Law school normally takes three years, and it often seems like a very long three years. The financial investment is steep as well. The average law school grad leaves school with over $112,000 in student debt. Furthermore, law is a difficult profession. Conditions like alcohol problems, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety are very prevalent – even more-so than in many other professions.
What Happens in Law School?
Many classes include hundreds of bright students, a gruff professor, and a nearly-unintelligible textbook. Such classes lay the foundation for the work that comes in the next two years.
In this period, there are some large-format, lecture-oriented classes like the ones students experience in the first year. But the professors do not seem as gruff and the textbooks make a lot more sense. There are also many classes where students develop necessary research, writing, and advocacy skills.
The state bar exam usually follows law school. Statistics vary, but the pass rate is usually about 75 percent. Much like law school, students who study diligently usually do well on the bar exam. People who discount the bar exam often do poorly.
What Happens After Law School?
A surprising number of law school graduates never practice law. Instead, they go into politics, economics, teaching, or even a totally unrelated profession. Former baseball manager Tony LaRussa had a law degree, as did baroque composer George Frideric Handel.
But most law students do practice law. Some begin their careers as lower-level attorneys in large public law firms, like a District Attorney’s office, or private law firms. Others begin their own practices almost straight away. Most attorneys eventually wind up in small firms of five or fewer lawyers.
Attorneys have two basic responsibilities:
- Advocacy: Personal injury cases are a good example. The insurance company has attorneys that work hard to deny fair compensation to victims. So, it’s very important that they have strong advocates as well who will level the playing field.
- Advice: Before things happen in the courtroom, attorneys give their clients solid legal advice based on the facts and the applicable law, so they can make the best possible choices.
Neither of these things are possible without hard work and a keen mind. These are two skills that law school develops in new lawyers.