Law School – Good Choice or Bad Choice?

It seems like recently there have been a lot of articles criticizing law schools.  To be fair, the articles do bring up some valid points– for example, the high cost of attendance, the inflated employment rates, and the depressed legal market.  But if law school has taught me anything, it is to examine arguments critically.

Law school is expensive.  Taking information from the US News and World Report, the average cost of attending a top 25 school is approximately $40,000-$50,000 a year.  And that is for tuition alone.  When you factor in that many of these schools are in large cities with high cost of living, and it is not uncommon for students to take out $60,000-$80,000 in loans in one year.  Even schools which are relatively unknown are not shy about charging $30,000 (or more) a year in tuition.  Much has been made of the fact that many law students graduate with over $100,000 in loans that do not go away, even with bankruptcy.  In fact, over the past 25 years, law school tuition has increased at twice the rate of cost of living.

But is this any different than the inflation of cost for undergraduate courses?  Higher education in general is becoming more and more expensive.  The average cost of college tuition went up nearly three times as fast as the cost of living in the period from 1978-2008.  I believe this is due to the increased availability of loans to students and the government backing of those loans. I will say this as plainly as possible: there are too many law schools out there.  The current system allows for schools to charge whatever tuition they want. The schools walk away with cash in hand, and lenders are stuck with grads who can’t find jobs in a saturated market.

Many law schools add to the problem by intentionally inflating their statistics.  This makes the law market market seem more active than it really is.  Some of the third and fourth tier schools still manage to report 99.9% total employment after graduation.  So why shouldn’t students want to go those schools?  You have to keep in mind that many of these schools count ANY employment as “being employed.”  Working at a top 100 international law firm making $180,000 a year?  Flipping burgers making minimum wage? Employed.  Relatively few students, even at large prestigious schools, end up making over $100k a year.  I have even heard of schools hiring grads to work in the copy room of the law school so that the school can count them as “employed.”

The legal market is depressed.  But so is practically every other market in the US right now.  The American Bar Association has even issued a “warning” encouraging students to think twice about law school.  It reported that while grads entering big firms were previously making an average of $160,000 by 2009, the average salary for a grad was down to $65,000.  But look carefully at the report, because they are comparing vastly different jobs.  Large firm salaries have always been disproportionate to the average starting salary of all law school graduates.  Large firms may not be paying $160,000 any more, but they still paying over $100,000 for a starting salary.  As I have said before, this is like holding a lime next to a pomelo and shouting, “LOOK AT HOW SMALL CITRUS HAS GOTTEN!!!!”

So what should a conscientious, intelligent individual who is contemplating law school do?  Think about it.  Make sure this is something that you are interested in.  Law school is an arduous adventure, but I got into it knowing this.  I have enjoyed my law school experience, and came into it with no delusions about the profession I chose.  Be sure to weigh all of the factors that are important to you.  For me, that meant looking at the cost of attendance, and making sure that the school had an honest and complete record of employment.  Note how the BYU career report lets you know how many students got into degrees that are “non-professional” (that means burger-flipping jobs, folks).  Law school can lead to a rewarding career in a number of fields.  Like with many of important life-decisions, the decision to enter law school should be carefully and thoughtfully considered.


Law School Rants and Raves

Now that I am a seasoned veteran of law school vet of two weeks, I have very strong opinions about the BYU law school. So here it goes.

RAVE
I figured it is best to start with the positive right? I love my classes. Yes, there is a lot of work. Yes, there is a lot of reading, but I really enjoy the way that the teachers go over the material. Most professors at the law school teach by what has been deemed “the Socratic method” (though as one professor claims, “Socrates would never know it.”). The basic idea is that a student is singled out, and they are then asked a series of question which delve deeper and eeper into the theories behind the case that was studied the night before (sometimes the hour before). I really have enjoyed this type of learning, because it allows you to explore the concepts right there in the classroom, while interacting the professors.
That leads to the second reason I have enjoyed law school so far. The professors seem genuinely interested in us as students. There is almost a sense of camaraderie, as if the professors see us as potential equals. It is a rewarding experience to feel that you are valued by your superiors.
RANT
WHERE IS MY FINANCIAL AID? I have tuition that is due, rent to pay, etc. I applied for financial aid almost 4 months ago, and I have yet to hear a peep from the BYU administration beyond my estimate loan allowance. It is almost the exact opposite of the experience I have at the law school. I feel like there is no respect, and I am talked down to by the people I have spoken to at the financial aid office. Yes, I understand that they have a lot of people who call in quite upset about not having any of their aid doled out yet, but when the office sends an email saying “pay your tuition or else we will cancel all of your classes and redact your admission” people tend to get angry (especially when we are waiting for YOU, financial aid office).

Good Newses!

What exactly is the plural form of “news”?

A couple of good things to announce here, I will go down in the order of perceived “goodness”

As I am sure many of you already know, and have read of my lovely wife’s blog, we had the bwun! Here are all the juicy (do you catch that? because labor is messy… and juicy… so it is funny because… never mind) details that not even Roni probably remembers!

We arrived at the hospital around 6 AM (still a horrible time to be arriving anywhere, if you ask me), and they got Roni all set up to be induced. They started giving her the pitocin to get the contractions going. Roni has been having pretty consistent contractions for a while now, so the pitocin wasn’t really doing much as far as we could tell.

The fun really started at 9, when the doctor came in and determined that Roni was far enough along to get her water broken (is it really her water, or is the the bwun’s water that got broken?). After that, the contractions really started going, and Roni could tell that they were really doing something.

The nurse came back in around 10, and said that nothing much had changed, and shortly after that, the contractions got REALLY bad. By the time they checked her an hour later, she was fully effaced and dialated, and said that she was ready to start pushing, but that we had to wait for the doctor to get there around noon.

Around noon, a nurse came in and said that the doctor would be in soon, and Roni should start trying to push. After one push (not even one contraction), the bwun’s head almost starting coming out, so the nurse decided NO MORE PUSHING, at least until the doctor came in. We waited almost another hour, and around 12:45 the doctor made it in.

When he entered the room, they started having Roni push again, and by the time the doctor had his gown on, it only took one and a half contractions for the bwun to enter the world! At 1:09 we officially had our newest addition to the family. Evan Tarleton was born at 7 lbs and 5 oz kicking and screaming. I thought he was cute right off the bat, but Roni reserved judgement until he was washed off to make her call. Personally, I think he is getting cuter by the day. Check out Roni’s blog about the bwun to see pictures of the cute little guy.

The other good news?

Well, my interview with BYU went quite well. I thought it was going to be a very in depth interview with all sorts of trick questions. I was surprised, however, because it was fairly straight forward. The dean asked why I wanted to go to law school at BYU, and then he told me why he wanted me to go to law school at BYU. So hopefully, I’ll be going to BYU in the fall to start my legal education!