Ms. Pre-JD: “Don’t Go to Law School!”

As an overenthusiastic pre-law student, I can be prone to mentioning that I want to go to law school. Every five seconds. When someone asks about my major, I tell them, but I quickly add, “and I want to go to law school, so it’s more for personal interest!” If anyone asks me about my courseload, I immediately inform them that the political science class is “to be more aware because I want to go to law school”, and that the reason I dropped that GPA-killing elective was because “I have to get into law school!” I don’t think I go through a single day without telling someone about my intended career path, and many of my friends make fun of me for it. Too often, I only have to say, “but the thing is, I want to--”, before I’m interrupted by, “go to law school? Yeah. We know.”

Sitting in my Experimental Psych class last week, I mentioned this to the student sitting next to me. She happened to be doing Post-Bac work, and my enthusiasm for law school was met with a stern countenance.

“That’s a terrible idea. Law school was the worst decision of my life.”

Of course, I was shocked. I asked her why.

“I tried it, and I hated it. It was a waste of money, and clearly I’m back in school so it wasn’t very successful.”

I figured that, from her response, law school probably just wasn’t her thing and that she had just misjudged her own interests. I joked about the exchange with one of the lawyers I work for at my internship:

“She really had me worried for a second!”

“Well, she was right. You shouldn’t go to law school.”

I thought he was joking. It turned out that he wasn’t, so I asked him what he would have done instead.

“Probably become a psychologist, I think. My sister did that, and she is way happier now. Stop by my office, and we can talk about it, if you want.”

That didn’t sound promising. But, what many of these well-meaning advisors didn’t know is that I’ve heard the advice before, many times from people in many walks of life. Law school is hard, and it’s expensive. Being a lawyer isn’t an easy or consistently fulfilling career (which career is, really?), the work can get tedious, and the justice system fails sometimes – maybe even a lot of the time. But I think that the difference between a pre-law student who just wants to go to law school and a pre-law student who is going to be a passionate attorney is the reason why they are pursuing the career. I know that I believe in our justice system as a concept, and that, even though the court doesn’t always catch the right person or make decisions I can get behind, maintaining the values of due process and our founding principles are something I can get behind. Especially in this political climate, I find my comfort in the law as an entity itself.

So to my pre-law compatriots: Find your reason for pursuing law school. I think we can be the exception to the standard “Don’t go to law school!” advice, but I believe that we need to know why we will be different. Tell me in the comments: Why are you going to law school? What drives you? And, in 10 years, why won’t you be telling pre-law students that law school was the worst decision of your life?


Nikki Datta is a second-year at Columbia University in the City of New York. She serves as Executive Editor of the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and is currently an intern at New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Litigation office. She is also the founder and President of Columbia University Women in Law and Politics (cuwilp.weebly.com).

Connect with Nikki at: www.linkedin.com/in/nikkidatta



Hey Nikki! Great post!  For me, my philosophy has always been: “Don’t decide if you want to go to law school. Decide if you actually want to be a lawyer. And if you do, THEN figure out how to get into law school.” (I previously wrote about this at http://ms-jd.org/blog/article/internspired-why-pre-law-students-shouldnt-be-thinking-about-law-schools-ad) Frankly, law school in the U.S. is incredibly expensive, and if I could skip it and go straight into practice I would! But of all the work that I’ve encountered so far, there’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than corporate/transactional legal work. I love how intellectually-engaging the work is, and that it allows me to take my natural reading/writing skills and use them to problem-solve in a business context; the day-to-day is a great fit for how I’m naturally wired. And so, my reason for applying to law school? I have **no choice** but to do so, if I want to continue doing this type of work!!


Why would you want to enter a job field that is past the saturation point with little chance of a good job after graduation? You should listen to these people. They are telling you the truth about this profession. There is a high unemployment rate among attorneys, and this is worldwide, not just in the USA.  Unless you go to an Ivy League law school, you are taking a huge risk, especially if you take on student loans. You could owe 150,000 or more after law school and the job market for attorneys is dismal and gets worse with every passing year (and actually has nothing to do with the economy!) If you want a stable career, and good financial prospects, get an engineering degree or other type of STEM degree. Law school is typically a dumping ground for liberal arts majors who don’t know what to do with their degree. Good luck.

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