Reasons to Go to Law School #4-5

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 17th, 2010 by bl1y

We have another entry in my challenge to you fine folks out there to come up with two good reasons for going to law school.

(1) I absolutely hated my job teaching high school.  Five years in and an M.Ed. later, I was miserable.  Anything different would have been good, and an increase in pay from a teacher’s scale made in-state law school a sure bet, despite the debt.

(2) I’m good at reading and comprehending complicated documents and producing quality written work with a short turn-around time.  Why didn’t I think of law school earlier?  I didn’t know what being a lawyer was about–and this is exactly what being a lawyer is about.

Law school = net benefit for me.  My life has been significantly upgraded from where I was three years ago.  I don’t dispute the assertion that law school is a bad idea for a lot of people–not in the least.  For people like me, law school is better than an okay idea.  It was a great investment.

Fire away, BL1Y.

@Florida State University School of Law
USNews #47, $33,593/yr (out of state), $14,228/yr (in-state)

1. I hate teaching.

That isn’t a reason to go to law school.  That’s simply a reason not to be a teacher.

As for the increase in pay…don’t bet the house on it.  Average starting salary for a teacher in Florida is $30,700, and the average of all teachers in Florida is $42,433.  You’re teaching high school, which I assume pays better than elementary or middle school, and had five years of experience, so I’ll assume you were somewhere around that $42,000 mark.

Median starting salary for the law class of 2008 was $62,000, and the median starting salary in 2006 was $52,000.  The class of 2008 got the benefit of sky rocketing salaries, so I’m guessing salaries are back down closer to the $52,000 mark.  That’s not really a huge increase in salary, especially when you factor in three years of lost income plus student loan payments.  You’re at a decent school, so maybe you’ll land a better paying job, but it’s a pretty poor gamble to make.

And, if job satisfaction is your main complaint, it’s not very wise to go into a field notorious for its low job satisfaction rates.  Oddly enough, the ABA Journal has reported that lawyers are running towards teaching as a new career path.

2. I enjoy legal work.

Looks like you just happened to get lucky here.  I will point out that you didn’t know what legal work was going to be like, and there was a better than fair chance you would hate it like most other lawyers, so it’s in general a bad idea to go to law school hoping you will enjoy the day to day work of an attorney.

But hey, good for you.  It turns out that you enjoy rushing to crank out monotonous paperwork that will ultimately contribute nothing to society.  There’s no arguing with taste, you like what you like.  But, I think for most people this would be a reason not to go.  For me, not only did I hate legal work, I sincerely did not want to become someone who enjoyed it.

So there you have it folks…I think somewhere in there is about half a reason to go to law school.  Do you think you have a good reason?  Do you have two?  E-mail them to nycbl1y@gmail.com and I’ll explain to the world why you’re wrong.

[You can read entries 1-3 here.]

Reasons to Go to Law School #1-3

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 11th, 2010 by bl1y

Earlier this week I issued a challenge: Identify two good reasons to go to law school.  And, much to the satisfaction of my ego, some people have responded.  Here is the first e-mail I received:

BL1Y,

I was talking with a few of my law school friends about this. And depressingly, you are right. Most of us can think of one good reason, at best. However, a friend offered up her reasons, and here they are: 1. Genuine interest in the law and 2. Bank of Mom & Dad are footing the bill.

I must admit, those two reasons sound pretty solid (better than mine – “I couldn’t think of anything else to do after undergrad”).

Feel free to tear apart her reasons and mine (though going after me would be too easy in this case).

@Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
USNews #98, $37,850/yr

First, let me say that I’m flattered you and your friends sit around discussing what you read on my blog.  I am a huge egomaniac, and this pleases me.  Second, get a life.  Moving on to the reasons presented here…

1. Genuine interest in the law.

This one is a bit ambiguous as to whether it is an interest in practicing law, or an interesting in being a lawyer, which are two worlds apart.  I undergrad I took four philosophy of law classes and found them fascinating.  Law school was far less interesting, and legal practice bore no resemblance to the academic aspects of either.  But, we’re not playing Reasons to Be a Lawyer, it’s Reasons to Go to Law School, so I’m going to go ahead and assume this is a purely academic interest in the law, and not an interest in being a lawyer.

If you are genuinely interested in studying law, law school is not the place to do it.  You will have several required classes that you will likely have no interest in, and you have to deal with scheduling conflicts and class lotteries to get into the ones you really want.  If you want to study law, don’t go to law school, go to the law school book store.  You’ll save yourself about $100,000 and a lot of time and frustration.

I’m going to let the readers put this to a vote though.  Is an academic interest in law a good reason to go to law school?  Not just any reason, but a good one.

Is the desire to study law a good reason to go to law school?

View Results

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2. Mom and Dad are footing the bill.

This isn’t actually a reason to go to law school.  All this does is lower the bar for how good your reasons need to be.  You need super compelling reasons to spend a mountain of cash on a law degree, but only so-so reasons to get one for free.  But, you’re not getting a law degree for free.  You have three years of lost wages, so law school is going to cost you somewhere between $90,000 and $180,000 in lost income, though I suspect Mom and Dad are providing some living expenses, which means the lost income isn’t quite as drastic.

More importantly, however, Mommy and Daddy aren’t going to law school for you (unless you’re one of the 40% or so of law students who cheat, largely by having Daddy lawyer write their lawyering brief and take home exams).  You, not Mom and Dad, have to put up with three years of all the work, stress, and socially backwards personalities that go along with law school.  So, while having your parents pony up the money lowers the bar for how good your reasons need to be, it does not bring the bar down to zero, and it is not itself a reason to go.

3. Nothing better to do after undergrad.

How about nothing?  Seriously, lounge around in your underwear all day playing X-Box and eating Cheetos.  Being bored is not a reason to subject yourself to a mountain of debt and three years of torture.  If you can’t think of anything better to do, that is clearly just a lack of imagination.  How about getting a job?  Get a little green in your pocket, maybe some experience, and take some time to figure out what you really enjoy doing and what you hate doing.

Of course, I shouldn’t come down too hard on you.  This is the reason I went to law school.  I had a degree in English and Philosophy.  I didn’t really know what else to do, and figured law school sounded respectable.  People want their daughters to marry doctors and lawyers, right?  Maybe I’d make some cash and get laid, though mostly my reason for going was I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Too bad I never seriously considered getting an MFA.  What the hell was wrong with me?

[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.]

Reason Not to Go to Law School #50

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 9th, 2010 by bl1y

Here it is…the big one…are you ready for it?

There aren’t two good reasons to go.

Boom!

That’s right, you shouldn’t go to law school because, odds are, you cannot come up with two good reasons for doing so.  I can come up with two good reasons to eat McNuggets (delicious and convenient), so if you can’t come up with two good reasons to spend 3 years and $100,000 on law school, you really should be reconsidering your decision.

So certain am I that no one will come up with two good reasons that I am going to issue a challenge to anyone out there who thinks law school is a good idea.  Send your reasons to nycbl1y@gmail.com, and I will explain, in detail, why those reasons are bad.  Don’t have two?  Doesn’t matter.  If you can find just one good reason to go, you’re at least half way there.  Send it in, and I will write a post explaining why you are wrong.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #49

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 7th, 2010 by bl1y

Arms Race!

When you start law school in the fall there will be a few professors who have written study guides for their own classes, but they insist you do not read them until exam time is closer, because doing so will make the class experience less valuable to you.

A few weeks later, you’ll start to realize that when you get called on, you say dumb stuff and the professor openly exposes every tiny problem with your comments, but yet there are other students who engage in intelligent discourse with the professor.  Those other students read his study guide.  …And you should too.

But, you don’t read it just to save a little class room embarrassment, after all, most tests are graded anonymously and class room performance won’t affect your grade.  Read it early because it will help you understand the lectures and because you have a lot more free time at the beginning of the semester than at the end.  You can always read it later too, but then you’ve read it twice and have a leg up on the people just starting to read it for the first time.

Law students routinely engage in various forms of arms racing.  The most common is probably forming study groups.  Since classes are graded on a curve, studying early can really help your grade, but only if other people aren’t doing it, so it’s not just about getting started early, but getting started first.  You don’t want to be the kid who’s shocked that people have already formed their study groups weeks before you even learned what an outline looks like.

There is a way to completely ensure you won’t fall behind in the studying arms race.  No, you cannot form a pact with your fellow students to slack off until after Thanksgiving.  Half of law students cheat on exams, so they won’t think twice about breaking your pact.  The answer is to start studying right now.

That’s right, you’re not in school yet, you’re just enjoying your last summer.  Too bad.  This is the perfect time to start studying.  You have an abundance of free time that will disappear in law school.  During the summer you can easily read most of the materials that will be covered your first semester, so when you start school you have a huge leg up on the competition.

Go to your school’s website, find the professors that teach 1L classes, and see if any of them have written any study guides.  If so, buy them, and read them.  If not, just buy study guides from other professors.  Any time a case is mentioned, find it for free online somewhere, print it out, and read it two or three times.

If you study 8-10 hours a week this summer, you’ll still have plenty of free time for goofing off and getting drunk.  But, when law school starts, you’ll be spending your evenings reviewing material instead of trying to parse difficult cases for the first time.  You’ll be less stress, better informed, and light years ahead of the other students.

Remember, you’ll be interviewing for your second summer job before your 2L year, and you’ll only have your 1L grades to go on.  That second summer job will likely determine the outcome of the rest of your career, so a couple higher grades can be the difference in a multi-million dollar partnership track or contract attorney basement dwelling.

And, your first semester grades are more important than your second semester grades, because they’ll be the only grades you have when you go looking for your first summer job.  A good job that summer will make it a lot easier to land a great job second summer.

Lastly, be sure to pray that studying so early doesn’t catch on, because all you kids are royally screwed.  Sorry, but there is no detente.

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Reason Not to Go to Fucking NYU #1

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

On or about April 17th I sent a request to the NYU records office to have them mail a degree certification form to the Alabama State Bar.  It took them until yesterday to mail it.

On Wednesday the Alabama Bar sent me a notice that I had until next Saturday to get the certificate in.  Final deadline.  No fucking around.  Miss it and I get to apply for the February 2011 bar exam.

Mother fucking NYU, you dirty fucking whores.

[Also, NYU is over priced and doesn't teach you anything, and Peggy Cooper Davis has publicly lied about the contents and quality of the NYU Lawyering Program.]

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #48.5

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

Yesterday, in Reason #48, I discussed that you’d be better off playing with trains than going to law school.  But, that post was a bit incomplete.

The mid-career salary for a New York train worker is over $100,000, and the median starting salary for an attorney right now is somewhere between $62,000 and $72,000 (if they can find a job at all).  Of course, mid-career and starting salaries are very different.  But, I don’t have the starting salary for a train worker, or the mid-career salary for an attorney, and don’t care to search for them right now.

But, I will add two little bits of information that should help in comparing the two career paths.

First, the train workers don’t have to go to law school.  Thus, they have a 3 year lead on getting to that fat mid-career salary.

Second, train workers have a very powerful union protecting their jobs.  Odds that they will get to the $100,000 is very good.  Lawyers have no job security and must pray on a daily basis that their boss doesn’t pull a Tarkin and declare that they are “far too trusting.”

Reason Not to Go to Law School #48

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on June 3rd, 2010 by bl1y

You could play with trains instead.

More than 8000 of New York City’s MTA employees earn salaries over $100,000 a year.

Over 25% of the Long Island Rail Road’s employees earn over $100,000.  More than 50 LIRR employees earn at least $200,000 a year, including two repairmen and a dozen police officers.

At Metro North, 24% of employees earn over $100,000.

According to a researcher at Empire Center, six figures is quickly becoming the norm for railway workers.

Compare that to the median starting salary for the law class of 2008: $72,000, and that was at the height of the associate bubble.  The median starting salary for the class of 2006 was $62,000.

While the people who land the big law jobs will be making more than the average rail worker, everyone else is going to be quite a bit lower.  And, you don’t need to spend 3 years and $100,000+ in law school to work on the rail road.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #47

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on May 23rd, 2010 by bl1y

The legal hiring donut.

Wow, look, two pink slips.  One for me and one for…hm… T-Pain.

I missed the boat, and
I’m unemployed, and
Moved in with the parents and gotta take the bar again,
Should’a been king of the world pullin’ one-sixty kilo,
Maybe happened for you, but not for me-oh.

Never thought I’d miss the boat,
It’s one big downhill road,
Sally Mae, stop calling meee.

This question comes from a reader, “That Guy,” who posted it in response to Reason #42 Not to Go to Law School.

I find it surprising that you know of people who were unable to find big law employment at NYU a T5 (T6) school. As someone questioning whether to go to law school, BL1Y, is it true that you’re pretty much fucked if you can’t land a big law position right out of law school since most big firms don’t hire unemployed recent gradates?

Yeah.  Pretty much.

Law firms have two roads in, you can either be recruited from your law school, or you can join as a lateral hire.  Law student recruiting usually goes through an on campus interview (OCI) week  where you’ll get a job for your second summer (few firms hire summer associates in their first summer).  At the end of the summer, you’ll probably get an offer for full time employment after graduation, starting around October (but with deferrals January, or even the next January).  In a good economy, about half of the firms that do on campus interviews will also consider 3L students who either didn’t get an offer from their summer gig, didn’t want to take it, or did a non-firm job for their summer.  Doesn’t mean half of the 3Ls that are looking for jobs will find them this way, just that half of the firms are willing to hear them out.

Then there’s lateral hiring for experienced attorneys.  These positions are aimed at either midlevel or senior associates, and typically ask for 3-5 years or 6-8 years of experience, and they generally are seeking people with very specific backgrounds, such as 3-5 years of international natural gas pipeline contract litigation experience.

This creates a gap for people in the 0-2 years experience range.  You either have no experience, or what little experience you have is fragmented across a dozen areas of law, so you don’t have in depth knowledge of anything.  There’s not really anything you bring to the table that’s different than a fresh graduate.

But, hiring a junior associate outside of the normal model creates a lot of extra work for law firms.  You’re not fitting into the training schedule they had set up and all the little meet’n'drinks they plan for the new arrivals.  Why bother with making special accomodations for someone when there’s a hundred clones that are less trouble?  Plus, you have the smell of unemployment on you, so firms will suspect there’s something wrong with you.  It’s like having a dry spell and then trying to get laid.  Girls can tell, and they assume there’s a good reason other girls have been staying away from you.  Why risk it?

That’s not to say there are zero law firm job opportunities for these people, but they are extremely rare.  And, when they do pop up, the people with 3-5 years of specialized experience are going to be your competition, not just other people who missed the law firm boat.

And don’t think you can go to a midsized firm, get some experience, and then transition into big law.  The type of work you do at a midsized firm can be entirely different from big law work.  You’re not going to be handling any multi-billion dollar mergers at Fred and Jack’s Law Firm and Tire Center.  It’s not just years of experience, but the kind of experience you’re getting.

I hope this helps you make your decision.  If you’re still on the fence, try to come up with two good reasons you want to be a lawyer.  If you can’t, that’s a good sign you should be doing something else.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #46

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on May 14th, 2010 by bl1y

Dedman.

Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law is now offering to let law firms take a “test drive” of their grads.  Under the new programs, Dedman will pay a firm $3,500 to cover the cost of hiring one of its grads for a month.  (Apparently in Texas they haven’t heard of 2L summer.)  If the graduate is kept on full time, Dedman pony up another $3,500 to pay for the new associate’s second month’s salary too.

As pointed out on Above the Law, this will likely just put $7,000 in the pockets of firms that were already planning to hire a Dedman student anyways.  A $7,000 incentive isn’t really going to sway hiring decisions.

But, there’s something far more interesting going on, and to take a look at that, you’re going to need to take out your calculators.

$3,500 a month x 12 months = $42,000 a year.

Dedman tuition is just over $38,400.

$38,400 x 3 years = ~$115,000.

Let’s assume you took out loans to pay for tuition, but magically didn’t need to take out loans to cover anything else, like living expenses or bar prep classes, so you graduate with exactly $115,000 in debt.

Let’s also assume a 20 year repayment period and an interest rate of 6.0%.  Everyone done the calculations?  What did you get for a monthly loan payment?

$823.90, and that works out to just under $10,000 a year.

$42,000 – $10,000 = $32,000.  Think you could earn a little better than $32k a year without your law degree?

Yeah, great fracking investment.

PS: In case you’re thinking these numbers are unique to some fourth tier toilet you’ve never heard of like Dedman, …yeah, it’s actually ranked #48.  …Tier 1 and they have to pay people to take their graduates.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #45

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on May 12th, 2010 by bl1y

Practicing law will kill you.

According to a study from the European Heart Journal, people who regularly work 3-4 hours of overtime are 60% more likely to suffer from heart disease.  The study is using a 7 hour work day as the base, and so 3-4 hours of OT is a 10-11 hour workday.

Now let’s do a little number crunching…let’s assume you bill 2000 hours a year (kinda low), have a 4:1 billable to non-billable ratio (pretty awesome), and work 50 weeks a year (pretty normal), that comes out to…10 hours a day.  And that’s the low end of the hours lawyers put in.  Many lawyers bill 2,400 hours or more, which means 12.5 hour days.

The reasons for the increase risk of heart disease haven’t been proven, but a few seem obvious, such as less time for exercise, eating more fast food, and working while sick.  Not to mention the stress.  (Hint: your average lawyer has a more stressful job than your average British civil servant.)

And let’s not forget that one big other factor that will certainly affect your health as a lawyer: spending time with other lawyers.

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