As a TTTT law student I had never heard of the T14's until I graduated. As my LSAT score only allowed me to get in the "tier 3 and 4" realm I never bothered looking at the top dogs. Post graduation I learned about TTT and the glorious T14. For those that don't know, T14 stands for the top 14 law schools. For some unknown reason, the same 14 schools have ranked in the top 14. The law schools are: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, U of Chicago, Cornell, U of Michigan, UVA, Berkeley, Georgetown, U of Penn, Northwestern, Duke, NYU and Columbia. The grad discussed in this post went to one of these schools, in the top 10 range to be specific.
For purposes of anonymity, I will refer to this individual as "biglaw" grad. Biglaw went to a top 10 school, wrote onto one of the school's publications and got decent grades. He didn't make law review but when he graduated in the early 2000's it didn't matter as much as it does now. He immediately got a job at Quinn Emanuel which is a vault 30 firm. From there he toiled away for 3 years until he threw in the towel. The V30 firm hours were too much for him to handle, just as many other V100 associates throw in the towel. From there he applied and got a job in a mid sized firm (apprx 25 lawyer office), practicing in a niche area of law. His stay at the midlaw firm was short lived as the hours still sucked but with less pay. From there he moved to a similar midlaw firm practicing in the same area as the first midlaw firm. After less than a year he left the second midlaw firm and decided to open his own practice with fellow T14 grads like himself. First he formed a partnership with three other former biglaw attorneys. This arrangement lasted for a year, he then left that partnership and partnered up with another tier 14 grad. Unlike the prior partnership, this tier 14 grad was a newbie and the partnership lasted less than 6 months.
Finally, biglaw decided to go solo practitioner. His attempt in the solo world lasted less than a year. Most recently, I was informed that he was applying for his.....drumroll............MBA. Surely he will get accepted to one of the top MBA programs due to his Ivy League credentials and the fact that the schools have no problem collecting 100k for the two years of "education" they will be providing him. That is his story, from biglaw associate at a vault 30 firm to MBA applicant in less than a decade.
The point of the story is to show just how difficult the legal market is. As a matter of fact it is a unforgiving market more than anything else. Once you drop out of the biglaw ranks there is no coming back. After that, when you enter the midlaw ranks, you end up in midlaw. After you leave midlaw it is nearly impossible to re-enter the realm of midlaw. Once you go solo you will remain solo unless you partner up with other solos and start your own firm. But a serious question that needs to be asked is: why did biglaw not re-apply to biglaw or midlaw firms? Why is he going back to school? My best guess is that he CANNOT get jobs in midlaw OR biglaw anymore. Once you leave, you're finished. And this is why the legal job market sucks. It is an inelastic, saturated and unforgiving profession. Some enjoy their careers as attorneys while the vast majority are stuck in their fields but with no where else to go. In addition, while some solos are successful, many of them languish as clients are hard to find. In fact I know numerous biglaw associates that formed their own little "boutiques" upon dropping out from the biglaw ranks. Success is hard to find. Compounded with the massive debt hanging over the shoulders of these new solos, it is much more difficult to make it as a solo then it was just a decade ago when tuition was at least 50% cheaper than it is today.
I specifically remember when he went solo because that was around the same time I started looking for work. I recall thinking to myself "how the fuck did this guy go Quinn Emanuel to solo." In addition, he would ask me for leads from time to time as I had a few business deals I tried to refer him that didn't fall through. As the months went on I would get the occasional text message asking if I had heard anything. At this point I realized he was struggling with the solo gig. Lo and behold my suspicions held true.
The class of 2011 starts within a few months. Early summer is just around the corner. Think hard and well about your decision to start law school. Hopefully this story can serve as yet another warning as to why law school is a dangerous bet. If a T14 alumni with a vault 30 resume is forced to go back to school, imagine how worthless a TTT JD is in this environment. BEWARE THE LAW SCHOOL SCAM!