Hate law school? You're not alone

By Alexandra Sumner

Here’s an insider secret: Very few people actually like law school. We do it because we have to. Whether we were inspired by Elle Woods, Barack Obama or even Kim Kardashian, we know that the only way to get from “layperson” to “lawyer” is to trek through academic hell. How’s that for promotional material?

Law school is an amalgamation of everything wrong with academia and the professional world: The grades are arbitrary; connections get you better opportunities; the tests make no sense; and the people are (typically) awful.

Imagine spending 40-plus hours a week in that environment. It’s exhausting! It should come as no surprise then that most people can’t wait to get the hell out of somewhere they worked so hard to get into. Why the 180, Alex?

Law school sucks, yes, but I’ve always believed in doing little (yet impactful) things to improve my overall experience — and you can too.

Even if you’re feeling “completely over it” or are considering dropping out, here are some suggestions that just might reignite your passion for the law and extinguish any doubts you may have about the future.

- Take a CLE class. Did you know you could do that? I sure didn’t. Find a few CLE classes in your desired field and make time for them. While you won’t get any continuing education credit for it, you will make genuine connections and get valuable practice insights into the profession. (Also, it’s way more “to the point” than law school. No Socratic method, no “hiding the ball,” no gunners. They may even have free food. Bonus!)

- Attend local bar association meetings. One thing that will get you past the muck you’ve been in is a glimpse of where you’re going.  Make it a point to attend local young attorney mixers or “lunch and learn” social events—similar to a CLE class, they are a great opportunity to get outside of the law school and network—but the food isn’t (often) free, and the conversation isn’t (often) heavy. Also, there’s alcohol.

- Drop out. I’m serious. If you really (and I mean really) hate law school, lawyers and everything to do with the profession, then save yourself a boatload of additional student debt and cut your losses. Choosing to do something different than what you’d planned is not failure; its self-preservation. Don’t tie yourself to a career that makes you unhappy. If you’re “in too deep” and want to stick it out, that’s fine too. Consider alternative legal careers like working at a nonprofit, teaching, or being a legislator. There is no “one size fits all” legal job, and there are ways to practice and be happy.

If you hate the daily drag of law school, just know that you’re not alone. There have been many before you (and certainly many after you) who feel the same. You may feel lost, or out of your comfort zone, and certainly frustrated.

There will be times when you drop your forehead to the desk in angst and stifle tears of anger as you question how you could ever do this to yourself. It’s one thing to be “up for a challenge,” it’s another to survive in an environment that wants to see you fail. You don’t have to love every minute of lecture, every page of reading and every case citation; but (like Nike says) you just have to “do it.”

Alexandra Sumner is a recent graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.