Friday, September 10, 2004

One of the paralegals in my department asked me today if I would write him a letter of recommendation for law school. He's been here for about a year and is applying to law schools to start a year from now. I don't fully understand how paralegals can spend time here and still decide they want to go to law school. We gloss everything up for the summer associates, with expensive food, unlimited alcohol, little work, and fun events, but the paralegals see everything. One of my colleagues thinks it's that they don't realize they're not the only ones treated like crap. They don't love it here, but they imagine life is so much better for the associates, because they get to do "real" work instead of collating papers, and get offices with windows. I have no sympathy for paralegals who go to law school. They know what they're getting themselves into. I told him I would be delighted to write a recommendation letter. I'll write anyone a recommendation letter for law school. I'll write the janitor a recommendation letter. The more people who go to law school, the more validation there is to the career I've chosen. Come to law school, everyone. You can be just like me.

I'm not in the best of moods today, as you might be able to tell. It's been a long morning. Anonymous Wife decided she wants the most expensive kitchen anyone has ever built. Our kitchen sink is going to be a jacuzzi.

"I don't fully understand how paralegals can spend time here and still decide they want to go to law school".

Have they seen your anonymous paycheck? Your anonymous car? Your anonymous house? Your anonymous $3000 Callaways?, etc. If so, that's why. Plus, once they are attorneys then it's their turn to treat the paralegals like crap.

"Come to law school, everyone. You can be just like me".

Guessing that you are being sarcastic, perhaps "being like you" is a reason NOT to go to law school. You don't sound happy these days.
What's not to get? Get crapped on while pumping out endless hours of monkey work for around $40,000/yr, or go to law school and come out to do about the same for 100K more. Seems pretty cut-and-dried.
Exactly (last comment). Once again AL has provided more evidence that Biglaw partners are selfish and clueless (or at least AL is) (if this is real). Hey AL, paralegals make $40,000 to work 2300-2500 real hours a year. You make at least $280,000 - $380,000 or much more (I don't know what city you're in), and new associates make $85,000 - $125,000. Can you subtract? You make a LOT of money compared to almost every other human on the planet, and you get to sit in a chair and read all day, and all you can do is whine?
Making $380,000 a year really isn't that much. You guys make it seem like he's super rich. He's still middle class, struggling with money like everyone else. Did you really expect this guy to make a lot of money? If the quality of his blog is any indication of the quality of his work, then I think we know the answer.
Even 125 is a lot more than 40, but I see your point regarding quality.

I agree with your sentiments with one caveat. If your paralegal had the credentials to be admitted to a top 10 school, he should go. Even if he changes careers, life at an elite law school is not that bad and leads to life long prestige.

On the other hand, I do not understand why most people attend non-top law schools. Granted, many people have parents who pay for their education, so the prospect of not liking the profession or not obtained satisying exmloyment does not have drastic consequences. I do not understand why someone would attend a school at which only the 10% of the students find jobs at which they are paid well. When prospectic students apply for admission to law schools, an entire committee looks at the life long accomplishments of the applicant, including grades and LSAT scores, and determines if they deserve admission. Undergraduate grades, the prestige of the undergraduate institution, and LSAT scores, are a proxy for an applicant's ability to read and write well. For the most part, that is what attorneys do for a living. One would think that those who are not good at reading and writing should not be allowed to enter a profession which requires its members to read and write all the time. There are exceptions to this of course, but for the most part, given the costs, it is not worth it for most people. The days are long gone when entering the profession of law guaranteed a decent living. To this day, even with the onslaught of higher insurance premiums and the proliferation of HMOs, a career in medicine or dentistry still provides a good amount of stability and almost guarantees a decent wage. The average lawyer in the US makes $81,000. The average family practice doctor makes $140,000. That is a huge gap. The last thirty years has seen an increase in the number of law schools and an increase in the class size of law schools. The reputation of law as a means of escaping the middle class is antiquated.

Good luck for all of you at the bottom of your classes of schools ranked between UCLA and Minnesota. Good luck to the rest of you not in the top 10 of your law school class at almost all other schools. The chance of you having a life similar to that of AL is slight. More likely than not, the $100,000 plus you spent on law school tuition was a waste, unless it landed you a good hard-working husband or a wife whose family has money. Of course, many of you will disagree. Some of you are the exception to the rule who "made it" from a less than stellar school. Others of you will complain because you currently attend some crappy school and you need to make yourself feel better about the choices you made.
Just tell Wife you'll let her have the kitchen if she agrees to get implants.
Woe is me. Lately you've been bitching quite a bit. Still enjoyable to read, but your becoming a little too soft to keep your edge. You happen to be a "partner" at a law firm in soCal. Do something with that. Sleep with your secretary, or an office hottie. You dont have one? Hire one just for that purpose. Shallow is as shallow does.
Well, I went to a non-top-ten law school because I wanted to attend school in the state where I intended to practice, which does not have a top-ten law school. The firms here hire most associates from the schools here. I could have gone to nearly any school. LSAT was top 2%, college grades were good and I had experience. I just didn't want to. I wanted to study law because I was interested in law, not because I was seeking prestige and money.

While a 1L, I was faced with a decision: to study hard, join clubs and make law review, or take care of my mother, who had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Hmmmm. Which do you think AL would choose? My choice determined my future success in the prestigious law world, but I chose my mother anyway. I did not make the top 10% of my class (I was top 15%). I made the right choice.

I now have a job with a firm of 9. I love my work and it makes a huge impact in the lives of many, though I keep quiet about what I do and most people have no idea the impact I have. I trade off a high salary for a flexible schedule and wonderful working conditions. I am happy and my family is happy.

Frankly, I don't understand why people chase prestige with the idea that it will make them happy. Same with money. Doesn't anyone get it??
AL, I think it's time to turn off the comments feature for a while. This blog has become a sounding board for some top 10%ers who apparently get off on tearing down law students who are not similarly situated. I mean, I know we're all feeling good right now, getting callbacks left and right, but jesus christ... You think the other 90% don't already know they stand a slim chance of making Big Law? You think September isn't a miserable month for them, having to watch the "privileged few" of their peers don suits daily for OCIs? I know you think you're providing a "reality check" but don't you think fall recruiting is already doing that? How about this -- when your neighbor's down, instead of kicking him, how about offering some encouragement instead?
AL, please tell us you did the Right Thing and restored that summer's reputation.
"I agree with your sentiments with one caveat. If your paralegal had the credentials to be admitted to a top 10 school, he should go. Even if he changes careers, life at an elite law school is not that bad and leads to life long prestige."

Life long prestige?

A few years of practicing law would disabuse any lawyer, or at least any litigator, of that notion. At best a lawyer might be feared. Lawyers as a class are hated. Any lawyer whose been in court has been told at least once what a vile class we are. Often other lawyers believe that all lawyers are pretty much mercenaries, to put it politely.

There was prestige in this profession. There is not now. And it doesn't matter if you graduated from the top school in the country, or the worst one.

On school rankings, by the way, graduating from a top ten school doesn't matter a whit once you are chewed up and spit out by a graduate from a lower ranked school, and you will be. Often, quite frankly, graduates from a state school are just as adept as those from a top school, and initially, right after they take the bar, they are often better in smaller states, as they have a big head start on how courts actually work.

Which leads to my last point. Actual litigation bears the same relation to law school that war movies do to actual war. You might learn something, but don't kid yourself that it is really that much of use.

The "Vet".
"Come to law school, everyone. You can be just like me"

That's like saying, "Come play football. You can be just like OJ" It's not your profession that's the problem, AL. It's you.
Some of the folks who comment on this site are, you know, arrogant pricks who have no concept what the real practice of law is all about. Not worth going to law school if you don't go to a top ten school? I agree with the Vet, dude,just wait till you get your clock cleaned in court by someone who went to a third tier school. And where you went to college is an indication of how well you read and write? Yeah, some people go to less than Ive caliber colleges because they're not too smart, and some go because that's all they can afford, some go because they weren't mature enough in high school to take it seriously, and some go for a multitude of different reasons. Yeah, AL, turn off the comments.
The quality of your law school is very important for getting your first job and almost irrelevant after that, as AL implies. Top 10 graduates are, on average, brighter and better lawyers, not because they got a top 10 education, but because the top 10 schools selected them mainly for brains. (Not, however, for common sense, a quality still unmeasured by the LSATs.)

The pool of lawyers who didn't go to top 10 schools has a lot of ringers, however; in our shop (50 lawyers) two of the three brightest and most creative went to Harvard Law and Stanford Law. The third went to a no-name night school. You never can tell.
"...the brightest and most creative..."

If you think lawyers have any capacity whatsoever for creativity, you need to reexamine your interpretation of that concept.

Also, what exactly are the "top 10" schools? Aren't there, like, 20 of them or something?
Some lawyers are bright and creative, and some aren't. Many are bright without being creative. We have a lot of bright lawyers. We have only a few creative ones. The three I mentioned are the ones who are both bright and creative.

I do agree with your unspoken premise that most lawyers aren't creative -- but for most of our work, we don't need to be. The bank that wants a FNMA loan documented doesn't want a new and clever way to document conforming loans; it wants a loan just like the last loan. It doesn't want creativity, so its lawyers don't provide it (not that they could, necessarily).
Please provide one example of how one of these lawyers in your firm has been "creative."
Are you kidding? Creativity is essential in litigation. One must create an argument that can be backed up by case law, which consists of rules of law that have been applied to different situations. The best litigators pull out ideas from unrelated cases and string them together to persuade the court and or jury.
That's a pretty broad definition of creativity, Jan. Litigators may be able to produce "new" arguments by applying old rules of law to a new set of facts, but that's a far, far cry from the type of work done by authors of fiction, musicians, painters, etc. In that sense, I agree with the other Anon - lawyers are rarely, if ever, creative.

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