Thursday, October 3, 2013

4 years out of law school

I graduated law school in June of 2009, in the darkest days of the "great recession" which I believe is a full blown depression masked by emergency measures undertaken by the U.S. central bank. My journey replicated that of many fellow lower tiered JD's. I struggled to find employment and I didn't get a full time associate position until December of 2010, 17 months post graduation. I stayed there for two years and was effectively forced to leave as financial troubles engulfed the firm. I moved on to another firm where I worked for the quintessential lunatic boss. Hours were crushing from 8 to 8, sometimes longer. Weekend attendance was mandatory. Verbal assaults were par for the course, with temper tantrums and screaming being doled out for the most minor infraction. I was working double the hours of most of my nonlaw friends while they were making six figures. LOL.

Less than seven weeks at that grueling place I walked out like a fucking champ. It simply was not worth the price to pay after so many years of struggle. He would constantly remind us of the "thousands of unemployed" attorneys that were ready to take our place if we didn't like the job. I heard that my replacement was a guy from out of town. Moved his entire family as he got a good paying gig. Poor sap if he only knew he was absolutely fucked working for one of the worst attorneys in the region. 

At that point it was either get another job, go solo, or get the hell out of law. I chose to give it a shot going solo as I have a huge network and some help from my family. So far things are going rather well and I'm sticking to my guns giving it my all. If it works it works and if it doesn't at least I know that I gave it everything I had. I know many associates and they live miserable lives. I know what its like working for other attorneys and the vast majority of them are major assholes. Even the lawyers that moved from midlaw to biglaw are finding themselves working til 9 to 10pm at night. For what, that 175k salary? No thanks, life is to short to go around saying you work for a firm that no one recognized or cares about it. 

I follow up with my classmates and the results are equally brutal. Some work for small firms (60 hr work weeks), others are solos (some have done well) while the other half is unemployed or doing contract work. Definitely not what they were expecting when we were at orientation dreaming of the big bucks and the prestigious life style. Reality is a bitch and will smack you right in the face. I wish everyone the best of luck in their journey as our generation got monkey hammered. Millions across all generations got hit hard in the past few years as many of the rules have changed. Job security simply doesn't exist the way it used to. 

Applications to law schools have plummeted as many of my fellow scam bloggers have predicted. The law school collapse is here and its only a matter of time until the weakest links start to implode due to collapsing revenue. And yet I still meet young people getting ready for the October 5th LSAT. It makes sense as it is a buyers market with plunging admission standards. I mean with my stats I would have gotten into many 2nd tier schools now, not that it makes much of a difference as the tuition has skyrocketed while employment stats are in the hole. 

For those that have been able to stick it out in the trenches I do see light at the end of the tunnel. The boomers will inevitably begin to croak alongside them many older attorneys. For the young solos and associates that remain in the game this could be an opportunity to take advantage of the reduction of supply of experienced attorneys. I have had to take big risks to get where I am today. With no real training I have taught myself procedure, family and employment litigation. Take on enough cases with associate counsel and things begin to make sense. As I said there is no looking back now and I'm plunging forward with everything I got. I will keep this blog updated from time to time as to my progress. 

Am I where I thought I would be the age of 31? No way. Not even close. Most of my counterparts are doing much better than me (financially) but some years ago I stopped giving a shit. This is my lot in life. I've learned to accept certain things and this, I believe, is the biggest step from moving forward from the law school scam. I have watched many of my friends get married, have kids, buy homes, buy new cars, etc. None of this affects me in a negative manner anymore. I live with a roommate and sometimes get the heat (oh why don't you buy a place) which I now think to myself "lol yea let me get stuck with a mortgage and more problems." I flip things around in my mind now and look at the positive outcome. Sure, I don't have a home but my rent is $800 per month giving me plenty of financial freedom. If I have a big month more savings a small month I'm not really stressing because I've put away some dollars during the good times and live frugally. I don't have a wife but I have freedom to go and do what I want when I want with whom I want. Getting involved with family law has opened my eyes to many things. One thing that is DAMN SURE is that I will not be getting married unless I am absolutely certain that she is wife material. The same rule should apply to the women out there. So many people in my social circle getting married for the wrong reasons. Who knows, if I would have been more career tracked I'd probably be in a similar situation. 

  I can easily say that maintaining a positive attitude has not only kept me from being utterly depressed but has assisted me with all the accomplishments I have done. It is surprising how many clients I have signed up by simply talking to people. If you keep a positive and good vibe people will like you and if they like you they will be more apt to hire you. If you are a natural introvert than you either (a) need to get the fuck out of law or work as an associate or (b) push your limits. If you find yourself not being able to find any employment years after graduating law school, throwing in the towel is probably a good idea. Sure, you can be miserable and depressed about it. Or, you can see it as an opportunity to start something else. Go into a new career, start your own business, become a minimalist, who knows, whatever the fuck you want to do. There's a big oil boom in the middle of the country go get some training and work in the wild. It's an opportunity and an experience that the office drones stuck in traffic driving overpriced cars can only dream of doing lol.

I probably make a third of the amount of money that my friends make but I can tell you that I am much happier than they are. I have the freedom to go to the gym whenever I want, hang out with a bunch of people, get to enjoy new hobbies and new ventures. I take on my own clients, clients that I CHOOSE to work with. I work anywhere from 10 to 30 hours per week, depending on the calendar. I actually have the ability to expand operations to double or even triple the level I am currently at but I reason to myself, why? So I could chase the mighty dollar to buy a nicer car or a nicer suit or a nicer watch? Bitch, please. My car is a toyota paid off I own no watch and my suits are reasonably priced. Fuck the rat race and if that is the reason why you got into law then let me tell you that is one terrible reason to become a lawyer. Sure, its POSSIBLE you will make money but the sacrifice required to maintain the facade is not worth it. I personally know several biglaw lawyers that got hit with divorce petitions. Primary reason is because of the hours. Too many hours in the office cause resentment and stress which leads to bad sex life which leads to fighting which leads to divorce. Yet these fools continue working in this hostile environment to maintain the facade and prestigious image. I told one of these guys, why the fuck are you still working there? Go solo, go partner up, you are smart you have experience who cares about the pay cut things change the Porsche will not make you happy. I get the look like "WTF dude" they won't get it that is their problem. 

At the end of the day we are on this planet for a limited time. Every day we spend stressing, worrying, fretting, being bitter, being envious DOES NOT HELP OUR LOT IN LIFE. Whether you are happy or mad or sad at the end of the day the day will still end. The world will turn regardless of how you feel. So in the end it is up to YOU to be happy. And this is what I believe life is about, it is about being happy. What happiness is depends on how you define it and how you experience it. Life does not owe you a fucking thing. You think life asked the millions that were wiped out during the Spanish Influenza of 1918 or World war I or World war II? It did not. Life happens and in this life the one thing that I do know is that anything can happen. What you envision for your life may not pan out and if it doesn't then you have two choices: be pissed off and miserable or make adjustments and be happy. 

It is understandable that one would be angry and bitter about having gone to law school, incurred a shit ton of debt, and then found themselves unemployable with no spouse, no kids, no house, no nice car, nothing material at all. But they cannot kill your soul. Can't pay the debt? IBR that shit to zero they can collect it when you are dead. Even though you don't ever have to forgive the law school for the fraud they perpetrated on you, you MUST forgive yourself. This is a big part of the healing process. I was incredibly hard on myself for the choices I made but all that did was create bitterness and resentment, sadness and depression. I said no more. I was a young man who didn't know better. And even if a part of me did it is what it is. There is no perfect person. Sure, some choose better for their lives than others do but that is life. We cannot all make the "right" decisions. But I can tell you this was a tremendous learning experience as I now HATE HATE HATE debt with a passion. It is funny how so many more successful attorneys are broke as shit as they spend more than they make trying to gain external validation through material items because they aren't happy with their internal core. And when you see an attorney that is kicking ass and taking names you should be geniunely happy for that person as he is succeeding in his endeavor. Instead of envy, try to learn from their success. After all, that is how we all learn, right? From others success which we then take and modify into our own. 
Realizing this is the best thing you can do for your life :)

That's all for now. To all those who are struggling just know that you are in control of your happiness. What this life will bring no one knows we just have to adjust and move forward. 












27 comments:

  1. Great update, Subprime.

    "But they cannot kill your soul."

    That was what motivated me to start my blog. I make big-ass payments on my student loans, so that I can move on with my life. My son is the best thing that ever happened to me. You are right on so many levels. Now I continue the blog because at this point I genuinely enjoy blasting the academic thieves.

    As Tyler Durden said, "The things you own end up owning you." Although I don't recall reading that in the book. In the end, Americans will need to learn to lower their expectations of material wealth. If you have good health, a roof over your head, live in a good neighborhood, and a steady job, then you are doing better than most people on the planet by far - and MUCH better than most of the people who ever lived on earth.

    I hope that you have continued success, and with your drive and determination and attitude, I know that you will. Take care, and I hope that you give us updates from time to time.

    Nando

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    1. A fine meditation on the purpose of things. For some reason, I'd never come to this website before. It was a rewarding experience.

      Keep up the good fight.

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  2. Sounds as if you're doing fine, perhaps better than if you'd gotten what they promised you back in 2006. Just to see someone not destroyed by the scam is such a joy.

    I hope your former T4 shuts down soon. Here's to even better days ahead.

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  3. Well said. This has made me think. I need to forgive myself for going to law school and move on to what makes me happy. Its been a stuggle since getting laid off and dealing with other life events but things can get better. This post should be given to every law grad as they exit the stage on graduation day. It would have beat the pin and sticker I got.

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  4. It sounds like you're doing great and on the right track. You sound angry and bitter but that will subside with time. I am a 10+ year lawyer who loves my job but sympathizes tremendously with your generation. But some things remain true despite the massive differences in our situations: if you're doing what you love, you will succeed; being on your own is a dream come true; keep your overhead low, your expectations humble, and you'll continue on this path to happiness and contentment in your career. Be thankful that (unlike me) you didn't spend years working in a law firm hellhole before figuring out it was a hellhole.

    Also: be nice, be ethical, go out and network with lawyers and judges when you can, and handle a pro bono matter now and then. Good luck.

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  5. It was interesting reading this. After I graduated in 2010 w/ debt and no prospects, I took a different route than you. I didn't want to give up the dream, so I figured that if no one would give me paid work, I would intern for free to get the experience.

    After I did that for almost a year (working part-time to pay the bills and interning the rest of the time), I was so impoverished that I couldn't afford to take the bar in the state I had moved to to keep expenses down. (I was licensed in another state.) The turning point for me was when I received a student loan statement and realized that in the year I had interned, which was supposed to be a 'good' move to help my career, my student loans just in interest alone had increased much more than what I had earned that year. That was the final straw for me and I realized that my dream was no longer a dream but was a financial scam that I had no help ever getting out of.

    I changed careers and haven't looked back since. I feel so much more free now - I don't have to give everything to a career that doesn't give a damn about me and will chew me up and spit me out. Now I look back on the fact that not getting a paid legal job turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. I am perplexed when I hear people saying they want to be lawyers: I think, "why?" Why would they want to incur the debt simply so they can't work in the field? I don't see anything positive in the field anymore and I am much happier now that I got out.

    I thought I would never be able to get over giving up my dream but I found out that there are many different dreams an individual can have and some can turn out to be nightmares. And others, ones that we didn't think of before because we were so obsessed with screwing up our careers by being attorneys can turn out to be so much better for ourselves than we ever thought. I wish everyone the best in sorting through this.

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  6. I dont think I can ever forgive myself. I see what my friends with GEDs are making and I cant help but feel envious. Society protects them, they have great work hours, great pay and benefits, and the little money I make is substantially reduced so a sizeable portion can be given to them via taxes (retirement at 40),etc.

    I feel so stupid that I just cant let it go. I remember when I was younger and these guys were partying and doing drugs, and I was busting my ass to get good grades in college and LS. Hell, most of them were not doing anything at all until they turned 23 or older. Partying, drinking, not stressing, etc. They used to tell me not to work as hard and to live a little, as nothing is guaranteed, and even though I see them as slackers, they might wind up on top. Guess what? It happened. They are on top, and not only that, they are protected.

    I have to go work in the private sector everyday and compete with the slaves of the third world, they compete with no one as their pay is set by municipal contracts. I might get fired tomorrow with no recourse. They will always find a job, even if they are unemployed for a while, because the politicians will make it so. Half of my money is taken from me so that people like them can retire at 45. When I complain, I am told to shut my entitled mouth. When they complain, they are feared and respected, and they get what they want (from suckers like me who have to pay their inflated wages).

    I lost big, and its hard to get over it. Nevertheless, I understand what you are saying, and I know that if I am ever going to find joy in my life, I have to accept my fate.

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  7. I graduated law school in 1988. I'm a solo lawyer. I found this blog because my college age daughter told me she wants to go to law school. I googled "should I go to law school?". I am glad to hear you have taken the plunge to become self-employed. Being self employed as a lawyer is a beautiful thing. When it is good it is great. When it is bad, it is really bad. But at least it belongs to you. Be in it for the long haul. I can tell you it will always be scary but that part gets better over time. Or you get used to it.

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  8. Wait, Subprime, aren't you married already...?

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  9. Good on ya, Subprime. Keep that chin up.

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  10. Excellent post as always. This should probably be printed out and passed out at motivational seminars.

    I of course am very similar to you, I've mentioned before we have gone through almost the exact same situations.

    Where we diverge is that you actually like being a lawyer and are extroverted. I hated being a lawyer and am an introvert, so I just quit.

    Leaving law was like the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders.

    I'll be done with my student loans in due time. I'm actually paying them off so I can be free of them. But I will never go into debt again. It doesn't matter how stupid people call me for not signing on for a mortgage. I don't really give a shit. I don't care about convincing anyone that debt is bad either. It is bad for me, and as a result I choose to avoid it. I am okay with a simple life anyway, and I don't actually expect much from anyone. I know my time on this rock is short, so I might as well enjoy it and when it's time to go, I won't have any regrets.

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  11. This quite literally made me laugh out loud, thank you: "Can't pay the debt? IBR that shit to zero they can collect it when you are dead."

    Loved the post. Related to it at every turn. Have a very good friend who has a similar story - went solo and is very happy. He was despondent right out of school. Warms my bitter, shriveled heart right up!!

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  12. "Am I where I thought I would be the age of 31? No way. Not even close. Most of my counterparts are doing much better than me (financially) but some years ago I stopped giving a shit. This is my lot in life. I've learned to accept certain things and this, I believe, is the biggest step from moving forward from the law school scam."

    This post is so me, and I graduated back in 2005 (it was bad then, too. But at least we had doc review). I'm still far underwater in debt but I've a nice cheap apartment in a great city, a paid off car and one of those coveted quazi legal fed jobs. Sure, things aren't what I expected, but comparing what is to some ideal dream senario is not a road worth going down.

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  13. graduate from no namer law school, not on law review, got my first job offer 6 months after becoming licensed, now making well over six figures. Though our experiences have been different, there is one part of your article I agreed with - experienced attorney is golden opportunity - everything changes.

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  14. I am truly delighted to read this post which contains plenty of helpful facts, thanks for providing these data. Great article, exactly what I needed.

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  15. I graduated from a law school that ranks between 15 and 20 in 2011. I am $200,000 in debt and have yet to make more than $50,000 during a single year. Law school has irrevocably destroyed my life but I'm glad to read other people who share their experiences. It's somehow gratifying to know I'm not the only one whose life was ruined by law school.

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  16. No idea what you guys are talking about. I became an attorney in 2011, I worked for free, and now I make $150K. Was not on law review, did not have any family connections, and I did not pass the CA bar exam the first time. Some of the attorneys I work with, NOT all, but some, never work more than 35-40 hours a week and never take work home. Everyone has different experiences. My dream is to be a 9-5 lawyer someday.

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  17. Yeah, you are on the right track. I know quite a few attorneys--young, brilliant, handsome, healthy--and they're flat out of work, even here in the busy D.C. area. I think the ones who couldn't get back on their feet are the ones who didn't have your ferocious "go get 'em, keep swinging" attitude and your sense of personal independence and responsibility, which is the foundation of personal satisfaction and happiness. That said, they still get stuck with nearly $200K of debt...and I began to question the value of a Georgetown Law pedigree and their marriages where their female spouse pays their way (not cool for years on end!)...I guess everyone has to make some compromises.

    I will add as a 15 year attorney who has held quite a few jobs and seen a lot of broken dreams, it really gets better once you pay off your debt. Once you manage it and whittle it down, it will improve your outlook immensely. I also think it's critical to find your own specialty and your own focus---make it your own, as you said. Be flexible, be creative, be an expert with a great attitude. Once you get through those first years, you'll be able to focus on other hobbies, objectives, relationships, community activities, pro bono efforts (actually, start that early!)...

    The trick is to keep thinking outside the box and keep swinging!
    Yes, they need to close down many law schools!
    Good Luck!~

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  18. The quality of your writing is HORRIBLE. Your writing is replete with incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, nonessential clauses not set off by commas, etc. Although I recognize that this in an informal piece, thereby allowing for some grammatical license, the fact of the matter is that attorneys are supposed to be wordsmiths. If you write like this in practice, I wouldn't hire you, either. It is inexcusable that a student with any sort of graduate degree demonstrate this quality of writing. However, for a lawyer, it is shameful.

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  19. Shouldn't you go back to teaching class?

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  20. I needed to read this today, as I lay in bed feeling so crippled by depression it hurts. I graduated a t14 law school may 2013 and am still unemployed. I even went out and got barred in a neighboring state to try to busy myself and make myself more more marketable. Now I'm double barred and still unemployed. I applied to be a cashier the other day and was told I could "do better" followed by receipt of a sticky note listing the attorneys the person knew from past legal matters who might be abLe to help me. As if saying their name and asking for a job would be the miracle answer Ive been looking for ! Um no. I've put in over 200 applications, been told I'm overqualified or under experienced for far too long. In the meantime I sharpened up other passions of mine.
    The rut I'm in today was preceeded by 3 rejection letters in two days a couple weeks ago from jobs I interviewed for and considered my dream careers. If I wasn't good enough for them, where did that leave me ? I've been told to "try harder" and "knock on lawyers doors" and "not take no for an answer". Perhaps I should enlighten these individuals on the dangers and legal ramifications of trespass, stalking and harassment before I erase those laws from my brain for good!
    On a positive note, I finally realize that it's ok to not have the job I envisioned originally. I really do believe things happen for a reason. Im going to work on getting on a path toward forgiving myself for falling into a scam instead of losing days of this precious life wondering what I could have done differently. Thanks again for your insightful and informative blog.

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  21. I'm reading this a long time after you wrote it, but this post (especially the final paragraph) has made a difference in my life today. THANK YOU.

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  24. I can relate to this. I graduated in 2008. I'm still far submerged paying off debtors however I've a pleasant shoddy condo in an awesome city, a paid off auto and one of those desired quazi legitimate nourished employments. Of course, things aren't what I expected, however contrasting what is with some perfect dream senario is not a street worth going down.

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