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Some reflections

July 18, 2010

Update: I’ve been warned that my blog has been linked at a site that specializes in negativity. Respectful comments are welcome; however, anyone who appears to be a troll will be blocked. I welcome civil debate here, but you don’t have a right to free speech here. I consider this my personal space and trolls are not welcome. Please be respectful and polite.

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Wow, after that last post, I’m feeling the pressure to write something deep or intelligent…

Hmmm …. nope. Got nothing.

But let’s remember. This blog is basically just a chronicling of my law school experiences, and it isn’t meant to inform or advise. It’s just me talking about myself. Take it or leave it.

I do have to thank Elie and Above the Law, though, for linking to me and boosting the profile of my little ol’ blog. I got over 2000 page views in the last week! Which for me is huge, considering I was averaging around 25-30 page views a day before that. I realize that most of those people think I’m an idiot, but I hope a small fraction of those people like me enough to stick around and follow my journey.

Just look at that page views chart! (Click to embiggen)

And I am totally stoked to be accepted as a MILP, thanks to Butterflyfish! There’s a niche for everyone, and Moms in the Legal Profession suits me to a T. I’m very much looking forward to turning to these ladies for inspiration, support, commiseration, and laughs.

Some reflections on the comments I received last week:

  • I read every comment and tried to reply to most. It was hard to remain upbeat and friendly, but I tried.
  • After giving myself a couple of days to process, the comments didn’t bother me anymore. I was stunned at first, but I realized quickly not to take it personally.
  • Because none of these people know me personally. I asked myself: “Which of these people has my best interests at heart?” None of them do. Every single one was speaking from a place of personal self-interest (for example, what they have gone through). I am trying to take advice where it is well-intentioned, but the mean-spirited stuff is being ignored. Completely. Not because I’m stupid, but because I don’t give mean people purchase on my soul.
  • EPIPHANY: I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I tried to explain, but I now regret it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation or a defense of my decision to attend law school. I want to go to law school, and THAT. IS. THAT.
  • I am an optimistic person and I refuse to let the Eeyores drag me down. I am fully supported by my husband, my parents and extended family, and my friends. In real life, no one has tried to dissuade me; they all believe in me. These are the people I surround myself with, and I know this makes a difference.
  • I am excited to go to law school. I really am. Not nervous, not scared, not obligated. Happy and excited.
  • I’m not scared about “after law school.” I’m as realistic as anybody, but I’m not looking for a job this year. I’m going to school. I’ll worry about the job later. And I will get a job. And I will pay off all my school loan debt. And I will have a career that satisfies me. You don’t have to believe me, but I’m not asking your opinion.

I’m even going to go a step further and be completely honest about this whole law career thing.

I don’t know exactly what it’s like to practice law. I don’t! Apparently, it is a mindless, menial job that requires no special qualifications whatsoever, if I am to believe what I read. Perhaps. I don’t really know. But then, likely none of those people have been a copyeditor either. Mind numbing, tedious work doesn’t intimidate me. I suspect, too, that a lot of people went into law with hopes of “changing people’s lives” or “helping people.” Which is great. I also sense a lot of dissatisfied lawyers have a creative side that is dying to get out, and realized too late that law doesn’t suit their creative needs. I get that. That’s not me.

I don’t know exactly what kind of law I want to practice. And I’m okay with that. At the moment, I’m most interested in Civil Rights — as in, protecting religious freedom in this country. I’m deeply concerned about the attacks on religion by the courts and groups like ACLU, and I want to have a part in defending religious rights. BUT. I realize I may not get my dream job in that, at least not at first. Or, I may have to do it pro bono. Therefore, I am keeping my options open. I’ll need something regular to pay the bills, and I am open to working something less than my dream while either pursuing my dream on the side or waiting for the right opportunities. This doesn’t make me dispassionate, this makes me pragmatic.

I don’t know exactly what the job market will look like in 2013. Neither does anyone else. It could be better, it could be even worse. WHO KNOWS. What I do know is that the status quo is no longer working for me. I am at a place in my life where decisions must be made; changes must occur. I could sit on my hands thinking about it a while longer, but I will be 40 years old in a few years, and I don’t want to be starting my career at the age of 40; I want to start it now. I have no justification whatsoever for continuing to stay at home and putting off a career. This is a golden window of opportunity, and I am seizing it. I chose the lofty goal of law school. So sue me.

And that, as Forrest would say, is all I have to say about that.

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Mom used to tell me this little ditty:

I know my heart, I know my mind.

I know that I stick out behind.

Wait … well, the first line’s great anyway. I do know my heart, and I do know my mind. That’s the awesome thing about being 30-something.

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25 comments

  1. :-)


    • Dear 30-something,

      First and foremost, congratulations on your decision to attend law school. Having been a first year law student + English degree graduate myself, I can tell you that we are not dissimilar. What lies ahead of you is something akin to a speed bullet train: once you step in, be prepared for a whirlwind of a ride that will keep going for the next 3-4 years. Yes, it’s hard, grueling work, but like you, I believe you can do amazing things with a J.D. Moreover, if the law is truly your passion and if it makes you happy, then it’s arguably recession-proof.

      Second, on your epiphany to go to law school: I urgently advise you to narrow it down from a robust epiphany to an exact reason. During orientation week in law school, the Dean of Student Services made a suggestion that budding 1Ls write down specifically, whatever reason it was that we chose to attend law school. Post it on a wall, fold it up and slip it into your wallet – heck, nail it on your forehead. Wherever you post it, keep it in your mind and keep it fresh. I say this to you because simply saying You Want To Go To Law School (period: and that is that), is about as effective as telling yourself that you will lose 15 lbs by next summer’s bikini season. Your emphatic resolution wants narrowing down especially in this field.

      I say this to you, not because I am sadistic, negative or cynical (which arguably I am – but then again, many law school students, lawyers, professors, judges are). I am only imparting these words from my own experience in a manner that I hope is helpful. Wherever you go, you have undoubtedly experienced this from signing up Day 1 to register for the LSAT, you will face an uphill battle. Many people, especially here on this thread or on other blogs, will dissuade you. The fact of the matter is, you’ve made your decision – now, narrow it down. The reason for this is that there will be plenty of excruciatingly lonely days spent in the library, away from family, friends, boyfriend (or just civilization: and no, fellow 1Ls do not count). You will question yourself, you will question the work you do, the numbness will ensue and this is what they describe as “hitting the wall”. Whether it’s during your 1L or your 3L or even 5-10 years down the road in the profession, it’s important to be true to yourself and ask yourself, what you are really doing there in the first place.

      Third, to argue the flipside, I would argue that there are many, many things you can do in this economy without a law degree and yes, with a liberal arts degree in the legal field. For instance, paralegals are in surprising demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects their growth rate to jump 28% between 2008 – 2018; whereas attorneys in this market face a more troubling job market. This should come to no surprise to you as ATL points out: the market is saturated. Further, without the crushing debt and the 2,000+ hours requirements, paralegals are able to more effectively balance work/home/play. Something to consider since you are a mother.

      Next, you say that you have no clue what an actual attorney does. This worries me because as a future attorney, you should do your due diligence and research. To make such a huge investment, both time and money-wise, you should take every advantage to get to know what attorneys do. One way to do that is with practical, hands-on experience (e.g. summer clerkships). Another way is to volunteer at clinics (check your law school). Also, network among your bar association and the 2Ls at your school. It’s so important to get an idea of what attorneys do, especially in the field you are considering. If it’s Civil Rights or Public Interest, then run a Google search on topics of interest. Explore Equal Justice Works. Moreover, read: “The Official Guide to Legal Specialities”. Also, read “How to Get Into Law School” by Susan Estrich (Professor of Law at USC). She is a monumental figure in this profession and provides advice on how to succeed in law school, on the job, and life beyond. Finally, read: “On Being Happy, Healthy, and an Ethical Member” in the legal profession (written by a former partner from a BigFirm).

      I really wish you the best in your success and believe you can further your dreams, no matter what market, so long as you ask yourself the hard questions now and prepare yourself in advance for what to expect. Do your research, ask questions, network and apply early (for everything: scholarships, clerkships, internships, research assistant positions). Do not get absorbed by the negativity around you. Also, do not neglect yourself (health) or your loved ones. Your support system is incredibly important in law school.

      Best of everything to you.


  2. Wow! Congrats on all the traffic, I’m jealous :)


  3. A.J., for the sake of both the detractors and the protractors, please, PLEASE do not give up this blog. Blogs are like pancakes, when you start into it you’re all excited but halfway through you’re sick of it.


    • I’m not going to give up the blog. I think I just needed to draw the line in the sand. :-)

      Thanks for continuing to read!


  4. “I will be 40 years old in a few years, and I don’t want to be starting my career at the age of 40; I want to start it now.”

    So, because you don’t want to wait a few years to start your new career, you decided to go to law school, which means waiting 3+ years before starting your new career?

    Well, they never said lawyers were supposed to be good at math.


    • Please read my side-bar statement about comments. If your manners continue to be this appalling, you will be blocked.


  5. Well, nothing wrong with making up your mind and sticking to it. Seriously.
    As far as chossing an area of law – I really don’t think most law students know what they want to practice in the future (even most of those who think they do). I think you really have to do the work to find out if you like a given area (I tried environmental, then IP and I now I’m wrapping up an MBA, so I’m firmly in that camp).
    There could be significant changes coming up in the practice of law, so you might be entering at an interesting time (for example, check out the Law Society Act 2007 in England and ABA’s 20/20 commission, etc.). If you meet anyone who really knows what things will look like in 2013, please post their contact info here. I’d like to get a look at their crystal ball.


    • “Well, nothing wrong with making up your mind and sticking to it.”

      Do you say the same thing to people who are in shitty, abusive relationships?


      • Call me crazy, but I would consider the decision to remain in an abusive relationship somewhat different than the decision to go to law school.
        That reminds me of one law school pointer: avoid slippery slope arguments if at all possible. They are generally weak reasoning and rarely satisfy professors.


    • That’s what I’ve heard repeatedly, which is why I’m keeping my options open. Thanks for your comments!


  6. Hi A.J.

    The best thing you can do is simply ignore the negative comments you’re getting/about to get. As long as you’ve got the memo about law school debt v. expected income post-law school and you realize that the numbers put out in your school’s brochure are exaggerated, then you know more than anyone else whether or not you should go.

    Be forewarned, your blog has been published/spread to a very negative/name-calling group and you will likely get the usual comments from them shortly. I think because they have been failures they are terrified about someone else heading off and NOT failing because it will make them look even worse.

    Ignore/Delete them…

    Doug


    • Thanks for the heads-up, Doug. As stated in my side-bar, anyone who is abusive toward me or others will be blocked.


  7. “Call me crazy, but I would consider the decision to remain in an abusive relationship somewhat different than the decision to go to law school.
    That reminds me of one law school pointer: avoid slippery slope arguments if at all possible. They are generally weak reasoning and rarely satisfy professors”

    Yeah, a professor grilling you for 30-60 minutes in front of all of your peers, engaging in sophistry and “hide the ball” any never acknowledging the value of anything you get right is entirely different from an abusive relationship. At least, it’s less like an abusive relationship than working in big law.

    Also, for the record, I didn’t make a slippery slope argument. If I had, it would have been more of the form “If we allow people to go to law school then we must allow them to get into other bad relationships.”


    • Unless you have actually been abused, I suggest you refrain from using abusive relationships as a metaphor for anything. It’s absolutely disgraceful.


  8. F


    • Apologies for my phone. I wish you the best, but you really are heading down the road to disaster. With a family and obligations that are not amenable to flight, your future as a 6-figure debt slave in one of the most oversaturated fields in the US is not bright.

      I get optimism, and I even get that the line between optimism and delusion is finer than many realize, but you’re treading awfully close to objective delusion.

      That said, do what you want and best of luck.


      • What about pessimism and the fine line between it and delusion/paranoia?

        Everything in moderation…but at least acknowledge both extremes, not just the one you support.

        JD2B
        http://tobeajd.blogspot.com


        • Well, I lost pretty much everything following my dream of entrepreneurship. And I’m still pursuing it. I may be a lot of things, but a pessimist that snipes at others’ dreams because I’m too much of a coward to follow mine I am not.

          There are a thousand different ways for her to follow her dreams without signing up for a lifetime of debt that may – and likely will – significantly and adversely affect the lifestyle of her and her family.

          Everything I’ve read on this site has all the hallmarks of disaster, but like I said, she should do what she wants.


          • I meant no offense…I suppose I should read A.J.’s history a bit, as I thought she was in a similar situation to me and it wouldn’t be a financial hardship to attend. That’s why I thought the “delusional” comment was a bit extreme–I’ll dig deeper, as I do NOT advise anyone to “follow their dream” of going to law school if it warrants anything more than a very minor affect on their financial well-being.

            JD2B


          • angryfutureexpat is a living example of how capitialism doesn’t care about dreams or ideals – it cares about re$ult$.

            If you “WIN”, it’s easy street. If you “FAIL”, then it haunts you for a very long time – unless you are a large bank or insurance company who made imprudent investments, in which case you whine for a bailout while simultaneously tightening the thumbscrews on the little guy.

            Apparantly, the powers-that-be never read the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, whether its business loans or student loans. But hey, all that forgiveness gets in the way of mega-profit$, and who doesn’t want to snort blow off of the dash of their Bentley…?

            OK, a little off topic. Just offering a little solidarity to angryfutureexpat.


  9. I know there is a lot of negativity out there in relation to this subject about attending law school. Some of it may be overstated, but a lot of it is from actual people who are dealing with the aftermath of their decision.

    I understand you WANT.TO.GO.PERIOD. I respect that – I really do. However, I am an almost 40-something who accomplished exactly what you are contemplating. It is my sincere hope that you reconsider.

    I, too, have a child. I had a good education, a strong technical career and was debt-free. Now, as a “proud” attorney, I am up to my ears in debt. My spouse and I struggle to get by month-to-month. It pains me to think that things were “better” prior to my decision to go back to school. I write checks to the student loan-sharks instead of investing in my child’s future.

    If your spouse is able to carry you and your family through with no real difficulties, then more power to you. If you have good connections and know the “right” people, such that you are virtually guaranteed entry into the legal arena, then fantastic – I wish you the best with your education and legal career.

    If you don’t have these things, then as one non-traditional student to another – please don’t go. You can’t bootstrap your way into a “successful“ legal career because it takes a lot of backing, both in terms of finances and social capital. I hate to see someone who has a good thing going get taken in by a pipe dream sold by the educational-industrial complex. Right now, with things as they are, law is not the way to go, especially for someone who has already paid some dues. I’m not sure when law will ever be the way to go for someone without strong connections.

    Again, I’m not trying to be a “hater”. I’m glad you have supportive friends and family. However, with all due respect, do consider the source. Are they attorneys? I had “less” supportive friends and family, and I wish I had listened to them.

    I respect dreams and sincere interest. If you have the money and connections, then great. But without a HUGE safety net, don’t do it. Really. Don’t.

    Best regards.


  10. Okay, so I just scanned through the history and I got that out of pocket expenses are going to be roughly $22,000 per year…let’s round up and say $25,000 per year.

    I also saw that A.J. said that her husband earns enough to support the family, but I didn’t see information on how much an additional $25,000 per year in debt might change that.

    Lastly, I saw that A.J. was working making about $8.50 or so per hour, so going to law school instead of continuing as a cashier won’t involve all that much “opportunity cost.”

    So, how much WILL the $25,000 per year hurt? At all? Or were you going to buy a $50,000 Lexus that you’ll now pass on to use that extra cash on your education and keep your old Camry?

    What if you lose the scholarship after 1L? I think you SHOULD consider making a promise that you will drop out rather than pay sticker because you have the sunk cost of 1L in the bag. That is, unless you have an extra $70,000 lying around collecting dust anyway…in that case, spend it on what you want.

    I would hate to see anyone sacrifice funds that they’ll need to help their children through college just to pursue a law school dream, but I don’t think any of us really know enough about your financial situation to know if this would be debilitating or not. And you’ve already committed to going, so that is that for 1L anyway.

    However, do think about 2L and 3L if you lose that scholarship…it’s something to consider. That first $22,000 isn’t going to kill you if it turns out this is a mistake, but if you roll up full tuition for 2L and 3L the $100,000 probably will taste a bit bitter if you don’t line something up pretty quickly after graduation (which you can’t count on).

    Doug
    JD2B (http://tobeajd.blogspot.com)


  11. Hi again. After doing some thinking, I’ve realized that the the things I’ve said before were a little harsh. I’ve got some more refined comments now:

    1) Do your absolute best to limit your student loans to federal. You can consolidate them afterward and lock in a decent interest rate for, I think something like 27 years.

    2) going off of 1), make an estimate of how much your monthly student loan payment will be. Mine’s about $500. So that means I pay about $6000/ year. The analysis should be “does my law degree allow me to make more than $6K/ year *more* than without my law degree?” My answer is a resounding yes. It’s something to take into account. You should at least be breaking even.

    3) DO NOT USE CITIASSIST OR STUDENTLOAN.COM. I’m this close do ending up the news if they call me ONE more time because they don’t see that my payment was received. They treat you like the scum of the earth till they realize it’s their system that’s delayed and that you made your payment on time. If you must use privates, such as Sallie Mae, make sure your interest rate is LIBOR + some small addition. Really, REALLY watch the interest rates of your loans. They seem like a far off fairy tale now, but they hit you like a tidal wave. That may be one great benefit of being 30 something- you know about these things already for the most part.

    3) Hornbooks, hornbooks, hornbooks. “casenotes” series tied to your casebooks. If anyone tells you not to use these, never speak to that person again.

    4) Do recon on your teachers. Find out of if you Wills and Trusts guy you want to take is obsessed with ancient common law rules of wills of Scotland, and avoid. When possible, take classes taught by practitioners, not professional professors. They’re USELESS and all you learn is their personal beliefs and bents.

    5) Is it possible for you to go part time in the evening? With summer classes, you can still graduate in 3 years, all the while having an opportunity to gain invaluable experience during the day. Even 3 days/ week working for free in some law office will put you miles ahead of the competition. This is what I did. As a result, after 3.5 years of law school, I had 3 years of experience as well. Despite my grades being in the toilet and being from a TTT, I don’t worry about employment (as much).

    6) You HAVE to put your personal prejudices aside. You will FAIL EXAMS if you go in there with a mindset like “the religious person has to win because that’s morally right.” Guess what… she *gets* that abortion in the first trimester and the Federal Government gets to tell you how much wheat you can grow even to feed your own family. On an exam, you have no beliefs and no opinions. If the cops illegally entered the home of the child molester, he may go free. Deal with changing the law after you get out. In my home country, we have a saying, “until you ford the river, you must call the bear your uncle.” I realize implies you’re riding a bear across a river, but go with it.

    7) Find out what your prof. likes on exams. For example, I had one prof who knocked credit off if you threw the kitchen sink at a question then ruled out several issues one by one. The next prof I had was the *exact* opposite and I got a C on an exam because I didn’t list the issues that *didn’t* apply, although they clearly didn’t. Remember, these are people who failed in the real world so they have to sit in an ivory tower and teach.

    I’ll have more pearls of law student wisdom as I think of more.


  12. 30 something law student,

    It is commendable that you are willing to make your own personal views vulnerable to the outside world, an act that many people are simply unwilling to do. The reasons for and against law school are numerous. The scambloggers as they are called are often sneering and jaded, a fact that they admit themselves. The one fact that has struck me though after working in the Los Angeles Superior Court House for some time is that many, many attorneys are frustrated with their lot/position in life. Not all, but many. It is an incredibly gruelling career/profession. The best advice to give any law student is asking them the question of are they willing to dedicate a significant portion of their life to this, maybe even to the point that other facets of their life will be negatively impacted. Keep up the good work
    Seamus



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