Law School is a Terrible Idea

M Friedman's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,073

What is a default answer for anyone who does not have a job after graduation?

The answer I hear far too often is law school.

In my opinion, it is an answer that is chosen out of a natural necessity. I tend to see that many of these undergrads gravitate to a juris doctor because they simply have not spent the last four years actually thinking about what they will do come graduation.

So far this year, over 78,900 students have applied for law school, but only 60,000 will receive a seat. For those blessed enough to be accepted, the majority will be forced to take on some type of debt load. The average of these burdens after three years ranges from a staggering $120,000 to $195,000 with a 7.3% interest rate.

Just as the financial industry has shrunk considerably, so has the law industry. These structural changes in the labor market for lawyers have made coming by a job that requires a J.D. even more excruciating than ever before. Nonetheless, according to NALP, the association for legal career professionals, the median starting salary for a lawyer who graduated from law school in 2010 is $63,000.

Let me ask our finance guys, would you buy a $130,000 Aston Martin Vantage, 100% financed by the dealership, if you made $63,000 a year? You do not have to be the frugal, WSO user Illinois Programmer to say, "no, obviously not."

ABA Journal:

Six figures of debt, a heavy interest burden and poor job prospects--this is no way to begin a legal career. Some graduates will no doubt hang their own shingles and build successful practices, but many others will start practicing law without proper capital or mentorship. This is dangerous territory for the profession. Dating back to the 1950s, research on lawyers has shown a strong link between lawyer misconduct and the economic stress of too many lawyers chasing too little, unsophisticated legal work.

"The last few years were the hardest of my life. I've essentially lost my dream. ... It's like I've failed at everything. If I'd known what would happen, I would have gone another way. I would have stayed at my firm, became a paralegal. I wouldn't have taken on this debt. I don't have anything or anyone else to fall back on."

So the next time you hear someone defecting to law school, maybe you should speak up before it's too late for all of us. Lord knows, the last thing we need is another lawyer.

Mod Note: Throwback Thursday - this originally went up April 2013

Comments (122)

Apr 12, 2012

I'm considering getting a BB BO job and going to law school at night. Worst case scenario, I end up working in compliance/legal. More likely, I use the position at the bank to leverage some awesome contacts and then take over the world DON DRAPER STYLE MOFOs.

But yeah, I know a bunch of people who finished law schols...good ones too...can't find work or enough of it and are f.u.c.k.e.d.

Apr 12, 2012

JDOasis.com is where this really belongs.

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Apr 12, 2012
melvvvar:

JDOasis.com is where this really belongs.

I am talking about it in a purely financial sense though. Where does it end up in anything but loan forgiveness?

Apr 12, 2012
M Friedman:
melvvvar:

JDOasis.com is where this really belongs.

I am talking about it in a purely financial sense though. Where does it end up in anything but loan forgiveness?

just razzin ya brah

Apr 12, 2012

M Friedman, I've been thinking about law school, and I think your conclusion is spot on for those individuals who are not going to a top 20 school. But in the first tier, I think you can argue that the prospects are still worth it. I imagine the median starting salary is gonna be helluva lot depending on if you are coming out of NYU or SUNY Oswego.

Apr 12, 2012
Amphipathic:

M Friedman, I've been thinking about law school, and I think your conclusion is spot on for those individuals who are not going to a top 20 school. But in the first tier, I think you can argue that the prospects are still worth it. I imagine the median starting salary is gonna be helluva lot depending on if you are coming out of NYU or SUNY Oswego.

It's true if you go to a top 8 law school you've got a reasonable shot at a 160k a year corporate law gig, but the work is more soul destroying than investment banking.

And there isn't really a middle ground - you're either making 160k a year or 65k and under.

Apr 12, 2012
evilbyaccident:
Amphipathic:

M Friedman, I've been thinking about law school, and I think your conclusion is spot on for those individuals who are not going to a top 20 school. But in the first tier, I think you can argue that the prospects are still worth it. I imagine the median starting salary is gonna be helluva lot depending on if you are coming out of NYU or SUNY Oswego.

It's true if you go to a top 8 law school you've got a reasonable shot at a 160k a year corporate law gig, but the work is more soul destroying than investment banking.

And there isn't really a middle ground - you're either making 160k a year or 65k and under.

Absolutely, its a bimodal distribution. But the same can be said of undergraduate degrees. A 100K BA from Yale is a good investment. From a school ranked 150, not so much.

Apr 12, 2012
evilbyaccident:
Amphipathic:

M Friedman, I've been thinking about law school, and I think your conclusion is spot on for those individuals who are not going to a top 20 school. But in the first tier, I think you can argue that the prospects are still worth it. I imagine the median starting salary is gonna be helluva lot depending on if you are coming out of NYU or SUNY Oswego.

It's true if you go to a top 8 law school you've got a reasonable shot at a 160k a year corporate law gig, but the work is more soul destroying than investment banking.

And there isn't really a middle ground - you're either making 160k a year or 65k and under.

I'm curious (and totally ignorant), what do you mean by it is more soul destroying than IB? I mean, writing briefs seems a lot more substantive than editing pitch books and coming up with absurd DCF estimates.

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Apr 12, 2012

Just TRY talking someone out of going to law school. I tried desperately to convince one of my good friends that it was a terrible idea, but he just. would. not. listen. He's convinced that it is his ticket to the upper middle class. He just doesn't understand the meaning of 150k at 7.3% of non-dischargeable debt. I guess it's true that lawyers don't get math.

Law school is the dumping ground for smart yet unskilled liberal arts grads. I considered going to law school after the hedge fund I had hooked up with closed its doors - until I did some research. If I go back, it will be for a computer science degree.

Apr 12, 2012

unless these graduates are high flying studs accepted to top law schools or have a large trust fund or last but not least have military service and are scooting through with the gi bill and va benefits they are fucked... i know a couple law grads that got their jds and llms from top schools and have passed the bar that are working as fucking clerks making 65-70k. every time i see them i make sure that i call them dumbasses.

"death is nothing, but to live defeated is to die everyday" ~Napolean Bonaparte

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Apr 12, 2012

The state of the law industry is much worse than any statistic is showing. The biggest problem is that new lawschools are being accredited each year which just adds to the inflationary effect of all these useless law school grads. Stats like job offer rate and starting salary that attract college grads are easily manipulated by law schools:

1) all of these results are based on self selection. those without a job or working in a non fulltime lawyer position are less likely to report, thereby making reality seems rosier for the ad coms

2) law schools have been fudging the numbers for years. they report full employment for students who are unable to find work as a lawyer but find work doing menial work like doc review as paralegals. I've even heard them to go as far as counting JD graduates who enroll in LLM programs as "employed"

Apr 12, 2012

See I was planning on going to law school right out of undergrad for some time (and I'm still planning on going in a few years) but once I learned more about wall street, I wanted to have an opportunity to work there and became a lot more interested. I'll be honest - I had no idea what I wanted to do until I interviewed with BBs, and if I didn't get an offer, I REALLY wouldn't have had a clue. That being said, I love politics, my favorite course in undergrad was Business Law, and I really genuinely love law and anything to do with it. So even though I didn't know what I wanted to do, I really did (and still do eventually) want to become a lawyer. So I knew what I would have been getting into.

On the other hand, I've noticed a SHIT ton of Poli-Sci majors say "oh i'm going to law school" when they have NO interest in law, politics (which is just a giant argument about law, the legislative branch at least), the judiciary, etc. Absolutely no interest in law. They just say "Oh I'm going to law school," they become bored if anyone in the room brings up laws, politics, current events, etc, and I think to myself "Wh..... whhyyyyyy?" It's so bad that a POLITICAL SCIENCE major I know told me "Psh, you know I don't follow politics and am not interested in it." Well then why are you a poli-sci major?? Tons of kids who do nothing, no extracurriculars, etc, in college, especially girls who are poli sci majors, gravitate towards law as well. The truth is that I don't think they have any idea what they're getting into. That being said, there are still some kids who really do want to practice law and they will succeed if they go to a top school.

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Apr 13, 2012

Totally agree with your conclusion MF.

Funny that the topic should come up, I was actually watching a documentary series about big law on the USA Network recently (can't seem to recall the name), which closely followed an Associate Attorney in NYC and showed that his lack of both a JD and an undergrad degree had absolutely no impediment on his prospects within the firm. In fact, he far exceeded the performance of his piers, all of whom were drawn exclusively from HLS.

It's interesting to consider whether that the Law School system is correctly sorting the best, brightest and most passionate young people into the American legal system. The guy from the documentary has an absolutely amazing mind (literally, an eidetic memory), yet was absolutely marginalized by the system of education in its current formation. Despite the seemingly systemic opposition, the young attorney, with the help of an Atticus Finch-like mentor with a love of winning cases, is well on his way to embodying everything the American legal profession can and should be.

Just some food for thought...

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Apr 13, 2012
Nouveau Richie:

Totally agree with your conclusion MF.

Funny that the topic should come up, I was actually watching a documentary series about big law on the USA Network recently (can't seem to recall the name), which closely followed an Associate Attorney in NYC and showed that his lack of both a JD and an undergrad degree had absolutely no impediment on his prospects within the firm. In fact, he far exceeded the performance of his piers, all of whom were drawn exclusively from HLS.

The guy from the documentary has an absolutely amazing mind (literally, an eidetic memory), yet was absolutely marginalized by the system of education in its current formation. Despite the seemingly systemic opposition, the young attorney, with the help of an Atticus Finch-like mentor with a love of winning cases, is well on his way to embodying everything the American legal profession can and should be.

Just some food for thought...

Are you joking? That wasnt a documentary, that's a fictional tv show called "Suits". LMAO.

Here is an excerpt of the plot summary from wiki:

"Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) is a brilliant college dropout. Mike's childhood dream of becoming a lawyer was derailed after he was caught selling a math exam to the Dean's daughter. Naturally intelligent and with an eidetic memory, Mike makes a living taking tests for other people, particularly LSATs."

"...After an accidental interview with Mike, Harvey is impressed by the younger man's quick wits, his encyclopedic knowledge of the law, and his genuine desire to be an attorney, and hires him. Due to the fact that Mike lacks a law degree, and because the firm prefers Harvard alumni, they both pretend that Mike is a Harvard graduate."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suits_%28TV_series%29...

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Apr 13, 2012
Underground:
Nouveau Richie:

Totally agree with your conclusion MF.

Funny that the topic should come up, I was actually watching a documentary series about big law on the USA Network recently (can't seem to recall the name), which closely followed an Associate Attorney in NYC and showed that his lack of both a JD and an undergrad degree had absolutely no impediment on his prospects within the firm. In fact, he far exceeded the performance of his piers, all of whom were drawn exclusively from HLS.

The guy from the documentary has an absolutely amazing mind (literally, an eidetic memory), yet was absolutely marginalized by the system of education in its current formation. Despite the seemingly systemic opposition, the young attorney, with the help of an Atticus Finch-like mentor with a love of winning cases, is well on his way to embodying everything the American legal profession can and should be.

Just some food for thought...

Are you joking? That wasnt a documentary, that's a fictional tv show called "Suits". LMAO.

Here is an excerpt of the plot summary from wiki:

"Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) is a brilliant college dropout. Mike's childhood dream of becoming a lawyer was derailed after he was caught selling a math exam to the Dean's daughter. Naturally intelligent and with an eidetic memory, Mike makes a living taking tests for other people, particularly LSATs."

"...After an accidental interview with Mike, Harvey is impressed by the younger man's quick wits, his encyclopedic knowledge of the law, and his genuine desire to be an attorney, and hires him. Due to the fact that Mike lacks a law degree, and because the firm prefers Harvard alumni, they both pretend that Mike is a Harvard graduate."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suits_%28TV_series%29...

Appreciate the link, but can you please point specifically to where it says the show is fictional? Was under the impression it was a documentary, but haven't yet seen any evidence to the contrary.

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Best Response
Apr 13, 2012
Underground:

Are you joking? That wasnt a documentary, that's a fictional tv show called "Suits". LMAO.

whoosh

That one went right over your head.

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Aug 18, 2018

I can't decide if Suits is a clever idea for a TV show, or a massive insult to our collective intelligence as an audience. Sure, man, your weed-selling-fake-interviewing self, as a college drop-out gets to be Harvard lawyer. Uh huh. Perhaps we'll let you practice brain surgery and go just go be a jet pilot on weekends. Because we all want to live out our fantasies.

Apr 13, 2012

The JD is basically bullshit. You could easily, easily compress it into two years - or, hell, let kids come in from two years of UG and do it. Ask a successful lawyer about where they really learned the business.

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."
- Oscar Wilde
"Seriously, psychology is for those with two x chromosomes."
- RagnarDanneskjold

Apr 13, 2012

It really depends on your potential and where you go for school (as with B-school). The people on WSO probably are not going to attend Devry, and might get into top tiered schools. Take Duke for instance:
Duke Law School grads are making $160,000 a year (private practice) with a 92-96% employment rate.
Compare that to Fuqua grads who are making just $107,000 a year with the same employment rates.
The combination of these degrees no doubt adds marketability to the individual, making it a very enticing opportunity. So enticing Kellogg loves to promote their 3-year JD/MBA program which really condenses both degrees with intensive coursework.

As for the debt, most law schools give out substantial scholarships for high performance on the LSAT (just as business schools do with the GMAT). Again, a strong WSO reader would be in the 160s and be able to have some of that debt eliminated through scholarships. But worse case scenario, lawyers can always move to California's 9th district and that debt can go away after just a law suit or two.

I will have to disagree and say law school can be a great opportunity for an individual with the right drive--as most WSOers are.

Invest in yourself; that's from where the real wealth comes.

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Apr 13, 2012
PonyUp:

Take Duke for instance:
Duke Law School grads are making $160,000 a year (private practice) with a 92-96% employment rate.
Compare that to Fuqua grads who are making just $107,000 a year with the same employment rates.

That's an interesting set of data points to consider. I'm curious what the range is like for MBA grads, I'd wager it's wider than for JD grads. Interesting...

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."
- Oscar Wilde
"Seriously, psychology is for those with two x chromosomes."
- RagnarDanneskjold

Apr 13, 2012

And star trek is also a documentary. Beam me up Scotty!

Apr 13, 2012
Apr 13, 2012

Word on the street is that law grads are having a tougher time getting a job then you made it seem. This is at the heart of why some shops are shorting law student debt while going long on debt incurred in more stable/demanded fields i.e. masters of accounting graduates for example.

Apr 13, 2012

Question about the bimodal payscales: I was talking to a staff lawyer and they said that $100K+ working for a company, say in their compliance / legal department was a good goal. Is this the case? Between paralegal and corporate lawyer, what are the other ops? I'm asking here and LSO to get as much input as possible.

Apr 13, 2012
UFOinsider:

Question about the bimodal payscales: I was talking to a staff lawyer and they said that $100K+ working for a company, say in their compliance / legal department was a good goal. Is this the case? Between paralegal and corporate lawyer, what are the other ops? I'm asking here and LSO to get as much input as possible.

If by LSO you mean leveraged sellout, I have the link you're looking for.
http://www.leveragedsellout.com/2006/08/biglaw-big...

Apr 13, 2012
manbearpig:
UFOinsider:

Question about the bimodal payscales: I was talking to a staff lawyer and they said that $100K+ working for a company, say in their compliance / legal department was a good goal. Is this the case? Between paralegal and corporate lawyer, what are the other ops? I'm asking here and LSO to get as much input as possible.

If by LSO you mean leveraged sellout, I have the link you're looking for.
http://www.leveragedsellout.com/2006/08/biglaw-big...

Ooops, I meant JDO, but that's a great article so thanks!

Apr 13, 2012

I'm so old that I have a buddy who just became a judge. He's owned his own firm for the past 20 years or so. He'd be the first to tell you that going to Law School today is just about the dumbest fuckin' thing you could ever do.

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Apr 13, 2012

I have to say, being a joint degree student (JD/MBA) I couldnt agree more with what most of you were saying. If I knew what I did now, I would have never gone to law school in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, you do gain exceptional skills going to law school and substantially increase your analytical thinking. However, the skills needed for IB, law school does little.

The one aspect of law school that I believe has helped me the most is purely the aspect of having a JD. I have had numerous clients and potential employees tell me that it is "impressive" that I have a JD, adding to the firms prestige and credibility. Yet, I do not think this should be your basis for going to law school.

Apr 13, 2012
JD-MBAMonkey:

I have to say, being a joint degree student (JD/MBA) I couldnt agree more with what most of you were saying. If I knew what I did now, I would have never gone to law school in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, you do gain exceptional skills going to law school and substantially increase your analytical thinking. However, the skills needed for IB, law school does little.

The one aspect of law school that I believe has helped me the most is purely the aspect of having a JD. I have had numerous clients and potential employees tell me that it is "impressive" that I have a JD, adding to the firms prestige and credibility. Yet, I do not think this should be your basis for going to law school.

Do you think a 3-year JD/MBA program would be worth the extra year?

Apr 13, 2012
FinanceStudent28:

Do you think a 3-year JD/MBA program would be worth the extra year?

I'm curious as well

Apr 13, 2012

All my friends in the legal field think they should shut down law schools for 3 years.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Apr 13, 2012

Too many kids that I've known who made it through cant find work. One of my best buds is in it for 70k with no job. Even he regrets it.

"Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us." -Mises

Aug 18, 2018

I do pity my college roommate who went to a top bracket school and is now working at a $60k/y job. After he services his student debt, he makes less than he did before he went in. He tells me, the top 10% of the top 10 schools get to go to fancy white shoe law firms. And everyone thought they were going to get there. But he was in the bottom 50% (top of the bottom he said) in a very well known top 14 school in Chicago, but it was not Harvard/Yale/Stanford, and he wasn't top 10%, so off to the dry deserts of legal mediocrity you go. Max you out at $60k/y. I send him all my legal work as condolence. Poor guy.

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Apr 13, 2012

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

Apr 13, 2012
International Pymp:

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

Exactly, I know a SUNY law grad who is unemployed for years. I also know a UT-Austin student making bank just from her summer internships.

Apr 13, 2012
International Pymp:

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

Wrong.

Apr 14, 2012
evilbyaccident:
International Pymp:

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

Wrong.

right. Clearly if you don't do well and have no people skills so you fuck up your interviews you're not getting a job in Big Law, but if you do pretty well and do a good job in interviews jobs still exist. And I graduated in 2008 from UG so I had a ton of friends who just finished up law school in 2011 and almost every single one of them (6 of the 7 I can think of) is now at a prestigious law firm as an associate. (it was ivy UG and they all went T-14, lots at Columbia/Berk/Penn)

Apr 13, 2012
International Pymp:

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

T-14 is now T-7. These are: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UChicago, NYU, Penn.

Apr 14, 2012
seedy underbelly:
International Pymp:

those statistics are totally bunk because they include EVERY law school graduate... give me a break, if you're not top 25 it shouldn't even count as going to law school... and for people that can go to "T-14" schools I'm sure the economics are strong.

T-14 is now T-7. These are: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UChicago, NYU, Penn.

not entirely true, UC Berk has to be on that list... most would say it's top 5-6

Aug 18, 2018

I dunno about that top-14 school being such a ticket to success.
I'll quote my own post here, and point out that many of the folks who went to top 14 schools are still not doing well.
It seems you have to finish high in the rankings of those top 14 as well for it to matter.

"I do pity my college roommate who went to a top bracket school and is now working at a $60k/y job. After he services his student debt, he makes less than he did before he went in. He tells me, the top 10% of the top 10 schools get to go to fancy white shoe law firms. And everyone thought they were going to get there. But he was in the bottom 50% (top of the bottom he said) in a very well known top 14 school in Chicago, but it was not Harvard/Yale/Stanford, and he wasn't top 10%, so off to the dry deserts of legal mediocrity you go. Max you out at $60k/y. I send him all my legal work as condolence. Poor guy."

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Apr 13, 2012

+1 for the thread.

I'm a 3L now at a T-14. The other day I heard my friend, a grown man, sobbing to his mom about his lack of job prospects. Amongst my close circle of friends (with grades ranging from good to bad), only 2 (out of about 10) have a biglaw job.

I'll be in IBD mostly because I am lucky.

Apr 13, 2012

I'm curious, besides biglaw, can anyone here speak to the market for IP lawyers with an advanced degree?

Aug 18, 2018

I heard those are much better prospects.
Ideally, you would have gotten an undergrad first in a hard science to pick up domain expertise, like in molecular biology or computer science.
That way you can dive into the tech.

Apr 13, 2012

Law's not bad, but IB sems to give you more control over your own career.

Law seems to require that you get really lucky multiple times to make bank. Law school admissions are largely a crapshoot, as is getting good grades in law school. Those grades determine your internship and job prospects. There is no way to really differentiate yourself or gain a valuable skill.

Thenc, at th other end of the associate process, you have a sub-50% chance at making partner. If you don't get asked, then you are headed to the legal dept. of a F500, working for what your peers in IBD were making as associates. And this is after giving your 20s and 30s to the law.

In IB, there are as many places to fall off "the track" but your experience makes you employable. A 2nd or 3rd year BigLaw associate is more or less useless.

It also seems like lawyers do not network...they just judge based on GPA/LSAT/Law School. This makes it really hard to take control of your own future, especially since Law School grades are based on 1 end of semester test that is graded arbitrarily.

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Apr 13, 2012

This is a bubble waiting to burst. Anecdotal evidence from students in the top 14 schools even point to slim job prospects from those institutions.

I wanted to get into entertainment law because I loved music (played for 15 or 16 years now) and I'd be lying if I said Ari Gold from entourage (And his real life counterpart Ari Emmanuel) didn't influence me. But the data is out there. Law schools are supposed to attract the best and brightest analytical students but anyone who does their due diligence will see that it's a losing bet.

Self-selection bias and a bimodal distribution of data have already been covered. The number of JDs is skyrocketing and job positions are not. Lawyers don't like to retire. A lot of the work that a first year associate will do is easily accomplished by paralegals who demand less compensation.

Ultimately I decided against it because it would take me a good 10-20 years to get into the kind of work I wanted to do. To get there would have been a series of extraordinarily lucky bets (get into the top14, graduating at the top of the class, succeeding in a biglaw firm, making it into one of the few notable firms who do entertainment law at a high level). And if you don't make it? paying off 200k+ in debt chasing ambulances and dealing with terribly soul-draining divorce cases, property disputes, and lawsuits.

A big problem is that students are uneducated about other options. I took a year off after I graduated because I didn't want to jump into something like law just because I didn't think anything else was out there. Masters programs are sprouting up in all kinds of interesting fields, and many require little to no background knowledge of the subjects. In May I'm starting a masters of accounting program like this. Sure, it's not as glamorous as investment banking or exciting as being an astronaut, but at least I won't be under six-figure debt with no promising job prospects.

Go read www.jdunderground.com if you wan to see how bleak it really is for lawyers...

Aug 18, 2018

Law's not bad?

I can think of nothing I'd rather less do than review legal docs.
OK, maybe I'd like to draft legal docs up even less.

Holy crap would that make me go postal.
I'd honestly rather work as a rat catcher or toilet cleaner.

Apr 13, 2012

I went to law school too and I will say to stay away from it. What most people don't talk about in addition to the job prospects or lack thereof is how depressed you will be in the program. Law school is downright boring and very very depressing. People come in happy and they leave so unhappy.

Apr 13, 2012
TraderDaily:

I went to law school too and I will say to stay away from it. What most people don't talk about in addition to the job prospects or lack thereof is how depressed you will be in the program. Law school is downright boring and very very depressing. People come in happy and they leave so unhappy.

Do you think it breeds alcoholism? I mean I love a good drink as much as the next guy, but I get the impression that law school drinking is on an entirely different level. One of my old roommates is at Tulane and isn't making me change my mind on this matter.

Also, Happy Hour is For Amateurs is a good read on the legal profession and the quality of life (or absence of it) the legal world provides.

Apr 13, 2012
tedrd.88:
TraderDaily:

I went to law school too and I will say to stay away from it. What most people don't talk about in addition to the job prospects or lack thereof is how depressed you will be in the program. Law school is downright boring and very very depressing. People come in happy and they leave so unhappy.

Do you think it breeds alcoholism? I mean I love a good drink as much as the next guy, but I get the impression that law school drinking is on an entirely different level. One of my old roommates is at Tulane and isn't making me change my mind on this matter.

Also, Happy Hour is For Amateurs is a good read on the legal profession and the quality of life (or absence of it) the legal world provides.

Oh yes, unlike undergrad where people drink for fun. Law school was pure drinking because of depression and stress. Law school is just not fun.

Apr 13, 2012
tedrd.88:
TraderDaily:

I went to law school too and I will say to stay away from it. What most people don't talk about in addition to the job prospects or lack thereof is how depressed you will be in the program. Law school is downright boring and very very depressing. People come in happy and they leave so unhappy.

Do you think it breeds alcoholism? I mean I love a good drink as much as the next guy, but I get the impression that law school drinking is on an entirely different level. One of my old roommates is at Tulane and isn't making me change my mind on this matter.

Also, Happy Hour is For Amateurs is a good read on the legal profession and the quality of life (or absence of it) the legal world provides.

Haha my college friend is in is 3rd year at law school and his drinking puts what we used to do in college to shame

Aug 18, 2018

I think Tucker Max summed up best why NOT to go to law school

Apr 13, 2012

Median starting salary of someone who went to a top 7 law school is around $160k. Is the $130k investment worth it then? Of course. But that's too simplistic - you'd have to consider the opportunity cost of other fields such as investment banking where you can be making $160k a year your 3rd year out of college, which goes up to ~$500k a year 7 years out of college.

Law school is a terrible idea if you don't go to a school where the median starting salary is ~160k. But it's so easy to know whether you can go to one or not, just take the LSAT and plug your numbers into hourumd.com

Apr 13, 2012
goldman in da house:

Median starting salary of someone who went to a top 7 law school is around $160k. Is the $130k investment worth it then? Of course. But that's too simplistic - you'd have to consider the opportunity cost of other fields such as investment banking where you can be making $160k a year your 3rd year out of college, which goes up to ~$500k a year 7 years out of college.

Law school is a terrible idea if you don't go to a school where the median starting salary is ~160k. But it's so easy to know whether you can go to one or not, just take the LSAT and plug your numbers into hourumd.com

But can you hack it in Big Law long enough to pay off your debts?

Aug 18, 2018

it's classic bi-modal distribution.
Top 10% of the top 10 schools start at 160k per year.
Everyone else is at $60k per year.
Guess which peak the law schools want you to focus on as some sort of mean or median?

Apr 13, 2012

Despite my previous post, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. I don't recommend going but I still had a blast. The partying is a lot of fun (at least at my school), I got to meet a lot of cool people, and I feel smarter as a result. But it's prohibitively expensive for most people and situations.

Apr 14, 2012

I would argue that going into law school with no plan but just as the "next" thing is a terrible idea. If you have a strategy than I think it can be a great/rewarding move. Here is one example:

UF Levin College of Law = $15k tuition & fees per year for residents @ 3 years for JD + 1 Year for Tax LL.M so I would anticipate $100k in loans after 4 years factoring in COL.

UF is ranked # 2/3 for Tax law, for which I would assume you would see $100k - $120k starting @ big law with this background. ROI and payback on this track would be very good, so it all depends on your plan.

Apr 15, 2012
whoisthat4:

I would argue that going into law school with no plan but just as the "next" thing is a terrible idea. If you have a strategy than I think it can be a great/rewarding move. Here is one example:

UF Levin College of Law = $15k tuition & fees per year for residents @ 3 years for JD + 1 Year for Tax LL.M so I would anticipate $100k in loans after 4 years factoring in COL.

UF is ranked # 2/3 for Tax law, for which I would assume you would see $100k - $120k starting @ big law with this background. ROI and payback on this track would be very good, so it all depends on your plan.

Specialty rankings mean very little. If you are at UF wanting to do tax you are going to get crushed by Georgetown and NYU (and every other T14). You probably have some pull at regional firms in Florida (probably pays in the 80k-100k range), but that would be about it.

Aug 18, 2018

you think you'll get $100k in big law from UF?
No chance. Not even close.

Apr 14, 2012

Relatively speaking so is a MBA, mfe, etc. These programs have become cash cows for universities. So, therefore from a short-term financial perspective, they can all be bad investments. However,the process of law school and the results it provides (ability to critically think, write effectively, etc.) is something that in the long run can provide real tangible benefits to your job (if you leverage it correctly). From personal experience, as you get older these tangibles (or in some cases the intangibles if you will) will become more evident and important.

Apr 15, 2012

Top 10 school = Worth it.
I took on $150,000 in student loans for my MBA and I'm glad I did.
Don't know much about law schools, but for a law degree from Harvard or Yale
along with their crazy alumni network, I'll take on $300~400K if I had to.
(Oh, and I pre-paid off my loans 3 years after I graduated.)

Aug 18, 2018

MBA is not same as law school
MBAs have a more of a floor under them.
I don't regret my MBA, but my buddy who went to a top 14 law school sure regrets going there.

Apr 15, 2012

The argument made against law schools can be made versus MBA and MSF programs. Too many crappy many schools pumping out too many degrees with few job openings. At least law school teaches some skills.

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Apr 15, 2012

But the difference is that the MSF can be leveraged via your prior work experience, Bachelor's in Finance, etc. and gives momentum and fluidity to the resume. The law degree makes you look like something that you may not want to be after you graduate.

Apr 15, 2012
TraderDaily:

But the difference is that the MSF can be leveraged via your prior work experience, Bachelor's in Finance, etc. and gives momentum and fluidity to the resume. The law degree makes you look like something that you may not want to be after you graduate.

True, but again I think that logic only works if you go to a top school. These programs offer two things: brand and OCR. You can pay 1K and reproduce most of the MSF coursework with CFA and modeling programs.

Apr 16, 2012

if i ever go to law school it will be to do criminal law or patent law

i think criminal law would be pretty cool despite getting murders/rapists off the hook

Apr 16, 2012
blastoise:

if i ever go to law school it will be to do criminal law or patent law

i think criminal law would be pretty cool despite getting murders/rapists off the hook

...you could prosecute them bro

Apr 16, 2012
UFOinsider:
blastoise:

if i ever go to law school it will be to do criminal law or patent law

i think criminal law would be pretty cool despite getting murders/rapists off the hook

...you could prosecute them bro

Where's the fun in that?

Apr 16, 2012

I'm not sure if anyone has adressed law as a career for people that are interested in the analytical and negotiating skills that a career in law can provide. There are more options than working for a huge law firm and just being a faceless associate. True, most starting salaries are in the 60ks but if you bust your ass and move up, the comp does start getting better.

My brother went to a like top 50 school, partied like crazy, traveled Europe, and graduated cum laude making $65k all in. 2.5 years later he made in the $90ks for total comp and will most likely be making partner next year or the year after. He will be most likely be making at least $200k-$250k when this happens, depending how the partner comp structure really works. He loves his firm and his job and has had the opportunity of having cases in his own name and developing clients, something he would have had to wait decades to do at a huge firm. He works for a statewide firm with 5 offices.

Apr 16, 2012

I think that the kind of skills you are able to polish in law school are really kind of vague and common. A lot of people are smart and have good analytical and critical reasoning skills, and unless you are able to demonstrate some form of specific value (e.g., you went to a really good school, you have specific skills that lend themselves to various kinds of law) then you are not going to be handed that six-figure job that pops into people minds when they hear the word "lawyer" (although I think most people by now have realized that this is just a lie). That being said, I find it hard to believe that someone with a CPA and law degree (or perhaps just some accounting background) would have a hard time finding a job. In this way, law school isn't a magic bullet. If you aren't going to a great school or graduate with stellar academic standing, you have to prove yourself.

Apr 17, 2012

Although I agree with some of your premises, I disagree with your conclusion because it's reductive to say that law school is a bad idea just because it's a bad play financially. To be sure, personal life choices can't be understood in terms of something as superficial as a vehicle purchase. People measure and maximize utility in different ways.

Many of the people I know who have/are/will attend law school do so, it seems to me, because they want to use their skills to help others achieve justice in a respectable profession necessary to society while enjoying a comfortable standard of living. If that means going into six-figures of debt and waiting tables for a few years until a good opportunity comes along, then so be it.

And while I'm at it, the ABA Journal clouds the real moral dilemma by correlating lawyer misconduct and times of economic stress and scarcity. A lawyer can't 'chase unsophisticated legal work' like a panhandling car window washer. A lawyer either has a client who needs their services or doesn't. The problem would be that during times of economic stress and decreased demand for legal services, lawyers and firms swindle the clients they already have in order to make their numbers add up, which would happen regardless of how many lawyers there are.

Apr 17, 2012

Law School is generally a poor bet, if you win (get big law) you lose and if you lose (no job or shitty job), you really lose. Big Law is a more soul crushing and adjusting for years (at 25 you should be a 3rd year analyst/1st year associate) poorer paying gig. Making partner is very difficult and there is even more prestige whoring in law than in banking/PE/HF. At the T-14 you have a reasonably good shot at big law (>50%), but once you step outside of the T-25 it falls to 25%, out of the T-50 to maybe 10% and as you get down to the T-100 5%, beyond that it is literally the top handful getting "big law" and usually not at the more prestigious big law firms. The salary distribution is bimodal, a lot of kids get 165K associate positions at big NYC/DC/Silicon Valley firms, a lot get 45K positions doing DUI, no fault insurance defense. Law is very much feast or famine and tending towards the latter.

Apr 17, 2012
futurectdoc:

there is even more prestige whoring in law than in banking/PE/HF

Yes, in this business you can trump any prestige tool with "oh yeah, how much did you bank?"

Is there any way around the bimodal pay? Is working as a staff lawyer for a company a decent paying gig? Between DUI bitch and big law slave, is there any middle ground???

Apr 17, 2012
UFOinsider:
futurectdoc:

there is even more prestige whoring in law than in banking/PE/HF

Yes, in this business you can trump any prestige tool with "oh yeah, how much did you bank?"

And this is why finance is awesome.

Apr 17, 2012

There are some "mid-law" firms with 25-100 lawyers practicing in small-medium sized cities that pay 80-100, but there aren't many, these are starting salaries of course. Some lawyers go into areas of business where a JD is a plus, like compliance, regulatory consulting, risk management, but there aren't too many. The problem is there are 40,000+ grads a year pouring into a legal market that can support maybe half or two thirds that many, the amount of saturation varies, but if you go to jdunderground you can see grads of second and third tier schools complaining about a lack of jobs and by jobs I don't mean 165K in NY, I mean like 10 an hour gigs that undergrads would shy away from.

Apr 18, 2012
futurectdoc:

There are some "mid-law" firms with 25-100 lawyers practicing in small-medium sized cities that pay 80-100, but there aren't many, these are starting salaries of course. Some lawyers go into areas of business where a JD is a plus, like compliance, regulatory consulting, risk management, but there aren't too many. The problem is there are 40,000+ grads a year pouring into a legal market that can support maybe half or two thirds that many, the amount of saturation varies, but if you go to jdunderground you can see grads of second and third tier schools complaining about a lack of jobs and by jobs I don't mean 165K in NY, I mean like 10 an hour gigs that undergrads would shy away from.

Thanks for the insight: what does the pay/workload of the compliance, risk, etc.. jobs look like? There's very little press on them, even on JDO, so I'm resigned to learning what I can where I can.

Apr 18, 2012

I can't believe there is so much debate on here about law school. Yes, like many professions it is an option. But, the level of stress going into it is just not worth it. No one in their twenties should endure that type of pain of the first year of being stuck in a library for hours at a time per day, per week, per month only to likely gain a job that you won't want in three years (Big Law) or gain a job that is not financially feasible such as public defender or working for some nonprofit org. Spending 100K to make 50 never makes sense in terms of a JD because the mathematical odds and pressure you will encounter is too much for most. Why do you think you seldom if ever meet a happy lawyer or law student?

Also, the glamorized view of law being a tool of social justice is also without merit. Most people have no clue that they will be engaging in mindnumbing work that involves reading dull cases and doing other work that they could easily do if trained without a JD. Most people interested in helping others have good intentions. The problem is that unlike other professions, law is a trade. Most of these people haven't even interned in a law firm or somewhere similar before enrolling in law school. In other words, they're without any experience to make a logical decision. I mean, how many finance people would enroll in an MBA program without knowing what business, finance is about or at least having had some prior work experience? But people will, with illusions of grandeur, enroll in law school every year without prior WE. Even if you do have WE, nothing can prepare you for the brutality you will experience during those three years. As one law school official at FSU said several years ago, people come to law school so happy and leave so unhappy. You have one exam and that one exam determines your job prospects. They do NOT teach in law school. It's all Socratic, which is really latin for garbage. This is really an open ended discussion with no right answer. How do you prepare for a test without an actual right answer? The answer is you have to go out and study supplements you buy on your own. So if that's the case, what the hell do you need a professor for? A professor in law school is just like a referee of an argument. He/she barely teaches anything. You teach yourself and pay them to do virtually nothing. Does this sound fun?

Apr 18, 2012

The "pain" of 1L year is way overstated, when/where did you go to law school?

It only should suck the last month before finals (i.e. now). Even as a 3L I've been inside for like 2 weeks now working on my writing requirement. Oh and I have 3 exams I haven't even begun reviewing for. But then again, this is mostly my fault because I've procrastinating and dragging my feet over anything school related.

Apr 18, 2012
dontgotolawschool:

The "pain" of 1L year is way overstated, when/where did you go to law school?

It only should suck the last month before finals (i.e. now). Even as a 3L I've been inside for like 2 weeks now working on my writing requirement. Oh and I have 3 exams I haven't even begun reviewing for. But then again, this is mostly my fault because I've procrastinating and dragging my feet over anything school related.

Not just 1L year. See all of my other comments. Also, you must not care if you get a job or not if you're "procrastinating."

Apr 18, 2012
TraderDaily:
dontgotolawschool:

The "pain" of 1L year is way overstated, when/where did you go to law school?

It only should suck the last month before finals (i.e. now). Even as a 3L I've been inside for like 2 weeks now working on my writing requirement. Oh and I have 3 exams I haven't even begun reviewing for. But then again, this is mostly my fault because I've procrastinating and dragging my feet over anything school related.

Not just 1L year. See all of my other comments. Also, you must not care if you get a job or not if you're "procrastinating."

Have you gone to law school, traderdaily?

Apr 18, 2012
TraderDaily:

Also, you must not care if you get a job or not if you're "procrastinating."

Wrong again. Law school definitely attracts some crazy work ethic but there's a good size of the student body that procrastinates, puts in an ordinary amount of effort, and still come out with a biglaw job. And seriously, socratic method? Not many professors do that. In my class I think 1 section had 1 class where the professor was basically the guy in Paper Chase.

To make this post useful for the law school-curious this is by far the most frustrating part about law school. The grading is very arbitrary, it depends for the most part on on how professors grade essay exams. I remember a professor took a bunch of us out to lunch once and candidly told us that about 10% of the class's exams are notably brilliant. The rest are more or less the same. And those exam grades your first year basically determines whether you get a biglaw job. Stuff like work experience are (unfortunately) only soft factors.

TraderDaily, I've read your posts and you definitely offer a lot of sound advice. But to call law school categorically miserable and something that no one should ever consider is just unfair. You see my username, its definitely not sarcastic (for the most part).

I'm probably biased because things turned out well for me, but as circuitous as my career path has been, I don't regret going to law school for a second. I'm definitely a lot smarter as a result, I feel like I developed intellectually in ways you really can't while grinding at an office job. Most importantly I made some awesome friends, some of whom are going to be very influential people in the future.

BUT BE WARNED WSO: Like any investment do your homework. At the very least hit me up before signing that damn promissory note. Ok, back to my paper.

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Apr 20, 2012

$63k a year?!

You must be talking of some obscure law school graduate practicing in Iowa or smth. My friends who graduated from Cornell Law, Columbia, Law, etc. are making $160k base to start with or more...

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Apr 20, 2012
Dumbeldore3000:

$63k a year?!

You must be talking of some obscure law school graduate practicing in Iowa or smth. My friends who graduated from Cornell Law, Columbia, Law, etc. are making $160k base to start with or more...

LMAO, you're looking at the graduates of the number 4 and 14 ranked schools, presumably students in the top half as your data points. The reality is that law schools often fudge their own stats. People have difficulty getting legal jobs from the T-50.

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Apr 20, 2012
Dumbeldore3000:

$63k a year?!

You must be talking of some obscure law school graduate practicing in Iowa or smth. My friends who graduated from Cornell Law, Columbia, Law, etc. are making $160k base to start with or more...

LMAO, you're looking at the graduates of the number 4 and 14 ranked schools, presumably students in the top half as your data points. The reality is that law schools often fudge their own stats. People have difficulty getting legal jobs from the T-50.

Aug 18, 2018

60k/y from Northwestern.
Get off your high horse - there's shit jobs in law if you're not top of the top

Apr 20, 2012

What this article fails to grasp is that the economic cost of going to law school is approx. double what you're paying. You're not only paying $120k for that law degree, you're losing $120k in wages during those two years that you are in school.

Apr 20, 2012
Dat Maz:

What this article fails to grasp is that the economic cost of going to law school is approx. double what you're paying. You're not only paying $120k for that law degree, you're losing $120k in wages during those two years that you are in school.

Are you kidding? Everyone on this forum blows what they have saved up on a MBA

Apr 20, 2012

Some of you guys are delusional.

I would put finance and law on the same level between earning power and the number of candidates for jobs

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Apr 20, 2012

Do you ever consider that some people just like the law? Not everyone wants to be a banker, regardless of money or this "prestige" you talk about. There is only prestige in banking for other finance people.

Apr 21, 2012

Is knowledge of securities law required to be an M&A banker? Or in PE/vulture funds where they have to do all sorts of takeovers?

Apr 21, 2012
G-izzo:

Is knowledge of securities law required to be an M&A banker? Or in PE/vulture funds where they have to do all sorts of takeovers?

Only enough to pass the series 7, most bankers don't have JDs

Apr 22, 2012
futurectdoc:
G-izzo:

Is knowledge of securities law required to be an M&A banker? Or in PE/vulture funds where they have to do all sorts of takeovers?

Only enough to pass the series 7, most bankers don't have JDs

But does it give you an edge when dealmaking in M&A? Especially when coming up with creative ways to takeover, or facilitating a merger which only makes sense if certain legal loophole (e.g. tax) is exploited etc. The kinda stuff we read about in books...

Just wondering

Apr 22, 2012

No, a JD is basically useless. The days of lawyers doing real M&A strategy work ended in the 80s, my cousin was at Cravath then. BTW she is the person who recommended not going to law school. Some JDs do jump to banking, but usually they either started in M&A as analysts, worked doing it a top tier firm i.e. Cravath; Sullivan, Cromwell or the like. Are you at a T-14? The lawyers I knew who became bankers one was an Oxbridge grad who did an LLB and never practiced and a few who were at major firms.

Apr 30, 2012

A JD is the painful way to do Finance. Stick with other programs.

Jun 14, 2012

i send this to all my friends who tell me they want to go to law school, hope it convinces them otherwise

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Jun 15, 2012

It depends on your region. In Australia if you can get a government supported position, you can do your JD for less than $30,000 in a Big 8 University (Australia's equivalent of the US Ivies, ranked 9th and 11th in the world for Law), and you'll be making the same amount as Americans when you graduate. But America's education costs are completely foul. Seriously, I don't know how they justify them.

Going to grad school in Law cost me about that, and I could see it helping a lot, (ie the partner at the Big 4 Accounting firm I signed with has a Law degree, and it got me into final interviews at Banks and big 4's, plus in consulting). Plus I enjoy both Law and Business, and so I chose mainly Corporate and Finance law subjects.

But it really depends on your future ambitions. There is nothing worse than doing law if you don't love it (and reading and learning), and there's a list of other qualifications that would better qualify you than law for a BB or Finance, if that's your dream.

Jun 15, 2012

There's something depressingly hilarious about www.jdunderground.com. Topics like "What do you spend your money on, other than loans?" and "How many job apps before totally giving up?" make me weep for my buddies trying to go to law school.

Jun 21, 2012

Check out the discussion about getting a JD vs. MBA over at http://www.jdoasis.com/jd-v-mba.

Jun 22, 2012

I guarantee you that you won't find the "Do not go to business school" discussions online the way you find "Do not go to law school."

Jun 22, 2012

Here're a couple good reads:

http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2011/08...

http://www.calicocat.com/2004/08/law-school-big-li...

If it were up to me, I wouldn't go to law school unless I really, really wanted to practice law and I somehow managed to get into a T6 school.

EDIT: As an aside, a good friend of mine attended YLS and is now a fifth year associate at a top-tier biglaw firm in NYC (CSM / SC / etc.) -- he's confessed to wishing that he'd just done the finance track (IBD --> PE/HF/etc.) after college.

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Jun 22, 2012

thanks for the quick reply, holla_back, but what about the NY/NJ/PA/CT/CA/MA/FL/MI lawyer who isn't in "Big" law, but at medium law, or owns a practice?

Jun 22, 2012

Also interested

Jun 22, 2012

jdunderground DOT com

Jun 22, 2012

WSO resident law dude here. I'm at a mid-tier law school and ranked towards the top of my class. The people who are ranked at the top of their class and go to a mid-tier school usually have no issues finding employment. Granted there are outliers, but you will absolutely get interviews at mid tier to top tier law firms if you are in the top 10% of your class. The main difference between the T14 schools and a mid tier law school is that mid to big sized firms are willing to recruit deeper into a T14.

That being said, law school grading is a total crap shoot. I crushed my first semester with practically straight As and then second semester I had a few Bs. If I could do it again I probably wouldn't go through law school, but I don't regret it either.

At the end of the day you create your own path. There are generalizations, but there is no one sized fits all formula.

Jun 22, 2012

There was a wall street journal article last year I think, showing employment statistics for nearly every law school in the country... Harvard and Yale weren't even at 100%... With that said though I have a buddy at Yale now in his 2nd year and he already has an internship offer and job offer for when he graduates.. Dude is NUTSO smart though... 4.0 with honors at NYU then a perfect score on the LSATs. He got accepted to Harvard and Yale and opted for yale

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Jun 22, 2012

If you go to a T6, no it is not bad at all. The kids that are unhappy at these schools self impose it, because in their eyes anything below a V10 is unworthy of them

If you go to a T6-14, it is still not at bad. While it may be difficult to get the truly prestigious V5s or so, there are still alot of opportunities in Biglaw.

If you go to a Top 20-30, and are at the top of the class, you have a shot.

If you don't fall into one of these categories, barring an extremely lucky turn of events you are in trouble.

The issue is that we pump out 250,000 lawyers a year, but there are only 60,000 legal jobs opening. Frankly I'm tired of hearing people who act surprised when they go to Nashville School of Law and can't get a job -- I'm like, really?!?!? What about that choice did you think was a good idea?

Sign,
Frustrated JD/MBA

Jun 22, 2012
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Jun 22, 2012
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