So, this may seem like a weird question, but I’m currently a college student considering going to law school, and have stumbled upon your site. Is this the general sentiment among all lawyers, or are there some who actually enjoy it? What type of person would make a good lawyer (and would enjoy it)? In short, would you suggest going into law?
Look, I can’t tell you whether or not to go to law school. I’ve never met you. I know nothing about you. But I can give a few pieces of advice.
One, Bitter Lawyer is meant to be somewhat satirical. It’s not a literal, exact description of practicing law. But it does capture an honest, realistic emotion that I believe resonates with many lawyers—bitterness and frustration. It’s just a plain ol’ fact that lots of lawyers are unhappy. They just are. But so are many doctors, bankers, television writers and ad executives. Lawyers don’t have a monopoly on career misery. There are lots of happy and content lawyers out there. (Okay, not “lots,” but they exist. I even know a few.)
Two, the practice of law is rigorous and unglamorous. Don’t expect to be jet-setting around the globe, sipping cocktails with fashion models and rock stars. Even if you’re an entertainment lawyer and you represent them, you won’t be kicking it poolside with them in Ibiza. Lawyers spend most of their time researching, drafting, writing and analyzing. That means they spend most of their time alone in their office with piles of documents on their desk.
Three, not all lawyers do the same thing. There’s a big difference between working at a big, swanky New York firm, being a solo practitioner in Moline, Illinois, and serving as a Public Defender in Oakland. There’s a big difference in salaries too. A simple rule of thumb: The more miserable the job, the higher the compensation. And the inverse, of course, is the cooler the job, the lower the salary. Sorry.
But the most important nugget of wisdom I can impart is that you should only go to law school if you actually want to be a lawyer. Sounds simple, I know, but it might save your life—or your career. Don’t listen to random friends and uncles who say things like, “Law school is a great training ground for business,” or, “It’s a versatile degree, you can do anything you want with it.” The unassailable truth is that law school prepares you to be a lawyer. Nothing else. Of course, lots of lawyers end up leaving the law and move on to other, more exciting professions (read some of our ex-lawyer interviews). But it’s not that easy to find those awesome, non-legal jobs.
Lastly, if you’re on the fence, take a year off and work as a paralegal at a Big Firm. Seeing with your own eyes is more valuable than talking to friends and career counselors. Going to law school is a significant time and financial investment, so make sure you’re committed to the profession before you commit 150 grand. Got it?
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.