(Closed) law school?

posted 7 years ago in Career
Post # 3
13597 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

I’m not a lawyer, but Darling Husband is, so these are more his answers:

1) He went to a top law school, and got really good financial aid.  He also has a lot of debt because of it, despite the awesome scholarships he got.  The toss up of going to one of the top schools is that they have very, very high tuition rates.  Plus, you need to take out money for living expenses, so depending on where your school is, you end up paying a lot just paying for food and rent.  There are definitely some scholarships available, but they are competitive.  The payoff process is usually commiserate with your income, so the you end up paying what the loan companies think is affordable.  For Darling Husband, it’s roughly 25% of his salary after taxes.

2) Darling Husband does more administrative law type work.  He works for the government, so he makes a comfortable salary, but it’s nowhere near what his friends make at some of the larger firms.  Because it’s government work and non-litigation, he ends up working basically 40 hours a week – rare weeks, he works more, but not often.  I don’t think it’s fulfilling, it’s not what he wanted to do, but it’s also very hard to get attorney positions in our area so he’s trudging along, getting more responsibility, but looking for something that would be more up his alley.  He knew going in that he had no interest in working for the big firms, so he never even looked that routes.  His friends that work in the big firms work 80 or 90 hours a week, sleep very little, and are always stressed.  (Seriously, one was the best man at our wedding, and he had to fight for the Saturday night off from work to be IN our wedding despite giving them 18 months notice).

3) This is not up my alley, sorry!  I’d say assertive, confident, and very intelligent are some of the top traits.

4) It took him 3 years (the normal length) and he loved it.  He participated in a bunch of clinics and interned, but did not work.  I’m fairly certain you aren’t allowed to work your first year, and after that, if you aren’t doing summer associates, you’re fighting for internships. 

So, my two cents as the girl who watched him go through this:  it’s not easy, it’s a ton of work, and you need to be really sure you want to go through it.  Don’t let the money make the decision for you, but be conscious that this is an enormous financial commitment.  I honestly have no clue what “art law” would even entail, and international law is sort of broad (I worked for the Justice Department for a while and the Deputy Chief used to go on a rant weekly that “international law” didn’t make sense since there was no “international court” to uphold the law).  I would suggest narrowing down more of a sense of what you want to do (art law vs. international law – they aren’t very similar), but not be so heavily invested that you can’t change the path if you take a class that you fall head over heels for!

Post # 4
9135 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

@6thousandmiles:  It’s expensive and difficult to get a job. I have over $80K in debt and a $50K job it took me 3 years to get. Unless you have connections or $$$ just say no. Thankfully I love my job but a vast majority of attorneys that I meet hate their job.

Post # 5
67 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I am a lawyer, I have practicing for about 6 years.

I am Canadian and was lucky enough to get into law school in my home town so I didn’t have to pay for anything except tuition which was about $10,000 a year plus books.  I come from a low middle class family so I had to take loans out for both my BA and Law School and I have about 30,000 in loans to pay off. I know if you’re in the US the expenses are 2x or 3x what it is in Canada so it’s definatly something to consider.


2. I was lucky enough to find a job right out of law school, for a very small firm which means I don’t have a very high salary $55,000 which I could make even if I wasn’t a lawyer, but I do love my job, I do criminal defence which is what I wanted to do.  I am also lucky to be working in a small firm where the work environment is amazing and we are all like family, which is why i stay even though the pay isn’t great.  I also usually work 9-5 and no weekends, but again thats because of the small firm and the low pay so my boss doesn’t bug me too much about working past 5pm. I think you should really know what you want to do and what field you want to practice before you make the investment and make sure there are jobs out there.  We had a student with us who was called to the bar more than a year ago and he still doesn’t have a job… it is quite competitive. also if you want to make alot of money you have to work for big firms and that means 70-80 hours a week, its horrible and very high pressure.

3. I don’t think you should have a certain personality to be a lawyer, I was extremely shy and hated public speaking so nobody thought I could be a lawyer and I ended up becoming a criminal lawyer and doing trial work on a regular basis! so as long as you like law and your dedicated I think you’ll be fine, but obviously it does require a degree of intelligence which I am sure you have. I finished lawschool in 3 years, I didn’t really enjoy it at all, i thought it was very difficult, and once I graduated I realized how unpractical it really is, once in the work force you have to learn everything all over again and nobody cares if you mis-spell something or dont use the proper citation.


Good luck, message me if you have any other questions.

Post # 7
713 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

My fi is finishing up law school next month. He went to a top 14 school. He had scholarship money, but will still graduate with $100,000 in loans. That being said, he was lucky and found a big law job (if you find big law hours to be lucky). He’s obviously going to make great money, but it’s a temporary thing normally, and we’re living in an expensive city so it’s still going to be challenging for a couple of years. Many people in his school do not have big law jobs and prospects for those lower ranked in grades tend to lose out on those high paying jobs. 

What he has taught me is that you really need to love law to invest that money and time into it, because, while he’s going to make a great salary, realistically, it could have been much less and much more loans. 

Post # 8
436 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

I’m not a lawyer, my husband is, but we talk about this ALL THE TIME! Hopefully some of my answers will help you out without sounding too cynical! 

1) He graduated with quite a bit of debt even though he had several scholarships. I’m not sure what school you’re looking into, but planning on at least $200,000 will make your life easier. The pay-off on the loans is LONG. One of his law school friends had about $250,000 in debt from school, and by the time he pays it off (IN 15 YEARS!) he will have payed three times over what he initally owed. It’s ludacris.  

2) He does practice law. He says that there’s nothing else he’d rather do, but “work’s work.” He works from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, and the only time I’ve ever seen him do work on the weekend was when he had a jury trial on a Monday. There’s not much overtime. He says, “If you can’t finish what you need to during the day, there’s always tomorrow.” I won’t post the salary, but he makes the same as a doctor in our area. Unfortunately, a lot of his fellow law-school friends did NOT find a job as a lawyer. Unless you have a job lined up before you go to school, the current market is so saturated with no-experience lawyers, finding a job is really hard. And those that DO find jobs are usually working for state legal services or other low-paying jobs that do not justify spending 3 years in a post-graduate program. 

3) My husband is a really successful lawyer, and recently had a case go to the Court of Appeals. He is VERY level-headed. You can’t argue with him. He’s also aloof and doesn’t get emotionally attached to anyone or anything (except me!), but he’s friendly and easy to talk to. He can also type faster than anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life–it’s mind-blowing! 

4) He finished law school in 3 years. His sister, also an attorney, finished in 2.5 years, but she took summer classes all the time. He often tells me that law school was “dumb” because they don’t teach you anything you actually need to know once you’re a practicing attorney. He often tells me the most he learned was in the 3-day class he took in preparation for the bar. He didn’t work, but he did own a house and rented it out to three other guys, so that’s how he made money. 


I guess this is what my husband and I agree on: If you find your calling in life, persue it. But if you don’t have something lined out as far as a job at a private firm after you graduate, the education is a LOT of money and you could end up with a teacher’s salary. 

I wish you luck!  

Post # 9
2902 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

I would be really wary of going to law school unless you’re 100% positive that you want to be a lawyer and you know a lot of information about your specific job prospects upon graduation. Like, how do you get a job doing art law, how many of those jobs are available, what do they pay and do you have any contacts in those fields. 

The legal job market right now is atrocious, and I think a lot of people in legal education will try to minimize the impact that six figures of student loan debt will have on your future. Do not let them do that. My student loans from law school are like having a mortgage payment but no house. I’m surviving, but it sucks and it really limits my ability to do anything with my career besides what I’m doing right now. Also be wary of scholarships offered by law schools – many are only good for the first year, and then will only be offered to those in the top X% of their class. Everyone who goes to law school is smart and hard-working, but only 10% of those smart, hardworking people can be in the top 10% – and if you’re not, then you have the choice between dropping out (and sending the last incredibly difficult year of your life down the drain) and spending a ton of money to finish the next two years. 

I’m a public defender and I do enjoy it. I’ll probably stay here forever. The money isn’t great, but I like my clients and colleagues and the work that I do. 

I don’t think there’s any one personality trait that makes a good lawyer. Some great lawyers are brash and ballsy, some are quiet and thoughtful, some are social and schmoozy… all can be excellent in their own ways. 

I didn’t like law school that much. It’s stressful and all-consuming and you spend a lot of time learning about things that you aren’t very interested in. Studying for the bar exam was it’s own special hell. Basically, it’s a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of work – so you should be really super 100% positive that being a lawyer is the only thing that could possibly make you happy before deciding to go through that. And then make sure that you know exactly what your career prospects will look like! I sort of wandered into law school assuming I’d find something I was into, and I was really lucky that I did – and landed a job in that area. Plenty of other law grads are not that lucky. 

Post # 10
713 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

My fi is finishing up law school next month. He went to a top 14 school. He had scholarship money, but will still graduate with $100,000 in loans. That being said, he was lucky and found a big law job (if you find big law hours to be lucky). He’s obviously going to make great money, but it’s a temporary thing normally, and we’re living in an expensive city so it’s still going to be challenging for a couple of years. Many people in his school do not have big law jobs and prospects for those lower ranked in grades tend to lose out on those high paying jobs. 

What he has taught me is that you really need to love law to invest that money and time into it, because, while he’s going to make a great salary, realistically, it could have been much less and much more loans. 

Post # 11
3570 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

Please don’t do this.  I graduated in 2008 with over 220K in debt and still have not found a job.  Entry level legal jobs can pay as low as $15 an hour.  Only a handful of my classmates have found jobs in the 5 years since graduation.  The market is really horrible right now, and without a connection, a law degree is worthless.  Unless you are going for free, you will be mortgaging away your future.  It is nearly impossible to get a biglaw job, and if you do, plan on working 70+ hours a week.  I work 70 hours a week in a basement with no OT and no working bathroom.  People don’t realize it, but lawyers without experience are treated like garbage. 


Post # 12
4495 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I don’t know much about law school but I’ll repeat the PPs that said its very hard to find a job right now in that field. A friend of mine graduated from law school almost two years ago and has been working at Barnes&Noble bc she can’t find a job as an attorney and the economy in general sucks so she’s stuck at a bookstore. 

Post # 13
1462 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: March 2015

@6thousandmiles:  If I could go back and do it, I wouldn’t….


1) How bad is the financial investment, really?

BAD. I have just under 100k in loans and that’s because my parents helped me out.  I attended a top 14 law school and my current job doesn’t pay that well.  Due to my monthly loan payments, I’ve had to make sacrifices in lifestyle and forgo going on nice vacations, etc.  You can get scholarships but they are typically given from the lower tiered schools which have horrible job prospects so it’s not worth the scholarships anyway unless you can graduate as one of the top 5 students in your class. 


2) Did you practice law after you finished your degree? How fulfilling is it for you? What are your hours like?

I currently practice law but not in a field that I thought or wanted to practice.  It’s not fulfilling at all, that’s why I find my satisfaction through other pursuits like blogging and writing.  Since I’m not at a big law job, I do have really good hours of 45 per week.  But keep in mind that even with the high 6 figure salary, big law isn’t fulfilling either with the firm hierarchy, being on call around the clock, 80-100 hr work weeks.  All my friends are always looking for ways to get out and they always work weekends.


3) What kind of a person makes a good lawyer?

Not sure, but I find that I’m good at seeing both sides.  I often play devil’s advocate when giving advice. 🙂


4) How long did it take you to finish law school? Did you enjoy law school? Did you hate it? Anywhere in between? Why? Did you work while you were in law school? 

2.5 years, I was in a special program that started in the summer.  I enjoyed law school because I went somewhere with a good community and social people.  I only worked in the summers and I strongly suggest that you don’t take on work unless you attend part-time.  It’s very difficult to handle the first year studies while working.


Also FYI international law per se doesn’t really exist.  If you’re thinking of working for a UN org, it’s excruciatingly difficult to get a position and you have to go through a special acceptance program.  You can definitely work in an area of law though where you will work with international clients and on international matters or transactions.


Art law is a niche that is almost impossible to get into and you will be hard pressed to find someone who practices solely art law, if at all. 


I hope I didn’t sound like too much of a debbie downer.  I just think back in the boom, too many people went to law school thinking it was easy money or that there was nothing else better to do.  Good luck!








Post # 14
328 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

Just say “no”. Go to business school instead.

I’ve been an attorney for 2 years and all I can do is reiterate what the ladies above have stated… jobs are scarce, debt is high, career is unrewarding.

No one I know is working in the area of law they expected to be in –  some still havent passed the bar exam after 4 years of trying. I wanted to be a DA and after interning with them for 2.25 years was let go due to budget cuts. I took the first job I could find and I’m grateful to have it but I’m miserable nonetheless. I’m essentially a glorified research attorney for a corporation – about 180 degrees from the trial lawyer I am at heart. If I wasnt trying to have a family I might risk venturing out on my own but for now I enjoy the comfort of the predictable (but meager) paycheck and the health benefits. 




Post # 15
2226 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: January 2012

I’m currently finishing up my 2nd year… Before I answer your questions: 1 piece of advice I had to learn the hard way. DO NOT GET MARRIED IN L1. GREAT REGRET!!!!


1) How bad is the financial investment, really? Education is subsidized here so my tuition is about 2k a semester.

2) Did you practice law after you finished your degree? I still have another year & then the bar but I will not be practicing full time in the next 4 years since Darling Husband & I are going to have some babies!

3) What kind of a person makes a good lawyer? It really depends on the field. You’d be surprised how diverse law practitioners are (notaries, litigators, mediators, etc). In general, most are high achieving, have a high attention to detail, are self motivated and enjoy problem solving.

4) How long did it take you to finish law school? I will finish in 3 years

Did you enjoy law school?I LOVE it. It’s a wonderful challenge full of people that are as passionate as you are. I just wish the bellcurve didn’t exist though 🙁

 Did you work while you were in law school? I am working part time (about 7hrs a week) scanning documents at an office.

Post # 16
839 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

@6thousandmiles:  I’m a new lawyer. I graduated in May 2012.


 1) it is incredibly expensive to go to law school, and scholarships are few and far between. It is also a lot harder (if not impossible) to et grants because it is a secondary degree. I’m about $80K in debt (just from law school, I have no debt from college), and I took out the absolute minimum for tuition (I was lucky that my parents paid all my living expenses while I was in school), but I know a lot of people have a lot more debt than me, even though they went to the same school, because they took out more loads for living expenses. The ABA prohibits first year law students from working their first year, so that is at least one year you will have no income. Second year students are allowed to work, but it is rare to get a paying job your second year (most are unpaid internships). Just to give you an idea, my student loan payment is $1,300 a month.


2) I work at a firm as a civil litigation associate and I was incredibly lucky to get my job. I was in the top 10 in my class, and almost everyone below me is struggling. I make $65K a year, and that’s quite a bit for law first year associate in my area. The job market for lawyers everywhere is terrible. I saw a statistic that said there are more law students in the country than there are lawyers. My dad’s company had an opening for in house counsel, and they had 76 lawyers WITH  PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE apply. It is so hard to get a law job right out of law school, and many firms don’t even hire people with no experience anymore. The hours are sporadic. My firm, and most firms, have a billable hour requirement. I work almost every Saturday. It sucks. I have some friends that have awesome hours (8-5, no weekends), but they work for the government and barely make enough money to live on, let alone pay back their loans. Most firms around here do not have part-time positions, so having a family is really hard. My SO is a lawyer as well, and we have no idea what we are going to so when we decide to start a family. 


 3) this sounds terrible, but the type for person that makes a good lawyer in the traditional sense is a very cynical one. There are obviously great lawyers who don’t fit this description, but all the legends do. As a lawyer, you always see people on the worst day of their life or close to it. Sometimes it is rewarding (most of the time it isn’t, even if you win a case), but incredibly emotionally taxing, and after a while you kind of get numb to it, which sucks because that means you kind of get numb to a lot of other emotions as well. All my professors always said the worst reason to go to law school is because you want to “change the world” or “make a difference.”


4) law school isn’t really like college where it takes people different amounts of times to finish. Everyone finishes in three years (if they finish), or possibly 2 1/2 if they chose to be miserable and take a ton of hours every semester. It’s a pretty set curriculum. I loved law school, it was a blast and I met my best friends in law school, but honestly because of the job market, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go to law school today. I would hate to be a new graduate in 3-4 years, jobs will pretty much be non-existent by then. Law schools are actually getting in trouble for misrepresenting the statistics your getting a law job after graduation, so when you see a school that brags about having a “99% job placement rate,” it’s probably not true, or it’s very misleading at best


Oh, and no one practices international law, so I wouldn’t count on doing that after graduation. Some firms might deal with international clients, but “international law” doesn’t really exists. Most of my friends are working in areas of law that they did not originally want to work in, but It’s almost impossible to get any job, let alone a job in a particular field that you like. You gotta take what you can get. I have no idea what art law is.


Most people have no idea what lawyers actually do. If we haven’t successfully talked you out of it yet, I would strongly suggest straying to shadow a lawyer for a few days to see what they actually do. It’s not like the movies. It’s actually incredibly boring most of the time. 


I’ll just say this: there’s a reason Lawyers have the highest suicide and substance addiction rates of professional careers. 

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