A Law School Graduate’s Lament
“I consider law school a waste of my life and an extraordinary waste of money. I feel like I was duped and tricked. At the end of the day, it’s my own fault for being a sucker and I learned an extremely hard lesson.”
Whoa! Tell us how you really feel.
Those were the sentiments of an anonymous 28 year-old law school graduate from a Top 20 institution, Interviewed by Erin Fuchs of Business Insider. He lives with his parents, earns $45,000 a year, and carries a $200K debt. In his words: “I don’t have a car. I don’t go out to socialize. I don’t date. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t buy electronics. I don’t buy much of anything. I spend my free time working other jobs to put more money toward my debt. I do contract work for other lawyers, but the pay is very low and payment is sporadic.”
Somewhere, George Costanza is nodding his head.
Ah, such is the life of the modern law school grad. Starting as an unpaid intern, he climbed the ladder, living the dream at $12,000 a year before finally settling in his “no upward mobility” job. Before enrolling in law school, he bought into the pitch: Earn a comfortable living and work in a field where there will always be a demand. Now, he envisions declaring bankruptcy in his 50s to cover the tax bill associated with his debt.
Of course, this graduate is “mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore.” In a scathing interview rife with stereotypes and half-truths that’d make a Glassdoor reviewer proud, he lashes out at a law school that betrayed him and a world that abandoned him. In the end, readers can only come to two conclusions: 1) Law school is a sham and 2) This guy really needs a girlfriend (or boyfriend, same difference).
Hey, Katie Marie? Bet you could hit it off with this guy.
Still, the interview reveals the raw frustration behind the law school crisis. Costs are rising as opportunity is dwindling. Increasingly, graduates are wondering if they made a grave mistake (and doing so long before their mid-life crises kick in).
So what words of wisdom (and warning) does this courageously anonymous graduate impart? Here’s a sample. We’ll let you be the judge:
- “Law degrees are not portable. Employers will wonder why you’re not making ‘big bucks’ as a lawyer. Shockingly, the atrocious legal employment market is not a fact understood by the general public. Employers may also believe you’re a loser because you were part of the 80% not in the top 20% who could not get a large law firm job.”
- “…there are only three reasons to go to law school: (1) the law school you were accepted to is named Harvard, Yale, or Stanford; (2) you got a full or very nearly-full scholarship; or (3) you have a family member or close friend who can 100% guarantee you a secure lawyer position.”
- “If you’re part of the 80% not in the top 20%, your top law school degree is no better than the 75th ranked school where you could have got a full ride. My law degree has no power in the marketplace because I did not graduate near the top of the class. My recommendation would be to drop out immediately if you’re not in the top quartile after the first semester. Don’t wait until the second semester to rectify any B- grades.”
- “When you first start law school, they will set up lunches with affluent attorneys but by your third year, the law school will invite you to events with small time lawyers talking about how they started a law firm by themselves with no money and survived. The whole process is expertly crafted from beginning to end and it’s not a mistake. They want you to have a small glimmer of hope when you get your degree but they could care less what happens to you after your final loan payment clears the bank.”
- “Work for a law firm for at least a year before going to law school and see if it’s something you want to do. Many lawyers, even middle-aged lawyers, are broke, depressed, desperate, and have substance abuse problems.”
- “Do not believe a word that comes from law schools, law deans, or law professors. They are salesmen and they want you to hand them $200,000 in non-dischargeable law school loans. That’s all they are interested in. They will tell you about a glorious career that awaits you. They will tell you lawyers are in demand and new technology will open the gates for prosperous new practice areas (3d printing, drones, etc.)… It’s all a bunch of hogwash.”
- “My law school offered job statistics that were materially misleading and they knew it. The job statistics offered by law schools are carefully designed to induce new students to take out a life-destroying amount of debt that is, by law, non-dischargeable in bankruptcy in all but the most dire circumstances. Law schools know exactly what they’re doing and survey a small percentage of graduating classes to concoct these job and salary numbers.”
- “I think the percentage of graduates that are employed is not a statistic that the media should myopically focus on. It’s more important to know the salary of these jobs. Debt-to-salary ratio would be a great metric to understand. Also, I think law schools are under a moral duty to report what percentage of their graduates are on public interest payment plans or income-based repayment plans.”
As you can imagine, this unnamed graduate’s rant inspired some strong responses. On one side, you’ll find detractors like Niki Ford, a 30 year-old University of Akron Law School grad who makes $160,000 a year despite not receiving a 2L internship. In her rebuttal on Business Insider, she attributes this graduate’s predicament to his failure to pull himself up from his bootstraps (like she did):
“There is one reason that I am where I am today, and that is hard work, plain and simple. Hard work caused me to graduate at the top of my law school class. Hard work caused me to take on multiple jobs, law review, moot court, and a joint degree program. Hard work caused me to obtain part-time employment during my LLM program, and this same hard work led to an offer of full-time employment after graduation. I am not an anomaly. Plenty of people have amazing jobs as attorneys because they worked hard for them.
…I think that most people in my generation can’t admit when failure is due to their own inadequacies… The recent article supports the idea, so prevalent among my generation, that if one doesn’t achieve their dreams, it was somebody else’s fault. I just wanted to provide a rebuttal to this theory—that if you don’t achieve your dreams right away, either work harder or find a new dream, which may end up being better than the one you had originally envisioned.”
Of course, you’ll find supporters too, particularly when it comes to his claim that law schools produce false claims about the efficacy of their programs. Take Above The Law, for example, which supports this graduate’s assertions with its trademark cheekiness:
“If this guy felt ‘entitled,’ it’s because that’s what the school told him. If you pay $200,000 for a boat, you are ‘entitled’ to think that the boat will float. If you later end up at the bottom of the sea giving handjobs to Aquaman, it’s not because you were too ‘entitled’ to sprout gills, it’s because the person who sold you the boat turned out to be a liar.”
So is this graduate a whiner or a victim of a changing economics? Let us know where you stand. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources: Business Insider, Above The Law, Business Insider
To read a variation on this theme, check out Worst Case Scenario: No Job and $250,000 in Loans.