Slate says it’s time to apply to law school. Wow. Talk about completely misguided.

Above the Law takes issue with the Slate article in a humorous, yet accurate, way.

Let me be clear. It’s as bad an idea to go to law school now has it has ever been.

The best time to go to law school in Mississippi was around 1980. That way, you would have been practicing around twenty years when the litigation boom hit in the late 1990’s and in prime position to take advantage of the boom.

Of course, it wasn’t clear that the boom was temporary at the time. Many lawyers who did take advantage of the boom didn’t save any money because they assumed that they would be making it forever.

I’m not saying that no one should ever attend law school. But for god’s sake, don’t go into debt to do it. The risk-reward / expected value analysis on the decision of whether to go into debt to attend law school weighs heavily in favor of not going.

Yea, it could all work out in your favor with a high paying job to pay off the debt. But odds are, it’s going to be a deep hole with little income available to pay off the student loans. Law schools encouraging prospective students to go into debt are selling a fairy tale.

Your odds with $100,000 are much better at a blackjack table in the casino than they are with law school.

Practicing law is about making good decisions. Going into debt to attend law school in the current economic environment for law school graduates is a really bad decision.

  • nearing retirement joyously

    we have hired a few just-passed-the-bar lawyers [government office] and I was shocked to learn some are $150,000 in debt. That’s ten times what I borrowed in the late 70’s.

  • anonmd

    Same for Medical School? Little pay off and a whole lot of debt. Only the best and brightest will get into the most competitive specialties that can command out of pocket payments.

    • PhilipThomas

      Now I know why so many doctors are always in a bad mood.

  • Chen Kasher

    There will be other booms. Look at any mass tort. You don’t think we’ll have another TVM? Or metal on metal hips? Maybe another asbestos? Even with tort reform, there are always good cases floating around.

    I agree, though, that the initial investment has become out of touch with the market. But I see no reason not to go if you’re financially prudent about it.

    • PhilipThomas

      I’m not sure I can agree. A litigation boom today would look nothing like a boom 20 years ago. For almost all big litigation today there is a federal court MDL controlled by a few law firms on each side. This is why we aren’t seeing booms in anything. It’s not because nothing is happening.

      • Chen Kasher

        In an MDL setting, it’s unlikely to become liaison or steering counsel, but you don’t think a savvy attorney can sign up several local clients and profit? If anything, the MDLs reduce the cost of litigating these cases because you can ride the coattails of bigger firms.

        • PhilipThomas

          No. For the life of me I don’t know why so many people view every dollar of a plaintiff lawyer’s revenue as “profit.” Plaintiff lawyers have overhead like everyone else.

          What do you mean a “savvy” lawyer? Let’s say a lawyer spends $15,000 on advertising trying to land clients on an emerging tort that will end up in an MDL. For $15k he will be lucky to sign up 3 cases. That’s why you see so much advertising for these cases by out of state groups. It takes big money. But say the local guy gets 3 cases and they are shipped off to the MDL. If everything works out well the lawyer might make a fee of $40-50k 3 years down the road. Which will cover the lawyer’s nut (overhead) for a few months at best. No one can make a living doing that in Mississippi. Look at how diverse the advertising of Schwartz and Morgan and Morgan is. And many times the lawyer will strike out on his advertising. So the real long term expected value of doing what you suggest is meager. The notion that there is any easy money in the law business on either side of the bar is wrong.

          And then what about my friends at the big defense firms? Most of the jobs in the law business are on the defense side. The Mississippi defense lawyers get usually get shut out by the MDL’s. The work is concentrated in a few elite law firms.

          • Chen Kasher

            I meant savvy in the sense that this lawyer has a strong local network of feeders and referral sources that will come to him first when their hip implant fails.

            The beauty of law is that, at the end of the day, it is still a field where local businesses can succeed. A person with a niche market based on ethnicity/national origin, local ties and contacts, or a relatively obscure practice area can still do very well.

            • injustice4yall

              MDL are the big problem and always will be. Might as well stand for Mississippi Dont get litigation. The federal judges could help by offering to take a few MDL’s here. I have tried together with some defense firms. No luck so far..

          • Chen Kasher

            I think we’re really in agreement. There’s no easy money in the profession. I will say that, based on my anecdotal experience, I think law school is a good long-term investment (as in 40 years of hard work) but a poor short-term investment.

  • injustice4yall

    sorry those days are long gone. Any mass torts even if a big plant exploded in Mississippi would be handled by out of state lawyers and filed out of of state or in an out of state MDL controlled by Class guys. Look at BP and CDW, even with 1/3 of cases occurring here less than 7% have Mississippi lawyers. Bad law, weak and impotent bar, and you have permanent decline. Ole Miss and Mississippi college should be honest about this and cut the classes in half permanently like they do for med school.

  • anonmd

    Medical School cutting classes? Y’all are seeing non-docs and you don’t even know it half the time. NP’s and PA’s are playing doctor and driving up costs. Imagine how many unnecessary tests ordered by a non-doc who “does not know what they do not know”… Scary for the uninformed patient. Hey maybe that will be the next legal gold mine? Ugh!

  • injustice4yall

    Anonmd. I meant the number of doctors coming into the market per year. If you guys dont like PA’s then you should double the supply of doctors. (LOL) I agree with you here but the medical profession keeps the supply of doctors way down compared to the supply of attorneys. I believe there is a GAO report on this.

    But Yeah I am loving it when my wife has skin cancer and still only gets to see the PA. But not a lot better when I wait for 2 hours to be seen by a doctor for 2 minutes who hasn’t even reviewed my records, and is clueless. (When you see 100 plus patients a day no way you can give great care anymore than i can working on 1000 cases a year)Much worse on the second scenario when I lived in Mississippi.

    But it doesn’t matter in Mississippi anyway, there is effectively no real medical malpractice so if I were running a medical clinic I would use the cheapest labor I could get away with. Don’t speak English no problem, medical school in Africa, why not.

  • injustice4yall

    We are looking for a new doctor but the problem is the lack of choice in the field. we have three on the Gulf Coast maybe four over here in Mobile and only a few taking new patients. The choice you have to pick your own doctor is an illusion in many areas.

  • Al

    Why would anybody want to board this sinking ship. The legal market is never going to come back.