Above the Law recently ran an article defending attending law school. They were kind enough to link to this blog, but sadly not kind enough to provide a particularly compelling justification for their wayward advice.
To be honest, I actually think this article may be an example of very subtle satire. Can David Lat really believe that educational trust funds and potential sinecures are really relevant to the debate?
In any event, here are my summaries of his five "arguments" and my brief responses to each point.
Argument 1: Hey, winning the lottery is possible.
Sure, there's a better chance of getting a BigLaw job than winning the Power Ball. Nevertheless, when you win a lottery jackpot, you walk away free and clear with millions. When you "win" a BigLaw job, you still have to work long hours for an annual salary of $100k plus dollars.
Would I have taken a job like this if it was offered to me? Sure, but that doesn't mean it's fun. Many lawyers are miserable and plenty end up washing out of these jobs after a few years.
More importantly, however, is the penalty for not making the OCI cut for BigLaw. In the legal world, it's a loooong way down if you're not in the magic top X% of your class.
If you play the lottery and lose, you're out a couple of bucks. If you lose the law school gamble, you could throw yourself into massive debt and torch your career trajectory for years to come.
Argument 2: You can always become a law professor or work for daddy
If you don't have BigLaw grades, you don't have law professor grades. Plus, do you really want to be part of the law school scam?
Also, we all know that if your name is William P. Buffington III, your old man can find you a law job. He can probably also get you a non-attorney position. This is axiomatic, and anyone in this position already knows he is set for life. This isn't germane to the debate.
As for some of the other jobs listed, sure they're all possible. It's also possible that you could be a PG in the NBA, but I wouldn't risk six figures of debt on that potential opportunity either.
I can't believe people still suggest that a law degree is useful for pursuing "alternative careers". Unless the alternative career they have in mind is in janitorial services or being a "professional companion" to male executives, please see the rest of this site for my rebuttal.
Argument 3: A B.A. in liberal arts is also worthless
A J.D., for many people, is essentially a graduate liberal arts degree. It doesn't teach you anything practical, and aside from the mostly inaccessible legal jobs, it isn't valued by employers.
You don't get out of a hole by continuing to dig yourself deeper; you get out by trying to climb out by working your way up from low level jobs and picking up some practical skills.
Argument 4: Not Everyone Takes on Debt
Yes, but most do. Once again, if your old man can write a check to cover the ordeal, congratulations. This website probably isn't for you. For everyone else, even "a little debt" can still mean big payments for many years in return for a largely worthless piece of paper.
Debt isn't even the biggest problem. Thanks to the IBR, even larger debts are now manageable (if annoying).
The big problem is having a three year gap in your resume and a degree that makes you overqualified for virtually every non-legal position that would otherwise be accessible to you.
Even if you do go the attorney route - for those who aren't at the top of the class - your sentence is a life of toilet law and/or document review slavery.
Argument 5: Pride
I have been introduced as Attorney [My Last Name], and I receive mail addressed to [My Name], Esq. I also live at home with my parents and spent about 14 months unemployed. That kind of takes some of the wind out of the old sails.
I look forward to Lat eventually letting us in on the joke. This article would have been better suited for April 1.