Should you go to Law School?
It is a question many young college undergraduates start asking themselves during their 3rd or 4th year. If they don’t ask it, some well-meaning relative or friend inevitably will bring it up, especially if their undergrad program is English, Political Science, or *insert any Social Science course here*.
Most of you won’t say 100% NO to the possibility. Chances are you have a relative or family friend that is a lawyer and you see them leading a comfortable existence. You might have never read the 1987 Constitution in full but you have watched Suits and How To Get Away with Murder and those fictional characters look awesome especially when they start using fancy words like mens rea and bad faith.
I don’t claim to be the perfect law student so that is why I’m not writing an article How To Finish Law School. If I knew that, I’d have better law school grades. That is a question left for another person who can recite cases verbatim when called for recitation and can apply codal provisions perfectly during an exam.
I’m writing this because the 2016 Law Aptitude Exam (LAE) applications are drawing near and some of my friends are asking around if should they go to law school. Being the good friend that I am, I want to make sure your eyes are wide open before entering the literal hell that is law school.
You will meet professors so arbitrary and terrifying that upper years will quickly tell you how many people on average they fail. 1/4 of my block either quit or got kicked out during our first year… I wouldn’t judge them because law school is so freaking hard. To give you a point of comparison, it was really easy for me to graduate with honors from a great university, but I’m not even sure if I’ll last in my second year in law school.
If I can convince just one of you—who isn’t really sure about law school but are just thinking of “trying it” — to think again, this article is worth the read because I just saved you thousands of pesos worth in tuition and hundreds of hours in class time.
REASONS THAT YOU SHOULDN’T USE TO ENTER LAWSCHOOL
1. You need a post-graduate degree.
In this global job market, a college degree isn’t enough. You’ll need a higher degree if you want to get the high paying managerial jobs. While this may be correct to a certain extent, this does not mean law should be your default degree. There are many good masters degrees available, both locally and internationally.
Don’t take law just because you can’t stand the sight of blood or can’t do math. You don’t need to have Atty., Dr., or Engr. attached to your name to have a successful career. Heck, if what you are looking for is money, you’ll make more growing a business. There is a reason why practically all of the richest people in Forbes Magazine are NOT lawyers. If you want to travel, many civil society and government organizations will sponsor your trips to different areas where you will have some time to go around. Sure, law will guarantee you some form of financial security, but there are faster ways to it.
Remember law school is a four-year investment that often costs at least P1 million, considering the tuition, readings, and opportunity costs. That doesn’t include the fact only around 20% of law school graduates actually pass the Bar. A field that allows only one in five people to actually practice their hard-earned skills isn’t the exactly the most stable career path.
2. Your parents pressured/ brainwashed you into going here
This is another common reason for entering law school. You shouldn’t be entering law school to please someone else. Why work so hard to become a lawyer when you don’t want to even become one yourself? The work you do will, on average, take 8 hours a day. Do you really want to spend around one-third of the next 30 years of your life doing something that you don’t feel passionate about?
This doesn’t just apply to law, but to all the degree programs that were forced by parents upon their offspring. I have so many friends who wanted courses like Fine Arts, or Music but were forced by their parents to take Engineering or Architecture because they were more “stable” programs.
Many of these people ended up failing classes and/or shifting out to another program. Some people, after graduating a course they had no love for, will eventually switch to fields they find more interesting. It’s thus better to avoid wasting those years entirely. Also, just because you come from a family of lawyers does not automatically mean that you would make a good one.
3. I like to read fiction books
I’m sure you’ve had one friend on Facebook or on Instagram who posted the amount of readings they have to cover for a subject. Those aren’t exaggerations. If you are one of those people who share news links on Facebook without actually reading the entire original article, that is already a red flag.
If you consider Harry Potter a long read, and can’t finish it in three days, then you shouldn’t even consider law school. Much of the cases you will read in law school will be long and boring, not the best combination. There are some gems like Chi Ming Tsoi that will stick to you but chances are, there are some subjects that you will find boring. My classmates find Constitutional cases boring but I find them interesting. On the other hand, I found reading Procedural law cases to be boring, which they in turn found interesting.
REASONS THAT MAY GET YOU THROUGH LAW SCHOOL
1. Law has always been my childhood dream
If you want it this much, this might be enough to get you through all the all-nighters, all the hour long recitations, all the handwritten digests, all the long exams that will make your hand bleed. However its important you want it not for the glamor because law can be very mundane – writing, reading, and articulating. If you can enjoy doing those three things routinely, then enjoy it you will because you will certainly do a LOT of it.
This is the reason that will keep you in law school when you have a BAD recitation that makes you reconsider your life path. I guarantee you – no matter how good you are, no matter how hard you study, you will have BAD recitations that will stick with you the rest of your law school life.
2. Law is my means to defend my advocacy whether it is the poor, the environment, indigenous people, the environment, and every other marginalized group.
This may be the biggest heartbreak for you but the law is not always right. What is legal is not always moral and what is moral is not always legal.
The law can and has been a tool for oppression. Slavery was legal, Apartheid was legal, even Martial Law allowed tens of thousands of Filipinos to be tortured and murdered.
To paraphrase a UP Law professor, you will be studying at the College of Law and not the College of Justice. You will realize that the law is not always fair and that the Supreme Court can get some decisions wrong. You will realize that many of the most brilliant lawyers are also the ones who break the law the most. An example would be, Ferdinand Marcos a UP Law graduate who robbed Filipinos of tens of billions of pesos.
However, if you are still dead-set on fighting for your advocacies after realizing this, then you still have hope. While many law students are sadly apathetic about social issues, knowledge of the law is really a useful tool for the young activist. You can fight the good fight with the law. After all, if you want to change the rules of the system, you better know the rules of the system.
3. You want to learn
If there is one truly great thing about law school, you will learn a lot. Like an upperclassman once told me, law school will break you down and build you back up. You will become more careful with your words. You will do more research. You will listen to both sides of the argument. You will be quicker to spot logical fallacies. You will think in a totally different manner, and it will be glorious.
You will realize how much law is all around you. Love? Governed by Persons and Family Relations. Wrong? Governed by Criminal Law. Promises? Governed by Obligations and Contracts. And so on.
If some college professors are so-so, law professors are often brilliant. Some will go on to be Supreme Court Justices, others heads of various government offices. They know what they’re talking about.
It doesn’t hurt that the Socratic Method forces you to study on your own because at any moment you can be called to answer a question. It’s terrifyingly effective but it will make you miss undergraduate courses where you can volunteer to answer questions. Here, everyone has to come to class prepared and that makes you learn a lot in one semester.
At the end of the day, law school isn’t something you should do on a whim. It isn’t a case of I’ll take the exam and if I pass, “sayang naman” if I don’t push through. Evaluate the decision based on its pros and cons. Because while many really enjoy the study of law, many more just wasted their time and money on it.
Just because you CAN do it, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.
So make sure before going to lawschool, make sure you do it for the right reasons.