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Old 08-17-2019, 06:26 PM
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Is Law School Worth It?


I apologize if this was covered before, and the question is being asked in good faith.

I read a lot of random books, and one of them was by a law professor (Campos) who argued going to law school was a bad idea for many bright students, especially those who lack connections and pay their own way. The tone of the book was remarkably negative and I don’t think reflects the experiences of the people I know who studied law. I am Canadian, and the book was about the US.

His arguments were that fees were much higher than most graduates could easily pay back, that the number of graduates who are employed at larger firms is very small, that many graduates are not employed at a job requiring bar-level knowledge, that meaningful “social justice” jobs pay poorly, that scholarships are often contingent on high placement but marking is arbitrary, that the Socratic teaching method used is inefficient, and that rankings of schools are less relevant than employment statistics. He felt law schools deliberately do not portray the realities of practicing law.

My knowledge of the law is very basic, and I know even less about lawyers and do not watch much TV. But the author clearly had an axe to grind. I’m sure some of his points are valid — teaching complex subjects can be dull and inefficient, fees are often high, school reputations can be overrated. But is the author broadly correct? Would you recommend a bright friend to go to a highly rated law school, or focus on other things?
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:03 PM
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I did not go to law school, but three of my friends from college did -- all of them very very smart people, though none were wealthy nor politically connected.

None of the three are practicing law today, though they all did for a time; none of them particularly enjoyed actually working as lawyers, and none of them wound up with particularly high-paying positions. Two of the three went back to school to get Ph.Ds, and both are now in academia (one is a law professor, the other in university administration); the third changed careers entirely, and went into IT.

Based on what I saw with my friends, I'd advise a college student (or recent grad) who was considering law school to take a long, serious look at exactly why they are interested in it, and what they hope to do with a law degree.

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Old 08-17-2019, 07:03 PM
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Depends, do they actually want to be a lawyer and have a realistic idea of what that entails, or are they in "oh crap, what am I going to do after I graduate from college?" mode? In ten years of being a faculty adviser to English majors, I've seen both, and I would never recommend that a student apply to any graduate or professional program unless they had a clear sense of why they wanted that particular degree, and of what a career path in that field actually looks like.
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:23 PM
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IANAL but my understanding is that for a few years the legal profession hasn't been as great as it once was. Supposedly many people graduate even from really good schools but aren't able to find jobs in the law. The profession has been subject to the same market forces as others, and automation and outsourcing have done damage to it much as it has to others.

In short, don't do it, unless you can attend one of the top-ten or even top-five law schools and graduate at the top of the class.

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 08-17-2019 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:32 PM
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And by the way, when I was considering it, I bought a book called "29 Reasons Not To Go To Law School" (one was that many think they're going to go into social justice law, fighting unjust evictions and corporate polluters, but end up in deadly dull corporate law jobs just to pay back the student loans) and talked myself out of it. (My father wanted me to go, though, so he drove me into New Haven to meet with the dean and while I was waiting for the appointment looked at a photo on the wall of the Class of 1966 and who I could identify. "Senator, Senator, Senator, CEO, Governor, Judge, etc." Really quite amazing.)
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:50 PM
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The law school in New Haven has a s omewhat different track record for post-graduation placements than most other law schools ...
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Fretful Porpentine View Post
In ten years of being a faculty adviser to English majors, I've seen both, and I would never recommend that a student apply to any graduate or professional program unless they had a clear sense of why they wanted that particular degree, and of what a career path in that field actually looks like.
This is extremely good advice, not just for potential law students, but any post-grad. Thank you for imposing rigour on the process.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:07 PM
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Getting back to the OP, I'm so far past the grad process that I can't contribute much on the issue of loans and so on. My impression, though, is that the job market for new lawyers in the US is very tough, and a major over-supply. I don't think that's quite the same in Canada, where we don't have the same proliferation of law schools and they are much more uniform in quality than in the US. (For example, when the new law school opened inthe interior of BC about 10 years ago, it was the first new law school in about 30 years. Since the provincial governments fund them (we don't have Canada completely private universities here), they tend to do a pretty rigoureux cost-benefit analysis before opening a new college. ) That cautious approach to building new law schools helps prevent an over-supply of lawyers.

Personally, I think I would have benefitted from the hard analysis that Fretful Porpentine mentions. I had only a very vague idea of how I would make a career with my law degree. Something academic, perhaps? The one thing I was sŻre of was that I wouldn't end up litigating. Guess what? Litigation is a big part of my practice, in a specialised appellate and chambers way. I don't think any guidance counsellors could have helped me figure that out in advance, because of the specialised nature of the work. My undergrad degree and my law degrees fit together quite nicely, thank you. But I wouldn't say it was carefully planned out.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:09 PM
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Very different answers for different countries I suspect.

In the US, law school is great for smart people who are risk averse. Going to law school is, for these people, like accepting a guaranteed 4 instead of taking a roll of the die. Lots of people like that deal. For anyone with more risk tolerance, other options are usually better regardless of goals or interests.

For people trying to make lots of money, there are better but riskier options. For people trying to change the world, there are better but riskier options. But for the sure thing, nothing better than a JD from a top law school.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:10 PM
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not to hijack the thread, but I have been told by people in the medical field that if you can swing it, getting an MD is almost always worth it. Even if, perhaps especially if, you don't end up practicing medicine. Being able to say, Dr. Smith here to see.... opens up many a door. Apparently law school used to be that way in certain areas (politics, business leadership, etc) but no longer has the same force.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:19 PM
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... and while I was waiting for the appointment looked at a photo on the wall of the Class of 1966 and who I could identify. "Senator, Senator, Senator, CEO, Governor, Judge, etc." Really quite amazing.)
So did the law degree cause them to be elected senator, etc., or was it independent of the position?
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:47 PM
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I went to law school because I love the law -- thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, reading. All of it. I had no idea when I applied what I'd wind up doing, but within the first week found out about an area I thought would be great for me. I was right. I love my job. So, I agree with all the people who say, it depends....

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Old 08-17-2019, 09:03 PM
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IANAL and all that but --------- most of the people I know who went through Law School are not practicing lawyers. But all (I believe) will say it was worth it for the various business positions, or other futures, they followed. One friend who did become an attorney says that in the business universe today it is a serious boost. If he is right or not I cannot say.

I still think plumbers school is a better bet myself; or an education degree. But that could just be me.
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Old 08-17-2019, 09:19 PM
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My understanding is that the number of law graduates vastly outweighs the number of law jobs out there. Same with MBAs.

So if you can't get into a top law school, supposedly its not worth doing.
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Old 08-17-2019, 09:28 PM
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IANAL and all that but --------- most of the people I know who went through Law School are not practicing lawyers. But all (I believe) will say it was worth it for the various business positions, or other futures, they followed. One friend who did become an attorney says that in the business universe today it is a serious boost. If he is right or not I cannot say.

I still think plumbers school is a better bet myself; or an education degree. But that could just be me.
I've got friends with law degrees who aren't called to the bar anymore, but working in business or securities. That law degree is a great asset to them, even if they're not giving legal opinions. A law degree, focussed on business and tax law, is a great leg-up in the commercial world.

Education degree? Teachers' degrees in the US have been stagnant for 25 years, not even keeping pace with inflation.
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Old 08-17-2019, 11:23 PM
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I've got friends with law degrees who aren't called to the bar anymore, but working in business or securities. That law degree is a great asset to them, even if they're not giving legal opinions. A law degree, focussed on business and tax law, is a great leg-up in the commercial world.
I recall one of my law school classmates who had been a financial advisor before coming to law school. In his mid-50s, he was the oldest member of our class. He never intended to become a lawyer--rather, he wanted a deeper understanding of business and tax law, so he could speak more knowledgeably with his financial clients. Not surprisingly, he concentrated on those electives in the upper years of law school. He did get his law degree, and went back to being a financial advisor.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:10 AM
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In short, don't do it, unless you can attend one of the top-ten or even top-five law schools and graduate at the top of the class.
So, there are only ten or twenty good jobs for law school grads in the entire country?
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:13 AM
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Like anything, it is probably only a good thing to do if it something you like/love. My son-in-law always dreamed of being a lawyer, and got in to a top 20 school after a lot of work. Though he graduated just as the recession hit, he has never regretted it.

The same goes for any other type of graduate school.
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Old 08-18-2019, 07:00 AM
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All Canadian law schools are good. We don’t have any matchbook law schools. Attending a Canadian law school will at the very least help a person learn to think rigorously analytically and creatively, and help them develop a broader view (I had a blast at mine!). Those are very valuable skills are transferable.

Canadian law school tuition used to be dirt cheap, but recently it has increased significantly, so debt load and time in school rather than working should be considered.

Almost all Canadian law grads find articling jobs, but the pay at the bottom end is low, for it is difficult for law firms to make much money from their articling students who are anything but profit centres. Remuneration for top articling students is OK.

Over the years, top performing associate lawyers will either buy into the partnership or set of on their own. Either way, they will usually do well financially.

Corporate work is usually more lucrative than personal work. There are any number of niches in which a lawyer can make a competitive advantage simply because of there being so few competitors in the niche.

There are some pressures that will or are cutting into lawyers’ work.

Paralegals are getting licenced and running their own firms, rather than being profit centres for lawyers.

In order to improve access to justice, family law procedure has been made more user friendly in some jurisdictions (particularly Ontario), so there are many self-represented people who might otherwise have used lawyers.

In real estate law, there is concern that a lot of real estate lawyer/clerk work will be lost to title insurance companies that may chose to simply insure over.

Despite such changes, the simple fact remains that there will always be a need for bright people who can sort things out, so there will always be a need for lawyers. It comes down to supply and demand, and presently supply is a tad high for many lawyers’ liking.

There have always been barriers to entry and ongoing barriers to success in law. Many years ago I had ongoing social conversations with name partners of a few of Canada’s leading firms. What was common was that they worked their asses off to get where they were, and the loved their careers. I don’t think that has changed for lawyers today.

One of them told me that when started out he had been offered a chicken in payment by a client. Sure enough, when I was a bouncing baby lawyer a client offered to pay me with a chicken. Plus Áa change, plus c'est la mÍme chose. That’s worth keeping in mind when deciding on a career in law. All the wonderful things about the field are still there, but so are the barriers.

Bottom line: if you like what you do and you are very good at it, practising law in Canada can be a terrific career, but if you are only in it for the money, find something else.
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Old 08-18-2019, 08:26 AM
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My understanding is that the number of law graduates vastly outweighs the number of law jobs out there. Same with MBAs.

So if you can't get into a top law school, supposedly its not worth doing.

Like any lucrative, prestigious profession, the law is what we call "competitive". Similar to business school. Many people go to business or law school hoping to land what I call "golden ticket" jobs. For MBA's, it is typically jobs in management consulting or Wall Street investment banking firms. If you go to business school with the intention of only working at McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group (and there are entire web sites dedicated to trying to get in the "MBB" consulting firms) or as an investment banking at Goldman Sachs or one of the other "bulge bracket" firms, you better be fucking awesome because it's a very short list of jobs with a lot of highly talented applicants.

If you just want to get an MBA to expand your knowledge of marketing, accounting, economics, etc an maybe add another line to your resume, there are a lot more opportunities for you.


Similarly, law students often want to work at one of the big "AmLaw 100" law firms, which are similarly prestigious and competitive. And again, that is a relatively short and competitive list. But what I have seen is a lot of lawyers decide they don't want to practice law anymore, so they go into management consulting, work in compliance at banks and tech companies, various roles in companies that sell to law firms and so on.


Maybe it's a generational thing, but for the past 20+ years it seems like people have this attitude that if they complete requirements X,Y, and Z, they should receive some guaranteed benefit. Sort of like completing your homework in school. Maybe that's the result of 20+ years of helicopter parents driving their kids to achieve in school so they can be "successful". The real world doesn't work that way. No one will guarantee that if you complete x years of y school, you will make z salary forever.

The other thing too is that careers don't happen overnight. Yes, certain jobs will pay you six figures after a couple of years. But most jobs starting out don't pay that well right out of college. Even in law or investment banking.



So the short answer is "yes", law school is worth it if you want to be a lawyer or do something related to the law. Otherwise, it may not be your best option.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:12 AM
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OP can search for
net present value law school
to see the assumptions that go into calculating its worth.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:22 AM
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Been a lawyer 12 years. It’s a damn slog. There is a lot of drudgery. And lots of duffers who somehow got a degree in a field they had no business being in. Same as any profession. Add to this the ridonkulous networking requirements, something many people loath and many more are lousy at, a capricious clientele and an uneven division of the pie.
It seems your guys expected to have money thrown at them by the truckload right after they got their degree. Yeah, that only happens in the movies and on TV. It’s a a long slog. And no, the lady lawyers aren’t as hot nor the gents that charismatic. If they had been they would have gone info acting. And married a Prince of the Royal Blood.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:13 PM
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In my opinion, the automation has been helpful, by getting rid of a lot of grunt work. I don't have to slog to the library and pull out books and hunt for cases, than have photocopies made, then trudge back to the office. I just sit at my desk and do my research on the net.

Document discovery is a lot easier. Docs get scanned in, OCR'd, and then I can do key word searches, instead of having to plough through pages and pages, looking for the important bit. Filings are more and more electronic, so I can search the other guy's stuff at my desk, again using key-word searches. When I'm doing my brief, I can cut and past straight from the e-versions of documents, cases and statutes, instead of asking my secretary to photocopy them, me circle the relevant bits, and then have the secretary type them in.

Overall, I spend more time doing law and much less time fidgeting with paper than I used to do. Automation, as always, does away with routine tasks and leaves the hard, thinking work for people (ie me) to do. Much more fun, really.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:34 PM
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It seems your guys expected to have money thrown at them by the truckload right after they got their degree. Yeah, that only happens in the movies and on TV.
This.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Muffin View Post
All Canadian law schools are good. We donít have any matchbook law schools. Attending a Canadian law school will at the very least help a person learn to think rigorously analytically and creatively, and help them develop a broader view (I had a blast at mine!). Those are very valuable skills are transferable.
...
Bottom line: if you like what you do and you are very good at it, practising law in Canada can be a terrific career, but if you are only in it for the money, find something else.
And this.



Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn

In short, don't do it, unless you can attend one of the top-ten or even top-five law schools and graduate at the top of the class.
So, there are only ten or twenty good jobs for law school grads in the entire country?
And most definitely, this.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:52 PM
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For a completely different system:

in Spain, law school is undergrad *and* one of the most frequent "not for a profession" degrees (I'm not sure what's the current ranking between Law and History). While there are certainly a lot of people who go to law school with the intent of making it their profession, there are also many who attend it for "general information", often through UNED (the National Long Distance University, which has been around since 1972). My Dad had the equivalent to 3 years of Law back when the total coursework was 5: he had a Business degree and worked in Human Resources; he wanted to have a better understanding of labor and contract law than he'd gotten as part of his degree, but had no intent of ever finishing law school. It's pretty common for people who get involved in being Worker's Representatives to take some law coursework: I've known a couple who realized they'd be over 60% of the way toward the degree by the time they were done with the courses that covered their main interests, so decided to get the pretty paper; again, no intent of ever getting jobs as lawyers. But this is in a system where attending courses at your own not-very-fast speed is perfectly doable and extremely cheap: nobody needs to take out a loan to pay for UNED and it would be very rare to need one for any other public university.


Quote:
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In my opinion, the automation has been helpful, by getting rid of a lot of grunt work. I don't have to slog to the library and pull out books and hunt for cases, than have photocopies made, then trudge back to the office. I just sit at my desk and do my research on the net.
The reaction of Spanish lawers when BOE (the Spanish Government's "Legal Gazette") went pdf-only was "Halellujah!". The reaction of the rest of the country was "wait, weren't y'all a bunch of Luddites?" "Well, yeah, but we reserve the right to like the technology we do like! This is so much easier than paper!"

Last edited by Nava; 08-18-2019 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:55 PM
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I'm an electrical engineer, but I came close to going to law school when I was just starting out. I planned to practice patent law, which paid very well.

I decided against it for a number of reasons, but a big one was that I didn't meet any lawyers who earned more than I did (as a civil service engineer) and enjoyed their work. The ones making big money all seemed to be hoping to retire as soon as they had saved enough, and the happy ones were making $25,000/year (this was around 1989) working for a non-profit or as a public defender. One PD I met had plans to get experience, and then go into practice defending wealthy criminals for big bucks. Thirty years later, he's still a PD.

I was also struck by how many people I met who had law degrees but weren't (and often had never been) employed as lawyers.

I second what was said upthread that having connections makes a big difference. Ever notice how many lawyers have relatives who are lawyers?

I would also add that having affluent parents (or a working spouse) can make the difference between taking that low-paying entry-level job and abandoning law for something that pays a living wage. A guy who edited Law Review at the school I planned to attend had no job when he graduated, but planned to represent indigent clients in medical malpractice suits until he had enough experience to get a job. That would not have been an option for me.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:52 PM
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I apologize if this was covered before, and the question is being asked in good faith.

I read a lot of random books, and one of them was by a law professor (Campos) who argued going to law school was a bad idea for many bright students, especially those who lack connections and pay their own way. The tone of the book was remarkably negative and I donít think reflects the experiences of the people I know who studied law. I am Canadian, and the book was about the US.

His arguments were that fees were much higher than most graduates could easily pay back, that the number of graduates who are employed at larger firms is very small, that many graduates are not employed at a job requiring bar-level knowledge, that meaningful ďsocial justiceĒ jobs pay poorly, that scholarships are often contingent on high placement but marking is arbitrary, that the Socratic teaching method used is inefficient, and that rankings of schools are less relevant than employment statistics. He felt law schools deliberately do not portray the realities of practicing law.

My knowledge of the law is very basic, and I know even less about lawyers and do not watch much TV. But the author clearly had an axe to grind. Iím sure some of his points are valid ó teaching complex subjects can be dull and inefficient, fees are often high, school reputations can be overrated. But is the author broadly correct? Would you recommend a bright friend to go to a highly rated law school, or focus on other things?
My wife is Canadian. She went to an American law school, and now practices with just one partner.

I'm an IT guy, and have worked in law firms for 20 years. So there's my background, so you can form an opinion as to the weight of what I say.


Meaningful "social justice" jobs pay terribly. I make more than lawyers doing that kind of work. Usually those lawyers are subsidized by a spouse. That said, at the big (2,000+ lawyer) firms, there are plenty of opportunities to do pro bono work.

The mega-firms pay ridiculous amounts of money to law school graduates. Starting salary at one of them is, these days, around $170,000, plus a signing bonus, plus a bonus every year. That's on the first day of work, even before passing the bar exam.

But... those jobs are intense. 12 hours a day, six days a week, with a brutal billable hours requirement. And it's up or out. If the firm decides you're not partner material after a few (six or seven, at most) years, you're expected to resign.

And those firms can, obviously, be extremely selective in who they hire. If you didn't go to one of the best law schools, you had better have been first in your class at a second or third tier law school.

And the life is brutal. You're required to be available around the clock, every day, seven days a week. You may have to take abuse from partners and clients.

But, if you're good, and you can stick it out, and if you can live the big firm life, you'll make partner. And you will be rich (by any rational standard).

So, is law school worth it? If you want that life, absolutely.

But some people hate it. My wife went to Harvard College and Harvard Law, did the big firm thing, and hated it. So she left, and took a couple of clients with her. She makes perfectly good money, and is way happier.

But, but, there are plenty of graduates of third-rate law schools who never even find work as lawyers, or who make 50,000 per year and have huge loans hanging over their heads.

YMMV
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:05 PM
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IANAL and all that but --------- most of the people I know who went through Law School are not practicing lawyers. But all (I believe) will say it was worth it for the various business positions, or other futures, they followed. One friend who did become an attorney says that in the business universe today it is a serious boost. If he is right or not I cannot say.
Just curious: The serious boost one gets in the business world -- is it for getting a law degree, or is it for being an attorney (presumably non-practicing)? That is, does someone with a law degree who has not passed the bar exam and gotten licensed to practice law get the same boost as someone who has also passed the bar and gotten licensed?

On a side note: Anyone got any data on the number of people who get a law degree but never pass the bar exam? A certain percentage I'm sure have taken the test (perhaps multiple times) and not passed, but there must also be some that never bother to take the test, no?
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:22 PM
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It seems your guys expected to have money thrown at them by the truckload right after they got their degree. Yeah, that only happens in the movies and on TV. Itís a a long slog. And no, the lady lawyers arenít as hot nor the gents that charismatic.
If you went to Harvard, or Yale, or Columbia, or Stanford, and get a job after graduation with Simpson Thacher or Cravath Swaine & Moore, or Skadden Arps, yes, money will be thrown at you by the truckload, as soon as you get your degree. Even before that, if you get a gig as a summer associate at one of those firms.
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Old 08-18-2019, 05:56 PM
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Education degree? Teachers' degrees in the US have been stagnant for 25 years, not even keeping pace with inflation.
True; but trust me. If you can manage a classroom of 10-year-olds, the average factory floor or small business is easy-peasy.
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Old 08-18-2019, 06:10 PM
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I'm an electrical engineer, but I came close to going to law school when I was just starting out. I planned to practice patent law, which paid very well.

I decided against it for a number of reasons, but a big one was that I didn't meet any lawyers who earned more than I did (as a civil service engineer) and enjoyed their work. The ones making big money all seemed to be hoping to retire as soon as they had saved enough, and the happy ones were making $25,000/year (this was around 1989) working for a non-profit or as a public defender. One PD I met had plans to get experience, and then go into practice defending wealthy criminals for big bucks. Thirty years later, he's still a PD.
My sister's BFF went to law school in the mid-1990s, and realized partway through that the concept was way more appealing than the practice, but she did finish and take the bar anyway. To get her loans paid down sooner, and to feel that she got SOMETHING out of that degree, she took a social-service job that didn't pay well, but the loan-payback benefit approximated her salary, so she marked time doing that, and left active law practice. By the early 00s, she wasn't even licensed any more.

It's one of many fields that sounds like a great idea to many people, and then they get into it and realize too late that it isn't for them. Maybe you could get a job in a law office, or a legal department, and get some experience so you can find out if it's for you? I have an acquaintance who did that herself years ago because she was considering law school, and told me, "The things that ex-spouses do to each othere! YEESHT!" She knew she wouldn't see that if she wasn't doing family law, but it really turned her off and she ended up doing something else.
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:14 AM
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I'm an electrical engineer, but I came close to going to law school when I was just starting out. I planned to practice patent law, which paid very well.
If you'd gotten a graduate degree in engineering and a law degree, you'd be in great shape as a patent lawyer.

The firm where I work (one of the ten biggest in the world) has a patent law department. Many, most, of the lawyers in that department have an advanced degree in a scientific or technical field as well as a JD. We've even got a couple of MDs. They make an enormous amount of money.
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Old 08-19-2019, 07:45 AM
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If you'd gotten a graduate degree in engineering and a law degree, you'd be in great shape as a patent lawyer.

The firm where I work (one of the ten biggest in the world) has a patent law department. Many, most, of the lawyers in that department have an advanced degree in a scientific or technical field as well as a JD. We've even got a couple of MDs. They make an enormous amount of money.
Interesting.

One concern I'd had was that higher-paying specialties are often targeted for economizing through automation and less expensive practitioners. Thirty years ago, computers and networks had begun eliminating middle management jobs. I was told that patent agents could do much of the work patent lawyers did, for much less money.

But such economies don't always happen: it sounds like patent lawyers are still in high demand.
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Old 08-19-2019, 07:55 AM
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Interesting.

One concern I'd had was that higher-paying specialties are often targeted for economizing through automation and less expensive practitioners. Thirty years ago, computers and networks had begun eliminating middle management jobs. I was told that patent agents could do much of the work patent lawyers did, for much less money.

But such economies don't always happen: it sounds like patent lawyers are still in high demand.
Could be. I'm not a lawyer myself, and don't exactly have a finger on the pulse of the patent law field. That's just my observation at one firm.

As to automation, I could talk about that for ages (it's what I do at law firms), and there are some jobs once performed by lawyers that are increasingly automated (like privilege review). The number of lawyers involved may stay the same, but the number of hours they work has been reduced greatly.

But I'd say that support staff jobs are much more threatened by automation than actual lawyers' jobs.
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Old 08-19-2019, 09:17 AM
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You're asking about two things: Is law school in the US generally a good investment? and Is the way law is taught in the US a good way to teach law?

I can't speak to the second, but on the first the statistics are clear that Campos is generally right. In the US there are far far more people graduating law school each year than there are actual lawyering jobs available (and that includes jobs that aren't strictly being an attorney but find a law degree useful).

It's slightly better than a decade ago (in part thanks to people like Campos getting the word out) but the advice is still sound.

You should only go to law school (again, US only) if:
* You have a guaranteed job already lined up (e.g. your father wants you to join his profitable practice; your current employer is willing to pay for you to get a degree, etc.);
* You get into a top-five or so law school AND have talked with enough actual working lawyers to have a realistic view of potential career paths; or
* You're financially independent enough to pay for law school and not care if you have a legal job afterwards.
  #36  
Old 08-19-2019, 10:08 AM
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You should only go to law school (again, US only) if:
* You have a guaranteed job already lined up (e.g. your father wants you to join his profitable practice; your current employer is willing to pay for you to get a degree, etc.);
* You get into a top-five or so law school AND have talked with enough actual working lawyers to have a realistic view of potential career paths; or
* You're financially independent enough to pay for law school and not care if you have a legal job afterwards.
Some people still hang up their shingle (either alone or with another new lawyer) and just start practicing law. It's exciting. But you probably shouldn't try it if you have massive debt. (in fact, I'd recommend avoiding massive debt in any case, if you want to keep your options open)

Here are my thoughts.

Law School itself if not so bad. I certainly worked harder to get my under graduate degree. Most school have some kind of clinical program, to give you some valuable experience. The basic classes are tolerable.

Many top level schools have programs to allow some students to go without crazy cost. Whether you can access one of those is worth checking out. (the top schools have huge endowments.)

Think about what kind of lawyer you want to be. There are huge differences between negotiating union contracts (if any exist anymore) and defending a major corporation for toxic contamination. Some people love the courtroom, while others would vomit if they had to spend their days arguing with judges and talking to juries. Most people probably change their focus during law school, as the options become more clear (or after law school, as a result of where they found a job).

Most lawyers aren't "rich," but many make a decent living.

Despite what you learn via lawyer jokes, the profession of law does give you the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives.
  #37  
Old 08-19-2019, 10:56 AM
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I just don't think those things are true. I think the caveats are that you should do enough research to figure out if you enjoy law or not, and if you are.likely to be successful at law school. You should not go to one of the schools that mostly accepts people who can't get in to a solid law school. Look at bar passage rates and employment rates, selectivity, etc. There are law schools out there that will let people go to law school who have no chance of passing the bar. Don't go to one of those.

If you go to a solid law school and can graduate in, say, the upper quarter of the class, and you spend summers clerking at a place you would want to work, you can do well. if you would be happy working at a decent sized firm in your state, a government job, or possibly an in house or niche job, you can do that. I'm in a fairly elite job in my state, and I don't think any of my colleagues went to top 5 law schools. But many graduated from the state law schools near the top of their class.

Last edited by eschrodinger; 08-19-2019 at 11:00 AM.
  #38  
Old 08-19-2019, 11:46 AM
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Whether it's worth it or not depends on the time it takes, the tuition it costs, what you were doing before law school and where you end up afterwards. I work for a government agency and know a lot of people who went to law school*. Some of them went to law school and then got hired as lawyers or Administrative Law Judges by my agency - that pays decently if you go to an relatively inexpensive law school and get hired right out of school. But there are a lot of people it didn't make financial sense for - I know people who went to law school and then got jobs in government agencies that didn't require law degrees who had no interest in transitioning into legal jobs. My cousin went to law school and couldn't find a job that paid more than she had been earning as a paralegal. And the ones it really didn't make sense for- two people who spent thousands of dollars and a few years going to law school at night while working at my agency. They finished law school, passed the bar and did get jobs with the same agency that required a license to practice law - they now make $5K a year more than they did before law school.




* I used to act as a prosecutor in administrative hearings conducted by my agency. Every now and then, a defense attorney would tell me I should go to law school and become an Assistant Attorney General - and the reason I didn't was because it would involve thousands in tuition, years going to school - and then, a pay cut. It would have been a different calculation right out of college, but I had already been in the workforce for over 10 years.
  #39  
Old 08-19-2019, 01:35 PM
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His arguments were that fees were much higher than most graduates could easily pay back, that the number of graduates who are employed at larger firms is very small, that many graduates are not employed at a job requiring bar-level knowledge, that meaningful ďsocial justiceĒ jobs pay poorly, that scholarships are often contingent on high placement but marking is arbitrary, that the Socratic teaching method used is inefficient, and that rankings of schools are less relevant than employment statistics. He felt law schools deliberately do not portray the realities of practicing law.

My knowledge of the law is very basic, and I know even less about lawyers and do not watch much TV. But the author clearly had an axe to grind. Iím sure some of his points are valid ó teaching complex subjects can be dull and inefficient, fees are often high, school reputations can be overrated. But is the author broadly correct? Would you recommend a bright friend to go to a highly rated law school, or focus on other things?
He's broadly correct. Law school in the United States is very expensive, and there are far more law school graduates than there are jobs that pay enough to pay for the expense in a reasonable time. And those jobs are not jobs that a lot of people -- especially idealistic people -- will thrive in.

Law schools in the U.S. are very expensive. Although the study and understanding of law is a good basis for a wide range of work, the expense puts law school graduates in a very difficult position. It can be a life-changing decision to go to law school, and often not in a good way.

Were I to advise someone, I would tell em to first do a very good study of what job will come after law school and find some way to find out if it's really a job E would want to do. I think a lot of people go to law school thinking that it's some kind of ticket to wealth and happiness, and it's not.
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:39 PM
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If you go to a solid law school and can graduate in, say, the upper quarter of the class, and you spend summers clerking at a place you would want to work, you can do well. if you would be happy working at a decent sized firm in your state, a government job, or possibly an in house or niche job, you can do that. I'm in a fairly elite job in my state, and I don't think any of my colleagues went to top 5 law schools. But many graduated from the state law schools near the top of their class.
If you can get admission to a "solid" law school ...

If you can graduate in the top 25 percent of your class ...

If you can get the right clerkships ...

If you like the work you get afterwards ...


Do you see how the odds keep shrinking with each statement? Think about the proportion of potential law school students who are excluded with each clause. Law school is a much riskier investment than people generally consider.
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:43 PM
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* I used to act as a prosecutor in administrative hearings conducted by my agency. Every now and then, a defense attorney would tell me I should go to law school and become an Assistant Attorney General - and the reason I didn't was because it would involve thousands in tuition, years going to school - and then, a pay cut. It would have been a different calculation right out of college, but I had already been in the workforce for over 10 years.
Once you're in the workforce, any sort of graduate school involves this calculation; you're giving up your salary for two, three or more years, plus there's the cost of attendance and possible debt and so forth.
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Old 08-19-2019, 02:34 PM
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If you went to Harvard, or Yale, or Columbia, or Stanford, and get a job after graduation with Simpson Thacher or Cravath Swaine & Moore, or Skadden Arps, yes, money will be thrown at you by the truckload, as soon as you get your degree. Even before that, if you get a gig as a summer associate at one of those firms.
Thats a very small proportion of fresh graduates. I was in England, but I was the equivalent, and I dealt with my colleagues in the US pretty much every day.
Firstly, while it's a good starting salary, the median for a first year American associates in a top law firm (I dealt mostly with Baker MacKenzie and the US offices of Allen and Overy) was in 2007 about 120,000 USD per year pre tax.

1. Living in NYC (or London, Singapore or Dubai for that matter) is not cheap.

2. Associate pays are peanuts, for most litigation and transactions, individual associate fees are a rounding error.

3. The pay is absolutely not in consonance with the amount of work expected to be done. 100 hour weeks, be on call pretty much all the time. It takes several years for
(a. lawyers to figure out how to deal with the workflow to have something resembling a normal life and

(b. Even have the ability to do the above

4. Besides your assigned responsibilities, working in these places involves a metric fuckton of obligations which are ancillary to but absolutely necessary to your job. No one realise just how much networking lawyers have to do and just how expensive that can be.
A new suit can easily set you back a couple of grand. Now buy several of them. Do some fine dining with clients. Maybe the damn opera.
And sure the firm will cover the costs of some of it, but if you want to get ahead, you'll do plenty on your own.

Honestly, as a lawyer, my biggest asset is my country club membership
  #43  
Old 08-19-2019, 02:44 PM
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Thats a very small proportion of fresh graduates. I was in England, but I was the equivalent, and I dealt with my colleagues in the US pretty much every day.
Firstly, while it's a good starting salary, the median for a first year American associates in a top law firm (I dealt mostly with Baker MacKenzie and the US offices of Allen and Overy) was in 2007 about 120,000 USD per year pre tax.
See here.

Starting salary at Allen & Overy (a firm with which I am very familiar -- I actually worked in their NY office for a while some years back): $190,000.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
1. Living in NYC (or London, Singapore or Dubai for that matter) is not cheap.
How well I know it -- I live here in New York City. And the vast majority of people here in the city do not make anything close to what a first-year associate, let alone a partner, at a big Wall Street firm makes. And yet they manage to live here. $200,000 a year or more (with bonuses) is not peanuts. Anyone complaining about that, well, has an exaggerated sense of their own worth.


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Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
2. Associate pays are peanuts, for most litigation and transactions, individual associate fees are a rounding error.
If you say so. I know this firm's clients don't agree.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
3. The pay is absolutely not in consonance with the amount of work expected to be done. 100 hour weeks, be on call pretty much all the time. It takes several years for
(a. lawyers to figure out how to deal with the workflow to have something resembling a normal life and (b. Even have the ability to do the above
I know, I know, I see it every day. I'm married to it. I grew up with it (father was a lawyer).
  #44  
Old 08-19-2019, 02:45 PM
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Once you're in the workforce, any sort of graduate school involves this calculation; you're giving up your salary for two, three or more years, plus there's the cost of attendance and possible debt and so forth.
Yes and no - I wouldn't have had to give up my salary to go to most types of graduate schools, including law school since part-time programs are available where I live. But the particular path being recommended to me ( go to law school and become an AAG) involved an actual pay cut* and I would most likely have been prohibited from having a private practice on the side. Which means I would have been better off getting an MSW/license as my actual job would have allowed me to practice social work on the side.





* I think at the time it was a $25K a year pay cut.

Last edited by doreen; 08-19-2019 at 02:47 PM.
  #45  
Old 08-19-2019, 03:01 PM
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Besides your assigned responsibilities, working in these places involves a metric fuckton of obligations which are ancillary to but absolutely necessary to your job. No one realise just how much networking lawyers have to do and just how expensive that can be. A new suit can easily set you back a couple of grand. Now buy several of them. Do some fine dining with clients. Maybe the damn opera. And sure the firm will cover the costs of some of it, but if you want to get ahead, you'll do plenty on your own. Honestly, as a lawyer, my biggest asset is my country club membership
For the US, even this depends a lot on your practice area, firm, and location. If you are a corporate associate on the East Coast of the USA at an old-school firm, then this is still kinda accurate. But if you're outside that practice area or location or at less stodgy firm, then it isn't true any longer.

Many firms are slowly figuring out that women are also smart human beings, and that many of their existing practices and customs exclude women. Also, as CEOs and General Counsel are decreasingly Baby Boomers and increasingly Gen X or Millenials, there is less business being done on golf courses--a trend that seems to be faster based on what my friends tell me on the West Coast than the East.

You can certainly in 2019 go work for a AmLaw 100 firm and have billable targets of 1800/year, own a couple of crappy suits from Macy's, and never golf and be just peachy and on track for partnership. You'd just have to choose practice areas and firms more carefully.
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Old 08-19-2019, 03:16 PM
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I was responding to a post about what top tier firms require.
That’s always been true about the next level down.

I am a millennial myself, the issue is not us, but the fact that decision makers for clients **are** stodgy and old. .

Plus, we have our own likes and dislikes, there is an artisanal cofffee shop near my office, full of young lawyers and other professionals.
Not cheap.
Networking is like a car. You can have a Mercedes S class or a small hatchback. Still gonna have to do it.

Last edited by AK84; 08-19-2019 at 03:18 PM.
  #47  
Old 08-19-2019, 03:59 PM
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If you can get admission to a "solid" law school ...

If you can graduate in the top 25 percent of your class ...

If you can get the right clerkships ...

If you like the work you get afterwards ...


Do you see how the odds keep shrinking with each statement? Think about the proportion of potential law school students who are excluded with each clause. Law school is a much riskier investment than people generally consider.
I agree that lots of people should not go to law school, but do. It was unclear because of the intervening post, (I should have quoted) but I was responding to this:
Quote:
You should only go to law school (again, US only) if:
* You have a guaranteed job already lined up (e.g. your father wants you to join his profitable practice; your current employer is willing to pay for you to get a degree, etc.);
* You get into a top-five or so law school AND have talked with enough actual working lawyers to have a realistic view of potential career paths; or
* You're financially independent enough to pay for law school and not care if you have a legal job afterwards.
Those are far too restrictive. There are way more people that law school can make sense for than this set of guidelines covers. You don't have to go to a top 5 law school, or have a guaranteed job, or be independently wealthy.

Another consideration is that there are public service law school loan assistance and forgiveness programs out there for those who want to work in low-paying non-profit and government service jobs. Something one needs to research and understand before relying on, but law school grads with debt won't necessarily be crippled by their debt if they take the jobs they want.
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Old 08-19-2019, 04:26 PM
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My point is that each of those things represents a limited resource. Only X percent of applicants will get into a "solid" law school. Only 25 percent of a class will be in the top 25 percent of the class. The right clerkships, etc., are limited.

So one must be prepared to consider things like "What will I do if I don't make the top 25 percent of the class, or get the right clerkships?"

The way law school admissions are set up, for the most part when you enter any particular law school, your classmates are almost all within a very narrow band of aptitude. Most of the people in the class are as good as you, as smart as you, etc. But you are graded on a curve, and it matters what grades you get in relation to your classmates.

That makes competition among classmates very difficult. You're competing with a bunch of people who are largely as good as you are. But someone is going to be a B-minus student. The curve demands it.
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Old 08-19-2019, 04:30 PM
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Well, if you want to be a lawyer, I'd say its damned necessary. If you don't REALLY want to be a lawyer, don't have a really good idea of what is involved in lawyering, aren't able to get into a top-tier school, if you don't have connections, and don't have what it takes to graduate at the top of whatever school you attend, I'd suggest you try to figure out something that you DO really enjoy and figure out how to make a living out of it.

I've only been doing this for 34 years as a lawyer and a judge, and have only encountered several thousand lawyers, but my limited experience is that folk like eschrodinger who proclaim their "love for the law" before, during, and after law school are definitely in the minority. Good for you, man, but check any of the available surveys of young lawyer job satisfaction to see how common that attitude is.

I make a very comfortable living at a job that is relatively easy for me given my skillset, but I derive not a moments pleasure or satisfaction out of any aspect of my job. It is just a job. And, there are many MANY lawyers who get paid very poorly for jobs they detest. Good luck on not being one of them.

For the vast majority of practitioners, being a lawyer is just a job. There are special sorts of stresses involved, and in many instances, it is not "happy" work. Good luck figuring if the plusses and minuses work out for you.

BTW - I know ZERO about Canadian law.
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Last edited by Dinsdale; 08-19-2019 at 04:30 PM.
  #50  
Old 08-19-2019, 04:56 PM
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if you don't have connections, and don't have what it takes to graduate at the top of whatever school you attend, I'd suggest you try to figure out something that you DO really enjoy and figure out how to make a living out of it.
You're missing the Catch-22. Only 25 percent of a class can be in the top 25 percent of the class. That means that no matter how many people decide NOT to attend a law school, 75 percent of the class will not be in the top 25 percent. That's how the curve works.

I'm not sure it is reasonable to ask someone to know in advance whether E "has what it takes to graduate at the top of whatever school you attend." How is it possible? You can't know until after you get the results.

You can't build a legal career plan based on the requirement that you are going to graduate at the top of your class. You have to consider what happens if you don't.
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