Saturday, November 26, 2011

Should I go to law school?

Having gone to law school and now working as an attorney, people frequently ask me some variation of: "Should I go to law school?" And sometimes I have conversations with people who want to go to law school but haven't really thought it through, and I tell them they really need to think about that question. My answer to that question usually goes something like this:

Law school is ridiculously expensive and incredibly risky!  So you need to decide: 
  1. Do you want to be an attorney (and if you don't know what that means, you should find out)?
  2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes (i.e., 20-hour days) to succeed in law school, land a good job, and then maintain a career in a field that is largely up-or-out (i.e., keep climbing or die)?
If the answer to those questions is no, then find something else.
I know several people (smart people, went to top law schools) who ignored that advice and will be paying for it (literally) for the rest of their lives.  And there are tens of thousands of those people out there in the market right now.  I don't mean to be a downer at all --this path has worked out well for me (so far) and I like what I do, but that's because I answered the above questions in the affirmative.

I bring this up now because:  (a) I know a lot of people who are thinking about law school, especially as an option to ride out the tough economy/job prospects; and (b) I just found the below article by Vanderbilt Professor Herwig Schlunk, which I think realistically portrays the risks of law school and the prospects coming out of law school.  Note that one of the realistic prospects is that you come out with $200,000+ in debt, the opportunity cost of lost earnings during the three extra years of school, and then no job at the end (or a low paying job, or a job you don't like).


Mamas 2011: Is a Law Degree a Good Investment Today?

There continues to be an active debate on the question of whether or not law school is a good investment. I prefer to think of the question not in terms of “whether,” but in terms of “when.” In this essay, I conduct an analysis for three current undergraduates who are considering attending private law schools. I demonstrate how such individuals should take all known costs and all expected benefits into account in making their “investment” decision. As the calculation necessarily differs dramatically from one potential law student to another, my conclusions are far less important than my methodology.
[I]n terms of lost salary, the opportunity cost of law school attendees will vary greatly from one potential attendee to another. To reflect this variation, I will undertake an analysis for each of three very different but hopefully somewhat typical potential attendees. My first such potential law student is a college graduate whom I will name Also Ran. Also Ran achieves above average grades in a relatively nonmarketable major from a middle-of-the-pack undergraduate institution; he could have earned a mere $35,000 in a non-legal job. Also Ran manages to claw his way into a third-tier private law school (with a blended US News and World Report rank of 88th) and has only a poor prospect, which I will set equal to 5% in the current market, of landing an NLJ 250 job (i.e., a “Biglaw” job). My second potential law student is a college graduate whom I will name Solid Performer. Solid Performer achieves relatively good grades in a somewhat more marketable major from a better institution; he could have earned $42,500 in a non-legal job. Solid Performer makes his way into a second tier law school (with a blended US News and World Report rank of 50th) and has a better prospect than Also Ran, but still a relatively small prospect, of landing an NLJ 250 job. Specifically, I will assume that there is an 8% chance that Solid Performer ends up starting at Biglaw. My third potential law student is a college graduate whom I will name Hot Prospect. Hot Prospect earns strong grades in a relatively marketable major from a highly-ranked undergraduate institution; she could have earned $50,000 in a non-legal job. Hot Prospect attends a first tier law school (with a blended US News and World Report rank of 19th) and has a relatively strong chance, which I will set equal to 25% for purposes of my analysis, of ending up in an NLJ 250 entry-level position.
Chart G
Chart J
Chart K
These numbers are bleak. What they say, in plain English, is that with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight, two-thirds of the graduates from Also Ran’s institution, four-fifths of the graduates from Solid Performer’s institution, and two-thirds of the graduates from Hot Prospect’s institution will know, as they are receiving their diplomas, that they made what has turned out ex post to be a bad investment!
Finally, it is interesting to turn the mode of calculation on its head, and thus directly confront the question of how much a legal education is worth. ...
Chart Z
[L]aw school is a very risky (and expensive) investment; it should not be entered into lightly. However, as I have already mentioned, and worth repeating again, each potential student’s calculus will be based on a host of factors unique to him or her. For some, like an English major (relatively low opportunity costs) who gets some scholarship assistance (somewhat lower out-of-pocket costs) to attend Harvard Law School (relatively high pay-off), the investment in a legal education is almost surely a no-brainer. Moreover, even for individuals facing a more challenging calculus, it may be the case that a legal education confers benefits beyond the incremental compensation that I have used to analyze the pure investment decision. For example, a law degree opens up many more avenues of potential employment, including importantly self-employment, than does a typical undergraduate degree; lawyers are found in all parts of the workforce performing all manner of jobs. Does this imply, perhaps, that some option value should be added to a law degree’s payoffs? If so, how would one measure such option value? And lastly, of course, a law degree is a professional degree; it confers considerable prestige. But alas, as I first pointed out two years ago, you cannot eat prestige.


Which takes me back to my usual questions:  Do you want it, and if so, how much?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

US Capitol Dome Tour

Back when Suzy worked for Senator Bennett she became good friends with an electrician who worked for the Architect of the Capitol, and he was kind enough to use his special access to take Suzy and even a few of our visitors on private tours of the US Capitol Dome.  Unbeknownst to most visitors, there are stairs that wind all the way up through the Dome to where you can look into the Rotunda of the Capitol, and then step outside for incredible 360-degree views of the city.  It was a special treat to have these tours because really the only other way to access the Dome is to have a Congressperson take you, which doesn't happen a lot.  Well, Suzy quit her job and lost this access before I had a chance to take the tour, so this one has been on my DC Bucket List for years.  The urgency increased with the prospect of moving away from DC.  So I was super excited when my friend extraordinaire, who we'll call Reverend Parker, invited me to join a tour with Representative Bishop on a beautiful Autumn morning. It was AMAZING -- definitely my favorite individual tour in DC.  The above photo is from the Rotunda canopy, which hovers 152 feet above the Rotunda floor.  For perspective, I took the below photo from the Rotunda floor looking up, and the canopy is a balcony at the last ring of white just before the giant fresco in the middle.

And that giant fresco in the middle is Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of George Washington, which covers 4,664 square feet and is even better up close than from down below. This is what the fresco looks like from the canopy.  If you click to zoom in, you'll be able to see the cracks in the plaster, which are there because Brumidi had to apply the plaster in sections so that he could paint it while it was still wet (at least that's what I'm told).  The painting is so spectacular and detailed up close.

I took the below picture while poking my head out of one of the those pink coffers.  You can almost see the whole length of the dome, with the fresco at top, then the canopy/balcony, the dome, and all the way down to the Rotunda floor.

And this is the Good Reverend Parker enjoying the view from the top.

Me, standing 250+-feet above DC.

The below photo, which I took last winter, gives some perspective on where the above picture was taken -- right at the top of the Dome, right below the pillars holding up the Statue of Freedom, there is a balcony ringing the Dome.

To cap off a perfect tour, we had the good fortune to visit the Speaker's Balcony on the front of the Capitol, which is definitely the best porch in DC.  Throw a couple rockers out there and watch the traffic go by.

 Awesome tour from an awesome friend.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Annual Assateague Camping Trip

Back in October, before the weather turned too cold, we went on our annual camping trip to Assateague Island.  Every night since our last Assateague trip (over a year ago), Tenny has prayed that he "can go camping on the beach with my shovel, bucket, and rake," and his prayer was finally answered.

This year we enjoyed digging in the sand, catching crabs, watching dolphins, and watching the sun rise and set (this sunrise was so spectacular that both of our boys held still at the same time for 3+ seconds - a small miracle).

It's such a nice place to relax and be together as a family.

And no trip to Assateague is complete without searching for and watching the wild ponies.  We got to see a whole herd of them grazing in the marshlands during our canoe ride around the island.

One fun thing that was new for us this year was watching these little birdies run in and out with the waves, staying a few inches from the water, and pecking their breakfast out of the sand.

After the breakfast/workout, the birds would gather for a group siesta, with some standing on two feet and others on one foot.  It was much more entertaining than it sounds.

As always, Tennyson increased the entertainment value for us and the birds:

Tenny's already praying that we can go back, so hopefully our upcoming lack of proximity won't keep us from this beautiful island too long.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recently spotted at our kitchen table

Tenny spinning a top

Tait sneaking a stray Skittle

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 at 11:11, Part 2

Answer:  Twice.  This is more exciting than Y2K.

Here's another unrelated photo to celebrate.

11/11/11 at 11:11

Seriously, how many times in your life do you get to celebrate November 11, 2011 at 11:11?  Let's party!

Here's an unrelated photo to celebrate.

Lake Powell Creosote, about to get a drink.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ye Stewart Clan Starts a New Chapter

It is with mixed emotions that Ye Stewart Clan announces that we are moving from Washington, D.C. to Salt Lake City, UT.  Jeremy decided to accept a job offer from a firm in Salt Lake City, so in a couple months he'll start working here (the office building, not the temple):

That means that Ye Stewart Clan is officially looking to fulfill its main 2011 New Year's resolution by finding a home to buy.  When we set that goal, we thought we would be buying in D.C. (and indeed we tried to buy multiple homes in D.C. this year), but now we're hoping to find something in this general area:

Specific recommendations are certainly welcome.  This all happened so fast that it's been hard for us to process all of the changes, and every once in a while we just stop and look at each other and say:  "Our lives are going to be so much different."

We are super excited for this new adventure, but we already know we're going to cry when we get on that airplane in a couple months.  We've lived in D.C. for almost the entire nine years we've been married.  We've had countless amazing adventures in D.C.  We've worked our tails off in D.C.  We've had two (almost three) kids in D.C.  We've invested our time and energy to building our community in D.C.  We've had our best jobs in D.C.  We've made incredible, life-long friendships in D.C.  We've played, struggled, failed, succeeded, and spent enormous amounts of time looking for parking in D.C.  We are who we are, as individuals, a couple and a family, in large part because of our time in D.C.  And it's very hard to leave that behind.

What are we most sad to leave behind?  As of right now, and in no particular order:  friends; the Capitol Hill Ward; the Capitol Hill community; a one-of-a-kind job; restaurants; Tennyson's school; unique D.C. experiences/opportunities (museums, sites, events, etc.); a nerdy majority; and probably the pace (though I'm sure that over time we can get used to taking it a bit slower).

Having said that, we are really looking forward to many things in our new life:  more family; a garage; a yard; nature; a garage; outdoor adventures; a kitchen bigger than a coat closet; another good job with potentially better long-term prospects; a garage; and giving our kids the magical western childhood that we loved so much.  We're sure there are other exciting benefits, but so far it's hard to think about anything other than the prospect that we will be able to pull up to our house and park in a garage.

We can't believe it's happening, but it is.  So stay tuned for the next chapter of Ye Stewart Clan -- it's bound to be a wild ride.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Funny email from Suzy

I got a good laugh out of this email when I received it a couple days ago:

1 - Email didn't exist in 1970 (and if it did, this one sure took a long time to find its way through the interwebs).

2 - Neither did Suzanne.

3 - Neither did I.

4 - Neither did the iPod.

5 - Losing your phone was just not an issue until the 1990s.

I like that it was a technology glitch that made me stop and think how much technology has changed in my lifetime, and how much it has changed my life.  For one, we spend a lot more time looking for our gadgets.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ghost Train

Which reminds me of one of my favorite pieces I played while in the band program at Weber State:

(That's not my band's recording, just one I found on YouTube.  Cool song, though, eh?)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is just more fun with kids, though nothing beats Halloween as a kid.  This year Tenny was Superman and Tait was a teddy bear (again).  Also, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood is pretty amazing because there's a door every 13 feet and everybody gives out the good stuff.  Tenny collected enough Snickers in one square block to ensure that his parents can sneak a couple and he'll never notice.