The myth of the six-figure-plus salary for a top school top law graduate seems to be emblazoned into the collective unconscious. Every website mentions it, the US News and World Report articles report on it, and every watercooler kibbitzing session on law school invariably broaches it. This six-figure salary is often much higher than that of any law school grad. These rumors, conjectures, and statistics provide a quite alluring draw, so let's explore them a bit. In all fairness, there are many individuals who receive high salaries upon graduation.Unfortunately, however, there is a flip side. Median compensation numbers are inflated since the schools only release statistics on self-reported information, and not all graduates reply to the survey. For example, the $115,000 median income could the average of 600 respondents, not of 778 graduates. This disconnect introduces what statisticians refer to as a "non-response bias", meaning that when it comes to reporting something as ego-sensitive as compensation, people receiving low salaries are unlikely to respond. Such a bias implies that the true average compensation is lower. Secondly, one must beware of what I refer to as the "Keanu Reeves Factor" (in homage to his riveting performance in "A Devil's Advocate"). The Keanu Reeves factor dictates that in order to earn these six-figure salaries, one typically needs to land a job where one must sell one's soul to the devil. This underworld reference is not intended to refer to the "insert-your-favorite-corporate-crook-here" law graduates of yesteryear, but rather to the infernal quality of life that law firm associates lead. The hours are really, really, long and you completely surrender control over your life. It sucks even worse than people say it sucks.Thirdly (if that's actually a word), the return on investment might not be as high as you might think. The student loan repayments will be a staggering, non-tax deductible $1,500/ month (assuming a 10 year repayment period). Think about it.
I think the most you could have possibly commmitted yourself to the law is 10 years. After three years of law school, and seven years of practice. At that point reciprocity kicks in to just about every state, you can go anywhere you want, and if you planned right your loans should be paid off. You'll be in your mid-30's for most law students, and you have at least 30 years of your working career to reinvent yourself and do whatever you want. Also at that point, if you've been working in a firm you should have a good idea of whether you're going to be up for partner. So you have that added option which can be explored and might change your mind about the law.
i have zero regrets - this degree is a means of empowerment... i worked for 3 years after finishing UG - i came to realize during my limited time spent in the rat race that your career success, advancement, etc. isn't necessarily linked nor dependent in any functional way upon how smart you think you are (i.e. how well you perform your particular role / delegation of duties withinin the corporate scheme) but more related to how smart you have *proven* yourself to be - which means, in terms of a modern-day work force translation, that you: you better have a professional degree (and if you do, it better be from a good school). this is all that matters. this is how johnny Q moron ends up running company X. he has the degree, smart guy doesn't - johnny Q gets the job. this time last year i was playing my part in a very tidy hierarchy of subservience. 1L is finished and out of the way and i'm now i'm writing minute entries on summary judgment motions for a judge - he gives me the briefs, etc. and i decide the issue. granted, i'm getting paid zero (1L summer judicial internship position) but the power being placed in my hands is semi-scary ...and i like it it's a step in teh right direction - last year just another automaton in a collared shirt, this year i'm deciding actual issues that actively effect people's lives ...no - regrets - whatsoeverthis time next year 2L SA position with that very handy salary of several g per week ... yeah, i'm crying a river
Assuming you're not including clinics, skills courses, etc. There are several clinics at my school where you're given primary responsibility over cases, e.g. vaccine injury clinic. IMHO, these are the exceptions to the "how," yet the conventional wisdom is that you learn more in your first year after law school than you did throughout all of law school.
Panera, I agree with most of your post except for one of your assertions. Law school does NOT teach you about practicing law ...