Saturday, March 30, 2013

A rebuttal of sorts

Upon reading through a discussion on reddit which references one of my recent posts, it appears I need to clear a few things up.

1. Desire to be an attorney.

Look, my wife is an attorney and has been for nearly a decade now (9 yrs & change). I knew plenty of other attorneys before I applied to law school, both through her and through my own networks. I knew what law school would be like, I knew what the bar exam would be like, and I knew what the work of being an attorney actually entailed. I went to law school to become an attorney. For the most part, I have enjoyed being an attorney.

The issue not whether I "really wanted" to be an attorney. The issue is the lack of employment opportunities in the practice of law.

2. Debt load management.

It is a brute, and it is a major portion of our monthly outlay. My situation is a lot better than the five or six folks I staying in contact with since graduation. That does not mean my situation is what I'd like it to be. Are we swimming in discretionary income? No. But, we can manage. Barely some months.

Our debt load is not the issue. The issue is the lack of employment opportunities. My wife works in a solid, full-time position and makes a decent living. She has a decade of experience. Yes, we are still paying her student loans. I work two (might soon be three) part-time gigs. The reality is that I made a more money before I earned a J.D. Therefore, I would likely be in a better position to contribute if I had not gone to law school.

3. Lack of research.

I should just call this point "blame the victim" or "I am a special snowflake." See 1, supra. Far too often the first response to the bitter economic situation of many recent law graduates is that he or she didn't go to the right school, get good enough grades, or network enough, etc. The inference is that the recent graduate is either the sole cause of their own misery, or the majority contributor to it (i.e., it is somehow deserved). The added point, either stated or inferred, is that the responding writer is going to succeed where others have failed because he or she will go to the right school, get good grades, network it to the max, etc. (i.e., the writer is a special snowflake that will beat the odds).

Yeah, right. I did the research. I spoke with several attorneys. I read the materials my law school provided me detailing employment rates nine months after graduation and average starting salaries. What I expected a reasonable return on my investment of time and money. I went to a poorly ranked law school because (as I have already explained in an earlier post) it was located in the state my wife is licensed to practice law. It was not the only in-state school; it was the in-state school that accepted me. I could have left the state and attended a school of higher rank. However, I did not want to relocate my family. We could not afford a terminate my wife's income.

I am sick and tired of people, current law students in particular, who cannot seem to get their heads around the fact that you are tied to the state you are licensed in. Moving to a different state is a big deal when you'll be out of work for half the year until you can (a) sit for the bi-annual bar exam, and (b) get your results. There are not a lot of employers whom will pay an unlicensed attorney to sit around doing non-attorney work. Sure, such opportunities exist (a friend of ours did so around 2003 or '04), but those opportunities are few and far between, if they even exist at all anymore. Instead, my wife was able to leave one position and start a new one a week later because we did not leave the state she was licensed to practice law in. Our income stream barely rippled. Moving out-of-state would have been a big deal for us. It should not be discounted so quickly.

4. Bad life choices.

This is more of that "blame the victim" noise. Yeah, I get it, it's my fault. I bought the ticket, now I get to take the ride. Awesome. High five later.

Ultimately, all I wanted was a chance to sit for the bar exam. I got that. But, damn if that three year program of study couldn't have been reasonably compressed into two at most.

Seriously, is it so hard to understand that the law schools are in the practice of publishing job placement and earnings statistics that are misleading at best and simply untrue at worst? The mandatory grade curve and resulting attrition rate are not exactly advertised on the front page of those glossy brochures the schools sent out to anyone and everyone who signed up for the LSAT. That rather nasty surprise was discovered during the first year of school, not before.

The "law school scam" movement was in it's infancy when I was applying to law school. It is a far different landscape now. Go back seven years to 2006. That's where I was standing. That's the landscape I had before me. It was different then.

Two notable websites that come to mind are Third Tier Reality and Inside The Law School Scam (there are many others). These two sites were not in existence until 2009 and 2011, respectively.; (yeah, yeah, last checked today). These websites and their authors have made a rather large impact on the discussion. And, the second one, ITLSS, isn't even an active website anymore.

As a related and important point, I am an attorney. I am currently working as an attorney. I'm not some pretender. This is my life. 2012 was bullshit (we moved between cities, I was Mr. Mom, see related posts I'm too busy to link, blah, blah, blah), but 2013 is shaping up. Am I making a good living? No. Not hardly. Am I busting my ass? Yes. I am looking for work everywhere, applying to any number of positions that I find every week, and saying yes to every short-term contract opportunity I find. I'm going to win at this game because I am too big to fail.

I do not cringe at your criticism.

I do not want your pity.

All this blog can stand for is what happened to one middle aged guy who thought it would be a good idea to go to law school. Then the bottom fell out of the economy. Life is a lot different now than it was 10 or 20 years ago. For me and a lot of other people. It is not going to get better overnight. Rather, it is going to take few years. Or, decades.

What happened to me also happened to many others. And, it may happen to you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Once there was a snowflake...

I am not a special snowflake.

I did not believe I was a special, or different, or that I would beat the odds. Rather, I thought I was average. I went in expecting to be average. I graduated in the middle of my class. Seriously. I was two people south of dead center. You could not be more average than I was. 

Here is the problem: I thought the outcomes for an average student were a whole lot better than they actually were.

Why did I think that? Well, I relied upon the facts presented to me by the law school. 

It was a bunch of lies.

I know that now. But, I didn't know it then. And now it is too late to unwind. I've bought my ticket. Now, I must take the ride.

I was not a special snowflake. I just thought I was like all the other snowflakes. '

I was right about that part. Because, all the snowflakes got burned in the end.

The only folks I've heard about in my graduating class that have done well for themselves had a job lined up prior to school, or the work for a family member. In some instances, it is both. The majority of people I've talked to are just buried in debt and not making enough money to manage.

That's the reality. That is what is really happening out there.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I have ruined the financial future of my family

I once had a job, before law school, where I billed my hours. It wasn't legal work, it was consulting. Or, at least that's what we called it. It was good while it lasted. I made $35 an hour at that gig. I remember getting paychecks for $5k on occasion. Those were rare, to be honest. But, taking home something in the ballpark of $1,800 per pay check was common. $3k a month was easy. I averaged around $4k a month.

After a few years, the work dried up and I moved on. What I wouldn't give to have that job now. 

Fast forward past law school and now I’m doing contract work at the rate of $25 per hour. I have what amounts to two part-time jobs. I can’t seem to find full-time work under any of the rocks I’ve flipped over. And, trust me, I've looked under a lot of rocks.

I reviewed what I billed for one of those gigs in the month of February the other night. You know, to punish myself (joking, totes). Over the last two weeks of the month I billed only a total of 17 hours. Of course, President’s Day fell in the middle of that, so it was only really only nine working days. But, still. I went to law school to better my employment situation, not to look back at the pre-law glory days with envy. 

Seventeen hours is a fucking joke. I know people who bill that in two days! And, really, at most that should represent three days of work. Three easy days at that.

That’s what I managed to scratch up in two weeks.

I have ruined the financial future of my family. Just ruined it. I cannot pay my bills with this kind of income stream. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When you drink Absolut straight it burns. Enough to give my chest hairs a perm.

I typed about a few words about my current state of affairs, the text in blockquotes below, back in February. It’s been sitting around on my laptop since then. It seems that I should make an effort to share the fruits of my labor, as it were, with the masses.

I've been thinking that I am ready to write a little more on this blog. Or, at least make an honest effort of doing so. For a while now, the better part of two years actually, I have engaged in conversation with like minding folks in similar circumstances at ITLSS. That satisfied any need I had to blow off steam or bitch about things. Now that Campos has reached the end of that blog's useful life and shuttered the enterprise, I'm realizing I can channel such energies here.

And, yeah, I'm pretty much comparing this to therapy.

I think it’s time I share a little something: I’m not really as angry as I seem on the pages of this website. I write here, in this manner, to channel my frustrations somewhere other than my liver (i.e., guzzling liquor). I have come to accept the fact that I’ve pretty much fucked myself by going to law school. Now I’m just trying to deal with it.

About that bit I wrote out last month:
I’m doing a monthly budget today. I haven’t engaged in this exercise since I was my third year of law school. We moved last fall, and it took a few months to sort out what our utilities were going to run, how much day care we needed, and what our transportation costs were going to be.

Well, now I know. The numbers are not surprising. But, they are grim. A lot of it centers upon my current under-employed status.

As in, things would be better if I made more money.
Who knew working two part-time jobs wasn’t the same as one full-time one. (I’m kidding.) I will probably write out something in more detail about my finances in the near future. Why not, right? It would be better than lying awake at night, starting at the ceiling in the dark, and wondering just how in the hell I'm going to extricate myself from this predicament. And, truth be told, I've been doing a fair share of that lately. And it is not fun. My life has gone pear shaped. 

I started applying for non-legal jobs last month. I graduated in May of 2011. I made it to February of 2013 before I realized I need to expand my horizons and broaden the employment search. The response thus far has been typical - I haven't gotten any responses.

Hey, but a J.D. is so versatile. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

They call it shit law

I was told a story recently by a lawyer I do part-time contract work for. A retired judge, that I've never met, apparently always treats the lawyer whom employs me badly. They both run in the same social circle. I do not run in that social circle.  I do not know who the judge is he was talking about, and I do not care to.

I think the phrase he used to describe the judge was, “He’s always a dick to me.” 

The lawyer whom employs me went on to say that, in his opinion, some people look down on lawyers that are not civil attorneys. The lawyer whom employs me is not a civil attorney.

He asked me if I had experienced the same.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.” I said, “They call it shit law.”

“What is shit law?”

“It’s a derisive terms used to describe anything other than working at a firm. A big firm doing civil litigation and the like.”

He stood and looked at me like I just pissed in his Cheerios.

Don't hate the messenger, bro.