physicsbro wrote: Assuming I get into a top tier law school, and then assuming I make good enough grades for the chance at the lucrative careers, does law school seem like such a bad choice?
Not a bad choice if you're well informed. Currently you're not well informed. I can tell that by your choice of terms like "lucrative careers." Nothing wrong with that, but it's something to remedy before making a final decision.
Here's some unsolicited advice, go find a job in math/physics and work for 2 or 3 years. (Despite your assertion, you will be able to find a job with a BS in math and physics) You will be in a better position to approach law school after having some real world experience meeting deadlines, churning out work product, and paying bills. You may even find that you like your job.
thing you could do is fall into law school as an escape from a career/situation that you don't like. You want to run TO law school, not end up in law school by running FROM something else. Why? Well, to make a long story short, law school is insanely costly in time, money and effort, and law is a profession of trade offs. If you go the right direction with your physics degree, you could easily find a job making $80k+ working 40 hours a week. With a law degree, you're either making $180k working 70-100 hours per week or you're making $70k working 55 hours per week. There is very little in between. (Go look at the entry-level legal salary distribution)
Beyond that, most of the $180k jobs are all-consuming. If you're not a workaholic who enjoys answering URGENT!!!! emails at 2:30 in the morning, you may not like the $180k jobs. Or you might like them. You won't know until you get some more info. I can tell you that I followed a similar path to you (STEM degree knowing that I eventually wanted to go to law school), and I HATED working in the biglaw environment. In patents, some of the mid-law and IP boutiques pay the same as biglaw, so you can tailor your working environment to your preferences, but it's still an always-on type of job.
I know I have a rather strong work ethic when it comes to grades. I'm not quite sure how my math and physics ability will transfer over to law courses but I am willing to work hard at it for the chance of a nice paying job. I know that the lucrative salary is only available to those in the top 15 percent of so, but I like my odds. Anyone else go into law for the money and regret it, or are glad they did so?
It's a crapshoot as to how well you do in law school. You're surrounded by people who graduated top of their class in undergrad, and your grades hinge on your ability to write an exam using a method and style that is foreign to most people. Look at your options for graduating top 10%, top 25% and median. Make your decision based on all
of those outcomes. There are websites that tell you what your chances are at each specific school.
Having said all that I have, part of the reason for me going into law was the paycheck, and I currently make significantly more than I ever could have as an engineer while still working in-house (complete with the commensurate corporate culture). I don't have to deal with the a-hole partner who sends urgent emails at 2 in the morning. I don't have to deal with back-stabbing coworkers angling for the one partner position open for our class. However, my job is a unicorn job. Nobody else in my graduating class at my school makes as much money for doing as little work (I work 45-50/week most of the time). My company offers 2 or 3 positions per year across all departments to graduating law students. The vast majority of mid-size and large companies won't even look at you until you have done 3-5 years in biglaw or midlaw.
All this to say, make sure to do your research so that you know what you're getting in to. The people who regret law school are the ones who dove in blindly looking for a paycheck, taking out a quarter million in student loans, meandering through school "looking for their passion", and graduating into a crap situation (either financially or firm culture-wise). I tell most college students looking into law school that admission to law school is the start line, not the finish line. Planning how to get to the start line is great, but doesn't help you get to the finish of the marathon.