Law Schools, Money, Reader Polls, Student Loans, William and Mary School of Law

The Decision: Should I Go To Law School At All? Plus George Washington v. William & Mary

In our last story asking you to advise a law school applicant, the 0L in question was choosing between UVA, Northwestern, and Minnesota, which offered him scholarships of different sizes. You voted in favor of Northwestern, which offered him a generous scholarship, and he took your advice.

Today we bring you a doubleheader. Our first candidate wants to know whether she should go to law school at all, given the options she faces. Our second candidate is choosing between two excellent law schools, but with different price points….

We’ll call our first prospective law student “Fence Sitter.” Here’s what she writes (we’ve made minor edits to preserve anonymity):

I’ve been an avid reader of ATL and was really excited to see your invitation for email regarding “The Decision.” My scores weren’t high enough for me to decide among the T14s. Some of the options I have are: $30,000/year scholarship at Cardozo (after negotiation), $10,000/year at U Maryland, $30,000/year at Brooklyn, full scholarship at St. John’s, and waitlist at Georgetown. Unlike Lucky Duck, I’ve pretty much got the schools narrowed down to Cardozo (debt financing the difference w/o parental assistance), but I’m still not yet convinced on the idea of going to law school.

Here’s my situation. I graduated from college in 2006 with a degree in economics. My dream of working in equity research pretty much went to the wayside as the financial sector tanked in 2006-07. After spending a year traveling and teaching English abroad, I somehow landed in international trade compliance. I became a Certified U.S. Export Compliance Officer and more recently, a Licensed Customs Broker by passing the infamous April 2012 exam administered by CBP with less than 1% national pass rate.

I now work as a Senior Commercial Compliance Specialist at the corporate office of a Fortune 50 company in central Illinois, making well over 50 percent more than the mean salary for new JD graduates and putting in roughly 40 hours a week (including hours dedicated to reading ATL and everything related to law school). I’m somewhat unchallenged here, but it’s still a bit away from the unhappiest job in America.

So the question regarding law school is: to go or not to go?

I’d tell Fence Sitter not to go. I agree with Staci’s advice: if you don’t have a strong and well-informed desire to be a lawyer, then you probably shouldn’t go to law school (unless you’re so rich that you or your parents can afford to treat law school as “finishing school for liberal arts graduates”).

It sounds like Fence Sitter is interested in law school primarily because she doesn’t feel completely fulfilled or challenged in her current position. But the solution to that problem is either (1) finding ways to modify her position so that she feels more challenged and engaged, perhaps after discussions with her current boss, or (2) getting a new job, if modifying the existing one isn’t possible. Leaving a job that pays well and has reasonable hours just to take a gamble on law school — and it’s a gamble, with real (and borrowed) money on the table — strikes me as unwise, especially given the grim realities of the legal employment market.

Readers, what do you think?

This 0L should....

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Now, on to our next candidate. She knows she wants to go to law school but isn’t sure about where….

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments