Going to law school is an even more difficult decision for older students. A saturated job market, cut-throat competition and changing legal industry make it a challenge for even younger law grads to find a job. Therefore, there are certain drawbacks to going to law school later in life, as outlined below. However, going to law school as an older student does have an upside. Be sure to also review these advantages of going to law school later in life.
- Advantages of Going to Law School Later in Life
- Too Old for School?: Personal Stories of Challenge and Success
- 8 Steps to Making a Career Change
- 8 Job Search Tips for Older Workers
- Career Change Strategies from the Experts
6 Disadvantages of Going to Law School Later in Life
1. Cost – Going to law school is expensive; in fact, the typical law school graduate accrues over $80,000 in law school debt. If you finance your education through loans, you will not have as much of your working life to repay those loans as a younger student. Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits of returning to school against the financial burdens of furthering your education.
2. Age Bias – Like many other industries, age bias exists in the legal profession. Many employers prefer to hire younger, less experienced workers who are willing to work for less money. They may also prefer younger workers for the reasons listed below (career longevity, trainability and commitment). While age discrimination is a challenge for older workers, today’s tough job market only exacerbates the situation.
3. Opportunities – Graduates over age 40 may have fewer opportunities in the job market. Statistics show that it is more difficult for older lawyers to land a job at large law firms (large firms typically offer the most lucrative salaries). According to the National Association for Law Placement, 53 percent of law graduates who are 36 years old and older and go into private practice go solo or join firms with fewer than 10 attorneys. Only 17 percent join law firms that employ more than 250 attorneys.
4. Career Longevity – Since older employees entering the legal profession have fewer working years ahead of them, employers may hesitate to hire second career lawyers and legal professionals. Many law firms seek employees willing to make a long-term commitment to the firm – lawyers who will stick around long enough to make partner and contribute to the long-term growth of the organization.
5. Time Commitment – Older employees often have children, aging parents and other commitments that prevent them from making the 50-80 hour week time commitment required by many law firms. Therefore, some law firms and organizations may hesitate to hire older employees.
6. Trainability – Since older workers are often more set in their ways, employers sometimes fear that they are not as moldable or trainable. Some older employees also find it awkward to accept assignments from younger supervisors.