Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reality Check – Are you still going to law school for the right reasons?

I decided to write this after reading a couple of comments from a prior post.  The first was someone stating that their career path towards law school began way back in college, many years before actually attending law school, and the seeds of a legal career were sown six years (or more) before actually graduating from law school.  The second was someone pointing out that we have just a month or two left to dissuade the incoming class of 1Ls, many of whom will be making the worst decision of their lives.

And as to the second point, I can’t underestimate its importance.  There is more than enough time to get off the law school path and save yourself a couple of hundred grand in wasted tuition and three years of your life which would be spent better doing almost anything. Forget how many commitment letters you’ve signed, and don’t even get started thinking about “sunk costs” into application fees, LSAT registration and preparation, and so forth.  You can still decide against law school.

Furthermore, deciding to not attend law school at this late stage would actually sting the law school establishment.  You’ve lost your seat deposit (and gained the rest of your life – a bargain when you think about it), while the school has just lost at least $30,000 (1L tuition) that it was counting on, perhaps even a full $150,000 or more (three years of tuition, fees, on-campus housing, bookstore profits, and all the little things that add up over time.)  Those kinds of losses make law schools panic, because that money is already spoken for and has to come from somewhere.

As to the first point, now is perfect to reevaluate exactly why you’re going to law school.  Maybe this is a decision you made years ago, perhaps even four or more years ago.  Perhaps you are someone who chose political science as a major back in 2009, thought that law school was where you’d end up, and haven’t really thought about it since then.  Well, think about it now.  This is your last chance to escape without spending tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

You’re still not past the last exit off the highway to Mistakesville, but it’s coming up in the next mile or so.

So you have your law school acceptance in hand, you’re going to look for an apartment soon, buy books, sign loan paperwork, and move to a new city.  You’re all set to go.  All your ducks are lined up, you’re ready.  You’re about to spend, over the next three years, a hundred times what it’s cost you to get to this point.  But take one last step back.  Think about this for a moment.  Why are you going to law school?

Or let me rephrase that.  Why are you going to law school now?

  • Prestige?
  • Money?
  • Stability?
  • Versatility?
  • Want to help people?
  • See yourself practicing XYZ law?
  • You have a scholarship?
  • You’ve got into a top tier school?
  • You like arguing?
  • You want to use your brain?
  • What else can you do with your degree?

I will not rehash the solid evidence that discredits every single one of those issues – every single one! – so why are you going to law school?  In this day and age, where so much is known about the law school scam, where it’s clear that this is not a movement that can be dismissed by claiming we’re all losers or nuts or whatever else you’d like to call us, why are you going to law school?

Please, I’d really love to hear comments from those who legitimately think they have a good reason to go to law school.  And there are some good reasons.  I’m not going to hand them to you on a plate, but there are some good reasons to still go to law school.  So what are they?  What makes you different?  Why will this bet pay off for you?  I’m serious about this – if you have a good reason, please explain in the comments section below.  I, for one, will not criticize anyone who is going to law school for the right reasons.

But even to those who are going to law school for the right reasons, I’d ask the following question: why now?

Why attend now, when the system could well be on the brink of huge changes, very favorable changes for law students?  Tuition costs may be slashed.  Student loans may be reformed (yeah, unlikely.)  Legal education may well be altered to shorter programs, cheaper programs, more practical programs.  Enrolments may plummeting and schools may close, making you chances of getting a legal job easier in the future.  Why buy at the top of the bubble?  Why not wait it out a year or two?  See what happens?  And in the meantime, try something else?  Is there a legal issue so pressing and urgent, one that needs you right away, that really can’t wait for a year longer until you arrive to save the day?  Take a step back, take some time to think, and perhaps you’ll find yourself paying half the price for your degree next year as you would this year.  There’s no rush.

The point of all of this is to urge those who are about to go to law school to stop and think.  Check yourselves.  Are the reasons that were valid two, three years ago, are they still valid?  Is your analysis of the market still good?  Do you still want to do this?

I write extensively towards the end of Con Law that it’s never too late to get out of law school when you see the writing on the wall and know that it’s not turning into that dream job you’d hoped of.  Right up until your last year of law school, it’s always to your advantage to stop paying and leave, get out early, cut your losses and move on.  But that can be started now, before you’ve really spent too much on law school.  It’s very cheap to quit before you start.  So do yourself a favor and think about it.  Thinking is free.  Set aside a few hours to really go over whether you want to attend or not.  Keep it at the back of your mind over the next month.  And if you decide to not attend, it’s really no big deal at all.  Law schools – trust me – will be ready to take your money next year, the year after, and the year after that.  You’ve nothing to lose by thinking about it.

Incidentally, how much is a seat deposit these days?  The week before law school starts, how much are you in the hole if you withdraw?  A few hundred bucks?  What’s the damage?  I ask because an interesting little Kickstarter project might be raising the cash to “buy out” 1Ls – give them their seat deposits back if they don’t want to go to law school.  Just a thought.  I know this site is not one for activism, but it might generate a little publicity.  How much are you in the hole in terms of non-refundable cash that the law school is holding?  And would you be interested in getting that cash refunded if you pull out of law school right before the orientation?  What can we do you get you out of this law school seat today?

Charles Cooper is the author, along with Thane Messinger, of “Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession)”, in addition to being the moderator at and the author of “Later in Life Lawyers”.  He can be contacted at


  1. Excellent post. Too many lemmings feel that at this stage in the game, they are past the point of no return. They are emotionally invested in going to law school. Plus, these "geniuses" have informed their friends, family and acquaintances about their decision. By "inform," I mean brag incessantly. In their little minds, there is no turning back.

    After all, "If I don't attend law school, I'll be out my $300 seat deposit. Not to mention my hundreds of dollars in LSAC registration, getting letters of recommendation from college professors, and hundreds of hours in studying for the LSAT exam." Many lemmings have also spent $400-$1500 in LSAT prep courses and old tests.

    In the end, these fools care about attaining some level of "prestige." I know that a high proportion of law school applicants assert that they want to help society, with their "legal education." However, this is uttered, because it sounds nice. This is akin to past immigrants claiming to seek religious freedom, when in fact they wanted to come here so that they could make a better living financially.

    As an aside, I remember that you used to encourage non-trads to apply to law school in the past, Charles. It is nice to see that you have changed your stance.

    1. Thanks Nando. Now we need to change the stance of others out there who want to change but who feel, for whatever reason, that they can't. And to those people, let me say that life is so much easier when you don't have to spend your entire day constructing twisted and fragile arguments as to why the current legal education system is not failing, or going to bed at night knowing that you're helping to ruin the lives of many bright young students who could do far better than a third tier JD.

    2. Ok I'll bite and put myself out there. Here's why I'm headed to law school this fall.
      1. I'm interested in tax law, have an accounting / finance background, and have talked with tax lawyers and find their careers / lifestyles to be desirable.

      2. I'm headed to a pretty good school (UVA / Michigan / Duke) with a decently sized scholarship (comes to about 55-60% off tuition). I've built up some savings to cover cost of living and some tuition, so ill be in about $45k of debt at graduation.

      I'm geniunely interested in your opinion because I believe a fair amount of what you say about law school (and in my opinion, paying sticker tuition cost for any other school besides HYS just doesn't make financial sense, unless you have a lot of money).

    3. I'm a tax lawyer; started out in BigLaw for about 10 years and then moved to a much smaller firm, so I know the market pretty well. I think very few people should go to law school in this environment. That said, I think your reasons are relatively decent. I would note that unless you want to work at a small firm, you should expect to go back for an LLM, which will be another couple years of tuition, and you should also count on living in NYC or DC for that period.

      Given that you must have pretty substantial savings to expect to have to borrow only 15k/year, I'd also urge you to think about what other, perhaps easier, perhaps more satisfying businesses you could capitalize with those savings. Accountants will always be in greater demand than tax lawyers. Tax lawyers also tend to be on the service end at most firms, meaning that you'll usually help the clients of the corporate group, rather than bringing in your own clients, meaning in turn that you're likelier to be labor than management--always dicey, and a recipe for instability.

      Here's my general advice to 0Ls, and I think it applies to you, too. In my opinion, you should only go to law school if (a) you can't imagine being professionally satisfied as anything but a lawyer, and (b) you can make the finances work out such that you owe less than you can reasonably expect to make your first year out (with the caveat you cannot reasonably expect to make $160,000 a year if you're not going to HYS). It sounds like you're in a decent position to make the finances work out (though read the fine print on the scholarship carefully, and if it has any requirements re: class standing, run, don't walk, away).

      From your tone, I'd guess you think of law school as something you could do, rather than something you have to do. That was my attitude when I went, and I think that's the attitude of the vast majority of folks who go to law school. From what I can tell I suspect a healthy majority of my classmates now regret going to law school, and again, we were the lucky ones.

  2. College grads need to be warned not to confuse select ultimate outcomes realized by the highly talented, fortunate few with the actual work. Be very careful of confusing the rewards now enjoyed by the successful with the underlying work. Computer Science isn't necessarily a ticket to Steve Jobs's life. Don't move to France because you think Versailles puts your apartment complex to shame.

    Most people would love to HAVE WRITTEN the great American novel and enjoy the prestige of being a celebrated author. Few want to spend years as an unknown slaving on a manuscript with no income. Not all slaving authors write the Great American Novel. That's why it's called THE Great American Novel.

    In this day and age, I can't help but conclude that the Right Reason to go to law school includes the notion, "I truly don't care that I might not make sufficient money to pay my bills or even maintain an office; my spouse/family makes or has sufficient income to support me."

  3. You forgot to mention that those entering now will have a really unpleasant - maybe miserable - time during the three years of law school.
    When I went to LS in the late 90s, tuition was about 8000 in state and 12,000 out of state. Grads could get some sort of jobs when they were done. So students weren't too uptight and had more or less normal student lives, although the work load was heavier than undergrad. I had a pretty good time - went out to eat a lot, partied on most weekends, hung out with friends, that sort of thing.
    I can't imagine how tense law students must be these days with sky-high tuition (=future debt) and no job prospects when they're done. Probably most will be angry, tense, guilty, depressed and neurotic nearly all the time. I would have been neurotic if I owed $100-150k after graduation and had no way to pay it off.
    You can forget about having a normal social life for the next three years. No parties, no girlfriends. Mostly just worrying about the future.
    That's no way to go through life.

    1. I get the impression most of these students just assume everything will turn out all right, and they simply don't worry about it. If they were the sort of person who thought that far ahead they probably wouldn't go to law school in the first place.

  4. Great post.

    Also ask yourself, "Why do I want to be a lawyer?" The law school journey leads one deeply into law, and you're expected to get a law license when you graduate. That's why it's called 'Law' school, not 'Do 100s of cool things with your life school.' You'll be a lawyer.

    That's an occupational description, however, not a job. The descriptor of "artist" is similar. Although there's no license for artists, going out and doing some pretty good paintings establishes you as an artist. But it doesn't translate into a career as an artist. Sure, you're free to paint away to your heart's content. But no one's under any obligation to like or appreciate your artwork... let alone buy any of it. Monetizing your work is tough and success is elusive and hard to quantify. My dad thinks Pollock is utter crap and that Picasso was on drugs.

    Right now, and for the foreseeable future, there are relatively few new positions where someone will pay you to be a lawyer, at least not for long. That's the "no jobs" gripe that floods the scamblogs. That used to be different in the past, so you should try to contextualize advice you receive from others based on their situations.

    There are starving artists who paint away regardless, driven by their deep inner need to express themselves on canvas. There are always people that lack money but need help with their problems. Is it your passion to represent them and do you have the financial backing in place to follow this passion?

    1. "That used to be different in the past..."

      But not as different as the law schools would have had you believe at the time (and would still have you believe now), as least not anytime in the past 20 years.

      I don't think there has been a year in the last two decades when any more than about 75% of law school grads found real, permanent, full-time jobs as attorneys. That's better than the c.50% of today, but it isn't like the economic downturn of 2008 caused the number to drop from from something approaching 100% to 50% overnight.

    2. Totally agreed. Didn't mean to imply the situation was rosy before the Great Recession; it wasn't. And it's been steadly deteriorating for years. Should the recession compl;etely fade, things in the law world won't bunce back.

      I meant, WAY in the past, like in grandpa's day, when a lot of today's parents had their societal outlooks molded.

  5. Last year I tried to stop a special snowflake from starting law school. This person had dreams of becoming a DA or something like that. Now this person is finding out that the law school she attends is creating new positions to employ its own grads. This girl couldn't find even a volunteer internship this summer. So much for the DA thing!

    1. Yep..

      I tried volunteering when I graduated and couldn't find anything.

      That's right.

      Non-paying volunteer work.

      And for all you out there, this was 15++ years ago.

      The idea that law became bad after 2000? Sorry kids. It was bad long before then. And it was also bad 15 years before what happened to me. The differences being the debt level and the ability of people then to transition to careers outside of law.

    2. Law was much better for baby boomers. It was not that saturated, and lawyers from good schools in good practice areas could find lucrative work. Fast forward to today and many of those same people are out of work.

    3. 9:00AM, law has always been bad, you're right. But it really only became a *scam* over the past fifteen years, when the "higher education administrators" came along and decided to make money from the system.

      But while it's always been hard for lawyers in recent memory, it's far harder now than it was ten years ago, or twenty years ago. Those graduating now are screwed, whereas you only struggled.

    4. The percentage of lawyers who succeed long term in the practice of law has always been less than 50%, but in the past tuition was much lower, loans, to the extent they existed, were dischargable and the market was not super-saturated.

      See the 2nd comment in this link which I wrote, and which dupednontraditional thought enough of to quote on his site:

      PS Thanks dupednontraditional for quoting my comment.

  6. My wife works for a radiology practice group. They are paying x-ray techs with two year degrees $85,000.00 a year. I recently saw a job posting for a trial lawyer for an insurance company's captive defense firm. First chair jury trial experience required, starting salary $65,000.00. Note that no newly admitted member of the bar will have first chair jury trial experience. Prestige, my young friends, does not pay the bills.

    1. There are cops, truck drivers, maintenance workers, plumbers and on and on that get paid more than lawyers but yet somehow there is still this general myth that attorneys make so much money. I think it comes from this idea that the more educated one is the more money one will earn.

    2. $65,000 is a much better outcome than what I am seeing. I just saw a job posting for a non-profit attorney who needed a few years experience: $35,000.

      I had always wanted to be a non-profit attorney and was prepared to work low - but when the outfit is paying its legal assistants more, I couldn't help but see what they were offering as exploitation and taking advantage of the legal market. Who wants to work for an organization that does that?

      Only the desperate ones do...

    3. 1) They aren't paying x-ray techs $85K with two year bullshit degrees. They pay them $25K. Sorry. You sound like a for-profit "medical careers institute" shill.

      2) Cops get paid $30-40K per year, unless they are in a major city where living expenses are high. Truck drivers get paid better, but they work away from home. Maintenance workers? That's minimum wage stuff. Plumbers and electricians and all those other "highly paid" jobs are few and far between.

      Look, here's the bottom line. Everybody generally gets about $40-50K per year, no matter what they do. Teaching, cops, plumbers, lawyers, whatever. A few make lots more, and idiots (like many people on this site) latch onto those fringe numbers and say stupid things like "x-ray techs with a two year degree get $85K per year for telling you to put on a lead vest and lying down on a table", or "plumbers make sooooo much money it's KrAzY!!!"

      If you get to your thirties and you're making $45K, married to someone else making $45K, you're very well off and can easily buy a nice house, raise kids, and enjoy a calm, comfortable life. That's the message we need to send to people.

    4. Uh, 2:57, 10:05 here. You have so thoroughly exhibited your own low intelligence and ignorance I will only respond for the benefit of those who might believe you.

      1. My wife does the payroll for the five offices she manages. I have seen it with my own eyes. You are talking out of your ass. How can you say anything about income when you don't even know what part of the country I am in? Very well off on $90K? Is it fun to live on the set of "Deliverance?"

      2. X-Ray techs have to have a thorough knowledge of human anatomy and the specific positioning for hundreds of different types of exams. Why, you ask?

      3. Radiologic equipment can be a huge profit center if, but only if, it is used correctly. If your tech has to do an exam five times to get it right then the insurance company pays for one exam and some radiologist just lost four highly profitable readings that day.

      4. This brings us to a concept you do not seem to get. The most valuable employees are the ones who can generate a fixed revenue stream per hour. An X-Ray tech who can do a full schedule with no down time on the machine and no bad images is making the doctor and the hospital rich and they will pay top dollar for top performers. This is why senior associates used to be top revenue performers in biglaw - 2,000+ billables with high realization, i.e., minimal time written off or uncollected.

      5. X-Ray techs are not taught in for-profit trade schools. There may be a few hospital-based programs left but now, for the most part, they come out of community colleges or the armed forces.

  7. I am going to law school because I read a report written by two highly renowned academics who say I will earn over $1M more over the span of my career with a JD than with a lowly BA. Moreover, if all else fails, I can fallback on Plan B: IBR.

    --Dumb 0L Lemming (Class of 2016)

    1. That article brought out the idiots in droves. But, hey, at least many of them can be poor together, right?


  9. As we know so well on this blog, far fewer students are entering law school every year and the preliminary stats for the 2013/14 LSAT are going in the right direction.

    Therefore, while of course students should always engage in an introspective why-am-I-going-to-law school exercise, at this stage, I believe the far more important question to ask is , "why am I going to be 2L?" The attrition rate from 1L to 2L is not nearly as high as it should be. While the numbers of 1Ls have decreased substantially, the figures for 2Ls have not experienced a corresponding decline. The next critical task in the law school scam movement should be to get 1Ls to examine why they went to law school in the first place and to make a genuine assessment if these goals are still likely attainable after the first year. In most cases, they will not be. If, after the first year, a 1L is in the bottom 50% of the class and attending any law school outside the T14, their career choices will be fairly limited (which is a kind way to say it). In most cases, the most important decision that person will make in their entire life is whether or not to continue as a 2L, and most students do it automatically.

    Any thoughts?

    1. This is actually what could end the scam at a second or third tier school.

      These schools are already feeling the pinch with fewer new students, and with schools up the chain having fewer students, they are going to take more transfers. So with a chunk of the top 10-15% transferring up and out, imagine what might happen to a school that saw the majority of the bottom 25% drop out en masse?




    Lives are destroyed by NON-DISCHARGABLE DEBT.

    Do NOT go to law school if your tuition is being paid for with NON-DISCHARGABLE DEBT.

    Really, there should not be ONE PERSON starting law school this year whose tuition is being paid for with NON-DISCHARGABLE DEBT.

    PS If law schools had a shred of decency, they would refuse to accept tuition payments made with non-dischargable debt.

    1. Shave and a haircut, ten cents.

  11. I wish I had left after the first year. And I wish this amount of information about the scam had been out there 7 years. Keep up the good work.

    1. Me too. I think that once I knew the Biglaw job was not going to happen (by December of my 2L year), I should have cut my losses and left. I would have halved my student debt - more than halved, in fact, as I had a bar study loan thrown in there at the end - and I would have saved a year and a half of wasted time. I could probably have gone back to my prior career field because my skills would only have been a year or so out of date, something that could easily have been rectified, and I would also have been able to hide the law school on my resume and never suffer the continuing problems that having a JD on my resume causes even today.

    2. There should be a posting that distinguishes the colloquial, pejorative concept of "dropping out of school" from making a sound business decision.

      Clearly, middle-class America looks down upon and fears "dropping out of school." Quitting school is the same. All sorts of unfair, wildly biased stereotypes start playing on the mental screen: the unwed young parent who has to support his/her out-of-wedlock child; the 'minority' kid who was never grasping the material and was being disruptive; the stoner who was always so high that he never grasped anything...

      We don't like this, and so we have things like 'Project Graduation,' we create extensive GED programs, and we chant "Play it cool; stay in school."

      Yeah, I understand that all that's about high school. But the mindset carriers over to school in general. Quitters never win, and a winner never quits.

      But what do you call it when you analyze a situation and make a business decision based on hard facts? For example, a large international company --Global Bank, Ltd-- advertises that it's conducting a long-term search for a number of top-level executives from around the world. To help qualify yourself for one of these absolute dream positions, it's very advantageous and expected to take several time-consuming, expensive seminars to gain familiarity with the global banking system and the practices of Global Bank, Ltd.

      You want to compete for the position (which given what the company is saying, appears to be ideal for you), so you embark on the seminars. Two weeks into the seminars, however, the company announces that the company's business plan means that ideal candidates will all come from developing countries and that, for geopolitical reasons, no candidate will be selected from the US.

      If you're from the States, do you keep going?

    3. I should have spent the money on wine, women and song. Or a beach condo in the redneck riveria. I could discharge the credit card debt or walk away from the condo.

      I did not really want biglaw. Midlaw in a stable firm would have been nice.

      I hope as information pours in people will walk away and be respected for a sound decision like 6:27 a.m. discusses

  12. cooley is teaming up with western michigan university so cooley can change its name from cooley to western michigan uni.

    of course this has nothing to do at all with all the bad PR caused by the scambloggers' attack on cooley over the past few years. Complete coincidence....

  13. The bigger issue is the 500,000 plus licensed lawyers in the United States who are not practicing and the uncertainty of the long-term employment outcomes of law graduates.

    Even for those who get the big law jobs, where do you think you are going to end up at age 45 or 50? Do you think you can hold out in a corporate job until you want to retire? Are you so popular and so good at getting along with people that you are going to fit right in to a culture where it is likely very hard to hang on to your job once you are older? Do you have strong enough interpersonal skills that you can build and sustain a practice in a law firm sufficient to support yourself?

    Most importantly, what percentage of the older classes in the law school you are attending or planning to attend have the type of job you aspire to? Where are these people working? Can you verify a linkedin profile with a great job with the person's current state attorney registration?

    The answer in a lot of cases will be poor or disappointing employment results even from the tippy top law schools and people who were once in big law.

    Then consider your other options. Might some other line of work you might like be a better bet than law if you want to be able to earn a living for a career and not just a few years?

  14. The right reasons to go to law school?

    That's a real challenge. Cannot really think of any. Law school, as now structured, is geared to the production of fresh young lawyers for law firms. It sure doesn't teach solo practice. The law firm market (and I mean all types of firms... not just big law) largely no longer exists, or to be more accurate, is now so emaciated that it isn't a realistic plan.

    Law school doesn't really teach much about the history or context of our laws today, and in general, tends to look down on imparting substantive knowledge of particular practice areas in favor of very generalized theory. Casebooks are fascinating windows into this world... very little in the way of explanatory descriptive text and a hodgepodge of cases from across the years and jurisdictions.

    It was my distinct impression that law school was similar to an elaborate game in which some people --either through better gamesmanship or better inherant grasp of the game-- did better. That's great, and that's what it's designed to do... place young recruits into a pecking order to be offered up for firms. Again, I'm talking all firms... not just biglaw. And it's my suspicion that the vaunted Socratic method is an attempt to toughen young skins so that they get used to working with an irritated, impatient senior partner who will become their boss.

    But that 'firm' thing has largely gone away and a return to it doesn't look promising.

    Law school ain't teaching you how to work in whatever new work arena there might be out there (and I honestly doubt there is much of one), and it has been run for years as a ranking/proxy system for law firm recruits which is no longer a growth area. And it is very clear that law school doesn't really teach you much substantive law of an actual jurisdiction and certainly doesn't teach you the context in which it operates.

    What good is it today?

  15. This blog post is about 5 years old, and about leaving the US so as to escape student loan debt.

    I think the comments are worth a read through and very interesting, and the first commenter is a lawyer who had crushing student loan debt.

  16. Getting into plumbers' union is no easy task. You need connections to get into that line of work.

    The collapse of the law school bubble is just one of a long line of bubbles that have propped up America's looted formerly industrial economy since the 1960s.

  17. Here's the only conceivable thought process about going to law school that I can possibly envision today:

    "I don't believe I can do anything with my undergrad degree and being a lawyer automatically gives me professional status with a prestigious-sounding title that is accessible simply by completing school and then passing a test. I'm a proven graduate and test-taker"

    THAT'S REALLY AS FAR AS MANY STUDENTS GO... it's a totally school-centric view, and in a narrow sense, makes literal sense. FOR THREE YEARS.

    Those who analyze it further wander onto shakier ground:

    "Even if I don't get that BigLaw cush job or regular MidLaw job at a firm, I can always go microfirm or solo and make a decent living. See, I'm being very realistic and conservative; I don't assume I'll make BigLaw. I fully understand and accept that I probably won't make %160,000 a year at BigLaw, but I can still gladly live on only half of that {i.e., 80k}, so I'll be fine. Scambloggers are either entitlement freaks who thought they were entitled to 160K, or they are losers who can't get any job. I got a honors poli-sci degree; I'm a winner."

    And then there's the final icing on the cake...

    "There will always be a need for lawyers, and my experience and reputation over time will grow, and I'll rise to the top."