Going to law school is a smart choice for many people. It’s not a smart choice for all people or probably even the majority of people who end up going, and it’s not a decision to be entered into lightly. But if you want to be a practicing lawyer, based on an informed view of what lawyers actually do, and if you’ve concluded that law school is right for you, after a rigorous process of psychological and financial self-examination, then by all means, matriculate.
(We are not uniformly anti-law-school here at Above the Law. I’ve written many times in defense of going to law school, provided you’ve done your research. See, e.g., here, here, here, and all of these law school success stories. And Elie’s on vacation this week, hahaha….)
The question then becomes where you should go to law school. It’s a timely topic, since now is the time of year when prospective law students or “0Ls” must decide where to put down their deposits. So help a brother out and offer some advice on the following situation….
Amid a jobs and loan debt crisis, the push for legal education to reinvent and remodel itself upon the medical school paradigm continues to grow. From a reduction in years of schooling to legal residency programs, these and a slew of other ideas are looking better and better.
Next up to the plate: monetary incentives to practice in no man’s land. Doctors have been getting loan repayment incentives for four decades in exchange for practicing in underserved rural areas.
Why can’t lawyers do the same thing?
In recent weeks, South Dakota’s innovative plan to keep lawyers in the state and practicing in rural areas has gotten a great deal of media attention. If you’d consider hanging a shingle in a small town for five years in exchange for a yearly sum of $12,000 to pay off your debts, then this is a great idea.
Now that my wife and I have a baby, people keep telling us that we shouldn’t just find a bigger rental, we should buy something and put down roots. My wife, politely, laughs and says, “We’re thinking about it.” I angrily roll my eyes and say, “Why don’t you think about going and f**king yourself.”
You see, we are both law school graduates who debt-financed our educations and now live in New York. Property ownership is not something that will happen for us… unless we just want to give up and move to an oil-soaked subdivision in Arkansas.
But I am not alone. A law professor has crunched some quick numbers and determined that at least half of the class of 2011 wouldn’t be able to own a home….
Biglaw firms are busy — busy making money, of course — and very reputation-conscious. They don’t want to be distracted by litigation, and they don’t want their white shoes sullied by grime. They will pay good money to make headaches go away.
But suing a scrappy plaintiff-side firm is an entirely different story. They will hit back — and hard.
Do any of you remember the set up of Northern Exposure? It was a decent enough show where a “city slicker” doctor had to practice in small town Alaska to pay off his student debt. Aidan from Sex in the City was on it.
Anyway, the point was that the state of Alaska paid for Rob Morrow’s medical school. In return, he had to work wherever Alaska sent him for five years.
Subject, of course, to the restrictions outlined in the Thirteenth Amendment, I’ve wondered why this isn’t an actual thing that more states do in order to help underserved communities. Why doesn’t New York pay for a bunch of people to go to medical school, but then they have to practice in poor areas for a term to work off their debts?
One state is giving it a try. And why not? I mean, it’s not really like peonage, is it?
If you’re looking to catch up on your reading of classic novels, I’d recommend Tess of the d’Urbervilles (affiliate link) — or, to use its complete title, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” It tells the story of a virtuous but destitute young woman who takes a job working for the wealthy d’Urberville family. While working for them, she receives unwanted advances from a libertine son, who develops an obsession with her. Complications ensue.
I was reminded of Tess of the d’Urbervilles upon reading a complaint that was just filed in federal district court here in New York. The complaint tells the story of a virtuous but debt-saddled young woman who takes a job working for a boutique law firm. While working for them, she receives unwanted advances from a libertine partner, who develops an obsession with her. Complications ensue.
Multiple sources brought the lawsuit to our attention. The complaint is going viral over email — partly because the allegations are shocking (and very sad if true), and partly because they’re being made against a prominent New York lawyer.
Let’s check out the complaint. At 24 pages, it’s much shorter than Tess of the d’Urbervilles….
In a story that Ethan Bronner of the New York Times will repackage nine months from now and pretend like it is new, the National Law Journal tells us that two for-profit law schools are offering refunds to students who can’t pass the bar.
It only sounds nice if you don’t read the fine print, though in fairness, people who go to for-profit law schools are probably not the best at even identifying the fine print, much less at reading it and understanding how it might apply to their lives.
Still, I don’t know what kind of mathematically challenged people think that getting a $10K refund after spending nearly $120K to go to law school and not passing the bar is a good deal….
A little more than one year ago, Elie and I asked our readers what they would have done if they hadn’t gone to law school. The answers in the comments were varied, but in light of the state of the job market for entry-level lawyers, this was the one that stood out the most to me then, and stands out even more to me now:
“Shoot myself. It would have been quicker and less painful.”
While that may be incredibly depressing, it speaks to the feelings of a new generation of lawyers, many of whom have been languishing in unemployment and drowning under heavy student debt loads for months, and in some cases, years. Now, if you’re lucky enough to be complaining about the size of your Biglaw bonus, these circumstances aren’t applicable to you. But unfortunately, as we all know, money can’t buy happiness. Regardless of your standing in life, law school still might have been a bad decision for you.
Which brings me to this question: all things considered, are you still happy you went to law school?
Understand, I would force people to use this calculator from a desire to do good.
The University of Michigan Law School has created something beautiful. It’s a tool forged by the explosive union of “facts” and “math.” It’s a vision of a future where law students actually know what they’re getting into before they go to law school. It’s not perfect, but I feel as if I’ve just looked up at the first light on the fifth day, and seen something brilliant.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
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.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!