Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This is the worst time to go to law school in US history

Contrary to mainstream thought that the best time to go to school is during a economic downturn, nothing can be further from the truth. The biggest reason why today is different is COST! The price of admission has gone to the moon and will continue to rise until the tuition bubble pops.

I speak to older attorneys on a daily basis and when I tell them how expensive tuition is today they go into shock. The first response is that "its just not worth it."

Many applicants are now awaiting their responses from law schools. I know it is an exciting and nervous time for many of you as I have been there. But one thing you HAVE to consider is WHETHER THE PRICE OF ADMISSION IS WORTH THE DEGREE! Any debt you incur from student loans will be nondischargeable. If you struggle finding a job after graduating the interest will get added to the principal which will further prolong your misery. If you go to a tier 3 or tier 4 your odds of finding full time legal employment will be even worse. Tier 1 grads are struggling so keep that in mind as the TTT commodes will be sending you their acceptance letters.

Also realize that there is a good chance that you will NOT enjoy the practice of law. The statistics of depression in the legal profession are downright shocking.

Consider:
* 15-18% of attorneys will have substance abuse problem vs. 10% of general population.
* Over 1/3 of attorneys say they are dissatisfied and would choose another profession if they could.
* Attorneys have the highest rates of depression and suicide of any profession.

1/3rd of attorneys would leave if they could! I've spoken to many attorneys and they tell me to go back to the restaurants all the time. For now I'm having fun with my firm and don't mind the work for the next 7-10 years but the constant fighting with clients and defense attorneys will wear me down as it does many other attorneys. I have the option of getting out as my family own their own business. Do you have an exit option in the event that you absolutely hate the practice of law? Remember this crucial fact: AS AN ATTORNEY YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN SOME KIND OF BATTLE, ALWAYS. THIS IS WHAT YOU GET PAID TO DO. If you enjoy perpetual psychological war then this profession is for you. If not then go do something else. I find myself being as friendly as possible with clients and defense counsel because always being in a fighting mood will just kill you. For example, Robert Kardashian,father of the Kardashian girls and the great criminal defense attorney died of cancer at the age of 59.

These are the facts:
3 years of law school, with the risk of getting booted at the end of the first year from lower ranked schools. 150k or more in debt upon graduation. Risk of failing the bar exam numerous times. Risk of never finding a legal job, or risk of being a temporary attorney or document review monkey. Then there is the risk that you do get a job as an associate but you hate it after a few years but find yourself stuck in this profession. Risk vs. reward. Think hard and well about your decision in the next few months. I know many of you will take this as an insult to your intelligence but in reality you will be smarter NOT to attend law school during this time. If you get in to a great school with some scholarship money and/or have familial financial support then go ahead and give it a shot. If not, then you risk ruining your life by becoming a debt slave.

Why today is the worst time to attend:
1. Shrinking profession as legal jobs are getting outsourced
2. A poorer nation will have less money for attorney services
3. Law schools pumping out 45,000 JD's per year irrespective of market conditions
4. More law schools getting accredited
5. Tuition rising at dangerously high rates
6. By the time you get licensed (hopefully) by the fall of 2014 there will be 200,000 more JD's running around desperate for work. You will be one of them as well.

The choice is yours.

19 comments:

  1. Don't forget that Johnnie Cochran, of OJ infamy, died at a relatively young age.

    You make a good point. In the next five years, we will have close to another 220,000 JDs. There certainly is NOWHERE near the need/demand for that many attorneys.

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  2. Excellent post. One thing I never thought of is a back up plan, and in this profession the demands of the job does become a strain over time. Also I never thought about how much the debt load would wear me down over time.

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  3. I know I sound like a broken record, but I feel my message is worth repeating:


    Student Debt will take away all of your freedoms as a US citizen.

    Freedom to find decent employment.
    Freedom to marry without involving the spouse in the debt.
    Freedom to take out a mortgage, car loan, or other type of loan.

    Default will make matters much worse.

    My default added 40 thousand dollars to my Student Loan debt.

    Today I owe 300K, and my life is OVER.

    Please kids, read this post carefully and heed the advice, or you will end up in debtors Hell for the rest of your adult life like me.

    Never, ever take out student loans. If you cannot pay cash for a higher education--Don't go!

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  4. Your post is depressing but true. I'm considering playing the lottery at this point. But know that's a ponzi scheme in its own right. Powerball is $237 million with a cash out option of $99 million after taxes. What a fantasy, like the ability to have a decent life after law school.

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  5. Unfortunately, even with the risks, many people wind up going because they have nothing better to do.

    Kids, for most of you, law school is a worse option than doing absolutely nothing. Seriously - if you sit in your mom's basement and smoke pot, you will be in a better position 3 years from now than a good 75% of people going to TTT law schools.

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  6. If you could go back, what would you do differently?

    What would you major in? Something other than poli sci? Would you still go to law school if you got into a better school or any other grad school?

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  7. I can't say for sure at this point whether I like or dislike the legal profession. So for I'm having fun and enjoy my job. I do realize that I'm extremely lucky to work in a very friendly environment. My boss is one of the nicest attorneys around. For example, defense attorneys that I deal with constantly tell me that im working for a "great man and that I'm very fortunate". Were I to land a typical small law gig with a hostile environent then I'm confident I would be singing a different tune.

    With regards to the money its not that bad but if I didn't have the family support I would be fucked like many other TTTT grads. After rent and loan payments I would be dead broke.

    If I could go back I probably would have stopped at undergrad and gone on into financial markets.

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  8. If i could go back and time, I would study computer programming and Chinese.

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  9. If you enjoy law and want to go to law school, don't let anybody discourage you. J-Dog wished he could study computer programming and Chinese. Well, I studied computer programming and speak Chinese and wished I had followed my love and studied architecture instead. Lots of architects discouraged me from entering the profession: how poorly paid, how hard it was to get a job even just to remodel a kitchen, etc. Nonsense! They just didn't want more competitors. The same with lawyers who discourage you from studying law.

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  10. I quit after 7 months of 1L... Go into law if you don't care about money and want to do something to improve or chuck the American Criminal INjustice system! The case: http://kennethsuskin.blogspot.com/2008/04/murderer-walks-and-its-not-oj-steinberg.html...

    My Criminal Law book went out a 5 story window! I left law school the NEXT day...
    As a 1L, I recommend you read this case in your SPARE time instead of reading cases from the 1600's in your CRIM LAW class. You will be ENLIGHTENED into what the American Criminal INjustice system has become! Good luck!

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  11. My grandfather tried to get me to go to law school back in the mid 80s but I realized that being a lawyer wasn't consistent with my personality. Instead, after I finished my BA in History, I decided to get a master's in Teaching English as a second language. Now THAT was a good decision... it has been my ticket to the world. Unfortunately, my decision to go for a doctorate in education was not such a good decision. It put me almost $90K in the hole, including the unpaid debt I still had from my BA and MA. But, afterward I took a job teaching English at a job in the Middle East (Oman) and now the debt is paid off... just a memory! So... thinking of getting a JD? Probably not such a hot idea. Do you like international travel, at somebody else's expense? Maybe you should get an MA in TESL instead.

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  12. Wow. It's overwhelming to read these posts. I worked for a bank right out of college and despite my best efforts to learn to like it, I couldn't. I took a chance (and yes, a ton of loans) and went to law school, and frankly, it was the best decision I ever could have made.

    Yes, I have about 100K in loan debt and yes, finding a job was nerve racking - especially with a small family to support. But after eight years of practicing law since graduation, I love it. I really, truly love what I do (which is represent individuals with claims for damages against insurance companies).

    If you really want to know if the law is for you, spend some time volunteering or externing at a small firm - one or two attorneys. You will see the practice from all angles within a few months and will know whether it's worth the sacrifice. The law is by no means a guarantee to financial success, but if that is your only motivation in finding a job, your prospects are probably dim.

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  13. Try going into a career field that has real value. There are some careers that are always in demand. Law is not one of them. I see that many people are still in denial about this.

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  14. Also, paralegal schools are a big joke. Most law firms don't hire someone just because they get a certificate from some career school. They hire paralegals that they know, or the sons and daughters of their law partners. Some paralegals actually have law degrees. They aren't going to hire someone they don't know, with no experience and a "paralegal certificate" in their hand.

    Paralegal is a very tough field to break into. It is not worth it go to a paralegal school, period. Its a waste of time.

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  15. If you think that life is rosy AFTER you graduate and get a job, think again.

    If you want to read a great book that portrays what a lawyer's life can be like at a big law firm these days, I recommend: J'Adore New York by author Isabelle Lafl├Ęche, http://amzn.to/g8wiBe

    It's a realistic satire about the legal profession and believe me, it will make you want to invest your money elsewhere!

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  16. "If you get in to a great school with some scholarship money and/or have familial financial support then go ahead and give it a shot. If not, then you risk ruining your life by becoming a debt slave."

    So very, very true! It used to make sense to obtain a JD even if you were so-so on practicing. The debt wasn't that bad (about the cost of a new car) and it helped to open doors in other professions.

    Now that the debt is ridiculously high, unless you get damn-near a full ride, don't do it. Hell, it would even be worth the risk if you could discharge student loan debt in BK. But you can't even do that!

    Isn't it time we rallied Congress for some real reform on student loan debt (ie, reduce interest or make it dischargeable in BK)?

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  17. I am a recent bar admittee who had to take the bar exam 3 times. I have zero debt as far as student loans go. . .and really nothing much else. The biggest thing that bothers me about the profession is I did not realize when I went to law school as to how oversaturated it is, and how the ABA's prime interest is to get as many students to attend law school as possible. Which directly goes against bar passers finding jobs that are real jobs - salary and benefits, b/c there are too many competing. The strangest thing I've seen is that the ABA says it would be anti-trust violations to shut down or regulate law schools, and that they do not want to deny everyone access to a legal education.

    The real problem I have with that argument, is that you would never hear this type of argument advanced for medical school, and here is why - doctors face such a grave responsibility, and in interests of the public, there cannot be an overflow of doctors into the market, because people's lives are at stake. That's why it is so, so tough to get into medical school. If you get into an American medical school and pass your boards, you will find a job, guaranteed.

    Not the case for law school. . .what a career counselor and orientation says for incoming students is pretty different from what they tell their alumni who just passed the bar, as far as the job market goes. It is not consistent at all.

    Why is this same argument not advanced for law schools to avoid oversaturation? Lawyers arguably carry a grave responsibility for their clients. As a new attorney I have already met several people who are willing to trust me with their legal fate in certain matters. Plus, the more lawyers you have, the more that will commit malpractice to make ends meet, and in turn, decreasing public confidence in the profession. Does the ABA care about that perception? Nope, they don't. THeir goal is to open as many law schools as humanly possible, and raise tuition, because law schools are cash cows. Technically, medical schools could be cash cows too, EVERYONE would go if there were more, but as stated above, that shit would never be allowed.

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  18. Wow what a lot of pain. My daughter is a job hunting brand new lawyer. I Graduated and passed the Bar 35 years ago. It was rough then and it's rougher now. My first legal job (government, law clerk) paid $15,000, which however was equal to the total tuition of 4 years of State U and 3 years of Georgetown law plus the bar review course. The equivalent number today would have to be $150,000 for an entry level government job.

    Something has to give

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