Law Schools, Small Law Firms, Student Loans

The Practice: Opening Mail From A Potential Law Student

From the time of my first column here, I’ve received emails from readers. Thoughtful people, both lawyers and non-lawyers, critical and yes, thankful, have offered (even using their real names) their suggestions, comments, lists of typos and grammar issues, and questions.

Questions like these:

1. Is it worth going into the field of law right now, or has the oversaturation of the market made building a solo practice or finding a decent firm position an almost impossible goal? Many of the writers on legal blogs (names of legal blogs deleted as not to upset my boss Lat) make it sound as though one would be foolish to enter the profession in any capacity.


2. If you had to make a decision between a tier three school with a full tuition scholarship, or $100k of debt to attend a “top 14″ law school, which would you choose?

Happy to answer….

1. Yes, it’s worth going into the field of law right now. Yes, the market is oversaturated. Yes, this has made building a solo practice or finding a decent firm position an almost impossible goal.

As lawyers, we don’t shy away from “almost impossible goals.” These types of goals vary with the type of lawyer. Some lawyers deem “almost impossible goals” as things from winning a difficult trial, closing a difficult sale of a client’s business, or settling a contentious divorce, to finding the right SEO guy to get them to the first page of Google.

While those that use the crutch of “my law school scammed me” will disagree, there is no reason to avoid law school if you want to be a lawyer. There are jobs out there, just not the ones to which many think they are entitled. If your goal is to get a job to pay off your loans, don’t go. It probably won’t happen. If your primary goal is to become an advocate, and secondary is paying off loans, you’ll make better decisions and have a more fulfilling career. Starting a solo practice out of law school is a stupid proposition, but I understand that for many, it’s all they can do. It’s still stupid. You don’t know crap, and no web-based “live the dream of solo practice” sales job is going to be your ticket to success.

If you went to law school to be an advocate and counselor, not just for the job you thought was supposed to be there at the end — if your goal was to enter a profession and represent clients, go to law school. While you’re there, network, a lot. Meet every lawyer you can meet. Go to CLE seminars that will allow law students to attend. Try and focus on a practice area or two, and go to a couple business development seminars (the ones that don’t spend seven hours on social media.) Seminars like “Basic Estate Planning” or “Family Law 101” are a good use of your time. Getting a clerkship or other job while in law school is nice and may lead to a job, but law firms and lawyers that need clerks don’t necessarily need associates. Waiting until your third year to send out résumés is fine if you are the top student at a top law school, but for the rest of you losers, this economy demands that law students begin their job search after orientation.

The issue of incurring six figure debt to go to law school and then believing it was a waste because your employment or lack thereof doesn’t help pay back your loans, leads me to the answer to…

2. Making a decision between a tier three school with a full tuition scholarship, or $100k in debt to attend a “top 14″ law school.

We have “top 14 schools” now? Man, I’ve been out too long.

Due to a stint on academic probation in college, otherwise mediocre grades, and a decent, but not spectacular LSAT score, I didn’t have this choice, so congratulations.

If you’re looking for a job in Biglaw, where you went to law school and your ranking matter. If you’re looking for a job elsewhere, no one cares. If you’re not going to Harvard, Yale, UVA, NYU, Stetson, or South Texas (I was kidding about the first four — (still no sarcasm font?)), it doesn’t matter where you go. Get the J.D. and pass the bar.

Actually, if you are looking for a non-Biglaw job, the law school(s) in the community where you may want to work, even if they are third tier, sorry “TTT,” are a good place to go. There will be adjunct professors from local law firms for you to get to know, and many grads work in the community and can be a good connection for you if you become active networking in the community instead of sitting in your apartment and cursing your law school for scamming you into going there.

After a few years, except for helping to get along with opposing counsel or in cocktail conversation, no one knows or cares where anyone went to law school.

Say, have you checked out Stetson?

Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at

(hidden for your protection)

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