cotiger wrote:As I have said before. Long-run biglaw is an OBVIOUS FINANCIAL WIN. Literally no one denies this. Even 5 years of biglaw and then the rest of your life at 125k+ (no clue of the accuracy of that number) is an obvious financial win.
Yup. And given that you have a 50-95% of getting it if you want it, depending on which T14 you go to, it's fairly clear that T14 sticker pays itself a few times over in the long run. So I think the basic financial question should be somewhat settled.
You seem to be assuming that the people who drop out of law never really wanted it to begin with and therefore should have known better. But every lawyer under 35 that I've talked to (ranging from biglaw, to ex-biglaw, to PI) offers the same unsolicited advice: "DON'T GO TO LAW SCHOOL," while those in law school tend to love it. I'm ignoring their advice, but I'm also aware that there is a sizable contingent of people who get the job they think they want and then end up hating it. You HAVE to take that into consideration.
I'm not assuming that. Certainly some never wanted Biglaw in the first place, as there are many people in for three years who just want to pay down debt. Others discover how shitty it can be to bill 300 hours in a month or have a narcissistic partner scream at you because he thinks you're entirely expendable. Or maybe spending week after week studying German securities regulations is not the Atticus Finch life they had it mind. It's perfectly reasonable when people decide "fuck this" and leave. I'm just merely saying it's voluntary. At that point, no one is forcing you to leave, except in rare cases.
If someone with enough intelligence for T14 but no "hard" skills has a primary goal of upper-middle class financial stability, then there's also accounting and (though harder to get) consulting. Which makes it not really fair to use a job that pays 50k after being there for 7 years for comparison (also, your calc neglected foregone income).
True (I was lumping in accounting/other business-related degrees with finance, but I know they're distinct). The opportunity cost weighs very heavily on what financial decisions are proper. From a pure financial perspective, if someone was looking at around $80k (a little lower for consulting, a little higher for good SV), I wouldn't say don't go for sticker outside of T6. If someone was looking at $40k, then I'd say something like, say, $60k at USC might be a worthwihle dice roll. The foregone income is important (that's why the above is just back-of-the-envelope), but of course over the longer time frame the lost investment opportunities will overtake it in terms of financial significance.
Despite this, let's just use your numbers: 68% biglaw chance is the break-even point over 8 years (3 years school, 5 years biglaw). The problem with using a plain expected value calculation is that the life-satisfaction outcomes on either side aren't equal. Not getting biglaw and having 300k debt with no feasible way to pay it back is going to have a much larger negative impact on your life (both short and long-term) than the rewards of big law are going to have a positive.
True. Biglaw may be much less valuable to someone than its salary would indicate. That's why we can only speak in objective terms in finance, rather than overall utility. I would hope the lower life satisfaction of Biglaw is countered by the enthusiasm someone actually has for practicing law. As you said, that's no guarantee you won't hate Biglaw. But it at least gives you a chance at being satisfied, whereas someone working 3000 hours a year who finds their job boring has almost no chance of being happy. That's why I advise people to go to law school only if they actually intend to practice law. Given a long enough time frame, t's just impossible to do the work you'll need to do if you absolutely hate it.
This is why when given the chance to play a game where you flip a coin with heads winning $105k but tails losing $100k, people will not play, despite the expected value being positive. Avoiding the big negative outweighs the big positive.
Risk aversion is an altogether different concept. It's why most people will not advise applicants to attend UCLA/USC/UT/Vandy at sticker even though you could demonstrate the expected value salary-wise is a net positive over most other jobs given a long enough time frame. Not to say it's invalid, but its utility is difficult to quantufy.
At risk of being rude, but Mono aren't you a 22 year old K-JD?
What?!? No! I resent even the mere notion! I'm 21
That's exactly the kind of person who is most at risk of thinking that they have everything figured out but then realizing after a few years that they actually don't like what they're doing. This why TLS is always telling people to take a few years off.
Yup. I agree that time off is good for people who are looking at law school because of money or the ever-popular "I don't know what else to do." I don't think it's unreasonable for those who actually are interested in law to get going, though. I think we both agree that young twentysomethings tend to have tunnel vision about the very near future while deeming the distant future effectively irrelevant.
The idea I could know what I wanted to do the rest of my life as a senior in college, and be so sure of it that I was willing to go $270k in debt to do it, is insane. Especially when a decently large percentage of the people who also felt like they knew they wanted to do that same thing end up hating it.
Eh, I think the risk goes both ways. There is the risk of "I wish I hadn't gone into debt for that" risk, but then there's also the "Man, I really wish I hadn't dicked around doing whatever in my twenties, I could be five years further advanced in my career" risk. The downside risk of the realized debt is very salient, but the lost upside risk from the never-gained advancement is less "real" to people and tends to weigh less in their minds, even if ex ante something may have been the right decision. Making the right balance is just a tough thing to know at 22.
I'm different and have different perspectives after living in the "real world" for 3 years than I was at my college graduation parties. So is everyone. You can't just blithely assume that 30-something Mono will be the same person as 20-something Mono. He may still really love being a lawyer, or he may not really care but love the compensation. Or he may just really hate all of it. And it's not absurd to keep that possibility in mind.
Sure. But again, that's true for any job you go into, and going into a non-law job presented an unrealized upside risk just as it presents a downside risk. I've liked law since I was about 13. I spent some time in college seeing if there was anything I loved. Didn't really find it. So in the absence of something I love, I found something I like that happens to pay well and that I think I'm decent at. I jumped at it early than almost anyone else because I didn't want to sit around waiting for "the one", job-wise, when I'm fairly confident my career is going to involve law in some capacity. Narrowing my options? Yeah, of course. But that's the risk of specializing in anything. Again, hard to say what the optimal level of risk aversion is.
ETA: I want to be clear that I'm not trying to say that T14 sticker is for sure not worth it. I think it's debatable and obviously varies based on your personality and personal circumstances. But the number of people who act like it's a no-brainer is crazy to me.
Law's not a no-brainer for anyone. Just because you got into Yale doesn't mean you should
be a lawyer. That's why my starting point is "Do you want to practice law?" That doesn't mean anyone who does should be a lawyer, but it's a pretty good fork for deciding for whom law school is likely to be a worthwhile investment.[/quote]
Also, while I personally wouldn't do a K-JD at all, I would 100% argue against anyone doing a K-JD while taking on $270k in debt.
I think K-JDs are in a better position to make this decision if they've taken some time to really think about it. By fourteen, I was seriously considering a career in law. By sixteen, I was looking into what I'd need to do to become a lawyer. By eighteen, I had a formulated plan for how I was going to go to law school (I had projected myself to be around a 3.6/174 back then, which actually isn't all that far off from what I eventually became). At nineteen I spent a decent amount of time with LSAT prep and then the real McCoy. And I went through the application process at twenty. Like I said, it's not like the very thought of law sends a tingle down my loins. But I thought I would like it, and I thought I'd be good at it. And after two months in school, I can say that my guess was pretty on target: Though I don't absolutely adore law, I like law and find it interesting, even though it's a lot of work and it's a really stressful/anxious endeavor for me. I don't know if my guess for myself in Biglaw will be as on target, but I think I'm in a better position to be able to assess the pros and cons the more and more research I do.
Of course, I generally had a handle on what type of person I wanted to be and I was pretty good at incorporating change into my life. I think I was particularly lucky in that respect; that's not a unique skill of me. But the research was important to being able to formulate strategies and long-term plans and goals. I couldn't imagine going to law school by being a senior in November who says, "Well, I don't know what else to do" or "the job market's terrible, I'll just ride it out in law school."