Television shows make lawyers look slick. Packed with courtroom drama, glitzy parties, and behind-the-scenes political machinations, these high-powered cinematic lawyers seem to have it made. For students finishing up their undergrad and looking to their future, law school often seems like the smoothest path to achieving wealth, status, and power.
Unfortunately, on-screen depictions of the profession don’t always mesh with reality. In truth, practicing law is often boring and monopolizing; most professionals within the field spend a significant portion of their day paging through dry documents and heavy law tomes. For all its cinematic glitz and glam, most lawyers don’t rake in millions of dollars every year. In fact, many of those who graduate with degrees in law find themselves grappling for a job for months after leaving school. According to statistics provided by the New York Times, a full 40% of the law school class of 2014 were still struggling to find “full-time long-term jobs that required them to pass the bar exam.”
Why is this number so high? It would seem that a glut of lawyers is to blame for the sky-high unemployment rate. Law schools today produce twice as many graduates than can be absorbed into the market, leaving nearly half of each year’s class without even a low-paying – let alone a glamorous – legal job. To add insult to injury, many law schools have been steadily raising their tuition rates and pulling even unemployed graduates deeper in debt.
Law isn’t a glittery profession – it isn’t easy, it isn’t dramatic, and it usually doesn’t pay well. But other options are available for those who love the law and want to practice their skills despite the dearth of employment. Consider these options before giving up on applying your legal degree to your professional career!
Forty years ago, over half of all U.S. senators held law degrees. Nowadays, that number has dropped to 37%; but the fact still holds that having a law degree helps legislators create laws for the nation. Consider running for office or participating as a lobbyist!
If you love legal theory and enjoy tutoring others, consider going into academia and training the next generation of lawyers.
More high-profile news commentators and broadcast personalities than you might think went to law school. A background in law will serve you well as a journalist who covers legal and political issues – so consider taking up writing!
Starting a business is easier when you understand the contractual paperwork you sign. Lawyers are trained in aspects of business and management that every entrepreneur needs, and thus have a leg up on aspiring business owners who start without any knowledge of what building a company entails.