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Author Topic: Is Law School the new "College?"  (Read 1025 times)

waitlisted1

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Is Law School the new "College?"
« on: July 13, 2010, 11:29:14 AM »
I'm debating whether to go to law school this fall.

I'm sick of the direction most of these discussions go in terms of money/jobs, etc. so PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING.

LAWYERS WONT MAKE MUCH MONEY:  If you are going to law school simply for the exclusive title of "Esq.", which allows you to charge $250 per hour in your job, you're an idiot.  I actually like the law, I actually enjoy helping people figure stuff out with the law.  I also think it's a hard task to do correctly, and requires concentration and determination which most people just don't have when it comes to research/arguments...thus the compensation.  That said, I think that the high pay we are used to seeing for stereotypical lawyers is a bit artificial since there are barriers to becoming a lawyer that many capable people just never had the opportunities to overcome.  Recently, this advantage is unravelling because there is an abundance of lawyers and bad economy.  I see this as a trend that will continue (as more law schools/lawyers develop); that is, the majority of the legal profession is not going to get paid well.  Forget all this T1-T3 talk.  Also, many of those high-paying jobs you get suck in terms quality of life (in other words, you get paid well, but you work 60+ hours).

So, enough about strictly the economy.  If I wanted a stable job that paid well already, I'd be a cop/firefighter/government employee who work for twenty years and then receive a nice, government-backed pension.  (I'm not degrading their work here, but just saying MANY are in a decent economic situation in those terms). 

HERE'S MY QUESTION:

Is it a valid reason to go to law school as "something to do" for the next three years?  I am interested in law, but I know that jobs are scarce, and I can't say there is one area of law I definitely love yet.  But I don't know what else to do.  I'm working as a paralegal now and it's kind of boring, with no room for advancement (obviously without a JD).  I could do almost anything I want, but I don't really care to do anything that bad.  I don't have any connections outside of law, so while it would be cool to do something like bartending, I don't really care to do it bad enough to start at the bottom and work my way up.   

Is it incorrect to look at law school as something to do for the next three years?  Somewhere to meet new people, have some new opportunities, etc.?  I understand there is a boatload of debt with law school, but I already have debt from undergrad which I'll be paying off for the next ten years.  In some sick sense, it's like f*** it I'm already screwed.  And let's face it, now that there is Income Based Repayment (loan repayment won't exceed 15% of your income), there is slightly less pressure to have to get a high-paying job when you're out.  And consequently, there is less pressure to even get a law job.  I could technically go to law school, decide I don't like it, and still try to get into something else. 

Is law school the new college? (albeit with less parties and fun)  Kind of like a college where you have more time to concentrate on what you want to do with your life?

Pardon Johnny Cash.

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Re: Law School Truth and Question
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2010, 11:45:50 AM »
so while it would be cool to do something like bartending, I don't feel like starting at the bottom and working my way up right now. 

Is it incorrect to look at law school as something to do for the next three years?  Somewhere to meet new people, have some new opportunities, etc.? 

If you don't feel like starting at the bottom and working your way up, this bodes ill.  Do whatever you want, but it's inadvisable to treat law school like an extended summer camp.  If new people and opportunities is what you want - do it!  There's a ton of ways to make this happen.  Work on a ski resort or any number of things.  Just, I'd hold off on law school.

Hamilton

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2010, 09:10:50 AM »
Law school absolutely should not be viewed as the next college or something to do for the next three years unless your goal is to ruin your financial future.  Law school is very expensive (upwards of $150,000 in some cases), a lot of hard work, and diminished opportunity to get a good paying job that will allow significant loans to be repaid.  T1, T2, T3, T4 does matter, so it is part of the equation.  Right now, even T1 grads are struggling to find the high-paying jobs out there, T3s and T4s even moreso.  I can think of much better ways to risk $150,000 unless you are absolutely committed to becoming a practicing attorney.

Hamilton

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2011, 10:23:21 AM »
This topic seemed the appropriate place for this wrt attending law school.  It gives me the heebie jeebies to even reference Senator Barbara Boxer, she has issued a letter to the ABA regarding the need for accurate employment stats.  There are some scary numbers in her letter at this link:  http://boxer.senate.gov/en/press/releases/033111b.cfm

"As the economy continues to recover from the recession, many new law school graduates are struggling to find jobs as attorneys. According to Northwestern University, at least 15,000 legal jobs with large firms have disappeared since 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the number of people employed in legal services has decreased from a high of 1.2 million in 2007, to less than 1 million in 2009. Experts predict that fewer than 30,000 new attorney positions per year will be available to the more than 44,000 law school graduates entering the marketplace each year. 

This very serious problem takes on greater significance when viewed in the context of news articles highlighting law schools that allegedly falsify post-graduation and salary information in attempts to increase their position in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings"

MikePing

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2011, 12:31:43 PM »
I think that your general consensus from those of us who have completed law school is that it's a terribly expensive (in time, toll on family/relationships, and money).  It seems like a bad way to kill time.  Here is an article about whether you should be a lawyer

It sounds like you don't really know what you want from life yet.  Here's a suggesttion, and I offer it humbly.  Try to decide what results you want from a profession:  hours, pay, vacation, stress-level, contribution, interaction with people, atmosphere, etc...  Decide what you think is important, understanding that there are definite tradeoffs.  Be realistic.  If you want to work less than 40 hours a week and make $1M a year your options will be severely limited (btw if you figure out how to do that, send us a post.  Im sure a bunch of us would be interested ;) ).  Once you know the results you want from your carreer, start a list of the different professions that satisfy the criteria. 

Then, at least, you can spend your time advancing toward something that will be sure to make you happy with your life. 

 

bigs5068

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2011, 12:49:03 PM »
Yea I agree and your comment here seems to indicate you think finding jobs will be easy. "So, enough about strictly the economy.  If I wanted a stable job that paid well already, I'd be a cop/firefighter/government employee who work for twenty years and then receive a nice, government-backed pension.  (I'm not degrading their work here, but just saying MANY are in a decent economic situation in those terms)."  In San Francisco and L.A. the hiring process to become a cop is a 2 year ordeal. Becoming a firefighter is even more difficult and well paying stable jobs are not being handed out to anyone that wants them.

You are currently working as a paralegal and if you can see yourself enjoying what the attorneys you work with do then go for it. To pay 150k (which is accumulating interest) and 3 years of your professional life to have something to do is probably not a good idea. There are plenty of things to do that don't require as much money or as much of a time commitment. You are going to have to work as a lawyer to pay off the loans if you go and it is generally some pretty serious sh** you have to deal with. Generally whatever you are working on will be very important to the client they may be facing jail time, wanting to get their kids back, got financially screwed over, really  important issues to these people. It is a serious profession if you find a job. You can be one of the people at my school that claim they don't want to be a traditional lawyer, but have not had any type of employment since being in school. Law School is a lot more demanding than undergrad and many people that come in with an attitude of just having something to do fail out.

On the flip side people that want to be a lawyer or can at least be happy with being a lawyer do well. You need to realize a 3 year 150k commitment is not something you just do for the sake of doing. Law School is not a bunch of fun hanging out and you have to study a lot. It is not extremely difficult, but the volume of stuff you need to know  is intense, especially first year.  It is time consuming and first year I probably spent 10 hours each day studying and 3 hours in class. It was endless and much harder than college and again not something you should just do for the sake of doing.

Hamilton

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2011, 01:29:50 PM »
Sorry guys - I didn't mean to necro-post since the OP was last July, this just seemed like an appropriate place to reference the Boxer letter to the ABA.

MikePing

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2011, 01:38:58 PM »
 :)  That's what we get for paying attention!!! 

I'm sure someone can use the advice.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Is Law School the new "College?"
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2011, 06:29:12 PM »
If you are going to law school simply for the exclusive title of "Esq."

Personally, I tend to hold a dim view of people who use the Esq. title after their names.  It seems silly to me, like a dentist who demands that people outside his office call him "doctor" and he makes all his restaurant reservations that way.  I don't think anybody views this title as exclusive anymore, or at least not very.


which allows you to charge $250 per hour in your job, you're an idiot.

Oh, I wouldn't be so dismissive of that.  I know a handful of attorneys who I would not characterize as being at the top of their profession who regularly bill $250 or $300 an hour.  Granted, the number of hours they bill isn't particularly impressive, but it appears that it's not that difficult to get these rates.  The tough part is getting the clients.

Is it a valid reason to go to law school as "something to do" for the next three years? 


If you want to, my opinion is, why the hell not?  You seem to be somebody with some real world experience who understands the risks here.  I've seen people waste a lot more time and money than is involved in law school on things that ended up not working out.  You don't seem to have any unrealistic delusions about the profession.  If you want to go for it, go for it.


I am interested in law, but I know that jobs are scarce,

My father once said to me, when I was a very young man, "There is always room for the best".  Yeah, jobs are scarce, but there will always be a lot of money to be made by attorneys who bring true skill and give true value to their clients.  If this is something you really want to do, I wouldn't let this dissuade you.

and I can't say there is one area of law I definitely love yet. 

If a person shows up to the first day of 1L already knowing exactly what area of the law they want to practice, before they have so much as cracked a single law book or sat in a minute of lecture, then more power to them.  Personally, I think a person will make a far more enlightened decision on what they want to do within the law after they've been to a year or two of school.  For that matter, they may spend the first 10 years of their career trying to find an area of the law that they want to work in.  Nothing wrong with that.

But I don't know what else to do.

There, I'd say open your horizons a bit.  There is ALWAYS something else you could do.  You could get an associate's degree and be an RN.  You could join the Navy and be an EOD tech and jump out of airplanes and scuba dive for the next 20 years.  The reason to go to law school is that you want to go to law school.  However, if this is truly THE ONLY THING YOU CAN THINK OF THAT YOU CAN DO, I'd say that you might want to think about it a bit more.


Is it incorrect to look at law school as something to do for the next three years? 

Only if you think it's incorrect.  This is a decision only you can make, for yourself.

Somewhere to meet new people, have some new opportunities, etc.? 
 

It would certainly be that.  If that's what you're after, law school is a good place to do it.

I understand there is a boatload of debt with law school,

Maybe, but you could get a scholarship.  Even if you go $100,000 in debt, that's not nearly equivalent to a house payment.  (house payments have PMI, Insurance and taxes added to them.)  It's more like paying off a brand-new accord every 5 years for the next 15 years.  So, you drive a crappy car for the next 15 years, worst-case.  Best case, you get a nice job and drive a nice car.

In some sick sense, it's like f*** it I'm already screwed. 

Yep, most psychology works that way.  Your cherry is popped.  No need to guard your virtue, now.  I mean, no need to go skank yourself all over town, but you've seen that a little bit of vice won't kill you.  Keep it to a reasonable amount and you'll probably be just fine.


Is law school the new college? (albeit with less parties and fun)  Kind of like a college where you have more time to concentrate on what you want to do with your life?

If you want to see it that way, it doesn't sound unreasonable.  However, I would add one caveat:  the only reason to go into the law is to get a job in the law.  If you don't intend to go to the best school your circumstances will allow, and place as high in the class as possible, I'd say don't do it.  It may very well prove to be a regrettable waste of time.  However, there are bigger mistakes you can make.  You can do a lot in life with a law degree.  It's a credential that you will have for as long as you live.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Law School Truth and Question
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2011, 12:12:46 PM »
If you don't feel like starting at the bottom and working your way up, this bodes ill.  Do whatever you want, but it's inadvisable to treat law school like an extended summer camp.  If new people and opportunities is what you want - do it!  There's a ton of ways to make this happen.  Work on a ski resort or any number of things.  Just, I'd hold off on law school.

Quite right.  Even college isn't "college" anymore, for many. 

To the question of "should I or shouldn't I?" there's a book with perhaps the best section on "should I go?" out there (better than mine even).  It's Slacker's Guide to Law School, which I believe is now under a promotion in Kindle.

As a rule, it's hard to overstate just how taxing and consuming and expensive law school will be.  Even for those with a serious passion, the road is arduous.  (It shouldn't be, actually, but that's another story.)  Without that passion, as our moderator says, that bodes ill.  Even if mom and dad are paying, law school is a personal and mental commitment unlike any academic experience prior thereto.

Good luck.