Thread: About quitting
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:44 AM
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ChuckF ChuckF is offline
liar in wolf's clothing
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Frequently about
Default About quitting

Yeah. This is more about me writing stuff down than getting advice, because internet people do not get to decide things, but you guys are pretty good for internet people, so what the hell. Be warned: this is kind of a downer.

An odd thing happened last semester: I started to enjoy law school, or at least the substantive part of it. Administrative law is positively fun. Evidence is totally neat. Non-profit law - well, two out of three ain't bad. For a time I even started to believe that perhaps, after a year of intense doubt, it was to be the law for me after all. I'm enjoying this semester's coursework, too. But I'm thinking pretty seriously about dropping out. There are several factors to consider, some that favor bailing, some that favor sticking.

(1) Reasons to bail:
(A) I have no confidence that law school will help me find a job. The legal recession is older and deeper than the rest of the recession. There are fewer jobs for more law students. People who can't find a job go to law school. (Ask me how I know!) Law schools know that they can increase revenue by accepting more of these students. Firms and everyone else who hires lawyers have dramatically reduced hiring and are increasingly outsourcing routine legal work overseas. There are now several years worth of law school graduating classes out there in the market, as excess supply. The end result is an enormous number of piglets for a dwindling number of teats. The competition for positions at legal aid offices and other public service positions is just as strenuous as the competition for junior associate positions. I have, thus far, consistently failed to secure the all-important summer employment in a legal field, even when applying to those rare positions for which I am apparently precisely qualified. This failure suggests to me that my chances of securing full-time employment after graduation are very, very slim. Last summer, I found work only through a personal connection. I no longer have any such informal networks upon which I may rely for employment. I am at a distinct disadvantage when competing against those who do. (I should hasten to add that, based on conversations with many of my classmates, I do not judge my experience or impressions to be unusual among my cohort.)

(B) I am a mediocre law student at a mediocre law school. While my institution is reasonably well-regarded, it is not one of the golden handful of schools that effectively dominate the marketplace. This is not a bad thing, particularly in exchange for my relatively low debt burden. I have not distinguished myself as a student, and I haven't really worked to do so. This is largely because I truly hated my first year of law school and did not put forth a great deal of effort. I muddled through on the natural strength of my intellect, which has kept me slightly above the class median without excess expenditure of energy. Yes, this was laziness and apathy. The result of this is that I am in the great grey middle part of the curve, at school and in the market. This is a very bad place to be in this abysmal economy. It is too late to change this.

(C) By remaining in school I will incur additional opportunity costs and increase my debt burden. Of the two, the opportunity costs are arguably greater. I have forfeiting earning potential by remaining in school. Any job would pay more. (See item 2(A) below.) My debt load is very modest indeed, especially by law school standards, and will not be debilitating. All the same, it is not at all clear that I am receiving anything of value in exchange for the money I am borrowing.

(D) I have no confidence that the legal economy will recover any time soon. The excess labor supply is too great; the general economic recovery is too weak, and the demand too small; the resurgence of American dynamism is too illusory. I do not believe this present predicament to temporary. Rather, it is semi-permanent if not permanent. I think that this is a new era of sustained high unemployment, and that this will be particularly true in the legal field. Given (1)(A) and (1)(B), this translates into extreme uncertainty, at best.
While these are, in my view, pretty good compelling reasons to bail, a few substantial considerations favor sticking.

(2) Reasons to stick:
(A) I have no confidence that I could find a job otherwise. In my prior education, I accepted the proposition that it is a valuable thing to know about other places and peoples, and to learn languages other than my own. This proposition is false. I suppose that eventually, through sheer persistence, I could find a job in retail or customer support. I hold out no real hope of finding a job that uses my expertise or training. I have certainly failed to do so thus far. Remaining in law school will, at a minimum, allow me 18 more months of having something to do, and conclude with (another) (probably useless) academic degree.

(B) I'm half way there. I have completed more than half of the coursework and paid out more than half of the total cost of law school. This investment is unrecoverable. This in itself does not justify additional expenditures, but I suppose it would be nice to at least get a sheet of paper and a pair of letters after my name.

(C) I do not like to leave things unfinished, and would probably regret quitting. This is the most difficult factor to weigh. I think I know myself well enough to know that if I quit, I will always suspect that I could have done better had I finished, despite all those things that make me consider quitting.
I can get a pro-rated refund on my semester's tuition if I quit in the first nine weeks. This is week two. I haven't been sleeping so good recently.

Last edited by ChuckF; 01-20-2011 at 06:08 AM.
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Dingfod (01-22-2011)
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