Google+ Badge

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Advice from a Successful Attorney: Don't waste your money on Law School

February 2014:  This Blog remains, by far, one of the most popular I have written, even one year later.  I have updated it slightly.  My husband and I, law partners, have been attorneys for 23 years each.  We are probably the last generation to be able to say the following:  we have no regrets about going to law school and we are happy to be practicing law.  Our kids, if they decide to go to law school (not pushing it) will be all right because they will "inherit" a successful law practice.  Unless you have a family law firm you will be walking into, my advice remains the same:  don't waste your time and money.

There was an article in the New York Times in January 2013 entitled, "Law Schools' Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut."  The article discusses the drastic decrease in law school applications, and the increasing debt load for unemployed law graduates.  There is a class action suit pending in which unemployed law school graduates are suing their former law schools for "fraud," claiming that they were induced into attending law school and taking on big loans, when in fact there were no jobs to be had.

The average cost of a NYC law school, including lodging, is said to be $80,000.00 per year.  Law school is 3 years, after which one must study for, then sit for the grueling NYS Bar Exam.  According to the NYT article, Professor William Henderson of Indiana University Law School said, "30 years ago, if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken."

That's true.  I can tell you why.  Essentially, there is nothing  more useless than a newly minted lawyer.  That includes myself and my husband when we graduated.  You know nothing that translates to the real world when you get out of law school. I would rather have a trained paralegal than a new lawyer any day, even a trained legal secretary is of more use to us.

New lawyers are coming out of school with so much debt, that they cannot afford to do what my husband and I did:  we took very low-paying jobs, in order to learn our craft.  Anthony worked for the Orange County District Attorney's Office as an A.D.A. for about 7 years, I worked for the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County for 2 and a half years, then took a low-paying job with a large local law firm to learn the business of practicing private law.

By the time we were done with our "apprenticeships," we had many years of trial experience behind us.  I had tried over 50 jury trials, Anthony had been in charge of the Newburgh Bureau or the Orange County District's Office.  Once you have that kind of experience, you have a new kind of confidence in the courtroom that you can't learn any place else.  We learned from the best.

Even back then, it was not easy to get our first jobs, there was a lot of competition, despite the low pay.  Now, with the hiring freezes and the economy the way it is, unless you know someone, it's really hard to get an apprenticeship-type job, and harder still if you're saddled with big law school loans.

I have put out ads for paralegals and received resumes from attorneys who had decades of experience but had lost their jobs.  I have no advice for the recent law school graduates, other than we wish you all well.  However, to any parents considering sending their kids to law school, and college grads thinking about taking the LSAT's: unless you're going to come back to work for the family business, my advice is:  Don't do it!

Juliana LoBiondo ("Mrs. Lo")