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Author Topic: From a recently barred attorney - What I wish I knew before I went to law school  (Read 7171 times)

lawyurd

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Sorry for being all over the map here, I'll talk Marine Corps all day.

No problem.  That is good information.   I would just submit that it's much harder to get a JAG position if you are in law school and have no prior relationship with the military.   I know one student from my school who landed a JAG position with the Army, but he managed to do ROTC while he was in law school.

ROTC definitely helps.  I would say that a Marine JAG is one of the hardest lawyer jobs to get.  First you have to make it through OCS (varies from 6 weeks to 10 weeks depending on your option) then make it through The Basic School (TBS is typically 6 months unless you get injured like I did) and then you go to the military law school ( not sure how long it is but it is ABA as well).  It can be a long process as you can see and you have to pass each school.  Not only do you need to be physically fit but you also have to prove you can lead Marines in a combat situation if the need ever arises.  It's not easy but most of the lawyers I met did very well at TBS. 

IrrX

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One of the posters here a couple years ago--active duty Navy, Annapolis grad--tried to get into JAG and wasn't accepted. It's incredibly hard to get in.
Note: Insults made by me apply to everything associated with the people and ideas being insulted, except for other people.

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vuarnet

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Meanwhile, I put stock in my contrarian perspective. With all of this terrific rhetoric of dismal job prospects and oversaturation and hyper-competition (overblown if you ask me, ALL jobs are competitive), my thought is that a decrease in law school graduates in the next couple years will create a relative stagnation / deficiency that will work well for my timing (applying this year, to graduate about 4 years from now).

Just in time for me to hit the market.

"When there is blood on the street, buy real estate."

jack24

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Meanwhile, I put stock in my contrarian perspective. With all of this terrific rhetoric of dismal job prospects and oversaturation and hyper-competition (overblown if you ask me, ALL jobs are competitive), my thought is that a decrease in law school graduates in the next couple years will create a relative stagnation / deficiency that will work well for my timing (applying this year, to graduate about 4 years from now).

Just in time for me to hit the market.

"When there is blood on the street, buy real estate."

Really?  Except, unfortunately, the legal industry isn't really adding that many jobs per year and very few lawyers are retiring.  It's possible that we'll see many more bow out in the 2020's, but not that many people went to law school 35-40 years ago.  Also, attorneys are working later in life.

Additionally, there are still 52,000 applicants to ABA law schools for fall of 2013.  http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/three-year-volume.asp

Here are the number of ABA Applications per year since fall of 2008.  82,000, 85,600, 87,500, 78,800, 68,000 and currently 52,000 for 2013 (will still go up a bit)
Here are the admitted applicants numbers: 55,500, 58,400, 60,400, 55,800, 2013 TBD.
http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsac-volume-summary.asp

It seems likely that the number of new lawyers in 2015 will drop, but not as significantly as the number of law school applicants.  The quality of lawyer will  go down substantially.

The legal industry is projected to add about 7,000 new jobs per year over the next decade.  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm

Based on some shoddy data, I estimate somewhere an average of about 20,000 attorneys were licensed per year from 1970-1980.  I can't prove it, but I'm almost certain there are less than 20,000 attorneys retiring each year.  Feel free to correct me.   
So with 27,000 open legal jobs each year, It's clear there will still be a surplus, even with the substantial dip in applications.

The NY Times projected a national surplus of 27,269 attorneys in 2009   http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/the-lawyer-surplus-state-by-state/   (Translation, we had 53,508 attorneys for only 26,239 open spots in 2009)

There is no way it was any better in 2010 or 2011, but 2012-2015 will be  better.   That said, you will be competing against tens of thousands of underemployed attorneys from the classes before you.   The legal market is currently over capacity, and attorney wages are dropping.   Do you seriously think your situation is going to be so rosy?   If you think there will be a shortage of attorneys, you are just being intentionally naive.

vuarnet

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Meanwhile, I put stock in my contrarian perspective. With all of this terrific rhetoric of dismal job prospects and oversaturation and hyper-competition (overblown if you ask me, ALL jobs are competitive), my thought is that a decrease in law school graduates in the next couple years will create a relative stagnation / deficiency that will work well for my timing (applying this year, to graduate about 4 years from now).

Just in time for me to hit the market.

"When there is blood on the street, buy real estate."
Do you seriously think your situation is going to be so rosy?   If you think there will be a shortage of attorneys, you are just being intentionally naive.

Oh heck no! I am fully aware that I'm walking into the lion's den.

I didn't intend to imply that there was going to be a shortage of attorneys, I just don't believe the doomsday speak is unique to law. And I also don't believe that's a good enough reason to not pursue law as a career if you're sufficiently motivated. I do, however, expect that the surplus will thin by 2017/8, and that's at least a marginal advantage over current conditions.

To clarify, my prior post was, since it was apparently not obvious, with tongue firmly planted in-cheek :). To me, a contrarian perspective is motivating and encouraging, not discouraging. If it doesn't recover and instead worsens, and I have to spend some time underemployed, I will do the same as any self-respecting human would do -- do whatever it takes to survive. But that's a risk I am comfortable taking. Risk nothing, gain nothing.

I appreciate you taking the time to share those numbers. If applicant numbers continue to drop without a corresponding drop in admissions, your may well be right that we could see a decline in the quality of law school graduates over the next few years. The indicator would be if law schools are lowering their admission criteria or not, and I don't have a clue about that one.

Hopefully, an alternative speculation might be that the (now foreseeable and formidable) challenge of finding a job in a more competitive market has discouraged some of the fair-weather law school applicants from pursuing it as career and the real quality of graduates won't decrease, but maybe even increase. Whether that's the case or not, your guess is probably better than mine.

I'm new here, so next time I intend on making a joke over the interwebs, I'll remember to use emoticons to give said joke emotional context. :P

jack24

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I'm new here, so next time I intend on making a joke over the interwebs, I'll remember to use emoticons to give said joke emotional context. :P

Sometimes I am oversensitive, so I may need a little extra help to see a joke.  I'm just in the thick of it.  I've been an attorney for two years and I have a decent job, but I'm trying to lateral now and the job market is killing me.  Every decent job (even some not-so-decent jobs) have an unbelievable amount of applications.   I talked to one attorney who posted a commission-only part-time gig and he said he had like 30 applications in the first three days after posting a craigslist ad. 

I guess my main point is that law school takes three years of your life and a lot of debt.  The only valid reason to go to law school is if you genuinely believe a lawyer job is right for you.  Money is a terrible reason.  The job market is just as bad as any job market, but the actual costs and opportunity costs are higher than most professions. 

I honestly believe that the median law graduate has about a 50% chance of his investment paying off and about at 20% chance that he'll enjoy his job as an attorney.

lawyurd

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I completely forgot about a friend of mine that the Marine Corps saw fit to make him a supply officer even though he graduated law school and passed the bar.  In defense of the Corps, I think he tried to be a pilot first and got injured so he couldn't fly anymore.   Once that happens you are at the mercy of the Marines and what is needed despite what you did educationally.   

livinglegend

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I think there are plenty of misreable lawyers and plenty of happy ones. Just as their are misreable cops, firefighters, building inspectors, architects, salesman, paramedics, etc. There are also plenty of happy cops, firefighters, building inspectors, architects, salesman etc.

The reality is working is tough you meet very few people who in any profession who say I am overpaid, get to do  I want, and never have an issue with my job. Is law school hard? Yes. Expensive? Yes. However, I meet people from all walks of life who complain and hate their job or love their job. Therefore, whether you succeed as an attorney in any profession are far more up to you than any number, school, etc.

Jack is right that if you want to be a lawyer then you should go to law school, but there is always the paradox of you cannot possibly know if you will like being a lawyer until you are a lawyer. However, you will not really know if you like being a cop until your a cop so on and so on, but life is trial and error. I think law school is like anything else and you will get what you put into it.

Being a lawyer is nothing like T.V. makes it out to me you will not be recruited wined and dined and yes there will be numerous applicants for any attorney job, but there are numerous applicants for every position out there and whether you go to law school or pursue some other profession starting out will be tough.