Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Sense Of Violated Entitlement

My last post got some play on Above the Law and the ABA Journal. I didn't write anything ingenious, I just said the 1L doing the math should drop out.

The title of this post came directly from an article on cheating in college. It's long, but worth a read. It talks about "this" generation of students. The same generation that I talk about and am told that I'm full of shit.

Back to the entitled law students. Whenever the discussion about the new age of law school not being a ticket to a six-figure salary starts, the debate flames. On one side is those that feel cheated, pushed, forced in to law school by the promise of leaving and opening the door to the same vision Dorothy had upon arrival in Munchkin Land. On the other, the "butch up and shut up" crowd who feel many of these whiners should of never entered law school.

The comments on the ABA site were interesting. I read about 90, and got a good sense of the crowd.

Most importantly, I realized I am considered very old. I am part of that generation that "doesn't get it."

I do, get "it," but I won't try to defend myself on that issue. When infants don't get their way, there's no way to stop them from crying except to feed them and cuddle them until they go to sleep.

The overwhelming theme of the comments was that the notion of going to law school for any other reason but to make money, is total bullshit. So it's worthless for me to say that when I went to law school I had no idea what lawyers made. As I got closer to graduation I knew that government lawyers made about $25-$30 grand, and BigLaw associates made about $50,000. I went to law school to be a criminal defense lawyer. What I read from the comments is that a great deal of law students today have no concern about what they do, they just want the cash. No wonder so many lawyers are unhappy. As the 1L said in the article - he spent more time researching law schools than he did the practice of law.

I wanted to practice criminal law, either at the prosecutor's or public defender's office, and BigLaw wasn't an option for two reasons - one, I clerked for a big firm and hated it, and two, my grades wouldn't even get me an interview. If I had no idea what I wanted to do, I'd be in a very different position. I would have "taken" any job I could get and either found my way to criminal law, or be doing something else today.

I realize after reading all the comments that graduating law school 16 years ago is a lifetime. I've said for years that even in my class, so many went to law school because of L.A. Law - yes, the show. Many thought a law degree meant nice suits, nice offices, and days of fun fun fun in the office.

What people don't understand is that I speak from personal knowledge. It's no secret I represent law students as part of my practice. I talk to them. I ask them why they went to law school. I ask them what they want to do. Many of the answers are "I don't know, and "get a job."

I think that many law students did go to law school due to the perception it was a ticket to a six-figure salary - and for some years it was just that. It's sad to hear people comment that they see no other reason why anyone would go to law school.

I think that many grads don't care if they practice commercial litigation, associate research in the library all day law, or please God don't make the partner angry law, and I think if the goal is to pay off loans, this is not the profession to enter. If you're smart enough to get into law school, you should be smart enough to be able to learn how to do other things. You can make money doing anything - selling appliances, selling insurance, running a franchise, or hundreds of other things. There's too many damn lawyers, and not enough people entering needed professions and careers. Where will all the foreclosure defense lawyers (an area I hear lawyers entering out of law school) go in 5 years?

So I'm sorry it's come to this - law students and lawyers telling me that law school is nothing more than a high level trade school (not having any historical knowledge that many years ago most law school graduates did not go in to private practice or even the practice of law). If you went to law school because you were lied to about a guaranteed check, drop out. If you don't believe you will ever get a job in law, consider finishing and doing something else that may make you (more) money. Most of us lawyers wind up at some point representing clients who make 10 times what we make, and never finished college, or even high school. They also do things that we look at and say "you make money that way?"

I want you to make money, I don't want you to be jobless after graduation. But if you solely went to law school for the salary that would (apparently) make you happy,
you will never be happy as a lawyer.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Josh King said...

What's really pathetic about the "we're only in it for the money" crowd is their choice of law as a vehicle. If they had more brains, they would have gone into finance, where the REAL money is.

South Florida Lawyers said...

great post and congrats on the analysis blawg thingy!

Anonymous said...


I am from this generation of law students. You are absolutely correct. When I was in law school, which is only a few years ago, many of my fellow students just wanted to make money. One of them is selling Mary Kay products now making more than most of us who graduated with her. But to her, and many like her, she thought that a law degree was a ticket to a big pay check. She, and others like her, didn't realize that even if you make big bucks, be prepared to work for it to the point of exhaustion. I went to law school because like you I knew I wanted to practice a certain kind of law. I knew eventually a good living would come with it, but I wasn't concerned with that aspect. I just wanted to do what it is that meant something to me. Most of the new age lawyers cannot relate to that.