A lot of people regret going to law school – they just don’t admit it or know it.

I ran into two interesting articles about law school:

Borrowing My Way Through Law School and Paying it Back 30 Years Later (HT: Outside the Law School Scam)

Judging a Law Degree’s Worth

The first article describes Will, an attorney who graduated law school in 2000, worked for a firm until 2006 and then started a solo practice which he continues to do today. He left school with over $100,000 in debt. Now, he has paid off his private loans and has $46,000 in federal loans outstanding which he anticipates paying off in 2032 when he is 61 years old. Will then makes a point:

Student loans are a great mental burden. But I had to do it to become a lawyer, and I do not regret going to law school. I know I have made and will make more net income over my life because I went to law school in spite of the heavy student loan burden. I wish I had studied harder in undergrad so I could have been accepted to South Carolina with in-state tuition.

I believe student loans are the responsibility of the student who borrowed for them. The student loan debt is certainly problem in today’s society, and I am not sure how we deal with it. I would tell students taking out loans to think carefully first. Make sure you are studying something that will lead to a good income.

The second article describes Max, a 28 year old who graduated from Albany Law School in 2012. Like most of his classmates from a mediocre law school, he is having difficulty finding a job after graduation. The article says Max is making money outside of his chosen field of work while hoping to find work as an employment attorney. Max also announces that he is happy with his choice to go to law school:

[Max] said he is “absolutely not” sorry he attended law school.

“Even if I was never to work as a lawyer I’d be happy I went because the skills and the discipline that I learned there would benefit me in any career field I go into to,” [Max] said. “I really like this profession, I’m happy to be a part of it and I’m excited to start doing it — for real — in the near future.”

I have to commend Will and Max for sharing their stories publicly. Many recent, jobless graduates are too ashamed to admit that they could not find a job after law school. Most have entered law school thinking that they will graduate in the top of their class and go straight to Biglaw. Telling others that they are working at a coffee shop or being unemployed is tantamount to admitting failure. So most grads are in denial mode and try to stay upbeat.

But I question whether Will and Max really meant it when they say that they do not regret going to law school. Both warn potential law students to be careful about job prospects, rising tuition and be mindful of the large student loan debts. This backpedalspeak leads me to believe that they would have done things differently if they had a time machine. I have spoken to many jobless law school graduates one, two and even five years out of practice who have privately said that they would gladly resign from the bar in exchange for student loan forgiveness and a comfortable job.

If they do regret their decision, they can’t say it publicly because it might ruin their image. People generally hate to hire or associate with negative people, even if the words they speak are true. Also, would a law firm employer hire someone who is not happy with his decision to be a lawyer?

This is part of the reason why the law school scam continues and we have no one but ourselves to blame for this. This is why many rich lawyer wannabes buy or lease expensive luxury cars while deferring or defaulting on their student loan payments. We have to talk tough because otherwise we look like cowards. We can’t tell the truth because it is bad for business and our future.

In Max’s case, I wonder what he will do if someone offered him a $50,000 per year non-legal job with benefits, a small and steady promotion schedule and full forgiveness of students loans in exchange for resigning from the bar. I am sure Max will give this offer serious consideration.

I hope that one day, state bar associations will impose a mandatory survey for lawyers after five and ten years of practice and the results will be anonymously released. The survey will include the following questions:

  1. Do you believe that going to law school was a good career decision?
  2. Was [Shitty] Law School provide you with many career opportunities?
  3. If you are satisfied with your career, do you believe that an education from [Shitty] Law School played a significant part in your satisfaction?
  4. Based on your experiences, would you recommend that a prospective student attend [Shitty] Law School?

I’m willing to bet that most of the respondents coming from shittier schools will not give positive responses nor will they advise others to attend the school.

Most of these “after the JD” surveys cannot be trusted because they are conducted by law schools or law school associations. How awkward would it be to tell a law professor or an educator that a legal education was worthless? Even if most of the respondents were truthful, academics have a way of twisting the question in order to draw more positive answers.

I guess we’ll never really know how many people regret their decision to go to law school. There are too many factors that must be considered and people in general don’t want to be negative. It’s best to bring up this topic after a few tequilas.


2 thoughts on “A lot of people regret going to law school – they just don’t admit it or know it.

  1. Nando

    Attorneys measure their success by their salary. Also, this is still classified as a “profession” – and practitioners want to maintain some semblance of dignity or prestige. I would be willing to bet that at least 80 percent of JD holders would rather be an attorney making $50K per year – with $130K in total, student debt – than be a NYC garbage man making $75K annually, while carrying no student debt load.

    Countless young attorneys lie to their former classmates, family members, friends, associates, colleagues and others, about their level of success or income. They do not want to admit failure, or that – they being so brilliant and intelligent – they were taken in by a scam. These fools feel the need to impress others that they barely know, in order to keep up the facade.

    The scambloggers were at the forefront of making it okay to slam the law school pigs. Before these sites, pretty much every aborted lawyer internalized his failures – instead of placing any blame on the $y$tem. You still see ass-hats who are unwilling to acknowledge reality.

  2. M.

    Actually, we do have an answer as to how many people regret going to law school. Just a few years ago (I would guess in 2011, give or take a year), the ABA Jornal – online version – posed this very question. Out of approximately 250 responses, only 4, as I recall, indicated that they thought law school was a good investment or that they would attend law school again. The remaining posts expressed regret and would only advise that one attend law school if he or she came from a wealthy family.

    You should check it out. It answers your question quite clearly.


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