Posts Tagged ‘say no to law school’

Georgetown Law Graduate Discusses Law School: Is it Worth It?

Freedom from the Sunk Cost Fallacy: Say No to Law School
http://drewfrederick.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/freedom-from-the-sunk-cost-fallacy-say-no-to-law-school/
July 2013

During my fourth semester of law school, having already put in two years’ patent law work at a prestigious law firm, I realized that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.  All my friends told me to stick it out and finish the final year since I’d already invested two years of my life, and a lot of money, into law school.

Then I discovered the sunk cost fallacy: the mistake of incorporating past losses into current decisions.  For example, consider two men who have concert tickets to a favorite band playing at an outdoor venue; the first man received his free as a promotion while the second man paid $50.  On the evening of the concert, the weather is terrible and neither man wants to go.  The first man rationalizes that his ticket was free anyway, so doesn’t go, while the second forces himself to go, lest he lose $50.

But, of course, the ideal rational decision should be the same.  In both cases, at the time of decision, the men simply possess tickets to a show.  Assuming their preferences are the same, it is irrelevant how they came by those tickets – therefore, neither should go.  The second man has been duped by the sunk cost fallacy, believing that the cost already sunk in his ticket is relevant to a later decision.  It isn’t.

In deciding whether to finish my final year of law school, the only relevant question was whether it was worth the additional year and expense to receive my law degree; it was irrelevant whether I’d already spent two days, two years, or two decades pursuing the degree.  I finally decided that it was, considering that a law degree can be used to open a wide variety of doors (not just doors to law firms), but if I’d been in the same position after only my first year, with another two more years to go, my decision would have been to walk – nay, run.

Now that graduate degrees are what undergraduate degrees were twenty years ago, Generation Y seems to feel professionally incomplete without a master’s degree, law degree, or MBA.  U.S. law schools are graduating more future lawyers than ever before, and it’s a booming business for University, Inc.  Unfortunately, job opportunities and income are simply not keeping pace with the supply of graduate degrees, and Millennials now complain of debt, particularly student debt, as their “biggest financial concern.”  So it’s worth asking the question: Is law school worth it?  Let’s look.

Tuition.  At Georgetown University Law Center, my alma mater, annual tuition for 2012-13 was $48,835.00.  Just tuition.  To give you an idea of how much that is, here is a picture of several stacks of $100 bills, totaling $40,000.  Stare at this picture for a moment.  Then repeat to yourself: All this money is NOT ENOUGH for a SINGLE SEMESTER of law school tuition.
Living expenses.  Depends on where you go to law school, of course, but D.C. is not a cheap place to live.  My poorest law school friends squeaked by on another $20,000 a year, but most people racked up $30,000+ a year in rent, utilities, insurance, transportation, books, fees, and entertainment.
Opportunity cost.  Few Americans have enough savings for six months’ worth of unemployment; can you imagine three years of unemployment?  Some students were lucky enough to get summer associate positions at law firms but they were few and far between.  Most students settled for a modestly paid or even unpaid summer internship.  To calculate opportunity cost, figure out how much you could have made in the same period and subtract what you actually did make.  For most law students, the opportunity cost is well over $30,000 a year.
Interest.  Money ain’t cheap.  Most students will pay interest on their entire law school debts for many years after graduation.
Let’s assume a net expense of $70,000 per year for three years, plus an annual opportunity cost of $30,000, and amortize that over ten years at 6% per year.  That comes to a monthly cost of $3,330, or about $40,000 per year – for the next ten years.  But remember: that $40K premium is paid with after-tax dollars.  (Yes, there is a student loan interest deduction, but it’s limited to $2500, a tiny fraction of the interest paid, and it doesn’t apply to single people whose adjusted gross income is over $75,000.)  At a 30% marginal tax rate, representing federal and state income taxes, this $40K premium actually represents $57,000 of one’s nominal income.

In other words, if you go to law school under the above assumptions, then you’ll be paying $57,000 a year for the next decade just to break even, so your new job as a lawyer better account for that.  But what happens if you discover you don’t like practicing law?  Or what if your law degree doesn’t add $57K to your salary?  The major D.C. law firms, for example, are starting new lawyers at between $100K and $140K, but these positions are highly competitive and a relatively small proportion of law school graduates, even from the highest ranked schools, can get these coveted positions.

According to Above the Law, the median starting salary for law firms in 2012 was just $85K, and for those not lucky enough to land a law firm job, the median starting salary was only $60K.  Then again, over 15% of 2011 graduates had a median starting salary of $0, since they couldn’t find a job at all.

So let’s say you give up your $50K/year job to go to law school and get an $85K/year law firm job.  Not only will your real income shrink by $22,000 a year ($57,000 in annual debt payments makes a big dent in your increased salary) but you’ll actually be working significantly longer hours just to make that higher salary.  That’s right.  To succeed in one of those high-paying law firms, expect to bill 45+ hours a week, which means actually being present for 60-70 hours a week to deal with meetings, non-billables, and other administrative and corporate bullshit.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  And, of course, you can’t leave – you’ve already incurred the law school debt and need the job to pay it off.

Conclusion?

Option A: Quit your job, go to law school, incur enormous amounts of debt, compete for the coveted law firm position that will pay you, after your student loan payments, less than you made before, where you will work 50% to 75% more hours, and that you cannot leave for ten or more years because of your law school debt.
Option B: Be happy with your current job and avoid law school like the plague.

#@&% No!: More lawyers of color a law school priority (Updated)

You see this? More lawyers of color a law school priority (Daily Planet, 05/24/2012)When an industry is failing that’s when they desire more people of color–so they can take them down with them. A year ago I posted an article regarding this issue and apparently it is being revisited. Listen wisely people of color, especially Blacks. Do not allow propaganda, rhetoric and false promises deceive you into attending law school. Let’s look at the facts:

*Law school tuition increases, while unemployment in the legal industry steadily decreases.

*Since the 2008 recession, the U.S. national unemployment rate hovered I think around 9+%. For Black Americans specifically it was a consistent 15%. When things are bad, they are really bad for Blacks.

*Unemployment as of last week continued to worsen in the public sector (federal and state government), because as one news article reported the bulk of Black unemployment is in this sector. Translation: whites in the mid to BigLaw firms have always been hesitant if not blatantly refuse to hire you. For those wise enough to apply to Yale or Harvard, a white male from the same alma mater will still win over you.

*The average law student must take out student loans: No ifs, ands, or buts. So an average person of color from working class or middle class will never have ALL of their tuition/fees paid by non-dischargrable Sallie Mae debt. Should you be able to find a job upon graduation, know that you will not make $150,000+ starting nor ever. Since state and federal government have continued to shrink its workforce, by the time new 0Ls apply there will be even less jobs in that sector.

This industry wants to get as many people of color mired in debt. Use your critical thinking skills and common sense. As mentioned before, you are wise to this game they’re attempting to play. Remember when the 4th tier UB Law attempted to open a branch law school in Prince George’s County-a county that has always been historically Black? It didn’t go through (See my post: Does Prince George’s Need a Law School?: An Article in The Washington Post (February 11, 2010) It does not matter if it’s Maryland or Minnesota or Massachussetts, it is a horrible scheme across the board.

Now there’s another scheme in the works in the guise of getting people of color represented in the legal industry. How about getting people of color represented in a legitimate workforce that actually helps them achieve a standard of living and have dignity? No, just more debt. Nothing but legal education sharecropping. You will be calling Sallie Mae “master.”

**Please also see: Minorities Decrease Enrollment in Law Schools: They Figured Out the Game (07/16/2010; Life’s Mockery)

Center for American Progress Report Entitled: What Can We Learn From Law School?

All Rights Reserved

For those considering law school, this is a good read, a summary report entitled: What Can We Learn From Law School (click title for pdf) December 2011 by the Center for American Progress. I highlighted some quotes:“This report explores the field of legal education with the hope that putting a magnifying glass to this small part of higher education will help us better understand the problems that face all colleges. (see sidebar) It details the steady rise in law school enrollment, despite high tuition rates and a heavy reliance on student loan debt. And it describes the unpleasant surprise that awaits law students upon graduation: Though a few lucky grads will make more than $130,000 per year, most new lawyers can expect annual salaries of around $63,000. With monthly loan payments near $1,000, graduates are finding that membership in the legal profession is not the golden ticket they thought it would be.”

 p. 7: The high demand for legal education is somewhat surprising given its hefty price tag.  It’s difficult to locate the cause of this steep rise in tuition. Though some have claimed that stringent accreditation requirements drive price, a 2009 GAO study showed that this assumption is incorrect.

So not only student enrollment screening has become more lax, so has ABA accreditation.

p. 9 On the whole, this low default rate does not seem like a big deal. But for the individuals who fall into the default category, it can have devastating effects. Federal student loans are not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

That University of Maryland student that filed for bankruptcy should have had access to this report before going to federal court.

p.13: Though the return on investment in law school has been in question for young graduates since at least 2008 and possibly even earlier, this news was not widely reported until recently. This may be due, in part, to the fact that statistics about the legal profession as a whole mask the circumstances that young lawyers face. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the legal profession show that the growth in law jobs slowed over the past several years. In other words, law schools are able to admit large classes, maintain the same educational model, and continue to push tuition higher because students still turn out in droves for a chance to be in their entering classes.

Basically, as long as the 0L public continues to buy into it, the law schools will continue to rope you in. You have the power to stop this madness, stop buying into the law school degree can open so many doors and you can do anything with a JD. It is obviously not true. These people are laughing in your faces at this point. You are now willingly and openly proceeding towards a known danger.

To ensure students, colleges, and policymakers react to the forces that are changing the value of college degrees, the following policy changes should be implemented:

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, should collect and publish average employment and salary data for recent entrants into an occupation. Would provide 0Ls reality of the legal market and what they’re getting into.

• The BLS should work in conjunction with the Department of Education to make this information available to prospective students. So 0Ls/general public are not duped by misleading and in some cases blatantly false statistics provided directly on the law schools’ websites who have obvious financial interest to skew data and currently no repurcussions to ensure accurate information.

• Accreditors in all sectors of higher education should create standard definitions for employment and salary statistics, and require member schools to make such information readily available to students. Accreditors should audit member schools’ adherence with these standards from time to time. Audit, compliance then the federal government can fine them, and they would lose money they hold so dear.

 The beginning of the report appeared to be slanted by providing the reader with the impression that although the legal industry is shrinking/worsening and the value of the JD degree is decreasing the legal education sector only accounts for a small amount of those enrolled in graduate degree programs. However, this report doesn’t provide any statistics to support that.  It is a good read for general summary which hints to the reader that law school, especially at this point of America’s development and economy is not a good investment, no matter how you play with the numbers.

Select Rejection Letters: Fall/Winter 2011

This is self-explanatory. The following are a sample of rejection letters emailed to me from federal agencies:

● The following are a few letters for this one vacancy:

09/29/2011: Thank you for submitting an application for the position of Attorney Advisor, vacancy announcement number ATTY-WTB-2011-0004.  Your name was referred to the selecting official for consideration; however, another applicant was selected for the position.

We appreciate your interest and hope you will continue to apply for future vacancies.

Sincerely,

Dionne Butler

BUT WHAT, WE MAY STILL HIRE YOU, OR SOMEONE ELSE…:

10/03/2011: Please disregard the Status of Application Letter, dated September, 29, 2011, for the position of the Attorney Advisor, Vacancy Announcement Number: ATTY-WTB-2011-0004.  The Selecting Official has determined an extension for considering applicants for Vacancy Announcement Number: ATTY-WTB-2011-0004.

We appreciate your interest and hope you will continue to apply for future vacancies.

Sincerely,

OK JUST KIDDING, WE WON’T HIRE YOU:

01/31/2012: Thank you for submitting an application for the position of Attorney Advisor, vacancy announcement number ATTY-WTB-2011-0004.  Your name was referred to the selecting official for consideration; however, another applicant was selected for the position.

We appreciate your interest and hope you will continue to apply for future vacancies.

Sincerely,

Dionne Butler

11/07/2011:

united states of america

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH REVIEW COMMISSION

One LafayetteCentre

1120 20th Street, NW – Ninth Floor

Washington,DC 20036-3457

 November 7, 2011

 [NAME AND ADDRESS DELETED]

RE: Attorney Advisor GS-0905-11/12/13/14                                                                                                                                                                                           Vacancy Announcement OS-2011-03

 Dear Ms. [                         ]:

The purpose of this letter is to thank you for your interest in our Attorney Advisor position.  We appreciate your taking the time out of your busy schedule to submit an application with us.  Although, your application was forwarded to the selecting official for consideration another applicant was selected for the position.

 Again, thank you for your interest in joining the staff of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.  We wish you the best of luck in the future.

 Sincerely,

 Linda M. Beard

Linda M. Beard
Human Resources Specialist

 I WAS QUALIFIED FOR EACH GRADE, AND THEY LET ME KNOW I WAS REJECTED FOR EACH GRADE-FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

 08/24/2011:

DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR   
BUR OF OCEAN ENERGY MGT   
DIVISION OF HUMAN RESOURCES   
381 ELDEN STREET   
MS 2400   
HERNDON VA  20170   
August 24, 2011   
 
    This refers to the application you recently submitted to this office for the position below:   

Position Title:      Attorney-Adviser (General) GS-0905-11/12/13/14   
Pay Plan/ Series/Grade:      GS-0905-11/14   
Vacancy ID:      481224   
Announcement Number:      OS-DA-11-MM481224   
Hiring Office:      Office of the Secretary   

    Results regarding your recent referral to the Hiring Official are as follows:   

    Referral Type:      Non-Traditional   
    Appointment Type:      Term   
    Specialty / Grade:      0905 – 14   
    Promotion Potential:      14   
    Locations:      1440 – Alexandria, Arlington & Falls , VA   

    You were rated among the best qualified group of candidates and your name was referred to the selecting official for further review.  However, another candidate has been selected for this position.     

    Your application will be retained as part of the official records and will not be referred to other vacancy announcements.   
    Audit Code   
    NS   
    Code Definition   
    Not Selected   
    Code Explanation   

    The selecting office has indicated that you were not selected for the position.   
    Thank you for your interest in employment with our agency.   
    PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE.  IT WAS GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY.   

 ●    08/24/2011:

  DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR    
  BUR OF OCEAN ENERGY MGT    
  DIVISION OF HUMAN RESOURCES    
  381 ELDEN STREET    
  MS 2400    
  HERNDON VA  20170    
  August 24, 2011   

    This refers to the application you recently submitted to this office for the position below:   

    Position Title: Attorney-Adviser (General) GS-0905-11/12/13/14   

    Pay Plan/ Series/Grade:      GS-0905-11/14   
    Vacancy ID:      481224   
    Announcement Number:      OS-DA-11-MM481224   
    Hiring Office:      Office of the Secretary   

    Results regarding your recent referral to the Hiring Official are as follows:   

    Referral Type:      Non-Traditional   

    Appointment Type:      Term   
    Specialty / Grade:      0905 – 13   
    Promotion Potential:      14   
    Locations:      1440 – Alexandria, Arlington & Falls , VA   

    You were rated among the best qualified group of candidates and your name was referred to the selecting official for further    

    review.  However, another candidate has been selected for this position.   

    Your application will be retained as part of the official records and will not be referred to other vacancy announcements.   

    Audit Code   
    NS   
    Code Definition   
    Not Selected   
    Code Explanation   

    The selecting office has indicated that you were not selected for the position.   

    Thank you for your interest in employment with our agency.   

    PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE.  IT WAS GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY.   

    For additional information, please refer to the vacancy announcement for this position. 

  

08/24/2011: This refers to the application you recently submitted to this office for the position below:   

    Position Title:      Attorney-Adviser (General) GS-0905-11/12/13/14   

    Pay Plan/ Series/Grade:      GS-0905-11/14   
    Vacancy ID:      481224   
    Announcement Number:      OS-DA-11-MM481224   
    Hiring Office:      Office of the Secretary   

    Results regarding your recent referral to the Hiring Official are as follows:   

    Referral Type:      Non-Traditional   
    Appointment Type:      Term   
    Specialty / Grade:      0905 – 12   
    Promotion Potential:      14   
    Locations:      1440 – Alexandria, Arlington & Falls , VA   

    You were rated among the best qualified group of candidates and your name was referred to the selecting official for further review.  However, another candidate has been selected for this position.        

    Your application will be retained as part of the official records and will not be referred to other vacancy announcements.   

    Audit Code   
    NS   
    Code Definition   
    Not Selected   
    Code Explanation   

    The selecting office has indicated that you were not selected for the position.   
    Thank you for your interest in employment with our agency.   
    PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE.  IT WAS GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY.  

 

08/24/2011:

 DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR   
 BUR OF OCEAN ENERGY MGT   
 DIVISION OF HUMAN RESOURCES   
 381 ELDEN STREET   
 MS 2400   
 HERNDON VA  20170   

August 24, 2011     

    This refers to the application you recently submitted to this office for the position below:   

    Position Title:      Attorney-Adviser (General) GS-0905-11/12/13/14   

    Pay Plan/ Series/Grade:      GS-0905-11/14   
    Vacancy ID:      481224   
    Announcement Number:      OS-DA-11-MM481224   
    Hiring Office:      Office of the Secretary   

    Results regarding your recent referral to the Hiring Official are as follows:   

    Referral Type:      Non-Traditional   
    Appointment Type:      Term   

    Specialty / Grade:      0905 – 11   
    Promotion Potential:      14   
    Locations:      1440 – Alexandria, Arlington & Falls , VA   

    You were rated among the best qualified group of candidates and your name was referred to the selecting official for further review.  However, another candidate has been selected for this position.         

    Your application will be retained as part of the official records and will not be referred to other vacancy announcements.   

    Audit Code   
    NS   
    Code Definition   
    Not Selected   
    Code Explanation   

    The selecting office has indicated that you were not selected for the position.   

    Thank you for your interest in employment with our agency.   

    PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE.  IT WAS GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY.   

    For additional information, please refer to the vacancy announcement for this position.