Don’t go to law school unless you’re one of these five people

Starry eyed dreamers continue to consider law school. One of my sorors posted this on Facebook:

“…… thinking about law school. I see law everywhere I am. All the products I use (copyrights, trademarks, consumer safety) to driving down the street (city, county laws) to even being on social media (privacy and communication laws). I’m intrigued…..”

My reply ( because we are acquaintances and I didn’t want to be a dream crushing jerk) was: “Really think hard about that. The legal job market is awful and the practice of law is not what it seems from the outside looking in. There are literally licensed attorneys doing unpaid internships trying to get a foot in the door. You can be equally overworked and underpaid as a teacher, except teachers get summers off, federal holidays, and benefits! That is almost impossible to find as an attorney.”

But here on my blog, I am going to let you all know that there are five kinds of people who are successful in law school and if you don’t fit entirely into one or more of those categories, you need to hang it up. TL; DR: people who enjoy the academic challenge of law are not the ones who are the most successful lawyers.

The people making enough money to be comfortable fall into one of these categories:

  1. The Trust Fund Babies. These kids may not have a literal trust fund, but they have connections. This group includes future Presidents and Supreme Court Justices, of course, as well as people who have lawyers in their family going back to the Mayflower. It’s the legacy admissions who have Thanksgiving with your Torts professor because he taught dear old dad 20 years ago. It’s the children of the senior partners of the biggest law firm in the state. It even includes the son of the local personal injury lawyer whose commercials everyone laughs at. Well, while you’re stressing over exams, he’s got a job for life lined up. While you’re struggling with the finer points of Bluebook citation over spring break, they let daddy’s paralegal revise their memo and hit the beach.
  2. The Second Career Veterans. These people spent 8+ years in corporate America, and have industry specific knowledge that put them head and shoulders above the competition.  A human resources benefits specialist is a shoo in at the employment law firm who needs a worker’s comp or ERISA attorney. Maybe it’s a real estate agent who gets a law degree so they can do their own closings and stop splitting commissions. Whatever the particulars, they have something you don’t– prior job experience that is highly valued enough to launch them into a six figure job after graduation, and a strong professional network in their desired industry.
  3. The Sharks. These are the hustlers, the go-getters, the ones who will succeed by any means necessary (and for some that means buying old exams from alumni to get the edge on finals). These are the folks who started reading the WSJ business section freshman year of college so that they wouldn’t be at a loss for conversation with a potential employer. They are intensely competitive and love working 24/7. They don’t have time for the law fraternity kegger but they are at every alumni mixer and go to local bar association section meetings. They can come from any rung on the socioeconomic ladder but they pursue their goals with single minded focus and precision. 
  4. The True Detectives. Crime is a constant, so it’s a good thing to stake your career on. The thing is, it takes a special type of person to do criminal law no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. Criminal law, much like medicine or the clergy, is a calling. Every successful criminal attorney I’ve met says they knew coming into law school what they wanted to do, and the same was true of my classmates who have taken that route. You must have a bone deep desire to uphold the integrity of the legal system by ensuring fair trials for any accused person, or a bone deep desire to put away the bad guys. Passion required. 
  5. The STEM nerds.  Even in the legal industry, a J.D. alone isn’t  good enough for you to breathe the rarefied air of intellectual property law. But if you’re a nerd who would rather read and write about inventions than build them, IP law is made for you. You need an undergraduate degree in a scientific or technical field along with your law degree in order to take the patent bar. But the overeducation will pay off immediately. For every Google, Microsoft and Samsung, there is a team of IP attorneys writing their contracts, doing their litigation and locking down their patents and being paid handsomely to do so. 

If you aren’t 100% sure you fall into one of these categories, you are not one of these five people. That means you are NOT the exception, you are the average and will likely have an average law career with an average salary. The average is around $118,000 according to US News & World Report, but that number is heavily skewed since they solicit survey responses from lawyers working in large law firms, who are among the highest paid and made up mostly of the 5 types of people listed above. Half of that number is would be a much more realistic average. And yes, you can be an “average lawyer” and still have a satisfying career and a happy life.

I don’t believe that average is a dirty word and if America was more honest about the fact that you cannot actually be anything you want, we could reform our educational system in a meaningful way. Besidesif everybody was exceptional then exceptional wouldn’t mean anything. My point is that a) you don’t need a law degree to get to a $60-80k/yr lifestyle and b) if you are going to end up in the average lawyer position, you should not go to law school unless your cost is being subsidized. If you can get through law school at a cost of no more than $30,000, it’s worth it. Even on an average salary, that is the same debt load as a new car (a lower end car at that) and you will easily be able to carry the payments. If you can get into a top 50 law school I’d say your ROI makes sense if you can get out under $60k. I won’t get into any other hypotheticals because if you aren’t one of the five people above and don’t fall into the two scenarios I’ve already listed, law school is quite simply not for you.

I love my career but if I knew then what I know now I probably would have been an accountant, who dreamt of being a lawyer so who knows? I’m a tax lawyer though, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds.

Feel free to drop me a note in the comments or shoot me an email. If you’re considering law school and have questions, I’m happy to chat with you.

Movin On Up: Thoughts on Class Transition

I’m a first generation lawyer. I’m a second generation college graduate on one side of my family, and the first lawyer on both sides. I say this because, by and large, the legal profession is still an elitist profession. Your earning power and therefore worth (to some people) is based on your pedigree. Were you on law review? Did you do a judicial clerkship? How highly ranked is your law school? You practically need a class just to figure out how to get into law school. After all, the law is an old profession which means it was founded by wealthy, land owning white men. I, a black woman with dark skin and natural hair, do not at all fit the traditional mold of what an attorney is.

This isn’t me, but it’s how I feel on the inside.

Becoming a lawyer involves a background check before law school and after graduating to take the bar, astronomical tuition, an ethics exam, an expensive bar prep course, and 2-4 day bar exam. Then you finally get to be a lawyer. Being an attorney is expensive, though. You have to get continuing education credits (sure there are free ones, but it will take you the whole year to get your credits because they’re usually only 1 or 2 hours and you need somewhere between 10 and 20). Then there are the annual state licensing fees. Then there are the bar association dues, which don’t buy you anything but networking with other lawyers except every bar association event has a damn cover charge. Let’s not forget the wardrobe, because you can’t look like a lawyer in a $40 suit from Ross.

My husband, a third generation college graduate and computer engineer, is slightly more advanced in his family legacy but similarly situated in his career. Silicon Valley is new but it came with all the old problems. Fortunately, money does solve some problems. We just disembarked from our home buying journey and it was been interesting to say the least. We could have bought a home that was $25-50k less and 15-20 minutes closer to both our jobs. But it came at the expense of living in a food desert that houses the worst school district in the area. The practical choice was clear but I still felt conflicted about making it.

I say all that to make it clear that while we are doing well, and are set to possibly end up a little better off than our parents, we are not wealthy. I don’t feel so secure in my position that I can afford to try and be the good influence of the neighborhood. I’m not ready to save the hood by living in it. The risk of buying a home that depreciates in value, of my child going to a school where they can’t be challenged because 70% of the students are not performing at grade level, of not being able to put my kids in dance or sports because the closest teams are an hour away–I can’t take that chance.

Theoretically I would love to give back–to do more community service, mentor with the Boys and Girls Club, all that good stuff. But I just don’t feel like I have enough time. Since I work in legal aid (which is half social work, half lawyering) I feel like I do community service 40 hours a week. While it’s more fulfilling than private practice, it’s much more emotionally draining because most of my clients’ problems can’t be solved by legal intervention. My brother is a bit, shall we say, militant in his political views. I”m a comprimers because I’m just honest about the fact that I like the creature comforts of capitalism. I’m not ready to burn it all down and live in a hut just to prove a point. Where is the balance between working for the cause and enjoying your life? I can’t afford to quit my job and be an activist full time. When I’m not at work I want to recharge and enjoy my husband, my friends, and some good books

What is the answer? I have no idea. All I can do is try to navigate the double consciousness of being a self-aware Black person in the [orange-haired President] era with a modicum of grace.

Life as Performance Art #MicroblogMondays

The “pics or it didn’t happen!” social media mentality that has infiltrated our lives is grating. What’s worse than going to social gatherings where people spend more time tweeting and instagramming the event than actually participating? Then there’s the fact that algorithms and Big Data have an insane about of power. They know so much about me already that I don’t want to give them every single mundane, intimate, sacred or profane moment. My entire life is NOT up for public consumption.

All the best times of my life happened when I was living it, and although I’ve liked thousands of Facebook and Instagram comments, I couldn’t quote you a single one of them. I want to put my energy towards the things in my life that give me joy and memories, not just lolz.

Click this link for more info about Microblog Mondays, which supports people who want to reclaim their personal blogs.

Microblog Mondays-Getting over the hump

I used to write all the time. I kept a journal from fourth grade through high school, going through at least one marbled composition notebook a year (and as a kid, I was ADAMANT that it was not a diary). In college I still found time to write about once a week. I journaled sporadically through law school and probably once or twice a year since then, but I managed to blog semi-regularly instead. Then life happened–law school, marriage, a cross country move, bar study, job hunting, a crazy stressful job. It’s ironic that the things that most improve our mental health (sleep, eating well, exercise, emotional/creative outlets) are the first things we drop in times of trouble. Last year I concentrated on my physical health but this year I want to feed my spirit. It starts here.

Click this link for more info about Microblog Mondays, which supports people who want to reclaim their personal blogs.

Bits and bobs

  1. No more stretchy pants!: I have mentioned before that I’ve been working on my fitness and some of my pants that had gotten tight around the middle are fitting better. I’m going to keep the winter weight at bay by pledging to wear fitted pants in the colder months. I love me some leggings (and passed up on buying a super cute plaid pair) because they stretch with you through all the beef stew, grilled cheese sandwiches, turkey & stuffing, and mashed potatoes and come March you gotta go on a liquid diet to get summer ready. Not me, not this time!
  2. White feminism & power: I listen to some liberal media podcasts and sometimes they are just so damn privileged sounding. This episode of The Waves was talking about how women are naturally uncomfortable with having power, and some lady wrote a book about making power a verb instead to make it more palatable. Excuse me, what? All I ever wanted was power. The power to control what I do with my body, my career, my family, my life without someone who doesn’t care anything about me telling me what I have to do. Just like how white women scream #MeToo and then waste the power they do have by voting for a p*ssy grabbing, chronic sexual harasser. :/
  3. Why do you care?: I think I was born with too few f*cks to give and they all got spent early. People say you stop caring about little shit when you turn 30. I stopped caring about little shit at 21 and now I’m just plain disgusted by grown folks who live their lives based on what other people think. “THEY” don’t care about you! đŸ™„ So why would you waste all your energy? Listen, I work a 9-5 job. I play the game but only to the minimum extent necessary to secure my bag. The truth is that you can be the most agreeable, talented, people pleasing, hard working employee but if someone really has it out for you they will find a way to get you gone. I can’t control how other people feel about me and I can’t stop anybody from screwing me over. So I’m going practice self-care by not completely repressing myself to be Employee of the Monthâ„¢.
  4. Your bad kids: I am officially a grumpy old lady because I get so tired of children in public places. I know that they will be loud and running around but I can’t take your offspring all in my personal space. Please teach your kids how to form a line, say “excuse me”, etc because I will elbow little Danny in the face if he doesn’t get from behind me when I’m at the checkout counter! Also, stop bringing your kids into fast food establishments and letting them order. My parents told me what I wanted to eat, they didn’t let me waste people’s time trying to read the menu when I didn’t know my ABC’s yet!  
  5. Currently loving: Grocery delivery (Hello Fresh meal kits and Prime Now for my Whole Foods fix), sweater weather (boot game proper!) and Aquaman (more shirtless Jason Momoa, please).

 

Finally, plus size fashion done right

I’m a bit of a clotheshorse. I’m not the most trendy person, and I’m certainly not Instagram-ready every day. But I love shopping and keeping up with the trends. My favorite feature in my new home is a walk in closet that, in conjunctions with my dressers, is big enough to house my entire wardrobe. No more being late to work because I had to go upstairs and dig in the guest closet for the blouse I wanted! I’ve been shopping less this year (#budgetlife), purging my closet, and trying to make sure I can get multiple wears out of whatever I do bring into the house. Fortunately, I have better options today than I did five years ago. Ironically, it’s at the same time that I’m starting to lose weight but, c’est la vie.

One of my favorite brands, Eloquii, has undergone a rebranding over the past year. If you follow any plus sized fashion blogger, they’ve modeled multiple pieces from Eloquii with good reason. They used to focus more on fun casual clothes that were good for everyday and could easily be dressed up or down. They have always had a dedicated formalwear/going out looks section, but in the beginning it was more conservative and in line with their former parent company The Limited. Now, they are moving in an edgier direction, going toe to toe with brands like ASOS Curve and City Chic which caters to a more adventurous and trendy customer who isn’t afraid to turn up the glamour. I’m still a frequent customer, but my style is a little more understated. I go to them primarily for statement tops and going out dresses. Click to enlarge the gallery images below.

See what I mean? There are a LOT of statement pieces there. But that’s okay. The entire plus sized market is underserved but basics are much easier to find than special, stand out ones that don’t look cheap (Forever 21+ and Fashion Nova Curve don’t work for everything). They still have enough basis to keep me coming back.

Loft is completely my style, but it was only just this summer that they started doing plus sizes. I’m happy to report that the wait was somewhat justified by the quality. In a move unique to plus size lines, almost every single straight size piece is available in plus. And the trendiest items, the ones that make the campaigns and the new arrivals page, are available in plus as well. I haven’t done exhaustive research, but every piece so far that has caught my eye in their social media advertising has been available in my size–and FOR THE SAME PRICE! This is a major, major win in the plus size world and one we’ve been asking for forever. Here’s a look at their selection (click to enlarge):

If you compare the homepage for the general website and the plus section, you’ll see that the overall look and feel is the same–they are treating the plus size customer the same as their overall demographic. Shocking, I know, but unfortunately that is rare and to be commended. Loft serves a large age range of customers, from my 25 year old coworker to 45 year old soccer moms to 65 year old grandmothers who are young at heart, and it shows. But the classics are classic for a reason and Loft does them well.


I’m so glad to have better options. Old Navy’s quality and fit are wildly inconsistent. GAP doesn’t do plus sizes but I can fit into their upper range depending on the fabric and fit. Target has cute stuff, but quality and fit are a problem plus the significant upcharge for plus size items ($5-10 over the straight size equivalent, but hidden by the fact that plus sizes are different brands, except for Who What Wear). I simply can’t justify dropping $40 on a paper thin, ill fitting shirt. Fortunately, there is now enough brand diversity for the plus size market has some competition. I’m looking forward to better quality and better fashion for all.