Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

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oatmilk

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Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by oatmilk » Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:35 pm

I'd been toying with the idea of law school my freshman year when I also took a cold PT and got a 167. That DID change my mind a bit because I realized I could probably get into a top school, perhaps even with a big scholarship. (I also go to a top university.) Meanwhile, looking at the Ph.D. placement stats in my field for my likely grad acceptances dissuaded me from going into academia, which had been my other possible career goal. So, I think it's perfectly valid to let something like this open up your options. But I'll say two more things:
1. If you aren't sure about med school, don't do it.
2. If you aren't sure about law school, don't do it.

Grad school is expensive, super hard, and time-consuming. I understand the kind of pressure that is on students at schools like ours to go into med, law, or finance. But take some time to look seriously at everything you're interested in. Consider contacting alumni, taking a related course, doing an internship/shadowing gig, or taking a gap year.

The ONLY thing you should be doing right now is keeping your GPA high and deciding if you like medicine enough to sacrifice 10+ years of your life to med school, residency, etc.

QContinuum

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by QContinuum » Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:55 pm

oatmilk wrote:Grad school is expensive, super hard, and time-consuming. I understand the kind of pressure that is on students at schools like ours to go into med, law, or finance. But take some time to look seriously at everything you're interested in. Consider contacting alumni, taking a related course, doing an internship/shadowing gig, or taking a gap year.
100% agree. I'd add that the same logic also applies to grad school. The moral of the story: More school isn't necessarily better. In fact, more school can be harmful. Not only can additional schooling lead to ballooning debt, it can significantly limit what kind of jobs one can get.

For example, a Princeton undergrad has a pretty strong shot at going into finance, but if that same Princeton undergrad goes to law school - even a top law school, say, Harvard - she will find herself more or less frozen out of finance jobs, due to the perception that lawyers don't math. Likewise, a Harvard College grad with an AB in English has the world at his feet. He could go into business. Banking. Consulting. Foreign policy. Urban planning. Entrepreneurship. Anything! But let's say that same Harvard College grad then earns a Ph.D. in English from Yale. Undeniably a top English Ph.D. program, very hard to get into, very prestigious. What happens to his career prospects? He's basically locked into seeking academic/teaching jobs. That Ph.D. in English will be a huge red flag to F500 interviewers, investment banks, consulting firms. The same entry-level public policy job that he could've gotten without a lick of effort as a Harvard College grad will now decline to even interview him. Even if he tries to start his own business, that Ph.D. in English won't do him any favors with potential investors - quite the opposite.

Now, none of the above is to bash graduate education. Graduate degrees can be, and often are, extremely valuable. But they are simply not "degrees of general applicability" in the way a Bachelor's degree is*. So, be very careful in choosing whether to pursue graduate education.

(*To the extent a graduate degree comes close to replicating the BA's versatility, it's the MBA. Even then, the MBA isn't always "worth it" as a matter of cost of tuition vs. benefit to career; and even when an MBA is "worth it," timing can be critical in order to maximize the degree's benefit.)

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Fri Apr 24, 2020 10:11 pm

QContinuum wrote:(*To the extent a graduate degree comes close to replicating the BA's versatility, it's the MBA. Even then, the MBA isn't always "worth it" as a matter of cost of tuition vs. benefit to career; and even when an MBA is "worth it," timing can be critical in order to maximize the degree's benefit.)
I think that master's or PhD degrees in math, stats, or CS from a reputable university are in the same category. Obviously you can't do anything with those, but the skillset is valuable to basically any decent-sized organization nowadays and demand outstrips supply.

Much of the broad appeal of MBAs is the quant skills they imply (whether that reputation is deserved is debatable of course).

QContinuum

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by QContinuum » Fri Apr 24, 2020 10:45 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
QContinuum wrote:(*To the extent a graduate degree comes close to replicating the BA's versatility, it's the MBA. Even then, the MBA isn't always "worth it" as a matter of cost of tuition vs. benefit to career; and even when an MBA is "worth it," timing can be critical in order to maximize the degree's benefit.)
I think that master's or PhD degrees in math, stats, or CS from a reputable university are in the same category. Obviously you can't do anything with those, but the skillset is valuable to basically any decent-sized organization nowadays and demand outstrips supply.

Much of the broad appeal of MBAs is the quant skills they imply (whether that reputation is deserved is debatable of course).
A Master's, maybe, especially as BS/MS programs are proliferating anyway, leading to the devaluation of Master's degrees generally (other than the MBA).

But a Ph.D.? Sure, the Math/CS/stats Ph.D. may have a good shot landing a quant position at an i-bank, but I wouldn't call the Ph.D. a "generalist" degree - aside from quantitative finance, the Ph.D. still signals primarily research/academic interest. You want to go into urban planning or public policy or a political campaign? You'd still have to do some spinning - assuming you get an interview; whereas you'd fit right in as a candidate with an MBA. Maybe you can spin the Math Ph.D. to say why you're the best choice to build the data side of the campaign, but you're starting out at a disadvantage, because you aren't really the target candidate the campaign had in mind initially. You'd be in a much better position as a candidate right off the bat if you had a BS in Math instead of a Ph.D. in Math.

Ultramar vistas

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by Ultramar vistas » Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:18 am

QContinuum wrote:
oatmilk wrote:Grad school is expensive, super hard, and time-consuming. I understand the kind of pressure that is on students at schools like ours to go into med, law, or finance. But take some time to look seriously at everything you're interested in. Consider contacting alumni, taking a related course, doing an internship/shadowing gig, or taking a gap year.
100% agree. I'd add that the same logic also applies to grad school. The moral of the story: More school isn't necessarily better. In fact, more school can be harmful. Not only can additional schooling lead to ballooning debt, it can significantly limit what kind of jobs one can get.

For example, a Princeton undergrad has a pretty strong shot at going into finance, but if that same Princeton undergrad goes to law school - even a top law school, say, Harvard - she will find herself more or less frozen out of finance jobs, due to the perception that lawyers don't math. Likewise, a Harvard College grad with an AB in English has the world at his feet. He could go into business. Banking. Consulting. Foreign policy. Urban planning. Entrepreneurship. Anything! But let's say that same Harvard College grad then earns a Ph.D. in English from Yale. Undeniably a top English Ph.D. program, very hard to get into, very prestigious. What happens to his career prospects? He's basically locked into seeking academic/teaching jobs. That Ph.D. in English will be a huge red flag to F500 interviewers, investment banks, consulting firms. The same entry-level public policy job that he could've gotten without a lick of effort as a Harvard College grad will now decline to even interview him. Even if he tries to start his own business, that Ph.D. in English won't do him any favors with potential investors - quite the opposite.

Now, none of the above is to bash graduate education. Graduate degrees can be, and often are, extremely valuable. But they are simply not "degrees of general applicability" in the way a Bachelor's degree is*. So, be very careful in choosing whether to pursue graduate education.

(*To the extent a graduate degree comes close to replicating the BA's versatility, it's the MBA. Even then, the MBA isn't always "worth it" as a matter of cost of tuition vs. benefit to career; and even when an MBA is "worth it," timing can be critical in order to maximize the degree's benefit.)
What’s your experience on this, Q? I don’t disagree with the OP’s premise but your pessimistic descriptions of the narrow career prospects of a Princeton undergrad, HLS JD frankly don’t align with what I saw my HYS JD classmates do. People who wanted interviews in finance and consulting absolutely got them, and I think almost universally started at the same accelerated spot as MBAs. You can argue a JD was pointless for those folks and I might not disagree, but I don’t know of anyone who was disappointed with the breadth of career opportunities from HYS.

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oatmilk

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by oatmilk » Sat Apr 25, 2020 12:55 pm

Great points! I just wanted to pop in to clarify that I meant this as a response to a thread that I didn't realize was dead, so the mods split it into its own post and that's why some parts of it may seem odd. In that thread, the OP was debating med v law school and citing their high LSAT PT as a factor. Most of my reply can stand alone, though.

As for the Princeton example–I'm not sure if a J.D. from a reputable school is as "useless" as an English Ph.D. when trying to enter another career field, but the debt burden and resume gap could be a significant limiting factor. YLS might be an exception here, though. I do think grad school of any kind is such a significant opportunity cost and should be considered carefully, even if you can get into a top school or get funding. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Throwaway5818

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by Throwaway5818 » Sat Apr 25, 2020 7:00 pm

Most of the time, law school is a scam. There's a much greater number of quality MBA programs, and the degree is more versatile. Also two years' tuition versus three is significant.

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Sackboy

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by Sackboy » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:03 pm

Throwaway5818 wrote:Most of the time, law school is a scam. There's a much greater number of quality MBA programs, and the degree is more versatile. Also two years' tuition versus three is significant.
Re: high number of quality MBA programs/implication that the MBA outcomes are generally much better or not a scam. This just really isn't true. Most MBA programs have the same opportunity cost + debt + graduate income problem as law schools. A regional MBA is going to get you a regional job with a regional salary, for the most part. Now, you'll spend a year less in opportunity cost/debt and might make a slightly higher salary than a regional law school grad, but it's still not a great deal. If you can't go to a top 20 or so MBA program (and even than I'd more say top 15 or so if you can't do M7), then I'd seriously question if an MBA is worth it. Sure, you'll find some programs that dip below that are worth it, just like you will with law schools like BU or Fordham that land 40% national placement, but the general rule is that most MBA programs are regional in scope/quality of employment outside of the top schools. I know I'm not the only one thinking this way. MBA apps have been plummeting in recent years. People are finding a lot more value in specialty technical masters programs that can usually be done quicker, cheaper, and part-time.

QContinuum

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by QContinuum » Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:44 pm

Ultramar vistas wrote:
QContinuum wrote:For example, a Princeton undergrad has a pretty strong shot at going into finance, but if that same Princeton undergrad goes to law school - even a top law school, say, Harvard - she will find herself more or less frozen out of finance jobs, due to the perception that lawyers don't math.
What’s your experience on this, Q? I don’t disagree with the OP’s premise but your pessimistic descriptions of the narrow career prospects of a Princeton undergrad, HLS JD frankly don’t align with what I saw my HYS JD classmates do. People who wanted interviews in finance and consulting absolutely got them, and I think almost universally started at the same accelerated spot as MBAs. You can argue a JD was pointless for those folks and I might not disagree, but I don’t know of anyone who was disappointed with the breadth of career opportunities from HYS.
Let's say I tell you I went to Princeton for undergrad and then HLS, and was frozen out of finance. You would then respond that my personal experience isn't dispositive. So my personal experience really isn't relevant here (any more than your personal experience is relevant).

I stand by my observation that law students find it very hard to break into finance. The few that do are J.D./MBAs (where the MBA's doing the heavy lifting), or have very solid preexisting personal connections. I don't think the J.D. being from HLS meaningfully changes that (again, outside of J.D./MBAs with HBS).

Also, I never said YSH J.D.s had "narrow" career prospects or that YSH J.D.s are "disappointed with the breadth of career opportunities". That is a gross mischaracterization of my post. I said that J.D.s - including YSH J.D.s - narrow one's career opportunities, and that's 100% true. At the same time, the J.D. obviously is necessary for legal work, and a YSH J.D. can be a significant "boost" for certain kinds of "law-adjacent" work as well. I never said folks should be "disappointed" with a J.D.

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Re: Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer

Post by tlssdenverco » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:35 pm

Never go to law school unless your sure about it commit your time and dedicate you hours.

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