Return of Legal Reasoning

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 7th, 2011 by bl1y

Most of the readers here probably found their way through my list of 50 Reasons Not to Go to Law School, and the accompanying 2 good reasons challenge.

Now that series is back, relaunched and remastered at Constitutional Daily. You can read the first in the new (well, new to some people) series here: Legal Reasoning Redux #1.

Reasons to Go to Law School #15-16

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on May 17th, 2011 by bl1y
It’s been a while, but finally we are back with another reasons to go to law school contender. Let’s remind everyone of the rules:
1. You need two reasons.
2. They must be good reasons (good enough to overcome the expenses).
3. They must be for going to law school.
So, without any further ado, here we go:
I’m a new reader of your blog, first reading your comments on bitter lawyer and then reading more from your own website, and after seeing the other responses I decided to state my two reasons for attending law school and let you see how they stack.
First I’ll say the weaker reason, which is that I believe from the basic information I’ve gathered about lawyers that I would be good as a litigator.  I enjoy researching and formulating arguments to difficult issues as well as am comfortable preparing papers, or in the future briefs, for said arguments.  I am a comfortable public speaker and generally persuasive in a factual as well as traditional communication sense (persuasion based on naturally unreasonable human responses such as emotional situations).  I also am well adjusted to deadlines and finishing work as well as performing under pressure which from my understanding is of utmost importance for a litigator.
My second reason continues the first, I am genuinely interested in being a lawyer.  My undergraduate degree was political science with a pre-law concentration.  I spent a year out of school to pay a little back on my loans and thus establish some credit, which I had not done before undergrad. I also worked at the GA Department of Revenue so I could gain some, if only minor, experience.  I plan on either going into the Judge Advocate General program with the Navy or a local District Attorney’s office after law school, preferably doing summer associate and externships with either during my 2L and 3L beforehand.  After several years, most likely a minimum of 4 years, I plan to apply to be an Assistant US Attorney.
The main downside is the debt that I will be incurring and the general understanding that most government sector jobs don’t pay nearly as much as private sector jobs.  I slacked off in some of my core classes and it dragged my GPA down so I did not receive a scholarship for my first upcoming year and I plan on attending a 3rd tier school, but for me the money (and debt I will be burdened with) are an expensive but acceptable loss in exchange for me learning the skills and gaining the ability to practice law.  Also, since I plan on going into what is considered public interest careers, I will, if I haven’t paid off my debt beforehand, plan on taking advantage of new programs to clear federal loans after 10 years of public interest work.
So in finishing, my first reason is that I have what I believe to be the skill sets that traditionally fit a lawyer, and my second reason is that I plan on and desire to be a lawyer after graduating.  I know these 2 reasons work in conjunction but they are my reasons for going to law school since, as many people say including yourself in previous blogs, law school only really prepares you to be a lawyer.
Mercer University School of Law
US News #127, $35,695/yr
I really hope I didn’t ever say law school only prepares you to be a lawyer. That would be false. It doesn’t even prepare you to be a lawyer. What it does is let you check off a very important box allowing you to sit for the bar exam, an exam law school doesn’t prepare you for. Law school does open the road to becoming a lawyer, but it hardly prepares you to be a lawyer. But, on to your reasons.
1. I’ll Be Good at It
Not the worst reason in the world. People are generally happier doing jobs that they are good at. Not that hard to understand that we’d rather excel than struggle. The trouble with using this as a reason for going to law school is that it’s very hard to predict what actually being a lawyer is like. When you look at what lawyers do and then compare it to your skillset, it’s easy to miss the mundane day-to-day tasks, and also easy to not comprehend the repetitive nature of it all. You’ll spend more time filing motions for a continuance as a right than you will research novel arguments.
But, assuming you are exactly as dull and mechanical as you portray yourself to be, I’ll count this as a reason for going to law school. It would be a very good reason if you were prescient, but since it’s impossible to anticipate how you’ll really enjoy law, we’ll give this a B- (the curve helped you out a bit here).
2. I Really Want to Be a Government Prosecutor
You plan on getting into JAG? AHAHAHAHAHAHA!
No, no, sorry, that was-AHAHHAHAHA!
Seriously, if there’s not already a uniform hanging in your closet, you have as good of odds of getting into JAG as you do getting a Supreme Court clerkship. Those are insanely competitive jobs. It’s also a pretty miserable job your first few years, being shipped around to different air force posts in random hick towns, helping soldiers on their way to Afghanistan prepare their wills, and occasionally prosecuting a PFC for possession of a controlled substance.
But, let’s look at your second choice of jobs, working for the local DA.
Ahahahahaha!
You’ll notice I didn’t laugh quite so loudly. This is a much easier job to get, but still very, very tough. Consider that you’re going to be competing against students from UGA and UA (tied at #35), Emory (#30), Vanderbilt (#16), UVA (#9), Knoxville (#56), Georgia State (#61), and a bunch of kids from lower ranked schools, like Cumberland (#127) and John Marshall (#140).
The legal market is going to be a very scary place for at least the next 5 years, and there’s a good chance it will never fully recover. That means you’re going to be competing against not just the kid from Atlanta who went to UVA and really wants to be a state prosecutor when he graduates, but also the kid from Atlanta who went to UVA hoping to get a job in big law, but is looking to the government as a backup.
If you were getting a very nice scholarship from a T-14, I’d think you’d actually have some decent reasons for going to law school, but the fact of the matter is Mercer is not going to help you fulfill your dreams. Fewer than half their students have a job lined up at graduation, any job.
At 9 months after graduation, only 14.5% of Mercer grads have any job with the government. Only 58.9% of grads have a full time law job. The numbers don’t lie, it’s simply a bad bet.

Reasons to Go to Law School, #13-14

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on February 8th, 2011 by bl1y

Time once again to play Two Good Reason to Go to Law School. The rules are simple. You need two reasons, and they need to be good.

I have a friend who is attending law school part-time, while working full-time for a defense contractor.  It will take 4 years to get through the program, but as I understand, it is cheaper/per year, plus there are less lost opportunity costs.  This seems like it could be an actual reason to attend, if you can handle it.  Also, what if you can get a scholarship, or even your employer to pay for the part-time program?  I don’t know if either of these are possible, but what would you say to a part-time law program, while working full time, on a full tuition scholarship?

Thought of this while drunkenly passing out after the Super Bowl,

“Ben”

Ben’s friend attends Georgetown University Law Center,

US News #20, $25522.50/yr, $1630.00/cr

There’s no logic like drunk logic.

1. Part Time Programs are Cheaper

In terms of tuition, they’re not any cheaper. At Georgetown, the price per credit hour for part time students gives you the same price as full time students over all. You’re just spreading out the tuition over four years instead of three.  Also, if you want to go over the minimum number of hours, you’re out an extra $1630 per hour. Full time students can go a few hours over the minimum with no penalty.

But, as you point out, a lot of the cost is opportunity cost. Part time programs allow you to work while in school, drastically cutting down the price of attendance.

Trouble is that for most students, law school takes up more time than a full time job.  You’re in class 13-15 hours a week, sometimes with more than 5 hours in a single day.  Then there’s all the time you spend reading for class, going to study groups, research and writing projects, studying for exams, and the actual exams themselves. And travel to get to class.

By doing a part time program over 4 years, you’re only decreasing your yearly workload by 25%.  That decrease will not offset the 40 hours a week you’re working.  So, long story short, you might not spend as much money during those four years (you’ll probably actually put some in the bank), but the level of hell that law school is will be so much more.

Law school is, for many people, the last chance to dick around and have some fun before starting the indentured servitude that will last until their death.  Spending that time working for a defense contractor is insane.

Also, employers tend to not be fans of part time students, having a full time will cut you off from the normal hiring channels (summer jobs), and firms will doubt your commitment to legal practice, and they know it’s harder to squeeze 80 hours a week out of someone who isn’t committed.

There’s one final, really killer problem with this reason. Regular readers may have already guessed it, but it applies to your second (albeit hypothetical) reason as well, so I’ll wait.

2. You Could Also Get a Scholarship

Okay, so the idea here is that with a job and a scholarship, the costs of law school are more or less nothing. No tuition, no opportunity costs, and no racking up debt on living expenses.  But, there are always other costs.  Let’s call them blood, sweat, and tears.  Sweat not just from the work you have to put in, but the stink you’ll smell from the guy next to you in Contracts who spends so much time studying that he doesn’t find time to shower. And, as a part time student, you’re going to have a lot of foreign classmates, so the chance of a foul smell is much greater.  And tears, of course, from the smell. And blood, after you slit your wrists.

Seriously though, law school is still a lot of work, and you have to consider the cost in time, stress, frustration, and terror, not only the monetary costs.

But more importantly, these are not reasons to go. Reducing the costs simply lowers the threshold of how good you reasons need to be.  A $100,000 expense requires really good reasons, while a $1000 expense doesn’t need quite so much.

Imagine I offered to pay your entry fee and travel expenses for you to travel to Greece and run in the Spartathlon.  Your expenses are zero!  Well, the fact that it will cost you nothing is not a reason to run a 153 mile race.  You still need an independent reason to run it.

You could want to go for the glory of having completed one of he most daunting feats mankind has dreamed up. And then we could debate the merits of that reason. It’s really impressive, but no one even knows what a Spartathlon is, so there’s less glory that you may think…

Law school needs real reasons to go, and lower hurdles getting in are not reasons.

Reasons to Go to Law School #11-12

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on December 13th, 2010 by bl1y

Time for another round of Come Up With Two Good Reasons to Justify the Time, Trouble, and Expense of Law School.  The rules are simple, you need two reasons, and they need to be good.

Why did I go to law school? I got a full scholarship to law school, so the only cost to me is the loss of three years of earnings. No small cost, of course, but not the three figure student loan cost that most people have. I enrolled in law school nine years (and one useless-but-fun Masters degree) after undergrad. I worked for most of that time in Human Resources, making half what the other managers at my company made. Once I graduate, presuming I get an offer from the firm I’ll work for this summer, I’ll make more than double my old salary. I’ll work only a handful more hours (as an HR Manager I rarely worked less than 60 hours a week, for the privilege of $40k a year with no bonus and 2% yearly raises). And it isn’t my life’s dream to be a lawyer, but neither was Human Resources. Might as well make good money while slogging away in an office all week long, so at least I can pay for a maid and an occasional vacation, and for my kids to have good childhoods and some semblance of a college fund. My life’s dream, which was to work in the arts as a manager of a nice-sized theater company in a medium-sized city, is untenable in this recession. Since I do have kids to feed, I am skittish about ever trying to enter that field again, since arts budgets are always the first to go, and a salary that is dependent on charitable giving is never guaranteed. I don’t have the brain for engineering, I can’t face getting a PhD in order to work in academia, and even if I had the affinity to be a doctor, I don’t have the prereqs. The only other field I considered was nursing, but I chose law because I’m not sure I have the emotional fortitude to manage the death and misery that many nurses deal with on a daily basis.

However, if I’d had to pay out of pocket for law school, I absolutely would not go. Much as I enjoy it – and I do, finding it considerably easier and more flexible than my management job, with lots more opportunity to hang out with my two small children – it would not be worth paying full price for. Also, I would not have written so chipper a message to you if I didn’t have a solid summer job at a great firm in a city I like that has real prospects of turning into long term employment. *I’m positive that my management experience helped me there – I don’t think law school is a great place for fresh-out-of-undergrads.*

So maybe, since law school is free for me and I probably have a job already, this is cheating the question.

Sincerely, G, 2L at a school in the South ranked in the 40s PS – I very much enjoy your writing.

1. It’s Free

It’s not free.  I don’t just mean in terms of opportunity costs.  If you only got full tuition, there’s still the issue of room and board.  But you’d have to eat and pay rent either way, so this isn’t a real cost of law school, is it?  Not really, no.  But, if you took out loans to cover your living expenses, or relied on credit cards, the interest you accrue is a cost of law school.  If you had been working, you’d be paying those bills with cash on hand, not with debt.  Unless you have very favorable terms and pay off your loans quickly, law school may have increased your living expenses from 50-100% for three years.  Ouch!

And of course there’s other expenses, like text books, study guides, notebooks, pens, highlighters, post it tabs, whiskey, gifts for professors, cap and gown rental, bar exam study materials, bar exam fees, bar application fees, and a gun license.  Unless your scholarship covered your living expenses and included a stipend for all the ancillary costs, it wasn’t actually free.

Then, as you noted, there’s also opportunity costs.  $40,000 a year, with no bonus, and 2% yearly raises comes out to $122,416.  That is a big fracking expense.  Assuming the firm you’ll summer at pays its summer associates the same rate as first years, which you put at about $80,000, and assuming the program runs 10 weeks, you’ll get to deduct a little over $15,000 from your opportunity costs.  Still well over $100k.

The cost of a “free” law degree makes the cost of a “free” printer actually look like a good deal.

But, all this discussion is actually beside the point.  The reduced price of going isn’t a reason to go.  All it does is lower the bar for how good your two reasons need to be.  A good reason for getting a $10,000 degree might not hold up for a $100,000 degree.  But, simply being offered $10,000 instead of $100,000 isn’t a reason to go.

2. It Beats Human Resources

I’m guessing you couldn’t just start a band on the side and play at local hotels, or have a microbrewery in your back yard.  You know, the way other HR types make their lives worth living.

If you don’t think you can handle the psychology anguish nurses suffer from dealing with the misery of others, what makes you think law is a good idea?  How will you handle that twelve year old who go paralyzed after being hit by a drunk driver, or the couple going through a bitter divorce, of the family hoping to save their home from foreclosure?  Unless you’re dealing entirely with corporate clients, in which case your days of interacting with human beings are over, your job is largely to manage the misery of others.  People rarely seek legal counsel because their lives are going to swimmingly well.

It may seem like law gives you more flexibility with your schedule than your HR job, but you’ll soon learn the realities of being held hostage by court schedules and last minute deal changes.  Clients are whiny brats, and they want their issues handled immediately.  The partners you work for are the same way; they don’t care that a contract doesn’t even need to be finished for another two weeks, you need to put your life on hold and work until 2am every night until there’s simply no work left in the office.  And then, you can pack your bags, because you’re laid off now that there’s no work left.

As for the money, there’s no guarantee you’ll get that job after graduation, and no guarantee that you’ll keep it for long if you do get it.  Law jobs are as secure as the weighted average security of the clients’ jobs.

You need to consider that the median starting salary for full time working lawyers is $72,000.  This means half of the people working as full time attorneys make less than that.  Now consider that only something like 60% of graduates get full time legal jobs (I’ll see if I can dig up the data, but I think this number is right).  The vast majority of grads who are unemployed, working part time, or working in non-legal jobs are getting far less than $72,000.  this means that somewhere around 70% of law school grads earn less than $72,000.  Odds are this will include you, even if you do get a sweet summer job.

But, let’s assume you beat the odds and get the $80,000 job you mentioned. (And, there’s no way of knowing what summer job you’d get when you enrolled, so we’re no longer in reasons to go, but just reasons why it might not have been such a big mistake after all.)  It looks like after just 3 years of working, you’ll have made up for the opportunity cost of foregoing three years of income.

Not quite though.  Remember, taxes are progressive.  $80,000 is not twice as much as $40,000.  So, instead of three years to make up for the lost income, it may take 4 or 5.  Doesn’t sound to bad.  But, this is only if we measure opportunity costs in terms of dollars.  You also gave up three years of experience and seniority.  If you spent those three years working, and looking for a better job, there’s a fair chance you’d either be promoted internally, or find a better place to lateral to.

While law may have looked like a good move to find a better, and higher paying job, the far more reasonable option would have been to see what jobs you were qualified for that didn’t first require a three year break from the workforce.

So, what’s the final score?  One non-reason, and one pretty bad reason.  Definitely short of two good reasons.

[Do you think you've got two good reasons to go to law school?  E-mail them to nycbl1y@gmail.com and I'll tell you why you're wrong.]

Reasons to Go to Law School #9-10

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on December 2nd, 2010 by bl1y

It’s time once again for another contestant to play Give Two Good Reasons to Go to Law School.  The rules are simple, you need reasons, they need to be good (enough to justify the time, trouble, and expense), and you need two of them. Our next contestant is a 0L with trouble capitalizing my entire moniker.

Dear BL1y,

Hi my name is Eric and I’ve been a regular reader of your blog and currently in the process of applying the law school. As such it would seem to me that I should at least try to defend my decision to attend. Reading your blog, as well as Bitter lawyer and Above the Law are depressing eye-opening experiences. So I thank you for that. Actually I thank you for the simple fact that reading your blog is informative, kind of like watching the daily show instead of the new though (not an insult lol, actually kind of a complement :)) Anyway usually I am a negative and jaded person myself, extremely so, but my friend challenged me to look at the bright side so i started my own blog http://brightsideoflaw.blogspot.com/ where i attempt to do the impossible and find that actual bright side in pre-law, law school when i do attend, and eventually as a lawyer. So taking your challenge is pretty much a must for me at this point.

Any way as i was saying me being the disillusioned pessimistic person that i am, i already regret my major already (two useless majors! History and Philosophy) since it gives me no actual relevant experience to pursue a career with and that brings me to reason 1 for me at least.

Reason 1: for those students who stupidly bought into the hype of pre-law majors law school is the only other path other than teaching. Now i know a person recently wrote to you saying this exact thing, that she doesn’t want to teach but this is more than that. The reason to go to law school is to give you actual career options. As a pre-law student your only choices are teach or 3 years to get another degree or 3 years for law school….  no good reasons to do any of those, but going to law school seems to me to be a better option of the three to me. Not the best reason i know. actually pretty crappy. “nothing else for me to do” but it is a real reason. yet i know you answered this one at least two times by now so you can ignore it,…

Now for a good reason…

Reason 2. To learn about the law. WAIT i know your going to respond with that you don’t actually learn Law, but i don’t care about that. As a history major i absolutely loved taking history of law classes. And as a philosophy major i loved philosophy of law classes. I know going to law school and only studying these topics won’t prepare you for a career in law, but were simply talking about a reason to attend law school, and the fact is law school is probably the best place to learn about the theory, history and philosophy of law, which is what i want to do. The academic study of law is what interests me at the moment. You simply can’t go to barnes and nobles and pick up this information the same way from an actual teacher. This reason is assuming i get into a good school with worthy professors that can teach me etc.

Anyway have fun telling me i’m wrong. The challenge itself though let me assure you was depressingly hard, which is why my reason are so lame, but whatever.

All the best

Eric

Hoping for Columbia
USNews #4, $48,004/yr

Accepted to:

University of California – Los Angeles
USNews #15, $45,967/yr (out of state), $35,327/yr (in state)
Offered $9,000/yr scholarship.

University of Texas – Austin
USNews #15, $42,814/yr (out of state), $27,177/yr (in state)
Out of state tuition waived.

It’s like Christmas came early this year. This is going to be too easy.

1. Useless Majors, Gotta Do Something

You readily acknowledge that there are in fact other options than law school, such as pursuing a masters in a more useful area than your undergraduate programs, or perhaps an MBA.  “I have to pick something” is not actually a reason to pick any specific option, and it’s certainly not a reason to pick the most expensive, depressing option on the table.  Have you considered MBA programs? What about journalism? MFA? Library sciences? Culinary arts?  There are other options than law, and almost all of them are better.

2. I Want to Study Law in an Academic Setting

I took four philosophy of law classes while in undergrad, so I understand where you’re coming from.  But, the fact of the matter is that you won’t have deep, philosophical discussions about the law while in law school.  You’ll have three years of mastering arcane and outdated rules, while learning how to deal with asshole egomaniacal professors whose only real talents are sophistry and ball-hiding.  If your undergraduate philosophy program dealt heavily with analytical philosophy and logic, you’re going to be sorely disappointed at the quality of discussion you have in law school.

I do agree with you, however, that you can’t get a deep philosophical understanding of the law from walking in to a bookstore.  Bookstores are limited by shelf space. What you need to do is look around on Amazon.com or the Barnes and Noble website; there’s a much bigger selection there.  Want to learn about civil procedure? Not just the rules, but the underlying theories behind them? Read this. There’s lots of good book you can find on legal theory that will be better than any of the classroom discussions you have. I’d suggest checking out anything by Richard Posner.

The good thing about books is you can pick and choose what you want to study.  Law school will force you in to classes you have little or no interest in, either through mandatory parts of the curriculum, or just through scheduling conflicts and bad luck in lotteries.  If you see a specific class or professor you want to take, talk to the admissions office, tell them that class/professor is a big reason why you’re interested in attending that school, and ask if they can guarantee a spot in the class.

They will tell you no, and that should give you cause to reconsider going to law school for the intellectual stimulation.  It’s not just a gamble on your career options after graduation, it’s a gamble on what you’ll even get to take while there.

But, you seem to have already decided to go no matter what I tell you, so I’ll offer you some more practical advice given you bounded rationality: check out those books I mentioned. Put them on your Christmas wish list, and start teaching yourself both legal theory and the actual rules right now.  Not only will you give yourself a huge leg up on the competition when exams roll around, but you’ll be in a better position to make the most out of law school.

Ask yourself this: If you aren’t already reading these books on your own (as in reading more than what you classes assigned to you), how committed are you to really studying philosophy of law?

Finally, it may seem uncouth, but try negotiating better scholarships.  Don’t get suckered in by what looks like a large amount of free money. That’s a mistake I made. Focus on what the final price is, not how much they’re coming down from the original. The sticker price is marked way up anyways. Only suckers pay sticker price for law school. Assume their markdown still leaves them rolling in dough. It does.

Call up UCLA (or visit in person if you can), and tell them that you are looking at Texas, which has made a very generous offer, and while you would like to attend UCLA (assuming you prefer it to Texas), you can’t justify the extra expense, especially considering LA’s higher cost of living.  It won’t hurt to ask, and even if they come down and match the price, but you choose to go elsewhere anyways, turning them down after getting a better offer will earn you a set of brass balls.

If you can bring the price to something more reasonable, consider a joint degree program. Being in school an extra year or two means you’ll rack up more debt, but you’ll also have the chance to take the classes you want, get an extra summer job on your resume (it’s easier to get an internship while a student), and graduate with better employment prospects.

[If you think you have good reasons to go to law school, and want for me to make fun of them on my blog, send your pathetic excuse for logical reasoning and cost-benefit analysis to nycbl1y@gmail.com]

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What Were the Damages in Erie?

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on November 10th, 2010 by bl1y

A few days ago I posted a video of an NYU civil procedure class performing a skit that somehow is supposed to explain the Erie doctrine.  You can see NYU’s own coverage of the event here.  Now it’s time to look at just how much damage was done.

A semester in law school, not counting exam periods, lasts about 14 weeks.  And, in each of those weeks, an NYU 1L will have 15 hours of class room instruction (see, we didn’t count exam periods because there are no classes then).  Actually, at NYU you’ll have 15.5 hours the first semester, and 14.5 the second semester, if you have civil procedure first semester (which these kids obviously did), but it’s a 5 hour class, and replaced with a 4 hour class second semester.  The weird .5 comes from Lawyering being 2.5 credits per semester, taken both first and second semesters.  I’m just going with the average of 15 hours to keep things tidy.

So, 14 weeks multiplied by 15 hours per week means 210 total hours of classroom instruction for the semester.  Yearly tuition at NYU is $44,820, or $22,410 per semester.  This is just tuition, not total expenses with books, and fees, and room and board.  So, $22,410 for 210 hours of classroom instruction comes out to $106.71 per hour.

The Erie skit, not counting the vapid gifts to the professor (his tenured position and cushy salary doing part time work is his gift, you imbeciles!), lasts about 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour.  That’s $17.79 in tuition dollars going to that skit.

Per student.

Now, unless something big has changed since I attended, the 1Ls are divided in to 4 sections, and each section has two different civil procedure groups.  When I was there I believe we had about 450 1Ls, and I believe that number has gone up, but let’s just call it a conservative 50 students per civ pro class.  50 students x $17.79 per student is $889.50.

$889.50 for that sketch.  To me, that doesn’t actually sound like a whole lot of money when you compare it to the total cost of law school.  But, I think going back to the per-student figure is more enlightening.

$17.79 per student in the audience, $17.79 per student performing (yes, they pay to perform in class, not the other way around), and $17.79 per student who’d really rather just get a decent education and be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.  $17.79 per student to watch a performance which, given most classes’s attendance policies, students were more or less required to see.

Would you have paid $17.79 to watch that performance?

Would you have financed that $17.79 with non-dischargeable debt which you will be paying off for the next 10, 15, or 20 years?  When you include the interest, that $17.79 could easily blow up to $30 or $40 dollars per student.

But even in today’s dollars, let’s look at how much $17.79 is.  Just a block from where this performance took place (assuming it was in Vanderbilt Hall, which it looks like it is) is the Comedy Cellar.  Ticket prices Monday-Wednesday are $10, Thursday and Sunday are $12, and Friday and Saturday are $18.  The shows usually last about 2 hours, and involve 6-8 comedians performing short acts.

If you went to tonight (it’s Wednesday, so only $10) your opening act would be Modi:

Then, you would listen to 5 other comics who have been on Last Comic Standing, Z Rock, Howard Stern, and written for Dave Chappelle.  After that, you’d get your headliner, Dave Attell:

And then, to close, you’d have schmuck who only got so far as having a half hour special on Comedy Central.

Of course, Comedy Cellar, like most comedy clubs, has a 2 drink minimum.  Domestic beer is $5, imports are $6.  I’ll assume they have something like Sam Adams or another good American beer, so we’re going domestic.  $20 plus tip.  Would you rather pay $22 (tipping only on the drinks, not the ticket, duh) to see these comics, or $17.79 to have your legal education interrupted with an amateur Erie doctrine skit?

Would you rather get:

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The T is for ‘Tarded

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on October 21st, 2010 by bl1y

When I appeared on the Down by Lawcast I supposedly said something along the lines of the cognitive deficiency that makes people score a 155 on the LSAT is the same deficiency that makes you view that 155 as a sign that law school is the right place for you. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I said because I was a couple drinks in and don’t listen to other shows when I’m on them. I have to listen to myself all day long anyways, why make it worse for me? If wouldn’t even listen to my own show if I didn’t have to the audio editing.

Well, apparently a few people took offense to that.  Guess where they fell on the LSAT curve.  If you were one of those people, here’s some math (ah! oh no! numbers is hard!) for you to consider:

The median score for the LSAT is around 151.  So, let’s assume you take the LSAT, get a 158, see that you’re at about 77th percentile, and figure that’s pretty decent, you’ve got 17 percentile points between you and average.

Except then something weird happens between getting your score and going to law school, causing the median score to jump way up.  Actually, two weird things.

First, some people won’t enroll in law school, and the people who don’t enroll are more likely to be on the low end of the spectrum than the high end.  If everyone who got a 140 or lower didn’t enroll anywhere, the median score would go from 151 to 153, and your 77th percentile drops down to 73rd.

Now here’s the second strange thing that happens.  Assume 100 people take the LSAT, 1 person gets a 127 or less, and 1 person gets a 172 or higher (those two numbers are the top and bottom 1%).  The LSAT is offered four times a year, so at the end of a year, you’d expect 4 people with 172+ and 4 people with 127- right?  If you said yes, you probably sucked on the LSAT.

At the end of the year, 4 people will have 172+, but only 1 or 2 people will have a 127-.  Why?  Because low scoring test takers are more likely to retake the exam.  People who do well stop taking it.

How does this affect you?  It means the part of the curve below you consists of a lot of clones, and they’re artificially propping you up.  They’ll stop propping you up in law school and in real life, where they go back to only counting once.

Of course, some people with good scores won’t go to law school (maybe they’ll become doctors instead), and some people with high scores will retake the exam (because they want top 5, not just top 14).  But, in general, people with lower scores are less likely to enroll, and more likely to retake the LSAT.

The LSAT is taken about 150,000 times a year, but law schools enroll only around 45,000 1Ls.  Your 77th percentile that looked so hot before isn’t just dropping down to 73rd, but probably closer to 50th.  If you started at the 50th percentile, you’re not safely in the bottom third.

So now, when you get your 158 on the LSAT, should you still be taking that as a sign you should go to law school?  Probably not.

Of course, the LSAT pretty much only tests logical reasoning and reading comprehension, and if you’re not good at those skills, you’re not going to understand any of this, and you’re probably not going to understand why it’s a bad idea for you to go law school in the first place.  After all, someone has to feed law tier four law school deans.  If not you, then who?

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Reason to Go to Law School #8

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on October 6th, 2010 by bl1y

Another brave fan boy reader has decided to take up my “find two good reasons for going to law school” challenge.  Well, only kinda:

For your “Reasons Not to Go to Law School” challenge, I think you already
covered mine somewhere in the earlier 7. I’ve had an interest in the law
since around the 10th grade of high school (so 14ish years now). Worked in
the legal arena (law firms, state bar, Wake Co Courthouse, etc) when I was
a college dropout and genuinely enjoyed the work. Then lured by the $$$$
of going into the IP law field given my undergrad degree in computer
science. And after 1L decided I hated contracts and would derive far more
enjoyment from throwing people in prison (recognizing up front I may end
up wasting my life dealing with traffic citations).

Fire away.

@North Carolina Central University School of Law
USNews Tier 4, $20,835/yr (out-of-state), $8,097/yr (in-state)

Hold on…wait, you go where?  To justify even the $40 application fee to a school that does not report any employment data, you’re going to need two very good reasons.  And, since we can see you didn’t provide a second reason at all, we can go ahead and mark this as failed.

Also, it’s the reasons to go to law school school challenge, not the reasons not to go.  That horse has been beaten more than TTT job prospects.

But, to be fair, and because I don’t really have anything else to do, let’s break down the one reason you did give:

1. I’ve hung around lawyers a lot and it seems neato.

Well, amazingly, you actually provided the rebuttal to your own reason for going.  How very Socratic of you.  Being around lawyers, and even working in a law firm or court house, doesn’t really give you that great of an idea of what going to law school will be like, or what legal practice will be like.  Odds are you won’t see a lot of the behind the scenes stuff, like the late hours, the never ending collections calls, or the slow expansion of lawyer waistlines and ass.

The fact of the matter is being around Boomer, or older Gen X lawyers is going to give you a very false impression of what law school and legal work is like.  When the people you work around were in law school, the financial burden was somewhere around 1/4th of what it is now.  And, because the market hadn’t been so saturated, even TTT grads could find decent work.  Now, people mortgage their future for the opportunity to do electronic doc review, a job that didn’t even exist when your prior bosses were in law school.  Older attorneys are generally out of touch with that, seeing only the few younger lawyers that succeed, and not ever contemplating the ever growing mass that will circle the drain for years before dying of alcoholism.

Now, generally speaking, while your reason doesn’t pan out, it actually isn’t particularly stupid.  It seems like you did your homework, at least as much as one could hope for.  As an outsider you can’t be blamed for not having an insider’s perspective.  But, you can be blamed for not realizing that a Tier 4 school is probably a bad idea. Seriously, the hell were you thinking?

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Reasons to Go to Law School #6-7

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on October 4th, 2010 by bl1y

A while back I asked readers to write in with what they think are legitimate reasons to go to law school with the prediction that no one would be able to come up with two reasons good enough to justify the tuition, opportunity costs, and the time, effort and stress of actually going to law school.  And then I was a bad BL1Y and didn’t get around to finish posting the responses I got, but now I’m back in the saddle.

[Click here for Reasons #1-3, and #4-5.]

BL1Y,

I’m enjoying your  blog, and am intrigued by your challenge.  Not that I think law school is a great investment, but the immense cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing while studying the bar has helped me come up with a few reasons:

1.  Lawyers know more about what the hell is going on than the average person.  When I’m in the dentist’s chair, and the dentist mumbles some words to the hygienist, I want to know what he’s saying.  Is it a cavity?  A broken crown?  A fucking midget in there?  I have no clue.  Well, that’s how non-lawyers feel in much of their everyday lives.  “Can the store charge me for this?”  “What would happen if I don’t pay my mechanic?”  “Can cops really stick their batons THERE?” etc.  And any lawyer/law student realizes how many such questions come up for the layperson, if only because such laypeople constantly ask us.  This is only compounded by the fact that law is often esoteric and counterintuitive.  So, because law touches every part of our lives, and non-lawyers can never hope to understand much of it, going to law school genuinely helps us know what is going on, and more so than any other profession.

2.  It makes one marketable despite a worthless undergrad degree.  I got a religious studies undergrad degree.  There are no realistic options with that degree, besides a career in academia, which would require at least a doctorate just to get paid even less than crappy lawyers.  Even in the current climate, I am considerably more marketable with a law degree than with the same amount of schooling in religious studies.  Perhaps there are other graduate degrees (MBAs?) that one can get without taking a single related class in undergrad, but in all of those, your classmates will be likely people with related majors.  I would not like to sit in an MBA class filled with marketing and accounting majors.  And once graduated from MBA school, I would like to compete with such people even less.

And there it is.  Fire at will.  And keep up the good blogging!

@ University of Nebraska – Lincoln
US News #93, $26,600/yr (out of state), $12,154/yr (in state)

1. To become a more informed citizen

Yes and no.  If you’re watching My Cousin Vinny, having gone to law school and taken evidence will probably give a slightly better understanding of what’s going on.  Taking criminal procedure will make you understand why the verdict in 12 Angry Men should have been thrown out (jurors can’t conduct experiments).  But, in general a fresh law grad won’t understand the legal world they live in any better than lay people.  You won’t learn in law school that burping just before being administered a breathalyzer will invalidate the test (only in certain states).  If anything, law school will make you worse at understanding everyday legal concepts because law school doesn’t work at ground level.  You learn about Erie Doctrine, promissory estoppel, and the rule against perpetuities, you know, shit you don’t actually use.  Law students go around thinking everything is a tort that they can sue over, but don’t understand the costs of prosecuting will outweigh any potential award.  If you’re really interested in becoming more educated about the law, pick up a couple text books and study guides and just teach yourself the material.  It’s a lot cheaper, and you won’t have to suffer through other classes that will never be relevant to your life.

2. The only degree worse than Women’s Studies

Religious studies? The hell were you thinking? I guess for you, yeah, you become more marketable with a law degree.  But, a JD is not the “open every door” kind of degree law schools like to tell you it is. You are now qualified for exactly one additional career: lawyer. If that’s what you want to be for at least the next 15 years of your life, then it is a good degree to get. Otherwise, you’re spending a lot of time and money to expand your marketability by a very small amount.  Also, in law school and in the legal market you will still have to compete with people who have related undergraduate degrees.  The people with political science and economics degrees will kick your ass when it comes to answering the social policy questions on exams.  The people with science backgrounds will push you out of the IP law practice, and the kids with accounting background will grab all the tax law jobs.  Employers will look at your resume, see your degree in legal studies and know you only went to law school because you had no other options, not because you’re the kind of robot that wants to spend 100 hours a week in the office.

[Do you think you have some good reasons to go to law school?  E-mail them to nycbl1y@gmail.com, and I'll happily tell you why you're wrong.]

Required Reading at HLS

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on September 20th, 2010 by bl1y

As reported on Above the Law today, Harvard has recently undergone a complete overhaul of its grading system.  But, they didn’t tell their students.  No letters, no e-mails, no bulletin board fliers.  Dean Martha Minnow had this to say about allegations of backroom reform:

Students were informed the same way that they were informed about everything.  We’ve concluded that the only way to be sure that we can be clear about what are the governing rules of the school is to say they’re in the Handbook, and you’re responsible for knowing what’s in the Handbook.

You concluded that the only way for students to be informed was to assume they would read the handbook?  Not just once, but read it every year to see if there are any changes from the last time.  Are you kidding me?  Fans of The Paper Chase TV series will recall that even Mr. Hart didn’t read the handbook.

Here’s what I have concluded is another, better option: inform the students of major changes to the handbook.

Capt. Ross: Corporal Barnes, I hold here the Marine Corps Outline for Recruit Training. You’re familiar with this book?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: You’ve read it?
Cpl. Barnes: Yes, sir.
Capt. Ross: Good. Would you open it up to the chapter that deals with code reds, please?
Cpl. Barnes: Sir?
Capt. Ross: Just flip open to the page of the book that talks about code reds.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, sir code red is a term that we use, I mean, just down at Gitmo, I really don’t think that…
Capt. Ross: Ah, we’re in luck then. Standard Operating Procedures, Rifle Security Company, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Now I assume we’ll find the term code red and its definition in that book. Am I right?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir.
Capt. Ross: Coporal Barnes, I’m a Marine. Is there no book. No pamphlet or manual, no regulation or set of written orders or instructions that lets me know that, as a Marine, one of my duties is to perform code reds?
Cpl. Barnes: No sir. No book, sir.
Capt. Ross: No further questions.
[as Ross walks back to his table Kaffee takes the book out of his hand]
Kaffee: Corporal would you open this book up to the part that says that where the mess hall is.
Cpl. Barnes: Well, Lt Kaffee, that’s not in the book either, sir.
Kaffee: You mean to say the entire time you’ve been at Gitmo you’ve never had a meal?
Cpl. Barnes: No, sir. Three squares a day, sir.
Kaffee: Well, I don’t understand. How did you know where the mess hall was if it wasn’t in this book?
Cpl. Barnes: I guess I just followed the crowd at chow time, sir.
Kaffee: Thanks. No more questions.

Because I’m feeling particularly froggy today, I am going to issue a bounty.  If you are a Harvard law student and write “TL;DR” in large red letters across the cover of your handbook and leave it at the front door of Langdell Hall, I will send you $10 cash money.  (Limit to the first 5 takers, in case this somehow catches on.)

You must take a close up picture of the book (so we can see TL;DR on it), and also take a picture further back so we can see that it’s actually at Langdell Hall.  E-mail pictures to nycbl1y@gmail.com, must be from your Harvard e-mail account, and if your pictures are satisfactory, I will reply and ask for your mailing address to send you your prize.

Also, I encourage all Harvard Law students to respond to any e-mail from the law school administration with a request that all further communication be made through the handbook.

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