Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Hollow Victory

As you can see from the pic posted here, I have fully repaid one of my student loans.  This particular loan came directly from my school, which is why I cut out references to my alma mater's name.  That leaves me with one other loan that I am currently repaying, and then I am done.  I have about one more year, give or take, of Spartan living before I am debt-free, and I can close the dark chapter of my life known as Law School.  When I received this payoff notice, at first I felt a sense of pride and hope.  Soon I would actually be able to save some of the money I earn and build wealth for my future.

But after I read and re-read the second sentence, pride and hope were replaced with frustration and sadness.  Because I repaid my loan, some other poor schmuck now has the ability to take out crippling student loan debt.  And my school's low default rate remains intact, resulting in further federal student loan funding.

I suppose some might believe that since I repaid my loan, as so many fellow alumni of my school have, then I must have benefited from higher education.  After all, how could I earn enough to repay my loan in under five years if my employment prospects had not brightened as a result of my degrees?

Having the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say now that I did benefit somewhat from my earning my bachelor's degree.  The positions I've held since graduating have all required a four-year degree (save for some moonlighting jobs I have taken in order to repay my loans at a faster rate), and almost everyone has one nowadays, so it's hard to compete in the marketplace without one.  BUT.  I should not have taken out student loan debt to earn it.  Although I worked almost full-time during my undergraduate years, I realize now that I could have cash-flowed my BA had I worked and saved for a couple more years before enrolling.  It might have taken me longer to get through my program, but probably not as many more months or years as it has taken me to pay off half of my loans.  And, I would not have had to pay interest.

As far as my law degree is concerned, I can honestly say now that I did not benefit from earning my JD.  The positions I've held since graduating (aside from any associate/law school intern positions) have been obtained by omitting or downplaying my law degree on resumes and applications.  I do not list my JD on my resume (a resume is, after all, just a marketing tool), and when I fill out applications, I only list my JD if I am asked to list all of my higher education degrees.  The fact of the matter is simply that employers do not want to employ lawyers or JD's in non-lawyer positions.  Unless that lawyer or JD is going to run a fortune 500 company or teach law.  Last time I checked, I think all of those positions have been filled.

I am not sure what else to say about law school to those considering it, except: Don't go.  Please.  You will absolutely regret it.  I do not know any happy lawyers, or any recent graduates who are happy that they decided to attend.  I cannot put it any simpler.  It will leave you in a financial hole that will take years, if not decades, to crawl out of.  And the legal market is saturated.  What else can be said?

I hope this post will give some of my fellow JD's and recovering lawyers some hope for their financial futures.  I am not debt-free yet, but I know I will be soon.  At that point, I will be able to say that law school took [X number of] years from me, rather than my entire life.


  1. Don't forget that older bosses with less education are often INTIMIDATED by employees with more education than they have. If you disagree with them, they tense up and hold grudges. If you come up with sound ideas, they will usually be dismissed without any consideration - if your boss is insecure. Even if you have made it clear that you do not want to practice law, they might feel that you want to move up rapidly in the company. So they view you as a threat, especially if you some independence.

    1. I hadn't thought of that before. I can see how they might feel threatened by the higher-education set, but what they don't realize is that those who actually have advanced degrees know that there is no reason for anyone else to feel threatened by them. Anyone can go out and earn a doctorate, a masters, or a Ph.D., but those degrees do not provide one with a personality, confidence, or common sense. Many people, including myself, rely(ied) on higher education to provide them with a solid identity, which is a fruitless endeavor, as well as a costly one.

      I have found it difficult to convince non-lawyers that I do not want to practice law anymore. So employers who know about my law degree going into the interview are pretty skeptical about hiring someone like me. The funny thing is, it is not tough to convince fellow lawyers that I don't want to practice anymore because they actually know what a shitty existence being a lawyer is.

  2. I, too, am a former lawyer. I wish I would've taken my debt a lot more seriously.

    Your blog is encouraging me to focus more on paying off debt by living frugally and simply. Frankly, I'd rather go out and buy a nice HD TV & subscribe to the good cable tiers so I can watch European soccer live (like my friends who didn't take on student loans)... but that just won't get me where I want to be....

    Thanks for helping me keep my eye on the prize!

  3. I'm so glad my blog is encouraging you! It's never too late to start paying off debt and building the life you want. (Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was well into her 70's.)

    Try not to think about your friends with nice cable packages. So many people portray an image of financial success while carrying debt. Those same friends who have nice TV's and a million channels probably have car payments, credit cards, and mortgages. And if they don't, then use their success as a motivator. Pay off your debt and start building wealth so you can be as successful as they are. Thank you for reading!