Work + Growth

Lawyer’s Remorse: What to Do If You’re Regretting Your Decision to Go to Law School

  • If you came to law school through familial pressure, or with little knowledge of the field, it may not be the best career path for you
  • Just because you don’t enjoy law school doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a lawyer
  • Consider the financial burden that law school may create for you

So, law school isn’t exactly what you thought it would be.

Whether you’re in your first, second, or third year, does this mean you shouldn’t be a lawyer? Is it worth the cost? Should you quit or continue? These are a few of the questions that most future lawyers debate at various points in their careers.

Career Intentions

Did you pursue law because you wanted to? Did you ever feel pressured by parents or other family members? Was there a different career path you wanted to take? Chances are, if you didn’t choose law school entirely on your own, you may not be having the best time. With countless hours of classes, studying, and test taking, law school is more work than you’ve ever had before and can be very overwhelming, especially if you’re not into it 100%. Additionally, while many people believe that having a JD can help them achieve more in other careers, many lawyers advise against going to law school if you want to pursue a career in politics or another semi-related field. If you find yourself questioning your decision to go to law school, make sure to think about whether you’re fully invested in becoming a lawyer, or if you really need law school to work in a profession you’re actually interested in.

Disliking School

Many law school students don’t exactly love the experience. However, not liking your classes doesn’t mean that you won’t like being a lawyer. If you come to law school with an interest in real estate or labor law only to discover you despise constitutional and tort law, try to remember that law school curriculum is focused on a multitude of topics and just because you don’t like one doesn’t mean you won’t love another. Many law school graduates agree that practicing law is much more interesting to them than law school ever was, and the daily tasks of working at a firm are nothing like the daily grind of endless classes. When debating whether you should quit, consider the fact that law school is heavily based on theory, while practicing law is not. Before making any rash decisions or deciding you’re simply not fit to be a lawyer, keep that fact in mind while you contemplate your future.

Prior Experience

Have you had any prior experience in law? One of the best ways to explore the legal world is to get an internship with a law firm. Having a clear sense of what you’re signing up for is one way to confirm that you truly are interested in practicing law. Many lawyers recommend getting involved somehow before and during law school—not only to gain experience, but also to see if you can figure out which field of law you’d like to practice. If you’ve ever had a legal internship or a paralegal job that you enjoyed, chances are you’ll enjoy being a lawyer and just need to make it through school.

Have you had experience with any law firm or law-adjacent jobs? How well do you believe you understand what working as a lawyer is really like?

Investing in the Future

Is law school truly the best investment? Depending on your financial situation, law school debt can be all consuming. With the average law school student loan debt up to as much as $122,000, there is no surprise that cost is an important factor in most students’ decision to attend. If you’re unable to attend without racking up a handsome amount of debt, it may not be the smartest financial decision for you, especially if you’re on the fence about what you’ll do with that degree. What many people don’t think about is what they could do with those three years if they don’t go to law school: If you spend your time exploring other career paths or in another educational program that costs less money, you may be able to start your path to financial security earlier—beginning retirement saving or buying a home earlier, for instance.

Another point to keep in mind: Networking is essential while in school. If possible, attending school near where you would like to live and practice after graduating is the best move. That way, the connections you make throughout those three years of law school can help you the most once you start looking for a position.

What's Next

Make two lists: One with pros and cons of staying in law school, and one with pros and cons of leaving. Be honest with yourself and make sure you’re considering what YOU want most of all, not necessarily what your family wants or what you think you “should” be doing.