Friday, August 26, 2011

Who should go to law school now?

I got an email from an accountant in his late 20s a few days ago, who is considering going to law school a couple of years from now.  Being an accountant, he had  tried to break the question down in straightforward financial terms, which is a big improvement over the typical nonchalance exhibited by most prospective law students.  He graduated with a BA and MA in accounting from a good business school a couple of years ago, and he's about to become a CPA.  He's making about 60K and anticipates that will be 70K by the time he would be ready to go to law school.  His goal is to get into the very good (solidly into the top half of the first tier) public law school in his state of residence, which is currently charging resident tuition in the neighborhood of 33K a year.  The school's promotional materials claim that the average salary of its 2010 grads was $104K and change, and, given that the opportunity costs he would incur by going to law school would be quite high, he of course wanted to know how realistic of an estimate this was of what he was likely to make when he graduated.  Using it, he had calculated that ten years after graduation he would be a total of 175K ahead financially of where he would be if he stayed in accounting, after taking into account attendance and opportunity costs.

I steered him towards some LST materials so that he could better understand that this salary figure is both quite inaccurate as a statistical matter, and that furthermore even if the data used to compile it were accurate, it's a mean salary, so it's "average" in the same sense that a man who has one foot in a bucket of ice water and another on hot coals is on average experiencing a comfortable temperature. (Of course almost none of the school's 2010 graduates are making 104K or anything close to it. Some are making 50% more and a lot are making way less.)

Naturally other considerations besides return on investment are in play: he told me that after a couple of years he has realized that accounting is not something he wants to do for his long-term career, and that he loved the business law classes he took in business school.  Basically, he gave me the sense he's bored with his work, and that it doesn't seem meaningful to him.  I asked him to consider, when calculating the potential ROI of going to law school, to take into account not just the relative possible salary difference, but the actual hourly compensation rate for his work (he described his current work schedule as "lax.").  In this vein, I also suggested he try to develop contacts with people who were now practicing the kind of law he envisioned himself practicing, and who had similar educational and experiential backgrounds to his own, so that he could at least get some sort of glimpse into what their work lives were actually like.

All this is fairly obvious advice and of only marginal help to someone in his position.  Not only do I have no idea what it's like to be an accountant, I'm almost as clueless regarding the work life of a Biglaw business lawyer today. When it comes to the latter I, like the vast majority of law professors, am no more than an amateur armchair anthropologist, who a couple of decades ago lived for a short while on the edges of the tribe I'm now being asked to evaluate.  All I can really tell someone like my correspondent is that he would be taking what seems like a very big risk: leaving behind, at least for the time being, a solid career, to invest 300K (attendance + opportunity cost) in buying something which at present has an extremely uncertain ROI (all this analysis, for what little it's worth, is based on the assumption that he gets into this T-20 school that costs about 20% less than comparable private schools).  And course he has no real idea if he would find being a business lawyer more or less satisfying, all things considered, than accounting as a career, even assuming he gets the kind of job he thinks he wants now and manages to keep it. (This is the "psychic income" part of the equation, which is the hardest thing for prospective law students to calculate, and the aspect of the question that most law faculty are of the least use in helping answer).  At least, I suppose, he would have something solid to fall back on if the law thing doesn't work out, but even that assumption is grounded in my ignorance of how relatively easy or hard it would be for him to return to his present career path after a several-year legal detour.

At a more general level, who should be going to law school now?  Here are some nominations for good candidates:

(1) People who get full scholarships to good schools.  There are still real risks involved for such people -- opportunity costs, wasted time, potential brain damage, golden handcuffs -- but needless to say there are no risk-free career options, and going to a top law school for (relatively) free very likely makes sense for people who -- enormous caveat here, which I'm going to shout in block letters --  TRULY BELIEVE THEY WANT TO PRACTICE LAW AND HAVE SOME RATIONAL BASIS FOR THAT BELIEF. (Keep in mind you can get the equivalent of a full scholarship to a top school if you're genuinely confident you want to do public interest work, and take advantage of the school's LRAP program. This assumes however that you can end up getting a public interest job you would actually want to do, in a place you're willing to live, which isn't a minor consideration. Good public interest jobs are a lot harder to get than Biglaw slots).

After that things get trickier. 

Other possible candidates:

(2) People who really want to practice law who have full scholarships to middling schools.  For most people right now, it makes much more sense to take a full ride to a middling school than to pay full boat at a top school.  Keep in mind that somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% to 30% of this year's 3Ls at places like Michigan and Duke don't have jobs and are getting exactly zero OCI interviews -- as in "none."  (BTW, if you're in this particular boat you might want to read this and then organize a protest or something).

(3) (a) People who really want to be practice law, and who come from family circumstances -- rich indulgent parents etc. -- that dictate that someone other than yourself will be paying. (Crucial caveat: make sure these are people who won't subsequently hate you forever if it turns out they essentially bought you a high end luxury car which which you immediately drove uninsured and proceeded to total, as a prelude to doing the same thing again in each of the following two years.  Even more crucial sub-caveat: Spouses are unlikely to meet this criterion).

(3) (b) People who really want to practice law, and who come from family circumstances that dictate somebody can probably get you a good legal job by making a couple of phone calls, or even better by just hiring you straight out.

(4) Trust fund slackers (we call them trustifarians in our beautiful little town) who just want to fool around in "school" for another three years before becoming consultants on Green Development Projects in third world nations with fascinating indigenous cuisines just now being discovered by white people.  Seriously, if you're one of these people, we need you to come to law school, now more than ever.

Did I miss anybody?






138 comments:

  1. Did I miss anyone?

    (5) People who really want to practice law and have been accepted at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. If you get into one of those schools and you have a good work ethic,* then you've basically won the law game.

    *Of course, if you don't have a good work ethic, you should not be considering law as a career at all.

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  2. People whose parents are paying for their education have nothing to lose.

    It's a pretty high percentage of law school students. Maybe not at a state school in the interior west, but I'm sure that at law schools in the northeast, a good percentage of the students get a free ride on their parents.

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  3. (5) Nobody for the next decade

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  4. I'm sort of "a Biglaw business lawyer today." I'm a business lawyer at the largest firm in the largest city in a state that is not NY, CA, or IL.

    I love what I do and feel extremely blessed to have landed where I am. However, at the time I decided to go to law school, I had only a BA in English, was making $43k in today's dollars, had almost no prospects for making much more, and was bored out of my mind. So, for me, the opportunity cost was very different from what it is for someone who already has a good career in accounting.

    Prof. C -- I will email you with my real name in case you want to pass it along to your correspondent. I'd be happy to speak with him.

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  5. "People whose parents are paying for their education have nothing to lose.

    It's a pretty high percentage of law school students. Maybe not at a state school in the interior west, but I'm sure that at law schools in the northeast, a good percentage of the students get a free ride on their parents."

    FWIW, 80% of Columbia and 77% of NYU students are borrowing money to go to law school, and their average debt load as of the class of 2010 was 125K.

    7:09: Please do.

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  6. I would add to (2) the caveat that you should be happy at the thought of working in the city where your middling school places people which may not be the city of your dreams.

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  7. Excellent advice. Also, his statement that:

    "he told me that after a couple of years he has realized that accounting is not something he wants to do for his long-term career, and that he loved the business law classes he took in business school."

    Is a perfect example of how idle hands are the devil's playground. He's bored, but financially secure, and he wants to do the cool stuff lawyers do on TV. Be careful kid, or you just might ruin your life.

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  8. "People whose parents are paying for their education have nothing to lose.

    It's a pretty high percentage of law school students. Maybe not at a state school in the interior west, but I'm sure that at law schools in the northeast, a good percentage of the students get a free ride on their parents."

    This is the William Henderson line, where he denies responsibility for the financial disaster he causes for his students by claiming that they're all rich and able to easily fund the tuition.

    STOP THIS LIE.

    Even *if* parents can pay for some of the student loan debt, by taking out a mortgage or dipping into their retirement savings, that is still a big problem because they needed that money for other things.

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  9. What's particularly strange about the accountant's letter, is that he can very easily develop from accountant to "big business guy." It happens all the time at the BIG4 where their CPA partners are equivalent to biglaw partners in terms of business acumen and the scale of projects they work on.

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  10. As a legal recruiter, I would advise this prospective student that I regularly work with people who have very similar academic backgrounds who are miserable in their employment. Most of these were fortunate enough to find employment in firms that pay salaries in the six figure range, and a very large percentage find the first several years of work to be difficult, dull, and disheartening. This group is typically comprised of students from the top 25% of the class from "first tier" schools. If you fail to make the cut for those firms, you would be lucky to earn more than your current salary despite losing three years of income and incurring significant debt. Moreover, once you go down this road, you may not be able to go back to your former employment very easily.

    Additionally, for those who stick it out, their job satisfaction may not change, and even then, long term security and stability may not be an option. I have worked with a very large number of partners who lack job security because they failed to develop into salesmen with large books of business. Private practice is usually a very bumpy career path for even those who get their foot in the door. Anyone who suggests that once you achieve a single goal in your career you are set, is misrepresenting the reality for the vast majority of attorneys.

    Only you can make the decision whether law school is a gamble you are willing to take, but recognize that it is an incredibly large gamble. If your primary motivation is to avoid drudgery and increase your income, there is a high likelihood that practicing law will fail you on both counts. If you have time and want to avoid drudgery, get a satisfying hobby and invest your money more wisely.

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  11. I'm sure there's midsize firms where corporate law is decent, but I doubt that's true at any amlaw 100 firms. First, you have a limited shelf life of 8 years max before they scrap you. Second, a large part of practicing is changing dates and other information in form documents. Third, the scheudle is brutal. I work 10-2 during the week and usually 12-2 on the weekends (I treat myself by sleeping in a little).
    The money is good and I'll be able to pay off my loans quickly so I can't complain there. However, the things this guy is looking for that he doesn't already have he probably won't find in biglaw.

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  12. Maybe the young accountant isn't doing as well as he claims? Perhaps he is on a performance improvement plan, about to get laid off . . . so he might not be giving up as much as we imagine.

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  13. Nope, you didn't miss anyone. Either get a big scholarship (a real one, not a scam one that they'll take away) or be a trust fund baby. That's pretty much it.

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  14. "FWIW, 80% of Columbia and 77% of NYU students are borrowing money to go to law school, and their average debt load as of the class of 2010 was 125K. "

    Which means that more than 20% of students have parents who can give them $200,000 for their education.

    Furthermore, a goodly percent of the students borrowing some money have parents who are rich enough to fall back on.

    Finally, it actually makes sense to borrowing $125K to get a law degree from Columbia or NYU, because it will get you a high-paying job at BIGLAW. In fact, it's a much better deal than going to law school for free at a non-top-14 school.

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  15. "Finally, it actually makes sense to borrowing $125K to get a law degree from Columbia or NYU, because it will get you a high-paying job at BIGLAW."

    ----------

    You're absolutely wrong there. BIGLAW is in no way guaranteed out of NYU or Columbia, and BIGLAW isn't free money any way. You have to work hard for that salary. Further, the vast majority of NYU/Columbia biglaw first years will be out of biglaw after a few years.

    You are also wrong with your math because you didn't count scholarships.

    I would definitely take a full ride at, say, Brooklyn over borrowing money to go to NYU. At least then, the most you could lose is three years of your life (which, actually, you could turn out to enjoy).

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  16. LawProf,

    Thoughts on this?

    http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202512460625&src=EMC-Email&et=editorial&bu=National%20Law%20Journal&pt=NLJ.com-%20Daily%20Headlines&cn=20110826nlj&kw=New%20law%20school%20opens%20on%20schedule%20in%20Nashville&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1

    A new law school just opened in Nashville and they had far more demand for their seats than expected.

    At some point, there will be enough scamblogs out there that one has to ask: Were these kids really deceived into attending law school? or are they simply using easy government loans (plus IBR) to take a three year vacation from life? Maybe these kids aren't so innocent after all. Doesn't excuse what law schools do, but perhaps the victim isn't students. Perhaps students are accomplices and the only victims are the taxpayers.

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  17. Finally, it actually makes sense to borrowing $125K to get a law degree from Columbia or NYU, because it will get you a high-paying job at BIGLAW. In fact, it's a much better deal than going to law school for free at a non-top-14 school.

    That's a calculation I've wondered about for years and have never been able to comfortably answer. To make the comparison stark, let's say your choice is between going to UPenn with no assistance and going to Dickinson with everything covered. If you make law review at Dickinson and grade in the top 10 (not top 10%) of your class from the git-go, then it seems to me you probably have the same job prospects that an average Penn student has. But how easy is it to do that well at Dickinson? Would having the ability to do that well at Dickinson mean you probably also have the ability to be well above average at Penn? And how much harder does a Dickinson grad have to work to develop for himself the brand recognition that Penn grads start out with? I don't know.

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  18. At some point, there will be enough scamblogs out there that one has to ask: Were these kids really deceived into attending law school? or are they simply using easy government loans (plus IBR) to take a three year vacation from life?

    Also consider -- how many of these kids are already screwed because their undergrad institutions scammed them with useless liberal arts degrees, making the law school lottery seem attractive?

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  19. One point that the Professor (or a blog sympathetic to his take) may have alluded to earlier is also that law school pedagogy is pretty much designed to maximize the number of people who don't reach into that vaunted Top 25%. The entirety of your grade in class rests on one exam, you have no meaningful way to evaluate your own performance over the course of the semester in any given course, and you are essentially called upon to develop a complete integrated understanding of an entire area of juriprduence relying soley on source material that is (ojbectively speaking) purposefully opaque, supplemented by dozens of hornbooks and study guides that (I think for the average student) serve only to create a cacaphonous tower of jurisbabel ringing about in their stress-addled heads.

    It's obviously no wonder that the job market is so poor for most law students. But it is even less of a wonder (and strangely less discussed) that relatively few law students actually do well in law school; that's the nub of the issue, in my view.

    My advice is simple: don't go to law school unless you're prepared for the likelihood that you won't do well. To do well in law school has nothing to do with work ethic, and everything to do with whether yours is the mind that can easily synthesize a complicated body of material in very little time. You should already have a sense of whether or not you are this type of person based on your LSAT. If you struggled on your LSAT, you will struggle probably struggle as a first year. If you struggled as a First Year (and your grades show it) you will not find work that in any way justifies the expense of going to law school.

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  20. "Also consider -- how many of these kids are already screwed because their undergrad institutions scammed them with useless liberal arts degrees, making the law school lottery seem attractive?"

    Good point.

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  21. Do you devote any thought at all to this before posting?

    How about: (5) Students who make an informed, calculated risk based on an appreciation of the costs and benefits of law school relative to their other options, given that only a moron would suppose to prescribe exclusive criteria without admitting that individual circumstances and relative opportunities matter -- and given that only a moron would assume that other study and employment opportunities are more or less risk-free, more or less rewarding, and more or less transparent.

    Sorry, I know that's less user-friendly than your other categories, but maybe you should resist the urge to deliver commandments.

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  22. 8:20, The point is that - after doing your risk calculation - the only types of people who should go to law school are the 4.5 categories listed by LawProf.

    What you're written is the intellectual equivalent of someone asking, "What fruits are red?" having LawProf lists four types of red fruits and you responding with "Oh, but you forgot this last category, 'Fruits that are colored red.'"

    Due to your completely clueless and unhelpful response, I can only assume you are a Law AND professor.

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  23. 8:25, 8:20 here. Your metaphor stinks. His is not an attempt to categorize things that are of a class; it is an attempt to direct decisions by people who can choose their class. His is an attempt to say "The only fruits that should be put in a fruit salad are apples and bananas. Everything else, bad idea." I won't engage in any comparable assumption about your training or occupation, however tempting it may be.

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  24. "His is not an attempt to categorize things that are of a class; it is an attempt to direct decisions by people who can choose their class."

    You are horrible at thought and logic. His post is clearly an attempt to categorize people into classes: those who should go to law school (further categorized into subclasses) and those who should not. Your response was to say, "oh, you forgot this category, 'People who should go to law school.'" You must be a Law AND professor.

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  25. 8:20/8:25 wrote: "people who can choose their class"

    You can choose to go to law school, but you can't choose the effect that going to law school will have on your life. That's the point you're missing.

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  26. "Anyone who suggests that once you achieve a single goal in your career you are set, is misrepresenting the reality for the vast majority of attorneys."

    This. Even "winning" the law school gamble, aka biglaw, may well turn into a loss later. And it's not as easy as you think to pay off those law school loans even with a few years in biglaw. Many, many, many associates are shown the door well before they do.

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  27. 8:39 -- I am assuming there is a difference between establishing classes of things that are, by their established nature, of a certain description, and that need only sorting (types of red fruits) and establishing classes of things in a fashion that is normative and advisory (types of fruits that should be put in salads). I take it you disagree. I'll let the disagreement rest there; it clearly informs whether it's appropriate to think of this as the former kind of inquiry, and whether your characterization of my additional category (5) was fair. It does seem to me that the natural consequence of your view is that law students are preordained to go to law school (they are already "red") and that none of this evaluation is relevant.

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  28. I've found in my career practicing law (mostly criminal defense, a small amount of patent work) that the only courses I took in law school that were in the least relevant to what I do as a lawyer were the legal writing and research course I took in my first year and (maybe) the evidence class I took in my second year. The rest of what was taught, including Criminal law and Criminal procedure, bore little relevance towhat I do as a lawyer. In medical school, they train you how to practice medicine, at least in the last two years. In law school, you *do not* learn how to actually practice law, draft motions, pleadings, even a simple entry of appearance. My first jury trial was my first entry into a courtroom (other than that experienced as a law clerk for a small firm for two and a half years in law school). I won that trial, got my client acquitted on a DUI charge, told him after he was lucky as hell.... If I hadn't had the experience clerking for a small firm, doing everything from drafting to serving process, and had instead flipped burgers or some non-law-practice related job, there's no way I would have known what to do.

    My advice is to cull people out in the first year - 2/3 of the class in the first semester, then 2/3 of the remainder, leaving the top 10% to finish the last two years. This radically decreases the profit per class, so of course no law school would ever do this ... but this assumes that legal education has anything to do with the practice of law, and my experience is that this relationship is tenuous at best.

    My grandfather was admitted to the bar after an apprenticeship with an established attorney; while the apprenticeship lasted, he was paid for his work, and he learned how to actually represent people in court. After he was admitted to practice, he had a distinguished career of 51 years, and had argued cases before the US Supreme Court.

    In my opinion, the requirement for a law degree for admission to the bar exam should be done away with; instead, three years of law clerking should be the requirement.

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  29. 8:51
    My one response to that is there are a lot of people in biglaw that piss away the salary. $160K is a lot of money and you should be able to put $50K per year towards your loans.
    Looking back, I think the real winners are those people that went to midsize firms making a little less but developing marketable skills with a good chance of making partner.

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  30. "If you make law review at Dickinson and grade in the top 10 (not top 10%) of your class from the git-go, then it seems to me you probably have the same job prospects that an average Penn student has."

    There's no guarantee that, just because you would have been accepted to Penn, this automatically means you can make Law Review AND top 10% at a lesser school. There's a lot of randomness to law school grading, some people just don't get it.

    There was a guy at my state law school who was admitted to U of Chicago, but he stupidly turned it down to take the near-free-tuition scholarship at the state school. Boy did he regret his decision. He only made top 20% not top 10%. There were no jobs for him. If he had attened U Chicago, he would have found a job in BIGLAW.

    And don't think of BIGLAW jobs as beign the end-all. They allow you to put a prestigious position on your resume that, combined with the prestigiuos law school, allows you to make a decent living making $150K or $200K working for a smaller law firm or as in-house counsel at a corporation.

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  31. "And don't think of BIGLAW jobs as beign the end-all. They allow you to put a prestigious position on your resume that, combined with the prestigiuos law school, allows you to make a decent living making $150K or $200K working for a smaller law firm or as in-house counsel at a corporation."

    ABSOLUTELY FALSE. YOU NEED TO STOP TALKING OUT OF YOUR ASS. Excuse my harshness but people might be misled by what you say.

    Pick up your alumni directory (I assume you went to a T5 school) and start calling graduates and see how their lives turned out after biglaw (if they got biglaw). There are no small firms out there throwing huge salaries at you just because you graduated from NYU and did 3 years of document review at Gibson Dunn.

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  32. "There was a guy at my state law school who was admitted to U of Chicago, but he stupidly turned it down to take the near-free-tuition scholarship at the state school. Boy did he regret his decision. He only made top 20% not top 10%."

    Why does he regret it? I assume he has zero debt so it's not like there was any lasting harm to his life. Besides, he can take the money he would have spent at U of C and start his own small firm. That saved tuition would cover overhead for years and years and years even if he couldn't get a single client. The only difference between him and the guy who got biglaw is that, he got a 3-4 year head start on opening his own firm.

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  33. "And don't think of BIGLAW jobs as beign the end-all. They allow you to put a prestigious position on your resume that, combined with the prestigiuos law school, allows you to make a decent living making $150K or $200K working for a smaller law firm or as in-house counsel at a corporation."

    ABSOLUTELY FALSE. YOU NEED TO STOP TALKING OUT OF YOUR ASS. Excuse my harshness but people might be misled by what you say.

    Pick up your alumni directory (I assume you went to a T5 school) and start calling graduates and see how their lives turned out after biglaw (if they got biglaw). There are no small firms out there throwing huge salaries at you just because you graduated from NYU and did 3 years of document review at Gibson Dunn.

    ------

    Seriously, this whole business just wants to keep pretending it's still 1970 or thereabouts.

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  34. "Why does he regret it? I assume he has zero debt so it's not like there was any lasting harm to his life. Besides, he can take the money he would have spent at U of C and start his own small firm."

    1. He probably borrowed money to pay his living expenses.

    2. The opportunity cost of spending three years of your life doing something wasteful is big. After three years of law school, people expect to get the job they had wanted, and it's a bitter experience not to find good employment.

    3. The net present value of a BIGLAW career far exceeds $125K.

    4. Law school doesn't teach you how to open a law firm. It teaches you how to read appellate cases, which is like 20%, at most, of operating your own law firm. People open law firms after they work for OTHER law firms and learn what law firms actually do, and hopefully pick up some clients as well. You may as well tell him to open up his own internet startup or something.

    And if law school actually did teach you how to open your own law firm, then you'd be compeating against tens of thousands of other law school graduates so trained, so it wouldn't really be the golden oportunity that you think it is.

    The bottom line is that law school is worth it only if you make a Top Six law school (I used to say Top 14 before the recession). Otherwise, it's not worth it unless you have rich parents who are paying for it.

    * * *

    And is that fair to the parents? Well, it's their money. Many parents believe in paying for their children's education, but not just giving htem $200K to do as they will, so it's not an option of $200K or a law degree, it's an option of $200K or nothing.

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  35. I mean it's an option of a law degree or nothing.

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  36. There are no small firms out there throwing huge salaries at you just because you graduated from NYU and did 3 years of document review at Gibson Dunn.

    I don't think the truth is quite that bad. If you have a degree from a top-10 school and a few years with an AmLaw100 firm, your grades don't stink, you're not a social wombat, and you're willing to relocate and possibly take another bar (a lot of ifs, I know), there are still decent opportunities out there.

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  37. When I left college, I clearly fit into the fourth category, "trust fund slacker." And I mean slacker. Thank the Lord for the University of Miami School of Law not reviewing my GPA! But, since graduating in 1999, I have worked very hard, helped alot of people, opened my own practice, and I do enjoy the practice for the most part. I see some value to this, but not entirely. People can mature, change, etc. We need more GOOD lawyers, not more lawyers.

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  38. "I don't think the truth is quite that bad. If you have a degree from a top-10 school and a few years with an AmLaw100 firm, your grades don't stink, you're not a social wombat, and you're willing to relocate and possibly take another bar (a lot of ifs, I know), there are still decent opportunities out there."

    It doesn't matter what you think, because the world does not exist inside your mind (unless you're a law professor) so get on the phone with your alumni and see how many lathamed folks are floundering.

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  39. "1. He probably borrowed money to pay his living expenses."

    Well then he didn't get a full ride scholarship.

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  40. "People open law firms after they work for OTHER law firms and learn what law firms actually do, and hopefully pick up some clients as well. "

    You are clueless, utterly completely clueless if you think working at Gibson Dunn or Skadden teaches you anything about opening up your own firm. You're not going to be serving Skadden/Gibson Dunn clients when you open your own shop, and you won't have all of the administrative support either. Entirely different world. I know a guy from a top 10 firm who has taken maybe five depositions during his entire five year career and is about as clueless in court as someone with 3 months at the PD's office.

    The only difference between someone who borrowed $200k to get biglaw and someone who borrowed nothing and started his own firm is that the latter will get a three year headstart.

    -----------

    "3. The net present value of a BIGLAW career far exceeds $125K."

    No it doesn't. It's zero actually. You don't understand what net present value means.

    -----------

    "The opportunity cost of spending three years of your life doing something wasteful is big."

    Exactly, now imagine you wasted three years AND borrowed $200k because you wanted your degree to be from a T5 school.

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  41. It doesn't matter what you think, because the world does not exist inside your mind ...

    Of course. My statement is based on my experience with mid-level associates at my firm who have been asked to look elsewhere, and with mid-level associates from AmLaw100 firms whom my firm has hired as laterals.

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  42. 10:19,

    You may have matured, but your parents money bought you almost everything you have.

    If I ever get out of debt enough to have children, they are working for a living at an honest trade.

    - Frank Sobotka

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  43. Let me understand. You are someone who plans to open your own law firm, and you have these two options:

    (A) Borrow $200,000 to attend NYU, work in biglaw for four years to pay it off, and then open your own small "shitlaw" firm.

    or

    (B) Borrow nothing to attend Brooklyn and immediately open your own small "shitlaw" firm upon graduation and use those four years to figure out the small law world.

    You would choose the former?

    I think you're making a foolish decision. And LOL at the idea of stealing clients from a top firm to your small firm. You're serving an entirely different market. Also, LOL at the idea of gaining meaningful experience at a biglaw firm. I know people with five years in biglaw who have as much litigation experience as someone with 3 months at the PD's office.

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  44. I know so many, so so many top school grads from great firms who were let go from biglaw over the past few years and who have absolutely nothing going on right now. Some did doc review, some have sort of given up on their careers, some moved in with their parents, some opened small firms doing plaintiff's work, some are sending their resumes out to the AALS conference every year hoping for a professor position, some took in house positions at a fraction of their former salary, I could go on and on. But if anyone reading this thinks that 3 years at biglaw + top school is worth much in our current legal market, then you are mistaken. If you don't believe me reach out to a random sample of your school's 2007, 2008 and 2009 alumni.

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  45. Group (3) (b) better do a *ton* of homework before jumping in. Several of my family members are partners in a family firm, and there's a ridiculous oversupply of lawyers out here, chasing a small handful of lucrative clients. Unless you love kissing uneducated small business owners' rears for approx. $50,000/year, 3(b) is pretty unpalatable right now.

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  46. "Borrow nothing to attend Brooklyn and immediately open your own small "shitlaw" firm upon graduation"

    You didn't get the message that law school doesn't train you to open up any sort of firm when you graduate. It's truly an extreme minority of law school graduates who go direcly from law school to their own law firm without any sort of experience working for another lawyer first.

    "But if anyone reading this thinks that 3 years at biglaw + top school is worth much in our current legal market, then you are mistaken."

    I haven't heard any evidence that people in post-BIGLAW careers suffered any worse from the recession than other white collar employees.

    I will give you that there are people who were associates at BIGLAW who got laid off during the recession who got screwed relative to their more fortunate peers who graduates before them, but a lot of other recent graduates in other fields got screwed by the recesion as well.

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  47. What is missing from this discussion is some sort of advice for the people out there who don't fit into this very accurate list of people who should go to law school. This would be people who are paying sticker for anything outside the top echelon of schools, anyone who defauted into law school because they weren't sure what to do next with the English degree from Directional State University, anyone who has some delusion that they will be doing "International Law" or "Human Rights Law" after law school, and anyone who does not have solid, first-hand knowledge of what practicing law is like.

    For these people, I have really simple advice. Don't go. If you are in law school already, but aren't sure what you are doing there, or what you are going to do after graduation and the student loans are piling up, don't be embarassed to drop out. Right now and for the forseeable future, the rewards aren't there and are not going to be there to make taking 100k-200k in loans out anywhere near worth it.

    Don't believe the schools' employment numbers or the crap on their webpages about how they offer certificates in International Law, or the BS about how the school is within blocks of the state capitol, major courts and Fortune 500 companies headquarters. The school is trying to sell you something - three years of not very useful education. They will be happy to take your money. The surprise will be yours in three years when you find out that the employment numbers were anally procured, international law jobs don't exist and the school's proximity to some major institution gives you about as much chance of being hired by said instititution as the pissbum urinating on the wall of said institution.

    The sad thing is, with all the good advice out there warning all but a few people against going to law school, there will be plenty of people happy to give up three years of their lives and 100-200k in non-dischargeable loans to chase after the law school fantasy.

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  48. "You didn't get the message that law school doesn't train you to open up any sort of firm when you graduate."

    You didn't get the message that neither does biglaw. My point is that, if you're going to wind up in small law, you would be better off figuring small law out during the four years -- as opposed to doing doc review and paper pushign because you accumulated a $200k debt that you could have avoided.

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  49. "Don't believe the schools' employment numbers or the crap on their webpages about how they offer certificates in International Law, or the BS about how the school is within blocks of the state capitol, major courts and Fortune 500 companies headquarters. The school is trying to sell you something - three years of not very useful education. They will be happy to take your money. The surprise will be yours in three years when you find out that the employment numbers were anally procured, international law jobs don't exist and the school's proximity to some major institution gives you about as much chance of being hired by said instititution as the pissbum urinating on the wall of said institution."

    That is awesome.

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  50. Also, if you go to a lower ranked law school on a full scholarship, and they take the scholarship away after 1L: drop out. That is the only reasonable course for people who get one of those misleading scholarships.

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  51. It's funny that "winning" the law school game means getting a Biglaw job. Every Biglaw lawyer I know is absolutely miserable.

    If this is winning, then maybe the whole game is not worth playing.

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  52. In general, students need to view their relationship with the law school as adversarial.

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  53. Another funny thing about biglaw, is that if you measure their compensation as an hourly rate (and providing time and a half overtime), first year associates make about as much as an experienced paralegal. I'm not joking. Do the math.

    Biglaw partners aren't suckers. They extract sufficient work for that paycheck, and if the firm isn't busy enough to extract that work, they let you go.

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  54. I'll add my own thoughts to the discussion. Based on my own experience, the biggest hurdle you will face as a new attorney, other than landing an attorney job, is "keeping" that job. You might only get one bite at the proverbial Biglaw apple. After that, you might be washed out of the profession since no one else will hire you. Or you think that maybe you'll just go out on your own. My own tenure at Biglaw lasted a whopping three years. And I wasn't even making a Biglaw salary. I've been working as a contract attorney for the past 6 years. Currently, I'm unemployed, have over $100,000 in debt and not sure if I will work in the profession again. Quite simply, it is a supply and demand phenomenon. I should point out that I'm a patent attorney too. So those who think they are guaranteed a good job in patent law are sadly mistaken. The whole field of IP has taken a hit over the past 5-10 years since the tech bust and now the recession, and then changes in the Patent Office, which make it harder to acquire a patent. In the early 2000's my law school tuition was $20,000 per year. Now, not even a decade later, my school charges $40,000 tuition. It's madness! The people graduating from law school now are 100% screwed unless, as provided above, that you have parents footing the entire bill, you get accepted to a top-14 school, you were able to maintain a scholarship for the better part of your legal education or you have connections that will guarantee you a job post-graduation. Other than those scenarios, people attending law school will have an exceedingly tough road ahead of them, particularly if they don't graduate in the top of their class. Seriously, you would be better off going into nursing or being a plumber.

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  55. The next topic for Lawprof should be the mentality of the 0L and why they refuse to listen. I recently discovered that website "Top Law Schools", where 0Ls talk about the LSAT, applications, etc. They seem to be as excited as we all were, and don't seem the slightest bit concerned, even though few of them, I'm guessing, meet Lawprof's good candidate profile.

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  56. 11:56, That's an interesting discussion and I think we might want to consider them being not victims but accomplices as explained in 8:02.

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  57. Not only 0L's, but many others outside the legal profession. A couple of months back, I had a journalist friend take issue with what she described as all the "scaremongering" out there about the legal profession and how they're making it difficult to make a clear decision about whether to go.

    I just about blew up on her.

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  58. And I guess the real question is:

    If law school faculty are Mafia wives . . .

    0L's are the mark . . .

    And (I figure) upwards from 3/4 of JD holders are the victims . . .

    . . . then who is running the actual con here? Is it *only* the administration? The admissions and law school communications offices? Considering how relatively threadbare these operations are in the day-to-day functioning of a law school, I must say am genuinely impressed by the scale of the damage they have wrought.

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  59. I am starting to believe these kids are self-made victims as well. I went to the "Top Law Schools" site and found a thread titled something along the lines of "is the employment really that bad?" and there was ZERO seriousness taken in responding to the thread. These students were all the way down the rabbit hole -- it won't happen to them. One of them even alluded to the economy hurting those outside law worse than in law (which from my observation is the opposite).

    I really do commend these sites (particularly yours, Law Prof) for not only getting the information to the students, but to provide insight into what will likely be the next big economic bubble to effect the economy (school loans) -- which is what really interests me in following this topic.

    I am so thankful every time I read one of these blogs that I graduated in 2001. I went to a TTT with strong state presence and an excellent specialization that took me from DA, boutique firm, medium firm in a very large city, now to gov't work. The only miserable time I had was at the medium firm (50+ lawyers). It lead me to believe it would only get more miserable as the firm became larger. I will say I fit into one of the above categories in that I did not have to pay for law school. But my brilliant husband did. He is in a solid career path now, but we're still paying off his loans and he often comments that law school is only really for the rich.

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  60. "It's funny that "winning" the law school game means getting a Biglaw job. Every Biglaw lawyer I know is absolutely miserable."

    People don't work as BIGLAW associates for their entire career. It's something they do for five to seven years before (1) becoming a BIGLAW partner and making HUGE amounts of money; or (2) their post-BIGLAW legal career, whatever that may be.

    Some other commenter says that BIGLAW doesn't train you to be a small lawyer. Whatever. Hiring in the legal profession is based on prestige, not on whether you know anything. The BIGLAW credential makes you prestigious so you can get an in-house job at a corporation, or work in a small law firm for commercial clients. BIGLAW associates don't ever go on to become ambulance chasers or criminal defense attorneys.

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  61. While I entirely agree that law school has become more expensive than can possibly be justified by the value delivered to most law students, I do not believe the job market is quite so bad as people make it out to be. If you go to a first tier "U of My State," graduate in the top 10-20%, and are not terrible at interacting with other human beings, you can still reasonably expect to get a Biglaw job in the markets where your school is well known. If you graduate with say, 100k in debt, and walk into a six figure job, that's not such a terrible life decision. I'm not saying being a big law associate is wonderful or paying a small mortgage payment in debt every month is fun, but if you're a liberal arts grad with no other prospects and the academic skills to finish near the top of your class, law school can be a rational decision even if you don't get a scholarship or go to Harvard.

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  62. 2:08

    The problem with that thinking is that it obviously doesn't apply to 80-90% of students who go to law school at any given institution. Getting a BIGLAW job is objectively exceptional, and yet it is the only career path which can financially justify the expense of law school for the vast majority of law students.

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  63. "I am starting to believe these kids are self-made victims as well."

    If your options are walmart, live at home, or borrow $200,000 for a three year vacation where everything is paid for, you get your own place, and you get to dick around in class all day - You can see some short sighted students taking that deal.

    Again, it doesn't excuse the law schools, but perhaps they're not victimizing students but rather colluding with them to rip off the taxpayers.

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  64. Didn't law schools used to flunk people out? Perhaps that system should reinstated.

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  65. @ 2:08 PM - What you are stating is precisely the illusion that every law school sells to its incoming students - the idea that all you have to do is finish in the top 10 or 20% and everything will just work itself out. Students have an 80% chance of NOT being in the top 20%. Law school grading is not the easiest thing on earth to figure out. Grades are based on one all or nothing issue spotting test. Have a couple of off days on exam days, and the top 10% is out of the question.

    Telling someone that they just need to finish in the top 10 or 20% is not too different from telling someone to go to the local casino, go to the dice table, play table max on the pass line, take max odds and roll point-winner 15 times in a row.

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  66. "If you go to a first tier "U of My State," graduate in the top 10-20%, and are not terrible at interacting with other human beings, you can still reasonably expect to get a Biglaw job in the markets where your school is well known."

    --------------

    You use a lot of vague words in your description (Does U of My State mean UCLA or Loyola?) but it could easily be misread by some tier 2 0L as believing top 20% will get him something that is only available to the top 2%.

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  67. Couple of observations:

    (1) I would put the over/under for the percentage of tenure-track law professors who can tell you what IBR is at about three. I'm sure all the deans know about it however.

    (2) This stuff about how law school is still an OK deal if you finish in the top 10% at a non-T14 yet still top tier school, even if true, overlooks that the decision to go to law school has to be made ex ante. That's a real bad gamble.

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  68. Didn't law schools used to flunk people out? Perhaps that system should reinstated.

    They did, but (as I understand the history) that was back when admission to law school was determined mainly by ability to pay. Flunking 1Ls served the function that admissions committees serve today.

    Be that as it may, professors today seem to have a congenital resistance to flunking students.

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  69. "admission to law school was determined mainly by ability to pay."

    Well, now admission to law school is determined by the ability to take out loans. Everyone has the RIGHT to try law school but not everyone has the aptitude to graduate.

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  70. "Be that as it may, professors today seem to have a congenital resistance to flunking students."

    ------------

    This is what they do in other countries. Everyone can get a legal education, but only 5-10% pass the bar and get to be lawyers.

    The problem with letting students in and flunking them out after 1 year, or flunking them out of the bar exam, is that they still invested a lot of tuition money.

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  71. Telling someone that they just need to finish in the top 10 or 20% is not too different from telling someone to go to the local casino, go to the dice table, play table max on the pass line, take max odds and roll point-winner 15 times in a row.

    Yup. This is why the analysis is dramatically different if you're looking at attending a top 5 (or so) school, as opposed to all the other schools. At the top handful of schools, you can be in the middle of your class grade-wise and still be seriously considered by a lot of firms. You don't need to sweat over a few GPA points or making law review unless you want to be an academic.

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  72. "The problem with letting students in and flunking them out after 1 year, or flunking them out of the bar exam, is that they still invested a lot of tuition money."

    Better to lose 1 year instead of 2 more years, especially if one's 1L performance essentially seals one's fate.

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  73. If your options are walmart, live at home, or borrow $200,000 for a three year vacation where everything is paid for, you get your own place, and you get to dick around in class all day - You can see some short sighted students taking that deal.

    Plus, imagine these two conversations and their different effects on the tender undergrad psyche:

    Adult: So, Johnny, what are you planning on doing after college?

    Johnny: I'm going to law school.

    Adult: That's great!

    ------------

    Adult: So, Johnny, what are you planning on doing after college?

    Johnny: I'm going to be a file clerk.

    Adult: Oh.

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  74. No one ever says the obvious. Forget ROI. You won't be happy. Most experienced lawyers end up hating their work and their lives.

    Walk into that office building next door to the courthouse and knock on doors and ask to speak to lawyers. Go into the bars and restaurants in the neighborhood where lawyers congregate. Talk to your lawyer friends, your parents lawyer friends, the lawyers at church and at your kids Little League. Ask them for their honest opinions before you commit yourself. Most are unhappy.

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  75. Let's be real. Most people who have to work for a living are unhappy and wish they could do something else. Compared to being independently wealthy, working sucks.

    But as jobs go, being a lawyer can be very satisfying -- IF you go in with your eyes open, manage your expectations, have the aptitude, plan wisely, etc. etc. etc. (It also helps if the economy's not in the toilet.)

    In my experience, the lawyers who are most likely to enjoy what they do are the ones who had other careers first. If you've worked for 5-10 years in another field, you're able to distinguish between the unpleasant aspects of law practice that are inherent to law practice, and the unpleasant aspects of law practice that are just part of having a job.

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  76. This comment thread is almost uniformly the work of deranged minds. It's painfully clear that few of you have ever looked for job either in BigLaw or shitlaw in recent years. I take it as given that we all accept that pretty much no one is getting a BigLaw job. But this idea that somehow some solo somewhere is going to hire you is just magnificent. Again, do you even know what those ads look like? $8/hour. People looking for people to share office space with. People who are looking for someone . . . wait for it . . . part-time. And if you think that there's some enterprising small firm out there who will see you as a investment opportunity and will hire you into a secretarial position, increase your responsibilities with a long-term view to developing you into someone who can expand the practice, you're just deluded. You've been tilting at windmills all day, I'm afraid. The world in which the BigLaw/shitlaw discussion is relevant is a world in which unicorns aren't extinct, which, of course, as we all know, they are.

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  77. I'm shocked no one has yet mentioned the Lake Wobegon effect because the 0Ls are all consumed by it.

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  78. EDMUND

    .....Why bastsard?

    Wherefore base....

    Now gods, stand up for Law School bastards!

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  79. Law School, generally speaking, is a place for weak-minded people with deficient personalities.

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  80. By that I mean law school is populated mostly by the weak-minded and those with deficient personalities.

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  81. "If your options are walmart, live at home, or borrow $200,000 for a three year vacation where everything is paid for, you get your own place, and you get to dick around in class all day - You can see some short sighted students taking that deal."

    Sure, not to mention the fact that your family will probably think you are being constructive during those 3 years.

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  82. "Sure, not to mention the fact that your family will probably think you are being constructive during those 3 years."

    John? Yes, Yes, he's in Law School.

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  83. 8:36AM = Leiter.

    Hi Brian! Rather than solely attacking the scamblogs, why don't you acknowledge some of the self evident truths they offer?

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  84. On the question of whether BigLaw is a sure thing coming out of Columbia and NYU, it pretty much is, unless you're getting really bad grades, or are worse at interviewing than I am (which is really bad).

    What gets missed, however, is the BigLaw attrition rate. Lots of people burn out, lots are pushed out. You might be 99% certain to get a BigLaw gig upon graduation, but only 50% sure of keeping it 5 years. That makes a big difference when looking at repaying your $150,000 of debt.

    As for what this guy should do, he needs to think seriously about what in his current job he hates, and what he's hated in other jobs, and what he's liked. If his main problem now is that he's bored, he'll likely be bored sitting in an office by himself reading cases 10 hours a day. He'd be better off taking cooking classes, or art classes, and just having a more enjoyable home life.

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  85. "You might be 99% certain to get a BigLaw gig upon graduation"

    BL1Y, why do you constantly talk out of your ass? The percentage of NYU JDs who got biglaw is no where near 99%. It's closer to 50%. The attrition rate after five years is also much higher than 50%. It's more like 75% by that point.

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  86. The big law attrition rate (whatever it really may be) is by itself not very informative. We need to know what happens to the associates who leave or are let go.

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  87. "Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% to 30% of this year's 3Ls at places like Michigan and Duke don't have jobs and are getting exactly zero OCI interviews."

    Do you have a source or sources for this? I honestly have a hard time figuring out what the employment situation is for current graduates from T-14 schools.

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  88. "Do you have a source or sources for this? I honestly have a hard time figuring out what the employment situation is for current graduates from T-14 schools."

    I saw it too, but I don't have a link. But this is another big problem. It's not only the tier 2/3/4 schools that inflate their placement, the t14 and even the t5 do it as well. Every school has some incentive to lie about how well their graduates do.

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  89. @7:54: At NYU I only new of two people who had trouble finding jobs, out of a class of 450.

    A lot of people don't go big law, but it's by choice, typically doing public interest work where they get NYU's debt repayment (full repayment in 5 years, I think). So yes, it's not 99% big law, but it is 99% big law or better.

    The most recent classes aren't doing quite that well, but the post wasn't about how the latest group is doing, it's about why someone should go to law school generally.

    @7:58: I have no idea where the casualties land. But, it is always a move downward.

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  90. I'm on the hiring committee of a big east-coast firm that is not in NYC, DC, or Boston. We have historically not been the first choice for 2Ls at T14 schools. As for HYS schools, we get maybe one candidate every few years (usually someone with "issues").

    In the past 3-4 years, we have seen a definite rise in the quality of candidates -- we're now regularly seeing the top-ranked students from lower first-tier schools, and more "average" students from the lower half of the T14.

    All the same, we have still not had anything like a flood of T14 candidates, and our inability to attract HYS candidates hasn't shown any signs of changing. Until I see a real uptick on this metric, I have to believe that the vast majority of HYS students and the top students from the other T14 schools are still managing to get the big law or public interest jobs of choice.

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  91. The estimate regarding the current situation for 3Ls at Michigan and Duke is based on conversations with students and faculty at those schools.

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  92. Well, I am also an accountant, who is attending a T2 law school. I had a consulting job that was flexible and I chose to work full time while in law school. I would work in the library between classes. or at home on days without classes. I excelled in both work and law school, grading at around top 25%. My tuition is paid for, I have three years of working experience and now I can flash the Esq to potential clients which my hapless accounting friends will never be able to do.

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  93. "The estimate regarding the current situation for 3Ls at Michigan and Duke is based on conversations with students and faculty at those schools."

    Ha! Whoever heard of a professor talking to students?

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  94. 20% of CLS/NYU c/o 2011 or 2012 is shut out of biglaw who truly wanted it. I know because I'm one of them. These stats won't be reported for another year or two. But as the c/o 2010 stats rolled out, we've seen just how bad it was for the top schools compared to c/o 2008 or 2007.

    To the regional hiring partner above- I interviewed with about 15 firms in a "regional" market at OCI and received no callbacks. I had just below median grades and received callbacks in NYC so I know it wasn't just my interviewing skills. Some regional firms came and called back 0 people, others came and called back 2 or 3 who happened to be the highest ranked students applying to that market as a safety who all ended up taking NYC elite corporate firms or DC appellate lit. The idea that HYS or CCN students wouldn't kill to work at your firm is a myth- I guarantee your firm gets resumes from dozens of them every hiring season.

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  95. "At NYU I only new of two people who had trouble finding jobs, out of a class of 450."

    Bullshit, you are either a damn liar or unable to see that your sample may have been skewed. Regardless, this is very easy to resolve. Go on the alumni directory and pull up the class of 2010, and paste the listing here (showing name and place of work).

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  96. By the way BL1Y, you might be talking to a fellow NYU Law alumnus so you better take your yarn and spin it elsewhere. If you're below median at NYU law you are probably not going to get the job you want.

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  97. "I can flash the Esq to potential clients which my hapless accounting friends will never be able to do."

    -----

    While you wasted time learning about the rule of perpetuities, your "hapless" accounting friends spent their time gaining knowledge of stuff that actually matters at the big4 and building professional relationships with colleagues and clients. What they did is worth far more than your J.D., which doesn't impress a damn person.

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  98. "The idea that HYS or CCN students wouldn't kill to work at your firm is a myth- I guarantee your firm gets resumes from dozens of them every hiring season."

    I'm the "regional hiring partner above." I don't know what CCN stands for, but we're really not getting any more HYS resumes than we did before the recession, i.e., virtually none. I'd know because I see the stats.

    "others came and called back 2 or 3 who happened to be the highest ranked students applying to that market as a safety who all ended up taking NYC elite corporate firms or DC appellate lit."

    That stinks for both you and the regional firms.

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  99. It stands for Columbia, Chicago and NYU hiring partner. Thanks for your input and please post any other thoughts you have to share. It's nice to get real world experiences.

    When you write, "I'd know because I see the stats." What do you mean? Your school actually compiles statistics of resumes, offers and hiring based on the law school? Interesting.

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  100. *Your firm (not your school)

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  101. Thanks, it's good to know the lingo.

    Yes, our recruitment coordinator keeps tables of what schools we get resumes from, how many in-office interviews we have, what our final "yield" is, etc. We use it to determine where we should be directing our recruiting efforts from one year to the next.

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  102. If only firms would publish these tables!

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  103. @10:26: The classes of 2010 and 2011 are obvious not the norm. Go back and look at the context of the post. It's doubtful this accountant who hasn't started law school yet will be graduating a year ago.

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  104. ""While you wasted time learning about the rule of perpetuities, your "hapless" accounting friends spent their time gaining knowledge of stuff that actually matters at the big4 and building professional relationships with colleagues and clients. What they did is worth far more than your J.D., which doesn't impress a damn person""

    Well, maybe, but so far accounting colleagues i encountered were pretty intimidated by my future degree, Macc students in my jd tax course noted that i would be huge when i graduate. Either way, it was my dream to be qualified as a lawyer, and i was able to make it come true without significant hit to either my lifetime earnings or my career.

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  105. "@10:26: The classes of 2010 and 2011 are obvious not the norm."

    Fine, go to the alumni directory class of 2008 and paste it.

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  106. "Well, maybe, but so far accounting colleagues i encountered were pretty intimidated by my future degree"

    Really? Please, tell us the details of these encounters and how this "intimidation" was expressed.

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  107. for example, a federal recruiter at an undergrad career fair said that when i graduate I will be extremely marketable and asked whether i would like to move to dc. Simply, there are quite a few people with jd/cpa and there are a lot of business problems that require both backgrounds. finding the right opportunity might take a while, but this kind of background intrigues people a lot. And for somebody like me, time is not an issue. See these link:
    http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/11081358

    From my communication with Macc students, this guy is not an exception, they have heard of many other jd/cpas who got a cfo position 10-12 years out of college, which usually takes 20 years.

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  108. Oh, a recruiter blew smoke up your ass. That doesn't happen in literally every conversation with a recruiter.

    Besides, that wasn't what I asked about. You said you encountered your accounting colleagues and they were "intimidated by my future degree." I asked you to describe those encounters. It's obviously you were lying, but at least make a story up or something. The fact that you're in law school means that you were probably struggling at the accounting firm. Accounting firm superstars don't need to get additional degrees, because they get promotions. I know you like to think that you'll take this TTT JD and go back and get your revenge on everyone, but that's a fantasy. Any way, good luck with that whole CPA + TTT JD = CFO thing.

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  109. The University of Illinois College of Law?

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  110. 1:03

    Yes, now c/o 2011/2012 summer classes are the norm. Class sizes have reached a new normal at all but the top firms. We will be seeing an extended period where an NYU or CLS degree is no guarantee of a biglaw job.

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  111. I was in a similar position to the commenter five years ago prior to law school and, fwiw, my advice would be to stick with accounting or, at least, to pursue something other than law school. I 'won' the law school game, got a half-scholarship to a T-10, graduated with low debt, a job in BigLaw, and still had a lot of regrets. BigLaw and legal jobs in general are far more tedious than accounting or finance, but even if the tedium were the same, BigLaw requires 50%-100% more hours, more stress, and very little opportunity for promotion (a new law firm associate has less than a 5% shot at making partner, and that may be high). Moreover, the competition in the legal industry for jobs is just brutal.

    I left BigLaw, and was fortunate enough to return to my pre-law school employer doing work law-related but outside the OGC. When I talked to OGC, they indicated that a lawyer would need a minimum of 10 years of experience to be considered for OGC, and that they almost never hired business general counsels who were not previously law firm partners. Meanwhile, as someone outside of OGC, I work less hours on more interesting projects, and have the opportunity to take a number of different career tracks, many of which would result in higher level jobs than would be available in OGC. The lesson here: stay away from law school. It only works out well for two groups of people: 1) future law school professors (who can't be identified ex ante); 2) the independently wealthy. Everyone else is taking a big risk just to break even financially, much less in terms of quality of life.

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  112. This is the CPA from above:

    1. to the nasty guy - I guess I have been lawyered up, so I do not an answer posed, haha. I do not know how to describe intimidation, just facial emotions I guess. Anyway, intimidation was not my point. I do not care what my previous colleagues think about my law school career. Now I have a freelance job with half hours and 125% of pay of Big 4. Big 4 does promote its stars, but stars in Big 4= people who brownnose partners and clients (via concealing audit errors) rather than being objectively good...I was also cut because I was on H1B.
    2. to the poster above - I think out situation is slightly different, because I worked full time during law school and only spent 56K on a jd from t25... I view biglaw path as a near-sighted fail. A lot of money nearby, but then - sucks. I plan to market to people who would value the jd/cpa combo, for example, Mckinsey and Company, Alvarez and Marsal, etc...

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  113. After reading this blog, I feel like an oxymoron: A happy lawyer, if there is such a thing.

    The key to happiness in the legal profession is to stay away from lawyers. Avoid their cocktail parties. Over-the-top mixers. Just be yourself. Enjoy the outdoors. Blog to stay in touch with your creative side. Tweet to keep up with the world. Watch movies. Displace yourself from reality as need. Don't lose touch with your femininity. Invest in your personal relationships and not your image.

    Yes, I did have the luxury of graduating undergraduate school and law school with zero loans because I had parents who made education a priority for their children, worked, and was awarded grants and scholarships. So that allowed me to bounce around a year after law school until I wound back up at the firm I clerked for in law school and was able to feel appreciated as an attorney and to hone my legal skills.

    BigLaw is an necessary evil. Solo and small firms are the ones that make the difference, though.

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  114. "Big 4 does promote its stars, but stars in Big 4= people who brownnose partners and clients (via concealing audit errors) rather than being objectively good...I was also cut because I was on H1B."

    LawProf, you forgot category (5), people who use law school to stay in the United States because otherwise they would be deported.

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  115. "Yes, I did have the luxury of graduating undergraduate school and law school with zero loans because I had parents who made education a priority for their children"

    So . . . your parent's bought you happiness. You're a happy person of means, who happens to be a lawyer.

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  116. I plan to market to people who would value the jd/cpa combo, for example, Mckinsey and Company, Alvarez and Marsal, etc...

    Not to be a jerk - I hope that works out for you - but McKinsey ain't going to come calling just because you have a law degree and a CPA. McKinsey recruited heavily for 2L's and 3L's at my law school; people on the bottom third of the class could get McKinsey jobs as long as they interviewed well. But post-graduation when people were looking for work, McKinsey was not as interested. I have a JD/MBA finance combo with five years experience, and they didn't even contact me for an interview post graduation. I hope that it works out for you, but for the purposes of giving the commenter advice, I wouldn't make that sound like it's a realistic option for most people.

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  117. 9:23, seriously that guy is so deluded. He way overvalues a CPA + a TTT law degree (not to mention he's an H1B. Two mediocre accomplishments =/= one impressive accomplishment. Not to mention how he perceived "intimidation" from his coworkers (who were working at the firm from which he was laid off.)

    He perfectly embodies the delusion of 0Ls. Sorry to be harsh but it's true and we're all anonymous here any way.

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  118. i am no longer an H1B, got my green card. there is nothing certain about anything in this world, but i am a law student earning almost 70k during law school, have that job guaranteed after law school, own several rental properties and drive two brand new sporty cars. and soon i will be able to place Esq. in addition to CPA behind my name. i came to the US with a hundred dollars in my pocket and earned everything myself. If i am a deluded fool with no exit options thet who the hell are you?.....

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  119. Let me guess, leveraged rental properties and two cars on borrowed money, which I assume are in addition to what you borrowed for law school. Any way, the point was that a CPA and TTT JD are unlikely to get you a job at say, McKinsey. But you'll be able to go back to your job and continue it, just as if you hadn't gone to law school in the first place.

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  120. i guessed wrong, 70% paid off rentals, one new car paid off, another is not (2.99% interest rate...works for me). I do not crave a job at mckinsey (my current job is probably better, even if it pays a lot less), mainly looking for suckers to milk for 2L internship money. My point is i performed careful calculations before going to law school. If I could not have a full time job during law school I would have never gone. My calculations show that jd would result in a very high ROI, since most CPAs are stuck at 60-70K for their whole life...JD would likely open very lucrative opportunities for an independent business consultant. Of course, my calculations may be wrong, but this is the inherent business risk.

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  121. As a current college senior, I've got a question about your first point

    Where is the cutoff for a "good school" worth going to w a full ride? Top 20? 30? Tier 1? There has to be a point at which the benefits of a full ride are outweighed by the mediocrity/general unimpressiveness of the school. I'm just trying to find where that line is. (ex: choosing between going to UGA or UNC for virtually nothing vs sticker price at duke, cornell, or berkley).

    Thoughts?

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  122. I would take the full rides over duke, cornell or berkeley sticker.

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  123. "most CPAs are stuck at 60-70K for their whole life"

    Your CPA friends who (unlike you) didn't get laid off aren't going to be stuck at that for their whole life. The entire point is that your calculation is biased and subjective.

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  124. most of my cpa friends who did not get laid off quit (without the three month severance) and are now entry level business analysts at corporate. next promotion and raise - in ten years. you are a fool to think that smart and capable people are kept on board and lazy and stupids are shown the door. The reality is much more unforgiving.

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  125. "[They won't get their] next promotion and raise [for] ten years. you are a fool to think that smart and capable people are kept on board and lazy and stupids are shown the door."

    Utter absurd nonsense all around. Tell yourself whatever you want, that's what most 0Ls do.

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  126. i think that correcting my writing is a pretty good sign that you are out of arguments. touche.

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  127. I would take the full rides over duke, cornell or berkeley sticker.

    Given the economy's poor prospects, I'm inclined to agree. The difference between those schools and a school in the USN&WR 30s is not worth $100k+.

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  128. Yes, you're right 1:53. To review,

    1. Your former colleagues who, unlike you did not get laid off and did not go to law school, will not get a raise for 10 years.

    2. Smart and capable people are fired, and lazy and stupid people are kept on by companies.

    3. A TTT law school was a good decision on your part because now you can get a job at McKinsey.

    Got it. Thanks.

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  129. The bottom line is that law school is worth it only if you make a Top Six law school (I used to say Top 14 before the recession). Otherwise, it's not worth it unless you have rich parents who are paying for it.

    I think this ignores the part where there are many law jobs that the precious I MUST HAVE THE BEST CREDENTIALS AT ALL TIMES crowd have no interest in doing. Because, really, those guys are going to staff government positions/DA/PD/muni/insurance defense/workers comp/disability claims in every shit stained corner of the nation? Please. If your entire worldview is BIG LAW OR BUST, you're missing out on most legal jobs.

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  130. 4:08 - by your conclusions sounds like you got 142 on LSAT. How about you go and polish your writing sample in your parent's basement trying to pretend that somebody needs the useless skills you paid 200K for?

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  131. "Yes, I did have the luxury of graduating undergraduate school and law school with zero loans because I had parents who made education a priority for their children,"

    This perfectly makes my point about law school being a good choice for people whose parents are paying for it. And there are more of these people out there than you think. But they don't wear t-shirts saying "my parents are paying for my education" and they don't mention it at all because it breaks the code of silence.

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  132. How do paralegals impact the equation? Has there been discussion here about that aspect of the legal employment/education situation?

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