I recently found myself reading a popular blog with many commenters which asserted that in order to have any hope of making a worthwhile living as an attorney, a law student had better attend a top 14 school, edit for the law review and finish in the top 20% of their class. Obviously this is utterly preposterous. Even a cursory survey of any mid-size to large jurisdiction reveals plenty of attorneys who attended “lesser” schools and yet somehow manage to cobble together a respectable high-five to low-six figure income. In fact, a review of jurisdictions in Arizona reveals a distinct absence of correlation between success and attending a top 14 school. The vast majority of successful attorneys in Arizona attended one of the two state law schools. Where they finished is unknown, but that many of them are now sole practitioners or partners in small firm, it seems unlikely that their law school placement had the slightest impact on their long-term success.
But the assertions in that blog, unfounded and ignorant as they may have been, were not what left me unsettled. Rather, what struck me, were the several commenters who fearfully and desperately cried out to the author for help, trembling with terror at the prospect that they may have made some greivious mistake in deciding to attend law school. This unnerves me because it makes evident the fact that this one, insecure, blogger was not the only misguided individual who followed the law school path with the naieve and foolish belief that traversing that well-worn road would lead him to fame and fortune. It troubles me deeply to think that people are 1.) stupid enough to think this was the case and 2.) so motivated by greed that they would pursue a career they had no interest in.
The reality is that a law degree is not a ticket to high society. Many lawyers are poor. Many lawyers starve. In fact, far more lawyers struggle to pay their bills than become filthy rich. However individuals who are committed to their profession, devote extensive time and hard work and genuinely enjoy their work tend to excel. But even this isn’t enough. You have to have some aptitude for the practice of law. Simply getting into law school and surviving the courses does not magically imbue with the ability to perform as a lawyer absent any natural affinity for the activity. Yet some people seem to think it does.
What do you tell those people? ….Get an M.B.A.????