GUEST POST—Smokin’ Bucketful of Awesome (Flow Chart Edition)

(Connecticut attorney Samuel Browning, a friend of The Law School Tuition Bubble, obtained permission from law professor Bernie Burk to create a flow chart version of a series of posts Burk wrote on The Faculty Lounge in June 2014 that characterized law school outcomes as between either “A Smokin’ Bucketful of Awesome” or “A Smoking Pile of Scrap.” Mr. Browning’s chart appears here with only minor proofreading on my part, so any unclear points, variances from Burk’s posts, or errors are his own. Actual hyperlinks to Burk’s articles are included at the bottom. Click on the flow chart to enlarge it in your browser.)

Smokin' Bucketful of Awesome (Flow Chart)



  1. Thank you for sharing this very useful chart…I speak as a long time observer-participant in lawyer career development: law practice (1 year), headhunting (6 years), law school career services (17 years), and consulting (6 years).

    Even if you could extract the grim financial reality from the decisions to attend law school and practice law, you would be left with what could at least be described as a Big Pile of Awkward.

    In my experience, the decision to go to law school is a huge life choice made with almost no data.

    Year after year, I asked incoming 1Ls “When did you decide to go to law school?” and “How did you make the decision?” After about 5 years in career services, I added “How many lawyers did you talk to before making the decision?” and “When, if at all, did you decide to become a lawyer?”

    Altogether too many students made the this huge choice with less information than they would have demanded had they been purchasing a car (How big? How Fast? How many passengers? Can I tow my boat? How many miles per gallon? How many doors? Where is the spare tire?) or buying a refrigerator (how wide? how tall? does it open on the left or on the right? where is the freezer? does it have an ice-maker in the door?).

    Even armed with all of the data from the Never-Popular US News and the results of all of the transparency studies, that might influence a decision about employment data, the unfortunate truth is that you will never know what it might be like to practice law until you actually sit down in front of a client and take responsibility for the result of the attorney-client relationship.

    How well did you do your job? Was your advice based on all of the facts that you could extract from your client (asking questions more than once), all of the facts that surround your client’s problems that he or she is unaware of or unwilling or unable to share; all of the law that you could find (digging for more than Google/Cut-and-paste-find-and-replace), and all of the wisdom and judgement that ought to be applied to solving the problem.

    After a week (or a year or two), you may be thrilled to do the work you are doing.

    On the other hand, you may be asking “Who made me do this? [I have heard that] or “Why did I decide to do this?” you may begin to think really hard about alternative uses for your JD and for all of the strategies, tactics, skills, and techniques that you have absorbed since your first day as a 1L.

    You can try on a pair of shoes and hate them without making a purchase. You can’t try on being a lawyer without making a commitment of time and money.

  2. Thank you Susan for your comments. I wish every prospective law student could read your reply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s