It's that season of the year -- when many college graduates resign themselves to going to law school, and finalize their choices about which school to attend. And true to form, this is the time of the year when the Korean's actual email account starts swelling up with emails from all kinds of people -- younger alumni, distant relatives, friend of a friend of a friend -- who ask for law school advice. Over the years, the Korean distilled his advice down to three concise answers, and he will share them here for everyone who is potentially thinking about law school.
(What does this have to do with Korea? Nothing. It's the Korean's blog, and he will write about whatever the hell he damn well pleases. Quit whining.)
1. The only reason to go to law school is to become an attorney.
Sounds really obvious, right? But here are the reasons not to go to law school: to become a politician; to become a businessperson; to become an activist; to become an environmentalist; to become a public policy person. And the absolute worst reason to go to law school: because you ran out of ideas.
The greatest lie sold by law schools to college graduates is this: law degree is a versatile degree. That is totally false. The only skill you learn after three years and over $200,000 worth of law school is being a lawyer. And regardless of what your dream was before you got into law school, the only way to pay off the $200,000 in student loan is ... being a lawyer! (Easier at a large law firm.)
To be sure, a desire to become an environmental lawyer (for example) is a good reason to go to law school. But even in that case, the Korean recommends spending a year or two being an environmentalist first, so that you can have a better sense of what to earn out of the law school experience. Again, law school does not teach you to be a politician, businessperson or activist. Spending those three years and $200,000 in politics, business or activism will make you a much better politician, businessperson or activist than spending them in a law school. Even at this stage when you are choosing law schools, it is not too late. Don't commit three precious years of your life earning a license you will not use.
2. Go to a law school near a city you want to live for at least five years after graduation.
This is absolutely crucial advice that the Korean wishes someone had told him. The Korean decided on an East Coast law school, thinking that law school might be the last chance to live in some other part of the country, and he will be able to return his beloved, sunny California as soon as he graduated. BIG mistake. It has been four years since the Korean graduated from law school, and the move back to California does not appear to be in the cards for the foreseeable future. Instead, the Korean mutters curses of the damned East Coast weather 8 months out of the year.
Remember this point: easily 90 percent of law school graduates end up working in the large city near the law school. Important thing to note is this result is almost totally independent from the law school's rankings. Law is a local business. Except for the absolute top tier schools (no more than top 15, and more likely top 5,) law firms rarely hire outside of the region.
This point is worth reiterating: do NOT be fooled by the law school's rankings. Unless you are attending one of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, NYU and Chicago, and maybe Michigan, Berkeley, U Penn, Virginia and Duke (and maaaaaaaybe Texas, Cornell, Northwestern, Georgetown and UCLA,) law school rankings do not matter. The Korean's former law firm in New York is a top-of-the-line place, and every year it hires a few people from lower ranked New York-area law schools like Seton Hall (ranked 61 in the most recent U.S. News & World Report), Brooklyn Law School (67) and Rutgers (84). In the three years that the Korean has been with the firm, he has never seen anyone getting hired from out-of-region (but undoubtedly excellent) law schools like Vanderbilt (16), USC (18) and Indiana (23).
Even if you end up at one of the top ranked law schools, don't think you can move to a place you want that easily. Life intervenes in the three years of law school. You develop friendships, and often dating relationships. Sometimes the dating relationship is such that if you moved away, you might end up losing someone dear. So you bite your tongue and deal with the shitty weather, desperately telling yourself that the loveless life in the sun is not nearly as good as a beloved life in the slushy, nasty snow... oh hi honey. Welcome home. What was I writing? Nothing. Just writing about how happy I am to be with you. Nothing about how I should have transferred to UCLA after my first year to hang out with aspiring Hollywood actresses in Beverly Hills. Nope, not at all.
3. Once in law school, study hard.
Another advice that someone should have told the Korean. Hopefully this advice is more obvious now that the economy has gone to hell, but it is still worth telling. Obviously, your law school grades play a huge part in getting your first job after graduation. But even after that, your law school grades will follow you for a very long time. Don't relax in your second or third year just because you have a job already. You never know when you want to change jobs -- and a new employer will ask for your law school transcript for a good decade. You are in law school to study, and law schools usually have a lot of fun courses to offer. Don't slack off in your last year, and definitely don't start a blog that you can't quit in a few years even though you work 80 hours a week, just because you couldn't figure out what to do with your spare time in your third year of law school!
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at email@example.com.