Anonymous User wrote:Even in the best case scenario (for most people), you get biglaw, where you have to be totally fucking miserable for 5 years, work your ass off, and all to get back to a net worth of $0, and by then, you're going to be out of biglaw anyways. It just doesn't really make much sense thinking of this logically. I mean even if you get a great scholarship nowadays, you're probably still looking at taking on at least $150k in debt, which will probably be closer to $170k by the time you enter repayment. It just doesn't make sense if the best case scenario is working at a big firm and being miserable for a few years until you're back and $0, and then you're out. I could see an argument if you get a full tuition scholarship and can limit your cost of living to under $60k (with interest) for all 3 years, but besides that, I'm not really seeing a good reason why anyone would go to law school given how bad the salaries are outside of biglaw (even smaller firms pay like $55-65k /year around here). Are we all really just a bunch of idiots?
Some are, but mostly no.
The profession is broken in a pretty bad way in this country because of a lack of differentiation and specialization. Certain types of law are objectively easy and don't require anywhere near the kind of extensive (and now expensive) training as is currently required while there are some types of law that are incredibly complex and nuanced and probably, if anything, require more training than people get in law school. Yet, there isn't any distinction in credentials between the guy who writes wills for old folks and the guy who runs horrendously complex billion dollar M&A deals. IMO the two paths shouldn't even be the same degree at this point and they definitely shouldn't cost the same amount of money. In my opinion, people who accept the obviously inflated tuition with no intention of pursuing high paying jobs are kind of idiots (absent LRAP / other forgiveness plans that reduce the effective COA for those career paths).
But to your more general point, I don't think aiming to be a lawyer offers substantially worse odds than the usual comparison suspects of medicine and dentistry. Yes, doctors and dentists are all but guaranteed to be able to find a job that pays a good wage for the rest of their careers once they get out of school while attorneys aren't, but for some reason everyone likes to conveniently forget all of the people who spend 3-4 years in undergrad trying to get into medical school or dental school and only to fail and have to scramble to find jobs as lab technicians, pharmaceutical reps, etc. or pursue graduate education in bio / chem / etc., none of which offer job prospects anywhere on par with medicine / dentistry on average.
The curriculum for medicine and dentistry programs really begins in undergrad as both have required undergraduate courses and expect their students to come in with a fair amount of knowledge (as evidenced by the subject area grade focus and substantive entrance exams). All of those tens of thousands of kids every year who go to expensive undergraduate schools taking pre-med or pre-dental courses only to fail to get in are essentially in the same position of having spent a lot of money and time without getting a "guaranteed" job to show for it.
The medical path or the dental path doesn't become "safe" until you've already demonstrated that you're going to be pretty good (i.e. a lot better than average) at the fundamental sciences that underpin those professions than the rest of the field, and law is pretty much the same way. The legal path doesn't become "safe" until you've done well your first year of law school, proven that you're a tolerable human being during your summer internships / work experience, and then proven yourself in practice for a few years. The real difference between the paths is that the medical and dental paths start several years before the legal path does, and they do their weeding out earlier because both programs are longer (7 years minimum after undergrad in medicine and 4 (really 5 now) in dentistry).
Basically, there's no such thing as a guaranteed path to professional / financial success anywhere in America. All higher education is a risk and any career path you look at is going to be littered with people who didn't achieve what they hoped they would starting out -- law is not unique in that regard. The disillusion lawyers have isn't even unique to graduate / professional programs; there are plenty of people who spend two or three years in college with nothing to show for it but a pile of debt or who come out of supposedly "good programs" under employed. I've got several friends who majored in computer science at expensive schools thinking it was the ticket to Silicon Valley riches only to end up with a pretty stiff reality check and 40k a year jobs when they realized a couple hundred thousand other people had the same idea and it takes a lot more to stand out than simply picking a "good" major.