To my greedy law school:
No. Stop asking. I’m not going to give you any money. Ever. So you can stop sending those fundraising letters every few months, begging for more of my hard-earned cash.
I’m not blaming you for the collapse of the legal job market (although, one would think it behooves law schools to keep a close eye on the number of new lawyers vs. the number of new associate positions). I’m blaming you because you lied to us. You reported employment statistics — even back in 2007, when things were decidedly rosier — that led prospective students to believe that a huge portion of your graduates walked out of your hallowed halls and right into lucrative associate positions at fancy law firms. The reality, as we now know, is that you were counting everyone with any kind of job at all — from the guy working just a few hours per week at the 7-Eleven to the girl who took your perennial temporary position in the student affairs office — as employed, for the purposes of bragging about postgraduation employment.
Go ahead — continue shifting that blame to the victims of your dissembling and empty promises. It’s our fault that we took your claims at face value and didn’t do our own research (although that conflicts with what I learned about the law in this area). It’s our fault that we took on monumental debt loads to pay your inflated tuition prices (we’ll just ignore the fact that you scheduled classes for the cohorts in such a way that it was virtually impossible to hold a job while in school). It’s our fault that we listened while your professors reassured and cajoled and promised everything short of a bona fide job offer in order to keep us from dropping out when so many of us were reconsidering in the face of massive layoffs in the legal field.
I truly, deeply regret attending law school. Full of youthful optimism, I tried to better my life through education, and was slapped down hard. Despite assurances to the contrary, the things I learned haven’t helped me in the slightest.
Instead, that law degree on my résumé has held me back. It’s made it much harder to get a job outside of the legal sector. On top of the usual attrition of people who change their minds about being a lawyer, the glut of jobless lawyers competing for a job — any job — adds up to a staggering amount of competition and sends a clear message to employers that we’re all just doing what we can to get by until the depressed legal market recovers.
Going to law school has irreparably damaged my career. It took years to slog through law school, wallow in unemployment, find an employer who would take a chance on a guy branded with those scarlet letters — J.D. — and finally make my way back into my undergraduate field. Years that I should have spent gathering expertise and accomplishments, contributing to a 401(k) and building my professional network.
But worst of all is the debt. We’re not talking the paltry $25,000 that the average undergrad is saddled with nowadays. We’re talking $100,000 or more — $170,000, in my case, despite a 50 percent scholarship that seemed generous at the time. That level of debt demands a monthly payment that’s twice what my mortgage is. That’s money that I could be using to provide for my retirement. For my kids’ college. For any of the myriad expenses that life throws at you. But instead, I’m shouldering the crushing weight of astronomical student debt, stuck in debt slavery, the penalty for thinking that maybe, just maybe, education was the ticket to an elite career.
It feels like a grave insult every time you request a donation. At every turn, you’ve done me a disservice. You’ve taken so much from me, and given precious little. My life is worse for having known you. I have paid and will continue to pay for that mistake. But you don’t care; you’re just a bloated glutton, constantly demanding more.
So, in light of that, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, “Go to hell, you parasite.”
Bob Larson, of St. Paul, is a licensed attorney now working as a business analyst.