Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Indignation

I don't want to make this blog a narcissistic exercise (what the world world needs now is another law professor's self-absorbed musings like I need a hole in my head), but I want to preface this post with a couple of personal observations. Writing this blog has been very gratifying, but it's also been difficult in some ways.

Addressing the questions I'm dealing with in the way I'm dealing with them is, from a professional standpoint, a somewhat alienating experience.  Believe me, I'd much rather write about what a great job we're all doing in the legal academy, and what wonderful educational benefits we're conferring on our students, and how our scholarship is improving the legal system and the world as a whole one insightful law review article at a time, and how prosperity is just around the corner.  I don't actually like being that guy: the rabble-rouser who refuses to criticize the flaws of our business in the modulated and polite and constructive way which will supposedly help convince fence-sitters to consider possible reforms instead of continuing to defend the status quo tooth and nail.  Being that guy leads, shall we say, to a certain degree of social awkwardness that can at times become genuinely uncomfortable.

It's rather sad that choosing to subject oneself to a certain degree of social awkwardness is what passes for "courage" in university life in these decadent days, as we bask in the sunset light at the end of a golden age of higher education that has paid off handsomely for so many academics and administrators. Still it would be pointless to deny that very few law professors are willing to consider even doing that much. All of which is to say there are evenings when I half-wish I had left well enough alone, and had never started looking into any of this stuff in the first place (Again, I'm ashamed to admit that just two years ago I was still allowing myself to remain blind to the economics of legal education, the job situation for our graduates, the gaming of the placement stats, the gathering student loan catastrophe . . . In the end, living is easy with eyes closed, which is the biggest reason so many people never open theirs.)

But then I read something like this (h/t to a commentator in the thread to yesterday's post):



Harold Krent, dean and professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said large law firms hire 50 percent fewer graduates than four years ago. That makes a huge difference for students who hope to a get a "$165,000 payday," he said.

But, Krent said, hyped attention on the loss of jobs in large law firms glosses over the fact that many students go to law school not for that $165,000 payday, but for the chance to make a difference. "I think that there's been a significant distortion in terms of the drying up of the legal market in the media," he said. "It's actually true at large firms in the last couple of years. But there has not been a commensurate drop off in smaller firm and government practice.

"Many people do wonderfully creative and interesting things with a law degree other than practice law, including being a journalist or being an investor or being a counselor."
Seriously?  I've never met Harold Krent, I know nothing about the man, and I really don't want to be rude here -- again, I don't like to be that guy -- but are you kidding me?   What Krent is saying is, to put the best possible face on it, so outrageously clueless that it almost defies description (a less forgiving interpretation is that he's well aware that what he's saying is dangerously deceptive nonsense, but he has decided that "men are as the time is").

First, what is it about law school administrators that compels them to keep repeating this malarkey about how there are still lots of jobs for students who "want to make a difference," i.e., aren't greedy little bastards with dollar signs in their eyes, dreaming of $165K starting salaries?  Do these people not realize that the entire public interest sector -- particularly DA, PD, and other government jobs -- has gotten absolutely crushed in the last three years, and that it's often harder to get a a job of that type than it is to hook on with a fancy law firm? (Let's not even get into the fact that these jobs don't pay anywhere close to enough to justify the cost of going to law school in straightforward ROI terms).  Here's just one example from round these parts that came to my attention recently: the Boulder DA advertised for a part-time assistant DA position that pays the princely sum of $27,000 -- this in a town where the average price of a house is about 25 times that.  Not surprisingly, they got slammed with applications from wildly overqualified candidates.  Yes anecdotes are not data, but where's Dean Krent's data for his claim that thing are much rosier in the world of public interest law and small law firms than they are in the big law firm salary stratosphere?  Note that the latest NALP data indicates the number of 2010 graduates who went into private practice was 20% lower than it's been at any other point in the last 30 years, which certainly doesn't seem to support the idea that there are lots of small firm jobs out there.

But that part of the dean's comments is a model of data-driven coherence in comparison to his remarks about the "wonderfully creative and interesting things" people do with law degrees besides practice law.  What would be a good analogy to spending, at this particular moment in economic history, $55,000 a year to go to a second-tier law school to prepare for a career in, of all things, journalism?   Getting a PhD in Marxist-Leninist political theory in order to become a travel agent?  Acquiring a doctorate in phrenology on the road to becoming a blacksmith?  The mind reels . . .

Then there's his suggestion that one could use one's law degree to become an" investor."  How is this supposed to work exactly? (Old joke: How do you make a small fortune racing thoroughbreds? Step one: Start with a large fortune).  Even weirder is the notion of going to law school to become a "counselor."  In every jurisdiction I know anything about, a law degree no more qualifies you to engage in personal counseling than does winning a beauty pageant, or having been an an honorable mention all conference defensive back in high school. Indeed, I'm sincerely and somewhat morbidly curious about precisely what Dean Krent imagines students learn in law school that prepares them in any way to be journalists, or investors, or psychologists, or anything but attorneys (let's not depress ourselves further at this moment by pursuing the question of the extent to which law school does even that).

I submit that if this kind of thing, coming as it does from from an actual dean of an actual ABA-accredited law school, doesn't appall those of us in legal education, then we have lost all capacity for righteous indignation.  To any prospective law student reading this blog, there is one reason and one reason only to even consider going to law school (assuming as always that you're not just lighting someone's money on fire while killing time): to practice law. Yes, it's quite true that there are a thousand things you can do with a law degree besides practice law.  The problem is that you can do 999 of those things without a law degree, and that  acquiring a law degree does nothing to prepare you to do any of them. (Fred Smith makes the excellent point in comments that in many instances having a JD makes it harder, not easier, to get a non-law job).

I think the most charitable explanation that can be put on the dean's remarks is that perhaps he's old enough and detached enough and privileged enough to have lost any real sense of how expensive law school has become, and therefore how bizarre it is to advise students that they might consider going to law school to round off of the educational portion of their resumes, so that their law degrees could then in some mysterious and inexplicable fashion serve as entrees to various careers completely unrelated to law .  After all  30 years ago it cost $1000 per year to attend the University of Colorado Law School, which is equivalent to about $2400 in current dollars. Indeed a generation ago residents of Michigan and California could attend the elite national law schools located in their states for practically nothing (In 1970 an entire semester's tuition at Michigan cost $340). When it was possible to go to law school for the current equivalent of $200 per month, people could quite literally afford to entertain ridiculous notions about all the things a law degree was supposedly good for. Today, the relevant calculations are a bit different.

When I read things like the dean's comments, it puts me back in full contact with the anger and frustration and indignation that jolted me out of my comfortably numb complacency when I first began to comprehend the full extent of the disaster that has entangled so many of the people who have paid our salaries and supported our  careers. But of course my anger and frustration and indignation are as nothing compared to that felt by those who are truly suffering the consequences of everything that's wrong with American legal education. For them, the consequences of this mess go far beyond having to endure some awkward moments in the faculty lounge.
 

113 comments:

  1. I was LMAO and slamming my first on my table as I read this awesome post. Another classic and you are a great writer.

    However, I agree with you that your job is difficult and indeed I have become a bit depressed by reading your blog over the past few weeks. I am a tier 2 grad who accepted that I was scammed and I am trying to make the best of my life. I'm hoping to find a job (any job. not necessarily a legal one) and I'm out there pounding the pavement every day for every little scrap of work. I guess it's hard to do that and read about the painful memories of my experience in law school, and the wound it dealt me. I'm sure it's similarly difficult for you to write about. But please keep up the good work to the extent you have the will and energy to do so. I may take a break from your blog because it's just hard to be reminded of a bad experience, but I appreciate the voice you've given to the truth.

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  2. P.S. Kudos to Nando and the other scambloggers who persist. It takes a lot of energy and emotional strength to fight the good fight. Glad there are people out there willing to do it.

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  3. Wow, thanks for the post. This blog is enlightening.

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  4. I think it ties into your point about inflation. People are aware that law school tuition is higher than in the past, but it's natural to assume that this is simply the result of inflation; that in real dollars -- or at least in comparison to attorney salaries -- tuition is about the same.

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  5. My significant other went to journalism school, at a top program. Newspapers. . . dead. Magazines. . . dead. The starting salary for an editorial assistant) (entry level) at conde nast: 25K(!). So the only people who can take the jobs in media the children of the wealthy. She works two jobs in web design and web marketing to make her debt payments (after a default and settlement).

    We would have had a better chance at a content life in a Steinbeck novel.

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  6. "P.S. Kudos to Nando and the other scambloggers who persist. It takes a lot of energy and emotional strength to fight the good fight. Glad there are people out there willing to do it."

    Yes. Also, I propose the slur "Krent" to replace the slur "vermin". That way those who want to be offense can be even more so, whist the Miss Manners among us won't have to be subjected to such an awful word, "vermin".

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  7. Regarding the 999 things you can do with or without a law degree: it's easier to do them without the law degree. People think of the law degree as being the "terminal liberal arts degree" and assume that a law school graduate could compete favorably with liberal arts BAs for whatever sorts of jobs those people compete for. This is not true to my knowledge and in my experience. JDs are "overqualified" for most of those jobs in the eyes of whoever does the hiring. In their mind, a JD is a bad fit for a typical low paying, entry level position because they think too highly of themselves and have unrealistic expectations about what they deserve. JDs are also thought to be flight risks, people assume they will eventually leave a lowly job for a better paying lawyer's job. And of course, a JD applying for such a job has to explain why he isn't a lawyer or seeking a lawyer's job. He'll come off as flaky or aimless, or as a person that nobody wants to hire.

    If the JD really did help you market yourself broadly, this blog probably wouldn't exist and nobody would be complaining about unemployment. There is negative demand for JDs outside of traditional legal employers.

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  8. We have a proud tradition of muckraking in this country, a tradition that has largely given way to the yellow journalism of Fox and the platitudes of the rest of the MSM. Its good to finally see someone put his tenure status to good use - if all they can extract from you is a little awkwardness, its a small price to pay. We'll see how all of this plays out (history is written by the winners) but calling out greedy, heartless admins and know-nothing faculty in a system where the futures of their students are being thrown away is not exactly a revolutionary stand. I would call it your duty. Ethics, intellectual honesty and all that....

    So thanks.

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  9. Thank you Prof. Campos.

    This kind of introspection and inquiry is what tenure was designed to protect.

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  10. ...also, the fact that your honesty about a crisis is causing awkwardness and ostracization amongst your peers boggles the mind and says everything that I ever wanted to know (and already knew) about our dear leaders.

    Rationalization combined with self-interest are wonderful things.

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  11. This blog in general, and this post in particular, bring to mind this gem from Upton Sinclair:

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

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  12. A Cracker reference in the first sentence.

    Beautiful.

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  13. According to USNWR, Chicago-Kent is ranked 61 (tied with Case Western Reserve, GA State, Seton Hall, Temple, and U of Cincinnati). It charges $40,050 per year in tuition and reports that 87.5% of its graduates are "known to be employed nine months after graduation." ("Blankfein, Carrotta and O'Malley. How may I connect you?")

    By way of comparison, Harvard charges $45,450 per year in tuition.

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  14. Thanks 10:02 pm and 4:37 am. Righteous anger gives me the energy to keep going after these schools, shills and administrators.

    I constantly hear deans and ancient professors repeat this dreck: "This generation expects things to be handed to them. They don't realize you have to work in the trenches for years, before you move up." (Such advice coming from a professor who practiced law immediately after "serving" an article III clerkship - or 1-3 years in a large firm - is comical. It is akin to a typical 18 year suburban kid lecturing others on the dangers and repercussions of being a combat veteran.)

    Such law faculty truly do not know what in the hell they are talking about. For their high IQs, many of them have little practical understanding of the fundamentally changing American and global economies. Some of the dinosaurs in academia feel that one armed with a JD - even from a third tier commode - and some "initiative" should still be able to conquer the competition.

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  15. How would a law school likely react if it learned that one of its professors was advising students to drop out if they're not at the top of their class after their first year? Discipline? Termination? Anything?

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  16. I sometimes hear prospective law students say "If I don't land Biglaw, I can go into JAG or the local DA's office." Keep in mind that these students are married to the idea of going to law school. Furthermore, they have NO basis or personal experience for reaching this conclusion.

    Local, state and federal government agencies are scaling back on hiring. They simply do not have the revenue to bring on more workers. Many are actively slashing jobs. In recent years, how many older state employees have been forced into retirement?

    As Campos states, landing a job as an ADA may as difficult, if not harder, to attain than a Biglaw position - under the current circumstances. Being hired as a JAG or Public Defender upon graduation is exceedingly rare. (To become a JAG, you should earn a JD from top-flight law schools. Short of that, you need to have excellent grades, experience, and a serious applicant should also speak a foreign language fluently.)

    Outside of the lawyer job market, things are rough, as well. It is definitely an employer's market. I have seen people with PhDs, Master's degrees and law licenses apply for low-wage work - well outside of their field. They are desperate and need a damn job.

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  17. The story I think also needs to be told (and has been mentioned by other posts and commentators in other posts) is the difference between going to law school because one wants to be a lawyer, and what the actual practice of law entails.

    One of the true "scams" that law schools and law professors promulgate is the idea that there is a noble profession out there that requires rigorous philosphical thought. Reading the article linked to in this post, one can't help but feel for the gentleman who went to law school because s/he "really wanted to be a lawyer," to make society better or whatever. But as touched upon yesterday, after 3 years of law school, is that how any graduate feels?

    There is a disconnect between the doctrinal, case-method and the clinic/externship method of law schools *and the actual practice of law* that no professor *EVER* describes during school. Law school is esoteric, non-socratic questioning of arbitrary and unsubstantive dribble. Law practice is filing motions for attaching someone's bank account so that, after winning the breach of contract claim, your client can actually get paid, reading thousands of pages of medical bills or accounts receivable to find the one charge that may or may not be relevant to the matter, creating weird spreadsheets for partners and after the 6th draft and 4 hours, realizing that what you've just created was the original one you created last Tuesday, filing a complaint or answer to the most mundane of arguments, talking with a client who does not understand why you can't just sue everyone for 3 hours until you're blue in the face and then talking to the same client a week later for 3 hours about why he was billed for 3 hours the week before, it's about staying in the office until 9 pm to research some BS circuit court decision, so that you can meet some arbitrary billable hours requirement, etc. etc. etc.

    But you don't get that in law school. What you really get is the Circuit Court or Supreme Court clerk experience; sit in a dark room and read 8 hours worth of case law. Then, on your own, realize that you are really being asked what are the elements of some outdated common law theory that really doesn't impact anything, except for some weird pseudo-philosophical discourse.

    Again, this is the point of the blog. But, in the end, if an individual *really* knew what the "practice of law" entailed, the answer "I really want to be a lawyer" would not enter the student's head.

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  18. @Campos:

    Is anybody actually defending the status quo to you, or are they just irritated that you have the poor taste to speak the truth aloud?

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  19. All of this just gives me hope and and least some satisfaction that the status quo is not sustainable. Within 5-10 years there will be such a jolt in the legal community and society as a whole that we can't even anticipate the ramifications of unemployed, qualified lawyers working as waiters while crumbling under the mountain of debt.

    What was a good idea 25-50 years ago - make more colleges and law schools and B-schools, everyone can go, more educated populace - has become a nightmare. A degree from 90% of the universities or law schools or B-schools - i.e. non-Ivy, non-quasi-Ivy (i.e. Standford, Duke, 'Bilt), non-major-state - is more worthless than toilet paper, because at least with toilet paper you can wipe your a$$. We have a less educated populace, full of degrees from nonsense "universities" that aren't being hired by the elitists from the other 10% that run corporations, large law firms, government agencies, etc. That's a major problem that nobody in society wants to admit.

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  20. Morse Code for J, the only substantive objection I've gotten to anything I've written here consists of claims that lots of professors actually work hard at their jobs. This of course is a completely tangential issue (lots don't, and in any case what difference does it really make in regard to most of the problems that make up the actual crisis?).

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  21. Fred Smith hit the nail on the head. I'm from the class of 2010. Once I gave up finding a job as an attorney, I felt like the J.D. was a black mark on my resume, not an asset. I only hope that perceptions about the J.D. can change as more and more holders find themselves in non practicing positions and pave the way for others coming through.

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  22. Amazing to see this Krent character celebrating what is actually the failure of his school as a success - people go to law school to work in law, not to be highly-indebted advertising sales-people. If you graduates aren't finding work in the law, you don't then turn around and say that the fact that they found jobs in other industries shows how useful the qualifications you gave them were. Obviously those qualification don't work as advertised, and something needs to be fixed.

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  23. "Do these people not realize that the entire public interest sector -- particularly DA, PD, and other government jobs..."

    Also keep in mind that most of these jobs are very political. It's not as if you just march on down to the DA's office with your stellar grades and get a job. You must know someone pretty well.

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  24. Another obnoxious, outrageously obnoxious thing about what he says is that he completely diminishes other areas of education. Journalism school? Pffft. Not necessary. Investment MBA? pffft. You can learn that on the job. Psychology school? pffft. Just hang a shingle and listen. Those professions are easy.

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  25. The thing is, if you're a professor or administrator at a lower-tier law school, you probably already made peace with this situation a long time ago. Well before the recession, those schools were taking ridiculous amounts of money from many young people who had virtually no chance of ever making a living practicing law. If you were able to live with yourself while doing that, then if shouldn't come as much of a surprise that you're able to continue living with yourself when the situation has changed only in becoming worse.

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  26. Thank you for pointing out the difficult of landing a public sector job. Admins treat this like a safety valve, when it is obviously not. Federal jobs in particular are difficult, because they are mainly reserved for people who are 1) already working in the federal government or 2) veterans. How is a kid in his 20's going to compete with that?

    Nando mentioned the bootstraps mentality of the previous generation. Thank you for pointing that out. Of course, baby boomers only succeeded by standing on the shoulders of previous generation, and then proceeded to destroy the system they were handed on a silver platter. Having been born into and benefited from America's golden age, its a little tiresome to hear them complain about younger generations.

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  27. Complaining about younger generations? Hell, they're living off of us....and now that heir heading off to retirement we will continue to do so. Worst....generation....evah.

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  28. Do you know that social security + medicare = an average of $50,000 per year? There are kids reading this who would dream of a $50,000 per year job, but they can't get it because soon almost all of the government's money will go to pay this entitlement.

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  29. Great post, and great blog. If Krent wasn't the dean of his school, I'd think he was just clueless about the price of law school. In his case, I'm not sure we can be that charitable in our assumptions.

    I'm a non-tenure track faculty member (read: twice the work, and treated by the tenured folks like I'm a member of the cleaning crew) at a non-elite school, and until recently I honestly had no idea how much prices had increased across the board. When I went to a (private, non-elite) law school a decade ago, the MSRP tuition was in the high 20Ks. In-state tuition for public law schools was in the $10-15K range. My law school friends who paid retail for their degrees finished $100-125K in debt. Not great, but manageable given that there were jobs available in the early 2000s.

    The idea of going $200K in debt to get a law degree is just insane. For anyone who's not in a top 15 law school, there's no possible way that could be worth it. (Even for those people, the value is highly questionable.)

    I've grown very uncomfortable with the admission events we are expected to attend. (Again, the tenured folks can and do skip these things, but I can't.) I still believe law school - even at a lower-ranked school - can be worth it for those who are able to get (and keep!) generous scholarships, but no one should be paying retail for a law degree these days. This was essentially my path - because I went to a lower-ranked school than the best I could've gotten into, I paid a net total of around $10K for my three years of tuition, and graduated with a debt in the mid-five figures. I'm happy with my degree and have no regrets, but I can see how things would have been much, much worse had I not been near the top of my law school class.

    At any rate, keep fighting the good fight, Campos. I notice the academy is doing its best to smear you at the moment. I don't know you, so far all I know their criticisms may even be true, but I'm not really seeing how that negates the inconvenient truths you're stating here.

    Oh, and one final note: at my school, we do have a few tenured professors who put in an honest day's work, but there is no way the median number of hours worked in a week is 30. Not even close. I'm probably being generous by saying 20-25, and to get there I'd need to include things like reading blogs such as this and commenting on them as "working." Maybe Campos and I work at the two laziest schools in the country, but somehow I don't think so.

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  30. Lawprof, in response to your 7:26 comment, wouldn't it be fair to say that in any profession, the longer you have been working in it, the less time you spend preparing? Defenders might argue that they are entitled to their current status by investing their time during their younger years.

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  31. By the way, congrats on the CNN/Fortune piece.

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  32. @ 9:14: Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Do you have (for lack of a better term) a "philosophy" of what you're doing for a living? Are you trying to reform the system from within? Are you quietly giving good information to students when the circumstances permit? Are you keeping your head down in the hope of moving to an elite school where the cost/benefit ratio is not so skewed?

    (I don't mean to be snarky. I just would like to understand better how faculty do or do not deal with the situation.)

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  33. @ RLC:

    9:14 here.

    Seriously? Step outside your faculty office, and you'll find a world full of people who have to work hard when they're young AND when they're old. If you and many other tenured folks (and, to a lesser extent, I) have lucked into a position where we don't have to do so, bully for us but that's hardly a valid defense of the system.

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  34. Professor Campos, please continue writing and addressing what you have brought up over the past few weeks that your blog has been in existence. Though these issues have been brought up in the past in a rather scatter-shot way within other blogs, never have they been addressed so expertly. Your blog is a prescient harbinger of what many in law school and higher education will eventually realize as commonplace at some point in the future. We might have to wait until 2013...2014...2015 for the majority of people to realize it, but I have the a feeling it won't take that long. Considering that the term of 3 years for an unemployment deferment for most people with federal loans will have been used up (for those having graduated in 2009) next year, it will be interesting to see the first wave of defaults reach critical mass in 2012 and beyond as the luxury of such a deferment period is no longer available to each successive gradating law school class. That is coming---and HOW.

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  35. Market Crash in 2012. Bet on it. Move to Canada, where there is no jurisdiction over your federal loans. There are no cases on the books for lenders trying to pursue expat's from the U.S.

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  36. @RLC/9:22 a.m.:

    Perhaps. However, we are also talking about an educational model so flawed that almost all of its students immediately pay another $1,000-$2,500 upon graduating to learn material that should already have been taught to them to pass the licensing exam.

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  37. Higher Education is the United States has become a joke. I worked in admissions at a prestigiou­s law school and now work at a "respected­" university in Washington­, DC. When going through the recent graduate school applicatio­ns along with the temporary workers, who were hired to open the envelopes, you quickly discover that it is all about the money. In fact, the higher-ups at this university are ACTIVELY RECRUITING students from overseas (CHINA), whose families can make substantia­l donations to the university because there is the unspoken understand­ing that American college students with potential debt burdens won't make the best donors. Those applicatio­ns are placed in a special pile. Whether anyone chooses to face it or not, it has been and always shall be about the money until someone pulls away the curtain. I can't tell you how many applicatio­ns came in where the PARENTS wrote a letter along along with the student's applicatio­ns... with the stipulatio­n that a large donation (with actual figures) will be made following acceptance­. I along with one other co-worker are shredding these letters and the applicatio­ns to destroy this disease at the onset. Is it unethical? Probably. But one has to dismantle this flawed system somehow.

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  38. I worked in the admissions office for Columbia University Law School. Roughly only 60% of the applicants that are accepted get in on their own merits by meeting the high LSAT/GPA requiremen­ts. 30% are placed within altogether different pool of people based on their IMPORTANCE to the law school. These are the people who are RICH, TYPICALLY WHITE, and/or well-conne­cted to someone important politicall­y or in government­. The admission'­s committee refers to them as SI's(speci­al interest candidates­). I remember one particular instance where one applicant'­s father called the dean of the law school and told him that he would be making a large donation next year to the law school provided his son was accepted. Guess what? The son was accepted and his LSAT and GPA were far below the guidelines for admission. The remaining 10% are referred to as KEO's(keep an eye on) and are made up of people who are on the cusp of meeting the LSAT/GPA standards, which often includes minorities­, but not always. If you are rich, influentia­l and well-conne­cted, then you have a 30% chance of getting past all of the people who got in on their own merits. I can assure you that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the people admitted while I worked there had been white and they would not have been admitted without the donations and influence of their parents, etc. THIS IS REALITY!! BTW..perso­nal statements are hardly ever read.

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  39. @ 9:26:

    I'm not a traditional academic in any sense of the word. I got my current gig because I had an adjunct position, got good student evaluations, and then was recruited to my current position when it opened up. I was actually relatively happy in practice (unlike 99.9% of law professors out there) and always have intended to return to practice at some point. That's still the plan.

    However, I have a teenaged kid who's starting to look at colleges right now. I don't have a college fund saved up, and given the collapse of higher education as a viable middle class option I'll need to stay here for several more years to make sure college/grad school is an option. I am not going to destroy things for the next generation the way the baby boomers destroyed things for Gen X/Gen Y/whatever we're calling people in their twenties and thirties now.

    I do tell students about the "retail problem" when I can. However, most of my dealings with students occur when they're already here. At that point, I usually try to help in whatever small ways I'm able. I have some connections at small firms in the local area, and every year I hit up all my friends to get them to hire a grad or two. It's not much, but there are at least a handful of people who have permanent jobs at small firms that enable them to service their debt.

    As for reforming the system from within, I think you have to understand the difference between a tenured professor and a non-tenure track professor. At faculty meetings, no one wants to hear from us - if the tenured folks could take the vote away from us and still count us as full-time faculty for ABA/US News purposes, they would do so in a heartbeat. Even commenting on this blog scares the hell out of me - if the powers that be traced these comments back to me, I'd be out the door at my next contract renewal and would need to find some other way for my kid to go to college.

    I will say this: the more alert tenured faculty members are becoming aware of the problem - it's come up at faculty meetings in the past year. However, no one has any real solutions to propose; how can they? The only real solution would be to drastically reduce tuition, which would mean some faculty members would have to go get real jobs and others would have to start working 40-hour weeks.

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  40. @ 9:48: Thanks for the added info.

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  41. Another thing that most people don't realize is how law schools manipulate the data released to US News and World Report for the annual rankings. We would select a sampling of students, who we KNEW had jobs following graduation­....essent­ially cherry-pic­king the students with jobs so that our employment statistics after graduation would appear high. In addition, we would manipulate that data to include students with temporary jobs as contract attorneys, whether they be part-time or full-time. The law school would even hire recent grads, who had failed to find work, for a 4-week temp assignment at $15/hr so that we could count them as employed for the UNAWR employment survey.

    Ideally, one would think that we should have used the entire graduating class and simply give the percentage of those hired, considerin­g that is an easy number to calculate. Law schools, including Columbia, however, know how to meet these very arbitrary and easily manipulate­d U.S. News guidelines.

    I urge any of you to get to know someone who has worked in the admissions office at any of these law schools. You will be quite surprised.

    Two of my friends at two prestigious law school have even gone so far as to make copies of the notes and paperwork that have been used for the UNAWR surveys at their respective schools for the past 6 years. Get ready for a Wikileaks-styled deluge of TRUTH to destroy these charlatans.

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  42. Law school administrators love to trot out that ridiculous old canard about "you can do anything with a JD!" Well, that's true, in a sense. Similarly, you can do anything with an MFA, it's just that you are only qualified to do one thing. People don't get it; companies don't really understand how terrible the legal market is, so if you have a JD and are not practicing law, they assume either 1) you were too dumb to get a law job and therefore are damaged goods, 2) you spent 150k to get a fancy law degree without using it, and therefore your decision making is fundamentally flawed, or 3) you're an extreme flight risk because they assume you'll bolt as soon as you get one of those super high-paying legal positions ("didn't I just read about associate salaries rising again in the NYT?") It is impossible to convince them otherwise, so much so that I know people who are literally taking their JDs off their resumes in order to avoid getting blacklisted from non-legal jobs. It's ridiculous.

    The idea that investment banks and hedge funds are looking for JDs is just ridiculous. Every once in a while, you'll see someone get hired with 8 years of experience out of BigLaw, but then, those people weren't on the losing end of the JD proposition to begin with.

    So sure, you can do anything with a JD. It's just that the JD will cost you $150k and not actually help you do any of them. In fact, it will hurt.

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  43. Once again, you are right on. For me it began about 15 years ago when my then Dean came to me and said that many of our graduates were actually going into law practice right of law school because there were not enough jobs around. I was the likely faculty candidate because I had chosen to carry out my external academic responsibilities by working closely with courts and lawyers on the development of technology and I had actually litigated a case or two when I was younger. Thus started the Law Practice Management and Technology course that I taught for the rest of my career. The major goal of that course was to teach law students how to practice law using inexpensive and widely available technology. It was decidedly SmallLaw in focus, though many of my students went on to BigLaw careers. But we also talked about the nuts and bolts of practice and I brought into the classroom many of my friends in the bar who genuinely enjoyed talking to young lawyers about their particular practice in a variety of fields. It went well but I noticed that every year the students would tell me about the job market and every year it would get worse. Then the depression hit and the current crisis was upon us.
    In my opinion, it is not ever going to get better. Electronic discovery tools get cheaper and better every month and the end of the document reader game is near. Ubiquitous and cheap internet has truly enabled the virtual law firm. Much legal work has become a consumer commodity sold document by document by companies like LegalZoom. Google has invested in RocketLawyer in order to make its Google Docs program more functional in the small law office. Free video conferencing via Skype is actually very good and has the clear potential to reduce travel time and expense for lawyers and clients. Social networking is becoming a standard way of reaching out to clients both new and old. I am not one who thinks BigLaw will go away but I do believe that it will produce fewer and fewer job opportunities for law graduates. I think that law schools need to start to think hard about that reality and the first rule of recovery is to stop digging in the same old hole.

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  44. [Students are] not being duped, it’s supply and demand. If you can go to a better law school for the same amount, go. Oh you can’t get in? Why not? Bad LSAT scores? Bad GPA? I see …. It’s time you..prepare yourself for some hard truth. Sit down and have a hanky ready because this may depress you a bit, but I’m in a good mood so I’m going to tell you how law school admissions work:

    If we admit you Mr./Ms. Bad LSAT Score and Low GPA (hereinafter “Tier Two 2L”), you’re likely not going to do so well — as demonstrated by your past poor performance on a standardized test and GPA at a likely less than stellar undergraduate school. We know: you’re brilliant but lazy; you don’t test well; you poor and couldn’t afford the Kaplan course … just stop. We really don’t care. It doesn’t matter to us why, we deal with cold hard numbers which tell us one thing: Chances are you aren’t the brightest bulb on the tree. This means you won’t go on to become a federal judge, professor, rain-making partner at a big law firm, etc. (hereinafter referred to as doing “something of note”), which means we can’t depend on you to bring us future prestige or a nice endowment down the line.

    The only hope for us to attract “smart” people with good LSAT scores and high GPAs, which is important for our US News and World Report rankings and attracting folks that are more likely to do “something of note,” is to offer outrageous scholarships. The top law schools don’t have to do this. Guess what. The top 14 only gives out scholarships to Federal Judges’ kids. Guess why? Because their parents’ are doing “something of note.” Getting the picture. This is how the world works.

    We get poor over-achievers by paying them to come. This is how BLS and Cardozo get students over Cornell, Fordham and the like. But here’s a little trick I’ll share with you because I’m keeping it real today: You’ve got to maintain a 3.33 to keep that scholarship. Easy you say? Yeah, piece of cake. You can do it. But just to challenge you, we’re going to put a bunch of over-achieving poor kids together and have you fight it out. With the curve, only 1/3 of you will be able to maintain that average, so 2/3 of you will be paying for your second and third years. We told you what to expect. It’s not our fault you thought you were smarter than you actually are.

    Now guess what else we have to worry about that the top-14 don’t. Transfers. The top 2% — that’s right, our cream of the crop — will likely transfer to a top-14 school. The top 14 realize they screwed up by not admitting this legal genius and now get a second bite at the apple. That’s okay. We get transfers to from the 4th tier schools, but there goes a future someone of note. You think they’re going to put “BLS” or “Cardozo” on their Big Law firm profile. Fat chance. They’ll go with Columbia or NYU. Bastards.

    Another thing I have to do, that the top-14 don’t is spend much of my time trying to make sure that the top 1/3 of our class aren’t getting screwed in the job market. I try to convince Big Law that a B+ in Contracts shouldn’t shut out one of our top 15% students. I try to convince them to accept resumes from students in our top 20%, rather than just the top 10%. “They’re really quite good,” I explain, “just give someone a chance. Please.”

    So I apologize Tier Two 2L that you didn’t do as well in your first year of law school, but lets be real here. Your LSAT scores weren’t all that great; your GPA wasn’t all that great; and you didn’t go to a great undergraduate school. In fact, we were the best school you got into, huh. Either that, or you took the scholarship we offered. You would have went to a better school if you could have. And you would have left us for a better one if given the opportunity. So quit complaining, and start studying for the bar so you don’t screw up our Bar Passage Rate (that counts towards rankings too).

    - From an alleged Tier Two Dean in 2007

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  45. Please, please, please - let those document leak, 9:53. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

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  46. at 9:48,

    We're all scared, that's why we're so docile.

    I've got 100K in debt and a job that feeds it and me, for the time being. I live in fear of the day I can't pay. This isn't life, this is debt service.

    I also blame the boomers. A generation that lived far beyond their means, and forgot to take care of their children. Deadbeat dads and moms, the lot of em.

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  47. @10:00 let me give you a wake up call. Pretty soon you won;t have that job to service your loan so what happens now is up to people like you. Who else? The vested interests described in theses posts? Please....either you do something or be prepared for 25 years of servitude.

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  48. For any of the readers out there who are disillusioned and angry, I yearn for the day that you do something momentous to wake you from the numb, antiseptic comforts of TV, news, entertainment and the simplistic, wishful notion that "things will get better."

    At a time in the past, when the American economy was robust with its resolve for new products and the possibility of never-ending cycles of newness and hope seemed possible, such a wishful mindset was falsely bolstered to the point of seeming true.

    THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, and just as other countries have suffered from decades or more of economic despair, so, too, is the United States now at the end of its seemingly perpetual cycle of economic, cyclical opportunities, which used to conveniently feed into such simple, hopeful mantras.

    Don't delude yourselves any longer. Wake up. Use your anger and disgust. Don't implode and suffer in silence as your future is mortgaged away for DECADES as bills mount, rent becomes insurmountable, and your health care and, thereby, health falls to the wayside. The people that ignore you don't ignore you because they are ignorant; they ignore you because they can't be bothered.

    With their collective intelligence, it is improbable that those in power don't recognize the simple math, which makes it impossible for you to EVER pay off your debt in this lifetime. Even more grotesque is their feigned ignorance of the employment numbers, which they manipulate to fraudulently induce you into believing you would make it.

    Who will do something momentous today?
    Another day passes and I await the inevitable.

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  49. @10:18

    I am young, childless, and fit. I can fall off the grid and go back to working with my hands. The whole economy seems like a fraud to me. Borrowing to get out of debt. Shipping jobs to other country to make "our" corporations profitable. I recommend a diversified portfolio of bulk storage foods and shotgun shells.

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  50. Prof.:

    Thanks for your blog and this post. I was dashed upon the rocks of the misleading argument that you could do anything with a JD. And I opted for a JD thinking that I could do as much as an MBA could but could also practice law if I wanted. I landed on my feet, but not without years of misery (the overqualified/flaky person thing that Fred Smith said is true. I lived through it).

    Your points are not only accurate, but well made. But I would ask you to ponder this. Even if all of the problems with law school remained: very expensive, bad prep for practice, pseudo-intellectual (or not genuine scholorship), wouldn't a reasonable and solution to most lawyers' current problems be to close lots and lots of law schools? Say, half of them to three quarters?

    This won't fix every problem, but there still is some demand for lawyers out there and the production should come closer to meeting the demand. The idea would be to produce only so many graduates as the market can absorb. So, essentially, the number of new lawyers will tack closely with the number of big law jobs there are out there. Hopefully this would drive wages up in the public sector as they compete for the new grads.

    Everything you've said about how miserable the "education" is is true. But law and lawyers have survived that for years. Isn't the real problem that most people are complaining about overproduction, and thus burdening the grads with loans they can neither pay back nor escape?

    Some how, some way, the medical and dental profession has been able to maintain their numbers much closer to market demand than lawyers have. I hear all of the same whining and complaining about reimbursement and insurance companies from my doctor friends. But I can't help but to notice they don't work Fridays, they and their non-working spouses drive luxury autos, they live in 5K sq ft houses, kids go to expensive private schools. There's such a mismatch between the complaining and the life they have. (e.g. after one of my surgeon friends, who is 40, finished with his poor mouth story about how the recession caused his income to plummet 30%, I couldn't help but to ask what kind of numbers we were talking about. We'd been drinking and are good friends, so it wasn't so rude as it sounds. So, he told me he'd only made 700K the last couple of years when the year or two before it was more like 1M. I stopped feeling sorry for doctors then).

    Put another way, even if law profs became legitimate scholors and there was a revolution leading to more clinics and better prep for practice so that a new grad is as practice ready as possible at graduation, wouldn't we still have lots of broke miserable lawyers? I think we would. What do you think?

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  51. We have to better than this if we want to get the message out:

    http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2011/09/01/law_schools_lure_fewer_students_as_jobs_dry_up/?rss_id=Boston.com+--+Education+news

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  52. "[T]he Boulder DA advertised for a part-time assistant DA position that pays the princely sum of $27,000 -- this in a town where the average price of a house is about 25 times that. Not surprisingly, they got slammed with applications from wildly overqualified candidates."

    Someone commented on my blog that a classmate of his in law school had his tuition paid for by the State of Alaska and that after graduation he began working for the Anchorage DA's office for $25,000 per year.

    ...in 1973. Adjusted for inflation his salary would be more than $100,000 today.

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  53. Wow. Great article. I think part of the problem is that the majority of law professors (especially at higher tier schools) were on law review at top tier schools, and who often had highly prestigious clerkships. Which, while good for assuring high quality legal scholarship, is not conducive to understanding what the other 90% have waiting for them.

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  54. This is from James Leopold, NALP:

    "Are we producing too many lawyers? It's a question I can't answer," Leopold said.

    Is this guy out of his mind? Is he clueless? Is guilty of Madoff-esque venality? It certainly is a question he can answer and statement to contrary just smacks of the worst kind of inhumane mindset.

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  55. He should have said, "It's a question I dare not answer."

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  56. That Boston.com article was ok, but just ok. The bit at the end about the guy who wants to become "a federal prosecutor" out of his desire to do public service was some real bullshit. No mention that federal prosecutors are among the best paid lawyers and no mention that those jobs are hard as shit to get. The article makes it seems like law school is still a good choice if you don't want to be a biglaw associate but are content to settle for a US Attorney job.

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  57. You are brave for posting this. I commend you.

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  58. The article makes it seems like law school is still a good choice if you don't want to be a biglaw associate but are content to settle for a US Attorney job.

    People who aren't out in the job market have no clue.

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  59. @ 12:16:

    I'm sure that's at least part of it. I was on law review at a non-elite school and had no clerkship, and graduated from law school less than ten years ago, but I had no idea how bad it was in the legal job market until recently.

    Of course, I still think this is a cost-of-tuition problem more than anything else. When people typically graduate from law school $50-100K in debt, it's somewhat legit to tell them with a straight face "there are lots of things you can do with a JD" or "the economy is sure to pick up soon." When people are graduating with 3-4 times as much debt, those statements are utterly ludicrous.

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  60. Meanwhile ...

    The nation's newest law school opened its doors on Aug. 25 to welcome its first class.

    The Belmont University College of Law in Nashville has an incoming class of 130 students — 30 more than a feasibility study predicted, said Dean Jeff Kinsler. "We had a much higher yield on our offers than we thought we would," he said.


    http://www.law.com/jsp/tx/PubArticleTX.jsp?id=1202512976058&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1

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  61. And by the way, Belmont University College of Law is charging $32,000 per year in tuition.

    http://www.belmont.edu/law/admission/consumerinfo.html

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  62. I'm wondering what an acceptable profit margin for a law school over and above the rate of inflation should be? Increases at my school have usually been double the rate of inflation, but were tripple during the late 90's and early 2000's.

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  63. I dropped out of law school midway through 2L (I'd be class of 2012). I was in the top 3rd of my class, and on a full scholarship at a lower Tier-1 school. I saw the writing on the wall, after I couldn't get screening interviews anywhere. My resume is now completely devoid of any reference to law school. You would have no idea I went, unless you asked me to break down the last ten years of my life.

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  64. The really depressing thing is that even if you work slavishly to graduate near the top of your class and get that coveted big law job, your reward is crushing amounts excruciatingly tedious and yet hair-tearingly stressful work. As I write from my biglaw office, where I expect to spend at least 3 or four more hours this evening, I think that perhaps they should post the following words over every law school as a warning: Arbeit Macht Frei

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  65. Oh yeah 4:01, Biglaw partners aren't dumb. They extract every penny of that salary out of you. I know one biglawyer who works an average of 70 hours per week (not including commuting time). Counting time and a half overtime, biglawyers make about $38 an hour for shitty work, with unlimited overtime upon demand. Definitely doing better than us out of work types, but not really doing that great.

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  66. 3:35, good for you that you left unscathed (monetarily).

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  67. Its nice to see Hal Krent weigh in on the prospects of Kent students. I am a Chicago Kent graduate. The school was expensive when I went there, and now the tuition is at the point where almost no one who goes there and pays sticker will ever have a hope of seeing a positive ROI.

    Kent was an interesting school. The full-time faculty consisted largely of out-of-touch academics who did their clerkship somewhere for a year or two and headed off to academia. One professor has been teaching since 1961. There were a few overbearing a-hole professors who enjoyed embarassing students in class for no reason. After I graduated and began working in the legal field, it became pretty clear to me that most of the full-time faculty at Kent would never have made it practicing law.

    One of the only things that made Kent tolerable was the adjunct faculty. The adjuncts were people who actually practiced law for long periods of time. Their perspective on things was completely unlike what the full-time faculty had to offer. One adjunct who taught a legal drafting class talked about out there, rarefied topics like how to draft filings to meet the requirements of different counties in the Chicago area. The guy who taught juvenile law (he was a juvenile court hearing officer) said he did not require a textbook for the class because all the juvenile law textbooks were full of constitutional issues, which he said he had maybe come up in his years of work maybe a half-dozen times. He brought in subject matter experts like a gang expert and an MD from the Cook County medical examiners office to talk about child abuse.

    The adjunct faculty at Kent mostly taught stuff that had potential to actually be used in practice. The full-time faculty taught gaseous theory and engaged in intellectual wankery. Having graduated and been in the outside world for a while now, I realize that many of the professors depended on the students being too afraid or too indifferent to challenge their "expertise." If I had to guess, I think most graduates who have obtained some level of practical experience in an area of law know that they could easily walk into a law school class in their area and embarass the professor.

    What Krent said about how law students use their degrees creatively to do all kinds of things is just the kind of disingenuous thing that the powers that be in law schools love to say to make sure that 0Ls keep coming to chase the law school fantasy. It seems like every law school outside the upper echelon tries to create the impression that their school has something for everyone, and that their law school will make any dream possible.

    If you have a fantasy about doing something internationally, they have a certificate in international law. If you want to help the people, they have a great program in public interest law. If you want to argue in court, they have an award winning moot court team. If you aren't sure what the hell you are doing in law school, they have a 90+% placement rate. And of course the law degree is versatile and opens up all kinds of doors. The promotional materials will have references to graduates who have done big things outside of lawyering just to prove that the law degree creates a world of opportunity.

    It might be interesting to see a future posting on how law schools market themselves to make sure the 0Ls keep on signing up for crap job prospects and crippling debt.

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  68. 4:34, reminds me exactly of my experience at my tier 2. I couldn't stand those HYS law -> clerk -> teach me (in a very overbearing and obnoxious manner) types. They were generally such odd people.

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  69. "The guy who taught juvenile law (he was a juvenile court hearing officer) said he did not require a textbook for the class because all the juvenile law textbooks were full of constitutional issues, which he said he had maybe come up in his years of work maybe a half-dozen times. He brought in subject matter experts like a gang expert and an MD from the Cook County medical examiners office to talk about child abuse"

    --------------

    Awesome. Absolutely awesome.

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  70. @4:14 not entirely unscathed-- I had to borrow money to live on.

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  71. 4:01,
    I'm there with you. I'm here until 2 every night and it's been almost two months since I've had a day off. The only thing that keeps me going is that I have roommates and live a very modest lifestyle which should allow me to pay off my loans completely within the next year (provided I'm employed that long).

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  72. "but for the chance to make a difference"

    --------------

    I'll tell you what lawyers are making a difference, those blogging about, protesting and suing their scam law schools.

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  73. I went to a top twenty law school, and you are absolutely right about everything. I wish law schools would just be honest, is that too much to ask? The mythical notion of all the things that you can do with a law degree is untrue in reality. If by chance, someone does become successful after obtaining a law degree in another field, it does not mean the law degree caused that success. Correlation does not mean causation. In practice, I have found a law degree to be a detriment in pursuing other opportunities.

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  74. 4:01 - you lost me at Auschwitz reference. Blindingly offensive and inappropriate.

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  75. Professor Campos, I say this in all seriousness. You are doing God's work, sir. Don't let the bastards (e.g., Brian Leiter) get you down. I wish you the best.

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  76. Yes, that's a good point someone made. There is a way for people to dump wikileaks style documents. They can drop them on any of the scamblogs, which is another reason they should be linked to here for context (but I digress), but someone has to actually call for them. No one - none of the scambloggers and not Campos yet - has never done that.

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  77. Excellent post. Thank you, Prof. Campos, for your courage. Please keep writing.

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  78. Just curious, has Above the Law covered this blog yet? I can't read it anymore, makes me too frustrated, particularly the troglodytes in the comments section. I'd be surprised if it hasn't -- I'm sure plenty of folks have alerted the editors to it.

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  79. I went to HYS last decade when the economy was good. I have a few thoughts on this.

    Even with an HYS degree in better times, I knew that by going to law school I was committing to practicing law at least for a while for financial reasons -- I figured 3-5 yrs -- in a high-paying job. It never occurred to me I might not get such a job, and I've been fortunate. However, even in those now long-gone days, law school was not a 3 year commitment; it was a 6-8 yr commitment if you had undergrad and law school loans. After that, you could become a high school teacher or artist or community organizer or whatever if you wanted. But going to law school without a massive scholarship or the intention to practice law, at least for a span, has for probably a generation been a bad move financially -- even a disastrous one, depending on the circumstances.

    Now, however, you have people paying $180K all-in to graduate from schools where they do not land jobs *in law* that would enable them to pay it off (let alone outside of law). Schools must disclose data so that 0Ls know what they're getting in to. If they know only 20% of their future classmates are going to get a good job after graduation and they sign up for it anyway, I think that's unfortunate unless they have some rationale other than the conviction that they will defy the trend, but I'm not eager to regulate the heck out of it. It will just make attending some law schools a proposition similar to fashion design school or doing a master's in social work from a private school -- i.e., it'll be for those from wealthy families, like doing an MA at Parsons or Pratt. From a parent's perspective, it's even better because it confers an aura of respectability, professionalism, seriousness, etc. The latter is also true of B school. Do you know what an MBA costs now? Tuition alone is about $60K a year x2. All-in is like $80K a year. And the MBAs *who make it* in anything but hedge funds/PE/i-banking make maybe $100-120K, considerably less than Biglaw (and in those shrinking areas, they start off around Biglaw salaries).

    In sum: for some time now, law school has been so expensive that enrolling without an intention to practice was foolish; we need better disclosure of employment data - period - but no matter what seats will continue to be filled as people enroll in part for the "legal training" even if they don't care about practicing, in part because it is respectable, and in part because they believe they will beat the numbers; and the issue of educational debt is bigger than law school.

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  80. I have to laugh at the idea that there are public interest jobs out there. All I want is to be an ADA *anywhere* in my state, but this is starting to look like an impossible dream.

    I graduated in May from a top 20 school with top 25% grades. I clerked at the local DA's office all through my 2L summer/3L year and did all the typical prosecution experience classes such as 2 semesters of trial practice and a clinic. I spent my free time volunteering with domestic violence prevention orgs during 2L and 3L. I can't even get a job working as a law clerk for a state district court judge. Almost no one is hiring; all the counties have had their budgets cut drastically. Recently, I went on a clerkship interview to a rural county at least an hour's commute from the city suburbs. They told me they'd had around 90 applicants.

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  81. I want to thank-you for your blog for a different reason than what others typically thank-you for. I went into law school just a few years ago because I had a passion for being a lawyer and really wanted to serve the underdog. My whole life had been spent working towards that dream because I believed it was important that those without a large pocketbook get representation in our system in order for us to remain a democratic nation.

    As you can imagine, it was a hard fall for me. Law school didn't even beat the idealism out of me. I sacrificed every last penny I had on a salary of $12,000 a year to take the bar and it took me a year to come up with the money. I was so happy when I passed as I felt I was now ready to move on towards the dream. I did not want to give up what I had spent so long working towards! I wasn't ready to give up the belief that I - just one person - could actually help in my small way by balancing the system out for those clients that needed it most. I was prepared to live on $20,000 a year to give others the opportunity to be represented in our system.

    A year and a half after graduating from law school and the only legal work I was able to get was volunteer work and unpaid internships. I was destroying myself financially to do them. It didn't matter how hard I worked, for how many hours a day (there were nights I worked straight through the night, for a job that paid nothing! The holidays I worked through - the Saturdays, the birthdays in my family I missed, so that I would be able to show any potential employer my dedication, enthusiasm to my cause, and my strong work ethic. Everything was done all for the chance that I might one day be an attorney!) I was bitter when I compared myself with the attorneys I worked with who, simply because they had happened to graduate just three years before I did, had the fortune to be able to get paid for what they did and like me, had spent years learning. None of what I did mattered, though. It ate me up inside knowing that despite my best efforts, despite my sacrifices, I probably didn't have a chance of ever working as a paid attorney in my lifetime. I couldn't come to grip with the fact that my dream was over and I was reluctant to let it go. And as long as I still wanted it, I mourned its demise.

    That's where you come in, Professor. In reading your blog, I realized that the legal world never was what I had hoped it to be. I realized that the changes I had hoped to influence with my youthful energy could have never been brought forth in the current legal system. I realized that if someone wants to create change, there are better ways to do it. One doesn't have to struggle in the polluted, corrupted legal world working for free night and day, just to have a chance to help those less fortunate than themselves. I realized that I had value and that my work was worth something, even if the legal field never recognized it. Most importantly, I learned that because the legal world is not what I thought it was, I no longer want to be a part of it.

    Thank-you for ending my struggle. Thank-you for calming my yearning. Tomorrow, I will go to where I have been doing my unpaid internship, where I have sacrificed almost a year of my time - my third unpaid internship - and I will let them know that I am more than happy to move on. You see, Professor, as long as I still had the desire and dream, I would have looked back with bitterness and disappointment, always resenting my inability to accomplish my dream. Thanks to you, I easily let it go, and realize that in doing so, I will now be able to see the new opportunities that await me, that I would not have been able to see had I continuously looked back on the past with regret and longing for what might have been.

    Thank-you.

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  82. Sigh. What 10:57 said.

    Reminds me of the Frost poem "Hannibal":

    Was there even a cause too lost,
    Ever a cause that was lost too long,
    Or that showed with the lapse of time to vain
    For the generous tears of youth and song?

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  83. This blog is a tremendous thing. Lawprof's posts and the comments combine to create the most comprehensive analysis of legal career prospects anywhere on the internet. Every angle is being covered, every bit of misinformation is being identified and corrected and it's all in one place. We can really say that now, ignorance will be no excuse. It will be hard to research law school on the internet and not find this blog, it has been referenced everywhere. I imagine every incoming 1L this year has at least heard of it by now. As discussed elsewhere, law students may choose to ignore information available to them, but they can't say they didn't know.

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  84. This is a great blog. Thanks for doing it. I graduated from Tulane University Law School in '07. I graduated with over $175,000 in student loan debt. I take some of the blame, of course, but I was 21 when I signed on the dotted line and had no real world experience. Since I graduated, I've made over $85,000 in payments and my balance still stands at $159,000. I have a good life - I make low six figures, I own a beautiful home, and have a wonderful wife. But the financial burden of my loans is enormously oppressive. I feel like an indentured servant. I have no freedom. If I had a chance to go back and do it over, I would not have gone to law school (and certainly not Tulane, if I chose to do so again).

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  85. I'm there with you. I'm here until 2 every night and it's been almost two months since I've had a day off. The only thing that keeps me going is that I have roommates and live a very modest lifestyle which should allow me to pay off my loans completely within the next year (provided I'm employed that long).

    Good for you. One of the main keys to happiness as a private practitioner is living beneath your means if you can possibly do so.

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  86. It will be hard to research law school on the internet and not find this blog, it has been referenced everywhere. I imagine every incoming 1L this year has at least heard of it by now.

    I pray that you're right.

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  87. Can someone clarify what "HYS" and "OLS" mean? Thanks.

    This blog makes very interesting reading. Thanks for launching it. I am one of those oddballs who has pursued an "alternative career." I was lucky, however, in that inasmuch as I attended law school at night while working full time, most of my tuition and other costs were reimbursed by my then-employer. Admittedly this was years ago before tuition got out of control. I am grateful that employer-provided education assistance was part of the benefits package otherwise the situation would have been untenable for all the reasons appropriately explored in this blog.

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  88. I think it would be interesting to hear the stories of people whose first job out of law school did not require bar passage and who used that job as the first step in an alternative career. 7:38, I can't tell if that means you. Surely there must be SOME people out there like this.

    Somebody remarked above about the correlation/causation confusion at work here and I think a related fact is that most lawyers working outside of law did not begin their careers outside of law. They began their careers as lawyers and made a transition at some later point. This is believable, as experienced lawyers develop the knowledge, connections, and/or money required to make a succesful transition.

    What I'm guessing almost never happens is that a JD is hired for an alternative career track fresh out of law school with nothing but his JD to show for himself. I'd like to hear stories about this happening, if any exist.

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  89. Fred Smith,

    Went from law school directly to compliance (holla back office). And now that I am a few years in, I'll never practice law. I am the compliance guy. The guy that say's "do you think it's wise to do X" and then gets overruled by "X makes us Y$, shut up and go back in your hole."

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  90. "HYS" stands for Harvard, Yale, Stanford.

    "0Ls" are prospective law students.

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  91. I went straight into a government job following law school. It was a JD preferred position, but the JD/bar passage were not required. Starting salary was in the mid 40s, but I did well and have made it into the low 100s in just a few years. Would NEVER practice and tend to view law school as the worst decision of my life.

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  92. @5:34 - I also went to Tulane and finished in '09. FinAid actually told me "not to worry" about borrowing costs because they had "programs to help reduce the burden". Not so much. I gave up looking for work in "the law" and now teach high school. I make 35k a year.

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  93. 8:04 and 9:14,

    How did you find those jobs? Did you have anything special on your resume that qualified you? I've never heard of law students going straight into compliance before. You'd think more people would if that were an option, certainly every big company has a huge compliance department.

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  94. I found mine on usajobs.gov. The only qualifications other than my JD were some legal internships and a BA in English. I count myself very, very lucky.

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  95. Fred Smith,

    8:04 here.

    Interned for regulators and a bank compliance office during law school. Had a Finance undergraduate degree from a reputable state school (3.95 GPA). No debt from undergrad. I worked nights at a bar, and summers doing labor and the bar.

    Actually, the clinic office tried to block one of my internships (with a federal securities industry regulator) because I had "taken too many internships in one practice area." I cornered the dean and complained, and got my way. Just proves, like North Korea, the ones that follow the rules starve to death.

    I should have gone to compliance from undergrad and gotten an MBA at night on the company dime.

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  96. 8:04 again,

    I also feel like fortune smiled on me. It may not tomorrow, but today I am one lucky bastard.

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  97. Fred Smith,

    I too started out of the gate in a non-practicing position with the Federal Government. I did a dual degree JD/MPH program and was hired through the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program. I came in as a GS-12 in an Administrative Generalist (0301) position in a Cabinet-level Congressional Affairs Office (I had zero political or legislative background). I made GS-14 in about 3.5 years. I'm now at my second agency and my JD is actually viewed positively even if it is totally not required for my position.

    Personally, I identify myself primarily as a public health/healthcare administration professional. My JD and bar admission are really tertiary, nice to have qualifications.

    As a matter of policy, the PMF program does not place new hires into attorney coded (0905 series) positions. The number of JD applicants has skyrocketed in recent years and this has caused some consternation among agencies. For many of these JD holding PMF-wannabes, non attorney positions are transparently "Plan C" options for them and hiring authorities are having a growing skepticism as a result. This is unfortunate. I wish these kids would wake up and realize that the real action and fun in the Federal service is in the non attorney positions (e.g. 0301, 0343, 0685, 0671 series). Life as a General Counsel attorney (non-DOJ) in the Federal service is pretty lame. The real lawyers are at DOJ and handle all the high stakes stuff. If you want to be a hot shot Federal lawyer and strike out at the DOJ Honors program, reorient and focus on those non-attorney positions if you want to do cool stuff and make a difference.

    My .02

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  98. Fascinating stuff. It sounds like both of your cases involved you having some non-legal qualifications related to the job, the MPH in the one instance and the finance major/internships in the other.

    Maybe that is the message JDs need to learn. You can compliment your other experience with a JD, but you do need some other experience. You cannot have, as I did, a poli sci degree and shit else. I know that probably sounds like common sense, but I really did think people would hire me at non-legal jobs, despite me having no particular experience or education, because my JD proved how brilliant I was.

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  99. I am a 3L at a 4th tier school. I walked into law school knowing the likelihood of making six figures out the door was pretty much impossible. I really want to practice law. I still do.

    This week I spoke with several brand spanking new 1Ls about joining a new organization. I heard a lot of things like, "oh I want to become a federal judge" or "I'm going to be a corporate lawyer" and all sorts of other nonsense that indicated a real lack of understanding on their chances upon getting out. I wanted to tell them unless they were in the top 10% they could expect to work at a small firm making $30-40k their first year and probably do nothing they are interested in, but they are too green to appreciate the reality check.

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  100. I wanted to tell them unless they were in the top 10% they could expect to work at a small firm making $30-40k their first year and probably do nothing they are interested in, but they are too green to appreciate the reality check.

    Even that sounds wildly optimistic for 4th tier grads nowadays, even if they are in the top 10.

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  101. I can assure you that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the people admitted while I worked there had been white and they would not have been admitted without the donations and influence of their parents, etc. THIS IS REALITY!!

    You are simply not being honest. Elite schools are about 20% black and Hispanic. Just about all blacks and Hispanics at top schools are nowhere near the cutoff for white and Asian students LSAT wise. That means if these schools were taking a significant portion of whites with low LSATs, it would show up in a lower 25th percentile.

    There are something like ten blacks a year who get 170 on the LSAT. In order to meet the diversity quota T14 schools have to dig into the 150s. No, or very very few, whites are getting that kind of advantage.

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  102. What elite law schools are 20% black and Hispanic?

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  103. "What elite law schools are 20% black and Hispanic?"

    It's probably not that high. That being said, I have known a lot of completely white (physically white; their name is white . . .) people from upper class backgrounds, with minority genes somewhere in their heritage, who gladly check off that box. Hey, I can't blame them I would have done the same if I could.

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  104. For some reason the table would not paste, But these were the numbers from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education on the number of black students in schools 4 years ago.

    Just to give examples at Harvard the number was 11.1, Yale 7.7, Stanford, 6.9, Chicago, 7.2, Columbia 7.7. The highest percentage was at Harvard. The next was Duke with 10.2.
    i have seen info suggesting that at some of these schools, the Hispanic student percentages are about 6 to 7 percent. Stanford is slightly higher.

    The NY Times and others have done stories about the decline in the numbers of black and Hispanic students in law schools in the last several years.

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  105. Even if it's 15 percent black/Hispanic, that means of the remaining 85% only 10% at most can be whites below the 25th percentile. Check out lawschoolnumbers.com. Go to the charts for T14 schools and you'll see that all the outliers are URMs.

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  106. "The NY Times and others have done stories about the decline in the numbers of black and Hispanic students in law schools in the last several years."

    Because black and hispanic people are street smart and far less likely to be duped. Why go to a low ranked law school when you could make as much being a day laborer?

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  107. As for entering non-practicing positions, I currently work as an attorney, but I didn't start doing so until eight years post-graduation. Upon graduating, feeling that I hadn't really lived life and not wanting to be at the office until 2am every night for months like some others, I joined the Peace Corps. After spending about 4 years in southern Africa, I came back to the US, did doc review for about six months, and got a position as a community organizer in the rural western US. Through the organizer position, I did a lot of lawerly things: represented groups at administrative hearings, made presentations to local governments, drafted policy papers, ran successful legislative initiatives, etc. Although I wasn't being paid that well,I really enjoyed the work. I then became an early victim of the economy in late 2007. Fortunately, I'd made a name for myself in the organizer position and was hired by a local law firm. I won't comment on my firm experience here, but I think that my path to the firm job demonstrates that one can get into a position in some non-traditional ways and speaks to the value of practical experience.

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  108. This is a great and informative post.Well, the points given were facts that could never go wrong. I have visited so many pages with the same discussion and topics

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  109. Good work. Thanks for the info. very useful tips indeed.

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  110. I recently graduated from Adelaide Law School in South Australia. Until 2011, Law School positions at the three universities were capped.

    As of 2012, the restrictions have been taken off Universities. They can now offer as many positions as they like in the courses the want to.

    What this means is that courses such as law will become even more prevalent because they are such money-raisers for the universities. Law is a top-tier course in Adelaide, which means that it costs well in excess of $1,500 per semester PER SUBJECT. The university's job is finished when their students graduate, so the fact that my university alone was taking on 300 new students every year (total of 200 graduates every year) means that they don't care if we can't get jobs.

    I have started reading through your archives, and I have a possible answer to your question of why law professors are paid so much. It is a question of supply and demand. Since a decent lawyer can (if they can get their first job...) make a significant income in the private sector, the only way to convince them to teach is to pay them commensurately. Hence, a good lawyer can ask nearly what he wants to be paid, and the universtiy will pay it gladly. Or, should I say, I pay the university to pay it gladly.

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  111. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you
    Moler

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