ATP vs. Law School

Good afternoon everyone,

I am curious about the experiences of former lawyers out there who have successfully matriculated through ATP. I know there are some (at least historically) based on a handful of questions and comments on this forum. (Incidentally, it’s pretty amazing the level of information you can turn up here with a shrewd keyword search — this is a great resource.)

I would love to hear about any comparison between the tortures of 1L life with ATP’s condensed program. For any of you who have accomplished both, how does ATP measure up with the first year of law school — easier, more challenging, no comparison (apples to oranges, etc.)?

Moreover, how about the checkrides — and perhaps new hire training at the airline as well? Comparable to that first Contracts exam? Or the bar exam? Or being grilled in front of 100 fellow students that first semester by the crusty old professor looking for a reason to fail your sorry butt back to the real world? Or worse yet, that hearing where the judge simply hates your client and nothing you can argue will make it better (what we traditionally call a “hot bench” in lawyer speak)?

Simply put, if an individual can manage the mental aspect of law school without losing their mind and soul, do they have a fighting chance of making it through ATP in one piece if they put in the time and effort (provided, of course, they have the physical skills to successfully operate an aircraft)?

Appreciate any thoughts you all have on this front. Thanks!



I am not an attorney, but hopefully one will jump in here. After reading your description of law school though I can tell you that flight school sounds easier. Sure, it has its challenges and some concepts can be incredibly difficult to understand, but overall it sounds less painful than what you described. I will be curious to see what others have to say about this.



I’m not an atty nor did I go to law school but I did have aspirations a long time ago and have taken some pretty tough classes in my day. I’ve always done well in school academically so the book stuff was and has never been an issue. To me the biggest difference is the physical component that doesn’t really exist in law school or other knowledge based vocations.

There’s a considerable amount of hand/eye coordination involved and even if you’re good at it (which not everyone is) it is fatiguing. I often compare a 2-3hr training block to driving for 2-3hrs driving through a bad snow or rain storm. When you finally arrive you’re toast. THEN factor in you now have 2-3hrs of studying to do when you’re done. It can be quite exhausting. Definitely doable but again it can be challenging.


I studied for the LSAT before I had a change of career in mind.

I can tell you right now, it is 5x harder to get an acceptable score on the LSAT to enter a mid/high tier law school than whatever I am studying at ATP. Really helps if you major in philosophy, it trains and makes a part of your brain that you never knew existed click (complex logic).

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The LSAT is no joke. It tests one’s ability to reason and analyze quickly (skills that are generally useful as an attorney), rather than one’s knowledge-base on a particular subject matter. The logic games section can be a bear for a lot of people, it was for me. I’m happy to hear the ATP studying on that front is not as grueling (although other aspects may be down the road, I suspect).

I really appreciate your thoughts on the physical aspect of flying, Adam. Those are the kinds of issues that help flesh out the rigors of flying compared with other professions. A lot of the law, particularly for baby lawyers, involves sitting in front of a computer all day, reading and hammering out memos. Or meeting with clients, preparing for and attending a hearing and/or trial. They can be physically taxing, but perhaps nothing like the physicality of flying an airplane through a nasty blizzard with 150 people’s lives in your hands.

I’ve read comments from our pilot mentors in other threads (including you, Adam and Chris) that new hire training is no joke — no hand-holding or backrubs if you screw up or don’t take it seriously. The law can be equally “Darwinian” — you either buck up and follow the syllabus and do the reading before class, or you fall behind and get pinched come exam time. Nobody wants a lawyer who doesn’t know the law, or chokes under pressure — similarly, nobody wants a pilot who couldn’t take the time to learn how to fly a plane.


I think you summed it up well.


My fiancee is a law student (currently a 3L at Arizona State) and I’m an ATP student working on my instrument rating. Certainly not going to discount how hard we all work to pass writtens and checkrides, but, from what I’ve seen her go through, it is absolutely more difficult to be successful in law school than it is at ATP.


Congratulations to your fiancé. There’s light at the end of the tunnel for you both! It can be quite a grind on the student as well as any significant other. The time commitment is so high for law school that a lot of people find themselves making sacrifices they would not have thought of in advance. I suspect there could be a parallel with flight school, and then being a pilot given the travel requirements.