Time to Drop Out of Law School?


In an attempt to lift student spirits, I just wrote a post on moving past bad grades. In response, Eric Cooperstein made a number of thoughtful points, including the idea that some students should consider dropping out if they got bad grades. I am an idealist, so I hate advising anyone to drop out. But if you did not get good grades first year, you need to reevaluate whether law school is right for you.

What is your plan?

If you did not do very well, how are you planning on getting a job? Grades are not the ultimate determination of success, but they will assist in your job search. If you are not trying to get a job based on your academic success, what is your plan?

Are one of your parents an attorney willing to bring you on to their practice? Do you possess a list of business contacts from your pre-law-school life that want to hire you as an attorney? If you already have a solid lead on a job, then grades probably are not as important.

If, however, you are assuming you can still get a job at big law, or an awesome clerkship, it is time for a reality check. Competition is fierce right now. I have plenty of friends with great academic records, and they cannot find legal work.

Do you want to practice law?

If you got bad grades because you do not like reading cases, or find the law boring…you need to get out. As Eric notes, if you cannot motivate yourself in law school, you probably cannot motivate yourself after law school. I will say that practicing law is more interesting then learning it. That said, it is not a night and day difference.

Can you handle the debt load and the stress?

Legal jobs that pay more then 100k are not being handed out on every corner. If you did not take the time to think about your debt load before law school, stop and think about it now. Do you need to support a family, and can you do that with massive debt?

If you already had a nice job that pays 50k, you might be hard pressed to find a legal job that pays better. I can almost guarantee if you do, the legal job will be more stressful. You might enjoy your work more, but you might have less free time. Is that a trade you are willing to make?

If you do not have a good answer to all of these questions, it is time to reconsider.


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  • I did not like law school. I almost quit after my first semester. I’m glad I hung in there. I can honestly say I love being an attorney, and look forward to getting up each day and going to work. Sure, I have some tough days, but overall I love it. My .02 cents.

  • 3l with bad grades

    much better in that it indicates the fact that even if you like it it doesn’t mean you should stay in.

    but query what your doing if your leaving as well.

  • Randall Ryder

    @ Stewart – lots of people do not like law school, but many of them enjoy practicing law (as noted above). I am certainly not advocating dropping out if you do not like it.

  • Sean Nichols

    The LSAT does not determine how you do in law school, and your performance in law school does not determine your quality as a lawyer. I’m not saying they don’t have a statistically significant correlation. They do. But they are not determinative. As this blog shows, quality affordable legal representation, plus some business and networking savvy, are the keys to a successful practice, not law school grades.

  • PGM

    I can tell any reader, first hand, not getting good grades in law school is a huge stone around your neck. I hated law, got terrible, first year grades and even though I and the law school should have parted company, I took off a year, listened to a bunch of delusioned family members who felt law was too much an honorable profession for me to leave, so I returned like a fool – to the same law school that was only too happy to take my federal loan dollars. 15 years later, I am MISERABLE trying to get out of corporate law gigs that just make me depressed. If you are a first or second year student and if you are struggling, its my opinion that you should GET OUT NOW now before you rack up more debt and get in line for woe and misery. I wish someone had pulled me aside years ago with the same warning and told me its not shameful to walk away from one of the most vile professions on earth.