Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Post: Brave Soul Avoids the Sunk-Cost Fallacy

A recent correspondent asked that we share their story with the scamblog community.  The author made an "easy" yet difficult choice - to drop out of law school.  While many often talk about the rational choices to be made as an economic actor, it is another thing entirely to pull the trigger and walk away, especially after significant time and emotional investment, and the fear of being called a "quitter".  Without further ado:
I’m a 1L who dropped out after the first semester.  I attended a top 50 institution in a major metropolitan area on a decent scholarship and I would like to share my experience to better inform prospective students or help some 1Ls who are on the fence about getting out.

Owning Up

First, I would like to take full responsibility for the mistakes and errors I made during my brief time in law school.  This post is not to cast blame on my institution or the professors for what were ultimately my failings.  Maybe I could have studied harder, asked for more help, or done things differently but alas, what’s done is done.  I can’t get back the thousands of dollars I spent on tuition but hopefully my mistakes and observations can help someone else avoid a similar fate.  

0Ls, read scamblogs

Scamblogs are not the voice of a disgruntled minority who didn’t work hard enough and were now screwed.  They are here to warn others from making the same mistake. 

If you are buying a car, you wouldn’t make your decision only on the manufacturer’s brochure and website would you?  Then why pick law schools by just glancing at the school’s site and LST?  You need more than just facts and figures, you need to see what things are really like when you enter the profession. 

Law School Is a Different Animal

As I was applying, I didn’t really understand when people said “law school is hard.” I had enough confidence in my abilities and had faced several difficult professors in the past so how would this be different? 

1.      You Teach Yourself

Halfway through the first semester, I honestly didn’t understand why I was paying so much money in tuition.  I had to buy the casebooks and the study guides that deciphered the casebooks, and then hope that by reading it for long enough it made sense.  In only two of my classes did the professor help clarify the material.  Of the other three, one was indecipherable, another was an egotistical jackass who just yelled the entire time, and the last one just talked about whatever the hell he wanted and then tested on something else entirely.  

2.      You Get Very Little Feedback

This was honestly one of the main reasons for why I quit.  My entire educational career, I could use the first exam to see how the professor tested material or I at least had quizzes to serve as benchmarks to see whether I was actually understanding the material.  But based on my experience, professors just said that if you could answer the Socratic Method questions yourself then you were getting the material. That’s it. It was up to you to buy Q&A books, scour the internet for practice exams, draft answers, and compare them with model responses to see if you were really getting it the way that they intended. 

And the worst part is that you only get one shot at proving your understanding of the material.  If you had a bad showing during the exam, that’s it.  

3.      The Socratic Method Is Fucking Stupid

For our entire educational careers we’re taught in one way but then it changes once you enter law school (fortunately, professors end this nonsense starting 2L).  The most annoying part about the SM is not being put up in front of your colleagues and feeling stupid (only you remember your mistakes, everyone else forgets, and if someone points out where you screwed up then they’re a jackass), but the fact that professors waste so much class time on minutiae when the exam is entirely application based.  How fucking stupid is that?

4.      You’re Not a Special Snowflake
For the longest time, I didn’t understand what this phrase meant but I do now.  If you look at a bell curve, you’ll notice that there are a few people on the top and a few people on the bottom and everyone else is in the middle.  That’s good! That means you are normal.  The problem is that a lot of prospective law students who may have been in the top quartile of their graduating class in undergrad, assume that they can recreate that performance in law school.  Do you remember what the students in the first two or three rows of your lecture hall class were like?  Smart, dedicated, and hard-working?  Everyone is like that in law school.  They don’t let idiots into Harvard.  When you are up against stiffer competition and there are only a limited number of As to go around, you are going the get pushed down by someone who is either smarter, more hard working, or maybe just more lucky than you.  The problem is that with the precarious state of legal employment, try as you might, if you’re not in that top third then you’re most likely screwed. 

5.      Everyone is studying and nobody is happy

I looked at current employment statistics and even read accounts from those searching for jobs or those in jobs that they hate then the only question that sprung to my mind was “Why are people doing this?” Honestly, where is the win? Because I didn’t see it.  And that’s the crazy part about law school.  Everyone was grinding away and some even joked about how dismal their job prospects were.  THEN WHY DO IT?!  If we’re all on the fucking Titanic, then jump! 

Why I Quit: Avoiding the Sunk Cost Fallacy

I didn’t have a very good experience my fall semester and with each passing day I grew more and more depressed.  I couldn’t go on like this for another five semesters and knew that I had to make a decision soon or otherwise risk digging myself into a deeper hole.   

Turned out my grades were shit.  I passed all my classes but that was meaningless.  I had closed a lot of doors before I even started.  Moreover, I didn’t want to spend a fortune the next 2.5 years grinding away only to have a slim chance at getting a job that probably wouldn’t even pay all that much. 

If you have a losing hand, then you walk away.  You don’t bet the house.  I was fortunate enough to have a clear sign that this wasn’t right for me.  For others, maybe they are somewhere in the middle of the curve and too scared to walk away even though their heart tells them they should. 

Life is short and you only get one crack at it.  There’s nothing shameful about starting over or admitting that you made a mistake, that you failed, or you went down the wrong path.  Rather, it’s foolish to soldier on when you know you shouldn’t. 


  1. Well OP, your grades might have sucked, but you proved yourself smarter than the vast majority of your class, who, even as we speak, are sealing their fate. The game is rigged. Once 1L grades come out, the die is cast. And for every winner, there must be two or three losers. If you are: (1) attending a non-elite school, (2) lack major employment connections, and (3) get anything less then stellar 1L grades, the smart play is almost always to take your tuition dollars and walk the hell away from the table before you have dug a hole for yourself from which you will never escape.

  2. OP made the right decision but the mere existence of the bottom 150 ABA law schools proves what an unlimited supply there is out there of people who would not understand OP's point.

  3. Bravo! You made the right decision.

  4. Very well-written, and on the mark.

    I wouldn't mind a follow-up on what someone who dropped out after the first semester decided to do instead.

  5. You have done the right thing. Consider yourself lucky and saved. You could have jumped off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings (like me). Good luck to you.

  6. My story is similar to that of the OP, though my grades were somewhat better and I did complete the full 1L year before dropping out. I was very naive and went to LS mostly out of curiosity and intellectual interest, but realized I didn't need to sit in classes for another 2 years to learn what I wanted. Though I had a full scholarship, the opportunity cost was too high to stay, especially since at the time (mid-90's) the job market in software was booming. So I took a software job instead and eventually returned to my former career in finance.

    I also realized another thing-- to the extent lawyers are successful in their careers, it is because they help their clients to be even more successful. So, I concluded, it's better to aspire to be a lawyer's client than to be a lawyer oneself. And indeed, I subsequently achieved some good results in several lawsuits where I was able to form solid working relationships with my lawyers. (These were property and contract disputes, not frivolous slip-and-fall type claims.)

    In general, I think it would be good if there were a way for the general public to learn more about the nuts and bolts of lawyering and litigation. As we know, you don't learn this stuff in law school, but it would be very useful as crossover training for clients wanting to understand what their lawyers are up against.

    1. property and contract disputes are no more less frivolous than slip and fall's. The difference is one is handled on contingency, and one the lawyer is paid for his time up front regardless of the success of the case. But having handled contractual and property disputes myself, there is always at least one party who is simply trying to screw another.

    2. 9:49, I have handled PI, property, contract and other disputes and must take issue with your use of the term "always." There can be issues about which reasonable people disagree, e.g. what constitutes "a good and workmanlike manner." And in my New England state where property lines can have existed since colonial times without ever having been surveyed people of good will can honestly disagree about the exact location of the boundary.

    3. 8:58 here-- I didn't mean to denigrate one branch of law vs. another. What I was trying to say was, I didn't go looking for reasons to file lawsuits, I had serious (and fairly clear-cut) situations where people were trying to screw me over, and had to litigate.

    4. One of the saddest cases I ever had was a slip and fall, and it was hardly frivolous. A customer spilled motor oil on the floor of a large retailer (per video tape) and the retailer allowed it to remain there for at least an hour. My very active 72 year old client, a grand mother slipped on it and broke four vertebra. Despite her age, she had continued to work as a claims specialist at blue cross, but after her injury she never returned to work; no longer participated in bike marathons and wound up in assisted living in diapers. I am happy for you that you are oh so clever and successful, but perhaps you should not take such a haughty view of injured people. Just a suggestion.

    5. 8:58 again-- I didn't say I was clever or successful, and per my clarification, was not trying to denigrate one branch of law vs. another. My point was that I did get some benefit from LS in that I was able to relate better to my lawyers when the need arose, and also that more practice-focused training would have worked better in that regard. Re-read comments above.

  7. This is brilliant. Thanks (and congratulations!) to the person who wrote it, and thanks to OTLSS for posting it.

    As I was reading it, I kept thinking "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as each point was made. Two points in particular stood out:

    "Scamblogs are not the voice of a disgruntled minority who didn’t work hard enough and were now screwed."

    0Ls need to understand this. The scambloggers (and maybe a few others, such as Tamanaha) are the *only* ones telling the truth. Your family members don't know what they're talking about. Your undergrad advisers have no clue and are biased in favor of additional schooling. And anyone associated with a law school has every incentive in the world to hide the reality from you.

    "The problem is that with the precarious state of legal employment, try as you might, if you’re not in that top third then you’re most likely screwed. "

    Yup. The competition is so stiff that above average won't cut it. Only the top students have a decent chance of getting good-paying jobs practicing law. (And the same goes for associates' chances of making partner, although politics can also play a role there.)

    - One of the Lucky Ones

  8. Very good points, and kudos to the OP for having the guts to do what was best, even though it no doubt was a difficult decision. OP is correct in pointing out that there is no feedback on testing--a single test determines your grade for that course, and if you don't do well, then tough luck. Also that is a good point that you mainly teach yourself, so what are you paying (borrowing) all that money for?

    One point I would mention--class rank to a certain extent depends on luck. The difference between a grade of say 88 versus 86 on an exam can have a major impact on class rank, even though it is not really meaningful, and indeed just statistical noise.

    1. Many law schools award a prize to the two or three students with the highest GPA. The difference between these students and the next one down is indeed nothing but statistical noise, yet it is treated as having great significance.

    2. Also, it's pretty much impossible to fail so people think, well I didn't fail, I guess I'll stay because I'm doing OK and I"m getting through it. The thing is, if you're not in the top third AT THE LEAST, you're pretty much screwed.

      It's impossible to fail a law school class. It's also nearly impossible to get an A, or even a B+ in a traditional curved course. Everyone gets a C+/B/B-... It's not good enough anymore to stick it out... This isn't the boomer generation. The market is flooded with law grads, if you can't hack it just leave you'll be happier and you'll have more F'ing money than your peers trying to "make it" in the law.

  9. You dodged a bullet, OP. Best of luck to you.

  10. Excellent Post! I would however like to dissect the following which the OP wrote:

    "First, I would like to take full responsibility for the mistakes and errors I made during my brief time in law school. This post is not to cast blame on my institution or the professors for what were ultimately my failings."

    To the OP: You didn't make any mistakes or errors. Your law institution is participating in a rigged game which causes untold personal tragedy and your professors are willfully blind concerning their participation. They do have culpability. You didn't have any failings. You were perceptive and smart.

    Speaking with students who didn't succeed in law school is a bit like playing the psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting in the scene where he discusses Will's abusive father. He starts off saying "it's not your fault". Then again, "It's not your fault." And again, "It's not your fault, it's not your fault, it's not your fault." OP (and everyone), watch that scene. And consider the ways in which the experience of law school is abusive.

    The constant subtext in law school is that if you don't succeed, it reflects on your character, your personal value and your abilities as a lawyer. Bad grades are nothing more than bad grades. The OP was extremely smart to understand that the first semester determines one's career to an inordinate extent.

    To any OLs and 1Ls out there, if you are in a top fifty school and do not have connections and are not in the top-third, you should consider Plan B. If your law school is below the top fifty, you need to be in the top quarter just to have a shot and of course there are no guarantees.

    1. I like your comment and agree. This is not the fault of students. People will say, "well you CHOSE to go to law school; you CHOSE to take out debt, therefore..." etc. etc. No, incorrect. I chose to be a lawyer. Law school is an arbitrary, ineffective, price-fixed, monopoly I HAD to enter in order to be a lawyer. It's a barrier to entry in a f-ing caste system. I HAD to go to law school. I HAD to take on debt. No one would chose this crap, it's forced on us if we deign to be uppity enough to self-select for the law.

  11. You did the right thing, my kid graduated cum laude, top state school, but the debt load is killing him and I don't think he likes his particular practice area. He realized pretty quickly that the professors were full of shit. And my kid is one of the lucky ones.

  12. When you get stuck in the "Scholarship Section" at law school, and you have to compete on a harsh curve for grades with other scholarship kids with good UPGAs and probably above-average intelligence, and do poorly in competition with them, it isn't that big of a personal failing. In my opinion, anyway. If half the class HAS to get a B- or lower, and all the kids were honors students in their past, the arithmetic dictates that smart, high-achievers will not achieve all that highly in this arena.

  13. OP -
    I hope you start not just a trend but a rush to the exits. Good for you.

    Your points were well made and genuine.

  14. I wish I had the guts to get out that first semester. I hope people will read your story and leave. This system needs to be shocked. I wish the Feds would just turn the student loan hose off for law school. Put the money in people who want to be regular family doctors. We have enough lawyers for a few more decades.

  15. I was thinking about this the other day - whether there are any stories of people who had actually dropped out or avoided law school because of the work of the scambloggers.

    Thank god that someone had the common sense to leave law school when they knew it wasn't what they wanted, or wasn't as advertised.

  16. The legal industry as a whole is out of touch with how business works. Its one of my frustrations as someone who is now a person with actual real world experience (10+ years) that the industry is still playing the pedigree/status game.

    I have friends in other industries. Their talents are rewarded regardless of how they gained them. Its not greener for them. Just very different as to how the job market reacts to their actions. They take a risk to work with a small company and the result is everyone says "wow, great experience!" A lawyer does the same to gain great experience. The reaction of most lawyers: Wow you didn't work at Cravath. What's your experience?

    I say all this to say: you were smarter than I was. I bought not just into the pressure to stick it out, but also the idea that once I obtained experience after law school, this would become more important. It really doesn't. The status game just keeps going and going and going like the energizer bunny.

    Again other industries have these issues too. The problem is the extent to which it controls the legal market.

    1. "I have friends in other industries. Their talents are rewarded regardless of how they gained them. Its not greener for them. Just very different as to how the job market reacts to their actions. They take a risk to work with a small company and the result is everyone says "wow, great experience!" A lawyer does the same to gain great experience. The reaction of most lawyers: Wow you didn't work at Cravath. What's your experience?"

      I'm willing to bet that this lines up 100% with the labor market. In a tight labor market for a particular profession, they'll look upon 'honorable failure' as 'honorable'. In a slack labor market, 'honorable failure' is 'failure'.

      When an employer can pick and choose, the employer will pick and choose, frequently for arbitrary reasons.

  17. I would like if you keep us updated with your future. You had the insight to walk away from a bad deal; most of use here didn't and are paying the price. With that in mind, let us also know of any friends who stayed in law school.

  18. I admire your character so much. What courage you have!

  19. Although I agree with what you did, law school is not a gauge of being a good lawyer. Law school and the fools that teach in that environment have absolutely nothing to do with being a competent, let alone "good" lawyer.

    Yes - you are correct, the "Socratic Method" is a is the so-called "JD Degree"...the Socratic method teaches you nothing (especially in the hands of the utter losers that self-label themselves as "law professors")...these scammers have been getting away with financial rape for too many years.

    1. Law school, by its nature, teaches you to a be a law clerk. Most of the jackwads who teach have never themselves been good lawyers or learned from good lawyers, so they have nothing of use to aspiring lawyers in terms of how to practice on a day-to-day basis.

      Actually working in the legal field (like, in positions other than an appeals clerk or a dungeon-office memo-writer) is eye-opening at how deficient and worthless law school is. A three-month bar course and an intense course in legal research and writing (taught by someone who actually knows what they're doing) is about all that's useful.

    2. I completely disagree. Law school may well be a very bad bet, and it does little for teaching how to practise law, but I personally learned a lot from my legal education, and it helped me become a much more critical thinker. Is it worth the cost? Not in today's tuition. But a blanket statement discounting the Socratic method and the education itself is likely from those who just never got it. If you don't have an aptitude for the law or the capacity of critical thinking...definitely avoid law school.

    3. Most of what I learned in law school I learned on my own.

    4. Hear, hear. Most of what I learned in law school, I also learned on my own. The fact that you must pay for a bar preparation course in order to pass the bar examination clarifies what a joke law school really is. I learned more in the BARBRI preparation course than I did in law school. I came away from BARBRI saying "why didn't they just teach the law in law school."


    the top ranked law schools were able to hide the fact that the vast majority of grads hired by biglaw are out within a few years and making much less

  21. I am getting a torrent of spam from law schools, even higher ranked ones like U-Alabama and Vanderbilt law school.

    But there have been some recent changes in the pitches from law schools. They indicate dire straights at law school high command. For your reading pleasure, here is a recent LaVerne Law School email:

    Subject: La Verne Law announces ‘True Tuition Model’‏

    Dear XXXXXX,
    Law school is a lifelong investment in your future. And here at La Verne Law, that doesn’t have to mean racking up years and years of student loan debt.
    The University of La Verne College of Law is opening the door to an affordable, accessible ABA-accredited legal education in Southern California with the implementation of a flat, no-discount True Tuition Model, in effect for the 2014–2015 academic year and beyond. Under this new structure, tuition will be set at $25,000 per year for full-time students and $19,600 per year for part-time students.
    You’re probably thinking: that’s a big drop in tuition! And you’re right — full-time La Verne Law tuition was previously $39,900, with students eligible for various scholarships. But unlike an outright tuition drop, the new, no-discount La Verne Law ‘True Tuition Model’ not only brings the tuition rate well within reach of many prospective law students, but also places everyone on the same economic playing field for funding their legal education.
    In the absence of need-based aid for law students, we closely examined loan availability, as well as national and La Verne Law median salaries for first-year graduates [estimated at or around $60,000] to arrive at the $25,000 flat tuition rate. We’re confident that this figure will allow students like yourself to finance a law school education with a loan repayment that’s going to be affordable on your starting salary.

    1. That's only $75k plus SoCal living expenses for a law degree. That is a bargain given the expansive opportunities in the California job market for La Verne graduates.

    2. JESUS.

      "...lifelong investment in your future..." Oh wow, so what you're saying is when I'm 98, I'll still be investing in my future with a La Verne law degree!? That's amazing! Some old people just retire, enjoy their grandchildren, and die! Not me! I'll still be "investing"! The sweat of my [borrowed] capital will be returning me dividends untold, because it's an investment!

      "...that doesn't have to mean racking up years and years of student loan debt..." Are 3 years, "years and years"? What about 10 years - the standard repayment period? Are 10 years, "years and years"? What about 20 years or 25 years on IBR? Are those years, "years and years"? Now I'm confused. >:( Is this a (fraudulent), materially misleading statement?...What's going on here, La Verne?

      "And you're right -" Almost lost me La Verne, but you really pulled it back from the brink with this daring sentence fragment!

      "$39,000, with students eligible for various scholarships"...and we all know you, Dear XXXXX, would not have been getting a scholarship, so it's a discount to you!! But hey, we still love you! *wink, wink* *love pat*

      "But unlike an outright tuition drop, the new, no-discount La Verne Law 'True Tuition Model'...fucks everyone equally! What you really need to focus on is the equall-ality, because we're not really sure how this isn't an "outright tuition drop." Look, the point is, equall-ality is good! It's American! Possibly Soviet, actually, but mostly neo-American! How is this relevant to you?! We have no earthly idea!...Why not go have a test-scamper on that level playing field!

      "In the absence of need-based aid..." You see...try and follow this now...what we used to give you for being poor, we now require you to borrow for being poor! This is an exciting opportunity!! Why aren't you excited??? Come on, baby, we've got this nice, hard degree, all rolled up tight with your name on it. You're going to be a lawyer!

      Come here...bend over.

    3. Reading between the lines, we get this: "La Verne & Shirley Law Skule is positively desperate for your application! Just last year, we were soaking people for $40k in annual tuition. Now that people are staying the hell away from our stinking toilet of a law skule, we've slashed that rate by a third. We hope to appeal to those morons who will see this change as a great opportunity to save money rather than as a shameful admission that $40k/year was a monstrous rip-off. Let's just hope that people won't notice what a rip-off even $25k is."

      There is nothing we won't try;
      Never heard the word "impossible".
      This time there's no stopping us.
      We're gonna do it…

    4. Yeah start with 75k for tuition. Add loan origination fees, accruing interest for 3 years, undergrad debt if any, plus 3 years of living expenses in So Cal and you are well over 100k in loans. Only 34.6 percent of 2012 grads from this dump got real attorney jobs nine months out.

    5. "Law school is a lifetime investment in your future." (Sure is, because you'll be paying for it for the rest of your life.) That first sentence says it all.

    6. Perhaps they mean that you will spend a lifetime investing in law skule in hope of getting a pay-off in the afterlife.

    7. $25k per year fixed is a step in the right direction. However given the likely employment outcomes for most graduates, most law schools should be charging $10k-$12k. However could any ABA law school make a profit charging that much?

    8. @2:26 PM: Yes, an ABA school could.

      501(c)(3) educational institutions do not pay typically owe/pay property taxes under state law. Obviously, they pay no corporate income tax. 501(c)(3) educational institutions do not owe/pay property taxes in my state...When a school is sloughing off 50%-75% of the teaching load on adjuncts who teach a course for $5,000. a pop already (just ask them!), can one argue with a straight face that the tenured leaches are necessary? Are deans, who don't teach at all, with 6 or 7 figure salaries necessary? Law schools either have to admit that some significant portion of their curriculum is sub-par by reason of being taught by adjuncts, or that they're price-gouging like motherfuckers. It's the latter.

      Why are students each paying 5k for three credit hours for a course taught by an adjunct? If you've got 100 students in such a class that costs 5k to teach, the fair market value for the course begins at $50.00/ student!! Why was my University of California NOT charging $16.00 per credit hour for a course taught by an adjunct (real lawyer), and instead charging $1,667.00 per credit hour? GREED supported by a MONOPOLY, and there's nothing else to it.

      Most of the adjuncts I had were far better teaches than the tenured leaches. After all, the adjuncts self-selected to teach at cost to them, usually because they had a passion and talent for it. I found the same to be true of tenured faculty only in the ultra-rare instance. Many tenured faculty were horrible; so notoriously horrible that they could only attract those students to their courses who needed the credit/ class and took it for scheduling reasons!

      Also, btw, some "educational" institutions are known to use their 501(c)(3) status to operate tax-free real estate investment acquisitions firms...funded with federal student loans, baby! See, for instance, the Art Institute of California. Or, maybe take a gander at Brooklyn Law School.

    9. You don't need to go to the adjunct model. Law schools need to explain why they can't adopt the business school model where full time non-tenured lecturers work along side the tenured faculty.

      The problem is that for law schools there is no reason why the faculty can't teach three classes a semester, thus significantly reducing faculty cost which is the most substantial part of law school overhead. Write your damn article in the summer.

    10. 9:15 PM - excellent post.

      The absurdness of most tenured law professors is highlighted by the use of adjuncts, just as the very existence of bar prep courses highlights the absurdity of law schools' 3 year curriculum.

      Law school is an exceptionally pernicious medieval guild system that, since student loans became non-dischargable, has gone, to switch analogies, from being a fairly low grade fever to a disease with a survival rate of around 20%.

    11. @ 2:06 PM

      Agreed. This industry is all about getting in the middle of a market transaction and driving up the price so the middle man can take his cut. Labor arbitrage. It's the legal industrial model for law schools and large law firms. Law school and big law have hit the monopoly rent ceiling and are losing market share hand over fist. Foregone consumption and legal process outsourcing are tearing the carcasses to bits.

      Scam blogging pulls mostly on only one thread (enrollment), but there are a myriad of threads, each of which is an existential threat all by itself. None of the actions schools are taking to boost enrollments are risk free. The tail risks of slashing admissions standards while hitching tuition are obvious: less savvy, less prepared grads, who are less likely to land jobs, less likely to pass the bar, and who will definitely be economically destroyed.

      Some people are skeptical that many, if any, law schools are going down. I'm not. I think it will be many and loudly. They're shitting where they eat. They can't even stay afloat at revenue neutral; they need revenue growth at the same time they're losing one expensive little lemming after another. Add to this, the federal government backstage which might yet alter its "stimulus! stimulus!" lending mantra.

      Some school out there is Lehman Brothers. Somebody's got high, fixed overhead costs and can't pay the bills, and cannot borrow to stay afloat with eroding metrics...tick, tick, tick, BOOM. I'm popping a $3 dollar bottle of Andre when the first one goes down.

    12. Better yet, don't write your damn article at all.

  22. You are indeed a brave soul, and far more intelligent than most of the "good" students. They have little chance of achieving the dreams that lured them into the snake pit known as law school.

  23. I suppose we should focus primarily on the financial benefit to the student who drops out. That's consistent with the broad humanitarian mission of this site. Let me point out that there are also some secondary benefits to society when a student drops out of law school, the earlier the better...

    Each student who refuses to borrow any further is cutting off funds from academic impostors who badly need to be cut off. He or she is sending a powerful economic signal to law schools that their product is seriously overpriced, and in some cases worthless. Most importantly, if professors get fired and law schools close, the institutional pressures to prey on ignorant and unqualified students will almost disappear. Once the morbidly obese cost structure has been reduced to a somewhat normal size, law school deans and professors can start to act like mature and responsible human beings again.

  24. Great post. A similar story myself - though I went to law school almost 25 years ago. The employment picture wasn't much different really - only a few got real lawyer jobs. The rest might have practiced a bit and then petered out. Very few of my class are still practicing and they all went big law initially. Like yourself, I played the 1L game and lost. I wanted big law because that is the kind of law I wanted to practice. I didn't want to do divorces, criminal or small time law. There is nothing wrong with those practices but it is very different. I wanted to work with corporations. So I did something else working with corporations. The big difference - I think the tuition was around $1,800 a year. Nobody went broke going to law school even if they didn't practice a day in their life.

    1. Excellent point re cost, but it's also important to remember that back then, student loans, to the extent they existed were dischargeable in bankruptcy.

      And that's why law school has gone from a perhaps wasted 3 years into a life-destroying experience for a huge percentage of students.

  25. Loved this post. I have a similar story - I dropped out of law school in 1994 halfway through the first semester. I was a paralegal in a big firm who was encouraged by most of the attorneys I worked with to go but I should've listened to the ones who told me not to go, that the job market was saturated (20 years ago!). I chose a part-time evening program so I wouldn't have to quit my job (thank God) but after a couple months, when I realized I was bored out of my mind, and I added up the loans I'd have to take out to complete the degree (of course the part-time program was four years not three), I quit. I still remember the brief feeling of failure followed immediately by total relief. It took about a year to pay off the loan I had taken out (kicking myself with every check I sent) but I do feel I dodged a bullet.

    I'm still a paralegal, now at a government agency. I've never regretted dropping out of law school, especially when I see how many JD's are applying for paralegal jobs in government agencies, including mine.