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Can you handle the truth? A few common myths about law school

Perhaps I am not the best-equipped person to write this particular piece. As a non-traditional student who made it through my entire undergrad career without even considering law school, I heard little about it before being an actual law student. In fact, the only thing that my one friend (literally, I had ONE friend who went to law school) told me about it was this: “You are going to HATE it.”

But, once I started telling people that I was going to law school, I heard plenty of “truths” about law school that I later realized were common misconceptions and myths.

Myth #1: You will land a job with a six-figure salary right out of law school.
Myth #1

Okay, so I’m not so sure that people were telling me this exact “truth,” but there is this implication that lawyers live in the land of plenty with streets paved of gold. Truth be told, the median salary for lawyers from the graduating class of 2012 is somewhere in the $60,000/year ballpark. There were many salaries far below that and a few far above it, but that is not exactly the kind of wealth that most people think of when they are imagining lawyer’s salaries. I, for one, still believe this to be a decent salary worth the effort of going through law school, but surely there are others who disagree.

Myth #2: You will do great in law school because arguing is your forte.
Myth #2

Arguing in the law school sense is a term of art. Just because you liked to pick on your little brother and you gave your folks a hard time does not make you a master of logic. The kind of arguing that lawyers do is a whole different ballgame….and it involves plenty of research and writing. Exhilarating, I know.

Myth #3: Law school leaves no time for anything else, so you will not have a life for those 3 years and all of your relationships will suffer.
Myth #3

I heard this first from a co-worker who divorced his wife while she was in law school. I panicked as I imagined my new marriage going down the tubes before it even got a chance to survive. But, I have learned that while law school is a challenge which requires some serious time, balance is the key. There is no doubt that you could get sucked into a life in which law school is all you do. Reading and studying and outline-making could, indeed, take up more hours in the day than actually exist. But, just like everything else, you must learn what is essential and cut out the rest.

Myth #4: Law school is overflowing with “sharks.”
Myth #4

I was told constantly that I was too nice to go to law school. This, to me, implied that the average person believed that law school was made up of the heartless and cruel sect of society and nothing else. Truth is that law school is pretty much like the rest of the world. There is a healthy mix of humanity, but if you go in looking for the mean folks, you are sure to find them. You find what you seek. Not long after I started looking for some like-minded individuals, they were very easy to spot.

Myth #5: When you become a lawyer, you will spend most of your days in the courtroom litigating.
Myth #5

The popular media portrays lawyers as smooth-talking, clever courtroom advocates about 100% of the time. It all looks so glamorous. The truth is that somewhere between 2 and 10 % of cases actually see a courtroom. That leaves a lot of time for lawyers to be doing other things. Those other things are typically boiled down to research and writing and editing and other meticulous and sometimes boring tasks.

In a way, it’s almost difficult to not mythologize law school. Everyone has a distinct experience, and it probably is the hardest, most-time consuming thing that some people have ever done. Even people who have never been through law school seem to have some overarching sense of the experience. But, just like everything else, it’s best to take all bits of “truth” with a grain of salt, and decide for yourself what law school will be from your own perspective.

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