No if you go to law school everything works out and your life is excellent! People just throw money at you when you have a J.D. and every girl drops their pants for you if you tell them you went to law school. Bottom line is if you go to law school then you will never have any problems ever.
Just in case bigs' sarcasm is too subtle for some law school hopefuls' Internet Sarcasm Detectors... Much has been made in society and popular culture about how law school is the road to easy street - the big corner office, instant huge income, nice suits, nice cars, nice cigars - to the point where many/most pre-law types think that it is at least partially true.
Allow me to disabuse you, in no uncertain terms. NONE of that is true. Not even a little bit. Most readers on this site have by now figured out the "bimodal distribution" of attorney earnings - most JD holders either make more than $200k or less than $75k (numbers chosen semi-randomly - feel free to insert your own). There is little space in between. Talks of ďaverageĒ income of JDs is very misleading. Do law school graduates "make more" than they would without the JD? That depends on which measure of central tendency you prefer. It certainly is not true for all law school graduates, and absolutely is not automatic for any particular person.
The "more than $200k" group is mostly in BigLaw. Simple statistics will tell you that most law school graduates do not get hired by BigLaw. If you donít get hired by BigLaw, your chances of making it to the $200k club are drastically reduced. And even if you do get hired by BigLaw, life ain't a bed of roses.
First off, the pre-partner attrition rate at big firms is north of 80% - north of 95% for many firms. So your a priori
chances of making partner (once you have been hired by BigLaw to begin with, that is) are somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 20. Otherwise, most likely, you are out on your butt. Maybe working in-house, maybe working for the government, or maybe teaching history at the community college - but most likely out of the $200k club and back in the $75k club.
And that's just the money. Because here's the thing - the job is HARD.
First off, the hours are long - very long. People will talk about firms requiring 2,000 billable hours each year, and some law students will declare that billing 2,000 hours is easy. Silliness. Anybody who says that billing 2,000 hours is easy has never done it. Besides, billing 2,000 hours will get you fired at many firms, regardless of what their websites say. For top Wall Street firms (and their equivalents across the country) 2,500 is a better target, and 2,500 hours is more than 25% more difficult than 2,000.
Second, it's not just about the hours. The job is challenging, both emotionally and intellectually. You will be given relatively little direction and be expected to figure it out yourself. And do so while watching your colleagues seemingly figure it out easily - and then remembering those odds of making partner and wondering how you stack up. You will be expected to be on call 24/7 to meet the demands of partners and clients, whether reasonable or unreasonable. You will be given extraordinarily difficult tasks, with a clear understanding that failure is not acceptable. Whenever you hear an associate say that their job is easy and they figured it out right away - chances are good that they will NOT be making partner, because they do not even understand their own plight.
Third, there is no gold watch. Maybe there was a time when people made partner and then semi-retired while associates toiled to pay for their easy lifestyle. Maybe. But that certainly is not the case anymore. The work never stops. Partners work just as hard as associates, if not harder. (Hint - I am posting this from my office.) It is not unusual to see firms where the partners bill more hours than the associates, and at every firm the partners have significantly more non-billable responsibilities than the associates. Partners are also not "safe" - partners get laid off and fired all the time, just like associates. As a law partner, you have to justify your existence each and every day. And, finally, even if you have a successful career as a BigLaw partner, you will still probably not be rich. You will make enough money to live well, but at the end of the day partners at most firms are still working stiffs.
There is no shortage of BigLaw horror stories out there. My point is that in some respects, BigLaw success is not that different from those horror stories. BigLaw may be many things, but "easy path to wealth" is not one of them. It is a tough career that requires significant investment. It takes a toll on health and family - divorce, depression, suicide, and drug use are all occupational hazards.
And BigLaw is probably the surest path from a JD to a significant income. Other options may or may not be as challenging, but generally less likely to lead to "the big bucks." And, even though not as financially lucrative, non-BigLaw legal careers are not necessarily any easier. At all.
So if anybody is telling you that if you just go to law school and you will be living the high life on easy street - don't believe them, not even a little bit.
(Some of you might be wondering, after reading this, why anybody would ever seek a career in BigLaw, or even law in general. Topic for a different post - but rest assured that there are rewards. Despite my occasional whining, I thoroughly enjoy my job and am thankful that life has taken me where I am. It is a good career, just not an easy one.)