Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Final Countdown

As we get ready for the New Year's countdown, and to say goodbye to 2010, 2011 will be ushering in a new reality for law grads: true unemployment.

As a 3L, I have the opportunity to talk to many of my classmates about their job search and prospects for the coming year. The forecast is grim. This is no exaggeration: I know of two (2!) law students graduating from my second TTTier law school in 2011 who have jobs lined up and both of them are patent-bar eligible. (Which introduces an interesting conundrum - people who are patent bar eligible are the only people who seem to be able to make law school work at a non-T14 these days, and yet they are the very people for whom law school is essentially a waste of time, as they could make a fine living without the three-year hiatus from the work force. Rendering law school a good idea for... essentially no one.)

I'm sure that there are a few people with job offers lined up that I don't know about, but none of them are friends of mine. The strange thing is that those of us who don't have jobs lined up really don't have anything tangible we can do about it. The school tells us to send out tons of resumes, but there are no employers for a 3L to send resumes to. When I ask people where they have applied, the response is always an embarrassed shrug. And I totally understand the awkwardness because it counters everything we are told about a bad economy: "Don't be complacent, don't be shy, network, etc..." Local governments are on hiring freezes and we are not in an area with big federal placement, the private firms are really only hiring from top schools, and public interest organizations are mostly hiring people with experience... there's really not much to do. There's a sort of purgatory consisting of a ton of people who need jobs and would love nothing better than to send out tons of resumes but really don't have anywhere to direct that energy.

I know that many people were counting on job fairs or OCI to get the ball rolling to an extent. No such luck. I have already written about the pathetic number of employers hiring 3Ls in OCI. The job fair numbers were equally pitiful. I know of a handful of people who did screening interviews and no one who got a callback.

The most annoying part by far is listening to the 2Ls who think that the world is sunshine and roses because they got an offer to work for a DA's office in an unpaid internship this summer. THAT is their evidence that the job market is turning around. I actually overheard a 2L with a position like that saying that she couldn't understand why the 3Ls can't find jobs because it was just so damn easy for her to find a "job" as an unpaid hack. (I may have added the last part.) I wish I could take pleasure out of the rude awakening she is about to face, but it's just too tragic.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! I will be enjoying my respite from law school with a nice chilled bottle of five dollar champagne. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lowering the Bar

One of the first things I learned about law school, well before I applied, was that a J.D. is not worth the paper it is printed on without passing the bar exam in at least one state.

Since I have the misfortune of attending law school at a time when my degree will not be worth the paper it is printed on with or without bar passage, and I no longer have any desire to practice, is taking the bar even worth it?

The thought of going to three years of law school and then forgoing the bar all together is sort of a scary one. On the one hand, as many of my non-law friends say, "now is the time." The odds that I will want to take the bar exam five years down the road are not good. At the same time, if I don't want to practice the idea of going through the aggravation and expense is not particularly enticing.

I don't want the same indecision that kept me from dropping out at one of the several points along the way where I wish I had be the force that pushes me into useless stress and expense. But part of me does worry about how this will appear to non-legal employers. I just don't know.

One thing is for sure: I will not be taking it this summer. If I take it, it will be in February of 2012. Something tells me I won't have a job that requires bar passage by the time I graduate. Just a hunch.

(Sidebar: I'm sorry I do not post very frequently, and while I have probably lost what readership I had at this point I hope to get back in the swing of things. I always welcome your comments and emails and I look forward to your feedback!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten miles behind me...

...and ten thousand more to go. :(

Sadly, the job situation fell through. It was always far from a sure thing. It's really my own fault. I did not start looking for non-law jobs until too late in the game this summer and put all my eggs in one basket. So now, here I am. Back in law school. Unfortunately dropping out without a job lined up is not an option for me because I have to somehow pay the exorbitant rent on this crappy apartment for another nine months.

Having been back at school for a couple of days, I can say that the mood is somber. The 3Ls are supposed to be happy - this is supposed to be our easy year, the payoff for having stuck it out. But, because no one has jobs (or even interviews), everyone feels the same pressure to perform that they have always felt. The only consolation we have is a sort of morbid sense of humor about our predicament, the kind I imagine ER doctors use to get them through the day, but without the sense of accomplishment that accompanies an ER shift.

I will try to update more frequently. I have been too depressed lately. But I do want there to be a voice from the trenches, letting 0Ls know how bad things are here. It is too late for me, but other people still have time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Apologies and Updates

I have been slow to update for awhile, and I apologize for that. For the past couple of weeks I have been focusing on finishing up the work at my summer job and exploring my options. I appreciate the advice from the comments in my previous post.

There is a chance that I might be able to get a job starting in September. I don't want to get my hopes up, but it is a possibility. It's a little scary because previously the idea of dropping out of law school was a pipe dream. But the only reason I didn't take it seriously is because I thought there was no chance I would get a full time job. If I get a job, I will have a big and scary decision to make.

I realize I could be getting ahead of myself. But here's hoping. Regardless of what happens with this job situation, I plan on spreading the anti-lawschool gossip to anyone who will listen!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And you may ask yourself... did I get here?

Dropping out has been on my mind even more than usual, mostly because tuition is coming due in about a month.

It is such a hard topic to get advice about, and I think that's because no matter who I ask, I know what the response will be. If I ask someone from one of the scam-busting blogs, they will tell me that I should definitely drop out. If I ask a friend or relative, they will tell me to stick it out for one more year.

Why is this so hard? It's not like dropping out of college. I have a college degree. This was, theoretically, supposed to be a bonus -- the cherry on top of my undergraduate pedigree. And now that I see that it is nothing more than a hindrance, it should be the easiest thing in the world to give up.

These posts from Scammed Hard and Esq. Never really got me thinking and forced me to ask myself what I am clinging to. It's not the "sunk cost" thing... those costs are what they are. I know there are no legal jobs, but I just wish there were any jobs, so I could feel that at least if I drop out I would be able to do something else within a reasonable span of time.

I guess this post really has no main point. I'm not exactly asking a question, but I do wonder if anyone out there has any thoughts or advice. I feel like every option sucks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This couldn't come at a worse time...

Here is an appalling post from someone who should damn well know better.

I used to read Above the Law when I was a paralegal at a big firm. It was a good place for law firm gossip, but I stopped reading it after I was no longer in the biglaw scene. I still check it out from time to time, however, and occasionally they come out with something interesting about the decline of the legal market.

Then comes a post by David Lat, whose writing I generally enjoy, making the case for law school. I respectfully but vehemently disagree with all five of his points. My responses to his points:

1) The lottery argument: Yes, when it comes to the lottery you “have to be in it to win it” but that hardly makes it a smart investment. Yes, you have to have a law degree to be a biglaw associate and make $160K per year starting salary, but the point is that so few people will achieve that, especially from the ever expanding pool of TTTs that it is arrogant (and naïve) to assume that you will be one of those people.

2) The “Go to law school if you want to be a lawyer” argument: This might hold water if the people applying to law school had any clue what being a lawyer entails. But I think the vast majority of 0Ls have no real concept of what law practice entails, or how bad the job market is. So a 0L's desire to be a lawyer is not worth much because it is quite often without foundation.

3) The “What else are you going to do?” argument: As my fellow scamblogger at First Tier Toilet points out in his response, this one is far and away the worst argument. Honestly, law is the only degree that people say this about. Not having a game plan for your career when you are a recent college graduate in your early twenties is NOT a good reason to take out a ton of debt just to narrow your career options further. I cannot say anything more about this particular argument or I will get too angry.

4) The “Not everyone has a ton of debt” argument: So what? Even if what he says is true and a full fifth of law school grads have little or no debt, that’s still 80% that do. Hardly a reason to go.

5)You can put “Esq.” next to your name: At $50K per letter, I could forgo the dubious honor.

The sad part is that ATL has a wider readership than the scambloggers, and this might be just the validation the 0Ls need, right as deposit deadlines are creeping up. Sigh.

Monday, July 12, 2010

LL.Ms.... the wave of the future?

I have to confess ignorance on this topic. I do not know much about LL.M. programs. But this past weekend, I happened to run into a classmate of mine. She mentioned her disappointment with the recruiting options available to us and expressed a desire to enroll in one of these LL.M. programs as a way of "waiting out" the bad market. I very politely inquired as to whether she really thought one year would make such a difference. She said she didn't know, but that it couldn't hurt.

Not knowing anything about the relative job prospects for LL.Ms versus JDs, I am going to go with my instinct and say that this is just a way for schools to extract more tuition money from students. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about this area can chime in. Who knows? Maybe some day a JD without an advanced legal degree will be functionally obsolete. Until then, I am willing to bet that the person who advised her to do this is a law school employee.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The end of the world as we know it...

Here's an article on one particularly abysmal legal market.

Once again, a swing and a miss in terms of getting to the actual point. The author comes extremely close to writing a great piece on the state of the legal market, at least in one city. Now I don't know if this is a flaw in the article or in the presentation/layout, but the site chose to use as it's photo/caption a picture of a smiling girl in a business suit, holding law books. The caption tells how this young woman was warned about a bad job market and yet still received multiple offers.

THAT is what the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks is the take-away from that article???

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Almost Doesn't Count

I know this article is a few days old, but I am just seeing it.

It's a good article, overall, but like so many of the other articles in the mainstream media that touch on this subject, it falls short. Essentially, almost everything that the author says is true, but law degrees are not mentioned by name. She does say that degrees in finance or business are still in "hot demand" but I don't think that is necessarily true. I know a few people with advanced business degrees who have had a lot of trouble finding jobs, and an even harder time finding jobs that justify having gone to school and earned that degree.

In short, I wish the author had gone further with this, but when it comes to our "movement" all press is good press.

Sidebar: I was complaining to someone today about the dearth of law jobs and how frustrated I am that I have essentially locked myself into this profession. Her response: "Well, at least a law degree opens a ton of other doors. It is an asset in any field, really." For some reason, that particular line goes THROUGH me.

Question for readers: is there a particular line that you get that is your pet peeve?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Never-Never Land, aka 0L Message Boards

For the sake of my blood pressure, I am going to stop looking at 0L message boards. I don't know why I do it. Boredom, I suppose.

I can't tell if they are being arrogant and assuming that the bleak statistics quoted by the scamblogs are true but just won't apply to them, or if they simply do not believe the statistics and think that the scambloggers/posters are mere trolls. When I was a 0L, I suppose it was a little of both. I assumed that the scambloggers were embellishing, but I also assumed that even if the numbers were true I would find a way to be successful at it. Ah, starry-eyed optimism.

Maybe the best advice to give prospective law students, rather than "Don't Go!" is just "Wait." I think that this is the advice that would have had the biggest impact on me when I was applying. No one likes to be told that they will not be able to succeed at something, even if it is true. Maybe we should be telling the 0Ls, "If you have a job in this economy, keep it. Wait a little longer. If you still have a burning desire to go to law school in three years and your circumstances allow for it, then go." I am willing to bet that a very high percentage of people who take that advice will end up reconsidering, and end up rejecting, the idea of law school.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cruel Summer, Part 2

Just in case anyone had any illusions that the job market is getting better for rising 2Ls and 3Ls: it’s not. The list of employers for various summer job fairs are starting to trickle in and the numbers are pitiful. It’s not like they were great last summer, but they are even worse this year. Employers don’t even have the pretense of hiring people for the foreseeable future. I can hardly wait for the train wreck that will be OCI this fall.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cruel Summer

I woke up this morning to sweltering heat and an email telling me that my bi-weekly work study paycheck has been deposited. Super. Now I just need to figure out whether to borrow the remainder of my rent money from my boyfriend or my parents.

Anyway, it got me thinking about my summer job (which, incidentally, is not a bad place to work) and I realized that there is another group of people to be pitied. So much of my frustration and disappointment has stemmed from the fact that, even leaving aside the financial ruin I have set up for myself, I just don’t like studying law. It just doesn’t interest me. Okay, maybe in some abstract way some of the legal history we study is interesting. But not one of my law school classes has really captured my interest the way I was promised one would. No practice area has made me say to myself: “Now THAT is what I want to do with my life!”

In some way, I have resigned myself to the huge mistake I made. The ones I feel sorry for today are the ones who love it, the ones who did find the class or classes that captured their passion. The ones who go into their summer job every day and really like what they do. Because they are just as screwed as I am, job wise, but with the added disadvantage of actually caring whether or not the position they some day obtain is a legal position. At this point, I just want a job when I graduate, in some city along the eastern seaboard. (I know even that is a tall order these days.) It is infuriating that after all of the time and money I invested in this degree I have to think that way, but it is what it is. At least I know that if I end up not practicing law, I won’t be missing out from a career satisfaction standpoint. For the others, this summer of slave labor is a cruel tease.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Open Secret

I'm sure that this has been pondered at length by other people in the scamblogosphere, but I wonder why it is that, despite the fact that this information is so readily available, the mainstream media has been so slow to pick up on the law school scam.

I have read several articles recently exploring the idea of making it easier to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. I read the NYT article about law school grade inflation. But other than that, it seems the mainstream media does not want to touch this with a ten foot pole. When I was applying to law school, there were a few bloggers and people in comments sections trying to shed light on the reality of the situation but even they were few and far between (this was back in 2007). Every now and then I would read an article on the declining value of a college degree, but if anything those articles served to validate the idea of going to law school (or really any graduate program) to somehow distinguish myself from the masses.

If I were a journalist, I would be all over this. What gives?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hindsight is 20/20

Hello All!

I have been inspired by the attention this article has recently received and have decided to start my own "scamblog" to discourage people from applying to law school. If I can discourage one person from applying to law school, I will consider this time well spent.

For some context, I just finished my second year of law school at a second tier school in a second tier city. My experience finding summer jobs has been dicey. While I have found employment both summers, both jobs are unpaid and not in the city where I hope to some day live. Work study has enabled me to squeak by (by which I mean I can manage my rent and not much else) and the sad part is that I am well aware this puts me among the more fortunate of my classmates, many of whom have not been able to find anything law-related for their resumes. Paying jobs are a myth - I know of very few people from my school who have found jobs that pay actual salaries this summer, and that includes several people who are on Law Review.

There are many reasons not to go to law school - crushing debt, bleak job prospects, the lies law schools tell. I will get into all of those reasons but for my first post I want to focus on something that does not quite fall under the "scam" heading. Too many people go to law school for the wrong reason. I was one of those people.

A year out of college, I was a starry eyed Ivy League grad who saw the world through rose-colored glasses. The economy had not collapsed just yet, I was working in a big city and I was caught up in the idea that tons of opportunity was at my fingertips. I had no desire to ever step foot in a classroom again. And then came the pressure. My parents convinced me that law was my meal ticket, not my B.A. in English. Numerous people, in fact, convinced me that there was nothing else one COULD do with such a degree, except for law school. Despite the fact that I had finally established some semblance of financial stability (a decent job, no more credit card debt and a dent in my undergraduate loans, albeit a small dent), I threw caution to the wind, took the LSAT, applied to law school, and ended up at a second tier school in another city. Lo and behold: more debt, more interest, a collapsed economy and years spent studying something that interests me less than watching paint dry. It's not that I exactly went in blind - I had read blog posts, and saw how bleak the job prospects were and how low the professional satisfaction was. But I let myself get caught up in the moment, turned on those rose-colored glasses I am famous for and followed the current.

Some nights, when I can't fall asleep, I think of how simple my life was before I started law school. I know it could not have stayed quite that carefree forever. But I wish I could go back to that time and choose differently, follow my instincts, and just wait things out in my dead-end but stable job until I found something I really enjoyed. These nights when I can't sleep I pray that it is not too late for me - that I will find SOME kind of professional life that will make me happy outside of law. No one understands my misery in this field - not my parents, not my friends... even some of my classmates are puzzled by it. But when I read the other blogs, I somehow don't feel quite as alone in this mentality.

So I might be shouting into the wind, but hopefully someone will read this and reconsider lawschool. Failing that, maybe some other unhappy and disappointed law student or recent grad will read this and not feel quite so alone.