Accounting / Accountants, Job Searches, Law Schools, Money, NALP, National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Student Loans, Unemployment

Dear Prudence: My Husband Is Contemplating Ruining Our Lives By Going To Law School

Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.

Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.

For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….

Earlier this week, a woman who went by the name “Law School Husband” attended Dear Prudence’s live chat to discuss her spouse’s desire to go to law school. Here’s the situation she’s currently facing:

My husband and I have been married for five years and have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. Since we met, my husband has been kicking around the idea of going to law school, but never (even with my encouragement and support) took the LSAT when we were dating or even early in our marriage. He finally took the exam over the winter and got a good score. This fall he is submitting applications to law schools. However, I am dreading this process.

We are both CPAs and make a good combined income, but cutting out an income and adding on tuition would be pushing the limit of our finances. My husband offered to take out student loans, but I cringe at that thought since we just paid off our undergrad loans. My husband feels that law school is “his dream” and he doesn’t want to give it up. On one hand I understand that, but on the other hand this will put a financial strain on our family.

From a practical standpoint, l think he had plenty of time to pursue this dream after college, but now we have a mortgage and two very young children to consider. I want to approach this with respect for his dream but also the practical considerations of our family. Any advice would be really appreciated.

These people are both CPAs and make a decent living, and yet LSH’s spouse is all too eager to leave his job to take on additional student debt while his wife pays off a mortgage and supports their two young children. This sounds like a major husbanding fail to me. Fortunately, Prudence didn’t wait too long to give LSH a hard dose of reality: “Your husband must have been spending so much time poring over other people’s books that he’s neglected to read about the prospects for new law school graduates.” Prudence then advised that since they understand numbers, they should probably break out some spreadsheets and do a cost-benefit analysis.

That’s probably something that Jim Leipold of NALP wishes more prospective law students would do instead of believing what’s being fed to them by law school career services officers around the country. In October’s NALP Bulletin, Leipold noted that the administrators behind the $4 billion law school industry would prefer he lie through his teeth about the job market. After all, isn’t that what they’ve been doing for years?

I have been surprised recently that a number of law schools, through their dean or their office of career services, have called on NALP generally and on me specifically to develop a more positive message about the entry-level job market. One request went so far as to urge me to describe the entry-level legal employment market as good. Ah, if wishing would only make it so.

It’s stunning that, in light of all of the law school litigation, some schools have resorted to begging when it comes to Leipold’s description of the current job market for recent graduates. It seems they’re willing to do just about anything to fill those seats, including painting an unrealistically pretty picture about employment outcomes for their graduates. That’s what got you sued in the first place, stupid. Sigh.

As Leipold mused, if wishing would only make it so, then perhaps LSH wouldn’t have to crush her husband’s dreams of going to law school. But for now, it’s best if she takes Prudence’s advice and tells him to defer his dream “until the economy is more welcoming.” Or he can always try to defer his future student loan payments while searching for an elusive job after graduation, but we all know how well that can turn out.

What advice would you have given to “Law School Husband”? Let us know what you think in the comments.

There’s Something I Have To Get Off Your Chest [Dear Prudence / Slate]
Truth or Dare: The New Employment Market [NALP Bulletin]
If Wishes Were Horses, the Legal Job Market Would Shine [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: Dear Abby: My Kid’s Law School Loans Are Ruining My Life

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