How to Make Money » Career

Why It Stinks to Be a Lawyer

At some point in your life you probably thought about it: make the big bucks by becoming an attorney. Fancy suits, fine cars, lavish homes. What’s not to love? Well there is an untold story of being a lawyer in the modern world. Here’s the truth behind the appearances.

Law School is Expensive

Tuition and fees at private law schools now average over $40,000 according to the ABA journal. Oh, wait. That was over a year ago. Prices have only gone up since then. So imagine graduating from law school with an average of $120,000 of debt after 3 years. Add your undergrad loans to that and suddenly the silver lining is developing a distinct tarnish.

Graduating Law School Does Not Guarantee You A Job

You know that whole recession thing that has been shaking the economic world for the past 5 years or so? Yeah. It’s affecting the job prospects for law students as well. Why It Stinks to Be a LawyerI remember in 2007 reading articles about new graduates starting out with salaries as high as $150,000. Guess how often that happens any more.

In fact, there is a growing population of out-of-work attorneys. Not people who have had positions at law firms in the past, but people who have never even been a part of a firm. In fact, the Washington Times reports that only 65% of law school graduates from 2011 are working in positions which require law degrees. An additional 20% are working wherever they can get work, and 15% are out of work entirely.

In other words, one out of three law school grads are not even using that $120,000 law degree.

Practicing Law Does Not Guarantee You Money

So let’s say you go to school, you get the job, you are now a practicing lawyer. Surely life is an endless bliss and you can pad your mattress with cash, right? Wrongo. If you’re working at a firm, you’re likely low on the pecking order, which means meager earnings and tons of busy work. You’ll likely be waiting years before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom or even meeting a client face to face. On the other hand, if you start your own firm you can keep all you bring in, but you now enter the ultra competitive world of law firm marketing. And for every big law firm bringing in big cases, there are a dozen more made of a lawyer working out of his parent’s basement with his wife answering the phone.

To Make The Money You Will Lose Your Soul

One last thing. Obviously there’s the risk of compromising your integrity for the sake of making your next student loan payment, but that’s true in any profession. The risk you run in law is that the only way to be successful, either as a new associate or as a sole proprietor, is to work your brains out. I’m talking up till 3 am, first appointment at 6 am kind of work. I mean billing 100 plus hours per week for your firm even while you watch the partners decide to take a three day weekend and enjoy their half-million-dollar salaries. I hope you don’t have any interest in anything other than law and money, because that’s all there is for lawyers today.

Okay, maybe it’s not all bad. Sure, there are some lawyers who can balance work with life, and who can survive the storms in the industry these past years. But, frankly, it’s not a pretty world to be in right now. You’ve got better odds at success and balance in your life if you become a yoga instructor.


  1. Vic Reeves

    This is excellently written, I remember very well one of my older cousins, a lawyer that I’ve always looked up to as a child, he warned me about all of this and did it just in time. From time to time I still go back thinking about this, wondering about all the ways in which things would go differently if I went to law school etc…
    Great read, thanks for sharing. 🙂

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