Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Want My Tuition Money Back!

Apparently some anonymous third year law school student from Boston College wrote a letter to the dean of the school asking for his money back if he drops out of law school now, without his law degree.

The letter is hilarious for a number of reasons.
As a 3L, my peers and I find ourselves in the midst of one of the worst job markets in the history of our profession.
The job market has been bad for lawyers since at least 2008, when Anonymous entered law school. In fact, here is but one of the many articles written during the 2008 timeframe which discussed how bad the market was. A simple Google search finds hundreds of similar articles written during 2007 and 2008 – exactly the point in time when Anonymous made the decision to enter law school.
To compound our difficulties, many of us are in an enormous amount of debt from our legal studies.
Yes, law school costs a lot of money.  This is no secret.  Also, that’s what happens when you go to a law school that costs $60,000 a year.
I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child. She is due in April. With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D, and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.
I love it that (a) despite knowing he didn’t have a job and had a mountain of student loan debt, he and his wife chose to have their first child right now; and (b) he was “convinced” to go to law school. Empty promises?  From who?  The news revealed that the economy was in the tank.  I can't imagine Boston College promised him they would find him a job when he graduated.  No school does that.  No one forced this decision, and if he wasn’t keeping up on the news about the job market for lawyers, that is his own fault. Additionally, this “remunerative career” is something most law students expect, but few get. There are only so many BigLaw jobs out there that pay $150,000 or more to start as a first year associate. Those numbers are dwindling, and the starting pay has even dropped. The truth is, most law students start out somewhere in the $60,000 or less range their first year out of law school, much to their chagrin. These statements make me wonder whether he is getting job offers, but they aren’t as much money as he believes himself to be worth. In my opinion, most first year lawyers (myself included back in the day) are worth maybe $30,000 a year. You know nothing!
In all of this, we have had very little help from career services, who all seem to be as confounded as we are by this job market.
Dude, everyone knows that career services are worthless. No one I know from law school got their job through career services. I sent out hundreds of resumes to every law firm in the entire city of Chicago (and other parts of the country) that practiced intellectual property litigation. A couple stuck, and I got a job. It takes a hell of a lot of work to find a job, even in a good economy, and even with great grades.
I’d like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.
Don't you love this?  The sense of entitlement is astounding.  He realizes now that he made a bad, unresearched decision, so he wants a take back.  It’s not like he woke up this very morning and the economy had tanked overnight.  Did he have a summer associate position? Any part time work anywhere, even if pro bono, over the past two and half years?  What has he been doing for the past two and a half years?
I would love to discuss this proposal with you further. I would also love to hear any other thoughts or solutions you may have.
Here is my solution to Anonymous:

1. Don’t even think about going to law school right now unless you get into a top tier school and rank at least top 20%; any lower tier, you must rank top 10%. You absolutely need stellar grades.  If your grades aren't top notch, do everything you can to get them up before you graduate.  That is essentially all employers have to go on when you are a first year associate.

2. Consider moving to somewhere else in the country. Open up your search to any and every city in the country that you could remotely see yourself living. If you don’t want to move, don’t complain that you can’t find a job.

3. Send resumes and personalized cover letters to any and every law firm (no matter what the size) that practices the type of law you want to practice. Be sure they actually practice what you want to do or their hiring committee will laugh at your letter. Do some research on the hiring partners or head partner in the firm and make a reference to a case or decision he or she recently won or participated in.  

4. Do a judicial externship next semester.

5. Participate in moot court next semester.

6. Get involved in your local bar association on the student committee.

7. Write articles for local bar association newsletters or other legal magazines in your desired field. They are always looking for people to write this stuff, and it looks great on your resume, and also gets your name out.

8. Don’t forget about opportunities that aren’t at law firms – such as in house counsel at companies or government jobs.

9. Apply for clerking positions for state and federal court judges. When you do this, research the Judge at length with whom you are applying for a position, and make reference to their likes and recent decisions in your cover letter. Make sure you have done your homework.

10. You are not too good for any job. At this point, you need to get your foot in the door and start working. Get rid of your dreams of a six figure salary and come back down to Earth.

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