September 3, 2010

"At what point should you give up on your dream of becoming a lawyer?"

"It’s a question on many people’s minds lately. Whether they were laid off during the recession and haven’t been able to get back in, or if they’ve just graduated law school to the triumphant sounds of crickets, people are wondering when it’s time to stop throwing good money (and effort) after bad."

Above the Law, via Instapundit.

40 comments:

traditionalguy said...

The education bubble remains alive and well. Maybe they can attorn to teaching jobs. But the end of free market capitalism's expansion has ended the need for many Property Protectors that we call Attorneys.

Skyler said...

Eh. Just go to Afghanistan with the Marines and pay off the loans with all that tax free money. Come home debt free and do something with your membership at the bar.

LarsPorsena said...

Attorneys do not make anything; they only divide up what other people make. Derek Bok

tjl said...

Why give up? A law license opens the way to one of the last remaining cottage industries. You can still hang out your own shingle and never miss a meal. It may not be the deluxe practice of your dreams but there's no need to accept unemployment as your inevitable doom.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I honestly don't know what I would tell the letter writer in that situation. I regretted law school almost every step of the way (although I loved the school part of it, classes and the subject matter, that is.)

By the third year, I was cursing my decision (I left a good, comfortable, but boring and stagnent corporate job in 2006) every damned day. I never would have thought that I would manage to be in the top 10% of the class with no job by 3L New Years, but I was. I landed a clerkship and graduated 7th in the class, and thought that things would be OK; they weren't. Although I had tons of people indicate that they'd really *like* to hire me, I only had one serious interview through the year long clerkship, and they choose someone with experience.

The job I'm in now, which I only landed by joining forces with a friend, is a crapshoot. So far, I'm loving it, actually, and think I'm happier with it than I would have been in the biglaw jobs I didn't get, and the potential is there to make absurd money, but I'm wholely dependant on what I bill, and, more terrifyingly, what the clients pay for it.

I still don't know if I should have dropped out that first week, though. And that was when things were good, economically speaking.

- Lyssa

Unemployment said...

When your constitutional law professor gives you an "interesting thought experiment" as your exam.

traditionalguy said...

The vision of lawyers as parasites comes from a false belief system that thinks Property belongs to people, thus allowing it to be traded and stored up. Wrong. Property is the original social construct. It is totally dependent upon lawyers and the courts. Even diamonds and gold bars require a legal system to protect the possession and commerce conducted with them. Without a system of lawyers, courts and sheriffs we would all be stuck like Mexican immigrants who get falsely charged and robbed by toughs and even the local police department who covet forfeiture of cash and cars in a rigged system of government theft. And how is property ownership doing in Cuba and Venezuela these days?

k*thy said...

The longer I've been around, the more I'm convinced there really aren't any right or wrong answers to these types of questions. Reflect, decide and go on until the next fork in the road.

I tended to like the advice toward the end of the article, you're this far in, go for it and see where it takes you. Things have a funny way of working out.

PatCA said...

This student needs to clarify what he wants. If he is risking $170K at a top tier school, he better be aiming for a job that comes as a result of his alumni connections. What's the point of the $170K otherwise?

If he doesn't like the boring corporate stuff and wants to be a DA, he should get a job and go to law school at night at the closest ABA-accredited school in his city. Look up where the DAs he would be working with went, and transfer.

HDHouse said...

At the point when you really do believe honesty is a virtue?

Paddy O said...

1999

Flexo said...

You can still hang out your own shingle and never miss a meal.

Actually, I've known quite a few sole practitioners who have been near poverty a few times. When you are on your own, you are constantly worrying about having to hustle up work.

When you have work coming up, it is a feast. When you don't, or do you have people coming in who need representation, but they have no money for a lawyer (most real people), then it is famine.

-------------

As for the "dream of being a lawyer" overall, that depends upon your conception of "lawyer." If your idea is the practice of law as business, then it is easily realized. But if you want to be a lawyer because you have this idealistic conception of "law," if you believe in such concepts as reason and right and wrong -- which are pushed in law school as what the law is about -- then you will swiftly be disillusioned your first day on the job. That is, you ARE dreaming if you ever thought that that is what the law is about these days.

c3 said...

Lots of jobs in healthcare

Employment in health care increased by 28,000 in August, with the largest gains occurring in ambulatory health care services (+17,000) and hospitals (+9,000). Thus far in 2010, the health care industry has added an average of 20,000 jobs per month, about in line with the average monthly job growth in 2009.

Back of the envelope calculation (and if we assume all of the new healthcare jobs are non-government) 41% of the jobs added this past month were in healthcare.

You don't need justice, you need a pill!

Class factotum said...

If he is risking $170K at a top tier school, he better be aiming for a job that comes as a result of his alumni connections. What's the point of the $170K otherwise?


That job would be President of the United States, after a stint as a community organizer.

MadisonMan said...

Shouldn't the modifying word practicing be in that title?

If you get through law school aren't you by definition a lawyer? Dream fulfilled!

LarsPorsena said...

"At the point when you really do believe honesty is a virtue?"

Honesty will always be a virtue but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

Trooper York said...

They should move to Vegas and become whores.

They have already had the training.

Fred4Pres said...

At what point should you give up the dream of becoming a lawyer?

When you can't make a living at it.

There are lots of people with legal degrees and even bar memberships who never practiced. Go live your life and do something. Skyler's advice is not half bad. Or join the Peace Corps. Or travel. Or work on a farm.

Just do something.

menley said...

For me, becoming a lawyer was a plan and not a dream. If it's really your dream, I think you should finish law school.

David said...

I gave mine up after practicing for 30 years. Timing was perfect.

traditionalguy said...

FYI the current depression in opening, expanding, or starting a business (which is what those thousands of "Business Schools" are teaching our youth how to do) is because their is no bottom in sight. That is also because NO bank is willing to lend any money now. The end result is attorneys can only help broke people rearrange their debt or file Bx. Obama is hitting his target enemy in its heart...that is you and me, unless we are among those that pretend to work over at a government bureaucracy.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

When people start asking that question, it's time.

SGT Ted said...

Skyler has it right. Join any branch of the US Military. They are always looking for lawyers. You will be direct commissioned as a CPT/O-3, which is really good money, especially when you go overseas to any war zone.

You could pay off the bulk of your loans with 2 tours if you used the money wisely. And, you'd get a baptism of fire into your chosen profession.

Skyler said...

Sgt. Not quite true. You start as a second lieutenant. At least in the Marines you do. And in the Marines you are a lawyer but still a line officer.

Skyler said...

By the way, that Afghanistan idea is my plan. I'm not a jag but I did just pass the bar.

ironrailsironweights said...

Law school is so popular because it's easy: no math, no science, no computers.

Peter

meep said...

I had to make a similar choice over 8 years ago.

In my case, it wasn't a matter of debt. I was a math grad student.

But I was understanding the concept of opportunity costs and sunk costs, and I realized an academic career was not in the cards for me.

After 6 years in grad school, I left.

Anyway, I've got different challenges now, but I'm much happier working in the business world.

One thing I realized about the academic life is that one often is working on problems no one much cares about, and when you, the academic problem-solver, don't much care about it either.... not a good path.

Now, as an actuary, one way I can tell that people really really care about a problem is that they will spend plenty of good resources to get that problem solved. It's not as pristine as the formulation of the problems I used to work on, but it's really interesting. Done a lot of cool stuff over the past 8 years since I made the jump.

Bob_R said...

I voted for the kid ditching the law career. We're talking about someone with really poor quantitative skills here. Someone who would borrow $170K to become a DA.

Skyler et. al. - Can you really pay off that kind of debt with a couple of tours in the JAG corp? I have a friend who had that plan twenty five years ago, but it was to pay off a far smaller debt. And there he decided from the JAG corp to the tank corp. (And yes, in the army the JAG corp started as a captain - tanks a second lt.) He retires from the army this year.

Bob_R said...

meep- The only reason to think you "made the jump" is if you think of a math grad program as "math professor school." It may not be the fastest, most efficient path to becoming an actuary, but it's not a bad path. The money was flowing in the right direction - in rather than out. You can dwell on opportunity costs if you want, but for six years you had a pleasant (if low paying) job. You came out of it with no debt and a lot of math knowledge. Not a bad deal. There are big advantages to being smarter than a law student.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that it really depends on why you are in law school. I think that I went because I was bored of being a software engineer and was looking for a change.

What that means here is that if I had known, maybe as a 1L, that I wouldn't find a job upon graduation, then I might have switched courses at that point. By 3L, you have enough invested that that just doesn't make sense, at least to me.

But if it really is a dream. And you just cannot see yourself doing anything else, or you are willing to sacrifice a lot for that dream, then stick in there.

I came out without a job, and ended up back in grad school to get the credits to sit for the patent bar. And, even then, it took a family friend helping me out doing the initial training, helping me out, to get going. I was about 4 years out when I got my first real full time job as a lawyer.

I look back and am not sure if it was worth it. I loved law school, and do like patent law. But that unemployment and underemployment right after law school may have cost me my marriage and some of the raising of my kid.

Bruce Hayden said...

The vision of lawyers as parasites comes from a false belief system that thinks Property belongs to people, thus allowing it to be traded and stored up. Wrong. Property is the original social construct. It is totally dependent upon lawyers and the courts.

I am a bit troubled by this because it can be, and I am sure is, used to justify redistribution of wealth. After all, if there is no inherent good in the creation and ownership of wealth, then there is no reason not to spread the wealth around to those more deserving, such as those who make bad mistakes while young, such as having kids out of wedlock, or drug dealing.

SGT Ted said...

The Army direct Commissions lawyers as CPT as does the Air FOrce. So does Coast Guard. I imagine and Navy is similar.

SO, stay away from the Marines and you'll be paid better.

:D

Skyler said...

Bob, I'm not a JAG. I'm a communcations officer. And the USMC has already paid a lot for my schooling (mostly through REAP and later the GI Bill), my debt isn't so bad that a year on active duty as a major won't kill it off.

Skyler said...

I'm pretty sure that you get commissioned as a second lieutenant in the army as well as the navy and air force. The time you spend in law school makes you a captain by the time you graduate.

Skyler said...

I know the navy and Marines do not direct commission to O-3, though it appears the navy will direct commission as an O-2 Lt(jg) if you already have the law degree.

Skyler said...

Ok, here's what the Marines do:

3. WHEN DO I GET PROMOTED? Generally, constructive service is the recognition that the Marine Corps accords those judge advocates who have pursued professional legal education prior to commissioning. Constructive service is a calendar year of credit, up to three years, that is awarded each academic year of law school completed while not in a commissioned status. This credit advances seniority and eligibility for promotion; pay is not affected. Therefore, a newly-commissioned second lieutenant lawyer can expect a promotion to first lieutenant shortly after reporting for initial active duty. For promotion purposes, the Marine Corps places you among your peers as if you had been commissioned simultaneously, with you reporting to law school while the others commence training at The Basic School (TBS).

I'm pretty sure this is the same as the other branches. If you start as a 1L, you will be a second lieutenant.

david7134 said...

I sometimes wonder if the effort is worth anything with the state of our country. I have been in medicine for many years and have been looking for other opportunities with the end of that profession. I considered law and possiblilty of combining the two degrees, but know that in the near future that the Feds will step in and put an end to the ability to make a profit.

I really find it hard to visualize much of a progressive future for the country and thus the economy with what has occured and what will likely result.

My son is going into the military and that is likely the best training for his future and the need to really change the nation.

jamboree said...

Never, but maybe gain a healthy respect for the fact that the economy can't sustain an infinite number of lawyers. Lawyers ride, as parasites, on the back of a healthy, thriving economy - not the other way around, and maybe it would do them good to realize that and not sue it into non-existence.

PS. Rea Estate Brokers, too.

Skyler said...

Lawyers don't sue people. Clients sue people.