“Is it bad that I’m not flipping out? I feel like flipping out won’t help, so it’s not on my list of things to do.”—Mariel on finals. Do take some time to figure whether flipping out about finals is really the most productive use of your time.
“The most important thing that is taught in law school is the art of ass busting.”—Jansen on the art of ass busting. Go read the rest of the post. I could just fill the queue on this thing with quotes for that post for a good two days.
“4. Follow the guidelines. Many times applicants attempt to tweak the font size, spacing, or margins in their application essays in an attempt to stay within the various schools’ page limits. The admissions committee, however, will not be fooled. Rather than playing with the formatting, focus on making your discussion clear and concise.”—Clear Admit with the single best piece of advice on admissions you’ll get. If you’re at the point where your essay is a major factor getting admitted, you cannot afford to shoot yourself in the foot by not following the rules.
“Get it done and move on — you’ve got finals you should be studying for instead of doing this memo which is probably ungraded or pass/fail depending on your school, and if it IS graded, it is certainly a small portion of what? A one or two credits class? F**k that. Get it done and study torts.”—Butterflyfish with some tough love for 1Ls trying to buy a memo.
“That said, if you’re jumping into law school to defer the inevitable difficulties holding a job down, you’re getting exactly what you are paying for. You have three years off of the job market, after which you’ve got a terminal degree and a second chance to get a job or move in with mom. It seems to me that worrying too much about what will happen right after you graduate law school is a moot point. In this scenario, you’re not really attending law school for the purpose of being more employable, or at least you shouldn’t be.”—
To me, this is explains the gap in logic when countless law students moan about not being employable. A large portion of law students came to law school because they had nothing better to do, and now they want the guarantees and professional training? This goes doubly for anyone who applies to law school for those reasons at this point.
Laura Bergus, now writing part time for the Lawyerist, has some productivity tips especially for law students and lawyers:
1. CiteGenie. I learned the hard way how much I depended on CiteGenie my first year of law school—when I was at a computer without this great Firefox extension installed and I had to actually copy down a case citation. When you copy something to your computer’s clipboard, CiteGenie knows if it is from Lexis or Westlaw and includes a Blue Book-compliant citation. Before using CiteGenie, you should consider any ethical implications. Is it “cheating?” You decide.
It’s not cheating. Case citations are a way to help people find the information you are relying on to make an argument. Anything that makes them more accurate is a good thing. Anything that makes them faster is an added bonus. Automating that process is not only ethical, it’s a best practice.
“I have, of course, vacated the xbox, placed the band on ice, excused myself from social networking, threatened to quit work if they don’t change the fact they scheduled me 3 days a week for the next three weeks (including a day where I actually have a final), charged my ipod, gathered my flashcards, outlines, nutshells, notes, and asked for an extra large tab at the law school coffee shop. Luckily, I am already having trouble sleeping.”—The Corner In The Middle on what could affectionately be called “going into the cave.”
I didn’t check all of these for accuracy, but the house is pretty sobering. If I never buy a home (increasingly realistic), my legal education is the single biggest purchase I’ll ever make, unless I buy a Ferrari or Bentley.
UC Davis is proposing tuition of $60,000 for out-of-state students in 2012-13. UC Davis is a good school, but seriously. UC-freaking-Davis? Tuition at Yale this year is only $46,000. Is UC Davis really worth about 25% more than Yale?
1. Harvard Law School 2. University of Michigan Law School 3. The University of Texas School of Law 4. University of Virginia School of Law 5. Georgetown University Law Center 6. New York University School of Law 7. Columbia Law School 8. University of Florida Levin College of Law 9. University of California Berkeley School of Law 10. Yale Law School 11. University of California Hastings College of the Law 12. The George Washington University Law School 13. Boston University School of Law 14. UCLA School of Law 15. University of Pennsylvania Law School 16. The University of Chicago The Law School 17. Boston College Law School 18. Northwestern University School of Law 19. Stanford Law School 20. University of Miami School of Law
Keep this in mind through:
In this economy, prospective law students should be asking which law schools put them in the best position to get a job. Are you going to be better off coming out of the University of Florida Law School (ranked #8) or Stanford Law School (ranked #19)? And if Stanford makes you more employable, do you really care if UF produces more Super Lawyers?
The proper graduation outcome to focus on is not how many outstanding lawyers a school produces. It’s how many lawyers does a school produce that are employed at graduation and have the basic skills to start working at that job.
To say that I am noncommittal to law school is unfair. I felt noncommittal because I carried this vague notion that in law school there is a top prize – one that I did not want to pursue because I knew it would be disastrous for me.
To say that law school is a backup plan is also unfair. This isn’t a situation of “if the creative stuff doesn’t work out I can become a lawyer.” The purpose of law school for me to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and make me eligible for a career that will support my creative work.
Law school is meeting those expectations and this vague sense of dread about not doing what I don’t want to do anyway is counter-productive.
Jansen pretty much nails the problem when law students don’t want to get on the treadmill and chase the same golden tickets that the law school is telling you to go after. And he nails the attitude you have to have about law school.
“The worst of it is, I know these aren’t bad people. I know they are good, and capable of many awesome accomplishments or already have a few under their belts. But for some reason, when in this experience together, it brings out the worst. Anyway, it isn’t one person who is hurting me, it’s the combination of everyone, together, going through this grind, that is hurtful. I don’t know if anyone else feels like it’s one against everyone else, but that’s what it feels like to me.”—
I think the author of this blog post is making a flawed assumption about the people in law school. If people in your law school are a bunch of jerks, it might seem like you’re doing everyone a favor by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Law school is this stressful experience. It’s reasonable to believe that people can act more like adults.
But I’m finding that it doesn’t work like that. The people in law school you can’t stand, you probably wouldn’t be able to stand outside of law school. You’re probably just seeing more things you can’t stand about them because you’re around them so much.
Just because stressful situations make people revert to base responses doesn’t mean you should excuse them. If you’re law school is full of jerks, your school should be blamed not for getting a bunch of nice people and turning them into jerks (although it’s probably not helping), but for admitting a bunch of jerks in the first place.
When most people hear that something is broken, there is a prevailing attitude today that you just have to recognize that the thing is broken and start applying some attention to it. It’s almost as if by noticing the problem and thinking about how to solve it, you have solved it.
Unfortunately, this is not working for the economy. I’m not going to pretend that I know how long economic recovery will take or whether we’ve hit the bottom, but I do know that despite have recognized the economic problem, it hasn’t been fixed overnight. When that happens, it normally means we’re in for some sort of lasting change.
The question now is not whether this recession will change law school and the legal services industry, but how.
First head over to SSRN and read through Herwig Schlunk’s paper on law school as an investment titled “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be … Lawyers.” It’s only 12 pages long and it’s not incredibly dense. Schlunk makes the case that law school is a risky investment. You may argue with his numbers, but most of the supporting assumptions are pretty sound:
Law school tuition is very expensive.
In addition, law school has an opportunity cost of not entering the workforce.
Starting salaries for lawyers are clustered around two points: one not much higher than if you just had a bachelor degree, and one at the Biglaw market rate.
Schlunk’s case is compelling, but largely told us something we already know. If you paid full freight at your law school, you need to land a Biglaw job in order to make the investment pay off. Only top students at elite law schools have a good enough chance of landing these coveted jobs to make the investment worth while.
The fact that the numbers aren’t adding up is not going unnoticed. Erik Gerding points this out by asking if we’re seeing the death of the “Big law school” model. Gerding essentially argues that if Schlunk is right, law school is in for a drastic change:
Like it or not, the business model (I hate applying that term to legal education, but can’t think of another one) of many law schools is heavily dependent on students getting high paying law firm jobs to pay off high law school tuition. Law firms are also prime benefactors of law school endowments. Without corporate law consuming law school graduates by the dozens, law school will face massive economic pressure.
There’s one major problem with Gerding’s assessment. Law firms don’t pay the bills for law schools. Law students do. As long as enough students are willing to pay tuition, there’s no reason for law schools to alter the way they do business. And as Elie Mystal at Above the Law, that’s not happening:
Law schools won’t change unless they have to. And they won’t “have to” unless “fewer people will go to law school.” For reasons passing understanding, that is not happening. The opposite is happening. More people are going to law school. More people want in. Watching all these people applying to law school is like watching rats running onto a sinking ship. It is disturbing and unnatural.
To many, even if the legal industry is suffering alongside many others, the let’s-go-back-to-school strategy represents a risk worth taking: Three years down the line — who knows? — maybe everything will look the way it did in 2007.
I don’t believe anyone entering law school can legitimately claim that the information about the implosion of Biglaw that occurred in the first half of this year and its aftermath is not out there. To the extent that prospective law students are unaware of the changes in the legal industry, they have either stuck their heads in the sand (shame on them) or law schools are selling them bogus optimism about their job prospects (shame on law schools).
2. People just don’t care
This would be a complete validation of the way Schlunk thinks about law school. For a college graduate with decent job prospects, law school looks like a real gamble. But if you have no job prospects and you take the attitude that Jones talks about above, that changes the math substantially.
You have lower opportunity costs for going to law school. You believe you have a higher chance of hitting the jackpot and getting a Biglaw job. You’re less risk averse, so you need less of a discount rate. And you need less of a premium to work Biglaw hours. You might be much more willing to roll the dice in that situation then one where you leave a sure think for just the potential of making bank at a firm.
3. It’s not about the math
There’s two tracks here. First is that despite what prospective students hear about the legal industry, they might just be opting for the comfort and safety of law school as an escape from the real world. Like problem gamblers heading to the casino in a time of crisis, some people simply want to shut out the real world for three years and hope things are better when they return. And $150,000 in debt doesn’t seem like a terrible cost for the privilege.
More profound would be if Schlunk is dead on in a throwaway line at the end of his paper:
Moreover, even for individuals facing a more challenging calculus, it may be the case that a legal education confers benefits beyond the incremental compensation that I have used to analyze the pure investment decision. For example, a law degree opens up many more avenues of potential employment, including importantly self-employment, than does a typical undergraduate degree: lawyers are found in all parts of the workforce performing all manner of jobs.
If this continues to be the case, grand predictions about massive changes to law school will never materialize. Anyone who still believes that law school is a guaranteed path to high salary, high prestige, and high job security is not paying attention. That point has been proven throughly and completely false. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad idea. Which means people will keep lining up to pay the tuition
Biglaw is not the only consumer of legal graduates. In fact, the traditional legal services industry is not the only consumer either. If law schools can place people in jobs other than a legal industry in the midst of great change, maybe law schools don’t have to change that much at all. And in fact, changing to fit the needs of Biglaw, even if it results in a better professional curriculum, could ultimately be harmful.
The tales of the death of the current law school model are greatly exaggerated. So what if you can’t prove it’s a good investment using a spreadsheet? There’s more to education than that. If law schools can figure out exactly what that more is, then at worst they won’t be beholden to the market fluctuations of Biglaw and at best they might be just fine the way they are.
Pro parenting tip, and this is one that was all my friend’s idea but I thought it was brilliant – Meet Mr. Shut-up:
If you ever work out of the home, and you have kids, then you know that sometimes you may need to take a call and not have it sound as if you are working out of your home with kids. That is where Mr. Shut-up comes in. Let your critters know that, when Mr. Shut-up is on, it is time to be quiet or face the wrath of Mr. or Ms. Puts-a-roof-over-your-head.