Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I Told You Law Degrees Are Worthless

When you major in the liberal arts you have three options after you graduate;

1.  Work at McDonalds
2.  Get a masters in your field and work at McDonald's
3.  Go to law school and then still go work for McDonald's.

The concept that being a lawyer is a sign of success is ancient history belonging to the days of the 1930's.  Today all you liberal arts majors went to "law school" because you knew you could avoid math there and now there's a flood of you hitting the market.

Look, I know you blew $150,000 on a law degree, but could you maybe spend $13 of that and at least find out why you can't get a job as a lawyer?


Anonymous said...

I truly don't understand why people go anywhere outside the T14 for law school. Even those aren't a sure shot, but outside them you're basically playing Polish Roulette.

Here's your likely decision tree if you go into a non-T14 school:
1. Unemployed or only sporadically employed (10-15%)
2. BigLaw or federal clerkship (0-15%, depending on school)
3. SmallLaw (bad) or ShitLaw (worse) (40-50%)
4. Crap work unrelated to law (the rest)

All but #2 will probably leave you unable to pay your student loan payments sans IBR (and that crucifies you with taxes at the end, in addition to screwing over the taxpayer, who is on the hook for your poor decisions).

If you're lucky enough to go into BigLaw or the federal government, congratulations! You've earned the ability to pay your student loans! Sure, you may have to work 70 hour weeks, give up basically every aspect of your life unrelated to work, miss watching your kids grow up (if you're lucky enough to have time to find a spouse and marry at all), and otherwise live a life of constant stress and misery, but you can rest assured that you're really helping humanity when you're helping those big companies acquire other big companies on the advice of the only class of highly-paid slaves whose lives suck more than yours: investment bankers!

Anonymous said...

For those who go to T-14 schools, it is usually well worth it. Also numerate lawyers are in high demand in a significant number of biglaw practice areas (e.g., tax, antitrust), so someone with strong math skills who can also write coherent sentences will make a lot of money. The legal profession has a bi-modal salary distribution; those in biglaw do very well, those in small law do not. If you are confident you'll end up in biglaw, which is also the route to high-paying in-house counsel jobs, law school is worth the investment.

Anonymous said...

If you're lucky enough to go into BigLaw . . . Sure, you may have to work 70 hour weeks, give up basically every aspect of your life unrelated to work, miss watching your kids grow up

This is only true in the very big cities (e.g., NY, DC, L.A.). Biglaw lawyers in cities like Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, or St. Louis live quite well. Working the average number of billable hours (1850) at an AMLAW 100 firm in Atlanta would get associates fired in NYC. 1850 billables is not a backbreaking pace by any stretch.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly I'm used to hearing about the NYDCLACHI market, so my perspective could be biased. I'm used to hearing about 2200 minimums (which means work more if you're trying to make partner), not 1850 averages.

Also, disclaimer: not a lawyer. I'm an accounting student who has been reading the law school scam blogs for a few months and has watched a lot of friends feed themselves into the TT and TTT meat grinder. Those poor souls have no clue what they're getting into, no clue how bad things really are out there.

Captain Capitalism said...

Well they have to work more hours so they can pay more in taxes in those cities. HAR HAR HAR!

I wonder what the "Fargo ND" or "Cheyenne, WY" average big law billable hours number looks like.

Anonymous said...

If you want to practice law, either go to a top 10 school and play the social game well, or get a technical or useful advanced degree (E.E., or Econ) and specialize in patent, intellectual property or anti-trust/ERISA/trade (money and numbers oriented stuff). That's about the only way to have a sure shot at a reasonably prosperous career. My law degree (top 20 school, mid-class) is starting to pay off alright, but it was a struggle since I came out just after the .com bust. I managed to practice privately for a while and caught on in an upper tier government position which pays about 2/3ds of what a 1st year associate makes, but it's an order of magnitude more stable. Not completely stable during the time of budget cuts, but I do work that needs to get done if the gubmint wishes to stay in business, and it's the sort of practice (not document review / discovery) that they can't parcel out to a motor pool employee or off-shore.

If I had to do it all over again I'd have stuck to construction but worked on learning how to do artisanal cabinetry & woodworking, and lived off the grid entirely. I don't recommend law to anybody.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cap and Lieutenant and otherwise Junior Economists,

I've been a stealthy follower of this blog for years, never posted once, but I felt like I have something to contribute here.

I am a top 10% student at a top law school. I recently graduated and, unlike my fellow colleagues, will be going to Big Law. Anon 2:37 is correct. While there are certainly 2200 billable hour requirements at some firms, I will be required to bill only 1850, and as a first year only 1350 of that will be client hours, the rest are training hours.

I am married and under 25. I have no expectation other than to create wealth and be successful. I agree with the comments and your analysis to a point Captain. I always tell First Years or prospective students to NOT go to law school, unless they can guarantee that they will be top of their class. Otherwise, find another profession. Simply put, there will always be a market for lawyers, good ones, but as of right now the legal labor market is so swelled with fakes and, to be frank, idiots, that of course the outcome has to be that no one gets a job but the most highly qualified. As it should be.

Anonymous said...

>>but as of right now the legal labor market is so swelled with fakes and, to be frank, idiots

Anon 9:40 - Too true. I'm a damn good lawyer and have gotten where I am on the strength of my work. Along the way I've leapfrogged a lot of attorneys with Ivy credentials and appellate clerkships. Many of them are not at all good at their job, although they talk a good show and their diplomas tend to be in latin - very shi shi. Many of them catch on in BigLaw because a show pony with a couple good clerkships and a daddy on the board of a Fortune 1000 firm is a nice thing to wheel out in front of prospective clients (such as Daddy) to demonstrate the firm's desirability. There are some former show ponies in the engine room of BigLaw firms, but many are just solidly credentialed, solid lawyers who lack the burnishing around the edges provide by Yale or a S.Ct. clerkship; these work their way up on merits. If your credentials are as good as you say and you already realize how stupid many lawyers are about the law, with hard work you should find plenty of financial rewards. Don't expect fulfillment or happiness out of this, the only thrill BigLaw offers is a periodic jolt to the ego.

The problem in our profession isn't the quality of lawyers (just a symptom), it's the rise of credentialism. We think a Harvard Law Degree automatically means somebody is going to be a good and smart lawyer, and that a law degree generally means a person is smart. Just as often, I have found the Harvard credential to mean "brainy person who does not understand how the law shakes out at a practical level" and a mid-class law degree from say, a third tier school, to signify, "could have had a happier life pouring coffee or cutting meat." There are way too many lawyers, and way too many not good ones, and way too many whose performance isn't a shadow compared to their credentials. Keep your eyes peeled for smart lawyers who may not have credentials but who have insight on the law and a work ethic; make friends with them and learn to practice with them. They inevitably do quite well for themselves, and by virtue of being good do not have to constantly whore themselves out to maintain a Potemkin Village of a career.

Also, heads up on the billing requirement. When you really start livin' the life, you're likely to find out that billing 1850 is going to require working 2500+ - be prepared for the discount. No worries though, you have the right attitude about it,you're their to make money off the firm and the firm has you there to make money off you. It's just business. The purpose of a BigLaw firm is to make as much money as possible within the bounds of law and ethics; screw the nobility of practicing law that the emeritus partners babble about. Keep that in mind and the travesties of firm life won't seem as obnoxious.

Congrats on your success and good luck.

- Anon 5:04

Rumbear said...

"I Told You Law Degrees Are Worthless"

As a trial lawyer and recovering politician for the past 25 years, I must respectfully disagree. Unless of course there is a qualifier "Today's Law Degrees" are Worthless. Then it's a shot of Rumpie for everyone!

I interview lawyers. What I see coming out of law school today is the "Where's my fat paycheck" mentality. Gimme, gimme...I have this piece of paper. The air is redolent with a sense of entitlement.

Earning a paycheck has never been a given. Having a career takes just a little more effort than making a decision at age 19 to go into Pre-Law, or Pre Med, because it sounds cool and then running up a tuition bill.

Big Law...seriously? I give you two years. The boredom will become mind numbing. Good luck.

What I see is that most LS grads do not have a lick of business sense (cost/benefit anyone?) You went ass over tea kettle into debt for an education for your bad self...yet, you refuse to ride that bet by starting an office. Start hustling and get busy. in layman's terms...Get off your arse and make your way.

The Captain speaks the gospel that many of the degrees today are Worthless. Having a piece of paper that says "edumacated" does not make you so. If it did, you could just call your Prius a Bentley and impress everyone.

Work hard, stay frosty and smile when success "lands" in your lap....

Anonymous said...

Well, your book is Worthless (Kappa face)

Kurt said...

I graduated from a T-14 school in 2000 and for me the law degree was definitely worthwhile. However, even when I graduated, as the tech bubble was bursting and entry level law jobs were plentiful, I still knew that most of the students attending lower tier law schools were screwed and would have difficulty paying back their loans.

Mitchell Powell said...

A simple guide to whether you should go to law school:

Is your LSAT score over 170? Go.

Is your LSAT score under 170? Don't even bother.

Is your LSAT score 170 exactly? Flip a coin.

Anonymous said...

Somebody come look at this....

Captain Capitalism told you so.










I blame baby boomers, advocates of 87th-place trophies, know-it-alls and their children and of course, Sesame Street (...wouldn't go there if I knew the way).

Anonymous said...

This is true. Law school is for losers now. This isn't the 1930s anymore. There is no longer any huge need for lawyers because there are far too many. And you aren't going to have some exciting life is you are a lawyer. You are going to have 200K in debt that you can't repay and spend most of your time begging for work.

It's also pointless for lawyers to try and scare people away from law school to decrease the competition. It's way, way, way too late for that. The damage was already done years ago when all these law school started opening up and handing out law degrees like popcorn.