If you’ve ever thought about becoming a lawyer, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself is being a lawyer worth it? In the mind of many people, law feels like a decent career you can count on – pacing the courtroom floor, arguing cases, and impressing the judge and jury. But real life is different from what you see on TV shows. Before deciding to pursue such a career, it’s reasonable to research all cons than pros, not only visible attributes of it like impressive salary, prestige, and respect.
So what is it really like to be a lawyer and is it worth it? Before you go into the deep end, it’s important to understand the reality of being a lawyer as compared to other legal careers. Lawyer job satisfaction is on the decline and 40-60 percent of lawyers, depending on specialty, report feeling stressed either most of the time (More details: Forbes and Johns Hopkins study). They’re reasons for this.
In order to make a well-informed decision about your future career, it’s important to understand the full picture.
The challenging years of law school
It typically takes seven years of full-time higher education to become a lawyer. (4 years for a Bachelor’s degree, then 3 years of law school). For being accepted in a highly competitive high school, or even one that is considered to be an easy law school, every student needs to pass the LSAT, and the preparational process can take a full year or more.
Then, if a student is accepted, the next years are devoted to full-time studying and training programs. Graduation day does not stop this, as recent graduates still stay up long nights studying to pass their state’s bar exam.
The high cost of education
A typical American student has huge debt after graduating, and lawyers’ debt is even higher, adding pressure to an already stressful career. Of course, one may think that due to high earning potential, but the first job is usually harder to get than it seems.
The potentially shaky job prospects
According to predictions, growth in employment for lawyers will continue for the next 5 years (6% per year). This may not be enough to provide jobs for all law students that will graduate. ABA says that only half of the students find a job 10 months after graduation. The question is, how the second half is paying off their debt?
A sometimes stressful work environment
Lawyers get paid for “billable hours”, for example for preparing for the case. But on the other side of the coin, there are “non-billable” hours (education, meetings, business correspondence) that may double the total hours a lawyer works per week. Such demanding schedules and very heavy workloads only increase already high-stress levels.
A typically pessimistic mindset
Lawyers are well known for their pessimism, which undoubtedly helps them to be good at their work, building cases against their opposition. But unfortunately, this kind of pessimism is unhealthy for other areas of life, increasing the risk of problems with health.
It’s up to each person to decide for themselves if being a lawyer is worth it, but it’s definitely not for everyone.