This guy isn't a slacker; he's just not wasting his time with law school.

Elie here. Lat and I have debated in these pages about whether or not certain students should drop out of law school. Dropping out has a stark finality to it. And then people call you a “dropout” like your name is Frenchie.

Today we have a more subtle question: should a rising 2L take a year off? He doesn’t have a job or any prospects or anything, but the kid wants to know if hitting the “pause” button on his legal career will do him any good.

Let’s break this down. And don’t forget to take our poll and add your own advice, in the comments….

Here’s the question from our rising 2L:

I am going to be a 2L at a Tier One (GWU, BU, BC) and I am highly considering taking the year off and possibly dropping out. I know it is very late in the game but I only have to inform the school before I sign my promissory note for financial aid. I finished my first year ranked right around 50%, not sure the exact rank. I get a decent scholarship from the school and my parents are helping me with my living expenses so I expect to graduate with about 90k in debt.

The main reason I consider at least taking a year off is the combination of graduating with 90k in debt, before interest, and the fact that I am not the kind of person who went to law school knowing they wanted to be a lawyer. I went directly from undergraduate to law school, mainly because of the salary prospects and I had no idea what I wanted to do (pretty naive, right?). I also felt, and still believe, that a JD would definitely open doors that I otherwise would not have afforded to me, but the debt is scary. I think the only thing holding me back is the fact that I do not have any employment prospects if I did decide to take some time off. But on the other hand, I know this is the best opportunity to get out while I still can, considering that I right now have less than 30k in loans.

ELIE MYSTAL:

Hmm… so on the one hand, you can keep doing something you didn’t really fully consider before you started, OR you can stop, think, and assess your options. What do you think I’m going to say? Of course you should take a year off. Hell, take two. Take however long you need until you can figure out if being a lawyer (the kind of lawyer that the middle of the class at your school gets to be) is what you want to do with your life.

It’s the best thing for you because the people who do the best in law school are almost always the ones who have taken some time off, and are in law school because they want to be — not because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. They are the kids who are focused and self-directed and don’t get caught up in drama as if they are starring in Law School Musical Two.

The drawbacks to taking time off are easy to overcome. You don’t have a job right now, but that’s okay. You don’t need a “career” job, you need four months delivering pizzas and having sex with bored MILFs while you clear your head and think about where your life is headed.

Don’t be afraid of poverty; embrace that s**t. You’ll probably be like, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again,” and come back to law school with a brand new attitude. OR, you’ll say, “It’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, you ain’t got s**t to do,” and get high. People who are afraid of being poor make great students. People who aren’t afraid of being poor make happy students.

Which one are you? Why don’t you take a year and find out?

DAVID LAT:

Hmm, I don’t feel strongly about this fact pattern. And I think Elie makes some sound observations. But since we’ve dubbed this a debate, I’ll do my part and argue against taking a year off. Here are five points to consider.

First, as I’ve argued before, the only thing less useful than a law degree is a third of a law degree. So just finish what you’ve started.

Second, you’ve already been through the hardest part, namely, your 1L year. Things get a lot easier from here on out. Obviously you want to work hard during your 2L and 3L years, so you can push yourself to a higher point in the class by the time you graduate. But in terms of the sheer slog, the sleepless nights in the library, and the brutal grading curve, the worst is behind you.

Third, if you take a year off, you’ll lose your academic momentum, significantly increasing the odds that you’ll never finish your law degree. And that would not be a good thing (see point #1, supra).

Fourth, you already have too much debt for quitting to make much sense. If you had just $15,000 in debt, like this person, then maybe dropping out wouldn’t be that bad — $15K can be repaid over time, even with a poorly paid job. But you owe twice that much, so you might as well stick it out and hope you can get a legal job. Remember, even unglamorous legal jobs — say, doc review in West Virginia — pay better than delivering pizza.

Finally, as you note in your question to us, you don’t have any employment lined up. The legal job market might be awful right now, but it’s not like the non-legal job market is peaches and cream either. Better to be unemployed but enhancing your human capital than just unemployed and… unemployed.


Readers, you’ve heard both sides of the argument. What do you think? Take our poll below, and don’t forget to share your advice in the comments.

Should this kid take a year off of law school?

  • Yes (55%, 642 Votes)
  • No (45%, 520 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,159

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Earlier: Should You Drop Out of Law School? An ATL Debate


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