I caught a rather depressing story in the NY Times on Sunday. “Is Law School a Losing Game?” is about … well just that … how law schools play the rankings game (particularly with regard to employment statistics) to the detriment of unknowing applicants and students who take out massive amounts of loans only to realize that the promise of a job after graduation was a mirage.
For law students, this discussion has been buzzing since the economic downturn … the end of summer programs & the beginning of delayed start dates (or a lack of start dates). Still there are some startling bits, including the fact that some schools are claiming a higher employment rate for graduates today than they did 10 years ago! This seems simply impossible given the realities of the job market today.
Last summer, there were a number of temps working in the office where I was interning. The worked the butts off in the hopes of making a good impression, as they were new graduates desperate for a full-time gig. There was no hope of that happening since the office wasn’t hiring. (And as the article mentions, at one temp agency they have placed hundreds of lawyers into temporary jobs with only five hired full-time… not good odds.) The temps I worked with seemed cheery but also visibly stressed out. I really felt for them and was thankful to still be in school, even if only for another semester.
I’ll be honest, that while I have a job lined up for the next two years, this story does not fall on deaf ears. Ever since the ugly reality of my law school loans (half of which have already gone through the grace period since I took a semester off to have baby) was brought to my full attention at my “exit interview” I’ve been feeling scared and guilty. Scared at the prospect of living in pseudo-poverty for the next decade, which will easily cover the rest of my 30s as I’m no “spring chicken.” Guilty at the realization that I’m pulling my husband and son down with me.
I still have hopes of avoiding working at a firm and pursuing my passion in public interest law, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t stop to wonder if that’s the best choice for my family. I rationalize, telling myself that having a more present mom is more important than financial stability. I think that’s basically right, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel guilty for having pursued my own goals at the expense of my son’s (I’m going to be paying my loans instead of putting away for his future college expense… he’ll likely end up in the same boat as me…).
But here I am, not exactly regretting my decision to go to law school, not unlike the less-than-sympathetic fellow the article follows (though unlike him I’ve made as many careful money decisions as possible in this mad business, borrowing the absolute minimum…). I think it helps that I have a little more, shall we say, “life experience” than my peers… After years of trying to figure what I wanted to be when I grew up I was ecstatic to finally discover the law. I knew that I really, really wanted to go to law school and pursue a career as a lawyer. … Or maybe I’m still just foolish and blind to reality.
Well, I’m not going to seek a refund from my law school’s dean, even if the future seems a bit scary right now.