Slate: “You Can Do Anything With a Law Degree”: That’s What Everyone Says. Turns Out Everyone’s Wrong, by Jim Saska (J.D., Georgetown):
When I was considering going to law school, I asked my dad for some advice. What if I don’t like being an attorney? What if I don’t end up like The West Wing’s Sam Seaborn, jumping between a lucrative private practice and rewarding government work? “Don’t worry,” said my usually sagacious father, “you can do anything with a law degree.”
My dad isn’t an attorney. But now I am, and let me assure you: My dad didn’t know what he was talking about.
Everyone who has ever considered law school has heard some variant of “you can do anything with a law degree.” Of course, this statement isn’t technically true. You can’t practice medicine with it, for example, unless you also have a medical degree (which, to the delight of Sallie Mae, some J.D.s also have). But the more general sentiment, that a law degree will afford you a wide range of opportunities, is also total BS.
Getting a J.D. means you can call yourself a lawyer. That’s it. Besides the approval of Jewish mothers (who prefer doctors anyway) and a drinking problem, it won’t give you anything else. And it sure as hell won’t help you get a nonlegal job. ...
In the last few months, I’ve interviewed for jobs at a nonprofit, a think tank, and a PR firm among other places of business. I know from personal experience that the first question a lawyer will hear in a nonlegal job interview is, “Why don’t you want to practice law?” My answer to that question always elicits, “Well, you know we don’t pay as much as a law firm, right?” A law degree makes an otherwise qualified candidate look expensive, and often carries a rotten whiff of failure. And other than the New York Mets, no employer wants to hire an expensive failure.