On Law School

Author’s Note: I have been meaning to write a post with this same title for some time now.  Luckily for me, I haven’t.  The post that I would’ve authored 2 months ago (or even 2 weeks ago) would be nothing like the post you find below.  With that caveat, enjoy.

I have been heavily considering law school as a next step.  I have struggled with the decision, wrestling with ideas of prestige, location, funding, and – of course – the actual education.  I even went so far as to register for, and take, the LSAT, get all my applications completed, and letter-writer packets constructed.

But – I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger.  There are several reasons for this, but I will outline the most pressing of those here.

  1. Cost.
  2. Commitment.
  3. Post-Law School Outlook

1. Cost.

Of course, the major “cost” is the bottom-line dollars required to ascertain a JD in today’s world.  The schools that I was considering would have cost me anywhere from $150,000 – $250,000, an absolutely mind-boggling amount of money.  And, it would likely all have come from loans.  This is the reason that many recent grads take jobs at big firms and grind their best years away at 80-hour-week increments – the simply have too much debt and no other way to pay it off.

The GAO recently released a report on the drivers of law school cost, and it had some interesting insights.  Even more interesting was the community reaction to the report:

One professor noted that he “I certainly find that I think harder than I used to about whether I am providing value to students, and I think of it as dollar value and return on long term investment.  I treat myself a lot more as an educational fiduciary than I used to.”

On top of that, going to law school represents an enormous opportunity cost for me.  It is three years that I cannot do something else – I cannot work to gain experience or exposure in another industry, I cannot consult or do other interesting side-projects, and I can’t start a family.  These were simply costs that I was not willing to bear; the cost/benefit equation did not balance out.

2. Commitment.

For me, three years is an incredibly long time to commit to something.  I have an upper limit of commitment that currently barely reaches 18 months (hence my ability to finish – with any luck – my current degree program).  Today, the opportunities are just too exciting, move too swiftly, and come and go so quickly that to not be able to actualize them as the arise is an option I cannot engage.

Also – this means three more years before we can move back to the Pacific NW, something that remains an ultimate goal, and one that we would prefer to achieve sooner rather than later.

3. Post-Law School Outlook

By now, everyone has heard that times are tough for recent law school grads.  Coverage at blogs like Above The Law has been expansive.  Also, lawyers who do have jobs seem to find little to no security in them (hence the creation of “This Week in Layoffs“).

For me, this is worse news than most, as I have no vision of what I expect to do with my JD, and honestly have no desire to “be a lawyer.”  Rather, I’m in it for the theory, the legal education, and the ability to “think like a lawyer.”  The connections, additional degree, and other benefits would be nice, but are (were) not the driver for me.

The market may be better in 2012/2013, or, it may be the same.  It could be even worse.  The only thing that I can say for sure is that I would be carrying a six-figure debt load and itching to do non-traditional things.  This is a recipe for disaster.

To conclude, I’m looking forward to pursuing post-grad opportunities, but law school will not be one of them.  Though I haven’t entirely ruled it out in the future, I have a hard time imagining situations where it would be both feasible and viable for me.

This ship has sailed for me.

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