9 Reasons Not to Attend Law School

by Joshua Auriemma on January 3, 2009

To preface, this is sort of a joke.  I say sort of, because I think there are some people who are just made to go to law school, and this probably won’t and shouldn’t deter them.  It’s mostly a warning to those people considering law school for lack of anything better to do.  With that said, I present to you 9 Reasons Not to Attend Law School:

Photo by Waikay Lau at Flickr9. Expensive Books

Law textbooks may be one of the most overlooked but ridiculous aspects of law school.  I spend an average of $500 on books per semester.  This isn’t like physics where a compilation of relevant laws and equations will be useful in the future.  These giant, verbose collections — second only to an Ayn Rand novel — are useful once, because almost everything in them is within the public domain.  Only once in my entire life have I opened up a law book (patents) to assist me with a real case.  It’s generally way easier to open up a digest or search with Lexis or Westlaw.

Oh, and did I mention that you’ll be carrying around 60 lb of books in your giant freaking backpack?  That presents another problem:  do you get a rolling backpack and look like a tool?  No, you don’t.  You wear a giant backpack and knock over anybody stupid enough to stand behind you on the bus.

 

8.  You’re Not That SmartPhoto by mbiskoping via Flickr

Once upon a time, you probably thought you were pretty smart (otherwise, why are you considering law school).  Well, friends, law school is a time for you to find out that you’re not as smart as you thought you were.  This is a time for you to learn that even though you’ve eaten wine and cheese with some of the top particle physicists in the world, there will be a guy in your con law class that makes you look like a frigging idiot.  I’m not kidding.  You know those guys that walk into Dunkin’ Donuts drooling on themselves and scratching their crotches?  That’s what you look like next to this guy (or girl).

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Self, I’ll be the one looking at the other people like they’re drooling on themselves.”  To that, I will bid you the following warnings:  (1)  no, you’re not that guy or girl.  He or she may be reading this right now, but you’re not him.  He’s probably writing his next book, or at least reading The Law of Corporations: In a Nutshell (In a Nutshell); and (2)  not only are you not that guy, but the odds are that at least one-fourth of your classmates will be looking at you like that.  Why?  Because people get accepted to law schools that are appropriate for them (grade-wise and LSAT-wise).  Right off the bat, this should tell you that you’re probably not much smarter than your classmates.  There are, of course, some exceptions.

picture-77.  Law-cest

It’s ridiculously tempting.  You’re cooped up all the time with the same people, studying the same thing.  Who else could understand the insane amount of time you’re going to spend studying other than a law student?  Look at her.  She’s hot.  She’s smart.  Why not, right?  Wrong!  Remember in undergrad when you dated that girl in calculus and it got real awkward when you broke up?  Good thing you didn’t run in the same group of friends, right?  You only had to deal with it when she took the batteries out of your TI-89 and threw them on the floor.  Right, Lindsay?  Anyway, imagine that scenario if you were in every single class together for a year, and then continued to take a bunch of classes together for two more after that.  In addition, you roll in the same clique (collectively, “the law school”), and you bump into each other everywhere you go.

Oh, and did I mention that everyone in the law school knows more about your personal life with her than you do?  It’s baffling, really, but we’ll discuss that in more detail later.

 

6.  Energy Drink AddictionPhoto by Imagined Reality at Flickr

This past semester, my girlfriend and I cleaned out the stock of all Bawls at not one, but two nearby convenient stores in preparation for finals.  Energy drinks cost too much money, and take a toll on your health.  On the bright side, no one’s heart has exploded yet (to my knowledge).  People at law school are not shy about asking you for a sip of the energy drink that you brought to class either, which probably contributes to the incredible speed at which viruses spread through law school.  If you see a law student near the end of the semester, pay careful attention:  she’s probably twitching.

Everyone at law school has some kind of mental or physical problem.  Most drink too much, some are depressed, some have ADHD, and 99% of them are stressed out most or all of the time.  In addition, there are always concerns of carpal tunnel, eyestrain, stress headaches, and ulcers.  We also eat out too much because there’s no time to cook.  It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, but I proffer that it’s a right of passage.

Photo by Dean Terry at Flickr5.  It’s Grammar School All Over Again

 See if you can pick out any similarities:

  • first year, you don’t get to pick any of your classes or professors, it’s all assigned to you before you get there, and you have no way to transfer out
  • You have a gi-normous backpack and carry around your books all the time
  • The same people are in all of your classes, all day, every day
  • Everyone calls you by your last name again
  • There’s plenty of drama to be had
  • Rumors (and worse, the truth) spread through the entire school at the speed of light

I can hear you thinking:  law school must be different somehow, right?  Well, right.  Close your eyes and spend a moment thinking back to your elementary school days.  Okay good, you’ve got it.  Now imagine that, only add alcohol and sex.  Yeah, it’s not a pretty picture.

 

4.  No Leisure ActivitiesPhoto by Jonathan C at Flickr

It’s not like you lose the drive to do things for fun — you just lose the time to do them.  1L year, we were always able to sneak in plans to play some soccer or football, but it required careful planning and there were always the people that didn’t show up because they had too much work.  Pickup games of ultimate are generally no longer viable.

Do you read for fun?  You might not anymore after having to read 200 pages of dense law material per night.  I literally have not read a novel for fun since I began law school.

I don’t mean to say that law school is entirely all work and no play, but it is a certainty that you will have less time than ever to enjoy life.  You’ll find yourself making the best out of endless nights in the law library or in the student lounge by doing terrible things like having intellectual discussions about jurisprudence.

Photo by cobalt123 at Flickr3.  Huge Loans

Law school is insanely expensive, even if you get decent scholarships.  I elected to forego some full boats to attend a school that I had a good gut feeling about.  Every time I look at my loan records, I want to punch myself in the face.  I’m embarrassed to say the total amount, but my loan payments will be the majority of an average US job salary.

No problem, right?  Because you’re going to get a biglaw job and start off at $160,000 a year!  Well, sure, that might happen.  If you’re at a T12 school, your chances are certainly up there.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to get awesome grades, make law review and/or moot court, have good prior work experience, and interview really, really well.  If you still think that you’re a shoe in, there’s no sense in talking to you.

Statistically speaking, most of you will not work in biglaw.  That’s where the next problem begins.  Salaries for lawyers are very polar.  Generally speaking, they’re huge for biglaw people, reasonable for medium-size private firm people, and crap for everyone else.  There are exceptions, particularly for boutiques, but you get the idea.  Are you looking forward to being a district attorney like the guy you saw on Law & Order?  Hopefully you can pay off your $100k+ loans on a salary of ~35-50k.  Interested in representing indigents with a state-sponsored employer?  How about way less money?  Thankfully, some states and law schools offer loan forgiveness for attorneys that decide to pursue public interest, and if you’re interested in going that route, you definitely need to look into that.

 

Photo by Cayusa at Flickr2.  Your Friends Are Your Enemies

If you’re fortunate enough to go to a law school (like me) where people are generally pretty friendly, you’ll probably only notice this aspect of law school around finals.  Even at the nicest school, where people send you class notes without your having to ask, law students turn into rabid animals interested only in self-preservation about two weeks before finals.  People may start avoiding you altogether so that you can’t ask them for help.  Remember that girl in property that was so quick to offer you her input before spring break?  All of a sudden, she can’t tell you the difference between a life estate and a fee tail.

It’s not their fault though:  the school is essentially forcing them to compete.  So long as they don’t start sabotaging your computer or hiding library books, consider the doctrine of No Harm, No Foul governing.

Photo by tildalin from Flickr1.  The Curve is Evil

The curve is the beast of all beasts.  It’s what keeps your friends your enemies, and it’s why we feel the driving force to compete with our peers 24 hours a day.  During undergrad, I loved the curve.  I scored something around a 60 in one of my quantum mechanics exams, which turned into a B+ or an A- after the curve was applied.  Life was good.

Fast forward to my very first grade of law school:  my professor handed me back my closed memo with a raw score written at the top.  97.  Ninety-freaking-seven.  I was elated.  I almost couldn’t have done any better.  Imagine my surprise then, when my professor wrote the conversion down on the board and my awesome grade turned into a B+.

The biggest problem is that while undergrad has some natural error correction whereby one fluke during an exam or a problem set can be fixed, you usually only get one grade per class in law school.  That’s right:  almost all classes in law school assign no homework, and your grade is 100% determined by your final exam.  Having an off-day?  No problem.  It’s only the rest of your life.  Some people obviously manage to consistently score well, though, so maybe there is some merit to the system.