Mike Bridgeman of Minneapolis said that with an annual cost of more than $20,000 once all expenses are factored in, he wouldn't be comfortable paying for his daughter to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth if she didn't have a post-graduation plan to attend law school.
"A lot of kids graduate and still don't know what they want to do," he said. But since she is focused, he willingly paid the $6,000 yearly family contribution out of his paychecks. This year, he's tapping her college savings account. She also borrowed a small amount of money via federal loans, which he plans to help her pay back.
How common has the "epic life plan" of tumbling directly from undergrad to law school become? Judging by the flood of cheesy news stories documenting directionless undergrads, and my own personal acquaintances, every other undergrad who can't find a job is trundling off to law school. How pathetic is it, that after shelling out tens of thousands for an undegrad degree, we've come to accept that it's necessary, acceptable, and a good idea to immediately start paying $30-50k a year for another degree?
In a way, it makes sense. It certainly was what motivated me to go to law school. Can't find a "real job" with your liberal arts degree, better go back to school and get a real skill. Granted, this was before the worst of the recession set in and I might have had a fighting chance of finding some crappy entry-level job. Alas, ambition and that higher calling of "the law" rang, and it was off to hit the casebooks for me. Only when the prospective students themselves also hit the wall will everything become illuminated.
What really bothers me is this parental notion that "other kids don't know what they want to do, but my special little guy/girl is off to law school! They're going to be someone and are on the road to success in life!" Sadly, this couldn't be farther from the truth. The vast majority of people in law school are there because they have no clue what to do with the rest of their lives, they have some vague notion of what being a lawyer entails, and they are led to believe that lawyers make decent money. They take the LSAT, swallow the fraudulent employment statistics from their school of choice, and send off their tuition deposits.
Here is my sad and law school scam-embittered prediction for our young Minnesotan subject, currently studying at regional undergrad campus University of Minnesota-Duluth. Judging by the student profile at this school, our subject is most likely going to remain in Minnesota and will target at least one of the four law schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, three of which are TTT/TTTT. (Mitchell cracked top 100 this year, big deal, it is and always will be TTT.) Odds are our student is going to be looking at Mitchell or St. Thomas. Because job prospects are so miserable, even for T-1 University of Minnesota graduates, our hapless student finds herself unemployable (at least for actual paid work) during her law school summers, but shrugs it off as "the recession" and soldiers on.
Upon graduating and finding herself some $100,000 in debt, she and her family are shocked to find that, like many of the 1,000 new lawyers looking for work every year in Minnesota, she cannot find anything. She hangs on for a while, perhaps getting her already-generous dad to shell out for "solo practice" supplies, advertising, and the like. Eventually, her debt sources and soul exhausted, she moves back home, seven years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the best years of her life down the drain. Her well-meaning but dumbfounded dad sometimes wanders into the basement of his Minneapolis home, where his daughter has taken up residence. As he glances over at the broken figure of his once-happy little girl, hunched over the computer and sending off the day's dozen resumes into the abyss, he gets a little misty-eyed. "What happened to 'the plan?'" he sometimes cries out.