First year orientation is, for most members of the future class of 2014, about a month away. I think that now is a good time for me to do a small series on bad reasons to go to law school. If you are reading this blog and thinking about law school, my blanket advice to you is not to go. There may be exceptions, but for the vast majority of people the best decision is not to go, to the point where I am willing to offer that as my one-size-fits-all take on the matter. But if any of the reasons I will be profiling in this series apply to you, you REALLY should not be going.
The first factor I am going to focus on is one of the worst reasons to go, but it is also one of the most tragic. And probably, although many might hesitate to admit it, one of the most common:
Back in the day, a college degree was a guarantee of success. A graduate degree of any kind was a winning lottery ticket. As a result, many Baby Boomers with children who are now in their twenties really think they are doing the right thing by encouraging their children, many of whom have worthless liberal arts degrees, to go to law school.
In January, when the New York Times published a widely circulated article about the pitfalls of going to law school, my blog was one of the ones linked to in the online version. I saw a huge increase in traffic as a result. I also received an enormous number of emails, mostly from prospective or current law students sharing their stories or asking for advice. But what surprised me most was the volume of emails I received from parents of current law students or recent law school graduates expressing remorse for encouraging their children to go to law school in the first place. One poor woman felt that the situation had done irreparable harm to her relationship with her son. He had expressed some reservations about attending, but with her encouragement he took the plunge and enrolled in a Tier 2 law school. Now he has a ton of debt and few job prospects. (Or at least few job prospects as of January, and it is hard for me to imagine things are looking up.) I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally had tears in my eyes as I read her email, both for the sadness of the circumstances and for the fact that she was troubled enough by the situation to reveal it to a complete stranger via email. I feel for both the mother who thought she was offering sound advice, and the son who followed the natural instincts of many people. After all, their parents have probably never led them astray before, and they certainly would not do it intentionally.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I was definitely influenced by my parents. It was my decision to begin the application process, and ultimately it was my decision to enroll. I do not blame my parents in the slightest bit for my decision or the repercussions that followed. But they certainly influenced me. They thought it was a great idea, and the best thing I could do with an English degree. Unfortunately, they were wrong. We both were. But I know their hearts were in the right place. They just did not have all of the information. But that is starting to change.
One of the best things about the exposure that the law school scam is receiving from the mainstream media is that the message is finally beginning to reach parents. Parents read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc. They do not necessarily read blogs. As parents come around to the reality of the situation, they will stop offering their children such unfortunate advice.
The point I am ultimately trying to make is that if you are scheduled to begin law school this August, and pleasing your parents or following their advice was one of the pivotal factors leading you to enroll – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE rethink your decision. The only exception is if your parents are extremely successful attorneys themselves and have either (a) some very serious, guaranteed connections, or (b) a thriving practice that you will be able to join when you graduate.
Your parents are suggesting this because they think it is best for you. If you do not take their advice, they may be hurt, confused or even angry at first. They will get over it. And trust me, you will be proven right.