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Gradenfreude: The Beginning of the End

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at, and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

If you’re a frequent reader of Above the Law, then you’ve seen plenty of stories about the horrors of attending law school. But even so, the editors have expressed a few opinions: Elie doesn’t want you to go to law school at all; Lat thinks you should give law school a try, as long as it’s free; Staci’s ambivalent, but thinks it’s cool if you sue after you graduate; and Danzig stalks people who went to law school, so… yeah.

It’s a little confusing, isn’t it?

Perhaps you’re still unsure about what you should do. That’s why I’m here to tell you about the darker side of being a law school graduate who just so happens to be a member of the Lost Generation. I’m here to tell you about the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life. I’m here to tell you about going to an unranked law school….

I graduated from college in 2008, but apparently I partied too much and studied too little. As graduation neared, I realized that my degree was pretty much useless. I had spent four years learning all about my chosen profession, but as it turns out, it was incredibly boring. So, like any college graduate with a liberal arts degree, I decided to take a year off. Little did I know that it was the beginning… of the end.

Why not give law school a go, I thought to myself. I started my journey by preparing for the LSAT. I went to a big football school, and made the mistake of taking the test on our archrival’s campus right before a game. I proudly wore my team colors as I wandered around the tailgaters after the test, thinking that I had kicked enough exam ass to waltz into Harvard, well on my way to a job with a six-figure salary. Here’s some advice: never take an exam on a football rival’s campus — not only will your team lose the game, but their fans will jinx your test-taking abilities.

As the weeks went by, I tried not to think about how I did on the exam, and continued to work at my job in retail. Then I got the unfortunate news: my score was not very good at all, and I could only get into something that people on the internet kept calling a “TTT.” I did some research on the schools that sent me information on how to apply, and realized that given my LSAT score, I wasn’t going to have many choices.

I remembered reading in a college brochure that you should narrow the number of schools that you apply to, preferably to around five. And in what I took to be a sign at the time, I had received five application fee waivers, so I figured, what the hell, and I applied to those five schools. I was elated when I got into all five schools (after all, they each had a very exclusive 50-75% acceptance rate), and I was even offered a scholarship, which convinced me where to go.

Law school was a challenge, mostly because I never really had to push myself by actually doing work to achieve success in school. As the years went by, I became progressively more concerned for my future as more of my school’s alumni were asking “clients” if they would like fries with that than they were litigating cases or drawing up contracts. But I carried on and said, “No! That will not be me! I will be the exception to the rule! I can beat the U.S. economy!”

Now that I am four months removed from graduation, I can say that I was completely wrong. I am a clerk. Oh, no, not that kind of clerk. You know the movie? My job is like that, but it’s not as funny. It’s more like a comedy of errors, if anything. I stock shelves at a local store by day, and by night, I send out résumés and cover letters, with little to no response.

When I was in law school, I hated getting rejection letters. My, how things have changed! The highlight of last week was receiving an email telling me that the position I applied for had been filled, but the firm promised to keep my résumé on file. PARTIAL MEANINGLESS SUCCESS! (And actually, that’s a lie. The highlight of last week was getting coupons in the mail for McDonald’s Value Menu items. It’s like they know how poor I am.)

Here’s my life in a nut shell: four years ago, I was working in a retail position, I had no loan debt, but I also had no real idea as to what I wanted to do with my life. Fast forward to 2012, and I now have six figures of loan debt, I still have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, and I’m back to working in retail… except I’m making less than I did before I decided to go to law school.

Do you still want to go to any law school that will have you?

When not writing about life after law school for Above the Law, Tristan Taylor Thomas (not his real name) works at a retail job stocking shelves — which he admits is slightly better than being a shoeshiner. You can reach him by email at

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