Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I'm Talking to the Wall. Can You Guys Hear Me Out There?

Today was very frustrating for me.  I was on the subway platform, sitting on a bench, and I saw two girls that were discussing outlining and its virtues.  Of course, I took the opportunity to ask them about law school.  One of the girls had a contracts textbook on her lap.  The look of it made me cringe at the memories.

"So, do you girls go to law school?"

"Yah, you're a lawyer? Do you like it?"

"Well, how much I like it is inversely related to how much it pays.  When I liked it the most, I earned no  money.  When I liked it least, I made a killing. Now, I'm trying a solo practice, so the work is interesting and far from lucrative."


"Just make sure you live like a student when you're a student, or you'll live like a student when you're a lawyer."

"Do you live like a student now?"

"I have a scholarship, so that won't be a problem for me."

"Yes. I live like a student. I actually always have. I don't remember the last time I bought a pair of shoes. Is your scholarship related to your GPA."

"Well, yes... but it shouldn't be that hard to maintain it.  I want to do public interest work, but I'm not sure I'll be able to do it and live around here."

"Do you have a trust fund?"


"Well, then you can't."

"There's great income based repayment programs through our school."

"What school is that?  NYU?"

"No.  Seton Hall."

"Oh.  Have you heard of Big Debt, Small Law--the guy who writes that went to Seton Hall and he's trashed it from here to high heaven.  The Dean of your school even offered to find him a job to make him shut up."

"Yah.  Job market sucks.  Our Dean told us that only 94% of last year's class is currently employed."

"And you believe him???? Okay, this is my train.  Bye!"

So, if that exchange wasn't bad enough, I ran into the semi-retarded guy that I've mentioned before.  I don't exactly know where on this blog, but I'm sure I did.  The background story is that he wants to be a Ph.D. in sociology and an elementary school teacher and a career guidance counselor. Whatever, he doesn't have a mental capacity to do it.  That's a fact. He can hardly speak english and I'm pretty sure it's his native tongue.  So, he's my neighbor and last we spoke I told him to stop focusing on school if he is pulling out loans to go. He should concentrate on moving up the ladder at the local Blockbuster and becoming a store manager.  At that time, he insisted that he could get financial aid and was very happy about transferring to a four year university.

Today, I see him and he has news for me.

"I'm on academic probation. I got an 'F' and I'm so upset.  They don't understand my disability.  Plus I lost my job and that's stressing me."

"That sucks! What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to talk to the professor about changing the "F" to a "D"."

"Okay.. I'm going to suggest this:  why don't you take some time off of school and get yourself together financially so you can concentrate.  You aren't pulling loans out for this, right?"

"I have a great financial aid package."

"Does that include loans?"

"Ya... but it's a good interest rate."

"You will never ever ever be able to get rid of your students loans. You have to die to get rid of it. You could be compulsive gambling, shopaholic, irresponsible credit card bill payer... and you can get rid of that debt.  You can't get rid of student loans though, ever."



"I watch lots of documentaries.  I know about student loans."

"Well you didn't know that they weren't dischargeable. Consider giving school a break.  I got to go."

Sometimes I feel like no one is reading this blog.  With all the information out there, how do you not KNOW that your Dean is a liar and that student loans follow you to the grave?

People are so frustrating.


  1. I feel your pain, Angel. OLs write in asking for advice about law school, I tell them not to go, and they write back saying "I can't believe you said that, I'll work hard and it will be different for me." Sigh.

  2. It's conversations like these that make the most impact. Keep it up!

  3. people believe what they want to believe.

  4. We've done our part by warning people on our blogs. If they want to go to law school after reading our warnings, then that's their problem. My main concern is helping those of us who weren't warned get help on the job front and with student loan reform.

  5. "Financial Aid" is insidious doublespeak that simply downplays the huge financial burden such students are undertaking.

    Honestly, schools tout their amazing "financial aid packages" and students just love it! Are students really that stupid? It seems that taking on student debt is just an outgrowth of the debt society that we have created at ALL levels.

    People really need to quite abusing credit or we are in for a hard time for the foreseeable future.

  6. Everybody thinks that they are DIFFERENT and they are SPECIAL, I guess.

  7. Jadz is right,

    I've had at least 3 different conversations with people who want to go to law school. Each time I've tried to explain to them how bad the experience itself is and how awful the real world job market is compared to the sugary crap they feed you at law school and "career" service events, but they don't believe me.

    Each one, both men and women, thought that I was exaggerating. Each time about 5 minutes into my talk where I start giving them the hard numbers on unemployment, salary figures, rates of depression/drug abuse amongst practicing attorneys I can see their eyes drop. Then the comeback comes and I get the line, "OH! Well it won't be like that for me because (blank)." Except it's never a (blank) that will actually make a difference like I'm independently wealthy, my family owns a law firm, my uncle is a judge. One even told me "You're killing my dream." It's damn near impossible to kill a myth.

  8. I have stopped warning people against law school. I used to do so until I realized that people just think I'm a bitter loser and that my experience has nothing to do with theirs. Honestly, I am lucky that I have a decent job that I enjoy but it was the hardest struggle of my life to get here. I struggle not to scream at law students that it's horrible out there and that they most likely will not even be as lucky as I am to make $73K/year with no health benefits!

  9. Anonymous at 10:57 is dead-on! People are going to believe whatever the hell they want to believe.

    You could have a mountain of evidence to support your position that law school is a terrible financial decision - and lemmings will continue to jump off the cliff, with complete abandon. In fact, we have a mountain RANGE of evidence to support our position.

    The problem is that the ABA does not require (or even SUGGEST) that law schools submit their self-reported employment and starting salary figures to an independent, outside audit. And law school tends to attract Type-A personality assholes, to begin with. Such people will see you as a bitter loser who couldn't hack it.

    Plus, so many young people in this country are taught, i.e. trained, to believe those in authority. Surely, an august institution of higher learning would not dupe hundreds of bright minds out of $150K of borrowed money, right?!

  10. Law schools' marketing tactics the myth of higher education as a means to obtaining a middle class lifestyle are powerful stuff. I also believe that since so many law students are people with B.A. or B.S. degrees that open little to no doors to a successful career, many students feel like they have no other choice.

    It's very sad, how many students will get into exorbitant debt for a useless credential, but at least the message got to me and a handful of other people who are really doing their homework on this decision.


  12. Good for them that they don't have debt, but none of those positions listed will probably lead to jobs. I know plenty of people that worked at PI firms and never got a job out of it, and I myself worked at both prosecutor and defenders offices and couldn't land anything.

  13. I recently met a girl who was planning on going to law school. Like in your story, this girl told me she wants to do public interest law. I tried to tell her how difficult it is to get a job but she just accused me of being focused on money.

    So I asked her what school she wanted to go to. Sure enough, it was a private TTTT. I told her how much it cost and how difficult it would be to pay back those loans. Again, she said that she wanted to help poor people and I (greedy bastard that I am) was just focused on money.

    By that point, I was so pissed at her I kind of wanted her to go to law school and screw up her life.

    When will you people get it? Public interest jobs are just as hard to get, if not harder, than private gigs. In this economy, there's no such thing as a sure thing. I know lawyers who have offered to work for FREE and they can't get a position.

  14. But Angel - did you really give it to them blunt and hard? It sounds like to me you watered it down a bit? Why not say something like, "its all a big con, im drowning in debt from student loans and I cant get a well paying job, there is no job security, the market is saturated, there are just too many lawyers and not enough jobs to go round, even the yale and harvard grads are out of work, the law schools have known this for many years yet they stil recruit to maximise their profits they couldnt give a shit whether you find work or not....

    or something along those lines

  15. I try not to come on too strong, because then they will peg me as a loser. But I prefer putting a kernal of doubt in their minds so that they are on notice to research the issue.

  16. Your tactic might be an issue. I myself overcame every odd you can think of to get where I am; if I'd listened to the people who told me I couldn't do it, I'd either be dead or sitting in jail right now. Some of the people you encounter might be in that boat & unless you've been that miserable, it's hard to understand.

    Part of pursuing certain fields is confidence. If you doubt your ability to excel, you start creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will eventually lead to failure. Musicians & actors can't lose their confidence or they won't perform or get noticed by anyone.

    Entertainment is a different ball game & has different rules--I find the law firm world way too restrictive, stuffy & so forth. How could you EVER get ahead without becoming a robot?

    At the same time, you need to have a plan, a back-up plan and a million more back-up plans. People have to be realistic about their chances & should be told how hard it is to get a public interest job or how crappy the legal job market is. I'd rage against anyone who told me I'd never live in NYC since I was going to live here or die trying & I had plans on top of plans; if someone has that kind of drive & real talent to follow it, who am I to say they can't? I'm still waiting to stick it to those who doubted me; it's a very small number.

    So maybe before you become the bearer of bad news, you should try developing a rapport aside from that. See whether some of these people are deluded or if they're like cockroaches & you can't keep them down for trying. I wouldn't tell someone "Don't go to law school," or "Drop out." A lawyer from my undergrad tried to tell me not to live in NYC & I'll never forget that woman's name. Didn't bother to help me or have a clue about my personality or experience but just being a bitch.

    The useful people said I'd better REALLY want to do it, it'd be expensive & it was hard. That's what I've told people, along w/the fact of the cruddy economy & that you can't expect your career to be just like mine when you get out since I was extremely lucky. I'm at least giving better advice to new lawyers who want to work in my field than "make good grades."

    Maybe when these people are done, you should try paying it forward; that's one of my biggest gripes w/lawyers + the legal field & why I prefer dealing w/creative types.

  17. In my experience, telling someone not to do something pretty much guarantees that they WILL do it.

    When a person has their heart set on something, there's little you can say or do to convince them otherwise. In fact, they are likely to roll their eyes and ignore you, for better or for worse. As Film Co. Lawyer pointed out, sometimes ignoring those who tell you "no" ends up being the best thing to do.

    All you can do is present a OL with the facts and suggest that if they have their hearts set on LS, they ought to do their due diligence on the schools they want to attend, the reality of students loans and repayment, the legal economy, etc. and wish them luck.

    No one could have convinced the OL me that law school a bad idea. I had to actually experience it firsthand and come that realization on my own. Then, I dropped out!



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