Sunday, February 19, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: I Can't Go On...I'll Go On...(1Ls Considering Dropping Out)

Now, we will stop posting the title and author. Bio will remain, but see how it is shortened. This is column #3. Column #4 will be about reliability, which is increasingly bothering me. BLS Advocate did post the last column, and I'd prefer to post this after BLS Advocate posts it, but it doesn't make a difference one way or another. The point is to get traffic I ordinarily wouldn't get, and to see the other posts (or to provide a more reader-friendly format). Enjoy.

Let me give you a hypothetical. You are 25 years old. You are a 1L at BLS. You have a “pretty good” scholarship. You’ve gotten your Fall grades. They are average – let’s say a 3.2 – you don’t know where you stand in the class but you see those scholarship renewal statistics on BLS Connect and it says you need a 3.35 to be in the top 40%. You need to do much better in the Spring if you don’t want to lose your money, and law school feels like an endless parade of reading, memorization, deadlines, obligations, and opportunities that you would be remiss to ignore. You have no idea what kind of law you want to practice and you haven’t gotten an internship yet. Let’s add into this special fact pattern that you’ve taken out $20,000 in loans (no grad plus), your scholarship covers the majority of tuition and housing, but your parents are still supporting you, and floating you spending money. Let’s say your parents are having financial difficulties of their own and they’ve mentioned the word “bankruptcy” more than once. Soon the Spring will be over, and you will have your full year grades, and you will know your rank, and you will know how much money you will be keeping or losing. And you will hopefully have an internship by then. Let’s say you do slightly worse in the Spring (because those extra two credits weigh a lot heavier than they seem), and you end up with a GPA approximating ∏. The internship is going alright – but your options for OCI are non-existent, and you hear all of this talk, endless talk, about how hard it is for a lawyer fresh out of law school to find a job in this day and age. What do you do?

In my case, I punched my sister on the arm. We were on a beach in Nantucket. She said, “I think it’s amazing how much money mom and dad are giving you. You should be taking out more loans.” I said, “I can’t believe you said that. You should know that is the main thing hanging over my head. I should hit you for that. Wait, I am going to hit you for that.” And I gave her a little “dead arm,” which any boy will recognize, hurts for about a minute, then goes away. And it wasn’t even a hard dead arm, but of course, gender stereotypes being what they are, she gets up, walks away, and starts saying I’m going to be an abusive husband when I grow up.

1Ls Considering Dropping Out: people are going to tell you things like, “it gets better” and “it gets easier” and “it gets more interesting.” In my experience at least this has been true. My first year was an emotionally devastating experience that brought me to the brink of suicide. It is perhaps worth noting that medication may be the only reason I have been able to deal with the 2L year. It truly is an exhausting experience and if you don’t have the energy or the motivation, doing two more years of this seems like a daunting prospect.

And maybe perhaps you’ve seen that members of the class of 2015 entering with a scholarship will be entitled to keep it all so long as they stay in the top 80% and maybe this seems manifestly unfair to you.

But I know two kids who dropped out. They both seem relatively happy. One of them is going to get his M.B.A. The other is working as a paralegal and from what I can tell by her status updates, is partying more than ever. Law school was “not for them” and maybe their grades were not so high – but I do believe whether it is “for you” is the most important factor to consider. Ability to pay, potential for future success, the quality of the summer internship experience, and general comfort and ease with your classmates and professors are other important factors to consider.
I flirted with dropping out up until October 20, 2011. I was able to make a relatively substantial improvement in my grades in the Fall, I am on my third very positive internship experience in a row, and I just had the most important interview of my law school life. I may not be on moot court or a journal or place even in the top 33%, but my post-grad job search anxiety is nothing compared to what it was a year ago. I told everyone I am going to get by on my charm and it feels like it is working. But who knows – come back to me in a year and ask me how I feel then.

Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He has written two novels, a book of short stories, and a memoir of his 10-month-stint in L.A. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He ranks in the upper 54% of his class. You may find his blog by visiting

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I really like the optimistic note at the end. I'm glad you finally found this to be "for you." Although on the first part of the post, the hypothetical, I am pretty unsympathetic there:

Came a .10 short of keeping your entire scholarship? Well, that's something you should have planned for, at least as worst-case scenario. Parents no longer able to pay for you? That probably didnt happen overnight, and, again, by the time you're out of college, you gotta plan for that too, as a possibility at least. 20K in loans? You knew that coming in. Studying is tough? Well' what did you expect?? Not finding it "for you" is the thing I'm most sympathetic for, since you cant really predict that. You can, but you can't. It's not a mathematically definable, Probable?) contingency to account for prior to making a big life decision. All others are.

That being said, I am still very glad that you are feeling better about law school, and life, and your career prospects (as you should). I hope you dont let minor setbacks that will inevitably happen on your way towards that satisfying career make you feel like what you have done so far is any less of an achievement.