Law School by Default

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal included an insightful commentary by Cameron Stracher on law school and the legal profession, “Law School by Default”. Stracher notes that lawyers are leaving practice in increasing numbers, “a silent drain of talent to banking, business, and premature retirement,” and that in light of the resulting student loan debt ($60,000 average) and opportunity cost of 3 years of law school, ambivalent college students considering this path would be well-advised to think twice.

Amen. I spent 8 years in practice before finally reaching the conclusion that I would be happier doing something else. Chalk that up to being a slow learner, I guess. Anyway, I am now 16 years out of law school, and am happily ensconced in a publishing career in which my JD degree and dual bar admissions frankly don’t amount to much. However, I am still paying off my student loan debt, and have 11 years of opportunity cost to consider. What might I be doing now if I had spent those 3 years that I was in law school and 8 years that I was in practice doing something else?

Honestly, I probably did need to go to law school. Inspired by equal parts of Atticus Finch and “L.A. Law”, the idea of the courtroom had long excited me, and it was something that I needed to get out of my system. But, for anyone who is not so compelled – think long and hard. There are a lot of less expensive ways to pass time while you figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

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One Response to Law School by Default

  1. very insightful and pessimistic article. i’ve been practicing for 8 plus years in a very satisfying public interest job. however, i do not have a satisfying loan burden (1K a month) and I’m sure, unless I win the lottery or, as you mention, switch careers, that I will not be in any position to pay off the loans within a reasonable period of time as opposed to a lifetime. in the end, i’m kicking myself for not going to a state law school. when i hear that people have 20 or even 30K in loans, man, i would eat my index finger for that. what a ridiculous state of affairs we are in.

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