(Closed) Legal Bees: How do you feel about your decision to go to law school

posted 5 years ago in College
Post # 3
Member
2907 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

I graduated law school in 2005 and, while I don’t necessarily regret it and I did get a job right after graduation, I probably would make a different decision if I could do my education over again. Having six figures of debt is really crippling… I feel like that can’t be said enough. A lot of people in law schools will try to normalize that level of debt, like “Oh everyone owes a zillion dollars to Sallie Mae!” but it definitely sucks. A lot. And it’s one thing if you’re going to a top-ranked law school and will finish towards the top of your class and will be a competitive candidate for a high-paying firm job, but it’s another story entirely if you’re going to a middle- or lower-tiered law school and taking on large debt to do it. 

I would suggest researching individual schools’ employment statistics very carefully, and do some reading on abovethelaw.com about how misleading those employment statistics can be. I would also suggest being really, really sure that you want to be a lawyer. Law school is a ton of work and a ton of debt, and a decent amount of people realize along the way that the law is really not for them – then are stuck with the loans AND a degree they don’t want to use. 

Also, just keep in mind that, while a lot of first year students are offered scholarships, they often have to maintain a certain GPA or class ranking to keep it after the first semester or first year. Check out the requirements before thinking of it as a sure thing – if 50% of the class comes in with a scholarship but only the top 10% can keep it after the first year… well, you’d better be pretty confident you’ll be in that top 10%!

Long story short: I would go to law school only if all of the following are true:

1. You really are sure you want to be a lawyer.

2. You’re not taking on a large amount of debt (i.e., you’re paying in state tuition at a local law school and someone else is paying your rent and feeding you) or you’re taking on debt to go to a very highly ranked law school and you’re a total type A gunner.

3. You’re comfortable with that particular school’s employment statistics. 

Post # 4
Member
1583 posts
Bumble bee

@Blush.Champagne:  Get a Phd in courts (for free) and then when you get a job go to law school free. That way you can teach law/practice law/ and wont have any debt.

Thats what i am doing and I dont worry about jobs because unlike lawschool my field isnt oversaturated and i can get a job in academia, government, law firms, etc.

Post # 5
Member
1138 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

Only go to law school if you can go to a top 10 or so school or if you can graduate with NO debt. The legal market is so tight right now–I know people who went to my T5 school who still haven’t found a legal job 2 years after graduation. It’s a very risky investment, and legal work is high stress. You are expected to be on and available 24/7 in many legal jobs, due to client demands. If you’re not 100% sure, don’t do it.

Post # 6
Member
11325 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: February 2011

I wouldn’t say that I REGRET my decision to go to law school because I met some of my best friends there and I don’t think I’d have met my husband if I had not gone— so from a personal standpoint I could never really regret it. 

That being said, on a professional level, I would not do it again given the choice. I graduated from a top tier law school in 2008 and I was employed immediately at a small firm. I guess technically I have nothing to complain about because I’ve been employed, and I make decent money. But honestly being a lawyer sucks. Just the job itself I really dislike. I do civil litigation and it is so mentally/emotionally draining to deal with other people’s drama for 10 hours a day. And the legal system is far from perfect, there are so many ways to game the system, and half the time when you win a case the defendant just goes bankrupt anyways and then your client is still angry because now their anger has been validated and still not satisfied. And the problem with going to law school is that it costs a ton of money so it isn’t like I can just quit and change careers easily now– I have 80K in law school loans to pay off so I kind of NEED to make as much money as I’m making so that I can pay them. I’m trapped, basically. 

But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for anyone, obviously. Some people do really like their jobs. But in my experience, many more hate their jobs than like them in this field. Of my friends that I graduated with, about half have jumped ship and just started a totally different career (like teaching elementary school or being a cop– nothing you need a law degree for) and are just dealing with the debt. 

I guess my advice would be… be REALLY REALLY REALLY sure that you actually want to be a lawyer. And then think long and hard again about if you REALLY want to be a lawyer lol. And if you really do, make sure you go to the best law school you get into, and live as poor as you can to minimize debt. 

Post # 7
Member
989 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

@KatieBklyn:  +1 to those 3 points. 

My story, if you care to hear it: I went to a second tier school but graduated at the top of my class.  Ended up at a regional Biglaw firm and spent 3.5 pretty unhappy years there until I was laid off in early 2009.  (I can tell you unequivocally, the money is not always worth it.)  I was unemployed for 6 months before landing a position with a firm 2 hours away.  I had to make the commute three times a week and I was making half of what I made at the previous firm, but the work wasn’t awful and it kept a roof over my head, even if I had to drastically change my lifestyle.  Eventually, my experience at that firm led me to my current job, which is thankfully back in my own city and pays much better, though I’m still making less than when I first graduated.  I’ve been here for 18 months.  I love the firm I work for now and the work I do is pretty interesting (to me), so I feel like it all worked out for the best even though it was rough getting here.

Looking back, I was SO incredibly lucky to have things break my way.  I could have easily ended up jobless and homeless in no time flat.  Somehow I managed to keep my house through the whole debacle, but now I constantly worry about money.  I swear I have PTSD from that first job because I have occasional panic attacks where I’m convinced I’m going to get fired.  (Trust me, I’m not.)  In light of all that and what I know of the employment stats for the classes that followed mine, it’s really hard for me to recommend law school to folks who ask me if it’s something they should consider.  It’s a gamble right now, unfortunately.  And don’t believe law schools that tell you that a law degree is a good thing to have in any industry.  IME, that’s total garbage.

What it’s like being a lawyer?  Well, some days the stress is killer (obviously).  It’s more common than not that between work and volunteering and Darling Husband, I have zero time or energy left over for myself.  I hate litigation, which is what I’ve practiced my entire career, and some days the thought of dealing with another discovery dispute makes me want to cry.  But, on the plus side, I’m working on moving into another practice group that’s much better suited for me.  As I mentioned, my firm is awesome and I like my colleagues a lot.  Honestly, I’ve got it really good as far as lawyering gigs go.  I’ve never thought seriously about doing anything else.  I guess that means I can’t complain, especially in this economy.

Post # 9
Member
1132 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

I’ve worked at a couple law firms as a legal assistant and was dead set on going to law school. Every attorney I spoke with told me not to do it. That I would be a good lawyer, but it wasn’t worth the debt and the stress. Now, having spend a few years in this environment, I agree with them. It’s definitely not worth it to me. You have to decide for yourself, but I would try to work in a firm first before you make the decision. It can really open your eyes.

Post # 10
Hostess
11167 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

@CaliHoya:  Every attorney I spoke with told me not to do it.

I had a similar experience. After college I was planning on attending USC for Law School to go into the field of entertainment law (they have the BEST entertainment connections). My Darling Husband had planned on a real estate law emphasis and one of my good friends was headed to law school as well. Both my Darling Husband and I decided that while it was a great dream it didn’t seem to fit either of us. We had several lawyer friends that advised against it and in the end we listened for various reasons. My friend attended law school and had to quit partially through.

My Darling Husband has no college debt and makes a very healthy six figure salary, I have minor college debt and make an above average income. My friend that attended law school had to quit due to debt and finances and is now a nanny. She is heavily in debt from her education and she tells me often it was the worst decision she made. I am thankful that for our particular circumstances we listened to the people around us.

Not to say that this is the expected results for anyone that attends law school. Just another perspective.

Post # 11
Member
79 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

My experience was definitely worth it, but I attended a top ten law school and managed to graduate with very minimal student loans ($15k). The most insightful thing I can say about law school is that it really really really matters which one you attend. I graduated this past May and did not spend any time without a job. Some friends are mine at lower tier law schools graduated the same month as me, took and passed the bar, and still do not have work. Also, I should add that I work for the federal government, so I have not made the same lifestyle sacrifices that those in the private sector make. Overall, I am thrilled with my decision. 

Post # 13
Hostess
11167 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

@Blush.Champagne:  Yeah she is struggling to find her way now. It hasn’t been easy to see her having such a difficult time. I hope she can figure things out.

I actually got into the event planning industry (music focus) and interned and worked at a few local event production centers. It was a thrill to meet and work with various musical guests. Eventually I was headed into the wedding planning world when I realized that my priorities had changed and I valued my dedicated free time and weekends to be with friends and family. My job now is totally different and I work with foreign Food and Drug Administrations registering dietary supplements as well as marketing and selling them to our customers world wide. I am the vice president of the South American division as well.

My job isn’t my dream job but it is laid back, I can wear jeans and bring my dogs, and I have freedom with my schedule. I am happy with how things turned out. 🙂

Post # 14
Member
1132 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@Treejewel19:  Oh wow, I too was thinking about going to USC for entertainment law! I’m from Southern California and grew up around it and know entertainment lawyers, etc so I was so stoked until I figured out what I would be getting myself into.

Post # 15
Hostess
11167 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

Double post…

Post # 16
Member
933 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

Darling Husband and I went to a top 25 school for one semester! We decided that the debt would be too crippling and the job prospects too slim, so we left.

Over the last three years, Darling Husband and I have been earning money and paying back our loans. Our former classmates have spent the last three years accruing more and more debt with no promise of employment. Sure enough, most of them graduated last May without jobs. Again, top 25 school. They’re all $100-200k in debt with no way to pay it back.

Think very, very carefully about this. If you really feel like you need to do it, make sure you’re in a top 14 school or you’re not taking on ANY debt. That includes debt from living expenses as well. Good luck!

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