Monday, January 16, 2012

Working for free and class bias

Three or four years ago, things were finally getting bad enough that even legal academics were starting to notice that a lot of our graduates seemed to be having trouble getting jobs. In fact the only real change in the situation was that a bunch of big firms laid off a lot of junior associates and deferred many of their new hires.  At the vast majority of law schools such developments affected a very small portion of the graduating class (90% of law schools send less than a quarter of their grads into big firms, and 80% send less than ten per cent), but given the obsessively hierarchical nature of our business everyone suddenly became aware that there was "a problem."

Indeed that year the dean of CU, in his annual graduation speech, alluded to the difficult employment situation, and presented the graduates with the following edifying tale:
A graduate of our school was determined to work for a prominent government employer. All through law school he had considered this his dream job.  Unfortunately, at the time he graduated, the employer had no positions for new lawyers available.  Undeterred, this enterprising fellow told the employer, "Hire me anyway. I'll work for free until you have a position available." And do you know what happened then dear reader? I bet you can guess. The employer agreed to this charming arrangement, and the graduate did such a bang-up job that six months later, when an actual paid position became available, he was hired into it.

Now I must confess that I sat up there on the stage and listened to this story, and thought it was indeed rather inspiring.  That's because at the time I had no idea that the only unusual aspect of this story is that the protagonist got a real job out of it.  I had no idea that for many years now working for free has become an absolutely routine job search strategy for both law students and actual licensed attorneys -- and not just, as the matter was presented in the dean's edifying narrative, in the pursuit of a graduate's "dream job," but in the pursuit of any legal job at all.

What I've learned since is that few pieces of advice for unemployed law graduates are more likely to infuriate them than the suggestion that they "volunteer" with some prospective employer in order to "get a foot in the door."  This advice is routinely given by clueless baby boomers to young adults, without those giving it realizing that the recipients of their wisdom have often been "volunteering" for years already, both before and during law school, with the idea being at some point they would actually get paid for doing legal work (that point being when they could no longer take out student loans to pay for luxuries such as food and shelter).

Ironically, quite a few people in legal academia seem unaware that there are (theoretically) strict legal restrictions on the ability of employers to exploit take advantage of "volunteer" labor.  It's against the law for private employers to not pay employees, and the ability of public employers to do so is supposed to be carefully circumscribed by restrictions on what sorts of "internships" unpaid employees do.  The extent to which these restrictions are actually being adhered to in the market for new attorneys, given the massive oversupply in that market, is an interesting and badly under-investigated question (I suspect a non-trivial percentage of the "jobs" new graduates report holding feature nominal or no pay).

Of course this system has very different effects on graduates, depending on their socio-economic status.  William Ockham notes:

[Internships] certainly provide benefits to young law graduates. But only to well to do graduates. The intern makes connections with local practitioners, gains practical skills, learns much about the real world practice of law, while filling in their resume. The problem for society is that this creates more economic disparity. A kid without some money or outside income just can't work without pay. Even if in the best of worlds and you can live with your parents, six months, a year, 18 months without a check simply isn't possible. But with money or well to do parents its just another unpleasant thing that you have to do on the way to a legal career. So and again rich kids are in and poor kids are out. An even higher percentage of the profession is made up people with money in their background. And isn't there something odd about the graduate with little or no student debt, getting the chance for an internship and at least a long shot at a legal career while..... 
Very few people in our business seem to be aware of the extent to which tripling the price of getting a law degree over the same time period when the legal services market has been contracting relative to the rest of the economy is inevitably transforming the practice of law -- at least in its more exalted manifestations -- into a carefully guarded class preserve.  This is a long-winded way of saying that law is becoming something for rich kids.

Consider the following: In 2010, the top 20 law schools graduated 1,543 people who had no law school debt.    While at lower-ranked law schools it's routine for more than 90% of the graduating class to have law school debt, the numbers are significantly lower in the legal academic stratosphere.  Nearly one out of four Columbia Law School grads in 2010 (more than 100 people) had no law school debt, while nearly one in three Northwestern grads had none.  For the typical student at these schools it costs about $250,000, in tuition and cost of living, to get a law degree.  (Such schools give out a few large "merit" scholarships, but they give out almost no need-based aid, and the vast majority of students pay the sticker tuition price or something close to it. And these figures ignore opportunity cost).   People who come from social backgrounds that allow them to attend these schools without borrowing money are, shall we say, in a highly advantageous position in terms of getting their "foot in the door" in any situation in which doing so means having to rely on something other than one's salary to pay the bills.

And this is just one way in which upper class status makes becoming a lawyer a far more rational economic choice than it is for people who aren't within a reasonable hailing distance of the blessed one per centers. Consider that other classic bit of advice for unemployed law grads: that they should "network."  Is it even necessary to describe the extent to which this could simply be translated, "have as much mutually beneficial contact as possible with rich and influential people?"  And how does one do that?

All these things are examples of how, if it costs hundreds of thousands in direct and opportunity costs to get a law degree, doing so is going to make sense only for people who have large amounts of both monetary and cultural capital, and who can therefore afford to purchase a law degree in somewhat the same manner that in 18th century England gentlemen in easy circumstances could afford to purchase "livings" for their favorite sons.


  1. Whenever someone - usually well-meaning fools - would tell me to work for free at a law firm or legal aid, for the experience, I told them to mow my lawn or fix my washing machine for free - since they could use the experience. Economists refer to interships as "the gift economy." It is disgusting.

    Regarding networking, this is most effective when one has family, business or political connections. Those people have real relationships, where they can make a phone call - or have their father do so.

    For those of us without such connections, "networking" consists of the following: (a) attending law school "mixers"; (b) printing out business cards and handing them out at church, in laundromats, to friends, and anyone we might know; (c) joining every local bar association around; (d) going to rotary clubs, to gain face time; and (e) prayer.

    Hell, at law school mixers, the only attorneys who attend are those who cannot offer paid positions. The fact that local, broke-ass lawyers are attending these artificial "events" - for the free cheese, crackers and booze - should tell you something. Of course, when you are simply trying to find a job, as a soon-to-be JD, you are too desperate to notice the idiocy of the situation.

  2. The other problem with networking is that it costs money.

    You have to pay dues to the ABA and local bar associations. On top of that, for some events, you have to pay a cover to attend.

  3. This is a fantastic post, simply brilliant and ballsy.

    Like I said in past, I ruined my life by failing to come to terms with this, and despite not having debt, happiness is a memory to me. I have also said that the elite have a vision for lower-economic-class people without 160+ IQs, and it consists of working non-prestige oriented jobs. This is why cops are banging out 100K plus salaries with pensions.

    Interesting anecdote, my friend’s cousin attends one of the most prestigious UG institutions in America (well over 65k total costs of attendance). His father is paying sticker, and the father knows that his son will have to do a string of unpaid internships to get a job (the above phenomenon extends well beyond law). (The father is an orthopedic surgeon who has an inheritance of his own). When I told him about how the white collar world had been eclipsed for most people by a lot of public sector and blue collar work, he scoffed at me and said “my kid is not doing that shit; I do not care how much it pays.”

    That is not the interesting point. The interesting point is what he said next regarding the very topic you raise Professor: “I like the fact that unpaid internships are becoming a right of passage because this will give my kid an advantage over similarly academically pedigreed people who have loans and do not have the financial support I can provide.”

    Proceed at your own peril lemmings.

  4. Not to mention the fact that so many attorneys get inundated with phone calls from people who are networking. I think networking is a bunch of crap designed to give the graduate the impression that they still have a chance at getting a job, it prolongs the pain of reality. Also, the graduate is doing the job the law schools should be doing. I think if we had he schools on the hook for student loan debt, they would be more interested in helping graduates land jobs.

    I also think the law schools and bar associations set it up so that the law schools tell the graduates to network, so the graduates will pay association fees to do so. In turn, the law schools get kickbacks from the association(s). Ok, cynical, I made that last part up.

  5. Here's a potential subject for your next blog post prof.

    Apparently Law Schools are offering fee waivers to people who have no chance of gaining admission to their school. Why do they do this? To have more applicants to reject, and thereby boost their selectivity.

  6. I'm really curious about what kind of arrangement the grad in the anecdote had with his government employer. I'm obviously far too lazy to look this up right now, but I know from being a fed. employee that the federal government is legally prohibited from accepting "volunteer labor," which is why, during the shutdown threats, we were all admonished that if the government shut down, we would not be allowed to come in or even check our work email or use a work blackberry. My agency does hire law school interns unpaid, but they have to be getting law school credit and the internship has to be for their educational benefit (which is a joke, obviously, but still). I wonder how this agency twisted the rules in order to be able to hire someone who was no longer in school? Or did they just break the rules?

  7. 8:25, I think that first part is spot on. When I hear "you should network," I stop listening to that person. All of life is "networking" - forming, keeping and utilizing relationships. It's a baby-boomer "term" to make their generation think like they invented some type of socio-cultural construct in the workforce.

    News to OCS and others of that ilk - I don't want to f***ing network, I want a f***ing law job!! My OCS was HORRIFIC. I'm sorry, I understand that small and mid-size firms and niche practices and NGOs and the like don't have the resources as big firms or large federal or state government agencies do, but shouldn't OCS be "NETWORKING" and cultivating those relationships, and set up meetings with students, instead of telling the 80-95% of students that don't get interviews with the 4 big firms that come to campus for OCIs to "network" at these "mixers" and/or "alumni events"?!?! WTF?!?!?! That's IN THEIR JOB DESCRIPTION - CAREER SERVICES. SERVICE!!!! ARRRGGHH!!!

  8. "News to OCS and others of that ilk - I don't want to f***ing network, I want a f***ing law job!!"

    In other words, you want something without working for it? You just want someone to hire you, simply because you graduated from law school?

  9. About government positions for free, I know that US attorney offices use volunteers. I'm not sure why it is legal. The funny thing is that if you work as a volunteer, you cant be hired for a specific period of time. So it doesn't even help you "get your foot in the door."

    1. Which means that they've found a level *below* 'work for free to be hired'.


    This link talks about the jobs in Camden.

  11. exerpts from above:

    Newly announced openings at the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey could provide valuable experience and serve as a resume booster, but there's one thing they won't provide: a paycheck.

    The office on Wednesday posted the job openings in Newark and Camden for uncompensated "Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys," following the recent example of other offices across the country.

    The program is one way of compensating for the Justice Department's hiring freeze, announced in January and still in effect, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says. Fishman adds that he learned of the program from his counterparts in other districts and was intrigued.

    "In a time of potentially diminished resources, we're trying to be as creative as we can," Fishman says. "This is a project that has been tried with great success in other U.S. Attorneys' Offices around the country."


    Notwithstanding the valuable experience offered by the special assistant positions, hires will not necessarily have an advantage in seeking a job with the office. In fact, they are prohibited from applying for any position in the office that might arise during the unpaid employment term.

    That restriction was put in place so that candidates who can financially afford to take on the unpaid position "don't necessarily get an immediate advantage" over outside candidates, Fishman says.

    Fishman hesitates to comment on whether his office might favor former special assistants for future paid openings, though he acknowledges that the year of experience likely would benefit the candidate in seeking a paid assistant position in another office.

    As of Thursday, the Department of Justice website had job postings for special assistants in 21 other U.S. Attorneys' Offices nationwide, including in Connecticut and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Sixteen of those were posted in the past two months.

    While the Fair Labor Standards Act restricts unpaid employment at private-sector, for-profit entities, government agencies are permitted to bring on volunteers.

    Fishman says selling points of the position include the opportunity to perform a public service, contacts made within the office and the sort of hands-on litigation experience that lawyers might not get in other settings.

    "This is an opportunity to see firsthand and do firsthand what we do," he says.

  12. Baby boomer here. This discussion reminds me of an anecdote from a regional silk stocking law firm (yes, there used to be such a thing) I joined out of law school. A then senior partner, let's call him Fred, told us his story of interviewing with the firm in c 1940s. Fred's credentials were sterling, including a very top tier (although public) law school, law review (and, I believe, important editorial positions) and a high level of skill in a country club sport. Apparently everyone, partners and associates alike, were paid at the end of the year, based upon the firm's results and no interim draws were provided. Fred came from the middle class but not independent wealth. One of the questions raised during the interview process was just how Fred would support himself for a year in these circumstances, not having independent wealth. Fred fortunately had a working wife (teacher), which was apparently not a significant "minus factor", and received the offer. "Plus ca change . . . "

  13. What's troubling about the unpaid internships is that they are against both the spirit and a letter of minimum wage law.

  14. "We are now an economy based on putting your hand in the pocket of the next guy rather than actually producing anything."

    Triple that for the law game. Multiply that by a thousand for legal academia.

  15. 9:18 - you missed the point completely. When someone says "network," they mean, "no job available, come BS and find out how you can spend more of your money." It's a BS throw-away line that people who have taken your money - the law school - uses when it is their employees (i.e. OCS) who should be "networking" and building relationships with their graduates. For $150 grand, that's the least they could do, help build professional relationships, and you know, *guide* students towards jobs. Not just tell them to "network," again, whatever that means. We all "network," every day, when we talk with people, meet people. Right now, I am "networking" on this blog.

  16. to stanley at 9:18:

    "In other words, you want something without working for it?"

    Um...yes. What do you call three years of law school? That is not working?

    "You just want someone to hire you, simply because you graduated from law school?"

    Um...yeah. Especially if the law school advertises 90%+ employment rates over the last several years.

    Look stanley (and to others like him), I think I get what you're trying to say. But if the legal job market has got to the point where you need more than a law degree to be marketable to employers, then something is seriously wrong with the legal education system. And I think that is the central thesis of this blog.

    Go ahead, call me entitled. That line is so old and played out that it is now amusing when people use it.

  17. "You just want someone to hire you, simply because you graduated from law school?"

    I see ABSOLUTELY no problem with this attitude, when the schools charge you $150,000 for their "education" and especially when they induce you into attending by publishing (what have since been revealed as completely fraudulent) placement statistics confirming this expectation.

  18. WCL = Washington College of Law...?

  19. "Triple that for the law game. Multiply that by a thousand for legal academia."

    Brilliant line.

  20. Published "placement" statistics aside, it's silly to assume that sitting in a classroom for three years should automatically qualify you for a job. You don't "deserve" anything in life. I think the realities of work experience, life experience, and personality are just now hitting the legal world.

  21. That's just nonsense you pulled out of your ass. Again, this is a problem with legal folks is that they can't tell the difference between their imagination - their arguments - and reality.

    There are plenty of nontrads with work and life experience who got scammed by law school. In fact, being 10 years older than everyone else will make you a less attractive hire because the firms may be looking for young folks.

  22. How can you put employment figures aside? (They aren't "placement" figures -they report a statistic of how many people have jobs after graduation.) That is the basis of the whole problem. If you tell people that 90% of your law school grads have jobs -shouldn't they be able to expect they will get a job? In fact, if the published employment statistics had been true, we wouldn't be in this situation now. If they accurately reflected the job market, a lot of people wouldn't have gone. If the job market was actually as described, very few people would be unemployed or underemployed and unable to repay their loans.

  23. 10:00AM, If you're too naive to understand that schools can, and thus will, make those numbers up then you're too naive to be a lawyer.

    No dummies allowed.

  24. Stanley - I think your namesake has the most appropriate response:

  25. Stanley,

    Several points:

    1. Then the schools should say so. And stop charging upwards of $150k to sit in classrooms for 3 years to *not* get a job that they say exist for sitting in said classroom for 3 years. Duh.

    2. Close OCS. Big firms / agencies are already going to go to the law schools to recruit. They have the money to do so. Granted, maybe 7 years ago they were looking for a dozen spots at a particular law school, and now are only looking for 1 or 2, but the point remains. If the schools can't get anyone outside of the Vault (or whatever ranking) 100 firms / USAO to come to the school, why does *any* of my tuition money go to that OCS "department?"

    3. Medical students, after 4 years of "sitting" in classrooms and "taking tests" then go to "residencies" where they "are qualified to practice medicine." I think after 3 years of pedagogical lecturing, countless hours of reading "the law" and taking idiotic tests, and then, *on top of that,* spending thousands of dollars I don't have to take a bar exam (another barrier) (that I have to pay for, because the job that was supposedly awaiting me at graduation which would have paid for the course and exam wasn't waiting for me any more because the school placement statistics lied to me and OCS turned out to be useless), yes, I think I should be able to get a freakin' entry-level job. I didn't say pay me a quarter of a million dollars. I said entry-level job.

    And LawProf I think "stanley" is one of those naughty people who were discussed yesterday.

  26. I'm already a lawyer. I am appalled at the low level of ethics that a law school has to have in order to mislead people into 6 figures of debt. I think that is morally wrong and brings shame on to the profession.

    I am tired of the idea of blaming the students for not knowing they were being lied to, with statistics that the ABA backs up. It is law school, not a carnival game.

    I've never been a dummy. And I've never bothered to attack someone anonymously on a message board just because I disagreed with them.

  27. I agree with 10:05.

    How am I naughty? Because I'm challenging the law school scam movement orthodoxy? I do think all of what 10:05 says is accurate (and doctors do get real world experience before being hired on). The law schools are scammers, but the real world doesn't work the way it has worked for a long time in the legal realm. The legal world isn't "special," it's just not entering the real world.

    We're just seeing the end of the law school bubble. A lot of people were caught up in it and are hurting from it. But that's what happens when bubbles burst and everyone realizes that "this time is different" is false, again. The legal world isn't a different profession. It's a profession like all others. But law schools, law professors, academics, and lawyers themselves, for the most part, still think so and still think that a $150,000 premium for a law degree is reasonable. It's not, and it never will be again.

  28. Stanley is not one of "those naughty people." A lot of people think along these simplistic lines. Just because you disagree with someone does not make them a troll.


    If all the OCS dept can come up with is advice to "network" then they have no reason to exist. It is their job to recruit potential employers and put the students in contact with them,. Not give them a job automatically but to actually setup interaction and interviews. Thats part of the tuition and again, if they can't even do that (after promising to do so) they have no reason to exist except for extracting money from simpletons like you.

    Also, you probably did not go to a top 12 school. I can assure you that just being handed a job was most certainly what went on.

  29. Regarding the idea of fee waivers for students who will never get accepted: if you do a post on this, please include schools like Columbia. It isn't just the lowly University of Alabama who tries to increase applicants.

  30. stanley,

    "You don't "deserve" anything in life. I think the realities of work experience, life experience, and personality are just now hitting the legal world."

    I don't think anyone is really disagreeing with you here. If there wasn't an oversupply of lawyers, then employers would not have to look at other factors such as the ones you described.

    stanley, you are addressing a niche problem with a general life lesson that will only apply to a select and privileged few. You may was well quote Vince Lombardi or Napoleon Hill or the Proverbs section of the Bible.

    Lawprof - this is the hard distinction I was referring to on a comment I made on your earlier post.

  31. I attend a T6. My family has always been solidly middle-class, which puts me probably in the bottom 25% of students in terms of socioeconomic status. While there are a few people who come from truly humble backgrounds, the vast majority seem to be upper-middle class or even absurdly rich. If I had rich parents, I sure as hell wouldn't waste three years in law school. I'd take their 200K and open up a business or something.

    I know someone who, after failing to get a 3K/week biglaw summer associate position for 2L summer, worked for a NLJ250 firm for free. This meant he didn't qualify for the meager public interest stipend offered by the school. I assume his parents paid the rent those few months. Having not gotten biglaw myself, I took a public interest job because I needed the stipend to pay expenses over the summer. At 3L OCI, he was able to present himself as a summer associate who wanted to move to a higher ranking firm, giving him a huge advantage up in the process (a lot of firms are only willing to consider 3L candidates who worked SA jobs the previous summer). He secured a (paying) biglaw position at a very highly ranked firm. This may not be 100% due to his "SA" job, but it certainly helped.

  32. Please understand that I'm not defending law schools, OCS's, or anything of the like. I'm just trying to point out that the whole "system" of "law school -> OCS -> job" is over and not coming back.

    The law schools will keep up the charade as long as they can and unlimited federal loans have shielded law schools from acknowledging reality for a long time. Hopefully that too will end soon.

  33. LawProf,

    Are you going to give your readers any positive and proactive ways to deal with their victimization, or is your blog essentially a tool by which you remind people that they were harmed by the institution that pays you, and that they are completely and totally helpless to do anything about it other than troll, whine and argue? (And have no doubt Stanley is a bitter and angry unemployed law grad who copes with his misery by trolling).

    What is the benefit of this blog? It's like going up to a handicapped person and reminding them that they're handicapped. It's really not healthy or helpful.

  34. stanley, so NOW you are saying that the legal education system is changing? Your initial post at 9:18 gave me a different impression. Your message is pointless to most of the people here.

    If you really believe this, leave this blog and spread your message to TLS (and see what happens) or to 0Ls writing their applications to Cooley.

  35. Not to go off topic, but today's ATL has another story about a law student student whose mental health issues (and as noted earlier depression affects about 1/2 of law students) crossed the line into homicide.

    It is really disturbing that about once every two months some law student is caught trying to or allegedly succeeding at killing someone.

    I can't recall the last time I heard something like this out of medical school, or a literature program.

  36. 10:22: Why don't you let the people who have been victimized decide for themselves whether a blog like this is "helpful?" And what about next year's crop of victims, and the year after that etc? Are we supposed to pretend this is all somehow in the past, as opposed to something that's happening right now, every day?

  37. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  38. LawProf,

    I just don't understand how it helps a victimized law grad, to remind him or her that they've been victimized.

    You'll have to admit your comments are filled with bitter, angry, depressed emotions - which is totally understandable. But to stimulate such emotions without offering any sort of outlet is simply not helpful. You're adding to the harm of the law school scam, because you're essentially preventing people from moving on with their lives.

    Just my two cents. I think you should sit down and ask yourself what good, if anything, your blog does for your readers.

  39. @10:22 a.m.:

    Exactly. It's kind of like the time in high school when I read "The Jungle" and wondered why Lewis failed to include uplifting personal advice for downtrodden immigrants and employees of the meatpacking industry.

  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  41. 10:22,

    I think for the unemployed or underemployed law school graduates, this blog is helpful because it tells them that their current situation in life is not necessarily their fault. In other words, they are unemployed not because of bad test scores, laziness (or perceived laziness) or which law school they attended. I think this reassurance prevents some desperate young attorneys from scamming clients or doing other stupid things to "prove themselves" to others.

    Coming from LawProf, this blog is analogous of the classic scene from Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams tells Matt Damon "It's not your fault....It's not your fault..."

  42. 10:42,

    I agree that if it's the same 4%-40% poster, he is hijacking (presumably because many of us read this blog every day and so we see that poster's same responses over and over every day). But it's hard not to address often, even in spite of LawProf's post the other day. For example, this post about internships - imagine spending $150k of borrowed money to go to law school for 3 years at a place that said you are 98% certain to get a legal job at graduation, only to be told there aren't any, so you are forced to take an "internship" of 50-60 hrs/week of reading boring statutes/treatises/cases in a high-stress environment that you can't possibly afford in order to get a modicum of experience/"networking time"/whatever in order to proceed with the slim chance that a paying law job of same boring reading of treatises/statutes/cases in even higher-stress environments awaits you somewhere out there at some time (ignoring for the fact that if you aren't independently wealthy this is a near-to-certain impossibility)??? There is a reason that law students have high depression rates, that even though it abates as you get into practice (maybe treatment + other factors) it's still high as a profession compared with others. I think it's a valid topic. But I agree that "mental illness boy" doesn't make an argument, he just hijacks, so he should try and curb that and use those statistics to his advantage in making a point that law school / law practice has a correlation to mental illness not seen in other programs/industries, and something like the rise of "internships" could be one example . . .

  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  44. John,

    Upton Sinclair was incredibly proactive and effective. Most if not all of the food safety laws you benefit from are a direct result of his work.

  45. "this blog is helpful because it tells them that their current situation in life is not necessarily their fault"

    I completely agree with this. But the next step is that you feel victimized and helpless, and that's not good for your emotional well being.

    How would you like it if you lost your legs in Iraq and someone came up to you, every day, and told you that you don't have legs and it's not your fault? It causes you to wallow in your misery. It's an incredibly ingenious way to sadistically harm an already injured person.

    So again, I completely agree with you, but now that we've established it wasn't your fault - what's next? And next can't be you spending your life reading this blog and arguing with commenters. That's no way to live a life.

  46. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I think I've made my point in the posts above.

    Just consider the question.

  47. @John--You mean, Upton Sinclair who wrote The Jungle. You may be confusing him with Sinclair Lewis, another novelist.

  48. 11:00 AM: See if you can figure out the difference between the "harm" supposedly done by this site and the "harm" done by unemployment, non-dischargeable debt, and the fraud that has so badly exacerbated both.

    Upton Sinclair's work didn't do much good for the people who had already been put through that particular meatgrinder, or those who had eaten its products. That hardly means it wasn't valuable.

  49. I'm hoping that this blog will help change the status quo. I'm hoping this blog will motivate practicing lawyers to demand change in the profession. I'm hoping pressure will build on the ABA, states' attorney generals, etc to take action against the schools.

    In the meantime, I'm hoping this blog helps educate incoming students.

    For people who need help, law prof doesn't have to provide mental health information. I honestly don't know why anyone would use victims of a scam as a reason to not educate people that the scam exists. Victims can find help, or they can not continue to read this blog if it is too stressful. By writing the blog, Law Prof doesn't become responsible for his readers' mental health.

  50. 11:00,

    I don't think it is LawProf's job to tell people what to do next.

  51. "I don't think it is LawProf's job to tell people what to do next."

    I guess this is where we disagree. I think if you're going to raise a problem, you should also suggest proactive and positive ways to reach a solution.

    For example, 11:09 "hopes" (a term of helplessness) that this blog will effectuate change by informing the world. Rather than hoping, I propose that it might be better to inform important lawyers of the blog and the problem. And you don't have to make it your life to spread the message, how about just one lawyer a day.

    That way the thought process becomes, "I was victimized" -> "LawProf confirmed that it wasn't my fault" -> "I did something about it, by spreading the message"

    Any way, I don't want this to devolve into what comment arguments normally devolve into - which is that both sides keep repeating their points - so I'll end it here, but that's the only point I was making.

  52. @ 10:49 - speaking for myself, I find reading this blog to be very helpful to my present state of mental well-being.

  53. 11:17,

    Lawprof has proposed some solutions in the past: be wary of law school employment statistics of certain law schools, changes to how student loans are distributed, reform bankruptcy laws, etc. They're nothing new and subject to debate but he has suggested them.

    It would be unreasonable for Lawprof (or any one blog in particular) to propose a uniform solution for all of the unemployed grads. Some may grind it out until they find a job, some may go solo and hope for the best. Others will join the right groups that will promote change in the system. And others will just do nothing. Who knows.

  54. Glad to hear it Crux.

  55. I'm with Crux--this blog is very helpful to my mental state. In fact, it's one of the few bright lights in my daily existence of un/underemployment.

  56. I wouldn't mind hearing about how other unemployed law graduates spend their day. As far as me, I have a very low income Ebay business, I obviously search for jobs, I sometimes read old outlines to stay fresh, I try to workout and otherwise I watch TV and surf the internet.

  57. The law school establishment has come up with several off-point arguments apparently intended to get Paul Campos to shut up and stop blogging. For a while, we'd regularly see comments on here (and from the likes of Leiter) to the effect that, since Campos himself derives his income from a law school, he's being a hypocrite and should therefore just be quiet. Now we have an argument that he should shut up about the scam and stop criticizing law schools because doing so only makes the victims feel worse about their plight. It's rather like saying that the authorities shouldn't have prosecuted Bernie Madoff because it only made his victims feel more foolish and gullible.

  58. Lois, That's not at all what was said.

  59. Does anyone know how and where people in unpaid internships can file a claim for unpaid wages? What causes something to turn from a legal unpaid internship to abuse of minimum wage laws? In other words how do you word the complaint? Where do you file it? Can your employer retaliate against you for filing such a complaint?

  60. I am an underemployed law grad and I love this blog for its clarity and its honesty, not because I expect Paul to spell out a life plan for me.

    All things considered, I would say he seems like a pretty good guy.

  61. 11:34: Here's some anecdotal shit.

    When I was unemployed, I spent about seven months doing virtually nothing, other than applying for jobs, and occasionally going out with a few friends from law school who were still around (of the core group, about half moved at graduation; and now there's only me and one other guy left). The boredom and isolation were and remain extremely hard to deal with. Thank God for Netflix, my huge comics collection, and other Internet entertainment.

    Presently, I work about 30 hours a week for minimum wage. This is sort of helpful, although I have almost nothing in common with most of the people I work with, and I think some of them hold me in contempt for being better educated and not as experienced lifting heavy shit or prepping food as they are. In a lot of ways, it doesn't feel *any* different from being unemployed.

    I know a few people in unemployment/underemployment situations who drink a lot. I'm glad to say I didn't develop anything like their habits. However, this is because I have a severe and identified drinking problem--not an addiction, but rather a tendency to go nuts when I do drink. And I've got other, less catastrophic addictions, like a pack-a-day smoking habit. Which is, strangely, probably less socially acceptable than a fifth-of-whiskey habit.

    P.S. para 2 is why I don't see why anyone found stories about lawyers working in car lots or that sort of thing unbelievable. Then again, maybe they find what I do unbelievable; every day I go into the restaurant, I can hardly believe it myself.

    (Note also the only reason I have this job is another J.D. who works there as a waiter put in a good word for me.)

  62. Great post Mikoyan, especially the last paranthetical. You're a good writer.

  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

  64. @11:17
    I don't know if I am an "important" lawyer, but I have been president of Chattanooga Trial Lawyers and have been active in the Tennessee Association for Justice. This site and others like it were critical to informing me of the scope and breadth of the unethical expoitation (I know of no other way to put it) of young people and that expoitation's link to the rampant over-supply of attorneys; a problem (or benefit depending upon your point of view) I and most of my colleagues vaguely have been aware of for at least 25 years. However, it is only recently dawning upon many of us, just how great a threat it is to many of us.

    What you must understand, is there are essentially two organization representing lawyers that are antithetical to one another. The first and the most powerful is the ABA and it is populated and controlled by shareholders in large to medium size firms. These firms' business models depend upon an oversupply of attorneys--how else can they get bright, young people to put up with appalling working conditions (i.e. billing requirements of 2000 to 3000 hours a year), while paying them a relatively low hourly rate of about $64 (to bill 2000 hours, one would have to work at least 2500 hours, I would think) with little if any significant advancement. While I realize that many of you would kill for $64 dollars an hour, it is still less than what a physical therapist with a four year degree makes an hour.

    On the other hand, plaintiff trial lawyers, which, with the exception of large class tort firms, tend to to be solo or small associations. We are represented by the American Association for Justice. We aren't as powerful as the ABA (regardless of what Fox News says). Our business model is based upon making the most money from each case for the least number of hours, so we don't need a sweatshop full of bright young people mindlessly grinding out billable hours. Our firms are generally no bigger than five attorneys, we have more direct pressure to pay overhead (there aren't sufficient numbers of attorneys to take up the slack if one doesn't make his or her part of the overhead), and we are so busy comitting resources and time to fighting "tort reform" that we have little time to take on the "big legal education cartel". While the over-supply of attorneys directly affects our bottom line becasue the competition for cases has become fierce, there is only so many hours in a day. Therefore, most of us, simply must choose which of the many dragons facing us we will slay---which one or two is the greatest threat. However, blogs, such as this one, brings us to a closer understanding that the oversupply of lawyers is not only a moral travesty, but also may be as great a threat to our businesses (and make no mistake---a law firm, big or small, is a business) as tort reform.

    While the contribution of bloggers such as Nando cannot be gainsaid, whether fair or not, that a law professor would be taking up the cause of the law school scam movement lends more credibility to my argument to my colleagues that what the law schools are doing is as great a direct threat to our businesses as "tort-reform".

    Tricia Dennis

  65. " put up with appalling working conditions (i.e. billing requirements of 2000 to 3000 hours a year), while paying them a relatively low hourly rate of about $64 (to bill 2000 hours, one would have to work at least 2500 hours, I would think)"

    Tricia, I love you but lol forever at that statement.

  66. Thanks 1:12. That means a lot, actually.

    I think I'll refrain from talking about it for a while, though (unless anyone has any questions about the menu). I've mentioned it probably about three times already here. I don't want to be repetitious, especially given my long-winded style, but I can never be sure to whom I've spoken previously.

    But if there's a lesson anywhere in my experience, I imagine it would be twofold: 1)be nicer to your girlfriend (this is good general advice); and 2)don't assume you can bail into a quasi-legal public sector gig, just because you have a J.D. (But, seriously, I really want to know who my competition was for about 70 of those government jobs.)

  67. @1:24

    Remember, I am an ancient and still somewhat out of touch with the circumstances of many of my fellow posters. I want to understand. Could you tell me why?

  68. Tricia,

    Thanks as always for your perspective. It's heartening to see that the word is getting out to the practicing bar(s) regarding the disaster that has been building now for many years.

    I won't speak for 1:24 but do keep in mind that for most recent graduates, a job that pays what big firm associate positions pay, even taking into account the insane hours they require, would be something akin to a miracle. The majority of recent law grads are working for $20 or $15 or even $10 an hour, in legal and non-legal jobs, or they are completely unemployed. Most of these people also have crushing levels of educational debt. To them, a big firm job might as well be winning the lottery -- and about as probable.

  69. LawProf and 1:24:

    It was not my intent to appear insensitive to the plight of so many of my fellow un-employed colleagues. Forgive me. I was clumsy in making my point.

    My point is, if there was not this dreadful "scam"; if, there was no over-supply of lawyers, but a ratio of lawyers to jobs similar to that of physicians:
    1. I would not have few, if any, unwillingly unemployed colleagues;
    2. The working conditions for those that are employed by big firms would probably be better (perhaps the same or similar pay, but lower required billables).
    3. Unpaid "internships", in lieu of real paying work, would not exist and an employer's suggestion that a lawyer work for free would prompt more laughter from my friend, 1:48, than my poorly expressed comment about big firm working conditions.

    Tricia Dennis

  70. Sorry: That should read "I would have few, if any, unwillingly unemployed colleagues;

    Tricia Dennis

  71. Having watched networking at law school functions - is like watching parasites seek a new host - Networking at best is mutal grads have little to offer.

    Go to DC in summer - see all the rich kids establishing their access to higher ends of society due to their ability to take unpaid internships.

    It is not a fair game - stop believing in the fairy tales.

  72. Off topic of this thread, but on point for this blog. My apologies if it has been linked or discussed previously.

    De Ritis, Cristian (July, 2011). Student Lending's Failing Grade. Moody's Analytics, Retrieved January 16, 2012, from

    Also, here (in case link above proves inoperable):

  73. What I find interesting about this post, is to juxtapose it with the biggest SCOTUS came to come out last year - The Walmart class action.

    There walmart employees, who were being paid money, sued alleging that Walmart managers were using their discretion in a discriminatory manner. Class certification was denied because you can't decide, on a class basis, how tens of thousands of managers are using their discretion.

    Meanwhile, law grads can't even get a job to work for nothing, even though such unpaid internships are patently illegal and I'm sure anyone suing to prevent them would win.

    Even more bizarrely, I'm sure many of these unpaid internships occur at the state labor law agencies.

    In an ideal world, a labor and employment law professor would answer 2:03's questions, and write a succinct pamphlet explaining exactly how and where to complain about these practices, but they're too busy writing law review articles on the Walmart case because it's easy to get published when you're writing about a SCOTUS matter.

    Still, if someone can answer 2:03's questions I think that would help fix the problem.

  74. I would imagine 2:03 should contact his state's department of labor/wage and hour division. Most states have such a division, I believe.

    Tricia Dennis

  75. RE the value of this blog, I'm a "0L" and an avid reader because this is an excellent resource for those of us in the process of deciding whether or not to go to law school, where to attend if we decide to go, and what risks we are willing to accept in attending law school. Although I have decided to take the plunge--no, friends, you can't talk me out of it, though you may try--I do so with full knowledge of the risks.

    Thank you, Professor Campos, for providing this important resource for OLs like me. It is valuable even for those of use who DO chose to attend law school despite the warnings, because our approach to legal education and employment will be well-informed.

  76. Which rank of law school are you attending? (or can you state the name?)

  77. 3:06 here. I am still waiting on a few more responses, but I've been accepted at several T14s so far. Because of its LRAP and other support for public interest, I am leaning toward NYU. This could change based on what scholarships I am offered/can negotiate over the next few months.

    I should also mention that my spouse is a T14 graduate from 2010--part of the lost generation--but thankfully he was spared the slaughter and is a second year associate at a top 50 firm. I saw him go through law school and we are now paying his loan debt, so I know very well what what to expect during law school and after.

    I'm under no illusion that I am a special snowflake who will magically glide above any economic woe. However, I did exceptionally well in undergrad and on the LSAT (179--not bragging, just trying to provide relevant info), so there is a decent chance that I will do well in law school. I also have extensive work experience in government and public interest law, which has provided me perspective as well as important professional connections.

    The value of this blog, for me, is that I know going into law school what traps to avoid and what not to take for granted. I'm sure many of you will still think I'm crazy for doing this, and I understand why. But for the career I want, law school is a necessity. I believe I am the type of 0L for whom law school is the right choice for the right reasons (obviously, or I wouldn't be going).

  78. Well hopefully someone like you would be able to get a job out of law school, otherwise we're trully f'd.

  79. You sound sell-positioned to make this choice for yourself. Good luck! I would imagine you might have even greater luck as the weeks go by.

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  84. I'm a burnt-out 3L with dim career prospects and a timetable piled high with pointless issue-spotting exam courses.

    Despite the above gentleman's impression that this blog functions a sort of insidious motivational drain on out of work law grads who might otherwise be moving forward with their lives, the reality for persons such as myself is that moving on with life isn't an immediate option. I'd love to run away from the law entirely and never look back, but, pragmatically speaking, it would be financially senseless to abandon my degree at this stage in the game.

    Additionally, since I'm Canadian, I have the distinct disadvantage of having to complete a 10-month articling term just in order to be called to the bar in the first place. That would be great if I actually had a job lined up, but as I've so far failed to attain one, I may in fact end up being forced to work a year without pay just in order to get called to the bar. That's right, another year of debt accumulation and zero income just in order to have the ability to practice law -- an ability which may ultimately never end up being put to any real use, but which I'll nevertheless obtain if for no other reason that it's the only thing I'll be able to do post-grad, other than minimum wage grunt work.

  85. "That's right, another year of debt accumulation and zero income just in order to have the ability to practice law -- an ability which may ultimately never end up being put to any real use, but which I'll nevertheless obtain if for no other reason that it's the only thing I'll be able to do post-grad, other than minimum wage grunt work."

    Have you thought about getting a non-law job and save a year of opportunity cost, not to mention the debt?

  86. This blog post reminds me of the story of Bob Willoughby. Bob was featured on NPR over a year ago:

    This guy commuted 2 hours to gain "valuable" experience at the NJ Attorney General's office. He worked a day job as a commodity's trader while raising an 8 month old baby. Bob at least had the "luxury" of a full-time gig to volunteer his services gratis. Does anyone know if Bob got hired by the NJ Attorney General's office after his committment expired?

  87. @4:18

    I've thought about it, but I think the actual legal experience, plus the credential of being called to the bar make a year of no pay superior to a year of minimum wage grunt work, if only marginally. Of course, if I do work for free, I'll have to move back in with my parents in order to cut expenses, because otherwise my debt will spiral out of control.

  88. At my firm, connections will get you one thing: a courtesy interview. If you don't have the grades or a track record, that's where your involvement with the firm begins and ends. If you do have the grades or a track record, connections (or lack thereof) make no difference. We can't afford to hire mediocrities when truly talented people are available.

  89. 4:24, That's interesting that in Canada they give law grads loans to fund their living expenses as they work in unpaid articlings.

  90. 4:14: But in Canada you can discharge your student loan in bankruptcy. Right? William Ockham

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  92. @Everybody who rightly points out that Upton Sinclair and not Sinclair Lewis wrote "The Jungle":

    Thanks for reminding me why one should devote at least a few seconds' thought to a sarcastic response.

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  94. FYI, NPR just came out with a story on the NYLS fraud lawsuit that mentions this blog.

  95. @5:44

    Yes, in Canada you can fund law school with a private line of credit from the bank, which is dischargeable in bankruptcy. That said, I've heard that if you're actually benefiting from the degree (i.e. practicing law), the banks can successfully oppose your bankruptcy filing.

  96. Interesting. What's the interest rate and repayment term? Also, how much do you need to borrow to complete your average canadian legal education program?

  97. I think it varies a bit across the major banks, but I know Scotiabank offers $100k at prime + 0.5 with a 10 year repayment term.

    As far as expenses, the living expenses would be comparable to those of US students, and the tuition itself varies from school to school. U of T is the most expensive at $25k, most of the other schools are clustered in the 10-20k range. By US standards it's a bargain, but I should note that tuition is rising rapidly, and my overall debt is hardly trivial (around 60k).

  98. here I thought Canada has socialized education

  99. I'm sort of amazed they took the three years required by America and the articling required by the UK and mashed them together to make an unholy hybrid that's four years long.

    I forget, do you need an UG degree to go to law school/practice in Canada?

  100. 6:13, that article cites to a different blog, not this one. Also from that article:

    "She says the school gave her every assurance that she was in the right place, and that she was told "a high majority of their graduates would find employment at least within 9 months of graduating, and that they tended to have three-figure salaries.""

    If the school was promising "three-figure salaries," it might have actually been honest. ;)

  101. Prof. Campos,

    I stopped giving money to my alma mater when I realized they were lying to me. During fundraising drives, the law school would shamelessly have a current student call me and ask me for money. The student would say "your donation will help keep tuition costs down while funding scholarships." With tuition soaring in the last 10 years, I wonder whose pockets I lined with my donations as it certainly was not the students.

    Two years ago, my alma mater contacted me about joining a law clinic as an unpaid adjunct. To make matters worse, they wanted me to supervise the tenured professor in charge of the clinic so that he would know what to say to the students and how to essentially practice law. I inquired why the school couldn't just hire adjuncts and they told me that they had no money. Yet, full-time tenured faculty members at my alma mater are making close to $200K a year for regurgitating the same trite garbage (e.g., Shelley's Rule and the ever useful and practical Rule against Perpetuities). No wonder full-time tenured law professors are against clinics: they see them as a threat to their financial security. Needless to say, I turned down the opportunity. In fact, I disowned my alma mater for engaging in opprobrious conduct.

    BTW, this was a good blog entry. Only in the legal profession can they (ABA, bar authorities, etc.) convince you that you have a duty to give your time away freely (i.e., pro bono). Even a hooker has pride to get paid for her labor. Apparently, attorneys are on a lower strata.


  102. Law professors are opposed to clinics?

  103. It's a lot of work. for example it would be nice to have an "illegal unpaid internship clinic" to address the issue in the above post, but law professors would rather write law reviews

  104. *pulls up chair, pops open Pepsi, reads comments*

  105. In my experience, the reason why most law professors hate clinics are as follows:

    1) Depending on the focus of the clinic (e.g., trial level litigation), most professors will be exposed as inexperienced charlatans if they ran a clinic on their own. Law students may be impressed that the professor briefly worked at Skadden or Cravath but the truth is most of these professors worked a year or two doing monkey work, ergo the lack of real substantive legal experience;

    2) Clinics require face time with students, which most professors loathe. 20 years ago, my law professors couldn't be bothered with office hours as it would cut into their nap time. I suspect the idea of spending hours each week with students doesn't appeal much to professors. Why spend 20 hours a week with students when you can teach hours a week for the same paycheck;

    3) Law professors are interested in writing esoteric and arcane crap that no one cares about except other members of academia. In my 20 years of legal experience, I have yet to cite one law review article in a brief (btw most judges discard amicus briefs authored by law professors);

    4) Law professors want to monopolize their "mystique," which would be undermined by a young adjunct who actually knows what he/she is doing; and,

    5) Law profesors would rather tell than show. This is take on the "hide the ball" games that professors play with students when they batter them over pseudo-intellectual banter.

    In closing, I am sure if students could choose, they would prefer being taught how to be a lawyer rather than how to think like a lawyer.

    Langdell is dead and so is the Socratic method. Yet we all know the Socratic method still exists becuase it is the most inexpensive way to run a curriculum. Of course, this ultimately hurts the student who invests over $100,000 to be taught nothing that prepares them to either pass the bar exam or practice law.


  106. Excellent post AES. I guess all that alcohol hasn't affected your ability to be articulate.

  107. I think I'm the only regular reader of this blog who is a regular donor to my law school. It's possible to believe in an institution, and know that it has serious problems...

  108. Again, AES, you have surveyed the field and you know best.

  109. AES delivers a hard kick right at the loins of every law professor!

  110. AES Rules! Awesome!

  111. Don't donate to law schools. It only encourages them.

  112. Dear Law Prof:

    I don't know if you will see this.

    In discussing networking, you miss a point for those who do not want to work for another firm:

    Legal ethics rules are developed and enforced to prevent the entry of new competition from younger firms and/or organizations unless the young firms are already well-connected. Its not impossible to create a legal startup. Its just made harder.

    So, it goes beyond employment. It goes to competition too. For example, the rules on advertising- who do they really serve: the client or the big, more established and/or well connected firms?

    Why does it matter if a law firm is named after the person starting the firm (as some states require), or, after the area of law in which the person is practicing so long as the firm is identifiable to the public through being registered with the state? Why does it matter whether firms use d/b/a as some states prohibited?

    In what other industry is direct selling disallowed, even industries with strict ethical requirements like medicine?

    My point is that the whole system is set up to favor the firms with a lot of money and contacts. Its hard to be a "legal entrepreneur" even if one wanted to be.

    The rules are effectively set up to block out competition.

    I say this while adding that I believe there is a strong need for ethical standards, for quality of representation, and other real concerns for clients. I don't think those things are size related. In fact, I have a problem with the quality of work of large more established firms that are able to b.s. their way with clients who don't know any better.

    I just no longer buy the rules are designed for this purpose. I believe they are designed to block competition.

  113. A question for 6:42 or 7:02 or anyone. If a student borrowed from a Canadian bank for law school in the United States would that debt be dischargible in the the United States by a U.S. bankruptcy court? William Ockham

  114. There really is no such thing a "Canadian" or "American" bank in our global financial system.

  115. From Markel's blog:

    I think people should comment on it.

  116. Markel's point is a bit tendentious for my tastes. Not worth wasting time on that.

  117. Thank-you, LawProf, for writing about the plethora of unpaid internships that are popping up everywhere! Unless one has recently graduated w/in the last 5 to 10 years, I don't think he or she will really understand what a threat this phenomenom is to the employment situation in American and how prevalent it truly is.

    I recently was doing yet another unpaid internship (my third, for a total of 1 1/2 years of giving away my labor away for free and I am not still a student - I graduated from law school almost 2 years ago.) While interning, I talked with other interns. I was stunned to find out that the average individual had done about 5 unpaid internships. When one realizes that the average length of an internship is about 4 months, that means that we are talking about the average graduate having worked for free 1 to 2 years by the time he or she lands a job, if lucky enough to get a legal job in this environment. Who can afford that? (By the way, that's not a rhetorical question. I am actually asking it - who can afford it? Because the answer to that question will be the answer to who will be able to afford practicing the law in the future.)

    As an ancedote, I would like to relate the following: after interning for free at a public agency for about 6 months, a year after I had graduated (and I had already completed two internships previously), I was told I would have to complete another unpaid internship in order to be considered for upcoming positions at the agency. Given that I was working 60 hours a week between the current unpaid position and my paid position, that I was only earning $13,000 a year from my paid position, and my student loans were increasing in interest by $20,000 per year, I was horribly disappointed and distraught to figure out that my working 60 hours a week was actually causing me to lose $7,000 a year. Based upon this calculation, I realized that my student loans would not allow me to do yet another unpaid internship. (It would have been my fourth.)

    Another intern, however, who was married and had a husband who worked and supported her, was able to take on the additional internship that my finances did not permit me to do. (It was her fifth or sixth unpaid internship, I believe.) And w/in two weeks of taking it, she received the paid position. So her being supported by her husband made a direct difference in her getting a job that I could not get, simply because I could no longer afford to work for free.

    I now realize that I will be unable to receive paid work in the legal field. After working the year and a half that I did in upaid internships, I have begun to look for paid positions, but all I find are unpaid positions. It seems in order to get a paid position, I will have to do yet another unpaid internship, and I am seriously wondering whether that would be worth it or whether I would be continuing to throw more money down a black hole. There comes a time when this begins to turn from 'helping graduates gain experience' into exploitation and in my case, I think it has reached that point. In fact, such experiences have transformed my opinion of the legal field from one that I used to see as honorable to one that I see as nothing more than exploitative. And I hope as many prospective students can see this.

    I simply can't understand why the legal field can rampantly engage in using unpaid labor when it is against the law in most situations. Is it because they are engaged in the law that they feel they can simply ignore it?

  118. 11:26, It's because no one complains. From the little bit that I know about legal-unpaid-internship vs. violation-of-minimum-wage-law rules, these are the latter. The problem is that if you complain they'll blacklist you. Welcome to the modern day legal profession.

  119. lol @ the most recent comment on Markel's post.

  120. Mr. Markel,

    This is a brilliant post. One can really discover quality (a trait that some in our Socialist world say does not exist) by comparing your brilliant posts with the lazy and poorly written tripe on Campos's blog and comments. Please make sure you add this to your online cv at (my home page) as it will speak well of your email address. Please continue to write rigorous material like this to save us from the inane stuff we see on other blogs. Thank you my lord.

    Posted by: Preston Ij | Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 02:35 AM

  121. Haha, totally support the responses to Markel (

    AES: let's just say that my judge never, well, had any questions about the content of amicus briefs submitted by law professors.

  122. 9:27: Very good point

    11:26: I think a lot of what lawyers do that either skirts or straight out violates legal and ethical rules is a product of the relative contempt that many lawyers have for such rules. And that contempt is, as you suggest, a product of familiarity and arrogance, i.e., I know the rules so I know how to get away with breaking them.

  123. Prof. Campos,

    Pardon me for not sifting through your past posts. I think you should author a post or leave open for discussion the pro bono requirements for lawyers. If your target audience includes law students, I think it is important that they know what the Bar expects of them once they become licensed lawyers. For example, in my jurisdiction the Bar requires the following:

    1) Pay annual dues;
    2) Volunteer 80 hours (in my jurisdiction) of pro bono work for which you are expected to treat pro bono clients on a higher level than regular paying clients;
    3) Steal the interest on the money you are holding on your IOLTA accounts on behalf of your clients and remit same to the Bar;
    4) Be subject to invasive accounting audits which can be scheduled at your inconvenience;
    5) Take and pay for expensive CLE courses which is designed to justify the existence of, and to fund the local Bar (half the courses are bullshit and some credits are not transferable to other jurisdictions);
    6) Report your business and trust accounts to the Bar; and,
    7) Pay arbitrary taxes (e.g., to alleviate med mal insurance premiums for doctors).

    These are just some of the lovely requirements you are subject to once you obtain the PRIVILEGE of being given a law license. So please, let's discuss the wonderful privilege of practicing law and how it is OUR duty to facilitate access to the courts for those unfortunate and demanding souls that are disenfranchised and downtrodden.


  124. @ AES Rendering services to the less privileged has been a part of the American legal system from the beginning. You disagree, but I think that is a good thing. The fact is, and this has been studied,most lawyer pro bono Is done for relatives and friends.What is your state, and what provision makes pro bono mandatory. Actually, if you tell me the state, I can find it myself.

  125. @6:50AM

    I have no problem doing pro bono work. I take 2 or 3 pro bono cases a year. I just think it is absurd for pro bono to be MANDATORY as some lawyers are not in a financial position to render legal services gratuitously. Think of a recent law grad who is six figures in the hole, no job or underemployed, bar dues, CLE fees and he still has to work for free because he is mandated by his state bar. Who is in a better position to absorb the mandatory pro bono requirements? Large law firms and successful attorneys. The rookie and struggling attorneys are in a worse position to comply with this requirement.

    Lastly, due to State budgets slashing legal services across the nation, many states are considering raising the amount of hours of pro bono service to fill up the gaps. Does this sound like conscription to you? What happened to the 13th Amendment? Oh that's right, you don't have a right to a law license (despite that you spent 3 years, over $100K and passed the bar exam). It is a privilge and as such, you have to do what the bar says.


  126. Also, I neglected to mention that the bar maybe doing a public disservice by requiring a rookie attorney to take on a pro bono case in which he/she is not qualified to handle. The attorney will be responsible for hiring a per diem attorney to help him/her handle the case. If you don't hire experienced help to get through the pro bono assignment, get malpractice insurance and be prepared to call the carrier when you screw the case up.


  127. With regards to required pro bono service and CLE fees, I am a recent graduate who has a minimum wage type job (non-legal, of course.) It took me about two years to come up w/ the money to take the bar. I recently attended a ceremony put on by the local bar, where I was then informed that as a new admittee, I would be sent a bill. (This was the first time I was informed of this bill - after I was being admitted, which was a little late to find out about it.) It seems the state bar charges everyone (or perhaps just new admittees, I'm not sure)a certain amount that gets put into a fund for attorneys that commit malpractice and don't have malpractice insurance. If a client is jeopardized by the attorney's malpractice and the attorney does not have malpractice insurance, the client can recuperate the amount lost from this fund.

    I still remember how casual the judge was who announced that we would be getting the bill, without even bothering to mention how much it would be, as if a bill for a couple of hundred dollars was no sweat to a new admittee. As someone who makes minimum wage and for whom it took two years to come up w/ the fees to take the bar, I was sweating bullets: would this fee prevent me from eating this month? Would I not be able to pay my electricity? My rent? There is only so far that minimum wage can stretch and a sudden bill of several hundred dollars can make or break an individual's ability to survive. During the break, I asked the judge to please let the attendees know how much the bill would be - I really couldn't concentrate on anything else until I found out how much I would be expected to pay.

    I was amazed at the nonchalance that people already in the profession treated a bill of a couple hundred dollars. They really don't get that most new admittees are in dire financial straits. We are the poor that everyone talks about serving with their pro bono service. If the legal profession stresses serving the poor, why can't it extend such a philosophy to its newest members, many who are poor and will be unable to come up w/ a couple of hundred dollars to pay this bill? And when you consider that most new admittees aren't even practicing the law and will probably never have the chance to, why the hell should I have to subsidize (yet again) the decision of the baby boomer attorney not to get malpractice insurance? In other words, why should I have to pay for his or her malpractice insurance (because that's really what I'm doing), when I don't even get to practice the law myself?

    Reminds me of the words of a country western tune: "can you please tell me, why the rich man wines and dances and the poor man pays the band?" Because that's what is really happening right now: the young are charged an enormous amount in law school tuition and fees for something that they will never get to use or benefit from. We're paying for the wining and dancing of another group of people. And we're going into enormous debt to do so.

  128. I support the decision to make all attorneys do pro bono work, and I wish that was the rule in my jurisdiction. If you want the right to practice law in your state, I don't think it's too much to ask that you come up with a couple of weeks of time to help out the less fortunate, especially because: (1) it seems lost on most people on this blog that there ARE less fortunate people; (2) most attorneys, whether employed or not, probably spend the equivalent of 80 hours a year posting or socializing online, making the "But I don't have tiiiime" complaint spurious; and (3) if you are unemployed, then you definitely have some time to participate at least in already-organized pro bono events to help needy people, unless you are finding so many jobs to apply for that you are treating your applications as a morning to midnight job. (Needless to say, those lawyers who are employed had better find the time to help the needy, period.)

  129. "If you want the right to practice law in your state, I don't think it's too much to ask that you come up with a couple of weeks of time to help out the less fortunate."

    Asking would be fine. Telling isn't.

  130. Oh, I should have been clear. By "ask," I meant "tell."

  131. I support lawyer training whether it is by pro bono or some other means. In my job, I have to address shoddy lawyer work product by other lawyers. Many of these lawyers worked in big law firms. This is one of the reasons that I laugh at the fetish for lawyers from big law firms. No one is receiving training anymore, including large law firm attorneys.

  132. @9:56

    I also support the pro bono requirement. However, I also realize that there has been some drastic changes to the legal profession that require rethinking it and tweaking it. When new attorneys seem only good enough to do free pro bono work but not good enough for any paid work, the system becomes unsustainable. It's one thing to expect people who are working and benefitting from being an attorney to give back to the system. It's another thing to charge people an enormous amount in law school tuition and bar fees, expect them to work for free in unpaid internships for years to get experience while enriching partners and the law firm at their expense, acknowledge that they will have no work opportunities to earn an income and then expect them to give back to a system that seems to help everyone else except them.

    Think I'm being harsh? The clients that I currently help at Legal Aid make about twice as much as I do salary-wise. (Individuals where I live can make up to $24,000 a year and can still get free legal help, while I make a salary of about $12,000 a year and can't qualify for any free services.) The State Bar seems especially concerned about ensuring that low income individuals OUTSIDE the legal profession have access to the legal system but have no concerns about ensuring access of low-incomed individuals WITHIN the legal field by ensuring law school tuition remained affordable.

    The two are related, 9:56. If you support a system requiring pro bono work, you have to realize that those individuals who you want to provide pro bono services need incomes, food on the table, a roof over their head, too. Asking them to continually provide legal services for free when they themselves aren't even able to make a living from the field they chose to commit to creates a model of unsustainability. It also creates resentment.

  133. AES -- I am trying to find the state that mandates 80 hours of pro bono work. Mandatory reporting is not the same as mandatory pro bono. No one will know who you are if you say what state you are in. Can we narrow it by region? Are you in one of the states of the old Confederacy? New England?

  134. Lawprof: A great article on an extremely important (and under-publicized) issue. I work at a firm whose sole practice is the representation of illegally unpaid interns, and the labor violations in this area are rampant. Thank you for bringing attention to such an important topic.

    I find it extremely offensive that recent graduates, many of whom are severely indebted, are expected for some reason to work for free in for-profit businesses in order to secure paying work. (The fact that this regularly occurs in the legal industry, which should (and often does) know better, is particularly egregious).

    It adds insult to injury that this institutionalization of unpaid internships actively contributes to perpetuating and widening socioeconomic disparities in our country. There is, unsurprisingly, evidence that it contributes to racial divides as well. ( The fact that our society, as a whole, encourages this practice as an acceptable initiation into the work-world is abhorrent.

    @12:03 Depending on the details of the particular internship, state or federal (or both) minimum wage laws will determine when/if an unpaid internship is in violation of wage and hour laws. And that will determine what remedies are available and to whom one can report violations. A private right of action is also granted under federal (and some state) minimum wage laws, allowing recovery of wages and, depending on the law, damages, attorneys fees and costs.

    The Department of Labor has taken a very hard-line approach to unpaid internships as they relate to federal minimum wage laws, promulgating a strict six-part test (each factor of which must be met) in order to determine if an internship can be legally unpaid. In fact, the D.O.L. has stated that "[i]nternships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment," unless that test is met.

    That test, and some basic information on the standards for a legal unpaid internship according to the D.O.L., is available here:

  135. I'm a recent law grad (top 5% of the class, editor of the law review etc..) but it wasn't a prestigious school. Nonetheless it is a good regional school and I wanted to work in the city where it is located. Most people are probably going to schools like mine.

    I haven't received an offer, an interview and today I received an email back from a government office I once interned at letting me know that they had enough free help and didn't need my help (I offered to work there for free while waiting for bar exam results).

    I now have applications for part-time wok in at places like CostCo, Aldi's, and a local nonprofit to be a 'handyman.' Needless to say I haven't heard back from the brand names as they probably see JD and think I have other options - how mistaken they are. However, I have heard back from the nonprofit and will gladly accept whatever they can offer. Just to receive a paycheck again - even if small - would make me feel so much better and more like a man again. Law school wa a second career for me and if it doesn't work out I guess I'll have to buy a one way trip to Paris and hope the French Foreign Legion will take me (you can join all the way up to 40).

    Good luck out there, and thanks for this post. It's true.

  136. Oh and don't forget - the lawsuits against law schools for misrepresenting post-grad employment data are being dismissed w/ judges actually saying that the students were basically foolish to believe the law school's statistics!!!! One ven used the phrase "caveat emptor." America is doomed.

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