Monday, November 25, 2013
Don't Go to Law School
"The minute you read something you can't understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer."
- Will Rogers
All the smartest students in my college class went to law school. They didn't do it because they had the concrete notion that they actually wanted to practice law. No, it was more that they didn't know what they wanted to do, and law school was perceived as a logical extension of a liberal arts education. It was an easy way to kick the can on making a hard decision, and it didn't seem as, well, self-interested as a business degree.
Fast forward to my 10th reunion. All the long faces, those that already looked beaten down by life at age thirty-two, were the lawyers. Much to their surprise, going to law school actually results in becoming a practicing lawyer. Somehow that wasn't the plan. Heck, the plan was to change the world, but no one came to interview for that, so the job at Cravath sounded really prestigious, and their moms were really proud, but how come no one told them that being a lawyer was so bone-crunchingly tedious, a world of endless minutia and reams of time sheets?
What they were told was you could "do anything" with a law degree. In theory, there's something to this. A knowledge of the law is useful, and some do escape the confines of law firms. But here's the thing: legal training is all about risk aversion, and that's where I take issue. As a lawyer, you're been hired by others - people actually taking risks - to cover their backsides. Usually, this involves endless amounts of time considering contingencies that have less than a 1% chance of actually occurring.
Is this a necessary process? Yes.
Does it sound like fun? It's not.
Should our country's brightest minds be doing it? Absolutely not, at least not in the numbers that they are.
Seriously, if you're young, go build skyscrapers, cure diseases, start the next Google - solve some interesting problems. Fail at some stuff. Be one of the risk takers that make our country great. If, for some reason, you're hell-bent on becoming a lawyer, for God's sake, I beg you to first go get a job as a paralegal. Get inside a law firm and see what it's like for yourself. Perhaps you're the type that likes to proof read endless documents that only a handful of people will ever read. Then by all means go for it. You've done your due diligence.
Most of you will seek a different path and will be happy that you did.