Do Not Go To Law School

If you are a college graduate, a college student, or a high school student, and you want to work for someone else, do not under any circumstances plan to go to law school. Instead read Temporary Attorney. Law schools are cranking out lawyers without any regard to how many legal jobs there are, and many lawyers are caught doing dead-end contract document review for $35 an hour.

“$35 an hour? Isn’t that, like, $70,000 a year? That’s more than I can make with my BA in Philosophy!”

Of course it is. But to make $70,000 a year, you will have to give up three years of work at whatever rate you can make with your BA You’ll accrue $80,000 worth of debt. Let’s say you can make an average of $30,000 a year (salary) for three years with your BA; you’re $170,000 in the hole when you graduate from law school. Then you do contract document review at $70,000 a year (contract), which is worth maybe $55,000 a year (salary). It takes you seven years to recoup the cost (including opportunity cost) of law school.

Even assuming that other opportunities would not have appeared in the ten years you would have (had you chosen more wisely) spent in the workforce, and that the contract work isn’t offshored to India, ten years after you begin you’re just starting to break even.

What’s going to happen in your life in the next ten years? What has happened in the last ten? What’s going to happen in the world in the next ten years? What’s the practice of law going to look like?

You may be the hardest-working kid in your college class, with a ticket to a first-tier school and expectations of a cush job reviewing documents in a skyscraper, but do you know if BigLaw going to be hiring in three years when you graduate from that school? Is BigLaw going to be laying lawyers off? Will you be joining the ranks of the basement document reviewers (instead of the salaried skyscraper document reviewers), wishing that you had joined some profession that couldn’t be offshored, like plumbing or auto repair?

If you don’t find a job (and you can safely assume that you won’t), will you have what it takes to start your own practice? Do you have the initiative, the personality, the perserverence, the employed spouse? More importantly, will you know how to practice law, or will you be truly learned in the law with no practical training?

When I was in law school, there were people who were there only because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves. They didn’t want to practice law, but they wanted to delay making an honest living by another three years. Right now law school is looking like a really bad gamble for that type of student — and for most
everyone else but the law schools.

Like the yellow pages, the law schools raise their
rates every year (as Dallas criminal-defense lawyer Robert Guest points
out, in lockstep with GSL guarantees) for a product that becomes less valuable every year. There are a few downtier law schools that focus on turning out functioning lawyers, but most schools drive toward irrelevancy.

Until there are more billets for new lawyers than there are new lawyers, and until there are more seats in law school than there are kids who want to be lawyers, law school will continue to be a really bad idea.

Stay far away.

0 responses to “Do Not Go To Law School”

  1. You really do paint a picture of doom for those who want step up to the Bar. While most will be motivated fiscally, I’m certain there are others who will do it for the love for helping others.

  2. Your math’s off Mark – keep your day job, say goodbye to your friends and loved ones and go do your first law school at night – if you hate that then walk away, if you’re sick enough to have liked it, then you’re incurable and you might as well go whole hog.

  3. Mark doesn’t have to worry about his math, cuz he got more loot than he can count. But that doesn’t mean any law student today is getting any of it.

    His point is right on target. If he can’t dissuade you, then you should be a lawyer. If he makes you blink, then go find something else to do with your life. Everyone will be happier for it.

  4. Future law students, TemporaryAttorney is a messenger from the future, your future. The market is tough and the competition is going global.

    For an easier career path consider lawyer marketing. Almost any half brained website/SEO/marketing idea can get a few lawyers as clients. I’ve seen some hack ideas with a $2,000-$4,000 price tag. There is a growing market that needs creative honest people.

    • I have a feeling that if the lemmings don’t become lawyers the ‘half brained website/SEO/marketing idea’ market will also dry up…

  5. There is a difference between top tier schools and lower-ranked schools in terms of job availability and compensation immediately following graduation. The lower-ranked schools are sirens luring hope-addicted, mediocre students to the rocks of economic destruction.

    • There is no guarantee that the sort of jobs that top-tier law students count on getting after graduation will still be around in three years. High-prestige baby lawyers are a luxury, and BigLaw isn’t doing so well.

      Because of the way law school rankings work, a law school that focuses on actually training lawyers will probably be ranked lower than a law school turning out legal scholars. A fourth-tier school that trains lawyers to lawyer (like Cooley) is, in my view, even now a better bet for the student than a first-tier law school that turns out legal scholars who are not good for much more than skyscraper document review.

  6. I’ve thought for a long time that there are too many law schools, and that they make it too easy to get in. The reason so many people choose law school is that law schools will eat any undergrad degree. Got a degree in graphic art and can’t make a living? Archeolgy, medicine, art, philosophy, English, math, physics, engineering, education, botany, animal husbandry, etc.? No problem: law schools have no specific prerequisites — just any four year degree.

    I’d start by requiring at least 3 years real world work experience before law school. Also, law schools should require some technical writing and rhetoric as prerequisites. That should weed out some of those who merely want to change careers regardless of their preparation or aptitude.

    I also think that law schools should offer more specific programs. A grad from an “immigration track” or “criminal litigation track” or “civil litigation track” or “administrative law track” program may be more employable than one with a generic law degree.

  7. I think a couple of the news magazines in the career issues have already panned lawyer as a career.

    Don’t be so negative though, you might discourage the next Mark Bennett.

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