(Continuing from Part 3.)
Although now is a bad time to go to law school, the decision to decline to go to law school does not have to be forever. If there is one thing that seems clear from past experience, it is that supply and demand fluctuates - and that it has a direct impact on your hiring odds. Why not at least wait and monitor the market and only go to law school if and when the market forces are on your side? It won't be difficult to tell when that will happen. You won't "miss a window". Just monitor law firm job creation vs. number of law firm graduates and wait until supply and demand is your friend again. When a favorable report comes out in the spring, just apply to law school in the fall. However, please be aware that using 1) my past experience about how the market shifts, 2) estimates of the "shadow market" of previous year's graduates that are not employed the way that they want to be and represent pent-up demand, 3) the current number of law students, and 4) current and projected future client demands for work, I think that it is 90% likely that you are looking at a start date (not a graduation date) of 2013 at the earliest. More likely, you are looking at a start date of 2015-2016 - and maybe not even then. Bottom line, monitor the situation and don't go unless the odds are in your favor.
"But I really want to go to law school NOW!" Some potental law students say/whine. This can also be rephrased as "I really want to go to law school when I am younger/without a family/now is the time/still used to going to school" or any other phraseology that indicates that they expect the world to somehow just accord to their schedule just because they want it to be that way. Look, I know that you were raised to get a trophy just for trying, but that's not how the world works. It was a bad time to buy real estate in 2007 because market forces were against you and pretty much everyone who bought got crushed - not everyone, and not everywhere, but most people. No trophies for them. It was a bad time to buy stocks in 2000 before the crash - and again people got crushed. You can find example after example like this. People who decided to buy houses (because a lot of people have made money in real estate!) or stocks (because a lot of people have made money in stocks!) are just showing you what is statistically likely to happen if you decide to buy a law degree (because a lot of people have made money in law!) at this time - due to the impact of the market forces.
Just face it - it is a bad time to go to law school right now. It doesn't mean that you are a bad person or that you are not smart. You don't have to prove anything - especially not in a way that is going to hurt you. Be an adult and face the reality of market forces - like people considering purchasing a house should have faced reality and postponed their "dream" and people considering purchasing stock should have postponed their dream of retiring a millionaire. Don't allow yourself to be crushed by supply and demand.
Also, recognize that law schools are salesmen/women - they are selling legal education. This is just like home builders and real estate agents were selling houses in 2007 and stock brokers were selling stocks to people in 2001. The real estate agents really didn't care whether the house they sold appreciated - they got their money. Of course, they used the statistics with regard to recent price gain as a lever to get you to buy - not as an indication that prices were overheated. The law school salesmen do the same thing with the salaries at top law firms. It gets people interested and greedy to get them to sign on the bottom line right now! Easy financing with low interest student loans!
The present situation with regard to law school marketing is even worse than a stock broker or real estate agent. A stock broker has at least some accountability because they need to keep you as a customer. Even a real estate agent may care a little because you might turn into another sale for them in the future. Conversely, there is zero probability of furture sales when it comes to your law degree - you won't be buying another law degree in the future. Law schools also don't really care much about referrals at this time because the applicant pool is so vast. Also, the cost of the law school is so much greater, the law degree "property" bought is not transferrable (like a stock or a house), and the debt to pay for the property is not dischargable in bankruptcy.
Further, as we touched on here, the law school selling practices are even worse than those of real estate agents because:
- Law schools are marketing to people with somewhat diminished capacity, or at least a difficulty in seeing through their sales pitch. Most potential law students are making the decision at 21 years of age (application during junior year of undergrad). This is a life-altering decision when they have virtually no life experience. Not fair.
- Law schools are marketing under a false color of caring about the fate of their students. Most career services offices at law schools do not add significantly to the efforts of the law student for many reasons. Also, once the law student has graduated, they are on their own.
- Law schools are misrepresenting information to the prosepective customer. The hiring statistics that are reported are not reflective of reality - and law schools know or should have known that.
- Law schools are misrepresenting the value of their product to the potential purchaser. This applies not only to the hiring information above, but also to the actual subject matter learned in a law school. For many law schools, the majority of classes are really not usable at all in practice and do not add value. To the extent that a law school states that they will train a potential law student to be a practicing lawyer, they are ususally misrepresenting the extent and effectiveness of that training.