Is Kirsten Wolf the Law Grad Norm?
I'm posting the recent WSJ interview with Kirsten Wolf , graduate of Boston University School of Law, because I would like to ask the simple question: Is Kirsten Wolf the law grad norm in 2008?
I was like a B+ student, right there in the middle with most people. So it was the fall of second year when everyone was applying for summer associate positions and I realized I wasn't going to be one of the chosen few who was going to get those jobs. I had a moment of realization that once that golden ring was taken away I realized I didn't want to be a lawyer for the sake of being a lawyer and I reconsidered everything I was doing and realized I probably was in the wrong place, but I was about $45,000 in the hole at that point and if I walked away I'd have nothing and still have debt. So I finished law school so I could at least have the degree and maybe a miracle would happen and I'd get a job.
Did you get one?
I passed the Massachusetts bar and there was no job. This was 2002 when the dot-com bust was hitting white-collar trades. It was a bad time. The dean of our law school apologized to us in our graduation speech. So I continued to work for the engineering company I had worked at through law school and spent the year trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And I realized the directions I had gone in up until this point were wrong and I needed to rethink everything. I was 27 years old and I had been trying to do the right thing and all that had gotten me was upwards of $100,000 in the hole.
You can read more here.
The only opinion I have on this piece is many people do look at law school as a low threshold entry to getting a graduate degree when they don't have more than a passing interest in being a lawyer, just an educational stepping stone. It's a place to hide out from the real world for three years with the pretense of moving forward.
We are a society who has beaten our children over the head into believing you will be higher up in the food chain with a graduate degree. And law school is the default for many because it requires no specific undergraduate degree as a prerequisite. She would not have regretted going to law school but for the lack of promised jobs or the debt. That's just infantile.
This is not the story of a person passionate about law who pounded the pavement to get meaningful work or did whatever she needed to do to practice her passion. This is the story of someone who thought it might be nice to get a legal degree and regrets the debt she has to pay and the time she sacrificed for the privilege of figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. And because a job wasn't handed to her on a silver platter once she graduated, she's upset. That doesn't make you a missionary. It makes you pissed off.
There are many Kirsten Wolfs in law school. But for the Kirsten Wolfs how would law schools make money. But there are also future Presidents, brilliant public defenders, supreme court justices, civil liberties defenders, legislatures, environmental lawyers and more.
In contrast I offer you the musings of a fellow Boston University School of Law Grad:
Whatever I do for a living, however, will require keeping an eye on the long view: making a difference. For the foreseeable future I'm glad to work for the sake of working, to continue to learn this trade and to make enough money to make the loans go away. But if there were to come a day when I looked back on my career and saw that I had done nothing to influence sensible policy, then no matter how brilliantly I'd litigated or how much money I'd earned along the way, I'd consider my career a failure. It's this fear that's partly behind the motivation to write, as no matter what I do during my day job I'll still have an avenue for making my voice heard.
There is only one moral to Kirsten Wolf's story: understand what it is you are trying to accomplish by going to law school and the short and long term financial and psychological costs associated with the undertaking. There are no excuses for being Alice in Wonderland anymore. There is too much information circulating today about the trials and tribulations of law school, the debt, and employment opportunities for you to remain ignorant and whiny.