Monday, March 1, 2010

Juris Debtor

Many of you already know that I'm employed as a Contracts Administrator, meaning I'm not an attorney (and certainly don't get paid like one), but I get to do a lot of the tedious, administrative, monotonous detail-oriented things an attorney might do (or tell their paralegal to do for them).

This past weekend I helped a friend review a contract, and after speaking with the "other side" and requesting a few changes to the agreement, they remarked, "We love the changes--we need to have you look over ALL our contracts!"

I just laughed and said, "Well, I've got to use three semesters of law school for something!"

The sad thing is that's true, because it really never has helped me in any other capacity. Right now it just gives me ulcers because of the seemingly unsurmountable pile of debt that it has left behind.

Let me back up for a minute. Like my profile says, I'm a law school dropout. This is not too unlike a beautyschool dropout, although I didn't get a cool song and dream sequence to go with the end of my school career. I just got a bill that rivals most people's mortgages. Instead of a house, I got learn'n.

I went to KU Law and all I got was this lousy Jayhawk.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed KU. The school didn't fail me. I failed me. I went to law school for all the wrong reasons.

What are the wrong reasons? I'm so glad you asked!

(1) I'll make lots of money, so I'll go, work hard, and worry about debt later.

--This couldn't be more wrong. Only the top 5% of the class get the top legal positions. Everyone else is working for not much more than I work for now; some, even less!

(2) My LSAT scores rocked, so law school will be easy!

--NEVER let a test determine your fate. All I learned is that I'm a good test taker and my analytical skills are better than average, which only means that my analytical skills are better than average and in no way guarantees success in any endeavor.

(3) I'll get my JD so I'll have a backup for my liberal arts degree.

--I can't stress this enough: don't go to college unless you go for a career. This career needs to be in-demand, in a field with a large number of unfilled positions with a positive outlook by the time you graduate. I wish when I was going to college that someone would have slapped me and told me how many unemployed English majors there were already in the world.

In case that doesn't wake you up, let me give you a few facts about law school life:

(1) You only get one test and one grade.

--That's right. You study for an entire semester and at the end of that semester you get to take a 3-hour essay test to try to prove what you've learned. That's it. One single three-hour shot.

(2) It will consume your life.

--I was lucky to be one of those students who never really had to study in undergrad. I went to class and listened, did a short review before tests and that's pretty much it. I graduated Cum Laude with relatively little effort. That all changed when I went to law school! I studied so much that I literally ruined my eyes. I need glasses for distance now because my nose was buried in books for 18 months straight.

(3) You will be ridiculed, humiliated, and feel stupid all the time.

--Even though you don't take tests, law school professors have developed a methodical approach to cutting you down to your core. There are two approaches to this method: the lightening-bolt approach and the rolling boulder method. Neither offer much hope. The lightening-bolt method means at any day you might be called upon to explain case law, describe the effect of precident or answer any other question the professor may come up with (and you never really know what to expect). The rolling boulder method allows you to know when you'll be called upon, but it's not any easier as usually you are then expected to know the subject matter much more in depth. Both are merciless and no matter how well you study, you will always get it wrong.

Scared yet? Wait, there's more.

When I went to law school, way back in 2001, there were more law students than there were lawyers in practice. That means that more people were studying law than practicing it. At this point you have to ask yourself, how many lawyers does the world really need?

It turns out, not all that many.

Ultimately the lesson is, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. This can really be applied to anything in life, even horses. I've had to learn this the hard way, over and over again, and I'm sure I'll have to remind myself of it often. For the time being, though, I have a $50,000 debt to remind me of that fact.

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