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Pros, Cons of Pursuing a Law Degree if You Don't Plan to Practice

Studying law is expensive and time-consuming, but the skills learned in a J.D. program could benefit a number of career paths. 

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Try working six months in your dream field without a law degree before considering the pros and cons of applying to law schools.

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Many who obtain a law degree do so to become a lawyer. But the skills and critical thinking gleaned in law school are applicable to an array of careers.

Additionally, potential employers often look favorably on J.D. degree holders, even if the degree is not required for the particular position they need to fill. 

If a law degree is not a strict requirement for your chosen career path, how do you know when to invest the time and money in furthering your education? There are several pros and cons of going to law school for those who do not intend to practice law. 

[Think hard about the benefits of law school for your career.]

Pro: Versatility is one of the most beneficial aspects of a law degree. An understanding of the law is helpful in a variety of careers, from mediation to politics. A law degree may not be a requirement to break into these careers, but it can set you apart from other candidates when it comes to hiring decisions. 

Con: When you apply to jobs that do not require a law degree, a recruiter may see your education history and wonder if you went to law school on a whim or if you know what you want to do. Explaining your desired career path and how the skills you gained in law school will help you get there can usually combat this issue.

Pro: You will gain a broad skill set in law school that will likely benefit you wherever you end up in the future. You will obtain an understanding of legal processes, logical reasoning skills and critical thinking and analysis capabilities. A law degree can even be helpful in your everyday life when you need to sign contracts or other legal documents with complex language. 

[Ask four questions to determine if law school is the right move.]

Con: A law degree comes with a steep price tag. While the skills and knowledge mentioned above are highly valuable, you need to determine if they are worth the cost if the degree is not required for your ideal profession. Keep in mind that there are scholarships and financial aid packages that can help relieve this burden. 

In the end, there are many pros and cons you should weigh before determining if a law degree will further your career if you do not plan to practice. One good test to help in your decision is to spend six months or a year pursuing your dream career without the law degree and then examine the responses you get. 

If you are able to land a job you enjoy without the degree you may have found a way around an expensive education. You can always go to law school after working for a few years.

If you struggle to find work or you get feedback from interviewers that you may need to expand your skills, reconsider the law degree. Furthermore, research your desired industry to ensure that there is a healthy job market before you invest in the education.

[See an infographic with data about the U.S. News top law schools.]

Above all, be sure to have a plan. Many students go to law school because they aren’t sure what they want to do and they figure a law degree can’t hurt. This can land you with student debt and no job to pay it off.

It’s a good idea to have some backup options as well, as the job market can fluctuate. I have had Stratus Prep clients report back to me that they have embarked on careers in politics, the nonprofit sector, finance, writing or journalism and more. 

I myself have found my law degree very useful, though I do not practice. The education I gained was critical both to working in finance and when I started my business. 

What are your post-law-school plans? Let me know in the comments, email me or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep.