20th February 2024

Image Courtesy of Insight Into Diversity

This is an independently submitted op-ed for our Quill section. Views and statements made in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Tower.

By MaggieMae Dethlefsen 

In a world where career choices are diverse and constantly evolving, the decision to attend law school is a significant one that requires careful consideration. Young adults often grapple with the question: Is going to law school worth it? This debate encompasses various factors, including financial investment, career prospects, and personal fulfillment.

One of the primary concerns for prospective law students is the financial aspect. Law school tuition can be substantial, and many graduates face the burden of student loan debt upon graduation. The average cost of just one year of law school totals out to be $53,034. Many experts argue that the high cost of legal education may exceed the potential earnings in the legal profession, especially considering the competitive job market. However, other experts argue that the long-term high earnings of the job can outweigh the initial investment of the schooling. Though with unsubsidized loans immediately gaining interest upon disbursement it makes the loans upon graduation average at $130,000. This affects 90% of law students due to the fact that they have to take loans in order to pay for their legal education. 

The job market is another critical factor in assessing the value of law school. While the demand for legal services remains steady, the supply of law school graduates has also increased. This has led to heightened competition for coveted positions in prestigious law firms or government agencies. One must take into consideration that due to the popularity of going to law school and desiring a position in a firm, the amount of available positions are decreasing. This makes it so that more and more students are graduating with high loan amounts and a paycheck that does not help them cover the cost of those loans. On the other hand, a legal education is versatile and can be applied to many different fields. Many still think that the cost is still worth it, even if one does not use it for legal purposes. 

Moreover, the evolving nature of the legal industry adds complexity to the debate. The advent of technology has disrupted traditional legal processes, leading to concerns about the future demand for lawyers. Automation and artificial intelligence have already impacted routine legal tasks, prompting some to question whether the traditional model of legal education adequately prepares graduates for the changing landscape. Proponents argue that lawyers can adapt to technological advancements and that the core skills acquired in law school—critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication—remain valuable in any era.

Beyond financial and career considerations, the personal fulfillment derived from a legal career is a subjective yet crucial aspect. Many individuals are drawn to the law due to a passion for justice, advocacy, or a desire to make a positive impact on society. For these individuals, the intrinsic rewards of contributing to the legal system outweigh the potential challenges. However, it is essential to acknowledge that not everyone who attends law school does so with a clear understanding of the profession, and some may find the reality of legal practice different from their expectations. I think a solution to this is showing students who are considering law school what that looks like, the inner workings, and what their speciality in law would actually look like in the daily realm. This would help the prospective students to know before pursuing this that there maybe other professions and majors that are more aligned with what they actually desire to pursue instead of just defaulting to what they believe is what they would be doing in their position as a lawyer. 

In conclusion, the question of whether going to law school is worth it is multifaceted and subjective with only 48% of lawyers agreeing with the fact that the cost is worth the investment.  One’s decision will involve weighing the financial investment against potential earnings, considering the competitive job market, adapting to technological changes, and evaluating personal fulfillment. While some argue that the benefits of a legal education extend beyond monetary returns, others caution against the risks and uncertainties associated with pursuing a legal career. Ultimately, individuals contemplating law school must carefully assess their goals, values, and the evolving landscape of the legal profession to make an informed decision.