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Have you ever spent a Thanksgiving reviewing 1.2 million pages of billing records in a warehouse in Topica?
October 20, 2010 9:05 AM   Subscribe

So you want to go to law school?(SLYT)

Ok, not quite a single link. The video assumes that the law student will atually find a job. Unfortunately, there are increasing reports of employment inflation by law schools (warning: terrible viewing format). This in turn is creating pressure by law students for greater transparency in employment numbers. Whatever the reason not to go to law school, will potential applicants ever listen? Probably not. Previously

Text to movie previously.
posted by Muddler (118 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
My friends that graduated law school a few years back confirm that this video is 100% accurate, and cannot be improved upon.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:08 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lesson one in law school -- cui bono? ("Who stands to gain from this?")

Practicing lawyers definitely stand to gain from propagating the idea that a lawyer's life is hell, because the fewer people are practicing law, the more $ their services command.

Not to say the life of a lawyer can't be hellish, but something to consider.
posted by foursentences at 9:10 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it's a shirt, but the pockets on the guy look like saggy breasts and the buttons, nipples.
posted by boo_radley at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


You should be committed.
posted by jph at 9:16 AM on October 20, 2010


> I LIKE YOUR BLACKBERRY
> I DO NOT LIKE MY BLACKBERRY

jesus.
posted by boo_radley at 9:16 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a demand for lawyers, especially from middle class/upper middle class clients. Think small business owners. However, law schools don't teach people the skills they need to become solo/small firm practitioners.

Also, I laughed really hard at the part of the video where the the would be lawyer talks about wanting to help people. I have plenty of former classmates that said the same thing, and ended up at law firms where they spend their time crushing the lives of ordinary people on behalf of their corporate masters. Irony.
posted by wuwei at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Practicing lawyers definitely stand to gain from propagating the idea that a lawyer's life is hell, because the fewer people are practicing law, the more $ their services command.

Eh, not really, or at least it's not as tightly correlated as you might think. The number of lawyers in the country has grown significantly yet attorneys fees have grown as well.

Here's what I don't understand about the legal recession. Why would a large firm cut its number of associates hired yet still offer $160,000 to those it does hire? In this economy it could offer $80,000 per associate and still have fully qualified applicants beating down its door.
posted by jedicus at 9:19 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't want to go to lawschool. One might think they want to, people even do attend and pay for lawschool, but statistically few of them last more than a few years before they are done, saddled with huge debts and starting over. Get an MFA instead there's more likelihood you'll do something interesting and you'll be just as broke. Heck maybe you'd even land a gig as an actor as a lawyer on tv.
posted by humanfont at 9:19 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thing has rapidly spread through the legal community. It is so hilarious you cannot believe it. It is pretty much true, but I do often make Constitutional arguments in my cases. We could have appealed to the Supreme Court in one case, but my client just couldn't have afforded it. (Doubt we would have gotten cert anyway.) I would have argued that case at a low rate, but I'm sure some guy from Harvard in the 1970s could have done it better. It isn't just 4 guys arguing these cases, but all of the heavily cited Supreme Court stuff is from like three law firms, for sure.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2010


I don't know anything about careers in law, but that was funny.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2010


Lesson one in law school -- cui bono? ("Who stands to gain from this?")

Practicing lawyers definitely stand to gain from propagating the idea that a lawyer's life is hell, because the fewer people are practicing law, the more $ their services command.

Not to say the life of a lawyer can't be hellish, but something to consider.


I see you're a law student. You'll see.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 AM on October 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


I want to help people

So you were pre-med but got a C in organic chemistry

Classic!
posted by jannw at 9:22 AM on October 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Where is Topica? Is it in the tropica of Topica?
posted by Mister_A at 9:23 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I laughed really hard at the part of the video where the the would be lawyer talks about wanting to help people. I have plenty of former classmates that said the same thing, and ended up at law firms where they spend their time crushing the lives of ordinary people on behalf of their corporate masters. Irony.

Or the other classic: all those starry-eyed first years interested in 'international law,' as though it meant a lot of jet-setting around and rubbing elbows with influential politicians or somesuch. Little do they know most of the actual work involves tax issues and at best you'll be rubbing elbows with a mid-level bureaucrat.

Legal education needs a dramatic restructuring around what the vast majority of graduates actually do. With that in mind you could probably shave a full year off the JD program.

Let LL.M and SJD programs be redesigned for the people who want to become law professors or otherwise think someone will pay them to 'grapple with the great legal questions of the day.'
posted by jedicus at 9:24 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


The thing is, for any profession, I think I could find someone who can bitch for an hour and give dozens of reasons why it's a bad or unrealistic career choice.
posted by bobo123 at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here's what I don't understand about the legal recession. Why would a large firm cut its number of associates hired yet still offer $160,000 to those it does hire? In this economy it could offer $80,000 per associate and still have fully qualified applicants beating down its door.

Because they want to have a culture of competition for partner slots and encourage those who can get those slots and make huge bucks, while firing those who don't fit that profile.

I was very surprised when I got canned from my first small firm job. Despite making $150 less per hour than the Firm principal, I was billing out more per month than he was and collecting about as much, even though he was giving me the deadbeats he didn't feel comfortable collecting from. (thank you firm billing software for telling me that!) But a spouse entered the picture and there was going to be no partnership no matter how much I was making for them after that. I've had so many people tell me similar stories, where they cut you out just as you are really starting to make money.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I saw this on ATL a few days ago and sent it to every one of my pre-law friends. I'm pretty sure most of them cried. As the former premed who got a C in organic chemistry, I for one feel like a total cliche for even thinking about law school.
posted by pecknpah at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or the other classic: all those starry-eyed first years interested in 'international law,' as though it meant a lot of jet-setting around and rubbing elbows with influential politicians or somesuch. Little do they know most of the actual work involves tax issues and at best you'll be rubbing elbows with a mid-level bureaucrat.

Or worse, my suite-mate defends African war criminals in addition to her local practice. I'd joke with her--do your clients ever tell you what a hardass they are and you tell them your other client herded 200 people into a church and burned them alive?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Who owns Blackacre?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


"If you say it's a living, breathing document I may kill myself."
posted by rusty at 9:28 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing is, for any profession, I think I could find someone who can bitch for an hour and give dozens of reasons why it's a bad or unrealistic career choice.

But all of those other careers have people regaining their sanity and not doing it. Law, not so much. Either they continue to BS themselves, or worse, realize it after they've taken out the first $40k in loans. You get trapped very fast.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on October 20, 2010


Because they want to have a culture of competition for partner slots and encourage those who can get those slots and make huge bucks, while firing those who don't fit that profile.

It seems like the culture would be even more competitive if you doubled the associate base while keeping the number of partner slots the same.

I imagine there are reasons why large law firms get organized the way they do, but I'll confess that as someone outside looking in it makes no sense to me.
posted by jedicus at 9:30 AM on October 20, 2010


Despite the fact that everyone I know who went to law school is now debt ridden and unemployed and everyone I knew in art school is now making bank, my Mom still keeps trying to get me to suddenly change carrers.

Maybe I should send her this video....
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Have you ever spent a Thanksgiving reviewing 1.2 million pages of billing records in a warehouse in Topica

Do you mean "tapioca"?
posted by mmrtnt at 9:32 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ok, ok - just realized that in a total moment of phonetic bad spelling and lack of any common sense brain power to remember 5th grade spelling, I spelled Topeka Topica...wow. Sorry to everyone in Kansas. Cortex, feel free to edit the spelling or keep it for all appropriate mocking.
posted by Muddler at 9:34 AM on October 20, 2010


two leight
posted by found missing at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Practicing lawyers definitely stand to gain from propagating the idea that a lawyer's life is hell, because the fewer people are practicing law, the more $ their services command.

No, Goddammit. I found a job working as a civil servant that I'm happy with, I don't ever have to worry about billable hours, and I am telling you: if you're considering going to law school now because you don't really know what else to do with yourself, you're a moron. Top 10% people in my graduating class are still unemployed a year later.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You realize all of them are guilty, right?" hahaha
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2010


Do you move your lips when you read? Science cleared the guy, a lawyer put his ass in prison
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 9:39 AM on October 20, 2010


Why would a large firm cut its number of associates hired yet still offer $160,000 to those it does hire? In this economy it could offer $80,000 per associate and still have fully qualified applicants beating down its door.

Its the fully-qualified part. What the big law firms are competing among themselves for is the top graduates at the top schools. Competition for those candidates remains fierce, even in a down market.
posted by UncleJoe at 9:44 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hooray for lazy clichés! Dave Berry could have written this in the john.
posted by applemeat at 9:44 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Barry!
posted by applemeat at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rusty got my favorite line. My law school friends and I have been crying laughing over this video.

(although I liked law school and love my job - fed gov't and now consulting firm, no Big Law)
posted by Pax at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Career services suggested that my classmate Kevin look at Starbucks because they have health benefits. We graduated in 2007.
posted by jph at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I laughed really hard at the part of the video where the the would be lawyer talks about wanting to help people. I have plenty of former classmates that said the same thing, and ended up at law firms where they spend their time crushing the lives of ordinary people on behalf of their corporate masters. Irony.

True for most, and you can't go in with an unrealistic view of who your employer is likely to be (worst case example for this is I think budding environmental lawyers), but I have a few friends who left Big Law because "that's not where the good fights are" -- but they had the wherewithall to make that work (two gold medalists, all clerks). Like any other industry, if you're at the top of your game, you can get to do interesting, challenging, and rewarding work. If you're not, you're likely to work with cogs, or be one.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I lucked out because I can't relate a whole lot to this video - I went into law school with few illusions, and work at an interesting job that offers me a balanced lifestyle (hint: neither Cravath nor insurance defense). But I recognize that this video is dead-on for a lot or maybe the overwhelming majority of people in the profession.

Anyway, the real reason to not go to law school, as others mentioned, is the economy and the way it's collapsed the profession. It's a fucking bloodbath right now and no one knows how things will shake out, even when the rest of the country fully recovers.
posted by naju at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its the fully-qualified part. What the big law firms are competing among themselves for is the top graduates at the top schools. Competition for those candidates remains fierce, even in a down market.

I'm sure competition remains fierce, but my understanding is that a lot of top graduates at top schools can't get jobs right now, or are taking lengthy deferments at reduced pay.
posted by jedicus at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2010


It seems like the culture would be even more competitive if you doubled the associate base while keeping the number of partner slots the same.

That's not how it works when we're talking about the relatively small set of firms playing in the $160,000 field. The people those firms actually want to hire are the very best at the most selective schools, and the people, even these days, tend to have options at the end of law school. They can do a clerkship. They can go a high-prestige government track. They can do a non-profit with funding.

All of these pay in at least the ballpark of $80,000, and have reputations as far better work environments than large firms. Thus, the firms need to dangle the fat, six digit paycheck to have a shot at getting the people they want to accept inhuman hours and pressure.

Also, a lot law firms just don't need huge classes of incoming associates anymore. Those were back in the day, there used to be a huge, huge attrition rate for new lawyers. Something like three years later, 90% of big firm attorneys were no longer with the firm they started with.

It's a lot less these days, though we're starting to see movement again.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm thankful that my dad (a lawyer) has been telling me since I was probably 10 that he'd disown me if I went to law school. I have a ton of friends who went / are going and I'm pretty sure I'm less miserable and have more disposable income than most of them at this point. If you don't know what to do with your life spending $100k of borrowed money to avoid making a decision is doing it wrong. You'd be better off working at Burger King. You'd probably get promoted to manager in the time it would take you to finish law school.
posted by ghharr at 9:55 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


My buddy works for a legal aid firm and he loves it...he's not making a ton of money but he enjoys his job and it's not sucking out his soul. He does tend to poke fun at some of his clients (anonymously of course) but I think that's the way he doesn't get too depressed given the lives of his clients.

I just sent this to him, we'll see if he thinks it's funny. Btw, when I was considering law school, he was one of the first to try to talk me out of it.
posted by schyler523 at 9:56 AM on October 20, 2010


at law firms where they spend their time crushing the lives of ordinary people on behalf of their corporate masters.

This might actually be a problem all by itself.

I pictured a well-financed band of suited mercenaries, slashing their way through the weak and uninformed.

Culturally, that doesn't make me want to not be a lawyer, it makes me want to move to another, less "developed" country. *sigh*
posted by dglynn at 9:56 AM on October 20, 2010


Yeah, the job market is just terrible. Overall employment for new grads of just 88.3%, and only 70.8% have a job that actually requires a JD. 25% of jobs are temporary, over 10% are part-time. 22% are still looking for work despite being employed. All of these numbers are down significantly from past years and unlikely to get better soon, as the legal job market lags the broader economy significantly.

And the obligatory salary distribution chart.
posted by jedicus at 9:57 AM on October 20, 2010


Is this a phenomenon with other professions as well, such as medicine/med school?
posted by josher71 at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2010


Top 10% people in my graduating class are still unemployed a year later.

a lot of top graduates at top schools can't get jobs right now, or are taking lengthy deferments at reduced pay


I don't know what to make of this "top grads" talk. Unless we're counting the top 50%.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:08 AM on October 20, 2010


Previously.

Most of what I have to say on the subject is there.

But there are faint rumblings of hope. Some firms are actually starting to hire. I'm lucky to have a job, but not lucky enough to get a job that doesn't suck. I've got resumes out at over a dozen firms, most of whom are hiring, but most of whom are looking for associates with 3-5 years of experience, if not 7-10.

The long and short of the job market seems to be that if you aren't a partner with more than half a million in portable business or willing to work for $40k a year, there's precious little out there.

And before anyone complains that $40k is right around the national average salary, let me point out that a law degree costs in excess of $100k. At the current rate, I'll be paying off my student loans until I'm 45--until which time I'll have been able to sock away somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks--because my current employer is too damn stingy to pay for the actual cost of my education.
posted by valkyryn at 10:08 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this a phenomenon with other professions as well, such as medicine/med school?

Not quite as much, as health care is sort of recession proof, but somewhat counter-intuitively, medicine is a lot more sensitive to regulatory change than law, probably because a ridiculous percentage of physicians' revenues is actually government spending. An MD is also more portable than a JD, as the former doesn't have ridiculously artificial state-specific licensing requirements.

That being said, there are starting to be rumors of cardiologists finishing their residencies who are having trouble finding jobs. This is completely unheard of, but it's happening, largely due to the uncertainty introduced into the system by ObamaCare.* It used to be that once you completed your residency in just about any practice, you could essentially write your own ticket. It's starting to get to where physicians can't afford to be quite so picky. But it's nowhere as bad as it is for lawyers, many of whom would be willing to do just about anything, just about anywhere, for just about any price.

*Not saying it's good or bad, just saying that people don't know how it's really going to work out, which discourages employers from taking in multi-hundred-thousand-dollar employment obligations in the short run.
posted by valkyryn at 10:12 AM on October 20, 2010


Is this a phenomenon with other professions as well, such as medicine/med school?

Not really. Medical schools only produce roughly as many graduates as there are positions for them (now, not necessarily the positions people want, but the jobs are there).

Only 10.9% of doctors are somewhat dissatisfied with their career and only 3.8% are very dissatisfied [pdf]. 71.5% are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied. Compare to lawyers, where only just over half are satisfied.
posted by jedicus at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2010


Ok, ok - just realized that in a total moment of phonetic bad spelling and lack of any common sense brain power to remember 5th grade spelling, I spelled Topeka Topica...wow. Sorry to everyone in Kansas. Cortex, feel free to edit the spelling or keep it for all appropriate mocking

The video comes from a site where a computer acts out a script you send them, so I bet the computer couldn't figure it out phonetically. It isn't you.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2010


That being said, there are starting to be rumors of cardiologists finishing their residencies who are having trouble finding jobs. This is completely unheard of, but it's happening, largely due to the uncertainty introduced into the system by ObamaCare.

*Not saying it's good or bad, just saying that people don't know how it's really going to work out, which discourages employers from taking in multi-hundred-thousand-dollar employment obligations in the short run.


Except, counselor, you're using the right-wing's dog-whistle words for Health Care Reform. I see what you did.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Culturally, that doesn't make me want to not be a lawyer, it makes me want to move to another, less "developed" country. *sigh*

They just shoot you there. This is why having a functioning judicial system is better.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gimme a break.
posted by valkyryn at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2010


Here's the test -- ask a lawyer if he/she would want their kids to become lawyers. The answer is almost always no.
posted by seventyfour at 10:18 AM on October 20, 2010


And it's not because they dilute the market...
posted by seventyfour at 10:19 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's the test -- ask a lawyer if he/she would want their kids to become lawyers. The answer is almost always no.

And indeed the ABA survey showed that only 44% of attorneys would recommend a legal career to a young person.
posted by jedicus at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2010


A "young person" -- would have to be even lower to their own children.
posted by seventyfour at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2010


On a similar note, from ATL.
posted by amber_dale at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2010


The funny thing is that the complaint that job numbers and employment outlook data were totally fabricated was the hot topic when my wife graduated from law school. That was a depressing number of years ago and I see that nothing has changed.
posted by Lame_username at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2010


Gimme a break.

Oh come now. Surely you (particularly as an attorney) could have used the proper name of the law, "Affordable Care Act"? It's only a few letters longer than "ObamaCare" and much less politically charged. While I'm not accusing you of being some sort of demagogue, you're using right-wing rhetoric, plain and simple. It's exactly like if I were to disparage "teabaggers" instead of discussing "tea party activists."
posted by rkent at 10:35 AM on October 20, 2010


I grappled for a moment with sending this video to one of my besties, who graduated from law school last year and is currently working in an Applebees.

Then I decided that it surely doesn't say anything he doesn't already know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:41 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Not that I should talk, because someone should, like, really make a video about what a useless farce MFA degrees can be, too.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2010


Didn't we just do this thread? ... on preview, thanks, valkyryn.

Also, I laughed really hard at the part of the video where the the would be lawyer talks about wanting to help people.

A lawyer friend of mine sues police departments to make them give patients back their marijuana.

Another lawyer friend of mine took a pro bono case where she helped an Iraqi vet get $50,000 that his girlfriend had stolen from him when he was deployed. She won a jury trial and helped him.

I was hit by a taxi last year, put in a wheelchair for 3 months, lost income, and lost money in housing and medical costs. A lawyer is helping me now.

I don't have a lot of friends, but most of the lawyers I know do actually help people.

My friend has also (unsuccessfully) made constitutional arguments.

I also got a C- in Organic Chemistry ... as a chemistry major. (I didn't study.) Then I switched to English.

That said, I love xtra normal. I think you could likely link to this video on their site, as opposed to YouTube ...

Then I decided that it surely doesn't say anything he doesn't already know.

Yeah, I can't imagine sending this to a (non totally cynical) lawyer or law student. It's sorta cruel. Imagine a similar video explaining everything that sucks about social work. (Hint: there's a lot!)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:44 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, most of the complaints about the legal profession apply to pretty much any other corporate job.

The worst part of becoming a lawyer is the massive debt required. That's the real crime. It should be much easier to become an accredited laywer (i.e. take the bar; pass it and you're in), not harder. Schools in general are becoming a scam.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely you (particularly as an attorney) could have used the proper name of the law, "Affordable Care Act"? It's only a few letters longer than "ObamaCare" and much less politically charged.

Either way, no one on either side of the aisle disagrees that the law has introduced uncertainty to the health care system and that it is affecting the hiring practices of health care employers. Some think that's a good thing, some think it's a bad thing, but it's a thing, and it was directly responsive to the question that was asked.

I refuse to be badgered into referring to a controversial law by its non-controversial name simply because some MeFites don't like that it's controversial.
posted by valkyryn at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've been too negative -- there are happy lawyers out there (I'm relatively happy myself as a small firm attorney). It's just that I see a lot of people go to law school with no idea whatsoever what they'll be doing as a lawyer and no idea about the economics of law firms.
posted by seventyfour at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2010


Sometimes I want to become a lawyer because of all of those AskMes where the answer is "lawyer up." I'd just like to know what to do, myself, in those situations. It reminds me of those old days in Windows NT 4 where you're faced with some dialog box that ends with " ... ask your system administrator" and I scream, "What if I am the system administrator?"

In retrospect, that was not a great way to choose a vocation, so ... maybe not.
posted by adipocere at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


For those suggesting that all professions have their hardships, and that lawyers are just trying to keep the big money for ourselves -- consider this delightful PDF, which suggests that

- 19% of lawyers are depressed, as opposed to 6.7% of the general population
- one in five lawyers is a problem drinker, twice the national rate
- 25% of lawyers experience symptoms of extreme anxiety at least three times a month

Now, their citations aren't all up to date, but what's changed in the legal profession since those studies were conducted is that the price of education went up and jobs became more scarce, so there's no reason to think it's gotten any better.

The only reason to go to law school at this point is if (1) you've found someone who actually has the job you want, (2) after conversation with them, it actually is the job you want, (3) the things you like about that job really really can't be obtained without a JD, (4) you can credibly expect to do well enough at a prestigious enough law school to beat out all the other people who also want that job, and (5) the (probably low) salary and the enjoyment you expect from that job outweigh the alternatives you're giving up and the humongous student loans you'll take on.

The vast majority of people going through this process are going to find out they have a better option.

(Disclaimer: I'm a self-employed lawyer usually working less than 40 hours a week, defending people who may or may not be guilty, writing constitutional arguments for the poor and disenfranchised, and actually having a pretty good time. And I probably won't go bankrupt this year. But all of the above still applies.)
posted by jhc at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I refuse to be badgered into referring to a controversial law by its non-controversial name simply because some MeFites don't like that it's controversial.

Or you know, its actual name.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:12 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd just like to know what to do, myself, in those situations.

I know you're not being serious about wanting to become a lawyer, but it does bring to light another big problem with law school: three years of law school will barely teach you anything truly applicable to the real world, at least not to any extent much greater than a Nolo or equivalent. The real stuff you will learn on the job, so that's another 3-6 years in the hole to get out of the baby lawyer phase. What this means is that those unemployed JDs hanging around without actual law jobs will be generally ill-suited to just hanging out a shingle or starting a small practice with some colleagues.

I also think that the cultural cachet surrounding lawyers needs to go away. I have absolutely nothing whatsoever against lawyers or even really lawyering, but there isn't really any reason to think that lawyers are much smarter or more interesting or better-paid than any number of other people with other jobs, but it's not like you're going to see the Ally Mcbeal about accountants or the Law & Order equivalent about dentists, oral surgeons, and dental hygienists.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:14 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was inches from law school. Less than that. Teeny, tiny millimeters from law school. Had a pre-law BA. If my life hadn't taken a horrible turn for the worst I would have ended up in law school.
I recently went through a malpractice suit as a plaintiff - spent three weeks in a courtroom with a bored jury and like, thirty lawyers. If joining the clergy does nothing else for my life - it saved me from law school. Thank God for seminary. All the fighty arguments I craved, none of the courtrooms and jail sentences that I loathe.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


This seemed the best way to post the comment.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was, in fact, the best way to post that comment.
posted by seventyfour at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2010


Data point: top ten law school, median GPA, meaningful former WE, 12 interviews, 3 callbacks, 1 offer.

Midmarket firm, multiple awards for 'best places to work,' nice people.

I'm happy with my decision: I would not have made it without admission to a 'top' school on a scholarship.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2010


meaningful former WE

What's WE?
posted by amro at 11:45 AM on October 20, 2010


Work experience, presumably.
posted by jedicus at 11:52 AM on October 20, 2010


A little antidote to my own cynical post -

Lawyers do indeed "help" people. Each client believes they have a legal need that they want their lawyer to help fulfill. The trouble is, quite a lot of people, and especially law and pre-law students, have a very narrow appreciation of what "help" is. Many think of Constitutional issues, the rights of the poor and marginalized, and the drama of TV justice. In reality, if you're going to morally make it as a lawyer, you have to move beyond the law school attitude and be more satisfied than the seasoned lawyer character in the video. You have to actually be able to appreciate turning a buck at helping the individual clients achieve individual goals, whatever they are.

Now, what about the pie-in-the-sky form of "helping" people? You know, the helping of the poor and marginalized? Well, the vast majority of lawyers do something else for a living. However, a great many also perform great acts of pro bono legal counseling. Many of the major law firms sign up to meet the goal of 3-5% of their hours being pro bono. Often that equals 50-100 hours of pro bono work per lawyer. That in turn is taking roughly 1-2 weeks "off" each year to work for free for those in need. Thought of another way, this equals between $5,000 and $50,000 (depending on billing rate and hours worked) of donated legal services per lawyer. In addition, firms generally have foundations and various charitable giving campaigns baked into their partnership agreements. Just remember - if you donate 5% of your time to pro bono, that means in turn you're spending 95% of your time on something else.
posted by Muddler at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


...but law school has the wifis and the bigger gps.
posted by doublehappy at 11:56 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or the other classic: all those starry-eyed first years interested in 'international law,' as though it meant a lot of jet-setting around and rubbing elbows with influential politicians or somesuch.

Not as laughable as all the BAs in "International Relations"—you don't even get a law degree for that one.

I refuse to be badgered into referring to a controversial law by its non-controversial name

ObamaCare? You're an imbecile. I REFUSE TO BE BADGERED INTO REFERRING TO YOUR BEHAVIOR AS A NON-CONTROVERSIAL WORD.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:04 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


By the way, "Muddler" is the best lawyer-Super Hero name ever.

Enter . . . The Muddler.
posted by seventyfour at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2010


In addition: Sorry jess & cortex.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2010


i don't think the video is generally mocking the legal profession, but rather specifically joking about the people that "want to go to lawschool" because of seemingly no better alternatives. in reality, these people DO NOT want to go to lawschool... the video is spot on in this regard (and humorous - the robotic voices work fantastic for this subject matter)
posted by lulz at 12:29 PM on October 20, 2010


FWIW, my parents are both lawyers (one a law prof) and have encouraged and are supporting (indeed, making possible) my decision to go to law school.

Take from that what you will.

Bye now, time for contracts.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:11 PM on October 20, 2010


Data point: top ten law school, median GPA, meaningful former WE, 12 interviews, 3 callbacks, 1 offer.

Additional data point confirming that it's Top 10 or Bust these days - Top 25 school, straight from college, median GPA, ~7 interviews, 1 callback, 0 offers. Government agency in a quasi-legal position with poor advancement prospects, terribly boring and largely meaningless work. Wouldn't do it again, don't reccomend it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2010


My data point: top 25 school, 3.55 GPA, two interviews, one offer. Bizarre little insurance company, technically in the Legal Department but mostly doing marketing work, zero advancement prospects.

Had nothing going for me before law school, so I can't say I wouldn't do it again, but damn, this is not what I bargained for.
posted by valkyryn at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2010


Also, consider this Law Schools Now Require Applicants To Honestly State Whether They Want To Go To Law School
posted by awenner at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2010


i don't think the video is generally mocking the legal profession, but rather specifically joking about the people that "want to go to lawschool" because of seemingly no better alternatives. in reality, these people DO NOT want to go to lawschool... the video is spot on in this regard (and humorous - the robotic voices work fantastic for this subject matter)

Yeah, I got the idea that this video was mocking two kinds of people: 1) people who think JD means Just Dollaz and 2) people who think law school is the French Foreign Legion for humanities majors (to steal a phrase from some brilliant MeFi poster). Law school isn't necessarily a bad place at all, but it only truly exists to crank out lawyers, and there isn't really any reason to become a lawyer unless you like lawyering. The fact that all it takes to get into law school is a decent LSAT score and a decent GPA makes it all too easy to fall into the trap of signing on to a program for which you have no real need.

FWIW, I'm a 3L and I even sort of like it, but there's a lot of resentment and depression floating around. What complicates matters is the sense that our school actually does more or less care about its students and try to get people on track, but that doesn't help when the economy stinks, there's debt everywhere, and many students shouldn't even really be black letter lawyers. It's just a very uncomfortable situation, and it sounds like this problem has been developing nationwide for a number of years, coming to a head during the recession and the separate-but-related crunch within the legal field itself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:59 PM on October 20, 2010


This is why having a functioning judicial system is better.

Sounds great. Where could we get one of those, instead of the dystopian misapplication of intellectual resources described in most of these !lawyer threads?
posted by dglynn at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2010


As long as we're being brutally honest, here's another data point: Top 25 school*, slightly-above-median GPA, BA and MS in my technical field (relevant for patent law, or so I thought anyway), ~5 interviews, 1 callback, no offers. Got stupidly lucky and landed a job as a researcher with an academic project headed by a former professor, but no advancement prospects. Wouldn't do it again, and if hanging out my own shingle part-time doesn't pick up soon I'll likely switch to computer programming, which is what I was interviewing for as a 3L before I got stupidly lucky at the last minute.

* Though if you ask me it's a poster-child for the US News rankings being worse than useless.
posted by jedicus at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is pretty much all the reasons I went to law school and all the reasons I don't practice law rolled right up in one video.

In the end, I decided I wanted the family more than I wanted the career. Maybe it would have been different if I'd gone to law school directly out of undergrad, but I had to pay off undergrad first (and earn/save the money for law school, so at least I avoided the epic debt). I keep my license active, and maybe someday I'll use the education in some form. Surely not at a large firm or perhaps even directly practicing, but I'll use it somehow.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 2:43 PM on October 20, 2010


Gimme a break.

I call them like I see them.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:48 PM on October 20, 2010


there isn't really any reason to become a lawyer unless you like lawyering

I disagree. I think it is a citizen's responsibility to understand the laws that they've agreed to let bind them. A social contract is still a contract, after all, and all parties have to understand the considerations being met by themselves & the State.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2010


Is this a phenomenon with other professions as well, such as medicine/med school?

The scary thing with medicine is if they decide that your job can actually be done just as well by a trained non-doctor. See Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
posted by smackfu at 3:07 PM on October 20, 2010


I think it is a citizen's responsibility to understand the laws that they've agreed to let bind them.

That is a really terrible reason to go to law school, unless you are independently rich.
posted by smackfu at 3:07 PM on October 20, 2010


I disagree. I think it is a citizen's responsibility to understand the laws that they've agreed to let bind them. A social contract is still a contract, after all, and all parties have to understand the considerations being met by themselves & the State.

And this is related to lawyering and law school in what way? A lot cheaper to take a couple of good history or constitutional law courses in undergrad.
posted by seventyfour at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2010


The "it's like being a detective" line is particularly cutting -- really captures the sort of disingenuous mental gymnastics that law students, job seekers, and young lawyers engage in, both to themselves and in interviews.
posted by eugenen at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2010


Oh come now. Surely you (particularly as an attorney) could have used the proper name of the law, "Affordable Care Act"? It's only a few letters longer than "ObamaCare" and much less politically charged.

Actually, that's not the proper name of the law. It's called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and all the health care lawyers I know call it "PPACA" these days. But "Pee Pocka" doesn't sound quite as snappy as "Health Care Reform" or "ObamaCare." That said, I know some very conservative health care lawyers and they don't call it ObamaCare." They call it "PPACA."

Have you ever spent a Thanksgiving reviewing 1.2 million pages of billing records in a warehouse in Topica?

In Topeka? No.
posted by The World Famous at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I call it Romneycare.
posted by found missing at 3:49 PM on October 20, 2010


"DDPEA" The Demoncrat Death Panel Enabling Act.
posted by seventyfour at 4:04 PM on October 20, 2010


That is a really terrible reason to go to law school, unless you are independently rich.

Lack of funds is usually a terrible reason not to do something.

Get financial aid or go to a cheap school. A law degree plus passing the state bar confers a bevy of legal privileges. I would love to have a law degree and state accreditation.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:10 PM on October 20, 2010


A law degree plus passing the state bar confers a bevy of legal privileges.

In my experience, it confers a lot of responsibilities - including ongoing financial obligations in the form of dues and CLE requirements - and not much that I would call a "privilege."
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I recently went through a malpractice suit as a plaintiff - spent three weeks in a courtroom with a bored jury and like, thirty lawyers. If joining the clergy does nothing else for my life - it saved me from law school. Thank God for seminary.

EXACTLY. Because your one experience with your own malpractice suit tells you everything you'll ever need to know about the practice of law. Just like 9/11 substantiates my complete digest of organized religion.
posted by applemeat at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


True for most, and you can't go in with an unrealistic view of who your employer is likely to be (worst case example for this is I think budding environmental lawyers). . .

Or, at my law school, the fratty dipshits who thought they'd go into "sports law" or "entertainment law."

I'm very lucky to have a job practicing with great bosses that has worked out for my personal needs, but no one else can count on that. I would not recommend law school to anyone who hasn't dreamed of lawyering since at least age 15, and isn't willing to hang out a shingle and/or starve.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:27 PM on October 20, 2010


That is a really terrible reason to go to law school, unless you are independently rich.

Who said anything about means? I was refuting the claim that there wasn't "any reason to become a lawyer unless you like lawyering". Had I the time and money, I would love to improve my legal education. There are countless ways it could be valuable: for property dealings, for contract negotiations, for starting a business, for helping relatives when their kids do stupid things with their cars… for protecting yourself.

A lot cheaper to take a couple of good history or constitutional law courses in undergrad.

And a lot less useful. Law school teaches you how to sound like a lawyer. Which is fundamentally going to be a lot more important when you've just been pulled over by a member of the Executive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:39 PM on October 20, 2010


Law school teaches you how to sound like a lawyer. Which is fundamentally going to be a lot more important when you've just been pulled over by a member of the Executive.

I cannot speak for the rest of the U.S., but I can tell you from firsthand experience that the ability to sound like a lawyer does not help you at all when you've just been pulled over by a member of the Executive in Orange County or San Diego. I haven't been pulled over in L.A. yet. But I'm guessing that sounding like a lawyer won't help me much here, either.
posted by The World Famous at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that sounding like a lawyer won't help me much here, either.

Nope, unless being a lawyer has taught you to never, ever, under any circumstances, talk to the police.

My administrative law professor was full of little aphorisms, but one was "If someone's going to jail, make sure it isn't you."

Another was that you'd be surprised how far you can get into the federal judicial vetting process with a history of heroin use.
posted by valkyryn at 5:06 PM on October 20, 2010


"You sound like a lawyer" is usually not the kind of thing you want to prompt law enforcement to say. I try not to prompt it, and IAAL.

The linked bit actually reminds me of a couple I met last fall. He was in a solid trade; she wanted to go to law school. Nothing wrong with that. Point in her favour that it didn't seem to be a post-arts-graduation solution to aimlessness but something she genuinely seemed to want to do. However, she was shocked to learn that there were unhappy (nevermind unemployed) lawyers out there. A lot of them. That's not sarcasm. She was shocked.

I'm not sure what kind of tv diet fosters that perspective, to be so removed from the realities of the job that you can't imagine what could be wrong with it. I quickly changed the subject to carpentry.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2010


Big firms are hiring, but only from the top national/regional schools. For example, I know a few of the large Chicago firms have summer classes of 20-40 planned. In the late 90s, it was more like 80-100 for those same firms. Most of the "shrinkage" comes from recruiting at fewer schools.
posted by Mid at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2010


Get an MFA instead there's more likelihood you'll do something interesting and you'll be just as broke. Heck maybe you'd even land a gig as an actor as a lawyer on tv.

I tried this; got my MFA before my JD. I'm pleased to report I'm coming out slightly ahead salarywise with a JD, even with the law school loans. As an added bonus, the expectations for public speaking are surprising low for a JD, and unlike some actors with whom I've worked, witnesses for the most part actually show up to their call times, so all in all, I think I came out ahead as a lawyer.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you just want to learn about the law, there are a few course from the teaching company that will probably do a better job than getting a pointless law degree. Their website is sucking at the moment, but look for the ones by Frank B. Cross.
posted by smackfu at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2010


(And from everything I've heard, the courses in law school don't really prepare you for being a lawyer, so I'm not sure how they would "teach you about everyday law" in any meaningful way. )
posted by smackfu at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2010


smackfu: Mrs. Bronzefist, who teaches legal research for the faculty here, would certainly take issue with your parenthetical, though that is a minor (and undeservedly disrespected) portion of the average law degree.

I would say that the actual contents of a law degree are better suited to the average person with an interest in law than would-be lawyers. Lots of theory. Interesting questions that, as the linked piece suggests, you're unlikely to actually touch on in practice unless you're one of those "Harvard guys from the 70's" (untrue in my experience, but I know that's true for many if not most practitioners).

The problem is that it's expensive, and it's overkill. You don't indulge your interest in, say, bridge building, by getting an engineering degree. At the same time, however, law is typically (with exceptions) a terrible subject for auto-didacts, so you do yourself a service by seeking out a knowledgable instructor. But three years of theory? No.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:35 AM on October 21, 2010


If you just want to learn about the law, there are a few course from the teaching company that will probably do a better job than getting a pointless law degree ...

If you just want to learn about the law, get on your jurisdiction's legislation website, buy two exercise books, drop a few hundred bucks on a LexisNexis subscription and start reading - it really doesn't matter where you start - the citations in the cases will give you some direction. After a while, you'll get a feel for where to go next.

When you read a sentence that seems important, or makes a statement of law, or just makes your socks roll up and down, write it in the first textbook - leave the first page blank. When you get to a word or concept you aren't familiar with, google it, read a bit about it, write down your understanding of the concept in the second book, reread that bit and move on. You'll do this a lot when you first start, and you'll probably do it every now and then forever.

Read as often or as little as you'd like. After a year or so, you'll have a self-authored textbook and legal dictionary, and a better understanding of the common law than almost anyone you know.

You'll still be wrong in arguments, but you'll be wrong with authority.
posted by doublehappy at 6:56 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Warning: Bloviating, anecdatal beanplating to follow. Caveat lector.

Every time I read an article/discussion/comic about Why Law School is a Stoopit Idea and You’re Stoopit for Even Thinking About It, I smile ruefully on the inside, just a little bit. I’m in my final year of law school now, and on paper, at least, my circumstances are just terrible: I’m less than seven months away from graduating into a still-lousy job market. I’m at a school that I absolutely love, but whose U.S. News rankings took a tumble in the past year. (For those who care about this sort of thing, it’s a Tier 1 school, but a low Tier 1 school.) If I don’t screw any tests up between now and May, I should be able to graduate in the top 20-25% of my class. My dream jobs are all in low-paying sectors of the law. I didn’t even know what sort of law I wanted to practice until midway through my 2L year. The amount of student loan debt with which I’ll be graduating would be enough to pay for a nice small house in several metropolitan areas. And here’s the real kicker: I was 40 when I started law school. If I pay off my loans – or get a portion of my loans forgiven – by the time I’m 55, I’ll consider myself lucky.

Sometimes I think I can hear lawbloggers’ blood turn to ice when they hear stats like mine – and yet, I’m not frightened, or at least not as frightened as I apparently should be. I think it’s because I never had any expectations of being well-paid for my work. Nor did I have any lifelong illusions, born from “loving the law” or “loving the Constitution” or “being a detective,” about what it meant to be a lawyer. Hell, I didn’t even know I wanted to be a lawyer until I was 38, when I spent a month on state grand jury duty in New York, and found myself fascinated by the work the ADA’s and PD’s were doing. But again, I didn’t come to law school under the influence of some Law and Order-based fantasy. I came to law school because I wanted to train for a job where I was expected to think for a living.

I had spent close to half my life as an administrative assistant, as a junior-executive trainee, as a purchasing agent in a retail business. Nearly every job I had was one where someone else made the decisions, and I wrote up the paperwork supporting those decisions. Lest this sound like complaining, I swear that it isn’t. I made conscious choices. In my early working years, I wanted a job that afforded me enough energy to go home and write at night. Later, I decided to train for higher-level positions, just to see if I could make the cut, only to see those positions vanish during a raise-and-promotion freeze, never to return. So I stayed in the admin pool, saving my energy once again, only for starting a business.

Midway through this adventure, I realized that what I really wanted to do was bake for a living. So I applied to culinary school, got in, received a full-tuition scholarship, and headed off to school. Did some restaurant work. Realized that what I really loved doing was production baking, particularly production bread baking. Started looking for bakery work. In the meantime, my husband was coming home, looking nervous, mentioning that his company was starting to sound kind of layoff-happy. I knew that if that happened, I wouldn’t be able to support both of us on $350 a week, pre-tax (in 1999, in New York City!), so I went back to the admin pool. When my husband was indeed laid off several weeks later, I felt relieved that I didn’t take the job at one of my favorite bakeries, the one that paid $6/hour. But I knew I still wanted to bake, and I knew that the only way I could support us with baking was if I owned my own bakery – and if that bakery was big enough to get wholesale customers.

So I did research. I wrote a business plan. I wrote to my favorite bread baker in the city and asked if I could make an appointment with her to ask her some questions. I ended up apprenticing with her, working at Desk Job during the day and working with the shaping and early bake crews at the bakery at night, for free. I started pricing bakery equipment. I developed recipes. I took continuing education classes for professional bakers. The bakery owner read my business plan, wrote notes on every page, went over my numbers with me again. I spent close to five years trying to open this bakery – and then I went to the Small Business Administration, where a nice fellow told me that, at best, I would be eligible for a $35,000 line of credit, repayable annually. This represented one-tenth of my startup costs. I couldn’t get a bank loan – not because my credit wasn’t good, but because food businesses have something like an 85% failure rate, and banks hate them. The assets I had weren’t sufficient for collateral. I received a lot of advice from well-meaning friends about finding investors. (Tip: Venture capital firms tend to invest in businesses from whom they can recoup their investment, and then some, in about five years. VC firms aren’t wild about food businesses, either.) All the while, I was still working at my administrative cubicle farm job. Finally I threw in the towel, because I was exhausted at the thought of another year of rewriting my business plan, only to find yet another reason that I wouldn't be able to raise the money. I went back to writing at night, baking on the weekends, trying to figure out a Plan B, and going out of my mind with boredom.

The following year, I received the grand jury summons that would put the bug in my ear about law school. The week after I took the LSAT, I was laid off from the cubicle farm, just weeks shy of my ninth anniversary. I applied to law school while still looking for work, even other shitty cubefarm work, for six months. When I received my acceptance letter, I didn’t even think twice about going, even though the tuition costs were sobering, the thought of moving from New York to California was exhausting, and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with a law degree other than “think for a living” – again, a complete disaster on paper.

For all I know, I might still be a complete disaster on paper, but I’m doing clinical work, coordinating a volunteer prison mail project, learning how to provide direct client services, learning how to prepare a case for impact litigation, and discovering that I actually like tax law and estate planning -- maybe not enough for a career for life, but enough to keep me working and useful. I’m well aware that I might not get that public interest/social justice law job I’m hankering for, and that I might have to put in some time cranking out wills and divorces, or being the house counsel for some weird little water softener company, just to keep the rent paid and the student loan paid down.

As for the bakery that never was: This is the real reason I’m not resentful about my future, or worried about my student loan debt. Had I found a way to open the bakery, it would have been killed by the one-two punch of the spike in commodity prices (particularly flour) in 2007, and the freezing of credit in late 2008. I saw what that one-two punch did to bakeries much more established, and much more well-loved, than mine would have been. It killed them. It would have killed mine. Between startup costs and annual operating costs, I would have been half a million dollars in debt. I would have had to declare bankruptcy – and my bankrupt ass would be back in a cubicle farm somewhere, assuming I was lucky enough to even find a job. Compared to this, having $180,000 in student loans and a mid-five-figures-paying job…well, I won’t call it a doddle, but it’s not nearly as scary to contemplate.

I have no illusions about doing Constitutional work (although I wouldn’t exactly turn it down if I were offered the chance), or about making policy, or about “loving the law.” What I do have is the opportunity to do work that is sometimes satisfying, sometimes tedious, and sometimes infuriating, but it always, always gives me the opportunity to think. Granted, it comes with a steep price tag, but – for me, at least – it’s been a worthwhile investment, and I’m not sorry I made it.
posted by bakerina at 9:40 PM on October 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


Bakerina, honestly, that's about the best justification for going to law school that I've seen in a long time and I wish you the best. Are there loan forgiveness programs you can apply for? Your student loans will be the biggest impediment to taking the kind of work you might like to do.
posted by seventyfour at 7:03 AM on October 22, 2010


bakerina, I hear you, and to be completely honest, I think a lot of the lower-paying jobs for which I could apply would be incredibly rewarding.

They just won't enable me to pay rent.
posted by valkyryn at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2010


Oh bakerina, I admire your enthusiasm, but come back in three years and tell us if you still feel the same way.
posted by amro at 9:41 AM on October 22, 2010


Now, see? You lawyers are nice peoples. :) Thank you.

Are there loan forgiveness programs you can apply for? Your student loans will be the biggest impediment to taking the kind of work you might like to do.

There are. The two major forms that I've been looking into are income-based repayment (IBR) and public service loan forgiveness (PSLF). On an IBR program, your payment due each month is based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income -- so if your income is $0, your payment due is $0. I'm just starting the research on it now, so I don't know the ratio of income to payment due, but I know it's a sliding scale, and we can apply for it whether or not we're working in public interest/public sector jobs. The downside, of course, is that interest continues to accrue on the balance, but at least for the short term, you're not on the hook for the full amount until you start making better money.

PSLF is exactly what it sounds like. If you work full-time for a 501(c)(3) organization, or a nonprofit that is not a 501(c)(3) but provides certain public services, and you stay within this sector while making 120 payments to your student loans (essentially 10 years), then everything left after the 120th payment is forgiven. If you are also on an IBR plan at the time, and for a few months your monthly payment is $0 (say, if your agency can't make payroll until the state budget is passed), those $0 months count to your 120-month total. Of course, this isn't all a cakewalk; you need to keep airtight records, and always be aware of how one program affects the other. But if I can possibly take advantage of them, and avoid that wolf-at-the-door feeling, I will.

I understand how practicing lawyers might find my long, long, superlong post above to be maddeningly naive. I admit that I'm a moving target, because I'm married, and my husband works full-time. The thing is, his pay isn't terrific, either; between his paycheck and the portion of my loans that cover living expenses, we're doing okay. We've never made much money, and there have been several times over the marriage where one of us did the heavy lifting because the other was laid off, or had their hours cut from full-time to part-time, or something else that basically meant that two full-time checks weren't coming in. He and I both understand that even when I start working, I'm not going to be pulling what he calls "Big Lawyer Moneys," and our standard of living isn't going to change. (Even if BigLaw were still hiring, they won't hire the likes of me because my 1L grades were okay but not spectacular; and hell, if I want to work 20-hour days, I'll try opening the damn bakery again.)

And I certainly don't dun valkyryn, or anyone else here, for taking jobs that might not have been what they had in mind when they applied to law school, but at least enable them to pay rent. I like paying rent, too, which is why I didn't take that $6/hour bakery job, even though I would have been working at a prestigious place with a famous chef, and, had I stood the heat, would have enabled me to write my own ticket. Given the choice between working at Tiny Shoestring Civil Rights Non-profit Dream Job, and working at Dull and Obscure But Reliable and Better-Paying Local Government Agency -- both of which would qualify me for PSLF -- I can't say unequivocally "Oh, Tiny Shoestring! And anyone who would decide otherwise is a SELLOUT!" But I think that if I can get my loan repayment ducks in a row, I'll still get what I came to law school for. I spent 20 years working my ass off, and gaining specialized knowledge, for people and companies who were not shy about letting me know that a) I wasn't very smart (because if I were, I would have been promoted long ago); and b) I was dispensable. Getting this degree, and preparing for this work, is a double-middle-finger rebuttal to those people and companies. Becoming a lawyer is not necessarily proof that I'm smart -- there are plenty of voices here who would argue just the opposite -- but that the State of California has found that I can think, and exercise independent judgment, and provide useful counsel.

Of course, the California Bar also admitted Orly Taitz, so this might not be my best argument.
posted by bakerina at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn’t come to law school under the influence of some Law and Order-based fantasy. I came to law school because I wanted to train for a job where I was expected to think for a living.

Bakerina, that was my primary reason for attending law school, too. People have so many misconceptions about lawyers and the practice of law--some flattering, others insulting--but the profession is so much more diverse than most people think. None of my cases will ever be made into an Academy Award winning drama staring Tom Hanks. I love my work. It requires my mind and my imagination almost daily. I'm not disappointed. Good luck to you.
posted by applemeat at 6:49 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


They have a similar one for going to seminary.
posted by beardlace at 6:52 PM on November 5, 2010


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