Apparently no one can be told what law school is. You have to make the mistake yourself.
The ability to learn from other people’s mistakes is a mark of intelligence, but it’s not a skill shared by your average prospective law student. Despite an internet full of information, they continue to make the same mistakes when it comes to choosing a law school.
The fact that prospective law students quickly learn the error of their ways when they become actual law students only seems to emphasize their failure. By January, I’ll start getting the first emails from 1Ls saying, “I wish I had read you before I decided to go to law school.” By springtime, people who shouldn’t have started in the first place will be asking me whether they should drop out. By the time people graduate, they’ll be experts on all the things they should’ve thought about before matriculating to law school.
Kaplan actually has a new study out that confirms this obvious reality….
This latest Kaplan survey really tells you all you need to know about the difference between a 0L and a recent graduate:
In response to the question “What is most important to you when picking a law school to apply to?” nearly a third of respondents (32%) to a Kaplan survey of LSAT students* cited law school rankings as the most important evaluation factor, outdistancing all other factors. In fact, 86% said law school rankings are “very important” or “somewhat important” in deciding where to apply.
Apparently, though, three years of law school may cause aspiring lawyers to reprioritize. Among new law school graduates, only 17% of respondents to a recent Kaplan Bar Review survey** selected law school rankings as their top answer to “Which of the following factors would you tell prospective law students should be the most important when picking where to apply?” Instead, nearly half recommend prioritizing either a law school’s job placement rate or its affordability/tuition (each factor garnered 24%).
When I call prospective law students “stupid” or “uninformed” or “unable to exercise a modicum of rational self-interest,” it’s because of stats like these. Prospective law students wouldn’t even listen to themselves if they came back from the future to try to talk some sense into themselves. They seem unable to accurately assess the cost of the education weighed against the likelihood of employment until it is too late.
And they’re so freaking sure of themselves as they throw themselves into the abyss. As we mentioned last week from our own survey, the “certainty score” of new law students is through the roof. They believe they’re doing the right thing, and you can’t tell them otherwise. The Apostles of Jesus Christ had more doubt than the people who showed up to campus this fall.
Most of the 1Ls reading this post can tell me their school’s U.S. News rank. But if you ask them their school’s employment score, they’ll look at you like you just asked them to solve for X. Then if you tell them about their school’s long-term, full-time, J.D.-required rate, they’ll pivot to some BS about how they’re actually borrowing $35K just because they want to “help their community” and how “not everybody wants to work in a big firm, duh.”
Then, when you wring their self-delusional, cocksure little necks, while solemnly proclaiming, “You do not deserve to live,” some busybody calls the cops and you have to pretend like you were joking.
I’m not the only one who sees this. Ask any unemployed 3L. Heck, ask most employed recent graduates and they will tell you how freaking dumb they were when they were making the decision to attend law school, even if the decision happened to pay off for them.
Unfortunately, this seems to just be one of those mistakes you have to make for yourself.
Advice from Law School Grads to Law School Applicants: Instead of Rankings, Focus on Law Schools’ Job Placement Rates and Affordability [Kaplan]
Law Grads to Prospective Students: Stop Obsessing over the Rankings [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: The View from 0L