[Note: This comment appeared in the comments section to my last post. I've decided to address it as a separate post because it raises some important issues.]
Just a question: What exactly is "toilet law?" It sounds like you are saying there is "Big Law" or "Toilet Law" or "Non-Profit/Public Sector Law" and that's it...am I getting that right?
I'm only asking because I will be attending law school (on a scholarship) and would not work in so-called "Big Law."
Don't bother telling me not to go to law school--I've weighed everything and am going, at least as long as I maintain the scholarship.
And on a side note--why WOULD anyone think that a JD would help with a non-law job? I think anyone who would go to law school based on that (or give that any weight whatsoever) is kind of foolish to begin with. The purpose of a JD is to practice law. Of course a job that gains no benefit form that isn't going to pay a premium for you (or even hire you) based on that! Instead, I'm sure most employers look at that and think that you'll just want more money either now or down the road while a "less educated" applicant will not want as much.
Gerald T. Studebaker
Esq. Never's Response:
Thank you for providing an intelligent comment from a pro-law school perspective. I'm sorry that you can't be talked out of going to law school, but I certainly hope that you're somehow able to succeed.
"Toilet law" generally refers to small firms that are not very pleasant to work for. They have low starting salaries particularly when weighed against the average starting salaries depicted in the law school marketing materials. (See some of the links from my last post for examples.)
Moreover, there is very little room for advancement, much of the work involves tediously filling out forms for different courts, and the time one spends in court usually takes place in some of more depressing court rooms in the jurisdiction. I urge you to take a look at Big Debt, Small Law's "about" section also linked in my last post.
I know that you probably think that you'll just work for a mid-law firm or a "good" small law firm. This is not quite as feasible as you believe. Many of these boutique and mid-sized firms don't hire law school graduates straight from law school. In most cases, you actually need to work for Big Law and then lateral over to these firms once your time as a big firm associate comes to an end.
Some of these firms may hire a handful of recent graduates, but in those cases, the graduates will likely have the same credentials that most Big Law starting associates have (either very high grades or a degree from one of the top few schools).
You may believe that you're a shoe in for ending up in that category, but just remember there are currently plenty of unemployed T-14 students, and even if we assume that the end of the recession will take care of this "anomaly", even before the recession, plenty of good law students were in tough shape. (Hence the topic of my last post.)
If you don't believe me, Angel the Lawyer of "But I Did Everything Right!" graduated from a top 30 school with a scholarship (pre-recession). Big Debt, Small Law graduated in the top 1/3rd of his class from second tier, Seton Hall. This was also pre-recession. Both of them ended up in "toilet" law making only slightly more than many college graduates are able to make. They didn't even have real benefit packages (e.g. no real health coverage).
The reason why so many bright students who miss the cutoff for Big Law but are still able to find firm work end up in "toilet law" is because those are the firms that tend to hire. Many small firms are small for a reason, and if they are going to expand they either want attorneys with a pre-existing book of business or at least somebody they don't have to waste time training.
The law firm "mills" that make money on the volume of cases they are able to churn out tend to be the low level personal injury and insurance defense firms. Because they just need warm bodies to keeping pushing the clients and settlements through, they're willing (or at least were willing, pre-recession) to take on inexperienced recent graduates and continue hiring them as older associates burn out and can't endure working for these firms anymore.
As for your query about non-legal jobs. You are correct that there is no reason to go to law school if you don't plan on practicing. Moreover, I'm glad you're going into school recognizing that getting a non-legal job after graduation isn't really an accessible option.
Nevertheless, plenty of law students enter law school every year under the assumption that if that can't make it law, they'll at least be able to market their skills in another field. The law schools certainly do nothing to persuade law students against believing this fallacy. They often highlight the ostensible versatility of the J.D.
Regardless, many students do eventually end up never practicing either because they hate the law or can't find work as an attorney. At my decent, second tier school, the school's own statistics indicated that almost 20% (1/5) of the students went into "business" after graduation! This was also based upon the Class of 2007, who graduated before the market crashed.
The problem with the legal field is that there are so many attorneys and only a limited number of jobs. As I mentioned, before the recession, many of the surplus J.D.'s could find mind numbing temporary jobs working in document review. Now that those jobs are largely unavailable (at least to recent graduates), the only exit for many students is to try to find non-legal positions.
Moreover, a good number of people end up going through law school and realize that being an attorney is not for them.
Once again, I regret that you seem unwilling to listen to some of these warnings, but if you do end up in a position where you either lose your scholarship or don't have the grades to get a good job, I urge you to remain open minded to the possibility of dropping out.
Best of luck,