Is Law School Worth it?

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sunyplatt

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Is Law School Worth it?

Postby sunyplatt » Sat May 19, 2018 4:27 am

I am a law school applicant. I was running some numbers and most schools seem to run around approximately 48-50k a year. This translates to about 150K sticker price plus undergraduate loans and any additional loans needed to attend for living costs etc for a total of about 200-250K upon completion of the JD paying sticker price. Six (6) percent interest on 250K is 15K annually in just interest. Assuming a starting lawyer will make a 65K Salary minus taxes clearing about 50K - 50K minus 15K interest is $35K/yearly for a JD degree. Those numbers are somewhat intimidating to look at and that is without paying back the student loan balance at all only keeping up with the interest. Does anyone have thoughts on this? The debt appears to be substantial and most starting lawyers do not seem to make six figures.

umichman

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby umichman » Sat May 19, 2018 9:05 am

For most people it is not. For most lawyers, you will not start making 6 figures.

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anon sequitur

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby anon sequitur » Sat May 19, 2018 10:41 am

umichman wrote:For most people it is not. For most lawyers, you will not start making 6 figures.


Weird metric.

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boredtodeath

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby boredtodeath » Sat May 19, 2018 11:31 am

No

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jbagelboy

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby jbagelboy » Sat May 19, 2018 12:47 pm

Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group

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cbbinnyc

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby cbbinnyc » Sat May 19, 2018 1:51 pm

People on this site, at least historically, will tell you that paying sticker is not worth it except at HYS. I think this is extreme - I think CCN and maybe some of the lower T14 are also worth it at sticker, depending on your career goals and such, but it is risky, given that most people hate biglaw and it's rough to pay off debt without the benefit of a biglaw salary (or a really good LRAP program). HYS (or at least Y and S) are bargains at sticker because those schools open a bunch of unicorn options; it's not really true anymore that you can do anything you want with a law degree, but it still may be somewhat true with Y and S (and maybe H) law degrees. Below the T14, there are rare cases where paying sticker may be justifiable (for example, paying reduced in-state tuition at a flagship state school, if you want a career in that state) but generally it's not worth it. I'm painting with a broad brush, of course. If it is your dream to get a law degree, I suppose you can't put a price on that, so you do you. But from an economic standpoint, this would be my opinion.

I think it's also worth echoing another sentiment that is common on these boards: If you're just looking to make money, law is not the best option.

oblig.lawl.ref

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby oblig.lawl.ref » Sun May 20, 2018 1:50 am

For like 85% of people, including people who get into good schools, I don't think it's worth it. Either hours or debt or both is too much for almost all halfway normal people.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Fireworks2016 » Sun May 20, 2018 11:50 am

It can be if you're smart about it. There are a number of controllable factors that increase the probability that it will be "worth it." Given the overwhelmingly negative posts in the thread, I thought I'd give a counter-perspective.

- Don't pay sticker price anywhere

- Spend time between UG and LS to save money and kill the LSAT

- Don't be afraid of strong regional schools if you're interested in practicing in that state (especially because the scholarship money is easier to come by and the cost of living expenses are significantly lower)

- Have a fair grasp on what lawyers actually do and how they provide value

If you do these things and go into LS with your eyes open, it can totally be worth it. I had about a 1/3 scholarship at a strong regional school and I'd absolutely do it again. Graduated with ~50k in debt, an Art. III clerkship, and an offer to rejoin my 2L summer firm whenever I finish clerking.

Obviously, I had a better outcome than many. But if you approach LS the right way, you can minimize the risk of a bad outcome and finish with solid earning potential, even if you don't go Biglaw or Bust.

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abogadesq

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby abogadesq » Sun May 20, 2018 2:29 pm

jbagelboy wrote:Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group


Holy hyperbole.

I know plenty of people (including myself) that went to decent nonT-14 schools that offered $$$, got decent jobs, and are making 6 figures a few years in. It’s really not that uncommon or unattainable.

Law school was definitely worth it.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby NYCounsel » Sun May 20, 2018 2:36 pm

Subjective analysis.

You're speaking in terms of finance, which resonates with me. From that perspective, (1) law school is only if you come out with a starting salary in excess of $100,000, ideally at least $125,000. This is why I chose biglaw, if I get hired at summer firm I'll make $180,000, so definitely worth it. But the analysis is complicated more or less by whether you're in school for free, taking on massive debt, etc.

If you look at it in terms of passion, and a person is 100%, all-in for their chosen path, and succeeds in that path, and is happy at least 90% of the time (happiness is a choice, so for me personally it'd have to be next to 100%), then, sure, it's worth it. But realistically, I've worked with a lot of lawyers in various sectors and they're often unhappy. So I'm wary of people who do it for passion, with a mediocre salary.

Now passion with a top salary? That's extraordinary and as it should be.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby jbagelboy » Sun May 20, 2018 8:11 pm

abogadesq wrote:
jbagelboy wrote:Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group


Holy hyperbole.

I know plenty of people (including myself) that went to decent nonT-14 schools that offered $$$, got decent jobs, and are making 6 figures a few years in. It’s really not that uncommon or unattainable.

Law school was definitely worth it.


There are lots of ways to make six figures. Doesn’t make law worth it.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 20, 2018 9:50 pm

As someone who was close to unemployable at college graduation, law school was really worth it for me.

I have made this past year (I'm a first year) and across my summers, more money cumulatively than if I had taken the 40k a year biz analyst job I probably would have ended up with my 2.5 undergrad gpa.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby lawhopeful100 » Sun May 20, 2018 10:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As someone who was close to unemployable at college graduation, law school was really worth it for me.

I have made this past year (I'm a first year) and across my summers, more money cumulatively than if I had taken the 40k a year biz analyst job I probably would have ended up with my 2.5 undergrad gpa.

Yea, a lot of responses to this post aren’t factoring in that it partially depends on each person’s alternative career. Similar to the poster above, my undergrad degree might have gotten me a 50k a year job in a southeastern city near my undergrad. Now I make 160k in a secondary market and racked up about 90k debt, so for me I feel like it was completely worth it. If my alternative out of college was maybe an 80-90k job, the calculus might have been different.

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abogadesq

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby abogadesq » Mon May 21, 2018 8:28 am

jbagelboy wrote:
abogadesq wrote:
jbagelboy wrote:Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group


Holy hyperbole.

I know plenty of people (including myself) that went to decent nonT-14 schools that offered $$$, got decent jobs, and are making 6 figures a few years in. It’s really not that uncommon or unattainable.

Law school was definitely worth it.


There are lots of ways to make six figures. Doesn’t make law worth it.


You can say that about any profession. If you get decent pay and you like your job, what’s the problem? TLS makes it sound like all lawyers are miserable and it’s just not true.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 21, 2018 1:36 pm

I went to a T-14 on a full ride. I didn’t make shit before law school so hell yeah it was worth it to me. If you can’t go to a good school for free it all comes down to debt tolerance. Ignore boomer advice about “anyone can make six figures.” Most people don’t for a reason. If you’re not already on that path, you’re gonna have to shell out cash for a grad program. Or start your own business and be one of the few who succeeds.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon May 21, 2018 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chruck

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby chruck » Mon May 21, 2018 4:05 pm

Something else to consider on top of the tuition costs that you mentioned... Law school is three years of your life. If you end up practicing and deciding that law is not for you, then you have a much more limited window of opportunity (and funds depending on how much law school cost) to get another degree and pivot to something else. After my first year of law school, I feel like I knew this was not the career for me. I wish instead of sticking with it that I had dropped out and enrolled in another graduate program. Espcially because law school did teach me some good study skills that would have really helped me in another program.

I have noticed that some people say that law school paid off for them because their undergraduate degrees did not provide for well paying/reasonably paying careers. I recommend exploring some different graduate school options that can open up other career opportunities in addition to law. I feel like there is a masters program for everything now that can help you pivot to things like finance or tech, even if you majored in English or History. Especially since these programs are generally only a year (or two if you need prereqs). And if you do decide on law, try to figure out what being a lawyer entails before commiting to law school.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon May 21, 2018 7:19 pm

I think that the notion of going to the top regional school where you want to live and where you can cultivate a network at a full ride, while acknowledged as a solid choice, is often overlooked on this t14 or bust forum.

And to clarify, I suppose I’m talking about Bc/bu.

Assuming you do that, then it really is just the opportunity cost plus some living expense loans. If you can’t do that, then try harder on the Lsat (and Dont take it before you’re regularly getting 100% on the puzzles) and thank yourself later for spending the amount of time that required.

So ask yourself what else you would do during those 3 years? Barring some experience, talent, or connection that should automatically make you not want to consider law school, it’s probably going to be sitting in a cube somewhere at 40k with few exit options.

To me, losing 3 years without income is definitely worth not ending up in that kind of position while you wonder what could have been.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2018 12:52 pm

It depends on what you want to do with your degree. Do you know whether you want to join private practice or go to the public sector? What's your long term goal? Biglaw? DOJ? Public interest?

If Biglaw, it may be worth it depending on the firm. Most firms are reasonable -- sweatshops are not. (I say this as someone who spent some time in a sweatshop before lateraling; it's the difference between working 9am-7pm with every other weekend and waking up in the middle of the night to check email/ do work four to five days a week every week.) Your first few years will be a struggle because junior associates are slow and inexperienced. As you get more senior, your efficiency and paycheck will increase so you should be debt free ~ year 3.

If public sector (state attorney, public defender, etc), you might have to stay frugal for a while. Some positions are more competitive than biglaw and the hours aren't necessarily better. You might want to consider deferring for a year and working to pay for school.

If public interest, look into debt forgiveness, though I would have to say don't take out such large loans to do public interest. Your quality of life will suffer in the first 5-7 years (according to folks I know in PI), but long term, I hear it's more rewarding.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Wild Card » Tue May 22, 2018 3:04 pm

jbagelboy wrote:Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group


This is a funny way to put it. My friends and I are all underemployed kids from lower middle class families. I don't know how my peers feel about me. They probably think I'm very busy and self-important, or something.

Anyway, IMO: YHS or CCN with a substantial scholarship (90K+) or T14 with a full scholarship (150K+).

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby smokeylarue » Tue May 22, 2018 4:08 pm

I think OP only cares about the financial aspect, so that's what my answer will be about. I think if you land biglaw it's worth it financially, regardless if you got scholarship money or not. I pretty much assume people who go to top law schools are just people who couldn't hack it, or were too lazy, or were not smart enough, or didn't have the social skills to pursue computer science, science, medicine, consulting or banking (the other common paths to six figure salaries), therefore law is clear cut path to a high salary for these people (I'm one of those people). Therefore to me, law school is worth it if you can get into T6 + Upenn, because you'll probably land Biglaw from those schools. You can probably throw Duke or Northwestern in there, I haven't seen the employment numbers in a while to be honest. For the bottom half of the T13, you probably want to receive some scholarship money to get comfortable first. Any other school you are in serious danger of missing the big firm boat.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Tue May 22, 2018 5:19 pm

smokeylarue wrote:I think OP only cares about the financial aspect, so that's what my answer will be about. I think if you land biglaw it's worth it financially, regardless if you got scholarship money or not. I pretty much assume people who go to top law schools are just people who couldn't hack it, or were too lazy, or were not smart enough, or didn't have the social skills to pursue computer science, science, medicine, consulting or banking (the other common paths to six figure salaries), therefore law is clear cut path to a high salary for these people (I'm one of those people). Therefore to me, law school is worth it if you can get into T6 + Upenn, because you'll probably land Biglaw from those schools. You can probably throw Duke or Northwestern in there, I haven't seen the employment numbers in a while to be honest. For the bottom half of the T13, you probably want to receive some scholarship money to get comfortable first. Any other school you are in serious danger of missing the big firm boat.


My point from earlier was that it’s not that bad to miss the biglaw boat if you get close to a full ride at a Bc/Bu type school. This is an example, in my opinion, of standard TLS wisdom overlooking the outcome I described.

Of course the poster above is correct—these would be great options to have. I’m just saying I’d throw the big scholly at the t30ish school in with a good name in its region into the category of something that’s not a bad option to go with, along with the others.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2018 6:59 pm

I originally went to law school because I wanted to be self-employed. Self employment is rarely talked about on TLS but there are a few interesting posters here that have covered the topic. Financially, it's worth it compared to many other options that lead to starting your own small business or self-employment.

If you want a career that allows for a viable way to be self-employed there aren't that many better options. One viable way is to become a CPA. Some Nurse Practitioners can be self-employed. Real estate agent is another, but that's even more so competitive than law.

Other options will cost more than law school when you take into account that start up costs of running the business (dental, optometry).

Another growingly popular option is programming. But usually, software engineers that are good enough to be successfully self-employed as consultants or contractors tend to have either been VPs or at least the Director equivalent under the Engineering ladder at recognizable companies (Principal/Partner/Senior Staff SWE). The competition into these companies is extremely stiff, with talent coming in locally as well as overseas from China, Korea, Japan, the EU, the Middle East, India, Russia. You have to either a top-notch programmer among amazing programmers or be extremely lucky.

Some software engineers that want to be their own boss and try for start-ups. I guess that's sort of the equivalent of starting your own firm, but they're not really "solo." Also, I know far more financially successful attorneys that started their own firms than financially successful startup founders.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby ruski » Wed May 23, 2018 10:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:I originally went to law school because I wanted to be self-employed. Self employment is rarely talked about on TLS but there are a few interesting posters here that have covered the topic. Financially, it's worth it compared to many other options that lead to starting your own small business or self-employment.

If you want a career that allows for a viable way to be self-employed there aren't that many better options. One viable way is to become a CPA. Some Nurse Practitioners can be self-employed. Real estate agent is another, but that's even more so competitive than law.

Other options will cost more than law school when you take into account that start up costs of running the business (dental, optometry).

Another growingly popular option is programming. But usually, software engineers that are good enough to be successfully self-employed as consultants or contractors tend to have either been VPs or at least the Director equivalent under the Engineering ladder at recognizable companies (Principal/Partner/Senior Staff SWE). The competition into these companies is extremely stiff, with talent coming in locally as well as overseas from China, Korea, Japan, the EU, the Middle East, India, Russia. You have to either a top-notch programmer among amazing programmers or be extremely lucky.

Some software engineers that want to be their own boss and try for start-ups. I guess that's sort of the equivalent of starting your own firm, but they're not really "solo." Also, I know far more financially successful attorneys that started their own firms than financially successful startup founders.


electrician or plumber is way better if your only goal is money and to be self employed.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 23, 2018 1:01 pm

ruski wrote:
electrician or plumber is way better if your only goal is money and to be self employed.


I know a decent amount of people that have considered both because of the quicker road to steady money in trades. The problem with plumbing is during the apprenticeship the work is very physical and grueling. I've met a few plumbers who are physically large and have said the work has been tough on their body.

I'd much rather 3 years of law school in the cushy comfort of a classroom than thousands of hours doing apprentice plumbing work, especially in bad weather states. One is just another extension of university and punting off the real world for a few years, the other is actual manual labor outside.

Electrician would be the better choice but most people know that and it's competitive in certain places to get into an apprenticeship program. I've heard of electricians making $200,000+ a year in North Alberta, working 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. Stories of that type of pay has caused more people to enter electrician programs, making getting the required hours difficult. There are waiting lists at trade schools around those areas. Also, the type of work that pays that well has slowed significantly. That and many people can't actually handle working in those conditions when the reality of actually working in those conditions hits them.

If I could do it all over again, I'd probably try for an IT career that involves work that can't be done remotely, like setting up complex networks and being the network admin. Or go to optometry school. But hindsight's 20/20, who's to say I would have even gotten into optometry school. Or a networking company would have even hired me for me to get the experience to be self-employed. Either would have been cushier than law, but financially can't really complain about my decision.

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Re: Is Law School Worth it?

Postby JohnnieSockran » Wed May 23, 2018 1:31 pm

jbagelboy wrote:Law school is bot really worth it under any circumstances. But if your parents have tons and tons of money to burn and you get into a top school, it can be a fun couple of years and you’ll seem productive and respectable to your peer group


This person is a fool.

I feel like it was worth it. Granted, I went to a top school and got biglaw. I'm a first year, and so far, I actually enjoy my job, but I think I got lucky and work with really great partners/more senior associates.

Also, with respect to other 6 figure careers, even with my huge amount of student debt, I feel rich relative to my friends. I'm comfortable with debt, so I'm not exactly racing to knock out my student loans, especially since I don't hate biglaw already, which I think many people do. It's nice being able to eat out pretty much whenever I feel like it and have my own apartment (I'm in a non-NY market).

None of my other 26 year old friends are making $200k all in, and I can tell you that i-banking hours are WAY worse than biglaw hours, so I feel like law school was worth it. I had a bad week where I got crushed and billed just over 100 hours, but that was only 1 week, even the people I work with were shocked and said how abnormal that was, and my next busiest week outside of that has been about 70 billed hours. But, a friend of mine in banking is consistently spending 80-90+ hours in the office.

But, I don't think law school is worth it financially if you're at a school where getting biglaw is a high risk. So, I agree with one of the posters above who basically said go to T6+Penn (pretty sure we could just call that T7-Penn hasn't been tied with anyone in a few years), and maybe some of the other T13 schools if you get some scholarship money.



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