by an alumnus of ASU law school (o'connor)
The title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law
school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable
upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for
most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not
attended at all.
There are only 14 top law schools. That’s right. Not 20, not 15, but 14.
They are, in descending order of prestige: Yale, Harvard, Stanford,
Columbia, NYU, Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of
Michigan, University of Virginia, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, UC
Berkeley, and Georgetown. And that’s it. Go to any other law school, and
your chances of getting a big law firm job will be slim to none.
There are also distinct levels of prestige within the top 14. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford are head and shoulders above the rest. Then Columbia, NYU and maybe Chicago round out the top 6. Attending one of these top top law schools will vastly improve your odds. The guy graduating at the bottom of the class at Harvard will have better career opportunities than the guy graduating at the top of the class at an ordinary law school.
Outside of the top law schools, the only law school graduates having
decent job opportunities will be those who graduated in the top ten
percent of the class and who made law review. Law review and top
ten percent are usually the same people because at most law schools the
law review members are selected from those whose grades are in the top
ten percent at the end of the first year. If like me, your grades
weren’t in the top ten percent at the end of the first year, but you
managed to graduate in the top ten percent, you are screwed because you
weren’t on law review. Furthermore, most big law firms make offers to
their summer associates, who get interviewed and hired during the second
half of the second year, thus it’s mostly your grades during the first
three semesters of law school that determine your entire legal future.
If you are reading this, and you’re a law student who already received
your first semester grades, and they aren’t top ten percent, then my
advice is to drop out now instead of throwing more money down the law
school black hole.
Despite being warned that the only way to get a decent job in law if one
attends a non-top 14 school is to make law review and the top ten
percent, tens of thousands of suckers will enroll anyway. They think “I
will be the one who makes the top ten percent” or “even if I don’t make
the top ten percent, things will work out.” Let’s state the odds
clearly: 90% of the class will not make the top 10%. You are not the
only person in law school thinking they are going to bust their ass to
make the top ten percent. 80% of the people start out thinking they are
going to bust their ass. And some people from the 20% who are slackers
are going to wind up in the top 10% too, because law school grades have a
huge random element. One of the biggest slacker/party girls in my first
year law school class made the top 10%. She wound up getting a high
paying job at a big law firm because the law school gods decided to
randomly grace her during her first semester.
Another fallacy that prospective law students hold onto is that the law degree has some kind of value outside of law. They think, “if I don’t practice law, at least it’s a prestigious degree that will help my non-law career.” This is completely false. Having a law degree hurts your chances of getting non-law jobs. No one wants to hire you if you have a law degree. Because “everyone knows” that lawyers make so much money, they can’t understand why someone with a law degree would want to do anything else but practice law. If you say “I couldn’t find a job practicing law.” which is probably the truth, they will think “this person is a loser because everyone know how easy it is to find a job practicing law, and we don’t hire losers around here.” If you say “I was just exploring my options but decided I didn’t want to practice law,” then they will think “this person has no idea what he wants to do, we want to hire people who know where their career is going.” There is absolutely no way to spin the law degree in a way that it helps you get a non-law job. Hiring managers are looking for cookie cutter resumes, not resumes where people have education unrelated to the job. From their perspective, they’re not hiring a lawyer so they don’t give a crap if you know how to synthesize appellate cases (assuming they even know what “synthesize appellate cases” means, which is unlikely). The only way I have been able to find any jobs outside of law is to leave the law degree off my resume. Whenever the law degree has been on my resume, it has been the kiss of death that prevents me from finding a job.
Finally, this essay would be incomplete if it didn’t discuss the burden
of student loans. Whatever salary you make after graduating from law
school has to be discounted by the cost of your student loan repayments.
The student loan payments are not tax deductible (except to a very
limited extent which will likely not apply to you). Your marginal tax
rate will probably be around 45%, which means that for every $100/month
in student loan payments, you need to have a stated additional salary of
$182/month to cover the student loan payments. This means that if your
law school education adds $500/month in student loan payments, you are
paying $6,000/year in student loans and you need to earn an extra
$10,910/year to cover the payments. This means that a $40,000/year job
as a law school graduate gives you the equivalent disposable income of a
$29,090/year job if you didn’t have a law degree. And it’s a lot easier
to find a $29,000/year job with a bachelor’s degree than it is to find a
$40,000/year job with a law degree.
Even if you are one of the rare and lucky law school graduates who can
obtain a six figure job at a big law firm, those jobs are rumored to
suck. I can’t say much about this because I never worked at a big law
firm, but according to what I’ve been told, a large percentage of the
partners at big law firms are assholes who treat their associates like
crap and make them work ridiculously long hours. Some of this may be
unjustified whining, because I was treated like crap at a job where I
was making $9/hour. Nevertheless, one needs to consider that the
ultimate goal of law school, a big law firm job, attained by only a
small percentage of law school graduates, may not be the great reward
it’s supposed to be.
I predict that some prospective law students will find this essay, read it, and not believe it. Because no matter how much you try to tell a prospective law student the truth about law, they don’t believe it. “Everyone knows” that lawyers make a lot of money, how can this be true? Believe me, it’s true, and if you attend law school you will learn this the hard way. Don’t waste three years of your life and go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt that can never be discharged in bankruptcy to find out that your career opportunities suck after all that. For the love of God, learn the truth now.
*if you are an f1 visa holder, it is going to get worse. much worse.*
ex) 안준성 미국 변호사님(미국 MSU JD, 죤 마샬대 로스쿨llm, 김앤장 법률사무소 외국변호사 2005~2008) - 지금은 서초동에서 영어학습서를 집필 중 (basically jobless)
$60,000*3 + 로스쿨 안가고 취직해서 벌수있는 연봉 $20,000*3 + 진급 기회 + 경력 인정 + 꽃다운 20대의 3년 + mental sanity
= $240,000 (or 2억6천6백만원) + @ -> 유학원 or 영어학습서 집필