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.
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.