0Ls

Ugh, not worth it, girl. You can’t even get rich from that anymore.

– A prospective law student overheard on the train this morning. Her seatmate later told her not to even think about dating a lawyer — “they’re all so, so poor… it’s kind of sad, you know?”

Some guy on Twitter was complaining that Above the Law focuses too much on the negative side of going to law school. Apparently this person mistakes us for a law school admissions office — people who ignore facts when they don’t fit their happy-clappy narrative. We do bring you some law school success stories when we hear of good ones. Do you know why those stories are “news”? Because law schools are so effective at leading people down a path of career frustration and financial ruin that when somebody beats the odds, it’s mildly noteworthy.

Law school is a good investment for some, and a terrible one for many. We say that all the time. The problem is that law schools do not give people enough information to assess whether or not they should go. The problem is that some law schools actively mislead people who are trying to make a sound decision. The problem is that even when law school “works out,” the tuition charged often vastly outstrips the value of the degree.

Sure, some people will succeed despite the high cost, misleading information, and weak job market. Law schools want you to think that those successful people are the norm, but really they are the outliers. (And, given the events of today, I guess I have to say that the folks who contemplate suicide are also outliers.)

This guy who recently bared his underachieving soul to Business Insider is the norm. This guy making $45,000 while carrying $200,000 of law school debt has the kind of life law students should prepare themselves for, regardless of what the admissions brochures and the guy on Twitter who made everything work out will tell you….

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During an appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio, Tom Hanks was asked what profession he would not like to try. His answer: “A lawyer. That’s doing homework for a living.” I still think that’s the most accurate one-sentence description of the practice of law. Being a lawyer isn’t about soaring rhetoric or intellectual polemics. It’s about organization and attention to detail. It’s about paperwork, really high-level paperwork and research.

If you don’t like doing homework, you’re not going to like going to law school or practicing law. Certainly, if you don’t like doing your own paperwork, you’re going to hate doing it for somebody else. So when tipsters alerted us to this guy from Craigslist who is trying to hire someone to help him with the boring paperwork of applying to law school, I just wonder which episode of Suits made him think that he’d make a good lawyer….

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I’m going to apply to both NYU Law campuses and see what happens, but I’d much rather go to the one in TriBeCa. It’s closer to my boyfriend’s apartment.

– Highlights from a prospective law student’s conversation overheard on the train ride to Manhattan this morning. She later said she was worried about the most recent administration of the LSAT. She had to retake it because her last score was a 148.

(Keep reading to see what happened next during this surreal encounter….)

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Law school rejection letters have been sent to even the best of us, and most are quick to pick up their bruised egos and call it a day. But there are others out there who are unable to move on with their lives. Their dreams have been crushed, and they want nothing more than to exact revenge against the admissions dean who destroyed their imagined future in the only way they know how: by pointing out the dean’s grammatical and typographical errors in the rejection letter itself, and in other academic works found online.

If you’re wondering what correspondence like that would look like, wonder no more, because we got our hands on it, and boy, is it entertaining…

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I’ve liked working in law and am taking the LSAT next month despite law school being mostly a really poor decision (especially for someone like me who doesn’t like debt).

– Meghan, a young American woman working at a boutique law firm in Istanbul, Turkey, discussing her plans for the future in an interview with Mike Dang of The Billfold. Meghan claims that if she doesn’t perform well on the LSAT, she won’t apply to law school.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice for new law students.

There’s a ton of (virtual) ink being spilled these days over what to do as a new law student. Everything from “buy all your books and read ahead” to “hire a tutor to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities.” (I only wish I was making that last one up. For the record, don’t do it.)

Since I don’t like to be boring, here are a few less obvious things you can do, to make your life easier and better later on. Trust me, I learned most of these the hard way!

1. Set up automated backups on your laptop. Seriously, if you only do one thing before law school starts, do this. Have you ever lost years of work in a hard drive crash? It’s a nightmare. Imagine you’re a week from exams, and your computer dies, taking EVERYTHING you worked on all semester with it. DO NOT let this happen to you. Go to Dropbox right now, and sign up for the free version. Make a folder called “Law School” and add it to your Dropbox. Save every file you create in law school there. Presto, problem solved. You can thank me later. (I don’t care if you use Dropbox, but it is really easy. Use whatever you like, but do something. I’m paranoid enough now that I back up to Dropbox and to an external hard drive, but that’s probably overkill.)

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

For prospective law students, the promise of merit-based scholarship money amid a broken legal market seems like an incredible deal. So what if there aren’t any jobs? You’re going to go to law school at a significantly discounted rate, or maybe even for free, so you won’t be at any real loss.

Or will you?

What law schools don’t like to tell you with regard to these frequently conditional scholarships is just how difficult it can be to keep them. When you’re banking the terms of your financial future on a law school grading curve, things can get a little tricky. Some might even describe the situation as a big racket. Thankfully, the ABA has started keeping tabs on these programs, and now there’s a wealth of information available on retention rates for scholarships of this kind.

So out of the 140 schools offering conditional scholarships, which ones are most likely to take back your law school funny money? Let’s find out…

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Just yesterday, the latest batch of starry-eyed dreamers sat for the LSAT (although the number of these hopeful 0Ls seems to be in freefall). As they wait for the scores to come in, these aspiring JDs will no doubt be doing their research and narrowing down where to apply. Law school applicants have no shortage of resources at their disposal to help them in making their decisions and navigating the process: from U.S. News to Princeton Review, from Anna Ivey to Top Law Schools. But we all know that there is no decision-making tool as beloved as a ranked list. People love rankings — such time and energy savers! We suspect more application and matriculation decisions are made by perusing rankings than will ever be admitted to.

Regular readers of this site might recall that a little while back we published our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law Schools ranking. We are proud that we, rather than burying our methodology in the footnotes or an obscure appendix, prefaced our rankings release with a detailed discussion about the choices we made in devising our methodology.

Whatever the subject matter, anyone looking to rate or rank anything has to make some choices between three basic methodological approaches:

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If it seems like a silly debate, it’s only because you haven’t been buttonholed by a law school dean who has had just about enough of your oh-so-funny jokes about his school.

Law deans, especially law deans of schools with underwhelming employment numbers, are convinced, convinced, that the “employed nine months after graduation” statistic vastly under-represents the value of their law degrees. Recent graduates of their schools who have been sitting around without jobs for nine months think that their law deans can go jump in a lake. But a small percentage of these grads will get jobs — mainly crappy, barely-legal jobs, which don’t begin to justify the massive investment they’ve made in legal education — between months nine and ten. This could make it easier for law deans to inflate their job statistics with a ten-month rule.

The law deans are few but powerful. The people aligned against law deans (recent graduates, independent third parties, pretty much everybody else) are vastly more numerous but lack real power to influence the rules.

Caught in the middle is the American Bar Association. Normally, you might expect the ABA to do whatever the law deans want, but here there are just too many arguments in favor of the basic consumer utility of the “nine months.”

And so the ABA has decided to delay making a decision until later this summer. What do you think they should do?

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