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Gust comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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Comment author: Gust 26 November 2011 01:01:23PM *  6 points [-]

Hello. My name is Gustavo Bicalho, I'm from Brazil, I'm 20 years old today. I intended to introduce myself here after I finished the sequences (I'm half way through the Fun Theory Sequence) but I thought I should give me this as a birthday gift. Heh.

I have some background in computer programming, having done a technical course of three years during high school. Although I don't know much of computer science (I know just a little about algorithm analysis and that was self-thaught from wikipedia), I think programming has helped me reshape my way of thinking, made it more structured and precise. I try to improve it however I can, and this is one of the reasons I'm joining LessWrong.

For several reasons, though, I left the computers field (not completely) and I'm now a Law student. I don't know if you get many of those around here. Anyway, reasoning in this field seems, to me, specially biased. Of course, any reasoning about law involves thinking about ethics and politics, but that isn't a license for fallacies lack of rigor in arguments. I think this is a problem, and rationality can help me to fight against this.

Also, I'm very interested in moral philosophy, as the foundation of Law. Yudkowsky's metaethics still isn't completely clear to me, but I've seen some discussion about moral philosophy around here and I guess it's probably worth reading (I have yet to read lukeprog's No-Nonsense Metaethics). Specially, if there's any discussion about justice, or fairness, I would like very much to read.

Besides that, I like to learn almost anything. Physics is interesting, math is very interesting. After reading the first sequences, cognitive science, evolutive psychology and decision thory got into the list, too. If I can learn at least the basics of these fields, I think I'll be a better thinker and a better person. I think LessWrong is a good starting point for that, too.

I think that's it.

Oh, if there's some post/discussion around here about Law already, I would be very glad if someone pointed it out.

See you around!


PS: Wow, this took me three hours to write o.o Trying to make a good first impression is kinda hard. PPS: Three persons in the same day! Is that usual?

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 November 2011 01:30:43PM 3 points [-]

Happy birthday!

Comment author: Gust 26 November 2011 01:36:08PM 0 points [-]

Thank you!

Comment author: Morendil 26 November 2011 01:50:12PM 2 points [-]

Three persons in the same day! Is that usual?

Most recent previous instance I could find: ten days ago. You could say it's not unusual. :)

Comment author: Suryc11 28 November 2011 02:20:10AM 0 points [-]

Do you go to law school in the U.S.?

I ask because I have been considering that route.

Comment author: brazil84 28 November 2011 10:44:52AM 8 points [-]

P.S. Since the focus of this discussion board is rationality, I will throw out a couple extra questions, with my own answers.

  1. Law school entails an investment of 3 years of your life and perhaps $150k in tuition. How much time and energy should you spend studying and researching the pros and cons of law school and lawyering before you make the decision to attend?

  2. If you attend a law school where only X% of the class finds suitable employment and career prospects, what is the probability that you will end up in that group?

As to the first question, law school cost about $60k to attend when I went. To my credit, I worked for many months with an attorney family member and satisfied myself that I wanted to be an attorney before attending law school. However, I spent just 5 minutes or so researching my subsequent job and career prospects before attending. In hindsight, this was pretty boneheaded.

As to the second question, that probability is probably a lot lower than your gut is telling you. See, law school is much more competitive than college; which in turn is much more competitive than high school. It's natural to forget this fact and assume that you will be one of the top guys in law school just like you were in high school and college. Personally, I was less successful in law school than I would have predicted. Also, my career has been less successful than I would have predicted.

The bottom line is that as a rationalist, you should probably (1) spend a lot of time and effort talking to law school graduates before you go; and (2) assume that you are probably an ordinary schmuck in terms of predicting outcomes.

Comment author: Suryc11 28 November 2011 03:52:03PM *  1 point [-]

Thank you for a well thought-out reply.

I have had misgivings about the law path for essentially the reasons you mention, and especially after much research. I know that being an attorney is not as glamorous as television shows make it out to be and I realize that the high income figures often reported for lawyers are skewed (as in the top law firms pay the most to the top law school grads, and the rest are stuck with little to nothing). I also understand that with the American economy the way it is and the large surplus of aspiring lawyers, the field is even more competitive today. I appreciate you confirming this first-hand.

The only problem is that at this point in my life, I feel like I have no other choice. I am currently a sophomore in college at a relatively good private liberal arts college. I have little aptitude (at least, little in terms of a comparative advantage) in the traditional hard sciences - biology, chemistry, physics - so medical school or grad school in those fields is not an option. I also am not especially talented at math and have never taken a computer science class, so computer programming (I mention it because it is frequently lauded here on LW as a lucrative career choice) is not an option either. Grad school in the fields I am interested in - political science, economics, and philosophy - is not particularly appealing due to the glut of grad school graduates in the social sciences and the large time investment.

My comparative advantages lie in being able to read quickly with high comprehension, write analytically, and think logically. I want to make enough money to live well and to be able to donate to the cause(s) I am/will be interested in.

What do I have left besides law school? (not purely a rhetorical question, by the way)

One other question: In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

ETA: Are there any specific situations where you would recommend law school? Such as receiving a scholarship or getting into a top law school.

Comment author: brazil84 29 November 2011 02:55:46AM 4 points [-]

What do I have left besides law school? (not purely a rhetorical question, by the way)

I think this is a good question and unfortunately I don't have an answer. For like 50 or 60 years, law school was a good way for a reasonably smart person to have a reasonably prestigious well-paying career. Most importantly, if it didn't work out you would not be facing financial ruin. But now it seems the law school train has left the station. Actually, it seems like higher education in general is not the good deal it once was.

Quite possibly there are more opportunities now than ever before but they require more creativity to find.

In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

I am not really informed on this question since I graduated law school 15 years ago. It's also really hard to get good information on this sort of question since so many people have an agenda or an axe to grind. You might try asking on a few of the law school discussion boards.

Are there any specific situations where you would recommend law school? Such as receiving a scholarship or getting into a top law school.

I do think it's worth considering if you get a bona fide scholarship. In that case, your main risk is 3 years of your life. Just beware of the "section stacking scam." That's where the law school gives you a scholarship contingent on maintaining a certain grade point average and then puts all the scholarship students in the same section. Guaranteeing that a very large percentage will lose their scholarship.

Going to a top-rated law school is still a bit dangerous. You may land a high-paying job only to get laid off or discover that you hate your high paying job.

Comment author: TimS 29 November 2011 03:22:10AM 2 points [-]

One other question: In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

If you are accepted into the top three schools (Yale >>> Harvard, Standford), you are very likely to be employed as a lawyer. Especially since the economy will have improved a bit during the passage of time at law school. If you in admitted into the top 4-8, you can feel somewhat comfortable. The rest of the top tier is unclear.

If you are not admitted into a first-tier school (the definition is a bit amorphous), then it is unclear whether law school makes economic sense. Everything I've heard says that third or fourth-tier schools are a terrible economic decision.

I'm not sure if brazil's reference to section stacking actually occurs, but he is right that most find law school much harder than college. Much, much harder.

If you want gossip on Bigfirm life, you could search this blog but be aware that their target audience is associates at those types of firms (and most lawyers do not work at those types of firms).

Comment author: brazil84 28 November 2011 03:42:23AM 6 points [-]

I am a practicing attorney in the United States. I would suggest you think long and hard before going to law school. There have been big changes in the state of legal education over the last 10 years and the consequences of those changes are only recently coming to light.

Most importantly (1) in real dollars the cost of attending law school has pretty much doubled in the last 10 or 15 years; and (2) at the same time, the bankruptcy code has been amended to make it practically impossible to get student loans discharged in bankruptcy. The upshot is that if graduate law school and cannot find a high-paying job, you are screwed. To make matters worse, most law schools have a tendency to "gild the lilly" as far as their placement statistics go.

Comment author: Gust 28 November 2011 10:25:51AM 0 points [-]

No, I study in Brazil. I don't know how's the job market and the quality of law schools there in the U.S.... I guess I could tell you what I think about the experience I'm having here, but I suspect it would be wildly different from what you'd have there.