Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Additional disclosures

I had an interesting conversation today with a young law professor, who has been on the tenure-track faculty of a lower-ranked law school for a couple of years.  She's deeply disturbed by how schools continue to hide the ball about the employment situation, by the more nonsensical features of law school pedagogy (she has taught in other academic settings, and is especially appalled by how law schools evaluate their students), and by the ridiculous publication system for legal academic work.  She's of the view that for reasons of both economic necessity and simple justice law professors need to teach more and get paid less -- a position which almost all her colleagues find deeply puzzling, if not actually insane (Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it").

Right now she's struggling with how much if any of this she should share with her students, either inside the classroom (when discussing, say, the doctrine of caveat emptor, certain examples from the world of contemporary legal education might be said to leap to mind) or out of it.  I was impressed with her sense of ethical obligation -- she told me she would much rather not get tenure than mislead her students -- and by the extent to which she had yet to be co-opted by the usual forces that crush dissent in the law school world.

I didn't have much in the way of useful advice, other than to exhort her to continue to be a teacher attempting to convey the truth as she sees it, rather than allowing herself to be transformed into a salesperson pushing product for the organization that employs her.  The conversation raised questions in my mind about what exactly we -- that is, those legal faculty who don't have their heads in the sand -- ought to be telling our students right now.  One thing that seems clear is that law faculty have an obligation to educate themselves, to the extent they can, about their graduates' actual employment status (Faculty will have much better access to this information than anyone outside law schools, although I don't doubt many a law school's administration will resist sharing this data even with its own faculty).

When, for example, a student asks you at the end of his first year about whether he ought to continue with his legal education, it's difficult to give grounded advice if you don't know the answer to such basic questions as how many of the school's graduates are getting real legal jobs, and what they're being paid. In my experience at present almost no law faculty can answer this question with anything more than the roughest of guesses -- I certainly couldn't have even a year ago.  (In addition one piece of information that it would be good for every law professor to have is, how many recent alumni are eligible for IBR? The ABA could eliminate much of the employment disclosure scandal by simply requiring law schools to report this figure, which can be determined for any individual graduate in about 30 seconds).

A more difficult question is how to deal with what might be called psychic costs and benefits of being a lawyer.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that most law professors don't know much about the practice of law.  For understandable reasons, people tend to focus on how this is a problem for reform efforts aimed at making law school a more practical vocational experience.  But this fact also raises another problem, captured well by this commentator:

It is really difficult to talk someone out of going to law school. Everything about law school sounds great in theory. It seems prestigious. Many prospective students make up fantasies in their minds about what a JD will do for them. The law schools' websites and promotional materials are very effective at confirming whatever fantasy a prospective student has about the utility of a JD.

Law schools existences depend upon enrolling as many people as possible who have no real idea of what practicing law is like. As long as 0Ls have stars in their eyes about "doing international law" (whatever the hell that is) or "using their JD to passionately advocate on behalf of X group of people," they will continue to enroll. Every law school is more than happy to do its part to keep these fantasies alive until the 0L has signed on the dotted line and taken their seat in their 1L class. 

I think the best way to discourage potential law school scam victims is to do as much as possible to enlighten them as to what a JD can actually be used for and what practicing law is really like. I suppose there is a tendency to soften blows, and try to gently talk people out of things. With law school, I think the harsh, unpleasant approach is the way to go. Explain what its like to deal with idiotic political hack judges and deranged clients who think that a $2,000 retainer creates a period of indentured servitude. Explain doc review and the biglaw pyramid. Explain that there are very few warm, romantic situations in which an attorney is able to come to the rescue of a deserving client.
Maybe the easiest way to give a real world example of what its like to practice law would be to provide all prospective students with the Additional Disclosures booklet that comes with most credit card offers in the mail. Have them read the entire booklet carefully and completely. Then let them know that practicing law will involve reading that booklet 5-7 days a week for 8-15 hours a day.
This raises what in the end is a much more difficult issue regarding the disclosure obligations of law faculty than that created by the phony employment numbers schools continue to publish (the latter problem can be addressed adequately by adopting something like the recommendations put forth by the Law School Transparency project).  What, after all, are we supposed to say to students about the copious evidence that very large numbers of lawyers really hate their jobs, because the practice of law often involves an insidious combination of boredom and stress?  I mean besides, "I can't tell you much about that because I'm not really a lawyer, thank G-d."

For some reason this all brings to mind the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's comment that being a philosophy professor was an "absurd job" and "a kind of living death."  (According to his friend Norman Malcolm Wittgenstein also thought that universities "stifled original philosophical thought, and made it difficult to be a decent human being."  As a consequence he urged his students to take up useful work instead, such as farming or medicine, and was always delighted when they didn't pursue academic careers in philosophy).

We can't all be Wittgenstein, who in addition to being a genius took practical ethics seriously enough that he gave away all of his immense fortune after reading Tolstoy's The Gospel in Brief.  But we can try to be honest with ourselves and others. That, under the current circumstances, is a daunting enough challenge.

110 comments:

  1. It may be that there are some students every year who will go to law school, insensitive to both its price and its recent employment outcomes for graduates.

    I suspect that this class of students won't support the 200 accredited and provisionally accredited law schools in the country, and the ABA knows it.

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  2. This problem really reflects a broader problem within the educational system. Students attend High Schools that often are oriented towards college applications and college attendance (even when many students won't attend college). Arguably, American High Schools should do more to imitate certain European systems by emphasizing career choice and, for some students, vocational education. In any event, they provide little insight into what to do after college.

    Then, high-achieving and ambitious students attend college, if they have the financial ability to do so. The colleges generally have very poor career counseling and advisor systems, and at least at my school, the career counselors only really knew how to advise students how to pursue a limited number of typical careers: Law, Medicine, Wall street finance, etc.. They also had almost no useful advice on how to pick among career paths. Professors in college overwhelmingly think that academia is the best career path (it's the one they love), and they have little practical advice as well. The undergraduate career counseling system could be seriously improved simply by issuing every entering student a copy of "What Color is Your Parachute," which is not so much a reflection of the book (somewhat useful) as a condemnation of the system.

    I'm not saying that Law Professors have no obligations, but it's only so helpful to convince a student NOT to attend law school. After all, the student needs an alternative career path or job; one reason they pick law school is that they're struggling to find good work with their college degree!

    Personally, attending law school was a good choice for me (and I'm a fairly recent graduate), but I had a very clear idea of what type of job I wanted, about how many available positions there were, how well I would have to perform at the law school that I chose to attend to obtain that job, and that performance was realistic based on both my college GPA, LSAT, and desire. I had that information because I had a lot of friends who had already attended or were attending similar law schools and who had applied to these types of jobs. Most students don't have that information.

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  3. 5:37: What sort of legal work are you doing and how long ago did you graduate?

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  4. I stumbled on to this blog a while ago, and would like to start by thanking Prof. Campos for performing a needed service.

    I am a lawyer in Great Falls, Montana, a town of about 60,000 people. What really resonates with me when reading the 'scamblogs' is how unrealistic the 0L's perception of the practice really is.

    I occasionally have an opportunity to work with lawyers from BigLaw. Inevitably younger associates (the partners won't deign to speak with the likes of me), these lawyers are uniformly unsatisfied with the practice, and tell me that the firm protocols are such they really can't practice at all. In fact, I rarely take 'local counsel' positions anymore, because I get in trouble with local judges while the young associates and I wait for approval of every pleading by the senior associate, then the junior partner, then the partner in charge. (Not that any of them add anything to the associate's fine work other than the chance to throw their hourly rate onto the invoice.) Often, too, when I try to catch up with these younger attorneys a couple years later, they are long gone from the BigLaw firm. I understand this is anecdotal, but it certainly fits with the described experiences of others.

    My practice is generally insurance defense, and I have been fortunate to carve out a small, profitable practice with people who I like to spend time with every day. I work nearly every day of the week, but I do things that I enjoy doing and the clients pay me. I live in a nice town, and enjoy a nice standard of living (assisted by investments from other, small businesses I own a part of with friends).

    Here is why this is relevant to the current discussion: If I could go back in time to 1985 when I started law school, and you told me I was going to borrow $200,000 (or even $100,000) to achieve the life I have today, I would have turned around and walked out of the room. I make a decent living, but I could not afford my lifestyle AND the payments to service that kind of debt. There is no way in hell that the income I make by busting my butt would be worth a six-figure investment. Put another way, I think you could have dropped me, a reasonably intelligent Accounting grad, into almost ANY job 20 years ago and I could have gotten to the same place I am today...for zero dollars borrowed.

    By the way, the lowly University of Montana School of Law that I attended was an 'early adopter' of a more practice oriented (or, sneeringly, "trade school") legal education. It must be doing something right, though, because the young associate I recently hired from the same school actually seems to be pretty well prepared for what he is going to be doing.

    Also, the last time I was in my alma mater, I was stunned. I told my wife it looked like the Taj Mahal after the very expensive makeover it underwent recently. Amazing. Sound familiar?

    Please keep up the fine work of this young enterprise.

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  5. 5:37,

    You raise some great points. Personally, I think that young college grads would be well served to take some time after graduation performing some type of public service. If nothing else, a 2-4 year break will impart unique life experience/lessons they would not have going straight through from undergrad to law school.

    Things like the Peace Corps, service for a few years as a public school teacher, time as a junior military officer, or even some time spent as a police officer in the NYPD are all realistic options for college grads - certainly those with the academic chops to get into most T50 law schools.

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  6. LawProf (5:37 here): I work for the Federal Government, I graduated in 2007, and I attended a top 10 school. Before attending law school, I researched the various honors programs run by many government agencies, and I researched the requirements to get jobs in state and local governments and nonprofits as well. My assessment was based on my opinion that I could obtain a job at one of these institutions that I would like (in retrospect, I probably was inaccurate in assuming I would like as many of those positions as I thought, but not too much so).

    Of course, with the Great Recession and scaling back of the public sector, my research from the early and mid '00s might now be inaccurate. But, to a significant extent, that's the fault of poor macroeconomic management by the Federal Government and poor management of banks, etc. I don't think that it's accurate to portray that as solely or primarily a problem with Law School.

    Of course, my experience highlights that, although all the schools have some accountability here, the T-14 and First Tier schools are probably causing much less harm than the lower tier schools, since graduates of the higher tier schools are more likely to have job opportunities, on average (which is not to diminish the suffering of those who don't obtain jobs who attended those schools).

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  7. (5:37 again): Also, just to follow up on the college issue: if colleges want to present career choice as a serious and involved question upon which students should focus, they could incorporate it in their curricula by offering classes focused on it, requiring students to take one such class (if the school has requirements about class choice) and in their summer reading lists (see Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar). It is an area of academic study, and the research is fascinating. By adding it to the curriculum, they would get academically oriented students to seriously study and think about it. After all, we don't just have an overproduction of JDs; we also have an overproduction of PhDs.

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  8. Thanks 5:37. The lawyers I know who are satisfied with their careers tend to have similar stories to your own. I agree that colleges ought to focus on career choice issues in a much more serious way than they do at present. (One problem with law school is that it ends up being a default choice for so many people who haven't done so).

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  9. I work in IP and (most of the time) love my job. But despite my title I'm basically just a glorified patent engineer and wouldn't have gone into debt to get where I am. Any career that asks you to go 100,000 USD or more into debt without any guarantee of getting a job worth it at the end is not a good investment.

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  10. In addition one piece of information that it would be good for every law professor to have is, how many recent alumni are eligible for IBR? The ABA could eliminate much of the employment disclosure scandal by simply requiring law schools to report this figure, which can be determined for any individual graduate in about 30 seconds

    Excellent point!

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  11. What, after all, are we supposed to say to students about the copious evidence that very large numbers of lawyers really hate their jobs, because the practice of law often involves an insidious combination of boredom and stress?

    Two suggestions: (1) Encourage students to call recent alums and ask them about what they do, what their employers are like, and whether they enjoy it. I'm always happy to speak with law students and prospective law students, but (even though my school has me on a list of contacts for students) I very rarely get tapped for input.

    (2) Invite four or five recent alums back to the school for a panel discussion in one of your classes. Try to find some who won't be totally "rah rah," although that will be difficult, I imagine.

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  12. This post raises an issue I've been struggling with for the past few weeks. I'm a 3L who is currently a "facilitator" (read: cross between a tutor and a TA) for a program at my school that helps transition disadvantaged students into law school. I don't have the opportunity to talk to 0L's, but I am talking to 1L's who are only a few weeks into their law school career.

    The thing I've been struggling with is this -- it seems entirely plausible that the best possible piece of advice I could give would be: "Drop out now. Seriously. Drop out before you pay for your Spring Semester. Yes, you're 20k in debt already and you're 6 months behind your friends in the job search for non-legal jobs, but YOU SHOULD DROP OUT NOW. A single semester of law school is a staggering waste of time and money, but staying here would be even worse."

    I have a feeling, though, that the students would be *totally* unreceptive to that message, and the Dean who hired me for this job wouldn't much appreciate the stark honesty.

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  13. 5:37, you've highlighted exactly the problem:

    1. You graduated from a Top 10. There are some T-10, many T-1 and most T-3/T-4 who have graduated in 2009, 2010, and 2011 without ANY job. You graduated right before this current, really-ridiculous job market (or lack thereof).

    2. You graduated from a Top 10. You got the job that only those from a T-10 could get. Or those in the top 10% (or top 5% post 2009) of a class at a lower T-1 or T-2, 3 or 4 could get.

    3. You claim to work for the Federal Government. Either you didn't borrow money for school, or borrowed little, because working for the Federal government, even if that's what you want to do, doesn't exactly pay the law school debt bills these days.

    4. You claim it's what you wanted to do. Looking back to 2003, 2004, or 2005, can you honestly say to yourself what you do is what you *thought* practicing law would be? Maybe you've written some interesting briefs, after doing interesting research. But (a) that's not the majority of legal practice, and (b) appellate practice for a Federal Agency, if you are actually given those tasks, is more akin to legal scholarship, not legal practice.

    5. Public sector practice, even more than BigLaw, even for those from T-1 and Top 20 schools, has dried up to the point of non-existence for those looking to enter.

    6. Again, this blog is about the disconnect b/w cost and value. As in, law schools' value have dropped (fill in the percentage) astronomically to its cost. Even getting a job is impossible. For work that is menial, degrading and for an hourly wage which, when protracted, many other sectors can compete with. It's *never* what a 0L thinks it is. Oh, and when BigLaw summer associate programs drop from, say 100 to 20, between 2007 and 2011, that means 80 2Ls that would have gone to X firm are now out there competing with others to go to either Y or Z firm, or government, or judicial clerkship, or non-profit, etc. etc., down the line. Hence, the situation.

    So you've actually summed up the issues addressed here quite nicely. You may enjoy your job. You may have no debt. You may have gotten exactly what you looked for from law school. I don't begrduge you. But you are the very, very, very extreme case, the statistical outlier, the anomoly . . .

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  14. @ Breezy: Is there anything in the nature of mid-semester evaluations at your school? When the 1Ls get their first feedback might be a good time to have a heart-to-heart talk about whether they're doing the smartest thing by going to law school.

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  15. You are performing a public service. Great quote from Upton Sinclair, by the way. How many eager, young people are turned into Jurgis Rudkuses, by the law school industry each year?!?!

    I know that there are more law professors who are sympathetic to the plight of recent JDs. Many cannot speak out, due to the backlash from colleagues and their school.

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  16. A lot of OL's want to be juke box heroes, and they have stars in their eyes.

    But what these OL's should remember the mostest, is that, as it pertains to Law School and their financial futures, the real name of your above referenced legal doctrine is "Caviar Emptor."

    Because eveything about legal education is starting to sound and smell pretty fishy by now.

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  17. (6:37 here)

    This situation really extends to the entire American education system. Private *elementary* schools are charging what universities 20 years ago charged. Boarding schools and private high schools are charging what univerisities were charging 10 years ago. Universities are charging what 3 years of law school *total* cost 20 years ago. It's simply outrageous. It makes me depressed, because this is a mjor problem - wasted money on people who are uneducated, because the majority of these schools and universities are not worth the cost and the "education" they peddle.

    I believe that for a society to function, we need museums, zoos, departments of education or transportation, etc. We need PhDs, teachers, government agency workers, botanists, etc. But there is a serious disconnect between cost of education for these jobs, the money they make, and the ability to produce for society. Why would I be a high school teacher, or non-profit fundraiser, or graphic designer, when my edcuational debt doesn't allow me financial independence to pursue those jobs? I'm not talking wealth - I'm talking the ability to pay for a doctor's visit, or the opportunity to give one's child a private school or university education. I understand these things maybe shouldn't be readily available - but I'm not talking about high school dropouts or immigrants, like my grandparents and other relatives were, I'm talking about Ivy League educated students. You leave the campus at 22, and with your education you can do nothing. Granted, what are you really going to do with that poly sci major? But before, 20-40 years ago, there were jobs that met the cost/benefit ratio of going to college that were not in finance, law, medicine or engineering. One with a poly sci degree could be a writer, work for government, work for numerous companies that existed (before they were bought up or outsourced), and because the student's debt load wasn't Greecian, that student could make a decent living. Today, those jobs DO NOT EXIST. Law is just the next level of education that has been caught by this trap. A legal education does not make up for its cost (and in many ways, many in the medical profession find themselves in the same position - don't go to a good enough residency, you end up being a small town practicioner, and while slightly better off than many small lawyer practicioners, it's not *that* much better). The only way to make any education outside of the ivies, big state schools, and quasi-ivies (Patriot League, Southern Ivies, etc.) is to go into finance. Where you work 100 hours a week, again (unless you ahve your MBA from a top 10 B-school) for a protracted hourly wage that's not that far removed from other industries, and you're also living in New York or San Fran, and the cost of living is that much higher. And that's if you don't have the debt from school in the first place. Or two children. Or a mortgage.

    I'm now thoroughly depressed.

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  18. 6:37,

    I appreciate your input, but I am also a Federal employee and will stand up for 5:37's observations.

    There are many in the Federal service with significant student loan debt from law school. My debt level is manageable thanks to having had access to the GI Bill and attending a state school with low (relatively) tuition. That said, there are many T50 grads who are working in the Federal service in DC and carrying over $1,000 a month in loan payments. I know one Wash U. law grad in a non-attorney position who is paying over $1,600 a month in loans on their Federal salary.

    You say that Federal service "doesn't exactly pay the bills." What are the alternatives? Shit Law? Document Review? Federal work is one of the best options for JD graduates these days if they get it. In DC, someone coming in even as a GS-9 will likley be a GS-14 (over $100,000) in 5-6 years. Where is this earning potential in small law?

    You are 100% correct about how Federal jobs are attracting JD grads who never would have given the government the time of day 5-10 years ago. Yes, I agree it is annoying and unfortunate as better fitting candidates often fall by the wayside.

    Public Sector PRACTICE has dried up, but in my opinion, looking for a Federal attorney job is just doubling down on the mistake of attending law school in the first place. Students and grads should be focusing on the non-attorney Federal jobs and aggressively pursuing programs like the Presidential Management Fellows program. The real fun and meaningful work in the Federal service is not usually found in the Attorney (0905) positions - especially those outside of DOJ.

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  19. If you are poor and a potential first-time lawyer in your family with no financial backing from anyone other than YOURSELF, then the aggregate information to be taken from all these blogs is that you shouldn't even bother going to law school. And, let's face it, if that same person had some undergrad debt in combination with any law school debt, such a person would easily reach the 200K amount in loans, which most people on these blogs is an outrageous amount.

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  20. To follow up on 5:45, another problem caused by the exploding expense of legal education is that it discourages attorneys from serving the needs of smaller communities. I grew up in Montana, and would have loved to go back to practice law. But I made the choice to go to highly ranked out-of-state law school and graduated with so much debt that I couldn't possibly service it working in Montana. Even the best job with the best firm in Billings (the biggest town in Montana) would have paid far too little. So I wound up taking a BigLaw I don't much like in an overcrowded urban jungle that I will never get used to. I'd encourage my unemployed friends to look at smaller communities, where there is often a real need for quality legal services, except that I know that for many people a low-paying job is worse than no job at all. Thus we will continue to have a system that perversely creates an oversupply of attorneys in cities that are already crawling with lawyers, and an undersupply of quality lawyers in the places that need them.

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  21. I'm surprised to learn that law school admissions committees don't require of applicants some practical exposure to what law practice is. It's certainly different for medical school.

    I went to medical school in the mid-1970s. I had worked as a nurses aide/orderly in a hospital in high school and college. It wasn't universal then, but I'd say about a third of my classmates had some sort of similar experience.

    By the time I was on a medical school admissions committee in the mid-1990s we expected that pretty much all the applicants (there may have been an exception or two -- it wasn't written policy) who made it to the interview stage had had some exposure to the practice of medicine to see what it was like day-to-day. When I interviewed applicants, that experience usually was a important part of the interview.

    It's a small thing, but perhaps it would help. How can people choose a profession if they have no idea what its practitioners actually do?

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  22. I would suggest that law schools should require shadowing like the medical schools do.

    If I had some kid sitting with me while I do doc review, they would have to be the biggest idiot in the world to enroll in law school. Even better, have a kid shadow me when I was at a firm, struggling to deal with shitlaw clients and idiotic judges.

    I think law schools won't require this because it will make those kids flee from the legal field which will of course limit applications and enrollment.

    But, it would be a great way of showing kids what is really out there for them if they go down this evil road.

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  23. Chris Johnson: Yet another perverse effect of the ratings racket is that law school admission committees only pay attention to LSAT and GPA numbers, because these go into the USNWR formula (Whether Daddy is a connected guy and minority status also count. Experience or lack of it doesn't).

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  24. Personally, I think that young college grads would be well served to take some time after graduation performing some type of public service. If nothing else, a 2-4 year break will impart unique life experience/lessons they would not have going straight through from undergrad to law school.

    This is great advice, but I wouldn't limit it to public service. Just work at something other than school/academia for more than 2 years before even applying to law school. Get some substantial experience of what the real workaday world consists of and what you do and don't like doing for 2,000 hours a year.

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  25. ... we expected that pretty much all the applicants ... who made it to the interview stage ...

    Just to be clear, law schools do not interview applicants. It's a purely paper-driven process. Non-lawyers I talk to often find this surprising.

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  26. This is the young faculty member that you talked to yesterday. I want to throw out one item for discussion.

    One of the things you mentioned yesterday was that various faculty members acted (and believed) as they did because they were protecting their way of life and their prerogatives. The implication of our discussion yesterday was that junior faculty didn't have as great an obligation to speak up because they didn't have the protections that tenured faculty did.

    After having thought this through, I've decided it is bunk. Junior faculty don't get a pass because we don't have tenure; failing to speak up against a wrong simply because it might cause me harm is the same species of lapse that one might level at senior faculty. It's favoring my own personal prerogatives over the well being of my students.

    If we are truly doing something other than feeding our students doctrine (and I desperately try to be more), we have an obligation to teach our students things which are not to our advantage, but to theirs. We have an obligation to challenge our students.

    More: we have an obligation to acknowledge that our students are in an impossible situation, and we (or those like us) may be to blame. Plenty of professors have acknowledged this internally (at least at my institution), but we've never acknowledged this to our students, for fear of lawsuits and/or backlash.

    At this point, the best I can do to insulate myself from that huge conflict of interest is to minimize the consequences of speaking. That means that instead of paying extra on my student loans (and yes, we're paid well enough that I can afford to do that), for the last nine months I've been putting the money in a "just in case" fund. I've planned what I'll do instead if they ask me to leave.

    The worst case scenario is actually not that bad. And I've realized the following: It would be easier for me to deal with the aftermath of failing to get tenure than it will be for half my students to deal with the aftermath of graduation. How I can remain silent given that, I don't know.

    But I am kidding myself if I think that sorting out the financial end of things is enough. The biggest costs are the social ones: I'm bad at confrontation--really bad--and I don't know how well I'll stand up to pressure. I don't want to embarrass my colleagues. I don't want to be the person that nobody talks to in the hallways. I can't insulate myself from that, not with any size emergency fund.

    And so I remain deeply conflicted and, yes, scared.

    But I can't let that stop me from speaking.

    This probably pinpoints me pretty effectively, and so I'm not sure why I bother posting anonymously. My fellow faculty members are surely aware by now that I feel this way.

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  27. @ 8:04.

    In applying to med school, I had to spend a crap ton of money flying around the country to garner one of the few seats in an LCME-accredited school.

    When I applied to law school years ago, I sent in money and an app with the same personal statement to a bunch of random schools.

    Also, in med, we have people like the IHS and the HPSP willing to finance our education as long as we work for them when we are done.

    Nobody in the government will finance a law education. Why? There is no need for any new lawyers.

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  28. Just to be clear, law schools do not interview applicants. It's a purely paper-driven process. Non-lawyers I talk to often find this surprising.

    They don't?? I'm astonished.

    Of course actually interviewing the candidates does mean a bit more work for faculty, which it appears to me from this blog would be a difficult thing to get them to do.

    Medical schools (at least where I was, and I have no reason to think it varies much) have an admissions committee that forms the pool of folks doing the interviewing. Our term on the committee was 4 years. The committee met regularly in the spring and voted on to whom we should offer a spot in the class, those we should reject, and those we should wait-list. At least on our committee, you also were expected to speak and explain your vote.

    There was a paper process before an applicant got offered an interview -- the first cut -- and that administrative screening involved some kind of formula with MCAT and GPA. Sometimes the dean would interview somebody who didn't quite make the cut just to see what they were like.

    I'm not saying it was a perfect process. In my term on the committee I saw some members who were fanatics about MCAT, or GPA, or whatever. Others were fans of the high-pressure style of interview, but most weren't. Since I was a history/religion major in college I pounded the drum for applicants with that sort of background. Everyone had their particular bias. But we did discuss every candidate as an individual, and the committee format helped wash out the bias, I think.

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  29. As LawProf said, law schools only care about GPA and LSAT. God forbid either side of the process had a chance to interview. Or if an applicant, like 8:01 said, mirrored someone whether in BigLaw, doc review, or whatever, for a semester or summer in high school or college. I suppose, in theory, they could, and there are many high school and college students then graduates work as clerks or paralegals, which makes their choice to attend law school all the more baffling.

    Going back up to Voodoo94's response, I think that we're making the same point, though you made it more coherently (I don't have any experience or many - any? - friends working in the DOJ or other federal agencies). My general point is, to get to that six figure salary, it takes 5 or 6 years. When law school costs what it does, to carry that debt, only to get to that pay scale after half a decade, is in my opinion crazy. You better really love the work or not mind carrying the debt.

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  30. @7:46

    A number of my former students are practicing in small towns and living happy and fulfilling lives with a general practice. Their income is modest compared to BigLaw and I am certain not adequate to service six figure debt. On the other hand, out of a graduating class of 300 or so at our two state university law schools only a few can have the opportunity to practice that kind of law, wonderful as it is. I had a young friend some years ago who left BigLaw in LA for Montana. Are you that guy?

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  31. LawOfficeComputing,

    How do you know they have fulfilling lives? Saddled with a 100k of non-dischargeable debt and a "modest" income would make me anything but fulfilled. This is coming from a former country lawyer.

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  32. @ Breezy: Is there anything in the nature of mid-semester evaluations at your school? When the 1Ls get their first feedback might be a good time to have a heart-to-heart talk about whether they're doing the smartest thing by going to law school.

    Unfortunately, no. My school does the standard final-exam-is-everything approach. And since grades don't roll out until somewhere between mid-January and mid-February (which strikes me as being unconscionable), students have already paid for an entire additional semester of law school before seeing how things went for the fall. I wish there was some sort of mid semester "come to jesus" moment where we could talk frankly with the students about their prospects.

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  33. The worst case scenario is actually not that bad.

    What is the worst case scenario for most law professors? (I'm honestly curious.) I don't think practice is an option for most of them, especially if they've been teaching for more than a couple of years. What are the other options?

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  34. I was impressed with her sense of ethical obligation

    Me too. Is she single ?!?

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  35. One other comment on the T10 - please do not overstate your likelihood of getting a good job out of the T10. Sure, it's much better than the 5% chance of a tier 2 school, but still about half of T10 grads wind up in jobs that were not what they were hoping for, and probably 10%-30% (depending on the school) wind up unemployded or in terrible jobs they hate but that they took because they had no other options. My point is that even if you go to a T10, you only have about a 50% chance of getting the job you wanted.

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  36. @8:41: What is the worst case scenario for most law professors? (I'm honestly curious.) I don't think practice is an option for most of them, especially if they've been teaching for more than a couple of years.

    Most junior faculty have only been teaching for a handful of years. We could transition. It might take a little time to transition effectively--hence the savings. I know several people who've left academia after a handful of years and gone back into practice.

    I wouldn't do that--but this is not really the time or place to talk about my personal fall back position.

    In the event that there is a Great Collapse of Law Schools, the market will be flooded with law professors and that might limit options--but for now, law is hierarchical enough that those of us with ridiculously good records and clerkships can find a place to work.

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  37. The Upton Sinclair quote in the OP [which, BTW, I first trotted out in a comment thread last week (!)] pretty much sums up the law school professor situation.

    I would note, however, that as a matter of simple crass self-preservation, if I were a law professor [tenured or not] at a mid-tier or lower school or a non-tenured professor at an upper tier school, I'd be working on "Plan B." If law schools continue pumping out twice as many grads as there are jobs, sooner or later, the system is going to crash, much like my son's guppy tank.

    There's simply no way the market will sustain the current imbalance between cost/benefit and supply/demand over the long term. When that happens, the supply of unemployed law professors is going to increase dramatically when schools start to cut back or, even, close up shop. The competition for fewer jobs at lower pay will be intense. If professors in this situation don't want to be one of those guppies floating upside down in a tank of fetid brown water, they better act now.

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  38. "If not law school, then what?"

    I think that's the question that must be answered if we want 0Ls who aren't right for law school to make a different decision.

    One thing I've been telling people is to look at a master's program. An MA or MFA isn't going to make you super appealing to employers, I know. But, I also only suggest people go to programs that are fully funded (and preferably come with a stipend on top). It won't improve your employment situation much, but at no cost to you, it's worth exploring before shelling out the big bucks for law. Maybe in that extra year or three, you'll discover what you want to do. And, if you still decide to go in to law, having that extra degree could help you land at a better school or get a scholarship. It certainly won't hurt your admission chances.

    On the long term career front, if you have any interest in the arts, you need to take a serious look at the emerging technologies that make it a lot easier to make a few bucks by sheer talent and hustle. Print on demand means you can cut out the middle man as a writer. If you can build up your own fan base and web presence and get local indie bookstores to carry your stuff, you can make some money. Maybe not enough to live on, but added to your bar tending/barista pay, it'll be pretty nice, and the emotional payout is huge. If you're a musician, you can put your stuff on to iTunes, if you're a painter, you can create a website and try to reach a nationwide audience (worldwide might be cost prohibitive with shipping).

    Our culture treats being an artist like a death sentence (by starvation, of course), and I think that makes a lot of bright artistically inclined college students turn to law instead, which leads to them being miserable, and isn't exactly great for the clients either.

    If you have any artistic talent and interest, take a year or two to pursue that. You can go to law school later, law schools aren't going anywhere. Think of it as buying a lotto ticket. Odds are you're not going to make it big as an artist of any sort, but just imagine the pay out if you do find that you can earn a living at it. And even if you fail, you won't spend your legal career regretting never giving it a shot.

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  39. Another magnificent post, Lawprof, but I fear that you and others will lose sight of the ultimate problem; what are the young people deterred from law school supposed to do with their lives? True, they're better off without the massive debt and they might be slightly better off avoiding the unhappiness that comes with private sector legal work, but they're still in a lot of trouble. The depressing answers to this question (e.g. be born into a family with a lot of money or be born with great math skills and try to get into another rent seeking sector of the economy (health care, finance)) is a by-product of the much bigger, fundamental problem.

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  40. "I'm surprised to learn that law school admissions committees don't require of applicants some practical exposure to what law practice is. It's certainly different for medical school."

    Chris Johnson:

    Not only do law schools not require ANY kind of practical experience with - or even exposure to - law practice, they have outright disdain and contempt for it. Before attending law school, I wanted to find out for myself whether the legal profession, and the environment and manner in which it’s practiced, was something I wanted to commit myself to. I worked as case manager at several major firms in a major U.S. market where I worked on a wide variety of litigation and corporate matters, and basically did everything one could do without having the law degree. I did real, substantive work and didn’t just spend my time stuck with level low administrative tasks. In fact, at my last firm, one partner I worked with told me that with my skill level, experience and innate abilities, I would easily fit in to the role of a third or fourth year associate in any major, reputable firm in the country. In essence, I offered real value to the profession.

    What happened when I got to law school and they learned of the depth and breadth of my experience? I was treated with contempt and hostility by a number of the faculty and especially the administration. For the most part, these were people who had limited to no experience in the profession and had no clue as to what really went on in the day to day realities of legal practice. Yet, in their eyes, I was some sort of upstart who dared to challenge the status quo of the “right” path – undergrad and then right on to law school – and for the most part did nothing but completely discount and dismiss the experience I had.

    There are many serious problems with the way legal education is carried out in this country. But one of them is that the people who are the gate keepers of the profession have almost no experience in the profession, for the most part have nothing but contempt for the profession and look down on those who have any real experience in the profession. To say that I quickly became demoralized in that environment is an understatement. I have a strong feeling that others have experienced this same disconnect in law school. In my opinion, this is but one of the major problems with the law school experience.

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  41. 8:18: Fear of social ostracism probably keeps more people quiet than more straightforward concerns about the potential loss of income or professional identity. I don't know what the answer to that problem is, other than to recognize that the psychological costs of faking it are to my mind even higher (The best solution is no doubt to be a clueless idiot who thinks everything is just fine except for some marginal tweaking here and there).

    9:06: I agree completely, but as somebody said we must all cultivate our own gardens.

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  42. I have been practicing law for over a dozen years and I was also an adjunct at the college level for over 4 years. Here are a few of my observations having been on the battlefield:

    a) Nowadays, every parent believes their offspring is "brilliant," "gifted," or "extraordinary." The parents inculcate their kids with a false sense of greatness that follows them from the cradle through college. Kids are told they can "do anything" or be "anyone you want to be." This has also been referenced to as the "helicopter parents syndrome."

    b) When I graduated college, less than 8 people had a 4.0 GPA in my entire class (my graduating class numbered in the thousands). Today, it seems that dozens, if not, hundreds of kids graduate with a perfect 4.0 or 4.3 GPA. This severe case of grade inflation has bolstered the false sense of greatness that galvanizes kids to think they will be the next Oliver Wendell Holmes or Ronald Dworkin. I can tell you that when I taught, the administration was critical of my grading system and would chastise me for not awarding more A's. I quit my post rather than compromise on my integrity. I felt that giving kids an inflated A would do them more harm than good as it was a false gauge of their academic progress.

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  43. Continued--

    c) Newly minted lawyers are indeed self-entitled. Now I am not saying this is based on greed but perhaps on the pressures of graduating with six figure non-dischargeable debt. The concept of "paying your dues" has been discarded from the basic work ethic that was ingrained in my generation of law graduates. Kids go to law school for money. Let's be honest here. I have read the personal statements of "I want to save the world, public interest BS." You don't incur $150K of debt to take on a $40K a year job at the public defender's office or at the ACLU. Today, kids are not being realistic or fail to grasp the economic consequences of their unintelligible decisions.

    d) When the 3L or law grad fails to secure a job, the parents, friends or boy/girfriend encourage the grad to hang a shingle. Hanging a shingle is not a bad idea; however, you need practical training first. In my day, this was achieved by working for a firm (preferably smaller unless you think hanging a shingle consists of evolving from being a doc review monkey). With the legal market contracting, the opportunities for grads to learn basic legal skills with a firm are decreasing. What I am seeing is many recent grads with no legal experience opening a law office (virtual offices seem all the rage these days). These inexperienced attorneys believe that passing the bar exam is enough to practice law. This is false. Sure you can get legal software, copy off of boilerplate motion forms and pleadings from your locally outdated CLE manuals; nevertheless, this is no substitute for possessing the knowledge to practice law, which is something not taught in law school but only gained through entry level legal work experience.

    e) With the profession glutted as it is today, practicing law now has become a race to the bottom. I am seeing more younger "practitioners" try to compete in the marketplace by undercutting on fees and taking shortcuts on the legal work. This will result in more disciplinary proceedings, legal malpractice claims and added public scorn on the legal profession. My malpractice insurance premiums have increased by 300% in the last 5 years even though I have not had a single bar complaint or malpractice action filed against me. When I inquire why my rates are increasing at such an alarming level, the underwriter replies "well there are many claims against other attorneys in your field and the pie has to be split."

    Conclusion: Law schools are not the sole culprit. Parents need to stop being so doting of their children and prepare them for the realities of the real world. Having a 4.0 GPA and a 167LSAT score does not mean you will be the next F. Lee Bailey. Law schools and colleges, however, have taken advantage of the amount of coddling that kids have been subjected to. Law school deans do not go far enough in explaining the realities of the legal profession. Instead, they emphasize the $160K salaries and 95% employed at or within 9 months of graduation, which we all know are massaged stats. Hollywood hasn't helped either (e.g. "The Firm," "Boston Legal," "LA Law," "The Practice," "Lincoln Lawyer," etc.). The current crop of kids in law school are in for a rude awakening.

    I commend this blog, its author and the comments section for addressing a topic could have been highlighted 20 years ago.

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  44. @9:06: See my comment just above yours.

    When I got laid off and wasn't able to immediately bounce back, I was faced with a very similar question, what else am I supposed to do?

    I'm pursuing a writing career now, and making a pretty decent go of it actually. I would have been much better off though, trying to be a writer without $150,000 in student loans (that's what's remaining, the initial amount was much higher).

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  45. Print on demand means you can cut out the middle man as a writer. If you can build up your own fan base and web presence and get local indie bookstores to carry your stuff, you can make some money.

    @9:01: This is absolutely crap advice. Even Amanda Hocking and John Locke (and if you're talking self-publishing and you don't know the names Amanda Hocking and John Locke, you're like the 0L who thinks law is a place to get a "good job") make very little, comparatively, on POD versions.

    The money is in self-publishing digital versions--and even then, most people are looking at chump change. Think on the order of tens of copies sold every month--about $20 worth--and you've got the gist of things. If you're good, and if you have a host of other hats that you can don (aesthetic sensibilities to build a good book cover; the ability to shepherd a quality product through to the end; and the marketing chops to get recognition in an extremely crowded environment), you can make decent money. But don't start counting your billions, or even your tens, yet.

    Don't do anything without educating yourself thoroughly. Recognize that in every field you go in to, a small percent of the people will make most of the money. The closer that field is to anything artistic, the smaller that percent will be--and the greater the upside will be.

    And then choose a field where you are in the top 5%, not one where you're in the middle.

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  46. @9:10

    As an outsider, that just seems crazy.

    Medicine certainly has an element of town/gown jostling -- docs in practice may scoff at what the academics say they should be doing, and fancy professors have been known to sneer at what docs at St. Elsewhere (people really say that) are doing -- but it's pretty small potatoes on the whole. Of course that's partly because the two sides need each other: medical centers need the referrals of patients to them, and private practice docs need the medical centers for their expertise. In contrast, it appears that nobody actually practicing law needs law school faculty for anything.

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  47. 9:32, I'm pretty sure that for most young attorneys, "hanging a shingle" is a horrible idea. It's tantamount to doubling down (hanging a shingle costs money *and* has opportunity costs) on a something that objectively looks like a bad bet.


    And what does "self entitled" mean? Why shouldn't people feel entitled to a middle class existence? Why shouldn't people with high levels of intelligence feel entitled to have employers (most of whom are wealthy and obviously much more experienced in legal practice) bear the burden of figuring out how they can add value? I just read a history of A&P, and it was revealing to me that the Hartford family, while flawed, believed strongly that as long as they hired smart people, the company had an obligation to figure out where those people would fit best and was just as responsible for employee failure as the employees themselves. The world would be a much better place if employers felt that way today, too.

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  48. Chris Johnson:

    I'm 9:10.

    If you think it seems crazy just from having read the post, try living it for three years. I'm not exaggerating here: I worked on all types of litigation and corporate matters - many of which were reported on in the NYT or WSJ - with well-respected practitioners at high profile, well-respected firms. I exhibited no arrogance about this experience and had no expectations that I be treated differently from other students in law school, but I was confronted, repeatedly, with almost outright hostility and dismissal from professors and administrators. Honestly, administrators were far worse, but some of the professors - especially those who had little real world, practical experience - treated me as though I was some mentally challenged homeless person who had wandered into the law school by mistake.

    In my view, the system of legal education in this country is so devoid of any connection to reality and irretrievably broken that I wouldn't know where to begin to fix it.

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  49. @10:02

    The emperor without the clothes didn't like the little boy pointing that out to the crowd, either.

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  50. @9:42: The medium isn't really the point. It's that new technology has significantly reduced the role of gate keepers in artistic fields.

    Tens of copies a month isn't as depressing as it looks. Going with Lulu's ebook pricing calculator, your take home on each $9.99 copy sold should be $6.29. If you can hustle your way to 20 copies a month, that's an extra $125.80 a month. Clearly not enough to live on, but, as I said, it can make your menial job in retail or food service or whatever much less depressing. You're doing what you enjoy, and making a few bucks doing it.

    If you have the energy and patience to stick with it, you can build a bigger fan base, get more exposure, have a couple more books out, and maybe get to the point where you're only working part time folding clothes at The Gap.

    It's not a guaranteed road to success, but hey, neither is a law degree. And, you don't have to shell out $100,000 to try it.

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  51. Hey 10:02: were you constantly letting everyone know that: "I worked on all types of litigation and corporate matters - many of which were reported on in the NYT or WSJ - with well-respected practitioners at high profile, well-respected firms."..?

    The only thing an arrogant jerk hates more is another arrogant jerk.

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  52. Slightly off-topic, but what BL1Y says can work with niche nonfiction, fiction not so much. There are many, many sites about self-publishing. Some of the information on them is even true. Beware the prophets extolling the wonders of the self-publishing revolution, though. (I'm not saying BL1Y is one of those.)

    A good all around source for information is the forum at AbsoluteWrite.com (Full disclosure -- I'm one of the Moderators there.)

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  53. @10:35:

    Read my post. As I stated, "I exhibited no arrogance about this experience and had no expectations that I be treated differently from other students in law school." There should be nothing wrong with having experience in the legal profession and knowing about it before you attend law school.

    When people queried me about what I did before law school, I told them. The mere fact of telling people - without any subjectivity or, as you put it, being an arrogant jerk - brought out the knives and a vindictiveness I've seen only among the most spoiled and petulant children. There is no reason why someone with real experience in an endeavor should be treated with contempt and hostility - certainly not when you're paying for the education. Medical schools do not treat their students this way. In fact, they demand that students have experience in the profession so that they know what they're talking about and know what they're getting into.

    In law school, you're expected to be some meek, naive, ignorant mouse who runs around scared of these ridiculous paper tigers. The system is wrong and it operates only for the benefit of these arrogant, do nothings.

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  54. The person who commented on the entire economy is absolutely right. And it drives the law school scam. And people like Campos can only really "tend their own gardens" but I just wish there were more gardeners.

    Like I said yesterday the govt is, above all, the main driver here. If they didn't give out non-dischargeable loans to anyone with a pulse and without any conditions (like minimizing tuition raises each year) then tier 3 and 4 schools would not exist and, more importantly, people would not be saddled with 6 figure debt loads along with their stupid decision to go to law school.

    In life people take wrong turns all the time but to be stuck with that debt along with it is unconscionable. All the other topics discussed here are valuable (dishonesty of law schools, horrible system of legal education, kids going to law school with their heads stuck up their ases, etc.) but are so difficult to address because they mostly involve human nature or an institutionalized way of doing things that we all know are nearly impossible to change. There will always be dummies who go to grad school when its against their own interest and there will always be arrogant horrible profs who take advantage of their tenure. Those things aren't going to change much when tackled head on.

    We need to concentrate on the evil educational loan system above all else.

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  55. @10:35:

    10:02 here again. Who's really the arrogant jerk here? The person who goes out and gets experience in an endeavor before they commit to it or the legions of so-called professors who have little to no experience in the legal profession, haven't done much of anything in decades and expect tuition paying students to genuflect in front of them and get down on their knees and kiss their feet?

    There was one so-called professor at my school who, after law school and his clerkships, was a serial failure out in the real world. He had been pushed out of the last real job he had and has now spent the last almost 40 years doing not much of anything. This guy teaches the same two classes every year - one per semester - does no real work and is well paid. The guy hasn't done ANYTHING of note, either professionally or academically, in decades, yet walks around as though he's God's gift to the legal profession. Law schools are filled to the brim with such people.

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  56. Hey 10:43 - we all went to law school here and they treated us all like shit too, for the most part. I've known plenty of paralegals who tried to be just as pompous as attorneys....the fact that you went to law school instead of screaming the other way after your experiences in the law tells me what type of paralegal you were.

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  57. 10:54:

    You don't know me at all and your response about me is uninformed. Your statement above - "the fact that you went to law school instead of screaming the other way after your experiences in the law tells me what type of paralegal you were" - only speaks of your own bias and arrogance not mine.

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  58. Oh well...we all have our own biases. Its just that Ive known an incredible amount of obnoxious know-it-all paralegals and an even larger amount of obnoxious know-it-all law students. Law school wasn't only horrible because of the professors. Just sayin'

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  59. @ 9:32

    "c) Newly minted lawyers are indeed self-entitled. Now I am not saying this is based on greed but perhaps on the pressures of graduating with six figure non-dischargeable debt. The concept of "paying your dues" has been discarded from the basic work ethic that was ingrained in my generation of law graduates. Kids go to law school for money. Let's be honest here. I have read the personal statements of "I want to save the world, public interest BS." You don't incur $150K of debt to take on a $40K a year job at the public defender's office or at the ACLU. Today, kids are not being realistic or fail to grasp the economic consequences of their unintelligible decisions."

    Lots of "blaming the victim" in this paragraph, which I applaud. I also enjoyed reading how the younger generations have no work ethic like those hard-working, dues-paying, non-entitled older generations who are now applying for entitlement benefits that the younger generations are paying for.

    These types of comments should be encouraged, because broad-brushed generalizations about the work ethic of millions of people are helpful.

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  60. Have not seen a comment from a law professor in quite a while. I guess now that they know the Law Prof hasn't written a law review article in a few years they can just ignore this blog now. The vermin.

    Pitchfork ready.

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  61. @11:25
    I have commented quite a bit. I retired after 44 years but I am still a Prof Emeritus. Does that count? As I have said before, many in law teaching agree with Law Prof. It is impossible to ignore it.

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  62. Professors frozen at the lectern like a late Soviet strong-man. Wincing as they watch their lie unravel.

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  63. 11:01
    How did the administrators know of your prior experience? I can see it coming out in conversations with professors, but how did it come out with the administrators? I think I talked to administrative people once or twice the entire time I was in law school.

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  64. 10:02, your story is completely implausible. As someone else has pointed out, "I worked on all types of litigation and corporate matters - many of which were reported on in the NYT or WSJ - with well-respected practitioners at high profile, well-respected firms. I exhibited no arrogance about this experience and had no expectations that I be treated differently from other students in law school, but I was confronted, repeatedly, with almost outright hostility and dismissal from professors and administrators." - even your description of your pre-law school experiences makes you sound like an arrogant jerk, from my point of view as a current practitioner. I suspected that any professors or administrators (or students) who responded poorly to your self-descriptions were reacting to their perception that you were an arrogant jerk, not to the mere fact that you had spent time as a biglaw paralegal before law school.

    It's incredibly common to have served as a paralegal, investigator, or other litigation/corporate support professional before having entered law school. I had dozens of classmates and fellow summer associates in that category. They described their experiences in a straightforward fashion and were not stigmatized by any professor, administrator, student, or practitioner -- either that I personally saw or that they ever described.

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  65. @12:25:

    11:01 here.

    My situation was somewhat unique and I had to have interaction with administrators at various times. As far as my background, they asked and I told them. It was as simple as that. Their intent may have been to make small talk, thinking that I was some inexperienced, naive twenty-something who drifted into law school because I didn't know what else to do with my life, but when it was clear that I had done my homework before going to law school, was in law school for a clearly defined reason/purpose and that I knew what I was talking about, they became hostile. Maybe I was a threat to their own perceived status or whatever, but the truth is that it was the oddest experience I've ever had. The administrators I encountered were far more comfortable with the "children" who drifted into law school not knowing what to do as it was probably easier to continue to sell those people the bill of goods that was necessary to keep them in line with the system and the process.

    I knew the realities of the legal profession and was well informed before going. I was there for a specific reason: get the credential so that I could go back to the real world and make a living as a lawyer. I think that the people in these schools have a problem with that. They don't like the fact that someone is self-motivated and informed. I think it threatens the view that administrators and professors have built up about themselves and the charade that is law school. Every time I dealt with one particular administrator - the Dean of Students, mind you - this person insulted and belittled me for absolutely no reason whatsoever. After a couple of incidents like this, I wrote this person off. I then wrote the law school off. I have no intention or interest in giving that place a penny in alumni support. I view law school as nothing more than a simple financial transaction: I paid for the degree and the school got the money.

    I’ve mentioned this before but this type of treatment is wrong. Law schools should be seeking out those who are well informed about and experienced in the field before the come to law school. Law school admissions should really be more like those for medical school. Even Gerry Spence has stated as much.

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  66. @12:49

    "10:02, your story is completely implausible."

    No it's not and too fucking bad if you don't believe me. And what makes you think that your view as "a current practitioneror" [sic] is somehow more valid than what my experience in law school or before it happened to be?

    This blog is supposed to be about examining the problems with the way current legal education is carried out and what can be done to fix/change it so that the profession is improved. Your viewpoint is so calcified that you become hostile to those whose experiences don't fit in with your preconceived notion of how people should behave. This is one of the real problems with legal education in this country; the people running it have all kinds of preconceived ideas of what students are like based on their own inherent prejudices and biases and they fail to deal with people on a base by case basis.

    I never, ever presented my prior experience the way you characterize it. Sounds to me lilke you're just projecting based on your own insecurities.

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  67. Dude, you're coming off as a douche and everyone is picking up on it. Perhaps you should ask yourself why.

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  68. The very existence of this blog (in my estimation a very valuable one for Americans), and the very fact that there is ANY debate going on here about HOW AND WHY A PLURALITY OF AMERICAN LAWYERS HAVE REASONS TO FEAR DYING IN POVERTY, remind me of how and why I emigrated to and settled in Australia...

    ...yes Australia is not immune from the effects of America's neo-Calvinist pyschotic fantasies of a magical "free market" and/or America's Frankenstinian-Social-Darwinist-NeoCalvinist-Eugenicist superstition of "survival of the fittest"...

    ...HOWEVER, the fact remains, that down here in Australia our national identity is mainly based on the ideal of "MATESHIP", meaning a late-Modern-British-(yes including Irish) working-class ideal, informed by Christianity, of regarding EVERYONE as having some basic human dignity and being WORTHY OF BEING HELPED for a "fair go" REGARDLESS OF THEIR DISADVANTAGES and REGARDLESS OF THE "MARKET"!

    (And that means regardless of arbitrarily defined classes of victims such as "race" or "gender" victims; that kind of bullshit doesn't fly very far down here. A "fair go" means just that, a fair go.)

    The protagonist of our de facto national anthem, "Waltzing Matilda", was a White Male. And unless and until you Americans (my former compatriots) get it through your thick heads that "race" and "gender" and "sexual orientation" have NOTHING to do with the realities of social injustice, you'll continue to swing in the breeze while the financial oligarchs continue to rape you.

    The protagonist in "Waltzing Matilda" was a White Male. And legions of American White Males (formerly middle class) presently are becoming as desperate as him. Please just STOP nattering about "race" and "gender" and (most meaningless of all) "sexual orientation", and get down to the SERIOUS business of recognising who your ECONOMIC class-enemies are!

    Here's Waltzing Matilda; although practically speaking I know only a handful of American student-loan-slaves (the "Indentured Educated Class") can emigrate to Australia, nonetheless I suggest this song should be their ideal:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INdjRCNcZj0

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  69. "It's incredibly common to have served as a paralegal, investigator, or other litigation/corporate support professional before having entered law school."

    And most of them did little more than low level administrative work, e.g., photocopying and document management, that could have been performed by a motivated high school student. That fact that someone else's experience was far different from this never crossed your mind, right?

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  70. Can I respectfully suggest that the broader question--whether law professors respect practice experience--is irrelevant to the question of whether a particular individual is or is not a douchebag? It might be more productive not to focus on any one person.

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  71. True - but the entire system is filled with clueless entitled douches that keeps the system going.

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  72. The anonymous lady doth protest too much, methinks...

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  73. 10:02/1:04 - 12:49 here. In response to your question:

    "And what makes you think that your view as "a current practitioneror" [sic] is somehow more valid than what my experience in law school or before it happened to be?"

    Let's start with the fact that I actually spelled the word "practitioner" correctly in my post above, and you misquoted me to make it appear that I had misspelled the word in question. I'm starting to understand why those professors and administrators might have treated you with such "outright hostility and dismissal" - and again, it had very little to do with your pre-law experience in litigation support.

    To 1:21 (if you are a different person), you wrote: "And most of them did little more than low level administrative work, e.g., photocopying and document management, that could have been performed by a motivated high school student. That fact that someone else's experience was far different from this never crossed your mind, right?"

    To be honest, I wasn't thinking of support staff as merely doing low-level administrative work. In my field, paralegals and investigators are out in the field doing substantive witness interviews and investigative research (in addition to document management and other administrative tasks). They're incredibly valuable, helpful parts of our case teams; their skills far exceed that of "motivated high school student[s]"; and they often choose to go on to top law schools (aided by their investigative experience at my employer). So I know it's possible to have a fairly substantive legal experience as a support staffperson. I also know that others have more of the "low-level administrative" experience you describe. And my law school classmates who'd held these jobs pre-law school belonged to both demographics; they were treated with respect regardless of the demographic to which they belonged. So to answer 1:21's question, I never started from the assumption that you seem to assume I did. I understand that support staff positions are not all created alike.

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  74. I've worked with tons of paralegals in biglaw. Almost none did any substantial legal work. Thats what mid-level associates are for. Hell, junior associates rarely did any substantial legal work. Its just that many paralegals (the lifers) tended to but into the social henpecking that the partners maintained and made far too much out of what they really did. Obnoxiousness tends to breed obnoxiousness.

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  75. Yet another interesting thread of thoughtful comments derailed by the pointless bickering of a few asshats. Can't you go duke it out in an online chat room or something?

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  76. As a twenty year law school professor I must say that I am appalled. I am appalled at your inability to have a civil discussion amonst yourselves. I am appalled at the veiled threats against my poor colleagues. Teachers who want nothing more than to follow their calling and teach the next generation of practicing lawyers about Law and Gender Identity Issues in the Mayan Civilization.

    Shame shame shame on all of you.

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  77. Oh I know...the legal world is filled with academics, judges and partners who never engage in childish bickering. For shame.

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  78. Cripple fight?



    ...Cripple fight.

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  79. All this talk of paralegals going to law school makes me wonder how common this is, which is a back door way of asking what proportion of new law students have practical experience with what their job is likely to be. My sense from most of the comments is that law students are clueless about this; yet there appears to be a nontrivial fraction of a typical class that has, or ought to have, a clue.

    As a physician practicing a very high-risk specialty that also encounters cases of child abuse, I've had more than a few contacts *cough* with the legal system. Until the actual deposition or trial time comes I'm always dealing with paralegals.

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  80. Law Office Computing,

    We haven't seen much in the way of follow-up from any of the law professor bloggers who wrote about Lawprof on their own blogs. Leiter, Kerr, Althouse, Horwitz, etc. They all thought it was very interesting that Lawprof was anonymous. They all thought he was very wrong to suggest some of the things he did about law professors. They never really had anything to say about student outcomes or debt. And none of them have said anything for a while. The blog continues to attract more and more people to the conversation, but not law professors, who seem to want to stay out. Do you have some insight into this? Are law professors aware of this blog? Are they reading it?

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  81. Anonymous Prof, I think we're all appalled at how your industry manipulates statistics to sign kids up to train for careers aren't there. But whatever, I guess a little bickering on the internet is much worse.

    Seriously, where do you get off trying to saying "shame on you" to anybody? Who do you think you are?

    This isn't your classroom, and you don't get to "shame" the posters here like you do in your classroom. If you can't handle a little mud being thrown in between the honest criticism, then it really is true that law professors can't hack it in the actual practice of law.

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  82. 2:07 is not being serious.

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  83. Ah, you're right, I ignored the last sentence about Gender Identity Issues, etc.

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  84. Chris Johnson:

    The proportion of new law students having practical experience with what their job is likely to be is very, very low. This is one of the reasons why you have so much dissatisfaction among new lawyers, regardless of what type of environment they work in. Your sense is correct: law students are, for the most part, clueless about this.

    This is only because of the nature of the way law school admissions are run. This could easily be changed and law schools, like medical schools, could demand practical experience as part of an applicants package. This would achieve at least two objectives: (1) because they're aren't that many such paralegal jobs that would give substantive experience, fewer people would have them; (2) this would then cut down on the pool of people applying to and getting accepted by law schools. Achieving these two objectives alone would cut down on the number of people going to law school and the number of people in the profession. It would also help ensure that those who did the work and jumped through the additional hoops to get into law school are serious about going into the profession. This would cut down immediately all those who drift into law school after undergrad because they don't know what else to do with their lives.

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  85. @10:51
    "We need to concentrate on the evil educational loan system above all else."

    Right -- we should go back to the good old days, when the only people with access to higher education were the ones with serious family money.

    C'mon. The issue here is that no society has ever suffered from a lack of talented, intelligent people. We just used to have different social structures to keep most of those people "in their place."

    Modern American society, however, is one in which for about forty to fifty years, from WWII to maybe the 80s or early 90s, we actually believed in class mobility and the dream of employing everyone's mental talents instead of just their ability to pull a plow, pick a field, or drive a rivet. We've spent the last twenty or thirty years completely giving up on the public commitments to reduce economic inequality and provide challenging employment for everyone that are required by that kind of dream. We've further created a society where manual labor is looked down upon, so much so that we've exported all of those jobs we can -- and now we've woken up when the rich own everything and we've discovered that 80% of our population isn't really needed for anything.

    So instead of reforming our society to find them a place, we're casting them aside. Oh well! Maybe next life you'll be born as one of the top <1%. Meanwhile everything you were raised to see as a means of bettering yourself has become just another easily exploited trap for the unwary.

    But now I'm a bit outside the walls of the University, so probably best to keep what's left of my peace.

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  86. This would cut down immediately all those who drift into law school after undergrad because they don't know what else to do with their lives.

    I graduated from a smallish liberal arts college in 1974 with a history major. Even then there was a large contingent of my colleagues who answered the "what are you going to do" question with: "I dunno, go to law school, I guess." Alumni meetings in subsequent years showed more and more drifting to law school, maybe peaking at 8 years after graduation. That kind of intake group is not likely to produce a high proportion of enthusiastic lawyers.

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  87. In essence, the entry barriers to law school need to be increased. This can be achieved by (1) shutting down all but the one flagship state university law school in each state (CA may need more than one - Boalt and UCLA should suffice); (2) closing down all the private law schools ranked below #30 on the USNWR list; (3) demanding real experience in the profession from applicants; (4) interviewing all applicants - the way med. school applicants are interviewed; and finally (5) cutting down and change the way government loan money is freely used to underwrite this broken system.

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  88. "Right -- we should go back to the good old days, when the only people with access to higher education were the ones with serious family money."

    You obviously did not understand the main point; the govt needs to put in place rules for law schools who benefit from these loans (lower tuition rates being the main one and being able to discharge the loans through bankruptcy another). Are you that ignorant that you can't see that the beneficiaries of educational loans the 1% you're crying about and not the poor students who end up with $200 grand in loans?

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  89. @2:20
    I am certain that the LawProf Blog is being read by many in academia. There is not an awful lot to actually dispute. Unfortunately, LawProf's decision (which I understand) to not monitor the comments allows the commentary to go completely off track sometimes as it did today. Since there are many meritorious observations in the comments my fear is that they can get lost in the rumble. If people would take their personal disputes to some other venue it would allow the on point commentary to survive. My hope is that LawProf will make a book out of this collection that will take the issue to a larger audience. The truth about the situation posed by non-dischargable debt of the size mentioned so many times here needs to be aired out in the public commons so that decision makers beyond the law school and perhaps beyond the University can be made aware of this crisis. Major changes need to be made to address the problems illuminated here. Those changes need to be made at many levels both within and without the law school.

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  90. "my fear is that they can get lost in the rumble."

    I wish we could all be as intelligent and perfect and superior as you.

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  91. LOC: if that is your perspective, and if you are a retired professor, why don't you use your free time to make your case via book-writing?

    I think that a book could well be written about the need for reforms in legal academia, and I think that a book would be a far more useful contribution to the discourse than the over-the-top hyperbole that appears in both the posts and comments to this blog.

    - Not a professor (since those engaging in this hyperbole assume that the only people who could disagree with them or be critical of them are professors who are riding the putative gravy train)

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  92. This point has been made before but it is not in the law school's interests to require its applicants to have practical experience in law, or to require interviews. Such hurdles will cull the applicant herd, and that is not in the law school professors' and administrators' interests.

    These requirements in the medical school admission context do a lot to reduce the number of applicants. Not to mention a real admission test that tests your knowledge in three of the hard sciences. Not some nonsensical bs "logic games".

    You do not apply to medical school on a whim, the successful applicant generally begins the process years before entering medical school. To the contrary, I believe that many many college students do apply to law school on a whim, and I believe the law schools like that just fine.

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  93. FWIW, at least one law profs blog continues to take a look at the issues raised here:

    http://lsi.typepad.com/

    You can bet others are reading it too, especially Leiter.

    To be honest, I don't really blame law profs for not wanting to post to the comments section of this particular blog. It's an important discussion, and I wish more were part of it, but the vermin/nazi/scum/ponzi schemer comments aren't constructive.

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  94. Please...just stfu complaining about what is and Isn't constructive. Complaining about what is and isn't constructive is the least constructive thing you can do. Instead of complaining and wasting your valuable time here go and harangue your congressman, law school, faculty members, ABA, etc. and actually do something "constructive."

    If a bunch of law students with $200 grand in debt want to call the people responsible vermin, or other colorful language,....well, I see it as a perfectly reasonable response. Now take your own advice and kindly go do something constructive.

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  95. @3:21
    "I think that a book could well be written about the need for reforms in legal academia, and I think that a book would be a far more useful contribution to the discourse than the over-the-top hyperbole that appears in both the posts and comments to this blog"

    I don't disagree with your comment but that book is being written here, crowd sourced if you will. My expertise is not here. I am one of the "failed academics" (per Prof. Leiter)who decided to stop writing law review articles after 25 years. I am therefore suspect among the "elite". I am also grandfather to seven children who want what small amount of attention I have left.

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  96. (5:37 again):

    One issue about psychic damage and disclosure: One could point to empirical evidence showing a correlation between practicing law and various unpleasant conditions. These results don't prove a causal connection, and the causal connection may run the other way to some extent (certain personalty types are drawn to law). Nonetheless, it seems likely that the practice of law increases one's likelihood of suffering depression, abusing alcohol, and seeking a divorce.

    For example: "Researchers at John Hopkins University found statistically significant elevations of major depressive disorder in only 3 of 104 occupations surveyed. When adjusted for sociodemographics, lawyers topped the list, suffering from depression at a rate of 3.6 times higher than employed persons generally. Lawyers also suffer from alcoholism and illegal drug use at rates far higher than non-lawyers. The divorce rate among lawyers, especially women, also appears to be higher than the divorce rate among other professionals." http://www.lawyerswithdepression.com/lawyersunhappy.asp

    At a minimum, the entire legal profession should do what it can to help reduce the stress of the profession and its negative consequences, and law schools should seek to help people learn to cope with the stress and its consequences.

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  97. Teachers who want nothing more than to follow their calling and teach the next generation of practicing lawyers about Law and Gender Identity Issues in the Mayan Civilization.

    Okay, I'll admit it: I LOL'd.

    Oh I know...the legal world is filled with academics, judges and partners who never engage in childish bickering. For shame.

    You wanna see one of the most impressive displays of shockingly unseemly bickering IN A PUBLISHED OPINION check out some of the recent output from my august home state of NJ's supreme court -- Johnson v Johnson (2011) is an absolutely delightful read in which the Justices are accusing each other of "bullying prattle".

    Not to mention a real admission test that tests your knowledge in three of the hard sciences.

    Nitpicking here, but it's four. I've been teaching the MCAT for ten years, and while the organic chem has steadily been reduced, it's still there. You've gotta be up on Physics, Chem, Orgo, and Bio for the MCAT. It's a fantastic exam. Admittedly I'm not too objective since my bread and butter comes from teaching it, but for what my subjective opinion is worth it's the single best standardized test in wide use (second perhaps only to the USMLE, and in a weird way the ASVAB).

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  98. Yeah BW that was a good one.

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  99. 97 comments. Now 98. I'm sure it's been said. A law professor . . . frustrated about someone hiding the ball. Imagine.

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  100. "Dude, you're coming off as a douche and everyone is picking up on it. Perhaps you should ask yourself why."

    +1

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  101. Lawprof, do you know whether professors are getting kickbacks from publishers for forcing students to purchase textbooks?

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  102. Come on RLC, let's stick to the main scam (job placement stats) without looking for misdeeds in every tiny wrinkle.

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  103. "Please...just stfu complaining about what is and Isn't constructive..."

    If a bunch of law students with $200 grand in debt want to call the people responsible vermin, or other colorful language...well, I see it as a perfectly reasonable response...


    LOL this is an unmoderated (anonymous!) comment thread on the inter-tubes. As soon as you get more than four people together it's going to turn into standard fare: a hodge-podge of nonsense, insight, insults and the ever-present Godwin's Law. I do my small part by adding a mix of self-aggrandizement and condescension. It's good times.

    If y'alls don't have a thick enough skin for the internet, may I suggest returning to your large-print copies of Reader's Digest and coupon clipping.

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  104. Oh, yes-- talking on the Internet is sooo tough.

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  105. Here's an idea for Lawprof: do some comparative law for us - is there anything the US (and the UK, for that matter) can learn from the way other countries train their legal professionals?

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  106. Another reason why law professor bloggers have stopped public criticism of Lawprof: he made them all look like fools. It helps that the facts are on his side, but his smack-down skills are formidable nonetheless.

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  107. OT, David Bernstein has an amusing post on Volokh Conspiracy that touches on the frustrations of debating with Brian Leiter:

    http://volokh.com/2011/09/07/brian-leiter-on-freud-again/

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  108. Bernstein, really.

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  109. Breezy wheeze. Since orgo is organic chemistry i was including that as chemistry.

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  110. The worst case scenario is actually not that bad. And I've realized the following: It would be easier for me to deal with the aftermath of failing to get tenure than it will be for half my students to deal with the aftermath of graduation. How I can remain silent given that, I don't know.

    Please wait until you're tenured. Really, I believe someone as morally upstanding as yourself (to be even considering throwing your career away) has the moral obligation to put yourself in a secure enough position and status that your opinion will matter.

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