From an anxious second-year law student at Ohio Northern University – Claude W. Pettit College of Law:
I’m considering dropping out of [negative commentary redacted] (Ohio Northern) at the end of my 2nd year. I have an internship lined up in a county family court for the summer, and no leads on employment when I graduate. I have a C average and about $70k in loans. I know it was a mistake to accept the law scholarship scam. I was totally suckered into it, and I don’t know if I should just cut and run or stick it out. I don’t hate law school, but I don’t love it either. (If I finish I’m getting into taxation and estates, wills, and trusts.)
Everybody in my life is saying stick it out and graduate so I have some thing to show for the money, but I doubt that my [negative adjectives redacted] school’s name on a diploma will get me anywhere but back to the WalMart soft-lines dept. So, it’s just pride f***ing with me, my partner, and my family, as Marcellus Wallace would put it.
Before I went to law school, I taught for a year but never finished my degree. I could drop about $5k on a certification program and be in a program that would allow me to start a job teaching in a few months, with the opportunity to get a M.Ed. in special ed with a teaching fellowship, which would cut the costs of that degree even further, and given the fact that there isn’t a grading curve, my grades would resume their pre-law excellence. Switching to teaching would also provide the possibility of jumping in on two loan forgiveness programs.
So, what should I do? Do I give my school another year’s tuition or do I swallow my pride, accept defeat, go back to my hometown to teach?
DAVID LAT: There are no great options here. The person is already two years and $70K in the hole. But the student might as well have something to show for all this effort, right? So I might fall back on my prior advice: “Getting a legal education is like building a house. If you quit [two thirds] of the way through, what does that leave you with? What are you going to do with four walls but no roof?” Stick it out and collect that Juris Doctor — and then hope and pray and hustle for a job.
Sigh. I don’t feel strongly about this advice, and I could easily be persuaded to change my mind. Elie, what do you think?
ELIE MYSTAL: Well, you’ve got a C average at Ohio Northern, which is not good. You didn’t think this through before you went to law school or even after your first year. And you already have one degree program you didn’t finish.
You’ve got a couple of months off coming up; here’s what you need to do. Figure out what, if anything, you want to do with your freaking life. What are you good at? What do you like being good at? It seems like you want easy answers, but you need to make hard choices. You can’t do everything, and you can’t float half-assed through everything, hoping that somehow you land somewhere good (and I’m assuming you’ve been half-assing it because you’re getting Cs at Ohio Northern).
It’s your life; what do you want to do with it? You don’t know? That’s an unacceptable answer, but if that’s all you’ve got, you can “not know” what you want to do without dropping $70K on this and $5K on that. You shouldn’t spend one additional dime on any degree program until you figure out what you want to do.
I don’t know what to tell you. Here’s how it’s supposed to go: figure out what you want, then spend money. Not spend all your money and hope that somewhere along the way you figure out what the hell you want to do.
Readers, what are your views? Debate in the comments and vote in the two polls. And check out the links collected below for discussions of these issues from years past.
Earlier: The Decision: Harvard v. Yale — An ATL Debate
Cut Your Losses, or Finish Law School? An ATL Debate
Should You Drop Out of Law School: The Sequel. A 1L Wants Your Advice
A 1L Who Should Stay In Law School
An Update on the 1L Who Considered Dropping Out (But Didn’t)
Pay to Go to Law School or Get Paid to Quit: You Won’t Be Learning Anything Either Way