Monday, April 26, 2010

T5 or Bust?

According to one of our readers who has worked as a lawyer for nearly 15 years, in the new jobless era, even being in the T14 means getting your resume thrown in the trash. The comment belonged in "comments that should have been posts" category so I'm posting it here for all to read.
I have been a lawyer for about 15 years. The landscape of this profession has changed enormously and there is no elastic effect from the current economic recession. When the economy recovers (5-7 years from now), most of the legal jobs that have been lost won't be coming back. I graduated from a T30 school and today I am a partner at a boutique firm. I can tell you that many firms will not be hiring entry level associates in these times. I receive dozens of resumes from T14 grads and they all wind up in the trash can. If you are applying to law school, DO NOT attend any school outside of T5. Attending a school ranked outside the T5 will be a terrible gamble of your life and future. If you are a college graduate reading this, I know you will be too arrogant to heed my warning and you believe you will be the lone exception to the doom that awaits you. A few years ago, I would feel sorry for you. With the proliferation of these lawscam blogs, you have been warned. I personally will not pity any buffoon that attends law school in the past 2 years or next decade.

Thank you for your honest and astute observations. The very few who benefit from the system will never admit that thousands have wasted their youth and what could have been their life savings on a useless degree. Some of us had to learn the hard way but at least we have the excuse of not being warned before the economy tanked. I also want to remind readers that plenty of my classmates who found biglaw jobs were laid off in less than a year and haven't been able to find any type of employment since and will probably never be able to reenter biglaw again. Job security no longer exists for our generation and there is no reason for companies to employ entry-level graduates who will expect a higher wage because of their useless degree when there is an endless line of new college graduates, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers waiting to be rehired at slave wages.

Another reader made this comment:

Heres some food for thought.

My roommate is a 1L at a tier 2, well respected local school in California. He is in the top 2% of his class. He did not get an interview for an unpaid internship with the local city attorney's office. He received a form letter rejection.

I am a militant scam blog follower and member of the movement, and even I was blown away by this. Please spread the word......
Thank you for your support and kind words. Unfortunately for your friend, he will likely remain unemployed until he finds an entry-level job unrelated to the law. I've mentioned this in a post several months ago, but a close friend of mine graduated from a T14 in the top 25% of his class, has several published law review articles, and has been unemployed for nearly a year. There is no room for Tier 2 graduates when there are top legal scholars from the best schools living on welfare.


  1. I personally know a 2009 UCLA Law grad who is now teaching grade school. Poor guy paid full sticker, too. My wife has a friend who graduated UT-Austin several years ago and never landed a legal job. She now teaches music lessons. These are top 15 schools.

    Often, industry apologists attack me for saying top 8 or don't go to law school. I completely break ranks with those who say T14 or bust. Or "anything below top 25 is a bad idea." This is not the year 1994.

    Going to Cornell, Berkeley, or Georgetown is NO GUARANTEE of finding a decent job. So how the hell are people at places like Seton Hall, UC Irvine, or Hamline supposed to compete in a shrinking legal market?

  2. Like I have been saying for over a decade. You have two choices. Got to one of the top three schools or go to the cheapest accredited school you can find.

  3. I attended a top 10 and have NEVER been employed in the legal field (except doc review, which has now dried up, too) despite decent grades. PLEASE do not go to law school if you value your life and future. I would give just about anything to get into a time machine and not make this horrible, horrible mistake.

  4. It's sad that generation Y kids aren't learning from the mistakes of prior generations. When I applied to law school almost 20 year ago, there was no "T14" target school. The rule of thumb back then was if you were admitted to YHS, go, even if they offered you no scholarship, pay sticker price and the degree would pay off in your career. Mind you, annual tuition at YHS back then was a little over 10 grand per year. Starting salaries at Biglaw was about 80 grand per year. Interesting that in the last 20 years, law school tuition has more than quadrupled while Biglaw salaries have only doubled (and in some markets have receded). As for the other top schools, the rule of thumb was attend the best school in the top 25 that would offer you a free ride. I was admitted by 3 "T14" schools (i.e., Cornell, Penn and Northwestern). None of these schools gave me money and expected me to pay full sticker. A friend of the family who was a Biglaw partner advised me not to attend those schools because they were not worth the cost. Guess what? He was right. I received various offers in the T25 range but none were full ride (some partial rides were offered). That same Biglaw partner encouraged me to attended a school in the T30; however, I was given a full ride and a stipend for living expenses. The Biglaw partner who was a dear friend of the family secured summer positions for me during my 1st and 2nd years during law school. Looking back, the decision paid off because: 1) It cost me nothing to attend law school (other than loss of employment wages for 3 years); and 2) I had a direct pipeline connection to Biglaw. I was not a spectacular law student, finishing in the top third of my class, no journal or bullshit moot court competition on my resume. Despite this, I was able to secure Biglaw at another firm upon graduation. I know I come off as patting myself on the back but I tell my story to illustrate that my "dumb" luck was not so dumb after all. These are different times. As I mentioned before, the opportunity cost to attend law school is not worth the return on investment today, especially when entry level associates are given bullshit document review assignments in the age of e-discovery instead of substantive legal tasks. Well now the document review jobs are being outsourced abroad. The story about T5 or bust may hold true but even I know a couple of Harvard Law grads that are not doing too well. Kids, I know most of you can talk to me to death about Plato's Allegory of the Cave, but do yourselves a favor and invest in a math tutor, then do the math. Law school=Bernie Madoff investment. You have been warned.

  5. Anonymous from 4:32PM here.

    I also forgot to mention the importance of "prestige" and academic pedigree today. 20 years ago, graduating from an Ivy league school mattered. It was significant in that you were part of a powerful alumni network. Guess what? That network grew exponentially. Nowadays, especially in NYC, every other Tom, Dick or Harry you bump into on the street went to an Ivy league school. It is hardly a big deal today. I have been to the Harvard and Yale clubs. Was I impressed? No, I could give two shits about the history behind the dead men whose portraits hang on the hallowed halls of these clubs. I am a member of much more exclusive country club. I chuckle when I see a Honda Accord or a Subaru Outback sporting a "Cornell Alum" or "Brown Alum" bumper sticker. I can assure you that these tools drool when I drive by in my SL550. But I digress. Is the legal profession prestigious? Yes and no. Prestigious if you got in 10 years ago or longer. Not prestigious if you just joined the party after the police have raided it and shut down the festivities. The importance of educational pedigree today? I would be lying if I said it didn't matter because on some level it does but it is not a dispositive factor as it was 20 years ago. I value success and a proven track record more than where someone went to school. If I send an associate to court, the judge will not bow down and tremble to the associate's educational pedigree. However, the judge will respect and give some deference to the associate that knows what he is doing. And knowing what you do comes from legal training acquired AFTER law school since we know that law school doesn't even prepare you to pass the bar exam. And kids, if you can't fathom what paying $200,000 in non-dischargeable student loan debt is like, imagine paying $2,300 a month for 10 years just to payoff your student loans. Good luck buying a house, a nice car and a trophy wife with that albatross around your neck before even arriving at the starting gate.

  6. The only reason to attend a lower ranking law school is if you are going to open your own practice or work for a friend or relative and have a good scholarship. Do not take student loans to go to one of these schools or to work for someone else as an attorney. Clients may not care where you went to school, but a law firm will. Reputation is important in this business.



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