I can only give you my perspective on the benefits of pursuing a career as an attorney. For me, it wasn't so much about the money (in retrospect, I consider it fortunate that I did not receive job offers from the biggest law firms), as it was about the opportunity to work in a profession that has continued to challenge me (after 36 years!), in an area (in-house insurance defense lawyer) that still leaves me time for my family and to pursue other interests and hobbies, such as reading, fiction writing, music, choral singing, hiking and perhaps my greatest love - travel. Don't get me wrong - I am much more highly compensated than I would have been had I chosen other careers. I have made a good living and was able to support my wife and family when she stayed at home with our kids for a few years, as well as my grandchildren many years later. It's just that I have found that if money is one's principal motivation in choosing an occupation, the prevalence of job dissatisfaction is often high.
For me the benefits of my career as a lawyer (and my choice of working "in-house" for an insurance company) are these:
1 . Independence - As a licensed professional, I have had the freedom to "be my own master", even as an employee of a company. This has given me the freedom to not worry so much about concerns such as corporate layoffs, since as a professional I could choose to work for a law firm, or even open my own practice.
2. Challenging - I tend to get bored with a routine job. If I hadn't felt appropriately challenged in my career, I doubt that I would still be working at age 66 (and planning to continue working for a few more years).
3. Rewarding - I have no complaints about the salary that I have been able to earn as a lawyer. While not what I would consider "getting rich", I have more than enough, especially when considering benefits provided by the company that I work for (health plan, 401 K plan, small pension, substantial bonus during good years, life insurance, etc.).
4. Professional - As an attorney, my highest allegiance is to The State Bar of California and its ethics requirements. Thus, even though I have to assertively advance the interests of my client/employer, their goals cannot be advocated at all costs. This provides me with a sense of professionalism that I would not have if employed in another capacity.
5. Education - I continually learn as an attorney. One of my goals is to always strive to learn something new each time I travel to court to argue a case. This learning can be in exchanges with my opponent, listening to arguments in other cases, or merely chatting with other attorneys or overhearing other informal debates and negotiations prior to checking in with the judge on my case. Occasionally I am surprised to learn of a relevant legal code section that I had no idea even existed. I began my learning process as a workers' compensation claims adjuster who transferred from the liability department, and thus knew nothing about the relevant law handled by my new department. Every time I read an attorney's letter which contained a citation to a Labor Code, Regulation or legal case, I would read it to expand my knowledge base. As a lawyer I have deepened my knowledge by researching and preparing briefs on innumerable legal issues.
6. Accomplishment - No matter what area of law one specializes in, what we do matters. Whether that means successfully arguing a case that benefits your client and perhaps many others; convicting a criminal defendant (or securing a not guilty verdict); incorporating a business; drafting a will or trust; representing a party to a divorce; or winning a judgment for an accident victim; we know that we have helped others with each case that we handle.
These are just some benefits to pursuing a legal career that come to mind. There are many others, but these stand out for me.
Best of luck and good wishes as you learn additional benefits of pursuing a legal career, and continue your discernment process about whether the law is right for you.
Charles, Nicholas and Dennis all gave great responses to your question. I certainly agree that one of the best things about being an attorney is the intellectual challenges and problem-solving opportunities it presents to me. I had worked in other career fields before going to law school. And I found that the routine of some other jobs did not provide the stimulation that I enjoyed. And as other responses have mentioned, the practice of law is so diverse, one cannot almost always find an area of the law and a practice that best suits one's own personality.
One of the best parts of being a lawyer is that I have a chance to deal with very smart people on a regular basis. A second plus to being a lawyer is the variety of the work. No two days are the same. A third plus is the intellectual challenge related to researching the law and keeping up with changes, making and responding to legal arguments, writing legal briefs, and advocating on behalf of clients. A fourth plus is the financial stability that being a lawyer brings. I have always been able to find a job. People always need, and will always need, lawyers.