Parents just don’t understand

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about law school hoping that it would help would-be law students make an informed decision. I exposed some misperceptions about law school that no one discussed. I also suggested some cost-effective and possibly lucrative alternatives to a legal education. And I wrote about some last-minute things to consider before going to law school.

But some of you will still go to law school for the wrong reasons and pay rip-off prices. Ego, familial expectations, and peer pressure may play a role in your decision. So I want to finish the law-school-themed posts by issuing a warning to students and their parents about the consequences of graduating without a meaningful job and with six figure, nearly nondischargeable student loan debt….

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I shouldn’t laugh at this. A recent law school graduate got completely screwed by her own father and I shouldn’t find it so funny.

But I do. I find it goddamn hilarious. The student actually got a clue halfway through law school and decided to drop out. But her father convinced her to stick it out by promising to pay her tuition. She finished, she graduated, and when it came time to pay the bills, Daddy said, “Sorry, I lied.”

Ha. Hahahahaha. When will law students learn that EVERYBODY IS LYING. You know, except me. EVERYBODY ELSE IS LYING…

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I think we’ve long known that law is a refuge for people who are afraid of numbers. People who are good at math don’t borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars for a shot at winning the bi-modal salary distribution lottery and a job that they’ll most likely hate. I don’t think we needed a longitudinal survey to show that.

But the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth also found that lawyers are more likely to come from relatively rich families, which does surprise me.

Studying law is hard, and your financial success is somewhat directly tied to the amount of hours you work. A banker can earn money in his sleep. A lawyer has only 24 hours in a day to bill. If your family makes a lot of money, aren’t you supposed to get an anthropology degree and work for an NGO? Why would you slum it with the social climbers trying to get into the upper middle class, one deal sheet at a time?

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Rachel Canning

My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules. They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.

Rachel Canning, the Catholic schoolgirl from New Jersey who’s suing her parents for her high school and college costs (plus her lawyer fees). Canning claims her parents abandoned her after she moved out of their home in October.

Are you thinking about going to law school — and being encouraged to go, or even pressured to go, by your parents? Let’s start with the probably reasonable premise that your parents want the best for you. (Sure, your parents might be sociopaths who are trying to destroy your life, but why would you listen to them at all, if that’s the case?)

Not infrequently, the parental conception of “what’s best for you” involves a stint in law school. If you don’t want to go, how can you convince your parents that law school is a terrible, awful, very bad idea?

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Yesterday we received a fairly provocative question in the Above the Law inbox. A reader asked us to assess the role that parents play — or should play — in their children’s decision to go to law school:

With all the talk about the perils of going to [law school], I wonder what role people’s parents play (or should play) in the decision…. While there are some older, more independent law students, I think the vast majority of matriculating students have had or still receive some form of parental support. How could a parent tell their child not to follow their dreams? Seems like that would never happen in my generation of helicopter-parented children. Yet that discouragement is exactly what could prevent a lot of poor decisions to go to low-ranked schools.

I think it cuts the other way. I don’t think that parents are allowing their kids to go to law school because they want to be supportive of their kids’ dreams. I think that more parents are forcing their kids to go to law school, especially lower-ranked law schools, as they vicariously relive their lives through their children.

Absent parental meddling, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people applying to law school….

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket yesterday, two adult children in Illinois have sued their own mother on the grounds of “bad mothering.” You must be wondering how one qualifies to be a bad enough mother to warrant such a lawsuit. Well, apparently, failing to completely spoil your children will do the trick — especially if your ex-husband, an attorney, has it out for you and is representing the kids.

The lawsuit has since been dismissed, but it was so ridiculous that we thought it deserved its own showcase here on Above the Law. Find out what these snotty little brats alleged against their mother, after the jump….

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Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

So many cases like this appear at my office that I’ll construct him/her as a composite. That way perhaps I can spare myself the chore of receiving those “how dare you write about one of your clients” comments that I receive every week when I get specific in detailing my fictions, and some of you decide I simply must be writing about your roommate. So here goes.

He/she is very young — 22 or 23 or 24 or 25.

He/she moved across the country to go to a law school that I’ve heard of vaguely. It turns out to be number 79 or 83 or 66 out of the top 100, according to some hack magazine that profits from disseminating this sort of nonsense.

He/she is the son/daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, Peru, Kenya, Romania or Ireland.

His/her immigrant parents operate a doughnut bakery, dry cleaner, small hobbyist shop, motel or air-conditioner repair service.

His/her parents are adamant that he/she marry someone from Bangladesh, Peru, Kenya, Romania or Ireland in a traditional ceremony — soon — and produce male children.

Before then — quickly — he/she has to become a doctor.

He/she is no good at math or science or dating, so that’s not going to happen to him/her any time soon. Being a lawyer is the official second choice — not as good as a doctor, but acceptable…

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