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Old 01-20-2011, 04:44 AM
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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 05:08 AM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 04:58 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Oh wow Chuck. I had no idea that the legal profession was having such bad employment problems. I am assuming you have researched niches in the profession...like something that combines your languages and law? I dunno government or law enforcement or something?

I can't presume to advise you, but "staying in" C was the gut puncher for me.
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:01 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

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Originally Posted by LadyShea View Post
Oh wow Chuck. I had no idea that the legal profession was having such bad employment problems. I am assuming you have researched niches in the profession...like something that combines your languages and law? I dunno government or law enforcement or something?
These are those rare positions for which I have been very highly qualified, and have nonetheless failed to secure. That has been the most discouraging thing; I've felt that my interviews have gone very, very well, and maybe they have. Just not well enough.

When I can't even get one of those spots - by the way, did I mention that these are unpaid positions? - I find it difficult to imagine circumstances in which I can land a real job.
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:06 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Well, there's enough uncertainty with almost everything you listed, that things may go your way yet.

No uncertainty about that last one though. No matter which way you go, you have to live with yourself. Take the road that makes that one thing easiest I say.
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:08 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Sorry you are having a rough time of it, :hug:

What about the State Department? With your language skills I imagine that a law degree could help you work in an Embassy or Consulat. Iirc, you spoke once about Foreign Service.

What about Peace Corps until things improve? That might open doors?
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:11 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

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Originally Posted by Demimonde View Post
Sorry you are having a rough time of it, :hug:

What about the State Department? With your language skills I imagine that a law degree could help you work in an Embassy or Consulat. Iirc, you spoke once about Foreign Service.
I did. I went as far in the selection process as one can go without being hired. I am presently going through the process again. I dare not rely on succeeding this time, having previously failed.
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What about Peace Corps until things improve? That might open doors?
Seriously considering it. I would probably do it if they would take me.
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:39 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Well, clearly you need to put

(D) I started to enjoy law school

in the Reasons to Stick column, because you stated so yourself, and with a cursory :tealdeer: glance it appears to be skewed more heavily toward bailing.

I am not one of you lawyerly types, obviously, but I do sleep next to one occasionally (not often as I would like, as he recently graduated and the only job he could find was a year-long fellowship with Legal Aid on the other side of the state.) But, he is doing the type of work that he wanted to do, and doesn't have to touch anybody's junk for a living anymore. Then again, I guess anything is a step up from TSA these days.

He went to a private, fourth tier law school, and probably racked up considerably more debt than you will, and still doesn't regret it (though if this fellowship doesn't turn into a full-time position, then that may change.) Hell, at least he found something (for now), and your chances of finding something should be substantially better than his.

Besides, you think you will probably regret quitting. That's a pretty strong reason to grit your teeth for the next 18 months, unless there was some fantastic job opportunity that you'd be missing out on by staying.

...

On the other hand, if you drop out you will have more time to spend on FF.
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:48 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Good luck making the best decision for you. Here's some chatter that may or may not be relevant or useful.

If you stopped your education and tried to find a job doing something else, you would likely have a window of years when you could return and finish your degree. Find out what that is.

Are you planning on staying in the same state as your law school? That seemed to make all the difference for those classmates of mine who were starting out in law work, without a job lined up when they graduated. Those stupid letters really open doors in your own state, or at least they appear to. For those of us who moved outside our state and looked for work once we showed up and passed the bar, it was a hard slog of many months in a poor job market (and all of the ones I know who had a similar experience were women, so there's an additional factor there) before getting something/anything.

The job market is not as bad as it was, and I know very few of my law cohort who are out of work these days, even if they lost their jobs--and lots of them did. I mean, I know it is bad for big hires, but I'm not sure it remains terrible for small firms where they are more likely to advertise based on word of mouth rather than post jobs anywhere. If you can't find a summer job, can you take classes in the summer that may free up your time during the regular year and then volunteer to clerk in a firm?

Do you want to practice law? I know this is a dumb question in some ways, because you probably have no idea what that means at this point. Did you go to law school to be in a courtroom? Did you plan on taking the bar? If so, then you should probably stay because there is plenty of legal work available--you may just have to go to Ahoskie, work for peanuts, and live in a rented room. If you don't have much debt and aren't attached to someone who requires things like a giant research facility to work for then there are more opportunities. You may end up doing really unglamorous work, but it's work and it pays the bills.

Did you go to law school for any other reason? Then think hard about whether it makes sense to stay, and think about whether you would be any good doing representational law. I did not go to law school to represent individual clients, but I'm not actually terrible at it. I am not sure that a law degree is any greater ticket to jobs that non-bar-taking get than an MA, etc., other than it shows "discipline" or whatever.

My law school is in the same range as yours, and I was a median student. I do not regret going to law school (not today, I think I waver on this)--but I also do not have any student debt that hangs over me, driving me to work at a place that I don't want to be. My friends who are in that boat are the ones who are most unhappy.

Last edited by wildernesse; 01-20-2011 at 06:28 AM. Reason: to clarify
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:58 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Quote:
Originally Posted by One for Sorrow View Post
But, he is doing the type of work that he wanted to do, and doesn't have to touch anybody's junk for a living anymore. Then again, I guess anything is a step up from TSA these days.
Whoa, let's not be too quick to dismiss the joys and rewards of junk-touching, if not as a career then as a hobby.

But seriously, thanks. It is helpful to hear about recent grads in the similar market.
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If you stopped your education and tried to find a job doing something else, you would likely have a window of years when you could return and finish your degree. Find out what that is.
Have to finish the degree within five years of beginning it, so I would have a couple of years to come back.
Quote:
Are you planning on staying in the same state as your law school?
I could stay here or not. I would like to work in DC, and a fair number of people from my law school do that. Honestly I don't feel like I have such control over my fate to decide for myself whether to stay or move. I will go (or stay) where the work is.
Quote:
The job market is not as bad as it was, and I know very few of my law cohort who are out of work these days, even if they lost their jobs--and lots of them did. I mean, I know it is bad for big hires, but I'm not sure it remains terrible for small firms where they are more likely to advertise based on word of mouth rather than post jobs anywhere. If you can't find a summer job, can you take classes in the summer that may free up your time during the regular year and then volunteer to clerk in a firm?
I can take classes and try to volunteer. I may write to the DA's office in my home county and ask if I can help out there.
Quote:
Do you want to practice law? I know this is a dumb question in some ways, because you probably have no idea what that means at this point. Did you go to law school to be in a courtroom?
No. I love the idea of appellate practice, but I know that I don't have the stats for it. The idea of being behind a table in a courtroom terrifies me, but I don't think I would be awful at it. Notionally I would rather not deal with individual clients. I think I would be most at home in a government setting, but I'm not about to get choosy.
Quote:
Did you plan on taking the bar?
I already started paying for the goddamn bar review course, so yes.
Quote:
If so, then you should probably stay because there is plenty of legal work available--you may just have to go to Ahoskie, work for peanuts, and live in a rented room. If you don't have much debt and aren't attached to someone who requires things like a giant research facility to work for then there are more opportunities. You may end up doing really unglamorous work, but it's work and it pays the bills.
Work is work. Though one may not guess it from my vast library of your-mom's-anus-centric wisecracks, the extent of my glamor is occasionally overstated.
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Did you go to law school for any other reason?
Oh, the reasons are many and wrong.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckF View Post

Quote:
Do you want to practice law? I know this is a dumb question in some ways, because you probably have no idea what that means at this point. Did you go to law school to be in a courtroom?
No. I love the idea of appellate practice, but I know that I don't have the stats for it.
You may find opportunities for it, even in more plain jane work. The office where I practiced unglamorous SSA disability appearing before video ALJ's also would represent some of the most spectacularly loser-ific clients through their appeal to federal court. Don't let the numbers fool you, just look for ways to do what you want in the opportunities that you have.

Quote:
Quote:
Did you go to law school for any other reason?
Oh, the reasons are many and wrong.
LOL, like "my parents really want me to and will pay for it" is the best idea ever.

ETA:
Quote:
Work is work.
If you are going to stay, take a clinic where you actually do some lawyer work but not some transactional clinic like I did. Although it was useful, it did not create additional food-on-the-table skills. I was really nervous about taking those kinds of clinics when I was in law school, but it would have been better to have been nervous and inexperienced then instead of being nervous and inexperienced and my mortgage payment depended on it. I would actually choose variety over specialization in this economy, especially if work is work for you. There is work out there--bankruptcy, workers' comp, disability (SSA and private), court-appointed work, etc.--but some people can't afford to take it or don't like the work for whatever reason.

Last edited by wildernesse; 01-20-2011 at 06:44 AM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Alright, so I'm not the lawyerly type, nor am I even close to being the smartest motherfucker in this room. To give you a little background, so you know from where this advice is coming from, I never finished college and even then I was a shitty student.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty smart, but I'm really fucking lazy. College was simply the first time I didn't have overbearing parents watching over me. It was the first time that I realized with only a high school education I was better educated than my parents. So, I dropped out. Twice.

As for my "career"...such as it is, it's all a big fucking accident. I basically bounced from job to job, picking up skills until I found myself in a twelve year rut. Only recently have I found any modicum of happiness in my work and that only because I married right.

Anyway, this is about you.

Reading what you wrote, I can certainly see that the number of words are skewed towards bailing, but by my lights, I don't see what you gain. Or more accurately, it seems to me you got more to lose by quitting than you do by sticking.

I'm not basing this on your sense of stick-to-it-iveness or any other happy horseshit. I'm seeing this based on your point-by-point breakdown. Shitty economy is shitty, probably shittier for someone with half-a-law-education.

If quitting meant you get a job that pays well enough and doesn't make you wanna kill yourself every day, then sure. But, you said yourself that's not the case.

Still, take my opinion for what it's worth. Bearing in mind that I've yet to make more than one smart decision in my entire life (see: that bit about marrying right) and that I might be giddy at the idea that for once I get to tell you something.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:44 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

You will have less trouble finding a job as an accomplished mediocre law student than you would without a diploma. Afterall, there are two wars and a recess/depress/ion going on right now. :shrug: But happiness is also very important. I feel pretty stupid for slacking off enough in high school to have not gotten scholarships (because, srsly that shit is child's play) and now will prolly end up at a regular-joe public college (mostly just to occupy myself). Not that I ever had great aspiration to go to a private school, anyway, but it's financially and educationally the right move - no matter what you're studying. That's some public school advice for you, bro.

Also you said you are half way through. The debt sucks but if you do find a career out of all this, won't it be easier to pay off if you go the long haul?

DISCLAIMER:
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I've yet to make more than one smart decision in my entire life
Me too.
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:17 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Qingdai and I have a mutual friend who has worked a lot of jobs and finally got her bachelor's degree; she had the presence of mind to A.) build a list of all her dream jobs, and B.) wrangle informational interviews with people doing those jobs. IIRC, every last one of them said: don't get into this line of work, it sucks.

Now that I've motivated you, I'm going to say that if you're looking for free advice worth every penny, finish the degree. You will have to live with yourself later, and it is another avenue of possible jobs open to you, as slim as that avenue appears to you.

At the same time, while making a list of dream jobs is good, making a list of bearable to enjoyable jobs is even better. Actually a number of lists: bearable/ enjoyable jobs, things I don't want to do in my job (like you mentioned face time is not a plus, but whatever is your vision of suckage), key factors for the job (Commute time? Hours? Income/ student loans? Physicality? (like back problems, allergies to K-Y Jelly, etc.)), and then just how much you're willing to give for a job. Will you pull conduit for a year or two to become an electrician? Will you work crazy hours because it will get you to point B in your career in X years? While you're making lists, look at the projections for growth career industries (or I'll help you, it is health care on the shitty end mostly. Well, pharmacist pays well and they have trouble filling this job.)

You will have time to complete these lists and ruminate on the subjects while you finish your law degree. At the same time, you will have time to finish your first full-length French-language Kirk-and-Spock erotica/sci-fi novel and send it off to a publisher, who will snort and publish it because your typos were limited and why the fuck not, only to have your novel become THE underground sensation in France and strangely, Algeria. A fourth and fifth printing leaves you with a strong demand to follow-up, this time with a book agent and a not-so-bad advance.

So you sequester yourself in a shotgun shack in rural Bumfuckia, with a case of Turtle Porn wine and every intention of cementing your new-found literary career. Every day you type, and the words come slowly, and every night you edit and delete most of it, and sometimes the woman you met at the Piggly-Wiggly when you were buying chicken and Funions comes over and you make sweet love in the creaky bed, though she always leaves after and never stays the night.

But then when you finish the second novel, your editor is weird about it but after a few revisions that you are kind of pissed about, they publish it for mass release, in English and French this time, also re-releasing the first novel in English. It bombs and the critics pan it. This second novel is either too serious or too close to the last one or somehow both, and they don't think the ending is strong enough, and pick pick pick, and plus they asked you to do a media tour to hype the book and it SUCKS. You don't like face time anyway, but now you are getting a weird mix of mild franco-phile fans, angry Trekkers, adoring Trekkers, and a weird pack of LARPers that show up at every book-signing and attempt to act out scenes from the first book, though they only speak French phonetically.

And this is when you decide to go to school for fermentation sciences and either make cheese or alcoholic spirits. You don't have to decide right away. You've got some time to think it over.
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:20 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Echoing what others have said. Shitty, possibly non-existent job in shitty economy vs. shitty possibly non-existent job with that piece of paper in your resume. To me, based on your list, with as little of my own biases thrown in as possible, you should stay.

Your debt will be small and you'll have your law school paper thing. Balanced against that you have to explain the two (?) year gap in your C.V. to prospective employers.

Also the State Dept. sounds good, or you can turn your hobby into cash and work for the TSA.

Also there should be a burgeoning market for lawyers to sue the banks on behalf of homeowners for giving them shonky loans.
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:23 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

Also lawyers are the embryonic stage of politicians so don't forget that career avenue.
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:31 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

You should look into lucrative jobs in the swindling industry.

Look, Glenn Beck or Ted Haggard or Sean Hannity or Alex Jones or Orly Taitz or some other charlatan or nutjob is going to swindle them out of their money anyway, you might as well take it instead!
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:43 AM
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Default Re: About quitting




Also,



ETA:
Given the occassion - a third is in order.




ETA:
Okay, okay, just one more.


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Last edited by Gonzo; 01-20-2011 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 08:23 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

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Quote:
Originally Posted by LadyShea View Post
Oh wow Chuck. I had no idea that the legal profession was having such bad employment problems. I am assuming you have researched niches in the profession...like something that combines your languages and law? I dunno government or law enforcement or something?
These are those rare positions for which I have been very highly qualified, and have nonetheless failed to secure. That has been the most discouraging thing; I've felt that my interviews have gone very, very well, and maybe they have. Just not well enough.

When I can't even get one of those spots - by the way, did I mention that these are unpaid positions? - I find it difficult to imagine circumstances in which I can land a real job.
Have you only been looking in the US? I assume that someone who is well versed in US law, and fluent in French (or nearly fluent) would have some job available in say, Belgium (oh wait, government non-functioning), France or some other former French colony. A huge soul sucking job.


I did run into a friend of mine who is practicing family law, and seems to like it.
I see you as a lobbyist, who works for home brewers. Seriously, that's another option, get in with a group you like and work with them. Have some fucking ethics though, or I'll have to give you a pneumothorax you won't forget. I'll be all like "oops!"

Also Chunksmediocrites got it a bit wrong, my friend saw a career counselor who had her cold call people who were doing work she was interested in (dream jobs, is there such a thing? Independently wealthy, but I digress).
She found that people were 90% of the time happy to talk about their happiness with their work, what it took to get the job, and the sustainability of their pay. Let's face it, people love to talk about themselves.

So about me, I'd not let the economy bother you too much. Stay in school and survive, the whole fucking ball of wax is going to collapse anyway.
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:28 AM
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Default Re: About quitting

I have been toiling away at my next degree for many summers now, with many similar second-thoughts about what I should have gone into career-wise instead, and more recently whether I even want to do what what I thought this might be qualifying me to do when I'm done. Cost-benefit analysis? Throwing good money/time after bad? But as a personal goal, I have opted to finish what I have started. I know myself well enough that that would be preferable to leaving with the job unfinished.

For what it's worth, I have found as I've that as life goes on this adage I heard when I was much younger grows peculiarly more and more apt:

...it's better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven't done.

Oh, and by the way, and if you see your mom this weekend? Could you be sure and tell her SATAN SATAN SATAN!

Best advice ever, and from Jello Biafra even. With $2.58 more, it'll even get you a large ice-coffee.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:43 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

One thing to consider might be the value that a law degree can contribute to other fields as well. Even if you do not end up in a legal profession, having that extra paper may help you in other contexts.
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:19 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

You will always wonder what would have happened if you did not quit.

--J.D.
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:23 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

The other thing about those pieces of paper is that they show employers that you can stick with something for three or four years straight. They want to see that. Allegedly, I don't have a job so I don't know.
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:28 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

Twas the Butthole Surfers who said that about it being better to regret things you have done. But I guess it is true though.
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:58 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

Echoing Brimshack here: it's more than the piece of paper you get by finishing. Once you have that law degree, you have it forever; and there's no shortage of extra unpaid duties lucrative secondments and promotions that can come your way in a wide range of careers, based on the rationale/due diligence reasoning that you have qualifications in law.

If you've starting enjoying it, I would advise (in flagrant contravention of the non-advising stricture clearly stated above) that you continue enjoying it. I've done and seen and supervised an absolute shitload of degree-taking, and I'm increasingly confident that the best approach to it, modulo massive personal or socio-economic acts of God, is to do all the agonizing up front, then treat the degree process itself as more or less ballistic.
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Old 01-20-2011, 02:12 PM
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Default Re: About quitting

Also: if you're part of the great mean in your classes owing to a low give-a-shit level in your first year, and the native hue of your intellect is pretty much proof against sinking much below that, why not go for the brass ring?

You can't (you assure us) gain much in terms of class ranking by studying hard now, and (plausibly) you can't lose much by dividing your attention a bit between the precise requirements of your current coursework and some potentially distinct interests you might have in law-related topics. You have ideas and stuff, I'm given to understand, and a not-infrequently not-uninteresting mode of expressing these ideas. There exist journals in which an incandescent cosmopolitan young motherfucker can take a run at saying stuff, possibly in the provocative manner uniquely licensed by the sense of having little to lose. Whether you end up working in a law firm or not, it might (i) be very satisfying and (ii) open a number of doors for you to have 2 or 3 publication lines on your CV as you complete your program (or within a year of having done so, given time lag).

This part isn't really advice, though. Just a little Howzabout.
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