We’ve received many emails here from struggling law students or recent law grads who have high debt and no job. Some of them deserve mockery. Some of them are good jumping off points for a discussion on the failures of legal education.

But this one is just sad. I feel bad for this person. The kid went to Columbia, got an LL.M from Cornell, but has now failed the bar four times.

I don’t have any flip or snarky internet advice. I just honestly hope that somehow things get better for this person. I think I’m feeling what you humans call “sympathy”…

A tipster sent in this message he received from a friend. He said he sent it to us because: “It is so hard to see [how] students are getting in debt in order to become attorneys.” I was all ready to fire up my “Don’t. Go. To. Law School.” machine. But when I read it, I just… crime, boy, I don’t know.

Here’s the law grad’s letter to his friend:

Sorry I’ve been so distant. Life is hard on my end. I just found out that I did not pass the bar exam. I’ve now sat for it 4 times. I haven’t told [Redacted] yet. He is going to be so disappointed. More bad news for our depressing lives. I just don’t know how I am going to rebound. I went into debt to attend Cornell, after I already had debt from Columbia, and the idea was that the LLM doesn’t have value unless I pass the NY bar. Each time I go it costs nearly 4K–we just can’t keep paying that. My results from the professional responsibility portion of the exam will now expire, this is really bad news. And soon I’ll have a new baby at home, still no job, and I’ll have to pull [Redacted] out of crèche and take care of the three of them at home, which doesn’t exactly keep me on track professionally. Nor does it help us climb out of our bad financial situation as it keeps me from working. So many years of schooling have led nowhere, just to debt. Please pray that the holy spirit prepare [Redacted] for this bad news and prepare a better future for us, as we just don’t know how to improve our lives and make things better –so much of our plan turned around me passing the bar and getting a good paying job. I’ve applied to so many and leave the experience feeling like I’m only qualified to babysit. I’m just not sure how to make our dreams happen now. I feel so disappointed and sad.

That is just gut-wrenching. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: going to law school used to be like buying a car — if you got a lemon, you could financially recover and buy another car. Now it’s like buying a house — if it goes bad, you’re looking at a financial body blow that it will take decades to recover from.

The only positive I can wrest from this: there are worse things than staying home and being with your children. Maybe that’s not the life this person wanted, and feeling like your financial situation prevents you from giving your kids what you want to be able to give them is no fun either. But being at home, surrounded by your loving family — hey, there are lots of lawyers who get to the point where they’d gladly give up their careers for that.

And there are other careers besides law. I can only hope that this person looks back in ten years and thinks that failing the bar four times was the best thing that could have happened. Maybe he or she is dodging a bullet.


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