Monday, March 1, 2010

Law School: Just Say "No"

Don't go to law school. It's expensive, it's time consuming and it's a bad investment. I would say the same about other grad schools, but this is the only one I can speak about from first-hand experience. For those of you who want to be a litigator and actually have enough experience in the legal field to know that litigation is what you want to do, you can ignore this. You may want to be an attorney even if it is a bad deal. But if you are thinking about law school and you have no experience working at a firm and/or are not 100% sure you want to practice, take the following advice to the bank:

1.Law School is Expensive: $90,000 or $60,000 of red ink. You choose. Private or public. I chose the latter (thank God), but $60k is no laughing matter. Those of you who already have debt from undergrad may want to consider whether you want to be making the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment for a couple of degrees that won't put a shred of shelter over your head. Oh, if you are thinking about spending more than $90k on law school, you're an idiot. By the way, that debt number I listed does not include interest and opportunity costs (the money that you could have been earning during the time you were in law school). That is one hell of an "investment" and will likely be the largest or second largest financial transaction of your young life, depending on how much dough you flushed for undergrad.

2. It's time consuming. Three full years of your life. Three of your best years - your 20s - spent taking notes, writing briefs and sweating out exams rather than earning money and finding time to enjoy that which you have earned. On top of that, even after you graduate your degree is pretty much worthless for a legal career until you pass you state's bar exam. Add another 2 months or more of earning little to no income while studying for the bar. Then top that off with the rip-off mainstream bar prep courses and the bar application fee. That's another $2-3k minimum that your putting up, plus the all-too forgotten opportunity costs.

3. It's a bad investment. Supply and demand, people. It's all pretty simple. There are too many lawyers out there thanks to Federal Student Loans and the Law School Industrial Complex. As partially noted earlier, The loans throw the market way out of whack by bringing 10s of thousands more people to law school that would not have gone otherwise. There will be over 44,000 law grads thrust into the economy this year. The number of law jobs is shrinking and is destined to shrink for some time. I guess that is why you can go on craisglist and see pathetic listings of lawyers begging for jobs every day.

If you buy into the grad-school = higher income equation, you might want to take a shorter program. Perhaps an MBA would work. It is more versitile, takes less time, and you don't have school (Bar exam) after school.

My suggestion(s): Work. Gain experience even if you're only being paid shit. If your folks have the means to help you out or if you can live at home temporarily, great. Experience will be at a premium given the state of the economy.

Look at it this way: The Higher Education Industry (HEI) will continue to churn out more undergrad and grad degrees thanks to the lack of jobs. Why? Because the Baby Boomer mentality (our parents) tells us to go back to school where you can learn no skills for the bargain price of $50k plus 8% interest. The degree, so goes the story, will make you worth more to employers.

Unfortunately, in 8 years most of these degrees will be almost worthless in comparison to what was spent to earn them. There are already too many out there and the rate at which they are being churned out is only increasing. Hundreds of thousands more will have that premium piece of paper. What will set you apart from the competition will be real-world experience. Get your undergrad degree and work. If you still want to go to law school after that, suit yourself. At least you will have the work experience to buttress the grad degree or to at least use as a fall back.

1 comment:

  1. Match point: check out my post: Reasons why you should not go to law school (