Sunday, July 25, 2010

So we want to go to law school do we?

15 Facts Law Schools Don't Want you to Know

While colleges are often prestigious and highly regarded institutions, they are also in the business world and have to make enough money to cover the costs of the services and programs they offer. Just like advertisements you see for any other products, schools’ claims about their degree programs may not always be the full truth and may exclude some important information that could colour your decision about which school to attend or to attend at all. If you’re thinking about going to law school, take a look at these facts about attending and ultimately working as a lawyer that law schools don’t want you to know about.

1. Books are incredibly expensive, and you might never use them again. Think your books in undergrad were expensive? Those prices have nothing on the costs of law school texts. Students report spending on average $500 a semester on books, many of which aren’t tomes that can be referenced in your professional life. Over three years of law school that’s over $3,000 in books alone.

2. Your first year of law school will already be laid out for you. This means you won’t get to choose your courses, your professors or pursue any of your personal interests. Instead, you’ll be taking a set schedule of courses and you may not get a chance to work with professors you admire. And if it turns out you hate the school and want to transfer? You likely won’t be able to transfer out, and depending on your choice of schools, your credits may not even transfer if you could.

3. Your grades will be curved. Curved grades aren’t unfamiliar for many who braved degrees in particularly difficult majors in undergrad, but the curve in law schools can be a whole different animal. Think you rocked your final exam by getting a 97% percent? After the curve that 97 may only end up earning you a B, which can be disenheartening for many hard-working students.

4. Law school debts could total well over $100,000. Law school isn’t cheap, and even those attending public universities can expect to accrue debts into the six figures during their time in school. Most students can’t swing paying $30,000+ in tuition and fees each year, so loans are the only way to afford it. Unfortunately, these kinds of debts can be crippling if you don’t get a high paying job upon graduation.

5. What school you go to does matter. While many law school students will tell you that being happy at a school is more important than name recognition, when it comes to getting a job, names matter. You might enjoy your school experience more at a tier-two school, and get specialized training, but if you’re seeking a career at a high-powered law firm, attending the big name, top-tier schools is almost essential.

6. Your chances of getting a high paid job are slim. Many want to get into being a lawyer because they think it means big, six-figure paychecks and a life of luxury. While for some it might, the reality is that there are few high-paying jobs out there and your chances of getting one are slim. How slim? If you didn’t graduate from one of the top law schools or are in the top 5% of your class, you can pretty much forget about it. You’ll be facing hundreds of applicants who were. Of course, law schools would lead you to believe that getting one of these jobs is a lot easier than it is.

7. You can expect to work much more than 40 hours a week as a lawyer. Being a lawyer isn’t a 9-5 job. In fact, many lawyers at top firms work from 60-80 hours a week, so you can forget about a personal life. Even with a hefty $120,000 salary, if you’re working 70 hours a week you’re only raking in $33 an hour. It’s more than most people make, but not quite what many had in mind when they became lawyers and requires you to really love what you do.

8. The bar exam requires you to study for months, and even after that 33% fail. You’re unlikely to find a lawyer who exalts the virtues of the Bar Exam. It’s riddled with bizarre hypotheticals and legal questions that are unlikely to ever come up again in your entire law career. You’ll get the pleasure of studying for a good three months to take it, with no guarantee you’ll pass or be able to get a job to help you pay off your massive debts.

9. Breaks aren’t really breaks– you must spend them working. You might have been able to enjoy your summer breaks when you were an undergrad, but forget about that in law school. To stay competitive with your peers you’ll needs to take on internships and work at law firms, if you want to get a good job when you graduate. Some of these positions are paid, some are not, but all will require a hefty chunk of your time– even sometimes up to 50 hours a week.

10. Law school won’t teach you business skills. Law school is designed to help you think like a lawyer but it won’t teach you how to run your own firm, bill clients, get business loans or any other practical skills that can help you in your future endeavors. If you want to learn those things you’ll need to do it through personal experience or through taking a class, which you likely won’t have time to even consider doing.

11. Grades aren’t the end all. While your law school grades do matter to a certain degree, getting less than perfect grades won’t condemn you to a life of working outside of the law field. Law schools want their students to be hyper-competitive so it drives their reputation up, but the reality is that there are legal jobs out there for the rest of the school population as well.

12. Only 54 percent of all working-age law school grads are able to make it as a lawyer. Law schools are churning out tens of thousands of grads each year, and the reality is that there simply aren’t enough law jobs out there. The vast majority of these students will end up finding jobs doing other, much less desirable things rather than what they shelled out a hundred grand plus to do. Either that, or they will work as lawyers but won’t be able to make a living doing that so will have to move to other fields.

13. Fewer new grads are able to find jobs. You can blame the recession, but over the past few years a smaller and smaller percentage of new grads are able to find jobs in the legal field. Your law school may make it seem like you’re assured a job upon graduation, but the reality is that there is no assurance of a job for anyone these days, especially not young, inexperienced lawyers.

14. Law schools lure in minority students to improve diversity rankings without disclosing that less than half of African-Americans who enter these programs ever pass the bar. Are you a minority student hoping to become a lawyer? Law schools may not be working in your best interests and instead hoping to inflate their own diversity without offering the help and guidance students need to succeed as working professionals.

15. Schools create misleading employment statistics by temporarily hiring new grads and spotlighting kids who land top-paying jobs, while ignoring the fact that most students make far-lower average incomes. Being a lawyer should be something you’re doing because you love practicing the law, not because of the money. If you’re in it for the money, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Many law schools will lead you to believe you have a great chance of landing a high-paying prestigious position, but the reality is that you’ll likely end up with a middle of the road salary if you can find a job at all in these highly competitive times.

Posted July 19, 2010 by Site Administrator for Online Degree Programs

Note: We initially found this article on Law is Cool which added the following comments:
While many of these are true, others are more relevant in the American context than in Canada. For example, where you go to school matters far less in Canada (Number 5), where all schools are publicly funded and are considered first-tier. Bar exam pass rates are far better in Canada as well (Numbers 8, 15).


Blogger Daniel said...

Thank you so much for sharing it.
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2:46 AM  
Anonymous H. Ome said...

These checkpoints which you have mentioned here are very much true and I am totally agree with you.

8:25 AM  

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