Archive for June, 2012
Before I started law school, I had a decent salary. It was by no means great, but it included dollars and provided me the ability to pay my rent, utilities and most of my bills. I went to law school because I had this burning desire to be able to pay all of my bills. I later learned this was stupid. Below are the ways I have been paid since starting law school:
My first job did not pay money, but I got a free sandwich every day.
2. Football Tickets:
My second job also did not pay money, but I got field passes to all of the football games. These were non-transferable and I do not like football, but arguably, they were kind of cool because football is a big deal at my school. If I could have sold them, they would have been worth a lot of money.
3. Academic Credit:
My third job did not pay money, but I got academic credit for it. However, I had to pay for the credit, so I guess, technically, I paid them to be employed there. I think I’m doing it wrong.
4. Book Credit:
I’ve had several side jobs where I’ve helped edit and in one case write the entire first draft of a book. None of these have paid money either, but if you look on the very last page of those books my name is in there in the “thanks” section. These sections also include the author’s kids, spouses, publisher, friends, and in one case, a dog.
This applies all of the above jobs. They may not have paid money, but they now occupy space on my resume that will hopefully one day trick somebody into paying me money.
6. Reduced Loans:
Arguably you could say my current job pays money. I get a pay check, but it is through work study. If you are unfamiliar with how work study works, let me explain. Let’s say you are eligible for $10,000 in loans. If you apply for and get work study funds, your school gives you $9,000 in loans and then you earn the other $1,000 by working for the university. If you still have some of those funds leftover after graduation, the law school will let you use them over the summer. This is pretty much so they can say their graduates are employed. If this were twitter, I’d tag this: #gamingthesystem
All the above-listed employers have told me that although they can’t pay me money, they’d be happy to refer me to their friends who would also be happy to not pay me money.
I am officially hooded. I thought this would mean that I am now smarter, but unfortunately, law school doesn’t really make you smart, it just teaches you about the law. Go figure.
Law school graduation was surprisingly disappointing. Sure, I am excited that I can now call myself Smiling Sparkler, J.D., but frankly, the whole thing felt a little silly to me. During the days leading up to graduation, my inbox was filled with emails from faculty and staff talking about how important graduation would be:
“Soak it all in!” and “It will be one of the best days of your life!”
Other heartfelt messages included:
“You should be so proud;” “Make sure you thank your parents;” “You all worked so hard;” and “Don’t forget to clean out your lockers because we’re going to throw away all of your stuff even if it’s checks or valuables.”
But despite all of those messages, the only thing I could think about was “What checks? Is everybody getting checks, but me?”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was miserable, and there were definitely some parts that were meaningful to me, but I still couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. I suppose I felt the same as a regretful bride on her wedding day: “I already spent all the money, so I might as well go forward with this party.” But while I am certainly regretful about my decision to go to law school, that is not what this post is about. This post is about the reasons the actual graduation was disappointing and here are my top five:
1. It Was Stupidly Expensive
There’s no question that law school is stupidly expensive. The average law student graduates with $100,043 in debt, with an average starting salary of around $60,000. To put those numbers into perspective, the standard monthly payments for that loan is $1153/month.
But do you know what else is stupidly expensive? Graduation. The minimum cost to participate was $123.50 and that was just for the gown RENTAL. On top of that, there was parking and food and, of course, the option to buy a diploma frame for an extra $150. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so bitter about paying it, but just a week before shelling out the $123, I had to send my state bar association $600 for the most thorough background check of my life. And then there was the bar prep course that was another $1,500 and apparently now I have to pay another $150 just to be able to use my computer during the bar exam. I think Barbara Ehrenreich needs to make her next book about the hidden costs of law school graduation.
2. All of the “Pomp” Just Felt Pompous
I was the first person in my family to go to college, which one would think would make graduation all the more meaningful, but the whole charade just felt a little silly. Perhaps part of it was that I had no idea what was going on. How do people know how to get hooded? The only other time I had any sort of “hooding” experience was when I briefly dated a guy that me and my friends later referred to as the “anteater.”
I was probably the only girl to show up without bobby pinning my cap to my head because I thought the cap was the hood. I promise, before I said it out loud, it seemed to make sense.
The ceremony just seemed, I don’t know, a little cult-like to me. Here we are, a bunch of grown men and woman, literally parading around in these matching purple velvet robes and hideous hats (that would have looked better bobby pinned) while our families
secretly checked their phones hoping to find anything at all more interesting watched. And when did everyone find time to learn the alma mater? Why was I the only person who didn’t know the words? And let’s be honest, having thousands of people “sing” the school’s official chant certainly didn’t help shed the “Eyes Wide Shut” feeling of the ceremony.
I really wanted to “soak up the day.” I wanted it to be special and there were parts of it that were. But as I stood crammed in the auditorium between two people I didn’t really know, mouthing “watermelon watermelon watermelon” over and over, hoping that would pass for adequate alma mater lip synching, it was just the final reminder that this place never really felt like a place where I belonged.
3. Your Family won’t Believe You when you tell them you have to study
Although it is exciting, law school graduation doesn’t really mean much. A J.D. has little value without a law license. And you can’t get a law license until you pass the bar. Passing the bar takes a lot of work. You have to learn a lot of stuff in a really short of amount of time. Unfortunately, it is really hard to explain that to your family members.
I’ve already been bombarded with requests to housesit, dogsit, babysit, transport, and move various family members from one house to the next. And whenever I say that I can’t, the response I get is:
“Aren’t you just at home watching videos?”
Getting my family members to back off has been a constant struggle and I’ve only been graduated for a little over a week! Three years is apparently the absolute maximum amount of time you are allowed to use studying as an excuse to avoid doing family favors.
4. My Ex Gave the Commencement Speech
Dating classmates in law school can be a really bad idea. In real life (outside of the law school bubble), when a relationship implodes, you usually never have to see your ex again. You don’t have to listen to people talk about how wonderful your ex is, you don’t have to see your ex everyday, and you certainly don’t have to sit in a room and listen to your ex talk about how awesome the past three years have been. And, as with most break ups, it’s not that your ex suddenly became a person who isn’t wonderful, but they have certainly become a person who is no longer wonderful to you. That is just the case with most break ups: there are exes I dislike and I am sure there are exes who dislike me.
The problem, though, when you decide to date a classmate is that you risk having to deal with all of the above things. And it really sucks.
My ex, Dick, gave our commencement speech. And for the most part (unless I’ve had more than five drinks and he is in close proximity), I’ve shed all of the resentment I felt towards him. We all hurt each other in life and, in hindsight, our relationship was just so wrong. But regardless of those feelings, I still wasn’t exactly doing a moondance when I learned that he was giving the speech. In fact, I begged my very funny, and very pretty friend to try out (I even got the hooding committee to agree to let her do it past the deadline), but she decided she didn’t have the time. So instead I just braced myself for what would be the icing on the turd cake that has been law school.
For the most part, the speech was exactly what I thought it would be: sappy, like a high school graduation speech, with a side of personal shout outs. But what I found selfish and hurtful was that he managed to throw in a few gems such as:
- “we did not all get along and we did not always disagree agreeably”
- “we made mistakes in how we approach one another”
- “the good and the bad alike have been part of our education”
- “despite the drama that so often accompanies being a law student, it was worth it.”
Now do I know for certain whether or not those statements were geared towards me? Of course not. But what I am completely certain about is that being selected to speak on behalf of an entire class is a great honor, but also a great responsibility. So while I commend his ability to stand up in front of thousands of people and speak publicly (something I could never do), I was disappointed in some of the statements he made. Regardless of whether those were geared toward me or to someone else or even just a general observation, our law school graduation was not the proper venue.
But then again, who am I to judge? If I had the opportunity to get in a few more passive aggressive digs and then get a standing ovation for doing so, who knows, I’d probably take it too!
5. The End of Large Checks
The one perk of being a law student is that at the beginning of each semester you get a very large check. Granted, that money is a loan and is immediately used to pay for tuition, rent, food, insurance, and other necessities…. like shoes, but I really enjoyed that two times a year, even if only for a day, I had five figures in my bank account. It made me feel like a grown up, the way getting the flu makes you feel skinny.
I don’t know if that will ever happen again. Actually, in this economy, where 32 recent graduates have applied to a job paying $10,000/year (that is $4.81/hour), I’m almost positive it will never happen again.
I guess there’s always med school!!