June 23, 2006

"Perhaps it's time to rethink the whole 'law school as default' mentality that infects so many otherwise sane young minds."

Says Cameron Stracher in a piece in Opinion Journal. Smart young people who want to do well but can't figure out exactly what they want to do often go to law school. The theory is they'll at least be progressing toward a real career. Is this such a bad idea? Well, it's very expensive! And it's a lot of work. And if you don't have focused goals, you're quite likely to find yourself bumbling along with the crowd into a job you don't like at all. And having spent all that money and done all that work, you're also going to find it hard to say no to that job. This is all very conventional wisdom among people who have already gone to law school. What does Stracher have to add? Some sobering statistics about how much money law grads actually make and what kinds of jobs they end up in after the all-too-likely law firm phase.

52 comments:

tjl said...

Stracher points out that the number of practicing lawyers at present is roughly equal to the number of inmates in state prison. What an apt comparison. I've often thought of myself in terms like that while churning out some really thankless project like responses to discovery.
What Stracher fails to address is that law school actually is the default option for college graduates with some otherwise lifeless degree in English or Politicval Science. There aren't all that many other practical options.

MadisonMan said...

I especially liked the comparison of keeping your options open meaning You can still be a lawyer. I've heard the keep your options open line a lot around grad schools, and it really does mean You can still do what you're studying for when you're all done.

It seems like changing your mind about what to do for a living is sometimes really discouraged if you've invested several years in schooling. It shouldn't be.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Rather than keeping options open, the crushing debt of law school often slams doors shut, pushing law students to find the highest-paying job they can and forever deferring dreams of anything else.

This is something that an early-twenty-something considering law school will probably hear today if he or she seeks out advice, but it can be hard to fathom what that kind of debt really means until you're paying it back. The fault partially lies in this inexperience/optimism, as well as with the easy access to enormous amounts of debt.

One good thing about the legal profession is that, in my experience, lawyers have been very honest-if cynical-when advising young people whether to go to law school. I was a bit taken aback by how many lawyers I talked to before law school confided that they thought they had made a mistake by going to law school, that they felt trapped, that I should do something more fun if I had the chance. And these were so-called "elite" lawyers.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Law school may hurt your chances in the dating pool as well.

John said...

The whole article strikes me as very biased towards a big city, New York, Chicago, Washington attitude.

For example, the legal profession is really only the elite lawyers and glorified paralegals? I work in a medium sized firm in a medium sized midwestern city. I know I'm not in the "legal elite", if that means a multi-national firm, but I believe I'm more than a "quasi-legal" paralegal or clerk.

Honestly, the legal profession is much like any other profession-there are good places to work, bad places to work, and many in between.

In addition, the cost-benefit analysis ($38,000 per year in tuition only) may be accurate for a tier one private school, but is not accurate for a lower tier state school.

In addition, I'm curious the salary difference between an associate in a big firm in a big city with private school debt versus an associate in a medium firm in a medium city with public school debt. I'm the later, yet comfortably middle to upper middle class. Rich? Of course not, but happy never the less.

Remember, law school may not be for everyone, but there is more to the legal profession than making it into Harvard or Yale and hitting a 500 lawyer firm in NYC. Those of us practicing in "fly-over" country, along with bankers, small business owners, and millions of others actually are a huge part of the American economy.

Equating the legal profession to elite lawyer or paralegal is somewhat like equating the opportunities for a businessperson as starting Microsoft or struggling shopclerk. There is life in the middle.

Drive through the midwest sometime-there are many happy lawyers who skipped the entire big firm, big city thing all together.

Dave said...

When I thought of applying to law school, everyone who I consulted on the matter, with the exception of one insane masochist, said that I should do something else with my life.

They were all miserable with the law.

But then they were alll big city corporte litigators unhappy with their large paychecks.

Pogo said...

So, lawyers hate their jobs, too?
I wonder what job people really love, I mean frequently?

Simon said...

I suppose the question would be, if fewer people applied, would prices rise or fall? The market would seem to dictate that they would have to fall, but I can think of a few reasons why they might, in fact, rise.

Of the "things keep me out of law school," there are two things foremost in my mind. The first is that it is massively, crushingly, chokingly expensive; John may well be right that the $114k figure may apply only to top shelf schools, but even if you have a school that charges only half that much, that is still massively, crushingly and chokingly expensive. And thus the second - as a corollary to the first - is that law school is full of people who want to make lots of money. And I suppose that is inevitable and unsurprising: if you're going to spend three miserable years paying through the ass to listen to three lectures by some fourth-rate hack teaching critical legal studies (or any number of "soft law" classes, which is to say, "not law at all" classes) for every one bright, shining class of CrimPro or ConLaw (the latter being likely as not to be spoiled by watching some quasi-Brennanite lecturer indoctrinating the younglings), and graduate into - in Michael Dorf's phrase - "the ranks of one of the most hated professions in history," under a pile of debt comparable to the mortgage on a decent-sized house in a nice suburb, it should hardly be surprising that these people want to make money. As our Fearless Leader said earlier in the year, behind every Georgetown gradute are two parents perilously close to bankrupcy. It is no wonder that such people want to make a pile of money instead of going into public service; you could scarcely design a system better calculated to create a torts boom.

There are many, many things which make me think law school would be a wonderful and enjoyable experience; removing the people who aren't there because they're genuinely interested in law, and removing the people who went because they want to make money and see being a bloodsucking injury practise as their ticket, with a possible concommitant fall in prices, would be a wonderful step in my view.

Dave said...

corporate lawyers that is.

Another reason not to go to law school: the opportunities in business are so much greater.

My father did bankruptcy and antitrust litigation for 25 years.

He'd often remark to me that he would be sitting in a meeting with the heads of large companies, and would know that he and his fellow lawyers would be viewed with, at best, skepticism, and at worst, derision.

Not a fun place to be.

David said...

"law school actually is the default option for college graduates with some otherwise lifeless degree in English or Politicval Science. There aren't all that many other practical options"..sure there are, if the individual is able to avoid the snobbery trap. Business-to-business sales, for example, can be very lucrative, and for a person with an independent spirit, may be a lot more fun than lawyering.

CB said...

From the article:

"It's time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don't earn $160,000 a year, that we can't afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don't lunch with rock stars or produce movies."

What kind of morans actually think that? They deserve to be disappointed. I agree with John-- the columnist seems to think that the only schools that matter are the top 10 and the only places that matter are the east & west coasts. (I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth John)

Dale B said...

I'm not sure that this sort of thing is limited to Law School, or even grad school, or, for that matter, any undergraduate degree. I am an electrical engineer and have been working as an engineer since I graduated with a BS 25 years ago. There are very few practicing engineers that fit this profile.

In my experience, about 20% of engineering graduates don't even pursue an engineering job. Of those who get an engineering job, roughly half leave the profession in 6-10 years because they hate the work. Of those who stay in the field, most will move into management, sometimes technical management and often non-technical management. Most don't make this move because they like management but because it's an easy way to escape being an engineer.

This also seems to be true for other jobs, at least in my experience, be it accounting, purchasing, marketing, or sales.

The chances that the career choice you make in your early twenties will last for the rest of your life are quite small.

the pooka said...

I wonder what job people really love, I mean frequently?

College professors.

(Right, Ann?)

Abraham said...

I distinctly recall in middle school when we had a "job fair," and various people came in from the community to give fifteen-minute spiels about their work, what they do, and what kind of training is required. Even at that young age, I was interested in law and government, and went to the session hosted by one of our local attorneys, who was also the city attorney.

He spent almost the entire session talking about plumbers - how a person becomes an apprentice, learns, works, and eventually becomes a master plumber, while getting paid during all of his work training. He mentioned that becoming a lawyer takes a lot of school, a lot of non-earing time, and a lot of money. His conclusion: "If you want to earn a lot of money, become a plumber."

Not that I took his advice, of course - and actually being interested in law and government, logical thinking and analysis, I came to be somewhat unhappy in law school, which was depressingly focused on work, and status. And in fact I'm not practicing, and am not sure I ever will.

Jim said...

Funny, I went to UT Austin law school because it was real cheap and seemed like fun! In fact, a major motivator for my attending was that I was sick of my tax dollars going to pay for others' three cushy years.

That was in 1979, when tuition was something like $500 per year. Before, during and after law school I supported myself just fine doing computer engineering and have averaged some 28 weeks vacation per year throughout my professional career of 35 years.

I can't imagine how hard it must be for a patent law firm to find some physicist to work for 2500 billable hours per year, which is what they offered me the one time I was crazy enough to interview at a patent law firm!

Simon said...

Dave:
"My father did bankruptcy and antitrust litigation for 25 years. He'd often remark to me that he would be sitting in a meeting with the heads of large companies, and would know that he and his fellow lawyers would be viewed with, at best, skepticism, and at worst, derision."

Indeed; and for those who really want the thrill of being "viewed with, at best, skepticism, and at worst, derision" can experience that feeling for considerably less money than law school tuition by walking into any branch of McDonalds and placing a special order.

Simon said...

"I can't imagine how hard it must be for a patent law firm to find some physicist to work for 2500 billable hours per year, which is what they offered me the one time I was crazy enough to interview at a patent law firm!"

It does make you wonder: if less people are going to law school, as I mentioned above, that might drive down tuition, but I wonder what effect it might have on the business model of these practises which require crazy amounts of billable hours per week. If there are less garduates, will that make it a seller's market, where firms will be forced to accept lawyers who aren't willing to kill themselves for the firm, or will it do the opposite, precisely because smaller numbers of graduates will lead to fewer graduates in more specialized fields to divide the work between?

Paddy O. said...

My suspicion is that the jobs people love the most are the ones which are the most difficult to get a paycheck for doing.

That being the case I think the jobs where people work to improve the lives of other people tend to rank high on the happiness scale. Most teachers I know love being teachers, for instance.

Only these aren't the sorts of jobs, except for doctors I suppose, which young folks are told they should pursue. It takes until one is in their thirties, I think, for most people to realize themselves and to really discover what it is they want to do rather than what they should do. By that point there are often far too many barriers to leaving the "should do".

Dave said...

Simon: LOL.

This is why I don't eat fast food.

Or, rather, one of the reasons.

Simon said...

"He spent almost the entire session talking about plumbers - how a person becomes an apprentice, learns, works, and eventually becomes a master plumber, while getting paid during all of his work training. He mentioned that becoming a lawyer takes a lot of school, a lot of non-earing time, and a lot of money. His conclusion: "If you want to earn a lot of money, become a plumber.""

On the other hand, though, there are similarities between the trades. Both are professions that people bemoan until they need one, and then when they hire you, mutter darkly about how much it's costing them when you're not looking. As a plumber, you get to wear uncomfortable overalls; as a lawyer, you get to wear uncomfortable suits. As a plumber, you get to do boring work; as a lawyer, you may have to do probate stuff. As a plumber, you look at your raw materials and think "what would Blue Man Group do with this?"; as lawyer, you look at your raw materials and think "what would Justice Scalia / Brennan [delete to taste] do with this?". And, of course, as a plumber you may have to do extraordinarily unpleasent tasks like sticking your hand down toilets and crawling around in sewers, and as a lawyer, you may have to work with personal injury lawyers. On balance, maybe plumber have it better.

John said...

CB:

That's exactly what I meant.

But then, practicing here in the midwest, billing 1700 hours a year, decently paid, leaving work by 6 every day, working on interesting litigation matters,and still making partner...

Well, I love my job, so I may be biased.

J said...

"The whole article strikes me as very biased towards a big city, New York, Chicago, Washington attitude"

And in the discussion of money too - somebody making 60K in Lubbock or Wichita probably doesn't have a significantly lower standard of living than than somebody making 165K in Manhattan, especially if their debtr load is much lighter.

Dave said...

The Wall St. Journal (which publisjes OpinionJournal.com) has a discussion board about this ver topic, here

Dave said...

Wow I really should check my typing before I post shouldn't I?

Jeff said...

Way back in high school, there was a kid who went to vo-tech, and worked nights for his dad who owned his own plumbing business. By the time his peers were graduating college, he had been an journeyman plumber for a couple of years and was working on his master. He also owned a couple of houses and lived in one that he had paid off. By the time his peers (the ones that made fun of him in high school) got out of law school he owned his own business and had people working for him. This was 20 years ago. If he wanted to, he could have retired by 30. He is still working, he has always done new construction so has never had to do the dirtier parts of plumbing, and is very happy and has been for the last 20 years. There is a lot to be said about being a plumber.

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo said..."So, lawyers hate their jobs, too?
I wonder what job people really love, I mean frequently?"

Law professor.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe a lot of those who go to law school these days go for the money, but my experience was that there were a lot of law students who started law school with the intent to change the world, or work as a PD, etc. But something about the competition and the atmosphere changed many of them so that by the end of the first year, they too were competing for the top jobs paying the outrageous salaries.

I went to law school knowing what it meant to be a lawyer, my father ultimately practicing for 47 years. So, I grew up knowing a lot of lawyers, judges, etc. And even though it was hard work, I had a lot of fun there.

Finally, I ended up in patent law, and enjoy it. It allows me to be a technology junkie. Also, I get to work with some of the brightest people around. Since I work mostly for myself, it also allows me a lifestyle that I wouldn't have in most other vocations - for example, I get to ski quite a bit every winter.

I did work as a software engineer for 15 years before that, but ultimately I found that I was burning out, and couldn't see doing that for another 25 years. I can work at patent law at a much more controlled pace and don't see ever burning out. Indeed, I hope to be able to do what my father did, and a number of patent attorneys I know are doing, which is to work into my 70s.

Ann Althouse said...

Why is the debt for a law school education seen as "crushing" because it's comparable to a mortgage? People routinely buy houses on borrowed money, and the house doesn't create a flow of income to use to pay off the debt. Are they crushed? In fact, a house the price of a law school education wouldn't even be a very nice house! Education is one of the things that is MOST worth borrowing money for. And remember law students are able to earn money in their summers, often in the range of $35,000 for a mere 10 weeks of work. They graduate and make more than their teachers who have 20 years' experience. And the whole process only took 3 years. Compare that to PhD programs with much less earning potential. I mean, don't be a fool and go into an area of law practice that you don't like, but please don't whine about law school. It's well worth it. If you don't want a certain type of teacher, take somebody else. You'll have a choice for most courses. None of my students are people who didn't pick me.

katiebakes said...

I think this is completely accurate. I graduated a year ago, and the vast majority of my friends who went to law school, in my estimation, did so because they didn't really know what else to do.

Not like many of those who go into finance do so for any different reason...

Bruce Hayden said...

I think a lot of lawyers do hate their jobs. There is a lot to hate (not in patent law, but otherwise), including cynicism, long hours, boring work, and in many parts of the law, experiencing a lot of aggression. Indeed, I have always wondered about all the women going to law school - a lot of them can't be all that happy with the level of agression required for a lot of the practice of law. (Yes, I am being a bit sexist here, but I am also intentionally not talking percentages - I don't know if this is 10% or 90%, just that much of the practice of law requires this, and men seem to enjoy it more, on average).

Another problem with being a lawyer is that you have to deal with lawyers on a regular basis. Not only the loyal opposition, but those on your side too. In many firms, you have to watch your back a lot more than your front. Innumerable lawyers are thrown out of firms or firms break up for no sin greater than that some other lawyers in the firm covet their business or the money you are making. I doubt that there are many professions out there where the practitioners are any where as vicious to those on their own side. And it isn't easy for many to live in this sort of environment.

Jillene said...

As a nearly graduated professional student (not law), this mentality among young twenty somethings is very common. A common comment is that they don't know what else they would like to do so they thought they would try pharmacy, medical, or law school. I don't believe this is the brightest idea and I do my civic duty by pointing this out. It is very expensive (150,000/8 years...ouch!), you should actually want to care for people if you go into a profession that in some way takes care of people, it should never be about how much money you make but what makes you professionally fulfilled and happy, and contrary to popular belief none of these endeavors will be easy even if you are genius. And honestly, genuises are usually not very empathetic which is a good prereq when dealing with people.

Pogo said...

Ann,
1. You're right about the ROI aspect when borrowing money for a professional degree. It's like any business: you have to invest in it to make it grow. It's a good thing to have debt to service when you're clearing cash over and above the debt (as opposed to never having been able to go at all, and being debt-free, but vocation-free).

2. I'm glad there are folks who love their work. I used to, but that's not because of any problem with my profession per se, because I notice that many of the people here who work 50-75% time are in fact much happier. So it's the hours, not the work.

the pooka said...

Compare that to PhD programs with much less earning potential.

But, of course, these days most people don't go heavily into debt for a Ph.D. -- my advice to my students is, if you aren't funded by a (Ph.D.) program, don't go there.

I generally agree with Ann's point, though; debt from law school really isn't much of an issue (at least, no more so than student loan debt more generally). Most of my students go to law school, and when I talk to them later, most of them seem very happy to have done so.

Abraham said...

Law school is a good ROI if you actually end up practicing law. But I thought the point of the discussion was that too many people go to law school who don't really have that much of an interest in practicing law, simply because it seems like a good investment. But then they either have to work at a job they don't like to make it pay off, or it turns out to be a poor investment and costs them a great deal.

Eli Blake said...

pogo (9:00), pooka (9:31) and ann (12:19).

Pretty much right on the nose. I love teaching math at a community college. It certainly doesn't pay that well, but the daily academic stimulation and chance to work with young people makes it a wonderful job.

My suggestion for a young person who hasn't figured out what they want to do but has a desire to make some 'progress' would be to enter a trades program like construction, plumbing or auto repair. If you do that, the cost won't be nearly as high, and you are guaranteed that someday you will be grateful for what you learned-- and probably save some significant money when that day comes, too.

tjl said...

Bruce Hayden described:

"Cynicism, long hours, boring work, and ..aggression."

By law this phrase should be inscribed over the gates of every law school, like the warning on packs of cigarettes.

David said...

Regarding ROI: when a field is financially attractive, it tends to encourage a lot more people to go into it, shifting the supply-demand balance and eventually making it *less* financially attractive. Since it seems every random liberal arts grad is thinking about law school, isn't it likely that this will happen in law?

Yeah, there will still be big starting salaries for a small number of top grads of top schools, but overall, it's hard to believe it will be sustainable. A fundamental truth about investment is that above-market returns tend to get competed away.

Maxine Weiss said...

Ann, you chided me when I brought this up two months ago. ---When I said law school was a holding tank etc...

Anyone who isn't pre-med gets herded in.

Doesn't an MBA mean anything any more?

Has anyone read Cameron Stracher's two books? I have. He is great. He wrote 'The Laws Of Return', and 'Double Billion'.

He is someone to listen to.

Simon said...

Ann:
"Why is the debt for a law school education seen as "crushing" because it's comparable to a mortgage? People routinely buy houses on borrowed money, and the house doesn't create a flow of income to use to pay off the debt. Are they crushed?"

Peoplpe routinely buy houses that they can't, in fact, afford, and they are routinely financially crushed by it, yes. It's all well and good to say that law school is an investment, but that's like saying that investing $30,000 in WalMart is a good investment - it's only a good investment if you've got $30,000. And like investing in WalMart, "investing" in law school is gambling money on future returns, which may or may not accrue (about which, more in a moment).


"In fact, a house the price of a law school education wouldn't even be a very nice house!"

Weren't other commenters just complaining about the big city / east coast mentality suffusing the article? ;) The answer is "it depends where you live." My wife and I have a very nice house in the suburbs, with a nice parcel of land and more than adequate space for a family of three humans and three cats), bought all in for less than $80k, which we have seen is less than some schools charge in tuition (the only compromise I've had to make is that I can't have a separate music studio and study/library - the horror!). A comparable house in Boston, Chicago, or maybe even Madison, would probably cost many, many times more, and comparable square footage (you couldn't get comparable premises; see comments here) in New York would probably cost the Earth. It depends entirely where you live and what law school you're talking about.


"[R]emember law students are able to earn money in their summers, often in the range of $35,000 for a mere 10 weeks of work. They graduate and make more than their teachers who have 20 years' experience. And the whole process only took 3 years. Compare that to PhD programs with much less earning potential. I mean, don't be a fool and go into an area of law practice that you don't like.

Well, I would want to teach. But that's precisely the problem: I mentioned above that investing that sort of money is gambling on future returns, and in order to go to law school, you have to pay for law school. And in order to pay for it, you have to spend at lesat a few years (likely working simply crazy hours) in whatever practise has the highest returns. How can anyone who approves of sky-high tuition complain about disreputable practise (personal injury, etc.), or about the dearth of students wanting to return to academia or go into public service? Law graduates - in general, but particularly those who aren't in their twenties and already have mortgages to pay and families to support - are forced at gunpoint (the bank manager holds the gun) into whatever work can pay back the afore-mentioned crushing debt (and IMO, all debt is crushing, be it worthwhile or not).

Without meaning to excessively personalize what is meant as a general point, but to use my own position as an exemplar: since appellate litigation isn't really an option, I would want to teach. However, it's a challenge to meet mortgage payments, car payments, vets bills, insurance premiums, and all the other financial drains of grown-up life that your average twenty-something law grad has scarcely begun to think about, and then on top of that find the money to pay back another mortgaged-sized debt, on what your average junior faculty makes in a year (not to mention the question of how those bills will be met while I'm off having a grand old time at law school for three years, and thus not actually bringing home any bacon). For me, going to law school would be a sacrifice if it were free, for the time I'd have to spend away from my family; add in the crippling financial cost, and the lack of options for repayment that don't involve tedium (probate, patents) or debasement (ambulance chasing), and it simply isn't an option for me, and I suspect, for anyone else who would be entering school as what are euphemistically called "mature students".

(I go down to U-Ind. every now and again, which is where I'd go if I went, since I have friends and occaisional professional commitments there; every time I do, I make a point of swinging by the book shop and grabbing something from the legal section, and every time I do, since that means going on campus, I'm struck by how much younger the students always seem to look each time I go.)


"If you don't want a certain type of teacher, take somebody else. You'll have a choice for most courses. None of my students are people who didn't pick me."

Ann, if I went to U-Wisc, I'd have to take conlaw twice: once with you, for fun and argument, and once without you, because I'm not certain you'd pass me. ;)

altoids1306 said...

I can't help but see the parallels to grad school. The key difference is, of course, engineering/science Ph.Ds don't incur debts (which seems to be the primary thrust of the article - career choices limited by debt).

But I think the mentality of "I'm not quite sure what I want to do, keep my options open, wait and see" is quite prevalent in grad school as well.

You're average physics Ph.D doesn't make as much as a lawyer, but, on the other hand, he/she has no shortage of jobs - if they can't find a job in the physics community, investment banks snap them up instantly. One of the rare instances where the higher-paying job is universally recognized as the less-desiriable one.

Simon said...

Abraham said...
"Law school is a good ROI if you actually end up practicing law."

Not quite - law school is a good ROI if you actually end up practicing law in an area of practise that is both reasonably well-compensated and enjoyable to you. If you don't mind doing a boring job you hate, an application to Family Video is no worse an ROI.

Wade_Garrett said...

A lot of practicing lawyers advised me not to go to law school, but they were all 55 years old, drove luxury cars and owned large houses. My father was one of them. At the time, I attributed it to a grass-is-greener mentality -- these lawyers were clearly doing very well for themselves, and they couldn't have disliked it all that much if they were still doing it six days a week 30 years after graduating from law school. So, I applied to law school. I'm clerking for Eliot Spitzer,and I really like it so far, but I'm earning in an entire summer what my roommate at Jones Day earns in ONE WEEK. After my liberal arts undergraduate education, I find law school to be pretty repetitive, and more about getting grades and getting jobs than about actual learning. If one more good friend of mine joins a journal or law review that he absolutely hates because "it'll look good on the resume" I might lose it.

ignacio said...

This thread is fascinating to me. Please continue and elaborate.

Wade_Garrett said...

Professor Althouse - I generally like going to the University of Wisconsin law school, but there isn't as much choice as you seem to imply. In the fall of my first year, I had seven hours of class on Tuesday and six hours on thursday, and there's nothing like capping off a long day with two hours of research and writing followed by two hours of civil procedure lecture to basically grind all of the gears in your brain to a halt. Those classes are fine in and of themselves, but seven hours of active learning in a day is a lot, particularly when most of it sounds as if its in a foreign language, which is how I felt about the first couple of months of law school.

Civil Procedure was my worst grade in law school, and I attribute it to the fact that my brain was fried at the START of every class, no matter how well I prepared for it. I really liked Professor Clauss, but at that time of day, a civil procedure class team taught by Angelina Jolie and Jack Nicholson couldn't have kept my attention.

Furthermore, a lot of the comments (reasonably) speak of the quality of life that lawyers at mid-sized firms in mid-sized cities enjoy. My father, a partner at a 60-something attorney firm in Buffalo, New York, loves his work. But, when you're a law student, and the only employers who your school brings to OCI are either 1000 attorney international superfirms (all of which are interested in interviewing the same 30 or 40 students) or else public interest law offices that expect you to work for free, you can see how law students despair about their future. Count me as one of that group.

Maxine Weiss said...

Ann---"the house doesn't create a flow of income to use to pay off the debt".

You don't know California Real Estate.

In California, a house is a much better investment than law school.

I don't understand why law schools haven't embraced the whole 'distance learning' and 'correspondence' course methods.

Since we've alreay agreed that everything that goes on in the law school classroom has nothing to do with firm life.....

And in California, you don't need to even go to law school to take the Bar. You can be a secretary/paralegal (for 3, 5 years?).....and then go right ahead and take the Bar.

I don't think Gloria Allred went to law school (either her or some other famous female attorney).

For whatever that's worth.

Peace, Maxine

Ricardo said...

There's nothing wrong with "looking at life through the eyes of a lawyer" (even if not practicing), just as there is nothing wrong with "looking at life through the eyes of an artist". In fact, there's a lot to be said for being able to view and analyze life through those windows.

amba said...

I had several friends like that in the late '60s/'70s/early '80s, Ann, and they were mostly failed artists -- writers, filmmakers. I don't mean "failed" in the sense that they lacked talent or ability; they lacked the confidence, or the obsessive monomaniacal certainty about what they wanted to do, and especially they lost the youthful ability to tolerate not making much of a living, or to make a living at a succession of odd jobs.

Ann Althouse said...

Terry: "In the fall of my first year, I had seven hours of class on Tuesday and six hours on thursday, and there's nothing like capping off a long day with two hours of research and writing followed by two hours of civil procedure lecture to basically grind all of the gears in your brain to a halt."

That's terrible. I didn't know we did that. I'll look into it.

Simon: "Ann, if I went to U-Wisc, I'd have to take conlaw twice: once with you, for fun and argument, and once without you, because I'm not certain you'd pass me. ;)"

Simon, we have a curve. When it comes time to enter the grades, I follow the rules. And I give relative short reading assignments. I just try to make people think really hard about what they've read and to engage with it and talk about it. I don't really know why this gives me a reputation of being hard, but it does.

AJD said...

You love being a law professor, huh. Seems to me that what you love is tenure. Tenure is what allows you to spend all your time blogging and making comments like "I wouldn't trust anything a law professor writes."

And on grading: since you have a curve, no professor is actually "tougher" than any other professor. That's the essence of a curve.

WV: hypocrt

Ann Althouse said...

AJD: You're a bit dim. You don't understand the quote. Try harder.

Zach said...

Agreed on the physics thing. Sometimes I worry that I'm secretly a quantitative finance grad student, and when I finally graduate they'll be waiting for me with a wool suit, a cigar, and confetti: "SURPRISE!"

One thing that grad school has convinced me of -- if you don't seriously enjoy geeking out in your area of specialty, the time and effort won't be worth it. If you do enjoy it, you'll have a blast. You'll be like the people who hang around in college towns after graduation enjoying the scene, except you're working as a grad student instead of a waiter. There are worse ways to spend a couple of years.

Of course, in physics grad school pays a (small) liveable wage, so you don't have to worry about cash flow as much.

Simon said...

"I just try to make people think really hard about what they've read and to engage with it and talk about it. I don't really know why this gives me a reputation of being hard, but it does."

ConLaw ought to be tough. It ought to be taught with rigorous expectations. It's important; ConLaw is the class in law school like the class in nuclear physics school where they teach you how to not cause a meltdown - that's the one you don't want to skip or scrimp on the test for.