Contemplating the Future

I'll be choosing the classes for my final semester at law school in a couple weeks. I'm struggling with what classes and how many to take. That decision will affect when I take the bar, and when or what kind of job I can get when I graduate.

Here are my options:
(1) Go full-time in spring (16 units) and immediately begin studying for the July bar when I graduate in May
(2) Go less than full-time, and take a summer class. Find a law clerk position (or otherwise something that will pay decently, look good on my resume, and not overwork me to the point I can't study for the bar) until I take the bar in February 2010
(3) Take 14 units in spring, 2 units in summer, and still take the July bar
(4) Go full-time in spring, but don't take the bar until Feb 2010. In the meantime (May '09-Jan '10), work and study for the bar

Why am I thinking about taking a summer class?

  • I won't have to take a full load in spring and can work more hours and start studying for the bar.
  • I'll get a $4k student loan payment. Otherwise, I have no idea how I'll pay for rent. Not to mention Barbri, PMBR, and the bar itself, which will cost me over $5000.
  • I'll still be able to walk with my classmates at the graduation ceremony in May.
  • Loan re-payment would be postponed an extra 2 1/2 months.
Why am I thinking about waiting until Feb '10 to take the bar?
  • Well, first, it's only offered in July and Feb.
  • I would get more time to study and would (hopefully) have no problem passing.
  • Bar prep classes are smaller.
The downsides to the above would be that I'd have more student loans to pay back, I'd be in school for 2 1/2 extra months, I'd have to study for a class AND study for the biggest test of my life simultaneously (if I took the class & the July bar). I also wonder (if I took the Feb bar) if employers might look down on the fact that I waited 8 months.

Assuming I went with the traditional route (option 1), I would need to save up $4600 for living expenses, or $575/mo. There's no room for that in my budget. I can't work more right now; it's important that I focus on the classes I have left, and do as well in them as I can. If I took route 1, I'd have to rely on M for help. Which would really leave me feeling defeated. I HATE how I've had to rely on him the past couple years. We began this relationship with me being totally independent, freshly minted BA in hand and getting a pretty good salary, him an unemployed student, living at home. And now he's making 6 figures and giving me bail-outs! Sure, I'm in school, I'm not sitting at home twiddling my thumbs... but it's frustrating.

What's also frustrating is still hearing about all these recent law grads who can't find jobs... what if that happens to me?? 8 months out and still nothing? M says "you've never had a problem getting a job." But I've never had to deal with an economy like this!

Anyway. A lot of things to think about. A lot of stressful things!


Serendipity said...

It is alot to think about, alot to stress over. And I really truly feel for you, I've had to relay on Rambo so much over the years and after awhile you do feel deflated, especially if it comes up at the wrong moments.

What if you took it in Feb and hopefully found a law clerk position in the mean time? That would give you more time to study to ensure you would pass it with flying colors. Unless you know the stuff now. I heard the California bar is scary.

My question is, if you took it in July and passed it, how fast could you get work as a lawyer, if thats the path you would choose to being student loan repayment, if not that, to cover living expenses?

Sunflowers said...

If I find a job before I graduate, they're going to want me to take the July bar, and I could be considered a law clerk or associate (allowed to do research memos, etc, no court) until the results come back in November. If I get a job post-bar, most people won't hire me until November (assuming I passed). So for 6 months I could potentially be jobless. :( and in November, I'll get to start making $1000+ loan payments!

I'm not sure how quickly I can find a job. The pickings are slim right now. I have a job now... It could potentially lead to something bigger, but it's not really a place I want to work for, except as a last resort. They require a JD, but I wouldn't be a lawyer.

I think I'm going to just sign up for 16 units, and see how things play out with the job market come January. Maybe I can find something that'll offer me some security? And I should get a better gauge of how confident I feel about taking the bar (I'm taking a school run bar prep course right now).

Thanks for your comment! :) helped me think about things more clearly (well, as clear as I can think about things at 2am ;))

Simplelivin' said...

Good luck on your decision! If you can handle it, the sooner you go for it the better. It'll give you less time in limbo, and you always have to option to push back the date if you really don't feel prepared.

The Lost Goat said...

Bar-Bri is your friend. Take the class, go to the class, study, and you'll do fine. I expect you're taking the bar in CA, and I know what the bar pass rate is there, but, let's face it, CA's requirements to take the bar are so low that lots of those fails didn't even go to law school. Only one person from my law school class failed the CA bar, and she barely passed law school.

Try to get a job next semester. I graduated in 2003 (the last terrible market for lawyers), and I got my federal clerkship offer literally the last day of classes. There is still stuff out there if you are willing to dig for it.

If you can't find anything, graduate, take Bar-Bri (and treat studying for the bar as your full-time job), then find a job.

My friends who graduated without jobs did WAY BETTER in the job market after they had their license.

Yes, it sucks to go into debt. But sometimes you have to spend money to make money. And you do NOT want to have to re-take the bar; you want to be able to focus all your energy on it for a couple of months. Then you can focus on the job search, bar exam under your belt.

Sunflowers said...

Barbri isn't my only friend, or necessarily my best friend. :p That's a whole other question. Which bar review course to take? I'm just starting to consider my options.

Yes, I'm taking the CA bar. And yes, definitely I don't want to retake it. But I'm an evening student, which means 1L is 4 years behind me. Do I have enough time to study after graduation?

The Lost Goat said...

I took BarBri for Texas, which is admittedly not as hard a state as CA, but it's not South Dakota either. I showed up to class every day, studied about an hour every afternoon, partied all night, and passed with a nice cushion. They've been the leader in bar review courses since my Dad was in law school for a simple reason - they spoon-feed you what you need to know.
As long as you go with BarBri (or a comparable spoon-feeding program), you should have plenty of time to learn all you need for the bar. I encourage you not to skimp on your bar review course - sometimes cheap is not the same as frugal.

Sunflowers said...

The downside to Barbri is the "lectures" consist of you sitting in a room with 100s of other people and watching a video (sure, you can attend the live session, but the only difference is you have to battle for parking). Then you wait 3 weeks to have them grade your exams. Yeah, they give you materials. They give you a generic time management chart. Is that really worth $3500?

I'm looking at the smaller programs that put you in a classroom with an actual professor. They range from $3000-5000. The exam turnaround is much faster (~5 days vs 3 weeks!), you get personalized attention, you can ask questions, etc.

I'm going to talk to some alumni who took the various courses, and then I'll carefully consider my options.

But I appreciate your input. :)

Miss M said...

I have no advice, just want to wish you luck cause you have a lot on your plate. I read recently that many law school students are dragging out their final year(s) to avoid entering the job market in this recession. I do know several people who failed the CA bar exam multiple times, though I don't know their background or education. I had to take a professional licensing exam and I studied my ass off so I could pass the first time, it was a lot of stress but I'm glad I put in the effort. Now I never have to worry about it again.

Sunflowers said...

Thanks Miss M! :)

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