My correspondent asks:DearCongratulations once again on your admission to the Earle Mack School of Law! We hope that you’re as excited as our current students are about joining the Earle Mack family. In fact, they are so excited to tell you all about what life as an Earle Mack student is like. So, please join them as they host our first admitted student chat of the season, “Meet the Students.” The chat will be held on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Our students can’t wait to share some of their experiences here at Earle Mack and how they are raising the bar.
To register for the chat, click here.
We hope to see you online!
Isabel "Issa" DiSciullo
Assistant Dean for Admissions
So, what questions should I (or any other prospective Earle Mack Law student) ask? Also, why would students participate in something like this? Do they know they're damning those they convince to go to a life of debt slavery? I've been offered a $1,000/credit scholarship(approximately $90,000 over the course of three years) but the school still costs a cool $112,000 not taking into account tuition increases.Good questions. I followed up with him about his own decision process, and he responded:
I sent in most of my applications in two weeks ago and have only heard back from Drexel so far. My GPA and LSAT are good enough to get into high top 50 school but not T14 (So Iowa and Illinois) but I'm not shelling out well over a hundred thousand dollars for law school. I've mostly applied to Tier II schools like Pitt looking for a full ride or more (Mercer offers a $5000 a year stipend, although it's a TTT). I'm a political science major, so my options are basically law school or enlisting/trying to go officer side in the military. I AM genuinely interested in becoming a lawyer, but I am wary thanks to sites like yours, so I WILL not go to school unless it is cheap or free. As a side note, there is tremendous pressure from my parents(who are fairly well off) to go. Neither of them graduated from college and I believe that they see some sort of prestige in law that they never had despite doing well as high school graduates. They would shell out $150,000 plus for me to go to a top 25 school, but I'm not willing to see them throw their money away.This seems to me to be both a sensible and commendable attitude -- the temptation to spend other peoples' money heedlessly is often difficult to resist, and obviously many current law students and applicants are being far less scrupulous about doing so. This correspondence also touches on a couple of other elements that are key to the current structure of American legal education.
First, law schools are becoming increasingly aggressive and sophisticated about marketing. From glossy brochures, to direct marketing featuring "waived" application fees (seriously at this point requiring application fees at most law schools is equivalent to requiring a cover charge to go inside a McDonald's -- the difference being that you'll actually come out of the latter with exactly what you thought you were paying for), to on-line chats like the one above, to billboards on highways (I was in west Michigan recently and noticed that Cooley has a couple of billboards on the highway between Kalamazoo and their new Grand Rapids branch), law schools are behaving like institutions that realize it's becoming necessary to actually induce people to buy what they're selling.
But the most powerful marketing device law schools have remains that it's still relatively difficult to get into most of them. Now this is becoming less and less true every day -- some schools are letting in people who scored in the 15th percentile on the LSAT -- but consider Drexel's entrance numbers. Drexel -- a new law school with what ought to be self-evidently horrible placement figures (nine months after graduation nearly 20% of the 2010 class was completely unemployed, and less than three in five grads had any kind of job that required a law degree, including temp work, part time work etc etc, while only 30% had positions of any sort with a law firm), which costs $110,000 just in tuition to attend, has a median LSAT for its entering class in the 78th percentile and a median GPA of 3.38. Those are modest numbers compared to what you have to have to achieve a more prestigious level of un- and under-employment from many other law schools, but the fact remains that the vast majority of four-year college graduates would not be able to get into Drexel's law school, despite the six-figure cost and the fairly dire outcomes awaiting most of its graduates.
One of the things that makes it extraordinarily difficult for people to grasp, on a psychological level, just how bad the situation really is for so many recent law graduates, is that it seems deeply counter-intuitive that it should be so difficult and expensive to acquire a law degree, if the value of a law degree is actually as questionable as a straightforward analysis of the available information suggests. (Of course it also helps that law schools are usually housed in fancy buildings, are formally attached to prestigious or at least respectable research universities, have lots of "successful" graduates to parade to prospective students etc).
It's true that part of the explanation for this puzzling state of affairs is lack of transparency. That factor is eroding every day: just within the last couple of months dozens of law schools have put up employment and salary numbers (Drexel provides nothing in regard to the latter which itself should tell prospective students all they need to know) that, while very far from perfect, reveal the clear and present danger of going to law school to anyone who doesn't want to be lied to.
But of course the problem is that people very much do want to be lied to, and, as anyone who has ever run for political office or managed an advertising campaign or conducted an illicit love affair knows, it's far easier to get away with lies when that's what people want to hear.
People want to be lied to for reasons that are reflected in my unusually clear-eyed correspondent's own story: What is his "opportunity cost" for going to law school? It certainly exists, and isn't by any means trivial, but what sort of job can he actually get right now in our great nation? Is he supposed to work retail? Wait tables? Manage a hedge fund for Bain Capital? These are difficult questions.
They become even more difficult when one factors in the prestige factor. This, perhaps more than anything else, is what keeps our little multi-billion dollar annual operation in relatively fine fettle, despite everything. My correspondent's parents would love to see their son do "better" than they have, by acquiring a high status social identity, such as that still ascribed to attorneys by the culture as a whole. There's no need at this moment to go into all the reasons why that ascription is becoming increasingly absurd. It's enough to note that it is still very much with us -- and with all the 0Ls who at this moment are compulsively refreshing the status checker -- a well-named device -- on the web site of their "reach" law school.