.

    Without dragging through it all too much. I was a foster kid and i have insight from a certain perspective and a passion for advocacy. I have been working in childcare for 15 years(now 31) and a high end, high earning international nanny.
    There is a little voice of instinct telling me that my desire to advocate for people/children/families should be through Law…Though I’ve tried to push this towards psychology/therapies/social work, that is not where i thrive..yet.

    I am british (with inherited Australian passport). i want to get a study visa and study Law in the US. I left high school with little grades.

    Though I’m sure the international aspect is my own issue to manage as is a whole world of research and reality. I also understand this is a long road. Am i correct to consider: 1.Philosophy(i’d love this) or Social Work Undergrad 2. LSAT 3.Night school Law.
    Thank you for the article!!

  15. James says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am starting my junior year in college and just recently decided my major (double major in communication and Urban Studies), my GPA is average, and I am very involved on my campus ( had a radio show, president of my fraternity, Secretary of the Black Student Union, multiple jobs/internships just in my first two years). I’ve always been good at school but never had a passion for anything really. I focused my energy on a everything hoping that something would hit. Then last semester, out of the blue I came to the “realization” I’m going to be a lawyer; it was a childhood response of mine that I would tell any adult who asked what I wanted to be. My point is: this article helped me realize that being a lawyer isn’t truely in my heart. I feel that there are too many enablers who tell up to “give it your all” when that’s not always the best. Thanks

  16. For those of you who are sure that a career in law is not the right choice: this isn’t the end of the world. Sticking with your degree until the end could well be the best choice for your future career.

  17. Angelea says:

    So I’m 14 a freshman and ever since I was 12 I knew that I wanted be a lawyer and would do what ever it takes I love working with anything associated with law and cooperate really interests me and I really believe that I could help and do the best In that type of practice see I’m in the third day of being a freshman and was like let’s start getting my ducks in a row and help myself out as much as possible and this has really cleared up some stuff for me so if u have any tips or anything I’m.all ears and thank you I appreciate the time you took to write this

  18. Garima Ahuja says:

    plo science is the only subject we need to focus in 11th standard to be a successful lawyer??? my teacher says that the lawuers ptoffesion is only based on popularity. is it so?

  19. Garima Ahuja says:

    i love law. (and yes not just because of money) . i scored well in polscience (11th standard) . but the thing that scares me is my teachers worrds. when she came to know about my desires on being a lawyer, she said that this proffesion is only based on popularity, how much popular you’re as a lawyer . is it so????:-(

  20. Sunny sah says:

    my parents are insisting me to study law but i have never thought of being a lawyer. However now i do want to study law but i really don’t know anything about law and wanted to know about it.

    Can you give me some tips that would help me in my study it would be great for me

  21. excellent information thanks

  22. class act says:

    I guess for me it comes down to the LSAT if I want to study in America. I am interested in International law and working for an intelligence agency or the Euro Union. I know I will at least 4 months to a year to focus on LSAT. I couldn’t use the summer because I am in a NYU masters program and took 3 summer courses. I am studying Int affairs, international law and human rights. My goal is to keep a high graduate GPA and score 160+ on the LSAT. My undergrad is a different field.If I dont receive a scholarship to attend NYU Law or ivy league, I will study in Europe where tuition is cheaper and the LSAT is not even a requirement.

  23. Joyce says:

    Hey Nathan, thanks a lot for this article and the effort u put in. I’m interested to study law in future yet I am quite a person with a lot of principles. I have heard from others that being lawyer should be ready to throw some principles/moral away. Personally, I really wish I can impact others and help those who are in need and really want to continue keeping my moral high. In this case would u recommend me to go to law school? If yes, what type of law would u recommend? Really appreciate if a reply can be made, but if u don’t, I can understand too.

  24. Jade says:

    I am currently at Law School myself in the UK.
    It has been the best decision of my life. If you generally enjoy working hard, like reading and don’t mind spending days and nights studying, then absolutely go for it. In ANY career these days you’ll always find reasons not to do it. In every degree they’ll say, is it really worth the money? Or do you really think you will be happy doing that for the rest of you life?
    It’s these articles – who are probably written by someone who doesn’t actually know what it’s like to be a law student, who write these negative representations of a life and career in law. So ignore all these useless and meaningless articles about pros and cons and just go for it, do your research on university and modules and the only think you should consider, is not how smart you are, but how motivated are you? how hard do you work, every day? and if you’re not a quitter, that law is defiantly an amazing career to enter.
    Good Luck!

  25. rhaine says:

    Hello, I would like to study law in the future, I already got a Bachelor’s degree in Office Administration I did not have good grades back then, and I think studying law is something that I really want to do and I think becoming a lawyer is a solid profession. I wanted to try to enroll in a law school do I have to get another Bachelor’s degree in law before taking masteral??? And what do you think I should do to have higher chance of being accepted in a law school.please I need help. thanks.

  26. Nate Sutton says:

    Listen, if your answer is “I don’t know” when it comes to becoming a Lawyer, FIND OUT. Don’t stop because someone else says so, find out for yourself!

  27. Nate Sutton says:

    I want to do Criminal Law and/or Entertainment/Music Law. I love to do research to catch someone in a lie, I love catching patterns, I love to debate or argue (even if I dont side with what I am arguing for), I love going to bat for people, I love helping people get out of fucked situations. It’s just who I am as a person, sounds like being a Lawyer would be a good fit for me. My answer is a yes, but a yes isn’t good enough for me. I need more than a yes, how do I figure that out, Nathan?

  28. Jessi says:

    Love you law. I’m now a days in training mode. I’ve joined a law firm. who’s rank is top of the firms of the country.

  29. DM Anderson says:

    OK , Here’s the deal:
    I have been an attorney for 35 years in the Twin Cities (Mpls-St. P)
    If you have half a brain ( IQ > 110) and are willing to work hard ( at least in college and law school), you can do well in law AS LONG AS YOU FIND THE NICHE THAT SUITS YOUR PERSONALITY!
    If you do, it’s like stealing; if you don’t, it’s like hell on earth.
    At hourly rates of $ 200-500/hour for most lawyers, if you develop good time management skills, CAN ATTRACT and RETAIN clients, and keep your overhead low ( increasingly easy via tech and software options for many practice areas) you can make LOTS of money, even working 20-30 hours/ week as I now do.
    DO the MATH: 10 billable hours/week X $300/hour X 50 weeks/year= $ 150K
    Can you live on that?
    Not a bad gig if you’re willing to smile when you hear lawyer jokes.

  30. Srushti says:

    Hi m srushti!!!!!
    I m really influenced by the work lawyers do!!!!!
    And becoz of this even I have decided to become lawyer.
    I m 14!!!
    I’m not able to understand that is law best option for me????
    Yes I like to help people who are in need and I can’t see injustice done with someone!!!!
    Plz someone help me to choose my profession coz this is the right age!!!!!!??

  31. Noma says:

    I really would like to be a lawyer. I feel I will do successfully great. I would like to do family law and criminal law and commercial law. l really like to help people and I feel that as a lawyer you are an advocate for human rights which is one thing I am passionate about. I am currently volunteering with an organization to help people living with HIV/AIDS. I’m also part of a leadership group in my city of origin whereby we learn more about leadership. I really want to do law because I believe I have the natural traits you mentioned above. I love debating and arguing. History and Literature are my favorite subjects. I also enjoy asking questions about how people live, their likes, status quo etc. Another thing I love reading I enjoy it and I love learning new things.

  32. Nosipho mkhize says:

    I am currently a BA Law student I find it really interesting because I’ve always been dreaming to be one but when it comes finance all thanks to the foundation who is helping me with my fees

  33. alex says:

    Hello Nathan,

    Thank you very much for your informative post. I had for years played with the idea of practicing law. Currently, I’m obtaining my degree (BA in Anthropology) from an online institution. I am especially enjoying my American Government and Philosophy classes. I especially liked how you mentioned that practicing law requires a varied background, which I have as an analyst and also a veteran. If I decide to attend law school, my hope is to one day hep people. I am especially interested in international law and also immigration law. Thank you, thank you for the advice!

  34. Kobe Thao says:

    Dear anybody,
    I am a freshman considering the career of a lawyer. Tell me if I am doing it for the right reason. I am doing it to make a good living. I am good at math and history and constantly learning new concepts that i grasp quickly. I think I would do right by people and be the best lawyer the people need. Let me know. I was just wondering if I should be a lawyer.

  35. Au says:

    My sister and her friends had none of these qualities and despite this they all are doing great.
    If you want to do it, just do it…don’t let a lousy article distract you from your goal.

    Just ask yourself this – Can you do it and do you really want this?

  36. Au says:

    My sister and her friends had none of these qualities and despite this they all are doing great.
    If you want to do it, just do it…don’t let a lousy article distract you from your goal.

    Just ask yourself this – Can you do it and do you really want this?
    If the answer to both is a solid yes then nothing can prevent you from reaching your destination where you are proud of your achievement.

  37. Nathan says:

    Au, if it’s true that your sister and her friends only wanted to be lawyers for selfish reasons, that they are neither smart nor good people, and yet they are nevertheless “doing great” as lawyers, then you have a strange definition of “doing great.”

    The profession of law isn’t for self-actualization. It’s not about you. It’s about serving clients, and putting those clients’ interests first. People who are in it for the wrong reasons make the rest of us look bad.

  38. Deeps says:

    Hi, so I live in South Africa, so I assume a lot of these things won’t apply to me (we don’t do LSATs and I think there is only one university on the other end of the country that is actually ranked in the top 100 law schools) but I am in my last year of school (we call it matric, I think it’s called senior year there?) and there’s a lot of pressure to apply as we are already halfway through our school year. I have never really known what I want to do after school, but I haven’t considered law until recently. I’ve always been the person everyone expects to do well in science or something, and I’ve always viewed law as for someone else, if that makes sense?
    I’ve always imagined the law students as those who have wanted this since they popped out of their mother, and my English isn’t my strongest subject. It sounds weird, but I also had this weird idea in my head that law was a boring choice, and that I wouldn’t want to do it because some people’s parents force them to study law (I had the same view of doctoring and pretty much all professional degrees). I normally feel awkward about this stuff, but my marks are pretty high( I think I’m an audio learner, so school life is easy) without me studying much, so my English marks are still almost always an A, but compared to other people, I’m stronger at things like maths, science or bio.
    This leads to two problems. Firstly, after realising that law was very interesting, and I really wanted to help people and this was a very direct way of doing it, on top of the fact that it involves human interaction, and the way people and societies think (which I find fascinating), I realised that I would have to work hard. This is something I believe I can do if I am panicked enough, but I have ADD and I am not good at consistent work unless I am very interested in the subject matter.
    The other problem is that despite liking people and being an extrovert, science is brilliant, and it honestly makes sense. This I think is a problem, because law does not require science, and I would feel strange giving that up.
    Over the last few weeks I’ve realised that I want to study law, but at the same time, the idea of not being successful is terrifying, and I can’t be sure that I will be successful. I’ve also been told that law requires a lot of Swotting (hard-core fact-studying… I don’t know if that is a South African colloquialism) and a lot less understanding (which is my forte).
    Basically, what I think I am trying to ask, is do you think it is worth it for me to study Law, or should I fall back onto the expected BSc, or marketing degrees? Most of the answers to the questions you posed, were quite positive, I am just uncertain of whether I personally could do well, and I wonder if that uncertainty would be bad.
    Ugh, sorry about the essay…
    By the way, my mother thinks it is a bad idea, but then again, she thinks I like mushrooms…

  39. Alyssa says:

    I am currently a high school sophomore and plan to do a major in English lit before law. I am very argumentative ( as in,I stand up to bullies without getting punched myself), love researching and writing papers. I have a cgpa of 9.8 /10 ( there is no 9.9) and someday I wanna work for UN. I am not being materialistic, but wont money too play an important part? I mean, if I am doing the best I can, shouldn’t I be paid that much? I’m in it for helping and earning the big bucks. Is that too bad?

  40. Isaac Edman says:

    Hello Nathan!
    First of all thank you for taking the time to write this. Seeing as I am a senior in high school I have a lot of very important decisions to make and I am seriously considering pursuing a career in law. I am a member of my school debate team and love it, especially the intricate ways different laws can interact. I would love to become a criminal lawyer to help people either receive justice or defend them from wrongful accusations. I also understand that a lot of law is digging through piles of paper for discrepancies and I am prepared and willing to do that. Any advice?

    • Nathan says:

      Sure. Obviously you’re going to need to get good grades in undergrad if you want to get into law school. Don’t bother taking pre-law. Do take courses that teach you how to think clearly — philosophy courses are the best. Take courses that teach you what people are like, what they dodo, and why. Econ, history, and psych are key. Don’t neglect the sciences, either. The more you know about how the world works and understand people and their institutions, the better prepared you’ll be to become an ace law student.

      The hardest thing about law school is learning how to think like a lawyer. With a decent grounding in the subject mentioned, though, it’ll be a piece of cake. History will give you great research skills, too. Not just finding sources, but assessing their relevance and reliability.

  41. Andre says:

    Great article…

  42. My Yiddisha Mama pushed me into Medicine. I thought, as a Teenager, that Law would be Cool. I was interested in Constitutional Law, being that I wanted to start a Children’s Revolution at the Time. Given that my Peers would sooner laugh at, or possibly Kill me, that Never Got off the Ground. Seriously, though, if the voting age were five years lower, I don’t think we’d be IN our present National Debacle. But, actually, what ruled me out in my Father’s Mind (they’re Both Deceased-he was a Caltech Scientist) was that I barely passed Algebra, and Law is “Math with Words instead of Numbers.” I had PLENTY of Trouble in Premed, Too. I ended up going to a Foreign Medical School in Mexico (and Not even the “Good” one in Guadalajara.) Ah-Well. I might have had to do some Criminal Stuff, and who wants to Defend Rapists, anyhow?? (But-the Low-Level Drug Offenders, I would have had NO Trouble with. FUCK the War on Drugs, Anyhow.) I actually liked Cop shows like “Barretta” as a Teen, but, given that I was So Un-Athletic I dropped Gym Class, I would have had trouble with Police Academy, Too.

  43. Lee says:

    This information comes at a valuable time during a re-evaluation of my unrelated career. I am looking at Law degree information (pre-law school) because the content sincerely interests me, but I ultimately needed the frank and uncensored advise given by the author of this post. I appreciate how the author left no area of selfish thinking untouched. This is priceless and I will re-read many more times. Thank you.

  44. Sam says:

    Hi Nathan, this is fabulous. I have a successful career in advertising already, but have realized that I just need to find a way to help people, a career that is less selfish. I’ve decided to pursue law, but income being what it is I’m looking at Seattle University’s part time law school. Are part time law schools viable for getting into the field? My ultimate goal would be county judgeship or local government. Seattle U has an awesome Legal writing program (#1) but I don’t know if I’d be at a disadvantage for attending part time. Thanks!

    • Nathan says:

      Glad you liked it.

      Part-time law school is actually fantastic. Professors fight for the chance to teach students who’ve already had life experience, who didn’t go straight from high school to undergrad to law school. The class discussions are so much more stimulating, the students have mature perspectives, the students are there for a reason rather than by default, it’s not their whole life, and they have the perspective to not freak out over the stupid stuff.

      It’s not just the professors who benefit from having students like you. When the guy on your left happens to be a cop who just came from executing a search warrant, and he’s sharing perspectives with the mother of three on your right who’s seen one too many times what happens when the police come knocking… that boring old search-and-seizure class just took it to a whole new level.

      And part-time students get a really good mix of academic professors and real-life practitioners who teach at night what they’ve been doing for real all day. Purely practical teaching is important for nuts and bolts “how to” knowledge. And theoretical teaching is crucial if you expect to understand not just how it works, but why. You need both, to be able to adapt as the law evolves. You need both, to make that persuasive argument that pushes the law in a new direction, or saves your client’s bacon in a novel situation.

      A hundred years ago, it’s true, there was a stigma associated with part-time law school. The profession was terribly elitist back then, and didn’t want to dirty itself with people who had to (ugh) work for a living. But my old boss Chief Justice Burger was one of those “had to work for a living” types who went to law school part time, at night, while working his way through the Depression, and he turned out okay. I don’t think it’s been a disadvantage for any lawyer now living.

      So that’s the last thing you need to worry about. Good luck with law school!

  45. Jasmine says:

    What if you struggle in some aspects of skills you really need for law (e.g lateral thinking) but you still want to be a lawyer. Can hard work and dedication get you to the ranks of a successful lawyer?

    • Nathan says:

      Hard work and dedication are excellent ways to build any skills! That’s a sure-fire way to succeed in pretty much anything.

  46. Havivah Saltz says:

    Hello Nathan! I’m shocked but relieved to see that you’re still replying to people’s comments on this article. Thank you so much for posting this; it’s really let me see the profession from an inside perspective. I’m a high school junior and I really have no idea what I want to do with my life, but I think that law could be the right direction for me. I’m just really worried about the cost of law school, even though I know I won’t have to worry about that until five years from now. It’s so expensive and I have no guarantee that I’ll earn back the money. I also tend to be a very creative person, and all the other careers I’ve been considering are in the Arts and Humanities. Somehow, the law seems so far removed from that. How will I know that it’s worth it for me to pursue a career as a lawyer?

  47. Hahaha I Love this article, though I’m 27 and just finishing my first quarter of college, obviously pursuing the wrong trade in Green Building, I now realize that I should be in law. I remember my grandmother told me when I was 19 after one of our many debates. “I you should be a lawyer, and quit selling drugs”, I just laughed and told her, I couldn’t afford business school let alone Law school, and continued on my high rise into the drug trade untill I got burned out, depressed, and gave up. But my enjoyment of poking holes into what people say and claim were still there; and the giggly shit eating grin I have on my face and in my voice as I’m proving my points and forcing them to realize no matter what they say I am right, because if I’m speaking and telling you something then I 100% for a fact know what I’m saying and talking about, no matter what it is I’m saying, and I’m sorry to burst your bubble and hate to tell you this but it has to be said eventually and we’ll I guess I’m the one who’s going to tell you.

    And I see all that is basically shows all the character traits, basically just have to know what words mean and be able to logically state your take on the events, compare the two together, if it looks like it’s gonna fit, then you piece it together and stand it up right kick out your leg bow to your waist. Flail your arms out and say Ta-da!

  48. James Tyack says:

    This is something I ‘ve been searching for for a while.I’m thankful to you for writing this article.

  1. June 16, 2015

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  2. October 3, 2015

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    Is Law School Right for You? Ask Yourself 5 Simple Questions. – The Criminal Lawyer – Commentary on Law and Policy

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