Reality check for law school applicants

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JCougar
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Reality check for law school applicants

Postby JCougar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:07 pm

http://abovethelaw.com/2013/10/biglaw-a ... t-suicide/

Here is a disturbing email that Above the Law received today:

So I am an NYU grad who is starting to realize that my time in my big law job will probably end sooner rather than later — and that realization has sent me into a bit of a tizzy.

I see a therapist weekly (have a history of depression) and I told him that I’m starting to feel very depressed/anxious about my career prospects, and he asked me if I was thinking of hurting myself; before I could even contemplate the question, I immediately, almost reflexively, said: “I would never stick my dad with my loans like that.” (He cosigned my loans).

… I just thought it perfectly sums up the misinformed decision to go to law school and take out heavy debt (I have about ~145k remaining…) for a chance at a big law job that likely will last less than five years. The immediate, instinctive reason I gave for not offing myself was not something optimistic about the future or because I love my friends/family; instead, it was because I can’t stick my father with the financial burden of my student loan debt after everything he’s done for me.


Paying sticker even for T6 schools is a horrible proposition at this point. Even if you go to Harvard, you're going to have to last 5 yeas in Biglaw to make a significant dent in your law school debt. Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%). Either they get pushed out or they just can't stand it. Remember, Biglaw is a pyramid scheme that relies on there being far too many associates to ever make partner. The more associates per partner, the more profit on the associates' billable hours each partner can skim off.

Just take on a manageable debt load given your family's wealth. If you don't have a grandpa that's going to give you $100K when he dies to pay off your loans, you should think twice about signing your financial future away to law school bureaucrats.

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DrStudMuffin
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby DrStudMuffin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:16 pm

JCougar wrote:http://abovethelaw.com/2013/10/biglaw-associate-says-hes-in-too-much-debt-to-commit-suicide/

Here is a disturbing email that Above the Law received today:

So I am an NYU grad who is starting to realize that my time in my big law job will probably end sooner rather than later — and that realization has sent me into a bit of a tizzy.

I see a therapist weekly (have a history of depression) and I told him that I’m starting to feel very depressed/anxious about my career prospects, and he asked me if I was thinking of hurting myself; before I could even contemplate the question, I immediately, almost reflexively, said: “I would never stick my dad with my loans like that.” (He cosigned my loans).

… I just thought it perfectly sums up the misinformed decision to go to law school and take out heavy debt (I have about ~145k remaining…) for a chance at a big law job that likely will last less than five years. The immediate, instinctive reason I gave for not offing myself was not something optimistic about the future or because I love my friends/family; instead, it was because I can’t stick my father with the financial burden of my student loan debt after everything he’s done for me.


Paying sticker even for T6 schools is a horrible proposition at this point. Even if you go to Harvard, you're going to have to last 5 yeas in Biglaw to make a significant dent in your law school debt. Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%). Either they get pushed out or they just can't stand it. Remember, Biglaw is a pyramid scheme that relies on there being far too many associates to ever make partner. The more associates per partner, the more profit on the associates' billable hours each partner can skim off.

Just take on a manageable debt load given your family's wealth. If you don't have a grandpa that's going to give you $100K when he dies to pay off your loans, you should think twice about signing your financial future away to law school bureaucrats.


PAYE?

ETA: Not that I'm advocating paying sticker, just figured I should point this out.

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JCougar
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby JCougar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:26 pm

DrStudMuffin wrote:
PAYE?


I don't think that program works if you don't have a job at all. In the private sector, PAYE is drawn out something like 25 years, but as far as I know, you only have 3 years of unemployment deferments.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby Tiago Splitter » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:38 pm

JCougar wrote: Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%).

At the end of year five 31% of Biglaw associates are at the firm they started with. This of course doesn't include people who switched from one firm to another. The facts alone should be enough to dissuade people; once you start making things up your message, which is great, gets lost.

http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... &start=208

californiauser
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby californiauser » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:42 pm

So a guy in a demanding job with a history of depression is depressed?

Alert the press!

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zozin
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby zozin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:43 pm

Cosigner? So he has private loans? What a fucking moron.

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JCougar
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby JCougar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:58 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:
JCougar wrote: Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%).

At the end of year five 31% of Biglaw associates are at the firm they started with. This of course doesn't include people who switched from one firm to another. The facts alone should be enough to dissuade people; once you start making things up your message, which is great, gets lost.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=207971&start=208


I'm not making things up. The number was 25%, but that was a number from two years ago. The 31% appears to be a newer number, which makes sense given the reduced hiring in general and the reduced lateral options of the last two years.

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mr. wednesday
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby mr. wednesday » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:18 pm

JCougar wrote:
DrStudMuffin wrote:
PAYE?


I don't think that program works if you don't have a job at all. In the private sector, PAYE is drawn out something like 25 years, but as far as I know, you only have 3 years of unemployment deferments.

It grants forgiveness (taxable) at 20 years and if you have no income, your required payments are $0 so there isn't a need to defer, really.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby Tiago Splitter » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:38 pm

JCougar wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:
JCougar wrote: Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%).

At the end of year five 31% of Biglaw associates are at the firm they started with. This of course doesn't include people who switched from one firm to another. The facts alone should be enough to dissuade people; once you start making things up your message, which is great, gets lost.

http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... &start=208


I'm not making things up. The number was 25%, but that was a number from two years ago. The 31% appears to be a newer number, which makes sense given the reduced hiring in general and the reduced lateral options of the last two years.

But the number isn't just 31%. According the the linked post, slightly less than half of associates who leave go to other firms. And this is attrition for calendar year 2011. I'd love to see any other data you might have access to.

Deleted the rest.
Last edited by Tiago Splitter on Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

melodically
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby melodically » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:40 pm

There is absolutely a good case to be made against paying sticker at a T6. However, I don't think this person's email really lends itself very much to that argument. He/she already has a history of depression. This person had their father cosign their loans. This person is also still employed in Big Law and presumably can continue paying down those loans (a significant number last long enough to pay them off, even if they realize it will end "sooner rather than later"). He/she also presumably has some reasonable exit options coming out of Big Law.

I do feel badly for this person and think everyone considering paying sticker would be well-served to read his/her message.

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JCougar
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby JCougar » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:33 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:But the number isn't just 31%. According the the linked post, slightly less than half of associates who leave go to other firms. And this is attrition for calendar year 2011. I'd love to see any other data you might have access to.

Deleted the rest.


The 25% number was given to me by the ABA themselves at a conference.

Also, the linked post doesn't elaborate on the quality of the firms those people go to. Of the small sample of people I know that got Biglaw out of law school five years ago, two are 6th year associates, two were "laid off," and one is currently looking for a job because he got the hint that a layoff is coming. One of the laid off associates is currently unemployed, and the other took a job at a plaintiff's firm for significantly lower pay.

Getting laid off from Biglaw is a mixed bag. I've seen former Biglaw attorneys doing traffic ticket defense. I doubt any more than half of them end up with similar pay upon exiting their first firm--and possibly a lot lower. If you haven't developed portable business by your fifth year, your chances of lateraling into another Biglaw firm are slim.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby iamgeorgebush » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:01 pm

Isn't it a little misleading to say that only 25% of associates "make it past" five years? Even if only 25% of associates remain, surely some of those who leave want to leave. There's nothing wrong with in-house, government, boutique firm, or public interest work (aside from the lower pay, of course). In fact, there are lot of things that are right about those things. Better work/life balance, more interesting work, more rewarding work.

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bearsfan23
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby bearsfan23 » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:14 pm

OP is 100% wrong on PAYE, which is available and 95% of current law school applicants do qualify for.

But hey don't let facts get in the way of an OMG the legal profession is horrible thread

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twenty
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby twenty » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:42 pm

bearsfan23 wrote:OP is 100% wrong on PAYE, which is available and 95% of current law school applicants do qualify for.

But hey don't let facts get in the way of an OMG the legal profession is horrible thread


1) Private sector PAYE is shite, even without the tax bomb at the end.
2) He doesn't qualify if he needs a cosigner, since his loans are (probably) private.

That said, who the hell takes out 250k+ in private loans?

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McGruff
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby McGruff » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:38 pm

Serious questions for the scholars ITT:

What's a reasonable range of ex-biglawyer salaries(rounding down and excluding unicorns)? I get that it's a massive pay cut, but are ex-biglawyers not usually making more than, say, the median household US income? Are the exit options so bad/unlikely/diverse that it would be misleading to speculate? I ask because you can fall pretty far from a lockstep fifth-year salary and still be making several times what I can otherwise imagine my TTT humanities degree getting me.

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DrStudMuffin
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby DrStudMuffin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:48 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:
bearsfan23 wrote:OP is 100% wrong on PAYE, which is available and 95% of current law school applicants do qualify for.

But hey don't let facts get in the way of an OMG the legal profession is horrible thread


1) Private sector PAYE is shite, even without the tax bomb at the end.
2) He doesn't qualify if he needs a cosigner, since his loans are (probably) private.

That said, who the hell takes out 250k+ in private loans?


I'm not saying it's super awesome, but what makes private sector PAYE so shitty aside from the tax bomb? I just started seriously looking into it yesterday and it seems relatively reasonable. Sure, no one wants their student loans hanging over their head for twenty years, but it at least makes it manageable.

superhanz
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby superhanz » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:55 pm

JCougar wrote:http://abovethelaw.com/2013/10/biglaw-associate-says-hes-in-too-much-debt-to-commit-suicide/

Here is a disturbing email that Above the Law received today:

So I am an NYU grad who is starting to realize that my time in my big law job will probably end sooner rather than later — and that realization has sent me into a bit of a tizzy.

I see a therapist weekly (have a history of depression) and I told him that I’m starting to feel very depressed/anxious about my career prospects, and he asked me if I was thinking of hurting myself; before I could even contemplate the question, I immediately, almost reflexively, said: “I would never stick my dad with my loans like that.” (He cosigned my loans).

… I just thought it perfectly sums up the misinformed decision to go to law school and take out heavy debt (I have about ~145k remaining…) for a chance at a big law job that likely will last less than five years. The immediate, instinctive reason I gave for not offing myself was not something optimistic about the future or because I love my friends/family; instead, it was because I can’t stick my father with the financial burden of my student loan debt after everything he’s done for me.


Paying sticker even for T6 schools is a horrible proposition at this point. Even if you go to Harvard, you're going to have to last 5 yeas in Biglaw to make a significant dent in your law school debt. Very few people who get Biglaw last more than 5 years (it's less than 25%). Either they get pushed out or they just can't stand it. Remember, Biglaw is a pyramid scheme that relies on there being far too many associates to ever make partner. The more associates per partner, the more profit on the associates' billable hours each partner can skim off.

Just take on a manageable debt load given your family's wealth. If you don't have a grandpa that's going to give you $100K when he dies to pay off your loans, you should think twice about signing your financial future away to law school bureaucrats.


I'm pretty sure that any remaining student loan debt is discharged after the borrower's death. At least that's what section 22 of the Direct PLUS Loan Borrower’s Rights and Responsibilities Statement says. Has anyone ever heard of creditors pursuing student borrowers postmortem?

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twenty
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby twenty » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:27 pm

I'm not saying it's super awesome, but what makes private sector PAYE so shitty aside from the tax bomb? I just started seriously looking into it yesterday and it seems relatively reasonable. Sure, no one wants their student loans hanging over their head for twenty years, but it at least makes it manageable.


Not to be an asshole -- you're a good guy, but "it's only twenty years" is exactly why it's so terrible. To me, ten years in public interest seems like an amazingly long time just to qualify for PSLF; so much so that anyone who is not absolutely certain they want to do public interest should probably not taking on sticker debt. Twenty years is a mind-boggling about of time to be stuck with an astronomical amount of debt that, at any time, congress could just go, "Oh, you know who sucks? Students." and blow it for everyone.

Like, PAYE makes student debt a livable possibility, but no one should go into law school figuring that PAYE saves them from any and all repercussions of massive student debt.

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DrStudMuffin
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby DrStudMuffin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:55 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:
I'm not saying it's super awesome, but what makes private sector PAYE so shitty aside from the tax bomb? I just started seriously looking into it yesterday and it seems relatively reasonable. Sure, no one wants their student loans hanging over their head for twenty years, but it at least makes it manageable.


Not to be an asshole -- you're a good guy, but "it's only twenty years" is exactly why it's so terrible. To me, ten years in public interest seems like an amazingly long time just to qualify for PSLF; so much so that anyone who is not absolutely certain they want to do public interest should probably not taking on sticker debt. Twenty years is a mind-boggling about of time to be stuck with an astronomical amount of debt that, at any time, congress could just go, "Oh, you know who sucks? Students." and blow it for everyone.

Like, PAYE makes student debt a livable possibility, but no one should go into law school figuring that PAYE saves them from any and all repercussions of massive student debt.


I don't disagree with anything you said. The downside risk of PAYE being blown up is something that I hadn't really considered, but it is definitely a valid point.

Materially it would probably suck, but I guess my main point was that it mitigates any extreme downside risk.

Not that it's even relevant in this guy's case given the nature of his loans, which I missed initially.

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JCougar
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Re: Reality check for law school applicants

Postby JCougar » Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:09 pm

iamgeorgebush wrote:Isn't it a little misleading to say that only 25% of associates "make it past" five years? Even if only 25% of associates remain, surely some of those who leave want to leave. There's nothing wrong with in-house, government, boutique firm, or public interest work (aside from the lower pay, of course). In fact, there are lot of things that are right about those things. Better work/life balance, more interesting work, more rewarding work.


A lot of people quit because they can't handle the stress/lifestyle. I'm not sure that's any better than getting fired, unless you have already paid off a big chunk of loans.

There's nothing wrong with in-house, government, boutique or PI work, but you won't be making the same salary. And by the time your tenure in Biglaw is done, you'll likely be buying a house/having kids/needing another car. So you can't live cheaply in some cut-rate apartment anymore to pay off tons of loans.

Pile a mortgage, a $2000/month student loan payment, and a car payment on top of each other, plus school costs, and suddenly a $100K salary at a midlaw firm or a $60K salary at a public interest firm isn't so peachy.

There's still people that make out like bandits in the field of law, but they're the people who either have family pay for tuition or they went to a school that gave them a decent scholarship and they still made it into biglaw.




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