Law School: As Bad as You’ve Heard

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For those of you struggling with big life-changing career decisions, Bwog’s enlightened Dane Cook gives you the scoop on law school.

A panel of Columbia University Law students convened last night to remind everyone pursuing a legal degree that—yes, the rumors are true—law school is hard. The event entitled “A Day in the Life of A Law Student,” jointly hosted by The Columbia Pre-Law Society and The Black Students Organization, provided undergrads first-hand accounts of the long, lonely hours, the stressful classroom settings, and the general drudgery of daily life from the perspective of current law students. Here are a few of the main topics last nights panel discussed:

The Transition from Undergraduate to Law School: If you think your undergraduate career involves too much studying, you haven’t seen anything yet. Each member of panel attested to the fact that law school involves longer hours, more thorough reading requirements, and deeper critical thinking skills than any academic setting they had thus far encountered. To one panel member ‘humbling’ seemed the most apt description. The course work is structured differently than at the undergraduate level—with less feedback throughout the semester and an all-important final, which counts for one hundred percent of your grade. They also noted the more intensive classroom setting. The threat of being called upon cold in class demands active engagement, as opposed to the more passive approach popular among undergrads.

The Daily Grind: Class. Read. Sleep. Class. Read. Sleep. According to the panel, at the beginning of the semester, students have more free time to explore extracurriculars, but when finals come around, as one first-year law student warned, “You enter ultra-school mode. You don’t have time to do anything else.”

Photo via Google Images

The Admissions Process: Although each panel member offered specific advice, the general consensus was to start early. If you plan on taking time between undergraduate and law school, get your recommendations while still at Columbia. Moreover, take the LSAT during your time as an undergrad; studying is easier while you’re still in school. One panel member, who graduated from Columbia College last year, advised everyone to take advantage of the services Columbia offers: get in touch with Cynthia Cogdill, Columbia’s pre-law advisor.

Although law school may be difficult, the panel made a valiant attempt to avoid discouraging law-school hopefuls. Amid the disconcerting laughter, coded remarks, and sidelong glances between panel members, they reassured—each in their own way—“Don’t worry. It’s not that bad.”



  1. Anonymous

    Too bad they didn't mention the reality of America's oversaturation of lawyers. Have fun being unemployed with $200,000 worth of debt.

    • i highly doubt

      that over-saturation problems will apply to most of the people who attended such an anal-retentive meeting. these are the kids so eager to be prepared that they would pass out if they got a C. i think they'll be fine. go try your shock tactics on the lower gpa's and/or lower tier schools.

      p.s. (to those kids) DO go see cindy cogdill. she can make the process a lot easier for you.

    • Not to mention that a lot of the kids in the room last night were the ones who'd be getting scholarships, summer associate positions, etc. If you want to speak to the over-saturation, go bitch about at it Louisiana State University. Not at a Columbia panel.

  2. law student

    law school sucks joy the joy out of your life as gleefully as mosquitoes suck your blood. everything these panelists said is true.

    still, good luck finding something else to do with that humanities degree. there are the maybe anal people who go to meetings about applying while still college juniors, and then the rest, who migrate here after striking out at other opportunities after / getting sick of their postgrad fellowship, TFA/teaching english abroad, their lame entry level job, or "a year off to travel". the former burn out, the latter are bitter at how their lives turned out.

  3. If you can't gain admission to a top 20 or preferably a top 14 law then don't bother. Even going to a top law school can be a gamble today because if you can't find a position shortly after you graduate employers will regard you as a complete loser and you could lose the entire economic value of your law degree while still having over $150,000 worth of non-dischargeable student loan debt.

  4. Ted

    If you go to anywhere outside of Harvard, Yale, or Stanford, then it is too risky to go to law school. Sorry but the unemployed with a ton of debt applied to all schools now. Of course, law school for many is a place for people with no marketable skills anyway so what would you expect?

  5. Interesting.

    From what I heard, from speaking to some law students a few years ago, law school is pretty laid back for the most part. But frankly, I could care less about the trials and travails of "poor" prospective lawyers. It isn't as if our society needs more of them, and by that I don't simply mean that there are so many of them already, but more importantly, that few of them contribute to societal betterment. It would be best, I think, if those seeking to make a profit would find a line of work outside of the justice system.

  6. Yeah right

    Graduated in the top 3% of class, top 20 school, law review, 5 years of biglaw, unemployed for 18 months, losing the house, and wife leaving.

    Think you're safe? I did too.

  7. :(

    don't stop beleivin', buddy.

  8. Yea Right???

    hey "Yea right",
    Why is your wife leaving? Does it look kind of "obvious" if she leaves right when you're laid off? I mean, what does she tell her parents or friends? NO woman will get support for ditching her husband when he gets laid off. She's GOT to tell them something else. So, what is it?

  9. Anonymous

    I go to a lower T10. 50% of the 3Ls don't have jobs.

  10. I thought "bad" is the not wright way to describe a institution may be some people of it or the process may be worth while.

  11. Yeah Right

    Dear Yea Right???

    I was laid off 18 months ago, not "just" recently.

    Obvious or not, that's what is happening.

  12. Yea Right??? (It's not right)

    YR, I really feel bad for you. This is when you need a wife to stick by you, and she takes off. I really want to understand what is happening to you.

    1) What is the "official" reason you're getting divorced? Were you also fighting, etc? (before or after layoff) What did she tell her friends/family as the reason?
    2) Are you just separating for now? Or starting divorce filings?
    3) Did she move home, or get her own apt?
    4) Does she work? Is she a lawyer, and is she also BIGLAW? Was she sympathetic to your layoff, at first? Then grew impatient?
    5) Did you feel the brutally long BIGLAW hours impact the marriage before the layoff? Did she work the same kind of hours?
    6) DO you think there's another man. Affair with co-worker?
    7) Did she used to complain to her friends/family about you?

    Hang in there, I hope you are able to maintain friendships, stay physically active, and stay sane. You will get through this, it WILL get better. Just get through this 1 day at a time.

  13. yalie

    OCI is WEAK at Yale this year. It's very difficult to land spots.

    We are the best, Columbia can't hold a candle, and we are having trouble.

    Good luck with the worthless degree known as a JD ITE or in the future.

  14. Frank the Underemployed Professional

    What we really need to do is to cut the number of law schools and law school seats by 60%. This would help restore a sense of honor and prestige to being a lawyer. It would also be humane because over time it would save hundreds of thousands of well-intentioned, often bright, hard-working students from buying a ticket into a lifetime of shame, embarrassment, and often abject student-loan-driven poverty.

    Sadly, because tens of millions of Americans are unemployed in other fields and because they wrongly believe that all lawyers are rich and that higher education is a guarantor of at least middle class prosperity and jobs security, the unsuspecting lemmings keep flooding into the nation's law schools at $45,000/year for tuition.

  15. Anonymous  

    law school is pretty much hell, and working as a lawyer is even more hellish. but guess what! you have 150k in debt so you can't leave!

    law school =

    at best, debt slavery

    at worst, unemployment and creditors calling

    you pick

  16. howdy

    I'm a 1L at a T20. i'm having trouble finding a volunteer gig for the summer! i believe those who say there are too many lawyers, b/c there sure as hell are too many law students

  17. 2L at top 10 law school

    My grades put me in the top 25% of a top 10 law school and I have no job lined up for the summer. It's looking more and more likely that I'll have six figures of debt and no way to pay it off when I graduate. Law school is a terrible mistake for most people who go through it.

  18. Anonymous

    I didn't even want to go to law school, I wanted to get an MBA. I've always been good at math and struggled with writing/verbal subjects. My dad said he had all this money set aside for my education. When I said I wanted to get an MBA he said it was a worthless degree and that a JD is a ticket to a comfortable life. He said that he would only pay for law school because it's a worthy investment.
    I trusted him and decided that getting a free ride to law school was probably better than being $100,000 in debt as a MBA grad. I don't think I could have been more wrong. Law school was the worst decision of my life. Every day has been cold and miserable. Teachers are miserable, students are miserable, no one has any job prospects, the stress of being called on every day in class and having the teacher fail you for not having read the case to their satisfaction is unbearable.
    I have no employment prospects and endured 3 miserable years away from my friends and family with nothing whatsoever to show for it except for a sense of anger and disappointment.
    I plead to anyone considering law school to do something else. Anything else.

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