Many people consider going to law school because they think they have no other career options after college. For most of these people, their GPA wasn’t great, and they have an average or even bad LSAT score. So they resign themselves to going to an average law school with plans to do really well in their first year and then transfer to a top school.
We warn the noobs that going to law school on a whim is a bad idea. We tell them about the many law students who don’t make it to the top of the class and are unable to get a job after graduation. So they are back to square one. But our warning does not address a fundamental problem: what alternatives do these people really have?
While that is ultimately not our problem, I want to talk about some alternatives to law school that an applicant should consider:
Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.
Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)
So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?
Every now and then you forget that Capitol Hill interns are the absolute worst. Unless you live in Washington, D.C. In that case, these type-A Tracy Flicks are always around to give your already douchetastic bars that extra drop of vinegar. It’s not just that these proto-gunners won’t stop talking about their overinflated sense of the long-term legacy their ability to alphabetize will have on tax reform, it’s that they do this while surrounded by other D.C. professionals who actually make a difference want to talk about how much more alphabetizing they’ve done in their careers.
On some level you want to appreciate their eager spirits. It reminds you of the hopes and dreams you had before the weight of the world crushed you. But then other times their shameless sense of self-worth reminds you that politics is a narcissist’s game. Even if the narcissist is well-meaning, like I presume most interns are. Like when you get a tweet like this one from Yahoo’s Chris Moody:
I’m not gonna snark on this Hill summer intern. More power to him.
So apparently Moody is getting his passive-aggressive on by telling his 22K followers all about how he’s not going to snark on the snarkworthy link he’s sending. Moody would have made a great lawyer.
Well, what did this intern do? Did he make a cheesy webpage about himself explaining how he’s going to president?
The traditional arguments against going to law school are: (1) there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs; (2) tuition and student loan debts are too damn high; (3) the high-paying or high-powered jobs are available only to the top students of the top schools; and (4) most “JD Advantage” jobs could have been obtained without a law degree.
The typical response to the above is something along the lines of, “That won’t apply to be because I’m going to put in the work and be one of the top students.” Now those of us who lived through law school might find this amusing and even ridiculous. But we can’t really blame them for their determination. We were their age once. Back then, the world was a playground and full of opportunities. If 0Ls today know all of the risks and can obtain a decent scholarship at least for the 1L year, then they should take a shot and see where they fall on the bell curve.
Today, I am going to talk about a few issues regarding law school and law practice that have not been discussed (at least extensively) amongst the law school critics. The issues apply to most students (even the top students) of almost every law school….
Law school applications are down by 37 percent since 2010, and it’s growing more and more likely that the class of 2017 will be the smallest one we’ve seen in about 40 years. With a soft job market still at hand, people are finally realizing that it’s not a very good time to go to law school.
In fact, just 385,400 full-time law school applications were received for class that started in Fall 2013 — that may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the number of applications once topped 500,000. What’s even more heartening is that the law schools that received the most applications were all ranked among the U.S. News Top 25 (and most of them were ranked among the ATL Top 25, too).
U.S. News kindly provided us with a list of the ten law schools that received the most applications. Unfortunately, not everyone can get into a highly ranked law school, so we compiled our own list of the top ten unranked law schools that received the most applications.
Which schools appear on the dueling lists of the cream of the crop versus the cream of the crap?
There’s another story today about the soft market for law school applications. According to the National Law Journal, law school applications are down 8 percent this year, and a shocking 37 percent since 2010.
But one law school is experiencing a boom in applications. It’s a new law school, one that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place. But it is doing one thing right that other law schools still resist: it’s dirt cheap….
* From Big Government to Biglaw: Our congratulations go out to Benjamin Horwich, most recently of the Office of the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice, as he joins Munger Tolles & Olson as counsel. Nice work. [Munger Tolles & Olson]
* The number of law school applicants took a nose dive for the fourth year in a row, this time by 8 percent, summarily crushing the hopes and dreams of law deans praying for a change of their otherwise most dismal fortunes. [National Law Journal]
* Considering the latest slump in applicants, whether a law school evaluates your average LSAT score or highest LSAT score matters little. Admissions officers will jump for joy that you have a pulse. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
* “You don’t have to convict on every count to have a win.” Azamat Tazhayakov, friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct justice. [Bloomberg]
* Per documents filed by a lawyer appointed to represent Philip Seymour Hoffman’s children, the actor didn’t set aside money for them because he didn’t want them to become “trust fund kids.” [New York Post]
* NO, NO, NO, NOTORIOUS! Previously unpublished documents from the Clinton White House have been released, and it looks like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was criticized for her “laconic” nature. Not cool, Bill. [Legal Times]
* Document review jobs aren’t going anywhere, folks. Exhibit A: Winston & Strawn’s e-discovery practice is bringing in the big bucks, earning the firm more than $20 million in revenue last year. [Capital Business / Washington Post]
* More lawyers are being treated for substance abuse for drugs and alcohol than ever before. In fact, a founding partner of Farella Braun + Martel, one of California’s largest firms, was once a “functioning alcoholic.” [Am Law Daily]
* A Florida jury apparently set on “sending a message” to tobacco companies awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages to a chain smoker’s widow against RJ Reynolds. That was a costly message. [Reuters]
* June 2014 marked the fewest people who sat for the LSAT in 14 years, but it may get even lower if a new ABA proposal which would allow the test to be waived for 10% of students passes. [Central Florida Future]
With the number of LSAT takers dropping yet again, the law school class of 2017 is likely to reach a similar low. And there is no indication that the application freefall has stabilized. Regardless, just about everyone (except for this guy) agrees that law school is still either an extremely risky gamble or a complete a waste of time and money.
But for those who are determined to go to law school no matter what any rational, non-biased individual says, I want to help make your dream come true. So while I am waiting for future job interviews, I am going to again interrupt my Back In The Race programming to give the future lawyers some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was an idealistic pre-law student. This is not a joke. Nor am I going to use a clever pitch like “Yale or Fail.”
The next few weeks should be spent taking some proactive and reflective steps to ensure that you will attend the right school and leave with minimal debt. Keep reading to figure out how….
There’s an outside chance that more people will read this post about the declining number of people taking the June LSAT than will actually sit for the June LSAT.
It’s trite and banal to say that “the media” or “the internet” is responsible for the declining number of people interested in law school. Law school deans want you to think that they are in some kind of losing battle with media sources. And sure, the fact that the “law school brochure” no longer stands unchallenged by “reputable media sources” has something to do with the fact that June LSAT takers are at a 14-year low. The truth is out there, and the ability of prospective law students — and their parents — to just Google “Suffolk Law School” lessens the effectiveness of your average subway advertisement.
But the internet isn’t responsible for people staying away from law schools. Law schools themselves are encouraging people to stay away in droves. They put up flashing “Don’t Come In Here” signs every time they unleash another disaffected class of graduates out onto the market…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.