I Want to be in the FBI

I am about to begin my career at a low tier law school (St. Thomas University) in Florida, and I’m freaked out.  I am going to burn around $35,000/year attending this law school, and I am not sure yet if I want to practice law after or become a Special Agent for the FBI, which has been my dream since I was young. My worry is that I am going to graduate, owe a ton and only make around $60k a year as a special agent. Another worry I have is deciding to actually practice law, and then not be able to find decent employment at a mid-sized law firm, or maybe, if I get lucky, a large prestigious firm. Please advise!

Two words: Don’t go.  I’m serious.  Don’t go.  I could spend ten pages convincing you it’s the wrong decision, but it would be a waste of time.  The fact that you wrote this email to me a month before you’re supposed to enroll says it all…

Chase your dream of being a Special Agent in the FBI!  If that doesn’t work out, and you think you actually want to be a lawyer, go to law school.

Got a question for Ex-Bitter?  Email it to .

Join Bitter Lawyer on Facebook.  Follow on Twitter.

Buy Bitter Lawyer merchandise.

I am about to begin my career at a low tier law school (St. Thomas University) in Florida, and I’m freaked out.  I am going to burn around $35,000/year attending this law school, and I am not sure yet if I want to practice law after or become a Special Agent for the FBI, which has been my dream since I was young. My worry is that I am going to graduate, owe a ton and only make around $60k a year as a special agent.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

22 Comments

  1. Disgruntled

    July 23, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Don’t go.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a TTT relegated to insurance defense for life, or a T10 who goes NY Biglaw only to not make it up the narrow corporate ladder and then be relegated to $60K in academia or slaving in fake Biglaw.  In the end, you’re just shoveling someone else’s feces.  Instead, do something you love, like the FBI, or pursue an MBA and be at the top of the food chain–the business exec who HIRES the lawyers.

  2. Me

    July 23, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I have a relative in the FBI, and I think you would love being a federal agent. FBI agents can make six figures. You have to start off at the bottom. If you really dream about being an FBI agent, the money shouldn’t matter.

  3. Don't Go

    July 23, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I was in a similar situation to you when I went to lawschool, except I wanted to go into the foreign service.  I graduated with (including undergrad) almost $100k debt and it really just wasn’t feasible.  Also, to maintain a clearance you pretty much have to maintain good credit, if you do go into the FBI that much debt could cause problems down the line.

  4. anon

    July 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

    If you work for the gov for 10 years, your loan balance is wiped clean, and you only pay a lower monthly payment based on your salary for those 10 years.  Often to be a special agent you need a J.D. or C.P.A. to get selected – so go and start working now to get an FBI/gov job.

  5. anon

    July 23, 2010 at 8:45 am

    oh and that shit about clean credit doesn’t really affect your clearance, i know several people who got FBI clearance with student loans.  Just don’t be an idiot and have credit card debt.

  6. Chick Litigator

    July 23, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Don’t do it. Just don’t. There are other paths you can take to get into the FBI other than law. Besides you do go with the FBI after you finish law school, you don’t start ahead of anyone else. You start at the very bottom rung as a rookie special agent – it’ll be a while before you get to be an FBI lawyer.

  7. Joy

    July 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Great advice. You’re completely spot on.

  8. Anon

    July 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I’ll be entering STU this year too. All I can say is bust your ass to get scholarship money for 2L.

  9. Cam

    July 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Seriously, don’t go to law school.  Go study a foreign language for three years–Russian, for example–and you’ll have less student loans and an easier time getting in than with a law degree.  Or look into the other career paths, such as accounting.  A JD is one of the worst ways to get into the FBI–you’ll have very few skills that actually transfer.  Another thing you could do is get a job with local law enforcement, while studying language, and if you can get fluent in a couple of years, you’ll be a pretty attractive candidate.

  10. Heyyyy

    July 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I hope you’re in good shape because the fitness tests are killer

  11. BL1Y

    July 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

    If you do become a special agent, please catch the spies who keep stealing my brother’s stuff.  It’s not cool and they need to stop.

  12. Steve

    July 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Low tier school = family law and criminal defense with the occasional personal injury case if the guy up the street with all the billboards doesn’t get them first.  Big Law is out of the question…FBI would be great but I agree that you would be better off studying a hot foreign language and giving yourself some marketable skills instead of studying law and having nothing to offer.  Buy a Glock, start jogging, and learn Arabic.

  13. quado

    July 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    If you’re going to a low tier school like I did, you need something else as background for the feds.  I was a city cop for about 8 years, I went to night law school, and there are many fed jobs that I am eligible for now.  Just realize if you have a law degree and youre going to be a fibby that you’ll be writing warrants and paper chasing all day.  That’s what feds do they make cases chasing paper.  Become a local cop and go to night school.. not even law school but computer science they love, and of course foreign language.  There are actually law jobs out here, just not Big Law government has tons of law jobs that start around 85k and have some kind of student loan forgiveness program.  Not to mention the feds don’t take everyone! Don’t get stuck on one option have a few plus working while going to school means you’re not totally effing broke when you get out.

    just my piece of advice.  I got all of the law enforcement b.s. out of my system by the time I was ready to practice law.  It does fade.. trust me.

  14. prog

    July 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    IT’S A TRAP!  Don’t do it dude.  Seriously.  If you are questioning whether you even want to practice law, going to a third tier law school, and incurring massive amounts of debt – DON’T DO IT.  Even if you had your heart set on being a lawyer I would ask you to take a SERIOUS step back and really consider if it is worth.

  15. Non-practicing lawyer

    July 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Excellent advice from Ex-bitter.  I can’t personally speak for the FBI, but I found after graduating from law school that most non-lawyer jobs do not really prefer a JD.  For what it’s worth, I went to a top 15 law school. 
    There may be a few opportunities that do like a JD, but by and large, a JD closes at least as many doors as it opens.  Many employers want to know why someone with a JD is not practicing law. The next 3 years could instead be spent in some other type of training or gaining work experience, without the debt.

  16. Walker

    July 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I went to a fourth-tier school (Cooley) as a second-career attorney, so I know a little of which I speak—and, verily, I saith to you: Don’t Do It.  The only way going to STU for a JD makes sense is if you are such an LSAT monster that they give you a free ride for the whole thing (as Cooley did for me). 
    If I had had to pay for law school, I would never have went. 
    Imagine yourself reading a letter like this:  “I want to be an FBI agent, but I’m planning to start a three-year program to become a chef.  It’ll cost me about $35k a year, plus the lost income, plus it’ll make people wonder why the heck I’m not seeking work as a chef later.”
    Seriously—if your dream is FBI-ville, spend what you would have spent on one term in law school in a six-months immersion program for languages in China, Russia, India, or Mexico, and spend what you would have spent on books to become proficient in firearms, and spend what you would spend on bar exam prep on a fitness trainer to get into shape.  Guaranteed, you’ll be a much higher-caliber applicant for the FBI inside of a year, at a much lower cost, than you would have been with a JD from STU.

  17. Niger

    July 23, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Listen you imbecil…You’re obviously a retard if you’re considering going to that P.O.S. law school.  I take dumps with more prestige than that school.  So I don’t want you being my lawyer (and no client would ever say differently) and I don’t want you being an FBI agent either.  Start shoveling dog shit or be a post office employee because that’s really where your intellectual capacity lies, and you’ll never amount to anything much better than that.  Now that I think about it, you should just kill yourself.  You’re f*cking garbage.

  18. Guano Dubango

    July 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Follow your heart, not the so-called advice of these winners.  I came from Ghana with no US degree, then worked for a while in a drive-in food place that all of you probably have used. DD.  Then I decided I wanted to do law, but my degree was worthless, even at the embassy.  So my Aunt Ooona bankrolled my LLM at Georgetown and now I am with a good job, and pursuing quality women.  If you are a man, you should do the same thing.

  19. MJ92

    July 26, 2010 at 3:39 am

    You forgot something in the last sentence:  “actually want to be a lawyer, work to get better LSATS, go to a REAL law school.”

  20. Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    July 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Law school is without a doubt the worst experience in life. It is designed specifically to weed out people who don’t belong there or don’t want to be there, i.e. you. If you’re not dedicated to it, it will be a nightmare. Going to a Tier 3 or 4 school and incurring $100k in debt is absolutely not worth it if you have doubt about whether this career is right for you.

  21. BL1Y

    July 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    While law school used to have the “weed you out” “look to your right, look to your left” mentality, virtually all schools nowadays have attrition rates <5%.  It’s not because they provide more support to students to help them succeed, but rather they’ve learned someone who stays all 3 years pays 3x as much tuition as someone who just says one year.  (Actually, more then 3x, because tuition rises from year to year while scholarships tend to decrease.)

  22. Ace in the Hole

    July 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I’m an HLS grad making six figures and if I had it to do over again, THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL I WOULD.  *Most* people really dislike practicing law, without exaggeration – look at the survey on the front page.  Incurring six figures in debt if you’re not 100% sure this is what you want to do, basically so you can take a few more years to think about it while you’re in school, would be beyond foolish – there’s no going back, this is a decision that will be with you for decades to come.  DON’T DO IT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>