Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park weighs in on whether law students should stay in the game or quit while they’re ahead.
Sorry for the tease, but I want to start with Silicon Valley, then get to the sex change. I promise this will all vaguely make sense, in a “isn’t life complex but interconnected, but not in a vapid Crash kind of way?”
In Silicon Valley, I am told, there’s a saying: Fail fast.
Which really means: Fail fast, succeed faster.
The vast majority of startups there fail, so failing fast gets you on to the next project and, just maybe, closer to success. Your own country or whatever. Success is not inevitable in the startup world, but it’s more likely if you quit a failing venture to move on to something better.
Silicon Valley startup life is pretty different from law school. Law students are not known for their appetite for risk. Still, many of the 50,000 or so new law students could take the “fail fast” advice to heart.
Times are tough these days for law school graduates, so to be quite frank, we don’t blame you if you’re considering dropping out. Because when some of your post-graduation career options involve document review hell, stocking the shelves at a local retail shop, or performing what’s essentially slave labor to the tune of $10,000, dropping out may be your best bet. But not to worry, because if you were to drop out, you’d be in some pretty good company.
For example, would Gene Kelly have been singing in the rain if had he continued on with his legal studies at Pittsburgh School of Law? Yes, this choreographer extraordinaire and musical jack-of-all-trades attended law school for only two months before he dropped out, and his life was all the better for it.
Who else can be counted among our nation’s most famous law school dropouts?
Today we have a more subtle question: should a rising 2L take a year off? He doesn’t have a job or any prospects or anything, but the kid wants to know if hitting the “pause” button on his legal career will do him any good.
Let’s break this down. And don’t forget to take our poll and add your own advice, in the comments….
As baseball fans are well-aware, the San Diego Padres don’t have a very good record. At 15 games below .500 this year, they’re the second-worst team in the National League West, the fourth-worst team in the National League, and the fifth-worst team in all of MLB right now. The Padres have only won the National League Pennant twice, but lost in the World Series both times. They’re the only team in MLB to never record a no-hitter. To be frank, the Padres suck.
Why anyone would want to apply for a job working with the Padres is simply beyond me. Why that same person, a law student at the time, would apply for a job with the Padres at least 30 times puts her in wackadoodle territory. But who am I to judge?
Anyway, eventually people get sick of receiving rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter — or in most cases, no rejection letter at all. These days, people don’t even have the courtesy to tell you to go f**k yourself. I’m sure recent law school graduates can commiserate.
But after applying and being summarily rejected for an extremely low-rent job with the Padres, this former law student had absolutely had it. She was mad as hell, and she wasn’t going to take it anymore. The result? Possibly the best email ever sent from a repeatedly rejected job seeker….
'I'm ending my 1L year with a B-minus average. What's the point in going on?'
Lat here. Your Above the Law editors occasionally receive requests for advice from readers, to which we sometimes respond. Back in March, for example, Elie Mystal and I debated the merits of Harvard Law School versus Yale Law School, for the benefit of a prospective law student choosing between these two fine institutions. In case you’re wondering, he’s going to Yale.
(The future Yalie explained his decision this way: “I didn’t want to take the chance that even if I worked harder at HLS, I could still be ranked below enough outstanding students to not impress a professor, land a good clerkship, etc. I also got the impression that this risk-averse mentality was what drove many people who were on the fence between YLS and HLS to eventually choose YLS.”)
Choosing between Harvard and Yale is a high-class problem. Today we look at a situation that we’ve addressed before, in 2010 and 2011, and that continues to confront our readers. The question presented: If you do poorly in law school, should you cut your losses and drop out? Or should you keep on trucking and collect that J.D. degree?
We have two fact patterns. One involves a 1L, and one involves a 2L. Let’s hear them out, shall we?
How screwed up is legal education these days? One mainstream publication recently published an article suggesting law students should be paid to not go to law school, while the paper of record noted that nobody learns how to be a lawyer in law school anyway.
That’s what it’s come to, folks. Can you imagine Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post, publishing an article suggesting that we should pay M.B.A. candidates to stop going to business school? Can you imagine the New York Times publishing a feature article about how medical students don’t learn anything in medical school?
Welcome to law school, the red-headed stepchild of American professional schools….
Let’s continue the good cheer. Back in the spring, we wrote about a law student who was thinking of dropping out of school. He sought our advice — and, surprisingly enough, my colleague Elie Mystal advised this fellow to stay in school (even though Elie is generally not a fan of legal education).
Some commenters disagreed with Elie (shocker), and urged the kid to drop out. But now we bring you an update suggesting that perhaps Elie’s advice was sound….
People think that I believe that nobody should go to law school ever, and that anybody who is currently in law school should drop out immediately. And, to be fair, I do think that many people in law school today have made terrible personal and financial decisions and have entered a world of pain that they will dwell in for much of the rest of their lives.
But I don’t think that every person in law school is there idiotically. I don’t think everybody who is there should drop out of school at the earliest available opportunity. I don’t even think you need a special “love of the law” to justify three years of legal education. The internet is not a great medium for nuance, but on a case-by-case basis there are a lot of situations where a person might be smart to go to law school and/or smart to stay in law school.
Take this one kid who emailed Above the Law asking for advice on whether or not he should drop out after his 1L year. I bet he’s going to be surprised that I’m of the opinion that he should stay in school…
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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