Above the Law continues to take on the heady topic of whether someone who went to law school expecting a big fat check upon graduation should consider the economics of it all and drop out.
Thus far we know that 66% of ATL's readers thought a 2L should stay in school, while 34% are just happy to be able to use profanity anonymously in the comment section while eating many Doritos on mom's couch.
Now ATL has switched it up - thrown in a curve - "changed the game" as game changers and asked: what if the student is a 1L?
The question is not based on the student reconsidering whether to become a trial lawyer, or whether to seek a career representing the poor, or setting up a nice general practice - the question is about money.
What if the student is just in his first semester of 1L year and can get out before incurring even another semester’s worth of debt?
The post's author goes further into framing this choice as one where money is the sole consideration, referring to the decision as a challenging value proposition.
So the 1L is thinking about dropping out.
Here's the summary of his thought process:
$150k of Debt + Fewer Jobs + More Attorneys = Law school is probably going to end up being a bad investment.
He says he's willing to put myself through it if there’s a good chance it will pay off in the end, but that there's been a dramatic change on the return on investment calculation.
He's willing to stay if he's only going to be in debt $50k, but now that he's invested $21k, he can't see investing another $21k for a second semester.
He's rightly concerned about getting a job, noting the truth that all law students angrily deny - that more students than ever have been applying to law school over the last few years to avoid the bad economy.
He's also not that interested in the life of a lawyer, as he sees that life: from what I understand, private practice is an exercise in the permanent sacrifice of work-life balance. Late nights at the office every week or two is very different from working 12 hours every day. It’s very unlikely I’ll be able to make good money in private practice and have a healthy work-life balance. I don’t want to work 60-70 hours a week until I’m 40.
I love the last sentence of that paragraph. Somehow flip-flops and a backpack come to mind.
In one of the most prolific quotes I've seen from a person who should have never applied to law school, he says: I researched law school a lot more than I researched being an attorney.
When I write over and over again that part of the problem in law school today, and with lawyers, is that many of those who entered this profession, did so for the wrong reasons - they did it for the cash, I hear the screams of law students and young lawyers yelling "that's not true!". When it got too expensive, and the payback was not guaranteed, it became less attractive. There are dozens of law students in every law school who see the education as a ticket to a six figure salary. These students couldn't care less if they were selling toilet paper or driving taxi cabs - whatever makes money, that's where they want to be.
But that's not what the law profession is about. It's about clients (sorry Dan). It's about ethics. It's about being an officer of the court, and it's about advocating. It's not about paying off debt. It's not about a return on an investment.
I read this post and all I could think was that this law student sounds much more like a stockbroker. His entire analysis is whether it's worth it to spend the money for an education that may not find him the darling of the Bar in terms of high fees and a life of luxury. There's nothing about the profession, except a bunch of whining about working hard.
So pack it up, make sure you have that favorite Starbucks travel mug, and don't forget your iPhone charger - it's probably the best investment you've made.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.