Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Five Weak Reasons for Attending Law School

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.


  1. David Lat refers to you and third tier reality, and still makes these pro arguments for going to law school. WHat a tool!

  2. David Lat is the perfect illustration of the facts that neither a Yale degree nor Asian ancestry are necessarily indicative of great intelligence. He is a mediocre thinker and writer, and the only people impressed by him are the other Ivy League mediocrities who troll ATL.

  3. I haven't read the ATL post, but it seems hard to believe that someone there would give such lame reasons to justify the choice of attending law school in the current climate.

    It had to be sarcastic...had to be.


  4. David Lat lives in a dream world, or is somehow writing his articles from a parallel Earth that has no connection to this one.

  5. 1) Law school isn't a lottery since success is tied to merit and correlated with hard work
    2) You don't have to teach law if you don't want to. People such as yourself could do alternative law career services counseling.
    3) If you didn't learn anything practical from your law school experience, you weren't putting in effort or paying attention or using all the resources you had available for three years to your advantage. Take a little responsibility for your failure to have learned how to be a good lawyer.
    4) debt was your decision to take on, no one forced you to sign the loan papers, there are plenty of partial scholarships out there for those with high academic merit. I got offered many.
    5) You should take pride in your accomplishments, even though it might not have turned out as you envisioned it, you certainly worked hard at some point to get in and through law school. No one can take that away from you.

  6. Ms. JD -

    1) Funny how so many people who did just fine in law school ended up in doc review and toilet law.

    I'd be happy to point you to some Craigslist ads where firms are seeking top students for jobs that pay $30k a year.

    2) Sorry, I may be a loser, but I'm not interested in being a scam artist.

    3) Nonsense. I took the maximum number of practical courses and externships (including one where I actually argued in court) at my school. I even took five practical CLE's.

    There's no way I could handle a case without further hands on training. Law school spends most of its time with theoretical garbage rather than practical training...Even plenty of law school defenders admit this.

    4) I'm not asking for a bailout. Nevertheless, law schools charge an absurd amount of money for a degree that is largely worthless. Take away the federally backed loans and let's see how much these august institutions can charge.

    Guess what? At $100k plus for a J.D. in tuition alone, a partial scholarship still leaves you with plenty of debt.

    5) I thought in point three you asserted that I wasn't very hard working?

    In any event, yes, I'm very proud of receiving a degree that anyone with a pulse and the ability to sign a promissory note can obtain.

    6) Are there are unicorns in the fantasy land you and Lat appear to both inhabit?

  7. Ms. JD, are you really Reese Witherspoon?

  8. Esq. Never: I'm not going to respond point for point, I just thought your comments could use some diversity

    JD Under: Perhaps a slightly less nice version :)

  9. The ScamBloggers (most of them, anyway) NO LIKE Diversity!

    Nevertheless, EsqNever is actually one of the most reasonable ones I've come across.


  10. Doug likes to blow old sailors for $5 a pop. So take his advice with a grain of salt.

  11. William P. Buffington IIIJuly 17, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    I take personal offense, you ruffian.

    I'll have to have an extra high-ball at the club to get over it.

  12. Ms. JD,

    The reason you got all those scholarships is because you're female! There are three times the number of scholarships available for female college students vs. males. Not to mention the fact that you get preference in college admissions; for an equivalent academic record, you'll get into a better school. Not to mention the fact that you'll get preference when it comes time to interviewing and hiring; you'll get more interviews, more offers, and more money because you have a vagina rather than a penis. Finally, you'll get more promotional opportunities and the raises that come with them. So, don't give ME this claptrap about how you got ahead via hard work! Don't insult my intelligence that way...



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