Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Law School

One of the reasons I feel like I am trying to dig my life out of a hole is because I just finished law school less than a year ago. I actually really regret this decision, but not because I don't think it is a worthy profession. I just think I overpaid for law school, despite having a scholarship which cut my tuition costs in half.

I think a lot of people my age feel like they overpaid for a degree, whether it was undergrad or a grad degree. Unless you are lucky enough to have parents who saved for you or get a full ride scholarship, chances are you graduated with some student loan debt. We've all heard the statistics - that college tuition is rising faster than inflation, according to some sources by as much as 10x the rate of inflation. But the problem is people feel like they have to have a degree in order to get a good job, and the government makes it easy to take out loans, so people will pay just about anything. I do not know anyone who managed to beat that assumption and get a good job without a degree, but I guess that also depends on my definition of a "good job".

Law school was really difficult for me. I have never been so stressed in my entire life (not counting studying for the bar, which was WORSE). If you go to law school you are generally graded on a forced curve, meaning there is only a small percentage of people allowed to get an A in the class. Everyone else must get a B or below. It's hard to fail (short of not going to class and not doing the reading), but my cumulative GPA suffered, possibly permanently disqualifying me from a scholarship for a Master's program I would like to attend one day. In addition to the forced curve, you are generally only given one test, your final exam, and that is your grade for the course. This is a pretty old school system, and it means that if you have an off day, you're stuck with that grade for the entire semester's worth of work. Some law schools are getting away from this and giving mid-terms, which I think is a great idea.

I am simply not cut out for blindly studying for one big test. I need some sort of feedback, so I can adjust how I am studying and correct any mistakes I have made. Additionally, you have to make sure you stay on schedule on your own, there's no pop quiz to check that you are up to date on your reading. Law school is not built for anyone who needs feedback on a regular basis. You can do it on your own, but you need your professor's help, and whether or not they are interested in helping you gauge your progress is a really iffy thing. These people have other duties in addition to teaching.

I guess all you have here is me complaining about how I graduated with a poor (for my standards) GPA and large amounts of student loan debt. There were positives. I did graduate with a job, which is more than many people can say. And to be honest, I wish I had worked harder while I was there, because maybe if I had some of my complaints would have been lessened. It's too late for me, though. If you are interested in getting into politics in your home state law school is probably the best "in" you can find, since legislators always need interns, but just don't expect to be paid for a while.

I tell my friends who are thinking about applying to law school one thing: Go only if you get a scholarship that pays the majority of your tuition. I don't care how smart you are, law school is not the same as undergrad and past success does not guarantee future results. Don't bet on a cushy job after you graduate, only the top 1% of law students in the country get those jobs, so plan on getting 40k a year starting out. If those numbers add up for you, then do it. Don't bet on being the exception to the rule.

I would also advise anyone applying for law school to not attend a third tier school, unless they offer you a completely full ride scholarship. Not unless you want to get ripped off. The reputation of your school matters much more when job hunting in the legal field than it does for undergrad.

Some people do great in law school and feel like they got wonderful things out of it. I did not, nor did the majority of my friends. Just be cautious if this is something you are considering.

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