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Student Blogger: On the risks and rewards of law school

March 29, 2011

Irina Dykhne, Northwestern student

Irina Dykhne

Recently, I asked one of my professors to write me a recommendation for law school because I plan on applying in the next few years after I get some work experience. He quickly agreed, but dashed my good mood by proceeding to tell me what a mistake I was making by taking the law school path. He even offered his daughter’s post-law school disappointments as a cautionary tale of sorts. Most discouraging was that I have heard and thought about similar issues many times. Not too long ago, the New York Times even ran an extensive and pretty grim article on why law school may not be a worthwhile investment. So I find myself still grappling with the tough question, “Is law school really a losing game?

Cost is a huge issue. Law school is a commitment of many years and loans with more zeros than can fit inside my brain. Post-law school job prospects are also pretty bleak unless you attend one of the top schools in the country.

I find myself still grappling with the tough question, “Is law school really a losing game?”

Unfortunately, competition for a coveted spot in one of these hallowed halls is brutal. Once you do get a legal job, others point to the 80-hour weeks of billable hours new associates face as a deterrent. Most importantly, I am passionate about writing and often wonder whether the two are mutually exclusive. Can I be a lawyer who writes or a writer with a legal background? Would my student loans allow me to pursue this combination?

Despite these significant drawbacks, there are definite pros as well. A legal education will give me the tools that I need to be able to help and counsel people, and making a positive impact is a huge priority for me professionally. In my case, there is also intense family pressure to pursue law. For my immigrant parents, seeing their child educated and well on her feet in a respected profession would be affirmation that their struggles to adjust and succeed in a foreign country were worth it. A stable job as a lawyer would also allow me to give back to my parents once they are older.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution and no simple way to reconcile the pros and cons. Law school is a risk, and one that I am still assessing.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori March 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Go to business school instead!


Denis March 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

any school is difficult, and if your good your gonna be good no matter what you do…maybe your teacher's daughter wasnt that good, you gotta what you like and think you ll succed at it


Andrea March 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Not going to sugarcoat it – it's hard, so hard that a third of my class gave up or failed out. But it depends on where you go as well. In the end, whether or not you have a job will actually depend on how seriously you took your classes, how many teams you participated on (mock trial, moot court, ADR, etc) and where you ranked in your class. Unlike college. Lawyers are a dime-a-dozen today. I know, I am one.

It's not discouraging if you're willing to work hard and up for the challenge.

The trouble isn't making the investment, it's: is making this investment of time and money going to pay off because my job is going to be so worth it in the end?

There's no harm in writing the LSAT and giving it a go, at least for a semester. Chalk it up to experience, as we all do when something doesn't work out how we'd like it to.

As grim as this sounds – just do it. It's better to have done it and said “not for me”, than wonder coulda, woulda, shoulda.


Irina Dykhne March 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I definitely agree with you that hard work is worth it if I enjoy the job. Assessing whether law is something that I will really enjoy is my goal for next year, which I plan on doing by getting some work experience.


Nick April 5, 2011 at 6:33 am

As a current law student who has a job waiting upon graduation in a mid-size market, I have a couple suggestions. Apply to the top schools, and go if you get it in. However, don't pay much attention to rank after the top 15 or 20. The more important thing at that point is going to school in the area that you will work (firms are very sensitive to hiring people that won't pick up and leave once they have a little experience). The other important element is cost. While the NY Times article is accurate, what it doesn't say is that anyone who pays that much for law school outside the top 15 schools is wasting their money. I'll make it through law school with just under 35k in debt. Finally, though I have a good job waiting for me, I'm in the top five percent of my class: people below me are not getting jobs in big firms and are having a hard time finding any good job at all.


chelsea April 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Thanks for writing!


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