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Law School Success Stories: High Risk, High Reward

A reader from the deep south writes:

I work in a two-lawyer firm. I graduated in 2006 from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (currently #119 in USNWR rankings) and received my LLM in Tax from the University of Florida in 2007. Scholarship to both. Top grades, law review, etc. Base salary between $100k and $120k (and has been for 4+ years).

I absolutely do not regret my decision to go to law school. I was the first person in my family to graduate college. Therefore, achieving a professional degree was more about a goal than the money. However, I have no complaints about the money. Have a small amount of debt still remaining (paid off in three years).

If I had not attended law school, I probably would have taught school.

Just wanted to weigh in from a small firm, smaller city perspective.

Short and sweet. Yes, this person was lucky enough to graduate in 2006, before the Great Recession hit the legal profession. But he also “made his own luck” by excelling in law school — even a law school that wasn’t super-high in the rankings.

Here’s the problem: nobody knows in advance whether they’re going to be in top five or top ten or top 25 percent of their law school class. A lot of people go in thinking they will be and then end up disappointed (and thinking of dropping out). But their presence is necessary in a certain sense: their failure to make the top ten percent helps make possible the career success enjoyed by the ten percenters, just as purchasers of losing lottery tickets help to fund the jackpot for the winners.

So that’s why we’ve called this the “high risk, high reward” approach to law school. It works out for some people, but perhaps they are the babies who successfully crawled through the minefield.

We’ve compared some of today’s success stories to fairy tales — and my colleague Elie Mystal, a critic of legal education, sees some merit in the comparison. He just disagrees on the applicable tale. He thinks the tellers of these success stories are like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, playing a happy tune that leads children to their doom. And he may have a point.

But let’s not forget: that tale ends unhappily for the children and their families, not the Pied Piper. In one version of the story, the Piper ends up with a ton of gold.

Earlier: Law School Success Stories: The Virtue of Thrift
Law School Success Stories: Submissions, Please
In Defense of Going to Law School

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