Am I screwed?

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making_nonsense
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:13 pm

Am I screwed?

Postby making_nonsense » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:48 pm

I am a 1L at a T50 school (in the state where I am from and would like to practice). My grades were horrible last semester (I am probably in the bottom quarter). I think I have my stuff together better now so that I can mitigate the damage this semester, but I can't help but wonder at what point should I cut my losses and drop out after the semester.

Financially, I had a scholarship that covered most of my costs but that is no longer the case. If all remains the same, I will pay about 50k in tuition in the last two years (most living expenses are covered by a SO). I will be working as a law clerk for the in-house counsel of a corporation (about 7k employees) this summer that will pay about 15 dollars an hour (so I expect to make somewhere in the neighborhood of 8k this summer). I have about 40k in the bank now. All in all, I estimate that with my frugal lifestyle I could get out with only 10-20k of debt, definitely no more than 30k.

Academically, I struggled badly with anxiety my first semester and nearly dropped out then (I am much less stressed now, mainly because it would be difficult to do much worse this semester). I wasn't prepared at all for law school, and this is on top of the fact that I don't feel like I measure up to the intellect of most of my classmates. My ambitions are modest, however. While big law and federal clerkships and the like are now completely out of the picture, I really just would like to move back to the mostly rural region where I am from. This include two nearby small cities (100k and 30k). I ran a business before law school and would be comfortable going as a solo practitioner, but that is obviously not ideal without at least getting some kind of experience. I also love the idea of prosecution, but I suspect my grades will make that prohibitively difficult. I do have plenty of legal contacts in the area (two state Judges, solo practitioners and lawyers at small firms), but I am not sure if any of them could lead to a job.

Although I still enjoy the law (I love the idea of solving legal problems for people), I wonder if my ROI has gotten to a point where I should consider dropping out. I tried talking to the career guy at my school but he only offered me a tall glass of kool-aid, talking about his 95% employment rate for the last class. I want to be a lawyer. If my grades are horrible and only 60ish percent of my class are getting jobs as lawyers, like Mick Jones, should I stay or should I go?

TL;DNR - I have the ability to graduate with about 20k of debt. I want to work in a specific rural area either as a prosecutor or at a small firm, or even as in-house for some of the larger businesses in the area. However, my grades are exceptionally bad (bottom quarter bad). While I feel they will improve, at what point should I drop out considering my career goals? I am perfectly fine starting out making 40-50k for a few years - if I can get there.

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Rowinguy2009
Posts: 299
Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:37 pm

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby Rowinguy2009 » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:02 pm

Did you lose your scholarship as a result of poor grades? After only one semester? I thought most schools wouldn't take away such scholarships until the end of the academic year - any way in the world that you can convince them to change their stance on this?

If they won't change the scholarship decision this becomes a closer question, but if you truly think you will enjoy practicing law, and that you can turn your performance around, I say stay. Paying a total of 50k in tuition (plus COL) at what sounds like a respected state school is not a terrible option. You acknowledge that you are going to be somewhat limited with your current grades and will have to work to even get a decent job - I think you have a fairly realistic sense of what your options will be.

While I am not too familiar with this area, I don't necessarily think that your current grades are an absolute bar for something like the state's attorney general's office if you express a continued issue in prosecution and trial work.

making_nonsense
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:13 pm

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby making_nonsense » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:09 pm

No, I had the scholarship for this semester, I just know that statistically I am unlikely to improve enough to pay next year what I paid this year.

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MarkfromWI
Posts: 236
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:54 pm

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby MarkfromWI » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:16 pm

Definitely stick it out, at the very least until you get grades back from this semester. 20-30k debt isn't terrible, and if you will enjoy the law and understand your limited salary options to start, I don't really see a point in dropping out yet. You're already ahead of a lot of folks, what with your connections, desire to be in a rural area, and acceptance of the lower starting salary that accompanies those types of positions.

If you can kill it for the next three semesters (through the end of 2L), you may even move high enough into the class where state trial or appellate (probably not SSC, though) clerkships become an option. Most of those generally don't hire until the start of 3L anyway. That would definitely help get your foot in the door at a rural shop or in a DA's office.

Stick it out, and good luck.

making_nonsense
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:13 pm

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby making_nonsense » Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:41 pm

Thanks for the responses!

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A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22822
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:50 pm

If you're interested in prosecution, I don't think grades are that significant - doing internships/clinics and trying to meet as many people as you can probably matter more in terms of getting jobs.

bacillusanthracis
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:30 am

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby bacillusanthracis » Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:33 am

FWIW, after my first semester I was on academic probation. It wasn't that I didn't know the material--I did. It was just the way I wrote my essays that killed me. I had a lot (and I mean a lot) of writing experience before law school and I had to unlearn everything I knew. Once I did that, no worries.
I'll finish this semester in the top 10% of my class, if not higher. And I don't know the material this semester any better than I did last semester. I'm not working harder, staying up later, etc. I just know how to write the Law School Essay (peace be upon It).

The point is this: stick it out. Find out what's hurting you and do your best to fix it. You're probably not as far off as you feel like you are. And it's tough. I know how you feel--to get that exam you worked your ass for, thinking you did well, but seeing that it's the same crappy kind of grade as before. But my attitude was that I wasn't leaving unless they kicked me out.

Practice writing essays. It's so mechanical and formulaic that as long as you know the rules, it'll be tough to get less than 3's on your tests. Frankly, I think it says a lot about how little critical thinking actually comes into play. But whatever. That's the game. You'll never write anything like it after law school, but that's what you have to do.

Oh, and of course, the MCQ's. Practice, practice, practice.

For me (and it's only my own personal experience), learning black letter and then writing practice essays is by far more effective than steadily grinding out briefs that professors love so much.

There is more than one way to skin the law school cat. If their way isn't working for you, then you need to find something that does.

Best of luck.

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ReasonableNprudent
Posts: 153
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:12 pm

Re: Am I screwed?

Postby ReasonableNprudent » Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:44 am

Ride it. The I to RO is small. Your goals are modest. Your grades are salvageable and will not be of paramount importance. You have a SO to help you get through a period of unemployment or slow earnings.

I'd take the guys kool-aid and let it be refreshing. I also do not buy the argument that a JD is a scarlet letter. It shows you are intelligent and the reality is there are JDs in lots of non-law positions. Professionals that have been around at all know this. This factor is only relevant if you wind up not working in law, of course.




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