People don't like lawyers very much. But that's been changing in recent years, as people have begun to almost feel bad for them, given all those reports of law students struggling to find jobs. However, that hard-won empathy might be undone, thanks to a new trend story from The New York Times on law students renting beach houses to study for the bar exam.
"Many Type A lawyer hopefuls are finding ways to make the best of a stressful situation by holing up at beach houses, having bar review courses live-streamed to vacation spots like Paris or Thailand," reads the key line from The Times's piece, which was written by Alex Williams. Williams, you may recall, is the reporter who covered Brooklyn's hipster diaspora and how Hurricane Sandy made New Yorkers fat by keeping them indoors.
Finding some of the most privileged law school graduates in America on the beach is apparently the way for the Gray Lady's Style section to cover the state's bar exam, which begins in 12 days. Its discussion of "many" students ditching the confines of a coffee shop or library includes a couple of NYU Law graduates who "took a flight to Negril, a coastal resort town, where they rented a three-bedroom house on the beach for $3,000 for six weeks" last year and a Northwestern graduate who "headed 9,000 miles to the beach at Phuket, Thailand, where he blows off steam after 10-hour study days by practicing muay Thai, a form of kickboxing, at a local gym." A search for a Chicago-to-Phuket flight comes in at around $2,000. But both of those NYU grads, according to their professional profiles and bios, are now full-time lawyers. So it seems like the beach trip worked out for them.
"Fuck them," a graduate from Brooklyn Law School graduate, who declined to be named, told me. The graduate will be taking the exam later this month, and has been spending the last three months in New York studying. I wondered whether or not studying at the beach would help. "I don't know, I've never been rich," he replied. That seems like an inhibiting factor.
But whether the rich lawyers-to-be are spending their money wisely is another question, especially given the scarcity of legal jobs. You also have to factor in growing debt, which can stretch into the hundreds of thousands for the average law student. This phenomenon was discussed by the The Times back in 2011. If you consider that the average debt load for a law student is around $98,000, and that only 15 percent of law students graduate with no debt, then focusing on grads who take trips to Thailand and rent beach houses in Negril and, further, insinuating that this is how a lot of future lawyers are studying just might be a bit out of touch with reality.
The truth is, I am betting that eighty-five percent of the country's law school grads are probably not going with the Phuket studying plan. And if they are, they should probably be talking to an accountant, or at least their parents. Williams does hit upon a truth, though: the bar exam is tough enough to drive someone to such an emotional nadir that they spend over $2,000 to get away for a month.