As opposed to many of the other posts here, this is a more personal one, sort of like the one Adam B just posted, but not as useful. Keep in mind that I am in no way trying to brag about my situation or put anyone down, I am merely trying to establish a context from which I can muse about something that I have wondered about for a little while.
Most of you should be familiar with the law school scholarship game. Professor Brian Tamanaha refers to it as a "reverse Robin Hood" scheme.
The short version is this:
"Better" credentialed law students at many law schools are given varying discounts which are borne by "lower" credentialed law students. Credentials are measured by one's LSAT and UGPA. People with better credentials tend to come from wealthier backgrounds. People with lower credentials tend to come from less-wealthy backgrounds. Combining the LSAT and UGPA correlates to better rank relative to people with lower LSAT/UGPA stats. Better class rank correlates to better job prospects after graduation. Thus, law students from less-wealthy backgrounds subsidize those who come from more-wealthy backgrounds and who will have better job prospects after graduation, because "scholarships" are used by law schools to buy those with better credentials than the median.
At my law school I am a "better" credentialed law student relative to my peers, and come from a family who was able to help pay for some of my college expenses and who is able to completely cover my living expenses while in law school. Several lower-ranked law schools offered me full rides with stipulations, and naive me made a decision which in hindsight may end up working brilliantly, but more on that later. I wasn't aware until several months into law school that the GPA requirement for my scholarship meant that I would need to be in the top 1/3 of the class, something that I easily accomplished, but some of my classmates didn't.
With top grades at my school I got onto the law review, and also will be externing for a federal judge in the Fall and Spring of next year. With the help of my parents, and a combination of my lower-credentialed peers and bad federal policy, I will graduate next May with zero total education debt after 7 years of higher education.
I have become very critical of the current model of legal education. However, it might end up paying off for me, thus my internal conflict: am I truly Outside of the Scam?
Through my own efforts I have secured multiple internships/externships at county prosecutors' offices, and I cannot deny it: I am hooked. I love it. Splitting the day between court and office keeps things fresh, as well as the trials, the hearings, the arguments, the appearances, some legal research and writing, and the negotiating (on the other hand, doing it from a solo defense perspective terrifies me and I have great respect for those like Adam B who represent their clients well in such a stressful situation). Despite my law schools low prestige compared to other law schools in the region, government hiring at the county level is more about who you know and what relevant experience you have rather than where your law school rests on the USN rank.
As the office that I currently intern for hires mostly their student practitioner interns, I am much more optimistic about getting a county prosecutor job soon after passing the bar next summer, in the next two weeks I should know more about my chances next year. With starting pay in the region to be in the range of $45,000 to $55,000 a year, with zero debt, and a love of the job (interning with a student law license has made me realize this beyond a reasonable doubt), I feel like I am in a great place, though I know that getting that first job will take some luck that is outside my control.
If I get my dream job, I wonder, however, how I will feel about it considering the circumstances that made it possible. A good chunk of my classmates are going to be unemployed at the legendary 9 month mark. Another chunk will be working part time or in jobs that slightly favor a JD or do not require a JD at all. The "fortunate" ones will have gotten work with a variety of small firms and government agencies. Most will be carrying a debt which requires $1800 a month in student loan payments or more on a standard ten year plan.
I like most of my classmates. And I feel that by playing the law school game I may be part of the scam. If I get my dream job, which pays a decent amount in relation to the zero debt I am incurring, I believe I could be considered to be sort of equivalent to those in faculty and administration who benefit on the misery of law students in the current situation facing legal education.
I feel some guilt, I can't lie. I feel like a survivor before the escape boats are even launched. I feel like I've used a tainted system for my own benefit. I feel that my job and situation are ill-gotten.
This is a post I've kind of wanted to make for a while. Let me know if you think if I am Part of the Scam or not. Perhaps there are others who came out of law school with a favorable financial situation thanks to the reverse Robin Hood scholarship system and came into careers that you love, and feel similarly to me.
Thanks for listening.
UPDATE: In case I wasn't clear, as judging by the comments, I DON'T have the job lined up yet, but am well-positioned to get it. My point still stands though: if I succeed I will have done so on the backs of my debt-laden peers who will have far worse job prospects than I, thus making me feel complicit in the law school scam.