How Soon Is Too Soon to Drop Out of Law School?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 12, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A new year of law school is just starting and you already have your regrets. Law school isn't what you expected. The law really isn't what you want to do. This isn't how you want to spend your life.

Is it too soon to turn and run the other way?

Give It a Year, or at Least a Full Month

If you're a 1L having a panic attack, take a few deep breaths. Sure, cold calls are torture. Yes, law school is full of a lot of insufferable jerks future lawyers. And there's no question that much of your law school reading will be beyond boring. If the good parts of law school don't balance out those negatives in your mind, well, you might be in the wrong program.

But, that doesn't mean you have to give up during your first month. In fact, it might not be smart to. What you do in law school doesn't mirror what you'll do as a lawyer, or even as an intern or clerk. It might be worth staying in law school for awhile in order to test out those opportunities.

Get Out Now, With Your Time and Cash (More or Less) Intact

Three years is a long time to spend on a course of study or career that isn't for you. That's three years of tuition, three years of lost income, three years that you could have spent doing something more productive. So, if you don't like the law, three years is too much to give it. Ending your studies after a year is a good way to cut your losses while they're still (relatively) small.

But a year can simply be too long for those who find law school to be a true misery.

If you must get out now, you might be able to leave with some cash in hand. Most, if not all schools, offer some sort of prorated tuition refund or rebate for students who leave early in the year. Law students who withdraw from Boston University, for example, can recoup 80 percent of their tuition if they're out before September 19th. At the University of Texas, students who withdraw during the "third five class days" (a term of art) can get 50 percent of their investment back.

That's a lot to pay for a few weeks of class, but it's much more than you get if you leave for Thanksgiving break and never come back.

Whether you stay or you go, though, keep in mind there are plenty of non-law ways to use your J.D. after you graduate, and plenty of law-related professions that don't require you to be an attorney.

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