Is Law School Still Relevant?

February 19, 2013
Adele Shapiro

There has been much discussion in the past few weeks over the decline in law school applications in legal publications as well as in lay publications, and here in our blog. Applications are down, as are jobs requiring a law degree and admission to the bar, while at the same time costs of law school are increasing and student debt is skyrocketing. With the February exam over (for the most part, a few students in the Northeast are still waiting to take the LSAT), and the June test a little more than 3 months away, now is a good time to consider whether it makes sense for anyone to undertake a three year commitment to obtain a legal degree.

Studying law has always required rigorous discipline and commitment. In years gone by, perhaps the potential of lucrative offers from large law firms was enough of a carrot to help many a frustrated 1L survive. The reality of course, is that while there are some students graduating law school who will see big bucks in their first years of practice, this will not be the experience of most. However, being a lawyer should be about the practice of law and not about how much money can be made.

No doubt in the future we will see many changes to how law schools teach and the experience students will garner. What will not change is the fact that people need lawyers in all sorts of transactions. Defendants in criminal matters are guaranteed legal representation. As technology expands, issues affecting copyright and intellectual property will require great legal minds. There will always be a need for lawyers even if they are not always well paid lawyers. Corporations and the environment are seen more and more as plaintiffs and defendants in legal actions.

Lawyers are often referred to as counselors and advocates in addition to being called a lawyer. Acting in this manner helps ensure that disputes are settled fairly and that everyone can literally have their day in court. Being a lawyer is a noble profession – certainly these days it is not easy but that does not detract from the overall goals of the field.

In considering whether to take this step, it is critical to think about costs and job prospects. This might mean considering a state law school rather than a private one. In addition, when deciding on the law schools to apply to, it would be wise to consider the availability of internships and mentoring programs and having a frank conversation with the placement office.  In the end, going to law school is not a bad decision to make.

Adele Shapiro

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