Do You Regret Going to Law School?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:55 pm

cpajd wrote:
Kronk wrote:
cpajd wrote:No Regrets. For those making this decision, I think there are two keys: 1) possess a true desire to practice law, and 2) find a way to NOT borrow much money. Its really pretty simple. The ones that have regrets did not adequately address these two issues, by and large.


Yeah breh, but the fact is that 95% of people don't really know if they want to practice law until they know what practicing law entails, and don't really know what practicing law entails until they have gone to law school. It's not really as simple as "do you have a true desire to practice law?" I think almost everyone believes they have a true desire to practice law prior to school.

Being a legal assistant (and sometimes even a paralegal) doesn't really let you know what it's going to be like or what the classes will be like, either. Neither does taking one law-ish class in UG, as it's more that every class is the exact same than that any one particular class is awful, IMO.


True enough, but this field is not different than most any other career. You want to be a doctor, but don't know what its really like till you've actually practiced for a period of time. You want to be a teacher, but don't know what its really like till you've taught. The reality is we do the most homework we can to investigate a given career, then make the best decision we can. My point is that many of the disillusioned JDs weren't really sure they wanted to practice, so the realities of the job coupled with crushing debt almost always is a killer. Again, do your homework (investigate, work at a law firm, talk to people, read up on the realities of the work), then do everything possible NOT to take on much debt. I still believe its a pretty simple formula.


I worked at a law firm, I talked to people, I read up on the realities of work. I thought I had a "true desire" to practice law. That's kind of my point.

Sure, it's true of every career. But every career doesn't have the same depression / unhappiness rates that law does, so I think the OP's question is a lot more complex than it would be if you're asking someone if they regret going to medical school or business school.

unclear
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby unclear » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:17 pm

Long rambling post below. Just wanted to share a bit of my story in case it helps anyone, but please feel free to disregard.

Just want to post that it is admittedly really difficult to know whether you will like something beforehand, but don't underestimate the importance of making sure your career fits with what you want out of life (an honest assessment is key; it can be easy to lie to yourself sometimes). If this isn't true, you might be miserable. For example, if your career prevents you from spending time with family and this drives your happiness, you might be miserable no matter how much you enjoy/can tolerate the work itself.

I wish I had understood this when I chose to go to law school. As an undergrad, I felt like I needed lots of money/prestige to be happy. My spouse and I both came from impoverished backgrounds, and I think we both were seeking a "prestigious career" (lol now at law being a prestigious career) and wanted lots of cash. We both did summers at banks, but I ultimately decided to pursue law instead as at the time I thought (mistakenly) it would be more interesting and that the hours would be more tolerable. I thought of all jobs as you get x amount of money for tolerating x amount of shit (I know, how brilliant of me, but I think a good amount of people feel this way at some point or another, even if only quietly).

I ended up at HYS with max financial aid plus a working spouse to pay living expenses. Through connections from previous work, I had guaranteed summers at firms both 1L and 2L already in hand at the beginning of 1L. I liked the other students, the school, the administration, and generally didn't feel much stress about classes/exams. Even with all of these things in my favor, I hated/regretted law school almost immediately as I realized in my first semester I was heading on a path that would make me miserable, for a variety of reasons.

I dropped out in the middle of 1L. My spouse quit their job. We had no money and crammed everything we owned (not much) into our car. We moved to a place we love. It took 6 weeks for me and 8 for my spouse, but we both got jobs we love in fields we are passionate about. We have lived mildly (enjoyably too) and saved money. We just put 20% down on our first house, have 6 months savings, and decent 401ks. And we are expecting our first child this week (something we were going to put off if I stayed in law school).

Dropping out is the best decision I ever made. For me, law or a career with similar requirements for success would have made me miserable. This obviously is not true for everyone. My best friend has been at a V10 for just over a year and loves it. He freaking loves every part of it, even the hours. It's the perfect career for him (at least so far).

Anyway, to stop rambling, all of this is to say two things. 1. If you're an 0L, try to think about what you want out of life long-term and then find a career that jibes with that. If that's law, great. If not, try something else. Law will always be there if you change your mind. 2. If you're in law school and hate it, try to find the best way out for you. Depending on debt load and how far along you are, this may mean dropping out. Regardless, don't let social stigma, the feeling of wasted effort/investment/sunk costs, or your family's opinions keep you on a path you won't be happy in.

Thanks for reading.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:17 pm

los blancos wrote:No, it wasn't. Definitely not in this part of the country. And even 3 or 4 people competing for each position ≠ "very, very easy"

If those jobs were so easy to get, we wouldn't have droves of law school grads who can't find legal work.

I think part of the problem here is that PD/DA jobs aren't good backups for law firm jobs, because if you go for a law firm and strike out, it's really really hard to convince PD/DAs that you really want to be a public servant - you won't have done any of the things they care about. And for a lot of people on this board, not getting legal work = went for a firm and struck out. (Not everyone, of course, but I'd bet it's the majority.) The people I know who went to law school gunning for PD/DA from day 1 all got it - it's just that's not a lot of people. (A lot of people who go to law school wanting to do "public interest" don't actually seem to want to do criminal law.)

(and there are some parts of the country where these jobs will be harder to get, admittedly.)

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presh
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby presh » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:37 pm

I meant calling them very easy to get was dumb. For committed people who get in with the right office, it can be easier than getting biglaw but calling it very easy is silly. Plenty of qualified people get screwed in that area by everything from competition to budget cuts.

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Danger Zone
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Danger Zone » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:41 pm

Unclear, that's a whole lot of text just to say "I've never worked in a legal job, but I know it sucks because I went through one semester of law school and dropped out."

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby unclear » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:43 pm

Thanks. I worked in both public interest and corporate in varying capacities and thought it was fine. And it was, just not for a career. Probably should have added that in. But again just sharing in case it resonates with anyone.

Also, my point was more that even if you like it and know that from experience as a paralegal, clerk, etc., it's important to think hard about whether a legal career fits with what you want out of life, not just whether you'll like the work.
Last edited by unclear on Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:45 pm

Still don't think it is dumb. If you show your dedication to criminal and trial law early still think it is quite easy.

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los blancos
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby los blancos » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:48 pm

.
Last edited by los blancos on Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:40 am, edited 3 times in total.

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los blancos
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby los blancos » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:49 pm

Kronk wrote:Still don't think it is dumb. If you show your dedication to criminal and trial law early still think it is quite easy.


Has to depend on the state, bro.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:55 pm

Yeah, "how to" rather than "you're golden" is probably more what I should have said. I guess I don't think getting *any* legal job is truly easy; but that PD/DA isn't necessarily any harder than many others - again, depending where you are.

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby bk1 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:55 pm

Kronk wrote:Still don't think it is dumb. If you show your dedication to criminal and trial law early still think it is quite easy.

That's a huge if though. It applies to very few law students, at least at top schools. I suspect at lower ranked schools as well considering how many of them fail to get jobs as PD/DAs.

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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:06 pm

bk1 wrote:
Kronk wrote:Still don't think it is dumb. If you show your dedication to criminal and trial law early still think it is quite easy.

That's a huge if though. It applies to very few law students, at least at top schools. I suspect at lower ranked schools as well considering how many of them fail to get jobs as PD/DAs.


At least at the offices I have been to, school prestige is highly unimportant. They care a lot about mock trial experience and time spent in their office. If you are able to decide it's something you'd like to do by the end of your first year and nab a PD internship (you might have to apply to 3-4 offices to assure yourself of it) then you have a very, very good shot at staying in that profession after graduation. No, you might not get THE OFFICE you want if it's in a highly desirable location. But you will have the inside track to a job.

They don't care much about prestige (not something you can say about most PI jobs or other government jobs). They don't even consider or look at your grades at most offices. They care little about how you dress. They mostly care about dedication and loyalty. I consider that very easy compared to pretty much every other professional job out there. No professional jobs are gimmes. Almost every professional job gets at least 3-4 applicants for a position, so this is all relative. But competing with even 9-10 people for a job is much, much better than 95% of other legal jobs you'll try to get. There was an opening at the local government office I worked at my 2L summer, and I shit you not, 126 people applied for one position. The PD office I worked at my 1L summer? Hired back all the 1Ls that worked there (ranging from schools in the Top Ten to Temple, CU, University of Denver, University of Florida--none of them checked for grades). Hired all the 2Ls for permanent positions and they are now working as PDs. In fact, one girl got rejected for her 2L internship but basically begged for a position because her boyfriend was in the area, they let her on, she now has a full-time position as a PD. Try that at a local government, PI org, or private law firm, ha.

I would say it's an aberration, but the PD office I worked at is one of the most respected offices in the country, and have friends who have similar experiences in other parts of the country. I will say it's difficult to know your 1L year if you want to be a PD or DA for sure.

ETA: And the reason is extremely high turnover.

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Rahviveh
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Rahviveh » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:43 pm

unclear wrote:Long rambling post below. Just wanted to share a bit of my story in case it helps anyone, but please feel free to disregard.

Just want to post that it is admittedly really difficult to know whether you will like something beforehand, but don't underestimate the importance of making sure your career fits with what you want out of life (an honest assessment is key; it can be easy to lie to yourself sometimes). If this isn't true, you might be miserable. For example, if your career prevents you from spending time with family and this drives your happiness, you might be miserable no matter how much you enjoy/can tolerate the work itself.

I wish I had understood this when I chose to go to law school. As an undergrad, I felt like I needed lots of money/prestige to be happy. My spouse and I both came from impoverished backgrounds, and I think we both were seeking a "prestigious career" (lol now at law being a prestigious career) and wanted lots of cash. We both did summers at banks, but I ultimately decided to pursue law instead as at the time I thought (mistakenly) it would be more interesting and that the hours would be more tolerable. I thought of all jobs as you get x amount of money for tolerating x amount of shit (I know, how brilliant of me, but I think a good amount of people feel this way at some point or another, even if only quietly).

I ended up at HYS with max financial aid plus a working spouse to pay living expenses. Through connections from previous work, I had guaranteed summers at firms both 1L and 2L already in hand at the beginning of 1L. I liked the other students, the school, the administration, and generally didn't feel much stress about classes/exams. Even with all of these things in my favor, I hated/regretted law school almost immediately as I realized in my first semester I was heading on a path that would make me miserable, for a variety of reasons.

I dropped out in the middle of 1L. My spouse quit their job. We had no money and crammed everything we owned (not much) into our car. We moved to a place we love. It took 6 weeks for me and 8 for my spouse, but we both got jobs we love in fields we are passionate about. We have lived mildly (enjoyably too) and saved money. We just put 20% down on our first house, have 6 months savings, and decent 401ks. And we are expecting our first child this week (something we were going to put off if I stayed in law school).

Dropping out is the best decision I ever made. For me, law or a career with similar requirements for success would have made me miserable. This obviously is not true for everyone. My best friend has been at a V10 for just over a year and loves it. He freaking loves every part of it, even the hours. It's the perfect career for him (at least so far).

Anyway, to stop rambling, all of this is to say two things. 1. If you're an 0L, try to think about what you want out of life long-term and then find a career that jibes with that. If that's law, great. If not, try something else. Law will always be there if you change your mind. 2. If you're in law school and hate it, try to find the best way out for you. Depending on debt load and how far along you are, this may mean dropping out. Regardless, don't let social stigma, the feeling of wasted effort/investment/sunk costs, or your family's opinions keep you on a path you won't be happy in.

Thanks for reading.


Just curious, what do you do now?

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bk1
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby bk1 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:45 pm

Kronk wrote:ETA: And the reason is extremely high turnover.

Which then begs the question what do these people do once they leave. Private practice defense work? Quit law? I suspect, though I can't know for sure, that the turnover is due to burnout, meaning that (like biglaw) it's not necessarily a viable long term option.

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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:54 pm

bk1 wrote:
Kronk wrote:ETA: And the reason is extremely high turnover.

Which then begs the question what do these people do once they leave. Private practice defense work? Quit law? I suspect, though I can't know for sure, that the turnover is due to burnout, meaning that (like biglaw) it's not necessarily a viable long term option.


Yeah, that's fair. There are a lot of articles on the specific burnout that occurs with PD work, actually, and they're pretty interesting. Most of it is emotional / psychological burnout for defending or being exposed to terrible crimes regularly. So burnout, but not 80hpw burnout.

Most of them move on to private defense work, but a ton of them use the trial experience to work in other capacities in the law though. PD/DA work is probably the best way to get trial experience. Many of them go to private civil firms, even.

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby NoodleyOne » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:59 pm

Kronk wrote:
bk1 wrote:
Kronk wrote:ETA: And the reason is extremely high turnover.

Which then begs the question what do these people do once they leave. Private practice defense work? Quit law? I suspect, though I can't know for sure, that the turnover is due to burnout, meaning that (like biglaw) it's not necessarily a viable long term option.


Yeah, that's fair. There are a lot of articles on the specific burnout that occurs with PD work, actually, and they're pretty interesting. Most of it is emotional / psychological burnout for defending or being exposed to terrible crimes regularly. So burnout, but not 80hpw burnout.

Most of them move on to private defense work, but a ton of them use the trial experience to work in other capacities in the law though. PD/DA work is probably the best way to get trial experience. Many of them go to private civil firms, even.

Then... don't you have to stay in ten years for LRAP to come in? Are these people leaving earlier and then shouldering that RIDONKULOUS debt?

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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:03 pm

NoodleyOne wrote:
Kronk wrote:
bk1 wrote:
Kronk wrote:ETA: And the reason is extremely high turnover.

Which then begs the question what do these people do once they leave. Private practice defense work? Quit law? I suspect, though I can't know for sure, that the turnover is due to burnout, meaning that (like biglaw) it's not necessarily a viable long term option.


Yeah, that's fair. There are a lot of articles on the specific burnout that occurs with PD work, actually, and they're pretty interesting. Most of it is emotional / psychological burnout for defending or being exposed to terrible crimes regularly. So burnout, but not 80hpw burnout.

Most of them move on to private defense work, but a ton of them use the trial experience to work in other capacities in the law though. PD/DA work is probably the best way to get trial experience. Many of them go to private civil firms, even.

Then... don't you have to stay in ten years for LRAP to come in? Are these people leaving earlier and then shouldering that RIDONKULOUS debt?


Well, I assume the people that leave that early don't have the same debt or are making enough in private practice to make it not matter. But it's not like governmental offices and agencies and non-profits don't have use for trial lawyers; lots of people can shift over and it's easier with experience than without it. Note that you don't have to remain a lawyer (you do for IRAP, but not for IBR / PSLF) so some move on to 501(c)(3) non-profits working policy in the criminal justice area. Which is what would be appealing to me personally. But the phrase that the CDO always says is "no one does themselves a disfavor by doing a few years with the PD/DA" because there's just no other situation where you'll get the same level of experience as those offices.

Note that a ton of people love it and stay, or shift over to the slightly-less-stressful appellate offices or federal offices that are a lot less fast-paced (fed offices will do 3-4 cases in the time a state PD will handle 90+).

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby portaprokoss » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:26 pm

Danger Zone wrote:Unclear, that's a whole lot of text just to say "I've never worked in a legal job, but I know it sucks because I went through one semester of law school and dropped out."

You don't get it.

unclear wrote:Thanks. I worked in both public interest and corporate in varying capacities and thought it was fine. And it was, just not for a career. Probably should have added that in. But again just sharing in case it resonates with anyone.

Also, my point was more that even if you like it and know that from experience as a paralegal, clerk, etc., it's important to think hard about whether a legal career fits with what you want out of life, not just whether you'll like the work.

Thanks for writing this, unclear. I don't think that many law students (or people in their twenties generally) understand that money, power, and prestige are just means to an end. They want those things because they believe it will bring them satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s commendable to ask yourself the hard questions and act on the answers you reach. Good luck.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:45 pm

NoodleyOne wrote:Then... don't you have to stay in ten years for LRAP to come in? Are these people leaving earlier and then shouldering that RIDONKULOUS debt?

Also, keep in mind even IBR only started 2 years ago or something. There are lots of people for whom it's never been an option.

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Danger Zone
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Danger Zone » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:41 pm

portaprokoss wrote:
Danger Zone wrote:Unclear, that's a whole lot of text just to say "I've never worked in a legal job, but I know it sucks because I went through one semester of law school and dropped out."

You don't get it.

It's just about credibility, dude. If a practicing attorney made the same statement, that's fine.

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby cinephile » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:59 pm

Danger Zone wrote:
portaprokoss wrote:
Danger Zone wrote:Unclear, that's a whole lot of text just to say "I've never worked in a legal job, but I know it sucks because I went through one semester of law school and dropped out."

You don't get it.

It's just about credibility, dude. If a practicing attorney made the same statement, that's fine.


You can know something isn't right for you just by studying the subject matter and finding yourself uninterested and uninvolved.

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Scotusnerd » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:03 pm

Danger Zone wrote:Unclear, that's a whole lot of text just to say "I've never worked in a legal job, but I know it sucks because I went through one semester of law school and dropped out."


He's made a lot wiser choices than most people in this thread. I don't think there's any credibility problems here.

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sinfiery
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby sinfiery » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:30 pm

That post definitely seemed to speak more to the time commitment that any job involving the practice of law would entail and it's implications on what it is you want in life.

I don't think it mattered if they would have enjoyed it or not because they would enjoy not working more than they could possibly enjoy working at anything.

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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby portaprokoss » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:32 pm

Danger Zone wrote:It's just about credibility, dude. If a practicing attorney made the same statement, that's fine.

I'll make a note of that: to be credible, you must work in a profession before deciding it is incompatible with your goals or values.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go prostitute myself and deal drugs to figure out--with credibility--whether or not that path is compatible with my goals and values.

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Kronk
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Re: Do You Regret Going to Law School?

Postby Kronk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:33 pm

The thing is, I don't expect any 0L to listen to our opinions or advice because when I was a 0L, tons of lawyers told me they regretted going and I also felt like it wouldn't be the same for me. Once again, not everyone hates it, but just saying I don't anticipate advice on here doing anything to affect the opinions of 0Ls, who probably all feel their situations is different, they are different personalities, or they have done more research (which some of them definitely do and have).




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