Career Files, Pre-Law

How to Tell Your Parents You’re Not Going to Law School

Let’s start with the probably-reasonable premise that your parents want the best for you. (Sure, your parents might be sociopaths who are trying to destroy your life, but why would you listen to them at all, if that’s the case?)

Not infrequently, however, the parental conception of “what’s best for you” involves a stint in law school. If you don’t want to go, how can you convince your parents that law school is a terrible, awful, very bad idea?

Some tips:

1. Sit them down and run the numbers. It’s time for a reality check. Law school is extremely expensive and your odds of getting a high-paying job (or any law-related job right out of school) are not good. Things have changed rapidly in the last decade, so it’s quite possible their conceptions just aren’t up to date. Yes, that nice boy down the block got a great job when he graduated from law school in 2005, but that was an entirely different world. Your mileage may vary.

2. Do your research. This isn’t just about money, it’s about the type of career you want. If you’ve been considering law (or your parents have been considering it for you) go talk to a bunch of lawyers. Gather information about why this isn’t a good professional fit for you. Do your own “case study” and present a report on what you learned and why law isn’t right for you!

3. Have a real plan for what you’re going to do instead. Even if your plan is “Work at Starbucks because they’ll give me health insurance and I like drinking coffee,” that’s cool. You don’t have to have the most perfect possible job in mind, but you do need to have some plan! If your parents are pressuring you to go to law school, that’s partly code for “We don’t want you living on our couch forever.” Even if it means minimum wage and living with four roommates, come up with some way to pay your bills while you figure out what you really want to do. (And, if you know what you really want to do, aim for an entry-level job in that field, even if involves stocking shelves or answering telephones. You’ll be better off in three years than someone who paid tons of money for law school and didn’t want to go.) Sure, I know the economy is bad, and you might not be able to get a job in “your field.” Suck it up. I spent a year after college working retail and temp jobs, and it won’t kill you. And, no, I didn’t get a bonus for having graduated with Highest Honors.

4. Remind them of all the rich and famous people who dropped out of law school, or couldn’t get in. Exhibit A: Sara Blakely, Spanx inventor, and the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. Do you know why she started Spanx? Because she bombed the LSAT, twice! Need more evidence? Check out these almost lawyers who went on to bigger and better things.

5. Ask how many of their lawyer friends are still married. A friend of mine in law school had a great idea – a law firm “misery index” comparing the divorce rates at different firms. Slightly satirical, but not really. “The law is a jealous mistress,” as the saying goes, and it’s tough to maintain any semblance of a healthy family life when you’re working all the time. Your parents do want grandkids, right? Well, you’re going to need enough free time and energy to make that happen!

6. Finally, if all else fails, accept that it just might not be possible to convince them you’re right. To your parents, you’re always going to be five years old on some level. They just can’t see you as a fully-grown human being, capable of making your own life decisions. Luckily, you don’t have to convince them – you just have to decide. So if you really don’t want to apply to law school, refuse to take the LSAT. That’ll put a stop to things pretty quickly!

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