Bronte wrote:Opinions_R_Us wrote:I get that, but in my view, no current law school comes close to giving your money's worth if you are paying sticker and going into heavy debt to become a lawyer is just a really bad investment plan. It might pay off for a lucky few but probably not for most.
*** Addendum 7/10/2013
To expand on this a little, a lot of the "advice" and commentary on these forums comes from people who know just enough to be dangerous and regurgitate what they think is conventional wisdom without really knowing what they are talking about. The result is often a case of the blind leading the blind.
I sense from many of the posts on TLS that the point of going to law school (and going into deep debt to do so), is joining a Biglaw firm where you will be set for life. To me this is overly simplistic and often inaccurate. Just to use round numbers, American law schools just graduated somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 new lawyers this year. Perhaps 1% or around 500 of them will find jobs paying the kind of Biglaw salaries that I see so cavalierly quoted in these forums. That leaves 99% or around 49,000+ new lawyers with starting salaries in the $40,000 - $80,000 range depending on the job and location. That is just not going to be enough to service the average law school debt and at the same time allow for things like a family. It also doesn't factor in the many large firm partners I know who are raking in big money but don't find their work personally fulfilling or who work or drink themselves into an early grave (although their widows and children do have the benefit of being well provided for.) To be fair, I also know some megafirm partners who love what they do but I just think all the wannabes out there should know that the fantasy and reality may not be the same.
That said, I am not trying to discourage people from going to law school if they are want to go for the right reasons (and just getting filthy rich isn't one of them as far as I am concerned because the odds are long on that ever happening). If you really have a desire to learn the law and apply that knowledge to either help clients or to help you succeed in the business world, I say by all means go to law school. Just do it with your eyes wide open and avoid going into debt to do so - even if it means attending a lower ranked school on a scholly. I have been a lawyer for 42 years and I have not gotten rich but I have always been able to provide for my family and, despite holding a bunch of different legal jobs over those years, I have looked forward to going to work every single day. There aren't many jobs that you can say that about and if you think the practice of law will be like that for you, then, as far as I am concerned, that is the best reason of all to become one of us.
I hope that helps clarify where I am coming from.
I agree with a lot of what you're saying, and I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. But let me offer a couple thoughts to help explain the salience of big law and T14 discussions on TLS.
First, your estimate of the number of big law jobs is a bit low. There were closer to 3200 entry-level big law jobs in 2012, most of which pay $160,000 starting salary. That's about 10% of the people who got legal jobs last year and closer to 13% if you count Article III clerks. And that likely substantially underestimates the number of jobs in this category because it only counts the 250 largest firms.
Second, the majority of these positions are secured by students at T14 schools. At the University of Chicago, for example, about 70% of the class got big firm jobs if you again also count Article III clerks. Thus, for students who do go to these schools, discussion of big firms that pay big six figure salaries is not as ridiculous as it might seem.
Nevertheless, you are correct that TLS has a somewhat myopic focus on big law. For me, it seems natural because I'm on my way to a big firm and most of my classmates are too. But I agree that for students not yet in law school, many of whom have little idea what a big law firm does let alone what it's like to work at one, that focus might not always be ideal.
I am impressed that you actually researched the numbers which I just pulled out of the air and I bow to your research skills but I don't think our points are incompatible and if you managed to grab a Biglaw brass ring then good on you. I hope it turns out to be everything you expect (I really mean that). I do think we are both saying that many of the expectations aired in these forums may be unrealistic unless most of the posters here are T14 bound and will all be the ones to gobble up those 3200 megafirm jobs. I will say that 5 of the top 100 law firms have offices in my state and none of them are starting associates at $160,000. The three that I am most familiar with since they employ former clerks of mine are in the $120, 000 to $145,00 range. I suspect that the $160,000 figure is for the New York, Chicago, or LA offices and not the other offices where the cost of living is lower.