Nine times out of ten, any lawyer or current student who shows up on these boards and tries to dissuade prospective students from matriculating is greeted with skepticism at best. More commonly, jeers and personal attacks get thrown out. To be honest, I probably would have reacted the same way as a 0L, or at least told myself “this guy is just a bitter failure,” which is a fair point. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m bitter as hell.
The problem is that there are a hell of a lot of “bitter failures” these days. A lot of us who have been through the meat grinder would sincerely like to save potential future victims from such a fate. 0Ls who lash out at anyone who dares to sully their legal dream aren’t the type to take bad news well. They probably aren’t the types to rationally approach spending $150,000 on a degree of questionable utility. I say let these types go to law school. Fill it on up. Those who are so full of themselves that they are sure they'll all make top 10% and law review, can only be dissuaded by hitting the brick wall of reality head-on. Nothing is going to cause these 0Ls to abandon ship, short of actually hitting an iceberg.
What all of these 0Ls fail to realize is that we were all like them, not long ago. Starry-eyed, self-confident, and positive we were going to show that damned law school curve a thing or two! I even was a member of one of these boards before I matriculated, and it sure made me feel smug knowing that all of my fellow 0Ls were stoking each others' dreams and sticking our heads in the sand. We had it all figured out.
Recently, a few noble scambusters took it upon themselves to venture over to TLS and make a direct appeal to prospective law students asking them to reconsider. They were greeted with sneers and insults. As a second attempt, primo scambuster Locke decided to double down and see if he couldn’t get at least one 0L to re-evaluate his decision to attend.
Let's take a look at how these 0Ls handled a little friendly advice to reconsider going to law school:
“Obviously you're unhappy with your own legal career, and you're compensating for that by telling ambitious 20-somethings that they will fail. You seem to get some kind of gratification out of all this, which is bizarre.”
Admittedly, some of the anti-law school types who show up on these boards are blunt and visibly angry with the law. Do these 0Ls truly all believe that they are going to be immune to the depression, burnout, and attrition that plagues the legal profession? As they all self-identify as “the elite” who are all destined to be at the top of their class, then perhaps they are.
Hell, I used to be an ambitious 20-something. I still am a 20-something, although law school has aged me terribly. (But you should see the other guys!) I don’t want to see any law student fail. My jaded outlook has nothing to do with wishing others ill. I’ve merely been hit head-on by the law school scambus and dragged beneath it, against the pavement, for several miles. Scambusting bloggers would really, truly like to see that as few people as possible suffer similar fates.
Many forum members are proud they bypassed the T14 and received a “good scholarship” from a crappier school. This is swell, if true, and if they can really go to law school for dirt cheap, more power to them. They will only be out three years of lost time. However, I’m willing to bet that more than one excited 0L hasn’t investigated just how hard it will be to keep the scholarship. Some schools can be fair with the minimum GPA required to stay on scholarship. Many others set the bar ridiculously high with the intention of yanking students off scholarship after their grades come in.
In the end, these 0Ls mount a valiant defense of their decision to go to law school. They are articulate and moderately well-informed about market conditions. They realize that the job market sucks. However, no matter how many of them cite their “actual desire to become a lawyer,” or “lack of expectations for biglaw anyway,” it’s clear many are in denial about their decision to gamble $90-150k on the off-chance that everything turns around by 2013 or 2014.
A 0L speaks:
“The regular posters…are extremely well informed, we've done the research on this. We know the economy is shit and that the legal profession is not likely to recover any time soon. If anything, maybe you could say we are cautiously optimistic that things might be better by the time the class of 2013 is looking for jobs. But there is NOBODY here that thinks everything is great and we're all going to get jobs.”
I must ask: then why the hell are you all going to law school? (“Because it’s not going to happen to ME!”) Yeah, bro, I thought the same thing just a few short years ago.
More from 0Ls:
“Most people on this site, it seems, are either getting substantial scholarships at riskier schools, or attending schools with decent odds. Is it gambling? Sure. Are many of us already faced with years of unemployment/underemployment due to our undergraduate degrees, many of which were sought simply to proceed to the JD? Absolutely. For a lot of us, this situation blew up after we were dedicated to this track. It's hard, Junior year of undergrad, to decide that you're suddenly going to become an engineer, or a Doctor.”
Dedicated to this track? As in, invested perhaps 100 hours studying for the LSAT, buying a few Powerscore books, maybe plunking down for an actual prep course? Consider that a fee for having learned to avoid law school. I know it’s hard as an undergrad seeing your plan torpedoed and not knowing what to do. Many of us felt like law school was the only thing to do given our undergraduate degree. The time and money you have “invested” in your law school dream is insignificant compared to how much precious time and money you are going to light on fire chasing that J.D. Write off what you’ve done so far as a learning experience, but don't let it color the future and make you think you have to keep chugging along.
As for deciding you’re suddenly going to become an engineer or doctor? How is it any harder than deciding you’re going to be a lawyer? In every case, you’re deciding to take on additional schooling and debt in hopes of getting a professional job. It’s exactly the same decision-making process involved in choosing law school. The economy took a dive after you decided you wanted to go to law school. Schools outside the T-14 are seeing double-digit unemployment rates. Even some qualified grads from the very top schools are working for free or not finding real, full-time work. I can’t emphasize enough how bad it is out there. 0Ls' optimism and self-confidence would, in other circumstances, be admirable. Having been there ourselves, we can say: please listen to the bloggers and disenchanted lawyers out there! No one has to stay on the track to law school just because it has been their plan. Things have changed; perhaps we all ought to as well. Is this really a radical proposition?