People want to be lawyers because it provides a convenient basis of self-worth. Prestige matters, feeling like you're part of the world matters, to be respected and meet or exceed social expectations of you matters. These are the fundamental building blocks of self-respect for all but the most enlightened of young professionals, and the legal world, as fucked up as it is, provides them. As a lawyer, you're involved in work that is important to people. If you're at a huge pyramidal firm, you're working small parts of hundred million dollar+ cases. If you're at a smaller firm, you're working on a small team on a $100k to $several million case. If you're a regulator, you're telling sophisticated business people what to do, a prosecutor, you're putting people in jail. That's all something you can base a little bit of self-worth on. And then there's the sort of self-serving system of achievement created by the legal world: where you went to school, whether you were on law review, where you summered, where you clerked, how much you billed, your bonus, whether you got to argue in court as a second-year, take depositions as a first-year, whether you're on "partner track" (you can lie about this for several years) and so on and so forth. These are all conveniently created credentials that matter to other people-- even if these other people all happen to be lawyers, too. Oh, and the number of convenient excuses for not holding such credentials is practically infinite, which can often allow you to reap much of the joy of actually having the credential for the small price of engaging in a little (self) delusion. So that's the real reason people become lawyers-- why do you think they're so vain? The thing is, though, vanity matters-- again, to all but the most enlightened. And if you want to be more charitable to the legal world, try to equate vanity with the phrase, "carving out a place for yourself in the world," to shift the connotation from shallow, self-centered and superficial to worldly, aware, of known and unwavering identity, and ask yourself if it's really such a bad thing after all.