Make a Million Dollars by Skipping Law School

The last few years have been wrought with stories of questionable ethics and marketing of law schools in the United States. For years law schools have been dangling positive employment numbers in front of prospective law students without telling them that at least some of those “fully employed” graduates are serving the Dean his soy-caramel-macchiato in the morning. For some schools, this practice has gotten a bit out of control. One of the worst offenders is actually the law school I attended, and I’m not surprised. Anecdotally, I recall a classmate describing her exit interview with career planning like this:

Career Planning Secretary: Are you going to be fully employed after you graduate?
Student: Well, I’ll have two weeks left on my internship, but after that no.
Career Planning Secretary: Oh good, that’s a yes.

Maybe counting that student, or other under-employed graduates as part of their 95% employment rating isn’t an out-and-out lie, but it is certainly a fraud. Most wide eyed college seniors wouldn’t think, “Oh 95%, well I should account for those that are working retail, or finishing their internships. Maybe I’ll make a few calls to recent graduates of that law school to double check.” Of course, if they are thinking that, they should definitely go to law school because it sounds like they might be just diligent and jaded enough to become one of the great lawyers of our time.

While law school may be a good investment for some, it certainly doesn’t seem to be an informed one. With this in mind, I considered what I could have done with my nauseatingly high, and terrifyingly common, student loan debt of $150,000 coming out of law school. If I’m able to pay that down in the “standard” 10-year repayment plan, at 6%, I’ll have spent approximately 268,600.00 on my education.

Now what if I had skipped law school? So I get out of college and start putting away about the same amount of money a month that I’d be spending on my student loan payments. In 7-10 years I would be in the black for at least $150,000.00. So I invest that money and get a reasonably optimistic return of 8% for the 30 years I have left to retirement. That’d come out to about 1.5 million dollars.

So if my decision was purely economical, I’d have to aim to make more than my student loan repayment costs + my lost investment earnings in order to out earn my non-esquire self. Luckily, I kind of like being a lawyer, but if I didn’t, I might reconsider the “investment” I made in myself.

(image: Money in the bag isolated on a white background via Shutterstock)

4 Comments

  1. Jewel Johnson

    July 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

    These lawyers, Jeanne V. Barron and James G. Schmier in Michigan should have did just that, skip law school.

  2. Daniel Younker

    July 15, 2013 at 9:34 am

    If one will trade on prestige in the USNWR rankings, they can find a real bargain. Simply landing in the top 20% on the LSAT is enough to receive full tuition scholarships at a number of schools. While attending, focus on practical classes (the mock trials, the internships [unpaid if necessary]) so that you can start your own firm, if need be upon graduation.

    What do some experienced lawyers think of my plan?

    • Chad P

      July 25, 2013 at 5:46 am

      I can see where you’re coming from, and I’m only a pre-0L, but I see a flaw in your plan. Even assuming you come out with a net 0% debt, you have a degree that is objectively less valuable, and you’ve spent 3 years of your life pursuing something that could end with no opportunities.

      On the other hand, if your goal is to be a lawyer, regardless, I’d say… not a horrible plan. Just check the employment stats on your school before you commit, free or not.

  3. Harry

    July 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I’d skip law school, but the women are so needy that it’s a sure thing for the dudes.

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