Should I go to law school in a big city?

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riparian
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Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by riparian »

I'm thinking about applying to go to law school in Washington DC and I want all your advices. Especially about one or all of these things:

1) Living in Washington DC. I think I might be able to get the school part to be mostly free, but the living part, holy crap. Also I'm afraid of driving in the big city. Can I live in a van outside the city and use public transportation? Can I find a very affordable room? Can I park a van on campus and secretly live in it?

2) Law school pretty much means completely ducking out of my life for three years. My home, my community, my activism, everything I'm doing. Is it worth it?

3) There are a lot of things I would like to do as a lawyer, but not really any jobs I want as a lawyer. I'm not really a job person, and I'm also not really into doing one thing every single day.

jacob
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by jacob »

How do you intend to solve the effective/practical contradiction in 3? Is it just for your personal edification? Do you want/need the degree/credentials?

riparian
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by riparian »

I would like to Learn The Things. If I learned them, there are some things I'd like to do with them. I don't want a job or need credentials. My life is more than okay without the degree. It would be like a bonus, I guess. But I'm not sure to what extent one realistically can practice a little bit of law without diving in and making it an all consuming career?

billc
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by billc »

If you really want to do the van thing - you can try parking at a Walmart. They are pretty hospitable to RV/Van type deals.

There's one that's a 1.4mi walk to the the Huntington Ave metro station. That specific location doesn't have a huge parking lot though - so you might need to make friends with store management. Also, it's at the end of the line - so if you're going into the city every day the metro fares will add up to quite a bit. There are also two Walmarts in the city, but I doubt you'll be able to park there long term.

You can probably find a room to rent - but it will be hard to find it for less than $500/mo + utilities. I'm sure they're out there - but it will take some searching.

There are a good number of bike paths that lead into the city - especially the Mount Vernon trail. Consider that when looking for places.

What is your tolerance for safety of neighborhood? There are some areas in DC that are considered bad parts of town due to low income levels. Be warned - there's a lot of gentrification happening in DC. Depending on your skin color some existing residents may not take kindly to you moving into their neighborhood. It's not a big deal mostly - but it's worth being aware of it.

If you live in the city there is no reason to drive. Consider Capital Bikeshare. You can get get an annual membership for $75 and ride up to 30 minutes free - which basically means you can ride free all the time just by switching bikes every 30 mins. https://www.capitalbikeshare.com/pricing

Living near a CaBi station is a good transportation option. Don't have to worry about buying or keeping a bike.

jacob
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by jacob »

@riparian - nolo.com publishes a lot of DIY lawyering thus suggesting that you could (not necessarily should) do a lot of DIY law. So, realistically, one can do some law w/o credentials.

From a non-laywer perspective it seems to me that the biggest benefit of that particular direction is in terms of understanding enough about how the system works so as not to be as intimidated by legal matters like laymen [often are].

SimpleLife
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by SimpleLife »

I don't think you have a valid reason to want to go to law school. That said, if you have the money and time to blow and want to blow it, go, especially since schooling will some how be free or near free. But you have not presented much of a case for even wanting to go to law school. If this is like Heller where you go to school only so you can take the bar and file ONE lawsuit to abolish the hand gun ban in DC, then sure, that's a noble cause. But it is not clear you have such noble goals for the JD. Lay it out for honest and accurate feedback.

FWIW, I too have danced with the prospect of going to law school, but it is to actually practice law and such. If I was to do it, it would be out of state at a no name school for peanuts just to be able to get the JD and take the bar exam (some states don't require education to take the bar FYI). Pers. Injury is where the money is.

Alas, I await acceptance to an MBA program when I would much rather go to law school and practice law, but my gf will not accept a move out of state and frankly I'm not ready to give up my IT career. I could see it in my near future, but it is largely because I would be good at it (or so I think ha-ha). Even in HS my teachers and classmates would tell me I should become a lawyer because I was good at remembering and quoting case law, statutes and being able to argue and "beat" people with their own logic.

theanimal
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by theanimal »

I thought I remembered you saying something about living in the east so I did a search.

From this thread: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=532&p=38734
riparian wrote: And I should have taken my friends advice back in the day to never live east of the Mississippi.
Don't do it. :)

saving-10-years
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by saving-10-years »

@riparian Have you thought of who you might be spending the next three years with? I have two business degrees (BA + MBA) and although I met some like minds when studying these they were few and far between. I mostly was surrounded by people whose values were VERY different from mine and that was in my more consumerist phase. It may be that you are interested in some aspect of law (e.g. environmental law) where this balance is over-turned but general law (like general business) post-grad is likely to be drawing people who want to make and spend money in ways which you might find wearing over the course of three years. Any way you can try it out for a shorter period? Good luck whatever you try.

vexed87
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by vexed87 »

Might I suggest an alternative approach, if you don't already have an SO, try finding a mate who is already a lawyer. You could then learn from them! Having a lawyer SO has many perks! She has gotten me out of several parking tickets! :)

Did
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by Did »

I'm an (ex) lawyer. Worked for 15 years in the law. Don't do it. It isn't what is presented on TV. It would take you many years to "think like a lawyer". And most lawyers are depressed (google it if interested) so why would you want to. If you are interested in a particular area then check out a text book. That's my advice.

Chad
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by Chad »

Seconding what Billc says about DC.

You might be better off eliminating the vehicle completely and finding a place close enough to walk, bike, or take public transit to the school. You can find a basement type apartment for less than $900 in these types of areas (some include all utilities).

Your car insurance might go up and it might be a good idea to increase it, if you do keep the vehicle. It's highly likely if you are ever in an accident it will be with a Mercedes, BMW, etc. and you don't want that bill.

Concerning whether you should do it? I like jacob's idea of being self-taught for what seems to be your goals, which aren't a career in law. Prisoners do it and they have far less self-help resources available than you do.

riparian
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by riparian »

Jacob, one can do DIY law for one's self. I already do that, when needed.

SimpleLife, I do have a "noble goal" lawsuit or two similar to that (but of course, in my mind, more noble). I'd also like to be more effective in helping my associates when the state fucks with them, which is something that happens a lot. So there is a lot of practicing law I'd like to do, but not as a job, you know?

theanimal and saving-10-years - exactly.

Did, I don't even have a tv. But reading (some) legal briefs makes my brain kind of high, and checking out a textbook doesn't let one bring an important class action suit. On the other hand, does law school really prepare one for that?

Did
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by Did »

riparian; no doubt if you want to be a lawyer, law school will help you get there. And who am I to tell you what you will enjoy? My advice would be not to do it, but everyone's path is different, and if you help people you might find real meaning in it. The path is long. It is, for many, dull, and the environment you work in is often toxic and stressful. So be forewarned.

Practical experience would help you make your decision. Maybe see if you can volunteer in a legal environment, even in the mail room, and see how it all works.

jacob
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by jacob »

I would be remiss not to post this classic :)

Oh yeah, and this mea culpa ;-P

walker
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by walker »

I would be remiss not to post this classic :)
LOL and so true. The only exaggeration is the bit about checking the Blackberry every 6 hours. Every waking hour is more like it from what I hear.

@riparian: Unless law schools have changed a lot in the past decade, the system isn't set up to teach how to bring a class action. You'll get broad but shallow knowledge, i.e., the basics of how to litigate many different types of claims. As others have pointed out, the best way of Learning the Things (love that) might be to work at a firm or non-profit that specializes in your area of interest. Some of the best litigation strategists have been community activists with a great command of the facts and a flair for telling their cause's story in court. Good luck whatever you do -- we need more people who care about making the law work better.

SimpleLife
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by SimpleLife »

riparian,

I have contemplated becoming a lawyer largely to correct injustices friends, family or even I face or may face. I think I get where you are coming from, in which case I think, as someone suggested, a mate who is an attorney is an excellent idea, but I would say you can also have friends and such who are lawyers help you.

While it would be cool to be able to say, "Yeah, I don't think so, unlike most people who threaten legal action, I actually AM an attorney, know the law and WILL file a law suit against you" and have them back down, the reality is that most situations are better to let go because they are just not worth the time or the hassle. And in some cases, people are just stubborn and won't back down.

For the rare occasion where something is justified, is it not better paid for by investment gains? I would focus more on money to be able to afford an attorney, because a few million bucks can buy the dream team instead.
Last edited by SimpleLife on Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dragline
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by Dragline »

Yeah, that video sums up a lot.

I went to a law school in DC and teach at one part time. It cost a lot of money, but I planned to practice and make a lot of money so at least that part worked out. I'd say at least half the people I went with dropped out of legal practice within 10 years though, and have a lot of misgivings about going at all. Many are still in debt after 20 years. A few people I knew with money to burn were just there because the thought it would be interesting.

But first and foremost, you have conflated two questions: moving to DC and going to law school. There is no reason that you cannot do one and not the other, and no reason to treat them as inseparable questions.

Living in DC is more expensive than in other places, but I am sure you could find creative ways of minimizing expenses if you really wanted to be here. It has become very public transport and biker friendly in the past decade or so. But it is way more crowded than what you are likely used to. Especially during tourist season.

On the other hand, law schools in DC are not cheap: Here are the numbers from 2011, but everything is more now: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle ... story.html

What people are mostly (over) paying for is the credential. You won't actually learn too much about the practice of law in law school. Its not a trade school. It's not really academia in the traditional sense. It's really a credential factory. And a profit generator.

Honestly, if you just want to have a law degree so you can have the credential you need to take a bar exam, just find the cheapest one available, or at least in some place you really want to live, and go there. No reason to go to DC at all. No reason to be concerned with law school rankings either, which is a big issue if you wanted to get a traditional legal job.

If you want to use the law for some form of public advocacy, you'd probably be better off looking for someone or some organization who already does that sort of thing and convincing them you have a case to bring.

BeyondtheWrap
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by BeyondtheWrap »

Didn't you just finish a graduate degree? And now you want another one? Don't you want a break from school?

RG1
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by RG1 »

This is just me, but I'd feel pretty scuzzy taking that 150k education from someone who needed it and planned to work in the field. I've been reading Sonia Sotomayor biography though, so my perspective may be skewed. There are easier ways to pay your rent than living in your van; if you can get a scholarship you can land a part time job at a law firm. summer alone would cover it.

EdithKeeler
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Re: Should I go to law school in a big city?

Post by EdithKeeler »

One of the best decisions I ever made was not to go to law school. I actually got accepted twice--didn't go the first time. Then a few years later decided I wanted to go, and applied again, got in, quit my job, went for 2 weeks and realized "what the fuck was I thinking?"

I LOVED the idea of law school, and I'm sure I would have loved law school if I finished. I mean, what's not fun about arguing with people, writing a lot, and getting into nitty gritty details of words and scenarios? Seriously, I love that stuff. And I had some high-minded ideals about doing Civil Rights law, particularly EEOC issues. At the time I was making over $70K a year and looking at incurring about $50K in debt to go full time, and would have been lucky to make $40K a year in salary out of law school.

I am curious: do you know a lot of lawyers? I would encourage you to talk to A LOT of lawyers who handle different types of law, realistically about the work and their lives and how it all fits around the law. I realized that while I liked the idea of being a lawyer, I had absolutely no interest in living the life of a lawyer. Particularly the kind of law I wanted to do--things like driving across the state to take a deposition that was canceled at the last minute; preparing for a trial for days, only to have it rescheduled for six months out; dealing with billing issues and getting paid (big firm: you have to bill a lot of hours. Small firm: getting your clients to cough up money). I work with LOTS of insurance defense lawyers. They make decent money, but they work really hard for it. They also do a fair amount of marketing to insurance people like me, as well as sucking up to the right people politically. My somewhat significant other used to be a prosecutor and District Attorney; now he does criminal defense stuff. One the DA side, much time and effort was spent campaigning and being political; on the defense side, he tries a lot of cases that he hopes he'll get paid for. He does a TON of work for free, some intentionally, a lot not so much. In between DA and defense atty, he did personal injury law and made a ton of money. However, he says he detested every minute of it.

I know quite a few former lawyers, too. One I worked with last week: he used to do insurance defense work and got out of it and into Information Systems--he's a consultant for the new system that my company just bought. My former boss is also a former lawyer--he graduated number 1 in his class in law school, got a coveted a job at a big national firm and was working the 70+ hours a week expected of an associate when his identical twin was diagnosed with leukemia. My old boss wanted time with his dying brother and was essentially asked "you want to work here and maybe make partner someday or you want to be with your brother?" He was there when his brother took his last breath and never looked back at the law career.

Personally, I think if you're more interested in being an activist, you can be an activist without a law degree. A law degree might even be a hindrance to certain types of activism (ie, you wouldn't want to do certain things for fear of losing your hard-won law license).

On the other hand, if you really want to do it, go for it. Just really talk to a lot of lawyers first about the pros and cons and make sure you fully know what you're getting into.

DC can be a great place to live, and it can be cheap if you're creative about it.

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