What should you consider before getting a law degree?

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Many undergraduates are looking into pursuing graduate and doctorate degrees, but the process can be overwhelming. Figuring out what factors to take into consideration is quite a challenge. Typically, a graduate degree is specialized to prepare you for your future career, but will you even enjoy the job? And will it be worth the steep price? A graduate degree, particularly a law degree, is very expensive. Students should be aware of the amount of debt they are inheriting, though large debt is justifiable when you’re taking a step toward your dream career.

This week, our Legal Network members gave us some advice for future law school students, as well as a look into the day-to-day life of practicing law. We have compiled five pieces of advice and things to consider before committing to a life as a lawyer.

1) Practicing law can be tedious, depending on your interests and thinking style. Lawyers spend a great deal of time reading, researching, and writing. They are not always in front of the judge, arguing a high-profile case. Attorney John Corcoran of Corcoran Law Firm explains further:

“It can be quite mundane. You spend hours and hours reading very thick opinions and treatises, and that part of the practice never ends. The good thing is you are constantly challenged, but the bad part is it can be tedious.”

2) Television does not accurately depict the careers of most lawyers. In fact, some lawyers never even enter the court room. Attorney Chelsea P. Ferrette of The Ferrette Law Firm tells us more:

“There are a number of lawyers, myself included, who have never seen the inside of a courtroom except on the day they were sworn in as a member of the state bar. Litigation (what you see on TV) is only one aspect of law.”

3) Practicing law does not ensure a wealthy lifestyle. Many people are not willing to pay an appropriate amount for the services attorneys provide. In fact, some of your job could entail weeding through potential clients to find the ones that value your time. Attorney Jan Keenan of Keenan & Austin P.C. elaborates:

“I field phone calls all day long from people looking to get a divorce or handle a real estate transaction for a couple of hundred dollars. There are so many attorneys out there desperate for work that they will work for this kind of money.”

4) As obvious as it may seem, law school is expensive. No matter what you do, you will likely incur debt while earning your degree. That’s why practicing law should be a passion for you, not just a means to make money. Attorney Kristie A. Scott clarifies:

“Students should be aware of the cost of law school and the debt they will likely obtain after attending. Law school is not a “get rich quick” scheme, but rather only for those passionate about becoming an advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.”

5) Lastly, nothing compares with real life experience. Spending time with an attorney is the best way to see if practicing law and pursuing your J.D. is the right decision. Attorney Ben Luftman of Luftman, Heck & Associates LLPconcludes:

“The best advice I could give to college students thinking about becoming a lawyer is first and foremost to seek out advice from family friends who are attorneys or other local attorneys. Try to shadow one as an undergrad. I did, and it confirmed that I wanted to pursue it as a career.”

Practicing law can be a rewarding life path. Many lawyers are able to leave work knowing that they helped someone, and that is what makes the job worth doing for them. But be sure you are practicing law because you are passionate about law, not because you are looking to attain great wealth.