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Author Topic: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school  (Read 5182 times)

ryanjm

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Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« on: October 26, 2009, 01:21:56 PM »
I graduated last year from law school (T50 if you think rankings other than T14 are important), and yesterday at a wedding I saw quite a few of my old law school classmates. Here is what they had to say:

"Sam" - Works at biglaw litigation firm downtown. He's at the office around 8:30, leaves around 6:30. Usually does an additional hour or two of work at home. Says "it's a grind" and generally dislikes his job. The partners work late as well, so there's little hope in sight. Wishes he had been a businessman or some kind of entrepreneur.

"Stefan" - Works at small firm doing tax law. Also considers it a grind, but hasn't worked there as long so he's still adjusting and doesn't have the same perspective as Sam.

"Wallace" - Worked for a few months as an attorney and hated it so much he went back to school for early education.

"Bram" - Didn't want to practice law and went into federal law enforcement.

"Lefty" - Clerks for a state sup ct. judge and likes it, but his 2-years are up soon and then he starts to work at a biglaw firm.

"Me" - Didn't want to practice and went into family business.

...and on and on. Point being, I don't know more than 1 or 2 of my classmates who are practicing law who actually like their job. No one at the wedding did.

I would really encourage all of you considering law school to actually go and speak with lawyers practicing in whatever area you think you want to work in. Ask 3L's at your local law school what they think of it. Just talk to as many lawyers as you can about their job. Figure out what their schedule is like. I think more than a few would be willing to give you 5 minutes of their time to help you get an idea of whether or not this is a career you really want to get into.

It's worth doing some serious research in order to avoid a six-figure mistake and 3 years of your life. So many people, including myself, had a vague picture of the realities of being a lawyer, and what the work is really like. You like to argue using logic? You like reading and writing, and you're interested in justice? Go join a debating club, create a blog, and read some legal books on your own time. Every lawyer likes to read and write and argue. But do you like working 10-12 hour days at a desk in front of a computer by yourself? Do you like doing tedious research on minute details of the law? Do you like doing tons of paperwork for partners? Do you want to deal with clients who are invariably stressed and upset because they are coming to you only with a serious problem, and you cannot offer them much consolation besides 'we think you have a good case,' or 'we think we have a good argument.' And that's not even touching on the whole billable hour problem which incentivizes working slowly and padding.

The money is nice if you can find a job, but do you want to hate getting up in the morning? These are the realities of legal work. Good luck to you guys, I was in your shoes 4 years ago on this very same board.

nealric

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2009, 01:34:40 PM »
Quote
The money is nice if you can find a job, but do you want to hate getting up in the morning? These are the realities of legal work.

I think the problem is that there is no good way of evaluating whether you will like legal work ex-ante. From everything I've observed, it's very personality and work environment dependent- which means the experiences of one won't dovetail with that of another.

But I do agree a lot of people who go to law school would be happier doing something else.
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Contract2008

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2009, 01:36:07 PM »
I graduated last year from law school (T50 if you think rankings other than T14 are important), and yesterday at a wedding I saw quite a few of my old law school classmates. Here is what they had to say:

"Sam" - Works at biglaw litigation firm downtown. He's at the office around 8:30, leaves around 6:30. Usually does an additional hour or two of work at home. Says "it's a grind" and generally dislikes his job. The partners work late as well, so there's little hope in sight. Wishes he had been a businessman or some kind of entrepreneur.

"Stefan" - Works at small firm doing tax law. Also considers it a grind, but hasn't worked there as long so he's still adjusting and doesn't have the same perspective as Sam.

"Wallace" - Worked for a few months as an attorney and hated it so much he went back to school for early education.

"Bram" - Didn't want to practice law and went into federal law enforcement.

"Lefty" - Clerks for a state sup ct. judge and likes it, but his 2-years are up soon and then he starts to work at a biglaw firm.

"Me" - Didn't want to practice and went into family business.

...and on and on. Point being, I don't know more than 1 or 2 of my classmates who are practicing law who actually like their job. No one at the wedding did.

I would really encourage all of you considering law school to actually go and speak with lawyers practicing in whatever area you think you want to work in. Ask 3L's at your local law school what they think of it. Just talk to as many lawyers as you can about their job. Figure out what their schedule is like. I think more than a few would be willing to give you 5 minutes of their time to help you get an idea of whether or not this is a career you really want to get into.

It's worth doing some serious research in order to avoid a six-figure mistake and 3 years of your life. So many people, including myself, had a vague picture of the realities of being a lawyer, and what the work is really like. You like to argue using logic? You like reading and writing, and you're interested in justice? Go join a debating club, create a blog, and read some legal books on your own time. Every lawyer likes to read and write and argue. But do you like working 10-12 hour days at a desk in front of a computer by yourself? Do you like doing tedious research on minute details of the law? Do you like doing tons of paperwork for partners? Do you want to deal with clients who are invariably stressed and upset because they are coming to you only with a serious problem, and you cannot offer them much consolation besides 'we think you have a good case,' or 'we think we have a good argument.' And that's not even touching on the whole billable hour problem which incentivizes working slowly and padding.

The money is nice if you can find a job, but do you want to hate getting up in the morning? These are the realities of legal work. Good luck to you guys, I was in your shoes 4 years ago on this very same board.

It seems like all your friends/former classmates are doing well.  Well, at least none of them are jobless.  Are they all on law review or in the top 25%?

ryanjm

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2009, 02:08:35 PM »
^True and ^^True. But nealric, the fact that _none_ of them like legal work at firms is telling. No doubt the work environment has something to do with it, but the raw numbers of lawyers who dislike their jobs is staggering. You can hope that you're one of the few who will like this work and find an awesome work environment, but if I was placing a bet on it I wouldn't give you good odds.

And Contract, I don't remember who was on law review (I wasn't), etc...but they are all smart people and the one clerking for the judge probably had a very high class rank.

DannyJames

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2009, 02:15:02 PM »
well, first off i am a 0L.  I am pushed towards law because i have always felt like it's something i was meant to do.  for whatever reason, i just have that gut feeling.  i work in the nonprofit sector right now in Las Vegas.  my experiences have shown me that people need help in all areas of their lives, and this is one place i feel in my heart i will succeed in doing so.  can i say what i'll feel 4 years from now...no.  but i am very optimistic about the chance at pursuing law and the life it can lead to (that's NOT referring to money, i work at nonprofit remember).  
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jack24

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2009, 02:28:01 PM »
I'll throw my two cents in.   I hope that after I graduate from law school I'll come back on here and let everyone know how I feel.
At this point, I basically don't like law school.  I loved my summer job working for a county DA, and I landed a summer and 3L job with another DA in a bigger city (500k-million people).   I hope that I'll like my job, but it's really too early to tell.

I think there would be a lot of legal options out there that I could enjoy if I didn't have any debt.  However, due to debt and family obligations, I have to make 60,000+ after I graduate.  I have OK grades and I'm on Law Review, but I might still have a better chance of accomplishing my goals in my old career (Banking).  That pretty much pisses me off.  I'm spending 3 years doing something I don't enjoy (law school) and I'm not really going to be in any better position than before I came.

I came to a T2 (50-75) with no scholarship over a T3 (Akron) with a full scholarship and a stipend. That was probably the wrong decision.

So I would suggest going to law school if one or more of the following applies to you:

1: Family job lined up
2: Full scholarship, or super cheap in-state tuition (Or T14 maybe)
3: More than a few months of experience working with attorneys.

Otherwise you are basically rolling the dice.  If you get a bachelors and work really hard a bank you'll probably be able to make 40-60k within 3 or 4 years, and you won't have to incur debt to do it.
Pharmacy school takes the same amount of time as law school and you're pretty much guaranteed 80k+.

I can't tell you what you will or won't like, but I can tell you that odds are you won't like practicing law any more than you like whatever else you could go do now.  And if you go to law school now you'll be in a far weaker financial position than you otherwise would be.

Sheshe

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2009, 02:37:39 PM »
OMG you guys are so depressing! I appreciate the honesty though.
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ryanjm

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2009, 04:18:16 PM »
well, first off i am a 0L.  I am pushed towards law because i have always felt like it's something i was meant to do.  for whatever reason, i just have that gut feeling. 

That is exactly the type of thinking I'm trying to help people avoid. If you just "feel it's the right choice for you," stop feeling and start thinking. If you want to "help people" do it as a volunteer. Or make a lot of money and donate some of it. I know it's easy to just put the blinders on and sort it out after you start law school rather than make a U-turn partway through the process, but believe me, the law takes idealism, chews it up and spits it out as disillusionment. I actually had a laugh looking at some of my posts from 5 years ago. I specifically said that I needed to look into why so many lawyers dislike their jobs before I started law school, but I never did it. I thought "well I'll work at a small firm and won't fall into the biglaw trap. Or I'll work for the state." I wish I had done more research into what lawyers do on a day to day basis, and what they think about their job.

HR6352

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2009, 04:57:52 PM »
Doesn't just about every job you have a realistic job of getting suck? 

It would be nice if we could all be basketball players or journalists but we can't.

I want to go to law school because I want money.  I'll get my enjoyment from books and hobbies. 

I'm sure engineers and accountants have message boards about how much their lives suck. 

jack24

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Re: Where should you go? Anywhere but law school
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2009, 05:29:33 PM »
Doesn't just about every job you have a realistic job of getting suck? 

It would be nice if we could all be basketball players or journalists but we can't.

I want to go to law school because I want money.  I'll get my enjoyment from books and hobbies. 

I'm sure engineers and accountants have message boards about how much their lives suck. 

The financial cost benefit ratio of law school just isn't what it used to be.  It's great that you want to make money by being a lawyer (it's a possibility that you will), but I think it's important that people understand it doesn't necessarily pay off unless you can go to school on the cheap or if you are good enough to get a great job.


Major Firms in the two major cities close to me have dropped starting salaries down from around 150k to 100k.

Most jobs outside those large firms don't pay nearly as much, and the huge percentage of law students don't get jobs at big firms.

So say you get a job at a good, medium sized law firm in Denver or Tulsa or some place like that.  You'll probably Start somewhere between 50k and 75k.  It's true that your maximum earning potential will be higher than a lot of fields, but you won't realize those advantages for many years. 

I can run through the numbers with you if you want, but it would be equally or even more financially advantageous to go into IT, Pharmacy, Dental Hygiene, or Community Banking, and the list goes on and on.

however, the top whatever percentage of lawyers are really wealthy, but that percentage is getting smaller faster than the rest of the economy.