Time for another contestant in the 2 Reasons to Go to Law School Challenge. First, the rules:
1. You need 2 reasons
a. Your actual reasons, not hypothetical reasons
2. They must be good reasons
3. They must be reasons to go to law school
If your two reasons blow me away, Con Daily will send you a copy of either Philadelphia Lawyer's Happy Hour is for Amateurs, or Dr. Rob's Crazy. And, if that sentence wasn't hedged enough, winners are decided at the sole discretion of your judge, me. I'll play fair, but no whining, no appeals, all judgments final.
And now, on to the "fun:"
1. I like the law (theory of, not always following). As an undergrad I switched from math to philosophy because I loved the study of ethics and wanted to write some kind of world changing moral treatise, only to find out in my upper division classes that contemporary philosophy has nothing to do with anything remotely practical. If there is a modern day forum for dealing with social and institutional rules of conduct, law is it. I know, I know, as a lawyer I won’t be writing any new laws or changing the penal codes or anything like that (at least not for a very long time), but knowing and practicing within the rules that govern our society is more appealing to me than anything else out there. I hate most jobs that aren’t Summer Pool Manager or Female Celebrity Massage Therapist (I’m a private Spanish tutor right now, not a fan), so why not pick a job that I hate in a field I appreciate? Fuck being close to 30 with a college kid job (see reason 2). I'm reading the Oxford Introduction to US Law book on Contracts because I read that post on ConDaily a couple weeks back about starting school ahead of the curve and I'm enjoying it. Not enjoying it like I enjoyed Phila's Happy Hour or anything, and I know the actual reading material for my classes will be much more dense and dry, but so far reading about the rules and reasons surrounding contracts is definitely interesting.
[BL1Y Note: About 2 seconds of searching our archives didn't turn up the piece referenced here, but here's the long and short of it: In law school you're severely pressed for time, so do a little bit of reading during your 0L summer so that your classes are now largely review, rather than your first exposure to the material. And remember, you're graded on a curve.]
2. I want to live in the upper middle class, at least. A few years ago I applied to law school and didn’t go (NYU and Columbia both waitlisted me anyway) because I wasn’t really done being young and not giving a shit. Now I have a wife and a 15 month old (I’ll be 26 in September), so I figure it’s time to quit fucking around, roll up my sleeves and chase the American Dream. I know you might say MBA, but I have no business background and being on a partner track at a small to midsize boutique, or even networking up and eventually going solo sounds a lot more appealing than lifetime middle management. I know the economy is shit and that I’m not going to a T14 school, but I’ve always been good at academics and test taking (3.8 at Cal, 171 LSAT), so I’m confident that if I put in the time I can graduate close to the top of my class and secure a good job. I’m starting at ASU (USNR: 40) this fall, which was only a back up school when I applied three years ago but it was the only school I applied to this time around because my parents are in Tempe and they are an invaluable help with the baby. Plus it's the only respectable law school in town (there's some unranked JD factory that just opened up downtown) so if I find it too hard to compete with the UCLA, Boalt and Stanford grads in Cali I can always work here (though I'd rather move to the coast).
Tuition is 37ish for out of state and 25ish for in state, which I’ll qualify for after my first semester (ASU residency requirement is only 12 months). I have a $30k scholarship for my first year and a $15k scholarship for my second year. Like I said, I plan to be at the top of my class, so I’m hoping I can leverage my class rank and an admission letter to a T14 school two Aprils from now into some more free money at ASU for my 3L (maybe wishful thinking, I don’t know). I know that betting so much on being at the top of my class may be a little risky, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
1L at Arizona State University
US News Rank: 40, Tuition: $21,598 (in state)
Reason #1: I like something I know shit about
In undergrad you made a pretty significant life decision based on incorrect assumptions and a failure to conduct adequate research. Yeah, really sounds like you and the law are in tune with each other. Really though, your reason is that you like the legal system, and hate every job, so you might as well be a lawyer. The fact of the matter is, tons of jobs today involve working with the rules that govern society, such as hospital administration and insurance claims, accounting, and bar tending.
You like law because it's marginally more appealing to you than the other bullshit options you face in today's world. That's not a particularly strong reason, especially given how much you're likely to hate law as much or more than the other options once you get in to it. Some people really do enjoy being lawyers (just look at Namby Pamby, who has every reason to hate it). It's because they got in to law because their personality was well suited for it and they had an actual, sincere desire to be a lawyer. No one who goes in to law because it's slightly more appealing than anything else ever enjoys it, even marginally more than other work.
Reason #2: I need a McMansion
Given that Big Law is pretty much off the table from the start for you, an upper middle class life is not likely in the cards, unless the wife has a really good job. You can't rely on boutiques either. Some people use "boutique" to refer to any small shop, but if what you mean is a true boutique, one doing highly specialized, high end, lucrative work, then understand that it's not an alternative to Big Law. Well, no more than a federal judgeship is. Those jobs are harder to get than Big Law, they're not a fallback.
PayScale did a survey of mid-career salaries for law grads, and found that only 9 schools had graduates earning more than $100,000. No surprise, Arizona State wasn't one of them. If what you're looking for is a bit of financial security, and I can appreciate the need for that with a wife and kid, what you really have to look at is spending. Just as it's impossible to out exercise a bad diet, it's impossible to out earn bad spending habits. You might think you only need to earn a certain amount of money, but people's expectations always seem to grow with their salaries. If you're not content with the money you have now (and aren't living in abject poverty), you probably won't be content at any income level.
Final score: 1/2 out of 2, and that's because I'm feeling generous.
I don't think you have good reasons for going, but you have at least done one thing right, you've reduced the cost of attendance, which means your reasons don't have to be as good as someone who's paying sticker price. You've got your 1L year for, it looks like, pretty much free, and your 2L year at a significant discount. If you bust ass and place at the top of your class (and know that everyone thinks they're going to be at the top, odds are you will not), you can apply for a transfer and get your 2L scholarship bumped and add some money on 3L year as well. Middling schools will shell out cash to stop their top kids from transferring.
The main cost to you is opportunity. I don't know how much being a Spanish tutor pays, but multiply that by three and add it on to your bill. Fortunately, you're not giving up 3 years of work experience, since I doubt there's a position of Senior Spanish Tutor you could have advanced to if you stuck with that.
You're not in as bad of shape as many of your peers, but your reasons for going to law school are still too flimsy to justify it. You won't leave empty handed though. Well, you will literally leave empty handed, but I'm going to give you what will hopefully be some useful advice:
First, If you must stay in law, and if you don't suddenly develop a burning desire to strut in front of a court room, focus as many of your electives as you can on tax. As a once-upon-a-time math person, you'll probably be less intimidated by tax law than other students. You'll also want to pick up classes in real estate and estate planning. Those areas fit in nicely with tax, but more importantly, they don't have quite the same caste system many other areas do. Practicing DUI defense will never land you a gig at a white collar defense firm; simple corporate formations won't turn you in to a securities guru. But, real estate and family law works on more of a continuum. You can work your way up from small matters, to slightly bigger ones, and slowly get more desirable clients.
More importantly, take some time to seriously think about what you enjoy doing. Have you had any job you liked? Any aspect of a job you liked, even if on the whole the job sucked? What about crappy jobs have you especially hated? Take some time to really think about those things, otherwise you're going to end up aimless and in a career you hate for the rest of your life.