The Case For Dropping Out Of Law School

Kwiatkowski’s found that his school’s social scene turned him off the legal field just as much as the academics did. “It’s basically ‘Mean Girls,’” he says. It seemed like people were trying to relive high school as the popular kids. “You know the whole ‘on Wednesday we wear pink’ thing? They did that.”
Since Kwiatkowski was 19 years old when he started law school—“I skipped a couple of things,” he explains—he found that people immediately saw him as competition. “I was sort of the brunt of a lot of stuff,” he says.
One day, he wore a jokey shirt with a unicorn on it, and the Mean Girls of law school took a picture and mockingly spread it around the entire community. “This is going to be my peer group in the field,” he remembers thinking—and it was a scary thought indeed. He couldn’t believe that this was what graduate school was actually like.
Things only got better during his 2L year, when he openly declared that he wasn’t going into law and started doing standup comedy. “People were much nicer when they didn’t see me as a threat,” he says.
Mick also compares law school to high school. “One, there were lockers,” she says. “Two, everyone’s very cliquish.” She found that there were five to 10 personality types—student government kids, law review kids, aspiring big law kids, et cetera—and they hung out in clusters. As for her group? “We were like ‘Daria’ of law school,” she says. “We just hated everybody.”
A third parallel between law school and high school: “There was a lot of really stupid posturing on behalf of everyone,” Mick says. She admits that she was part of this, too—she really made it known that she hated law school because she was “too stupid to drop out.”
At the very least, Mick is successfully paying off her loans, which is more than many law school graduates can say. She’s currently freelancing through TaskRabbit, an online marketplace that allows users to pick up odd jobs. When I asked her whether her JD has been helpful on the site, she immediately started laughing. She mostly uses it as a cautionary tale—a teaching tool, if you will. For example: “I went to law school, and now I’m bartending your party.”
Her feelings about her situation are lukewarm at best. “It’s what it is,” she says. “Ideally, I wouldn’t be doing anything, but I’m not married yet, so I can’t do that.” In all seriousness, though, she wishes she had pursued comedy—her actual passion—much earlier. Starting late hasn’t exactly been a disadvantage, but she thinks she would’ve been better off if she’d jumped right in.
Kwiatkowski makes ends meet by tutoring high school students in the SAT and ACT on a part-time basis. “A lot of the kids I work with are really good kids,” he says. Still, considering what the standup world is like, he could’ve done without the law school debt. “Comedy’s not a job where you start off with an entry level position and you get paid and so on,” he says. “Comedy is a job where you start off with an entry level position and you lose money for several years.”
These comedians’ advice can be summed up in one sentence: If you don’t like law school, in almost all cases, the best thing to do is just drop out. It might seem obvious, but thanks to the fun part of our brains that hates giving up once we’ve invested in something, that advice is notoriously hard to follow.
“People need to seriously know what they’re going to be doing in law school,” Kwiatkowski says. And if you’ve done your homework and you still finding yourself hating it, you should drop out unless you’re a semester away from graduation. A lot of people say everything improves after the first year, but if you’re simply not into the material, “it doesn’t get better,” he says. “It doesn’t get better at all.”
Something to consider before getting a JD: “If you have a personality type that is creative or sort of individualistic or unique or whatever, [law school) will be overwhelmingly negative,” Kwiatkowski warns.
Mick’s ultimate takeaway is useful for more than just potential law school applicants: “I learned from law school that if you’re not happy doing something, nothing magical is going to happen that’s going to make you happy to be there,” she says. Sometimes, being a quitter isn’t just okay: It’s legitimately the right thing to do.
Mick (allison_mick) and Kwiatkowski (@TheTrollverine) are both on Twitter.