Sunday, January 27, 2008

Part 2 of Law School Redux: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The post was getting kind of long, so I decided to break it into two parts... happy reading!

• Graduation from law school is very anticlimactic. All it means is that you’ve secured yet another degree. When you graduate from law school, you are not really an “attorney”. I mean, technically, you shouldn’t really call yourself an attorney until you pass the state bar exam. So, really, you pay for three years of law school just to able to say that you graduated with a law degree – but you are not really an “attorney” in the traditional sense of the word. Take the bar while you are still in school mode, i.e., as soon as you graduate. The second you finish your last final exam, start studying for the bar exam. If you take time off, it will be hella hard to get back in study mode for the exam.

• The bar exam is the hardest test you will ever take – in LIFE. You should fear failing the bar. Not because you should be embarrassed that you weren’t successful (No need to be embarrassed since plenty of folks fail it every year. That’s no biggie.), but because you do not want to take the damn thing again if you can help it. After sequestering myself, including avoiding television and pretty much all telephone conversation, for 10 weeks during the summer of 2004, I made a vow to myself that if I failed I would NOT take the exam again. The entire process was too emotionally draining and stressful and I would NOT be putting myself through that drama again simply because I didn’t study hard enough he first time. Funny thing… as I said before, you are not a lawyer until you pass the bar exam. Everything you need to know about the bar exam will be taught to you during your bar prep course. Your bar prep course is only 8 weeks long. Which leads me to these questions: If I can learn everything I need to know to become a licensed attorney in 8 weeks, why did I just spend upwards of 100 grand on law school and three years of my life studying all this nonsense in the first place? I could’ve easily skipped the three years of being bored and worked to death and learned everything I needed to know in 8 weeks. Go figure…

• At one point in U.S. history, being a lawyer was something special. There weren’t many accredited law schools in existence. Those that did exist only accepted the top-notch applicants. Therefore, being a lawyer was an elite and respected profession. Now, law schools are more interested in making money than they are in turning out quality lawyers. And because money is the primary focus, they are willing to accept just about anyone who can secure a loan to cover the tuition, hence putting money into the law school’s pocket. As a result, being a lawyer is NOT an elite profession. In Washington, DC alone, something like 1 in 17 people is a lawyer. That’s just too damn many!

• Everyone seems to think that being a lawyer = RICH. In most cases, that equation is false. People who want to become a lawyer to get rich will be terribly disappointed. Yes, it is true that starting salaries at large law firms (100+ attorneys) are $160k/year for the fresh-out-of-law-school attorney. But, there are not enough of those jobs to go around. Since President W came to power, and the US economy took a nosedive, only the best of the best have been getting recruited by large firms. Every other lawyer (outside of the large law firm) is just making “regular” money. Government lawyers get paid at the same rate as a person with any other grad degree (around $55-60k/year). Solo practitioners or lawyers at small law firms in DC get paid anywhere from $40-80k/year. Last time I checked, $40-80k was not the kind of salary that makes you “rich”. If you are going to law school to get “rich”, save your money and three years of your time and pick another profession. And, like, I said before, don't get sold this bill of goods that “law school can take you anywhere". I fell for that, but would find out later that this was, in fact, NOT true and that law school can take you a few places, but it can’t take you EVERYWHERE. In other words, a law degree is more like an American Express card than a VISA...

Ok, I know this was an extremely long post. And, if you made it this far, then clearly you are interested in law school, or you are just bored and had nothing else better to do with your time. I hope you found some of this information helpful and that, if you decide to attend law school, you decide to take some of this advice to heart.

At any rate, maybe after reading this, some of you will understand why many lawyers groan when they hear someone say, “You’re a lawyer? I’ve been thinking about law school.” It’s definitely not for everyone. That being said, it definitely IS for some people. So, you have to do your own assessment to decide whether you’ll be someone who would enjoy the challenge that law school presents.

Now, just so you can see that I am not some bitter, jaded law school grad who is also completely off her rocker, please take a moment to read this article about the dismal legal job market that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal. Or this article (all at once humorous and depressing) that was published in the Washington City Paper that describes the hellish job that a good majority of law graduates end up taking when their dreams of getting rich don't pan out.

Alright! Enough about the law. I'm sick of talking/writing about it, as I am daily striving to live a law-free life. Back to what the Brown Girl loves best - mindless drama...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So many people would probably find this SO helpful! I will refer people to check this post out when law school discussions come up. It's good to know all sides.