Dropping out of law school is not an easy decision to make, but some law students may find themselves considering this prospect as soon as their first semester in school. Whether or not you drop out is a highly personal decision that depends heavily on your individual reasoning, your future plans, and your career goals.
In this article, we will be shedding some light on the most common reasons that students drop out of law school. We will also be talking about what you may need to consider when you are trying to make a final decision on whether to drop out or not and why dropping out of law school carries such a heavy weight.
Why Is Dropping Out of Law School so Taboo?
Dropping out of law school can be terrifying, and for many, this is due to the fact that getting accepted into a law school is a difficult and highly stressful process. Many students see dropping out as a failure, an admission that they weren't good enough for school, or a sign that they wasted their efforts getting accepted into the school, but this is simply not true.
Law school is difficult, and it isn't for everyone. In fact, some schools even have a dropout rate of up to 38 percent of students after their first year. You may not realize that law school isn't for you until you are in the throes of your first semester, or you may realize that your career goals have changed entirely.
Should I Drop Out of Law School?
These are all perfectly valid reasons for dropping out of law school, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. The taboo that dropping out of law school brings should be ignored if you truly feel like you would be happier not attending the school anymore.
That being said, if you are feeling like dropping out of law school because you feel overwhelmed, confused, or stressed, but still want to achieve your law degree, there may be things that your law school can do to help you. Make contact with career services and your law school advisor to discuss your options and see if you can reassure your doubts and receive assistance enough to consider staying in school.
Common Reasons Students Drop Out of Law School
While there are many reasons that a student may drop out of law school, this list below gives some of the most common issues that students experience when in law school.
Unanticipated Life Events or Hardships
An unfortunate but common reason that many students drop out of law school is experiencing an unanticipated life event or hardship. This could be something like the birth of a child, a death in the family, or financial obligations that make it impossible for the student to continue studying for their law degree. This is especially an issue among part-time law students who are trying to juggle the responsibilities of work, family, and law school all at the same time.
If you are experiencing a situation like this but still want to continue your degree at some point, it is a good idea to reach out to the admissions office, student services, or your law school advisor and see if there is some type of accommodation that can be made for you that allows you to complete your degree on a different schedule.
Many students fall victim to self-doubt, especially in law school where the entire class is likely composed of highly accomplished, driven, and determined individuals. It is easy for students to begin doubting themselves or their own abilities and to start comparing themselves to their classmates.
In some cases, this feeling of self-doubt and loneliness is enough to cause a student to want to drop out of law school altogether, and many students do. However, before dropping out, you should consider the possibility that you will find your place during the next semester or during your 2L year. The first year of law school is designed to make you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable, but if you really want the degree, it might be worth pushing through the self-doubt and sticking it out.
Students will often apply to law school with expectations in their minds of the dramatized TV-style lawyers and legal work. When they get to law school and find themselves pouring over decades-old legal texts and composing their own drafts and briefs, they may be disappointed by the lack of legal excitement that law school has. These feelings of unmet expectations and being underwhelmed by law school can inspire some students to drop out.
That being said, there may be potential in a legal career for more excitement and rewarding work, but it takes pushing through the rigor and occasional boredom of law school to get there. Any student suffering from their unmet expectations of law school should seriously evaluate their future goals and what drove them to law school in the first place before dropping out because of these feelings.
Poor grades are a major driving factor behind many students dropping out. Some students may come into law school overconfident and very sure that they will succeed on top of their class, so when this doesn't happen, they may feel dejected to the point of dropping out. Other students may be unprepared for the amount of work that law school really is, and upon receiving poor grades will feel hopeless and think about leaving law school.
While poor grades can be a major issue for students, it is possible to raise your grades up to an acceptable point over the course of the rest of your time in law school. You can speak with both your law school advisor, your professors, and tutors on campus to get help with improving your grades and helping you determine whether or not you want to put in the work to raise your grades and stay in law school.
What to Think About Before Dropping Out of Law School
Maybe you're experiencing one of the reasons above and want to drop out of law school, or maybe you are facing down an entirely different issue that makes you want to consider dropping out. Either way, you should consider these questions below and apply them to your situation to allow you to get a proper sense of your reasons for leaving law school.
Why Are You Leaving Law School?
Asking yourself exactly why you are leaving law school can help you evaluate your feelings behind the school and determine whether or not there is anything that can be fixed that may make you want to stay.
If you are tempted to leave because of poor grades, an unfortunate bout of imposter syndrome, or because you don't enjoy your law school's culture, there may be solutions. You can always seek help improving your grades, try to build up relationships with your classmates, seek counseling, or even transfer law schools altogether to find something that is a better fit.
What Are Your Career Goals?
If you are considering dropping out of law school because you aren't sure that you actually want to practice law, you may want to pay a visit to your advisor or the career services office. There are a number of careers that can benefit from a law degree but don't have much to do with being a practicing lawyer that you can pursue instead.
You should evaluate what you want out of your career and work to understand where a law degree fits into it. If you have completely changed your mind on anything to do with law and can't see yourself finishing law school easily, then dropping out may be the best option for you. However, if it is just the “future lawyer” part of being in law school that you don't enjoy, there may still be a reason for you to stay in school.
What Are Your Future Plans?
Besides just career goals, you should work to have an understanding of your future plans. This is your Plan B: your ideas and goals on what to do if you do drop out of law school. It is incredibly important to evaluate both options and to know exactly what you will do if you do drop out.
Asking the following questions can help. Will you immediately find a job elsewhere? Will you take a break from school and travel? Will you enroll in a different graduate school?
You need to work out your future plans before making a final decision on dropping out of law school so that you don't feel completely lost or unsure of what to do. Making a plan can also help you work through your feelings about dropping out and help you determine if it really is the correct option for you.
The Right Decision for Your Individual Situation
Dropping out of law school is a hard decision, made more difficult by the fact that law school is hard to get into and known for its rigor. While some students may see dropping out as a failure on their part, that is not true. Law school can be difficult for many students, and some students just don't fit with the environment the way they thought they might. The choice to drop out or continue on is a personal one that depends on many individual factors, not a blanket decision that's right or wrong.
There is no shame in dropping out of law school, and as long as you've made an effort to speak with professors, advisors, career services, and the admissions office in order to fully evaluate your decision, you are able to make a fully informed decision about it. Just remember to choose the option that makes you the happiest and supplies you with a clear path to your future goals and a fulfilling career.