Sunday, March 4, 2012

Things they do look awful cold

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion at the annual Working In the Public Interest conference at the University of Georgia Law School.  The topic was "Student Loans: The Next Bubble?" The other participants included Janice Barrocas, who discussed cutbacks in the state of Georgia's lottery-financed grants for higher education, Rand Park, who described the funding model for private undergraduate colleges and universities in Minnesota, and Usha Rodrigues from the UGA law school faculty, who moderated.

Barrocas and  Park discussed undergraduate education rather than law school, and I was struck by how, for all the very serious problems now plaguing higher education in general, the debt levels being taken on by undergraduates seem comparatively "reasonable."  Park revealed that average (mean) undergrad debt for students who graduate from private colleges in Minnesota with debt is currently $29,000, but that one third of graduates have no debt at all.   (That $29,000 figure is seriously inflated by the figures for graduates of for-profit institutions, who have average debt in the neighborhood of $50,000).

Park emphasized that he certainly wasn't arguing that these debt levels aren't problematic, especially if "people don't get jobs."

The problem in legal education, of course, is that people aren't getting jobs (indeed in many cases they are disqualifying themselves for jobs they could have gotten or even actually had before they went to law school) while at the same time they pile vastly larger quantities of debt on top of their undergraduate debt.  I pointed out to the audience -- which consisted of a mix of practitioners, current law students, and prospective law students -- that the current 1L class at ABA law schools is going to graduate with around $150,000 of educational debt, on average.  This statistic understandably provoked a certain degree of incredulity from some of the older members of the audience, who wanted to know how in the devil (went down to Georgia) things could have gotten this bad.

In the limited time available I shared a few other stats, including these:

Harvard Law School annual tuition IN 2011 DOLLARS

1971: $12,500

1981:  $15,600

1991:  $26,000

2001:  $35,200

2011:  $47,600

During the question period, an audience member -- I was later told he is a quite successful local lawyer -- objected to what he took to be the whining of the younger generation, who apparently, as he put it, wanted to go to school "for free."  He revealed that he came from he characterized as fairly humble economic circumstances, and that his father had approved of his decisions to go to college and law school, but had not provided him with any money for tuition in either case.  As a consequence he had to work during both college and law school to help pay the costs of attendance, and, when he graduated from UGA law school, he got a job that paid only $11,000.  I asked him when he graduated from law school, and the answer turned out to be 1970.

I don't know what UGA law school's resident tuition was in 1970, but I know what it was in 1995: $2,990 in nominal dollars ($4,185 in 2010 dollars). Given that CU's resident tuition in 1995 was 50% higher than UGA's, and that CU's tuition in 1970 was less than two thousand dollars per year IN PRESENT, INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS, it's safe to say that this gentleman went to law school, essentially, for free (or rather for the opportunity cost of attendance).

Furthermore, his starting salary out of law school was $61,000 in constant dollars, i.e., probably more than ten times the total cost of tuition for his three years of law school in constant real dollars.  In other words, to get as good a deal as Mr. Clueless Baby Boomer, Esq., (if this guy was a K-JD he was born around 1946, which is the first year of the baby boom per the standard definition) a UGA law graduate today would have to get a first job out of law school featuring a starting salary of around $550,000. And UGA is one of the least expensive law schools in the country (although it's more expensive than Harvard Law School was 30 years ago).

Somehow though, the problem in his mind -- and something like this view is shared by tens of millions of people in his demographic -- is the attitude of today's entitled younger generation. 


  1. It is both. Unless you are dealing with children or people who are subjugated by law, few things are always the fault of one person or one group.

  2. "In other words, to get as good a deal as Mr. Clueless Baby Boomer, Esq., (if this guy was a K-JD he was born around 1946, which is the first year of the baby boom per the standard definition) a UGA law graduate today would have to get a first job out of law school featuring a starting salary of around $550,000."

    This really gets to the nub of the issue. On the one hand, you need a substantially higher salary to do as well as folks who came out of school that are still alive today (and still practicing!). And on the other hand, the debt loads are so incredibly high, that they can't be handled absent the highest paid introductory-level legal work (160k).

    It's a profound catch-22 for the current generation that can really only be addressed by allowing student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy. We waste huge numbers of otherwise productive lives by setting up a win or die educational model.

    Whatever happened to our frontier spirit?

  3. If the Baby Boom generation would not like the younger generations to act entitled, perhaps they should not have sold the lie that higher education is the only safe ticket to financial success. I don't really fault them for having done so; college and graduate school worked for those of that generation (as evidenced by the man mentioned here). But whining about a sense of entitlement their actions helped to bring about won't fix the problem either.

  4. Going out into the world with just a high school degree is not a good idea.

  5. Oh, plenty of baby boomers "get it"--namely, the ones who have to delay retirement to pay for their kids' skyrocketing tuition and then have the additional financial burden of helping support their kids after graduation, when their kids fail to land decent jobs. I know several boomers who fit this category.

    I see pictures of the 60s campus protestors--and they were right about most of their causes--but I wonder why they were so angry. They had quality higher education that was low-cost or free, and their colleges and universities were conveyor belts into decent and well-paid white collar jobs.

  6. Hell, check out Star Jones, Donny Deutsch (who waltzed into his daddy's advertising firm, after earning a B.S.), and Dr. Nancy Snyderman literally laugh at the "whiny" recent grads - on NBC's Today show.

    Times have changed. In 1970, someone could graduate from Third Tier State U. with a BS and land a nice career, with a decent salary. Tuition was cheap, and jobs were plentiful.

    By the way, that Boomer Ass-Wipe you mentioned suffers from delusions. I know PLENTY of college grads who did not receive any money from their families, for tuition or living expenses. They also worked full-time, as I did - while attending undergrad full-time. (Hell, I paid my parents' airfare to my college graduation ceremony.)

    Paul, thank you for understanding this basic issue, and for siding with current students and recent grads.


    My wife's father also understands the situation better, after I told him that the economy has fundamentally shifted. He recalls paying about $300 a year in tuition, at Kansas State University. Look at the tuition rates charged today. Certainly, they are affordable when compared to similar state colleges on that academic level/tier. However, this has grown by leaps and bounds.

    Immediately after graduating with a B.S., he found a job as a land appraiser for a bank. He had no connections to the banking field prior to this position, either. He told me that his grades weren't all that great, either. Imagine such a person graduating today. He would be lucky to land a bank teller job, making $10 an hour!

  8. They were angry, in part, because they-- and their brothers and friends were being drafted and cut down in a war that made no sense -- nearly 58,000 dead.

  9. See, that's just the thing professor, many law school students today also work their way through law school. The ABA restricts you to working 20 hours a week, but it doesn't matter what type of job you have. With just a college degree and only the ability to work part time, a law student would be lucky to earn $15 dollars an hour. The best case scenario is that he/she works 20 hours a week 52 weeks a year, for a total amount earned (before taxes mind you) of $15,600. This amount is probably barely enough to pay for living expenses and books and doesn't make a dent into tuition. So the big difference that many attorneys who "worked their way though law school in the 70's or 80's" don't understand is that you can work your way though law school today, and still end up with 150k in debt. Working through law school today just means that you borrowed 150k insteak of 200k. So despite working just as hard as attorneys who went to school 30 or 40 years ago, current law students have far less to show for their efforts.

    The other thing that people who graduated in the 70's and 80's fail to grasp is the sheer magnitude of law school loans. Many students can't ever get out of debt. The 150k or 200k effectively ends any chance of owning a home, buying a new car, or saving any money. And it's not for a year or two out of school, loan repayment for current students is a 25 year committment (followed by then paying off the IRS in another structured settlement) or a 30 year committment.

  10. Great post, LawProf. Every time I hear one of these Boomer lawyers spouting their nonsense about the "entitled" attitude of young lawyers I want to smack their stupid faces. Thanks for helping these people understand what's really going on.

  11. A certain segment of elders of any generation thinks the younger generation is lazy and entitled, promiscuous, etc etc. Certainly my generation (college in late '60's) was a denounced as bunch of lazy, entitled, drug addled hippies and unpatriotic rotten doctor commies rats to boot. It is a particularly annoying segment but not all, or even most. You get it, I get it and a lot of other older people will get it if only because (a) those are our children you guys are trying to screw and (b) those are our tax dollars you are pissing away on this scam.


  12. I wonder whether the local lawyer also took advantage of Pell Grants. My father, who came from a lower-middle class background, graduated from the state's flagship school with Pell Grants covering most of his tuition and a part time job for the rest.

    This paper shows how funding for Pell Grants has gone from 72% of public school tuition in 72' to 32% in 07'. And I bet that figure has less to do with falling funding for the program and more to do with skyrocketing public school tuition.

  13. The effort to divide people by generation, race, or whatever is usually destructtive. Although it can provide instant gratification in a childish sort of way, it does not build successful movements.

  14. Sigh. Boomers destroyed this country. It's not an effort to divide. It's about truth.

    We live in a bankrupt country with a broken political system that has no hope of offering its next generation better than the boomers had it. When did this happen, and who was at the helm? I can assure you it wasn't a millennial.

  15. It is an effort to divide. This country is not destroyed. It has faced challenges before, as all nations have, and at very point their were people who said it was all over. That is a fact. I know this is usually a history free zone, but history bears this out. Before anybody writes in, I know Rome fell.

  16. (a) Bored3L,

    He almost certainly did use Pell Grants since as I remember they started in the 60s. I know I took advantage of them. For my undergraduate education, scholarships and Pell grants meant I came out with 10k in debt.

    Pell grants are consistently under attack and cut by both Democrats and Republicans.

    (b) Law Prof

    I am not surprised by the response you receive. Divide and conquer is, of course, a part of how we find ourselves here. Its the Blacks. Its the poor. Its the young. These things work by certain rules: (1) Pick the weakest group who can't easily defend themselves (2) Blame them for the world's problems and (3) Turn the argument into one about personal responsibility.

    Beyond it being easy, I think people like these arguments because it absolves them of having to work on making society better.

    Bruh Rabbit

  17. 1138

    Nothing is inevitable, but certain things take on their on inertia.

    Are we Rome?

    Probably not.

    Are we Great Britain in the late 1940s?

    A society still believing it was the world power, but not really.


    For example, GB, 5 decades later, as it continues to lose its roll, is now behind Brazil's economy:

    With the Tories and Labour, one can expect the decline to continue.

    The same process is likely to occur in the U.S. Does that mean we will become a third world country? Probably not. What it means is that we are seeing an end to opportunities brought on by the U.S. being a military and economic super power that has slowly been eroding since the end of War World II and the collapse of the New Deal since the Reagan revolution.

    Fewer opportunities means more strife and hardship for all. The idea that the U.S. overcame without realizing that we are a declining superpower versus when were an ascending one seems misguided.

    Bruh Rabbit

  18. Well, we will see. I do not lament the demise of the British "empahr" .

  19. We're going to get off lucky if we just have a long orderly decline like Great Britain.

    During their decline, they had the US to lean on as a superpower. To make sure that they still got a seat at the table long after their power had faded.

    Who will we lean on: china? russia? Both would sooner see us drown.

    Pertinent to this conversation: who will buy the boomer houses when they want to retire?

    I won't. I already have too much debt.

    Ironically, debt that paid boomers to buy the big houses.

  20. Actually ,as I think of it,we probably won't see because this will play itself out over many, many decades.

  21. 12:03,

    I am not lamenting the death of the British Empire. Nor, am I lamenting the decline of the American one. I am pointing out historically what we are likely seeing, and, thus all the comforting rhetoric about America being exceptional is just empty hope.

    I am not a fan of empires. I am also, however, not a fan of people suffering. A lot of people, who had no say in the U.S. being a global empire, will suffer in its decline.


    This is far off topic, but the Chinese need us because they have a middle class of only 300 million in a country of 1.2 billion people. That means the middle class does not have the capacity to uplift the rest of the Chinese economy. They need the U.S. to remain consumers for several decades to even have a chance of becoming a true power. Each one of the countries you mention- China, Russia, and you didn't mention the other BRICS (Brazil, South Africa, India) has its own problems. I don't think we are facing another truly dominant power any time soon. The real problem for the U.S. is that you are probably right- there is no one, including the Chinese, we can lean on. Not because they don't need us and would want to help because of those reasons, but because they each got their own problems. But, this is far outside of this site's focus.

    The main point is that I think that the U.S. is in decline. That's why I am a big advocate of the need for a stronger welfare state since we can't count on private sector growth to solve the crisis that's been brewing for several decades in our decline as a super power. The long and short of it is that if we are in decline we need to come up with different strategies than what we have to maintain the middle class or else what you say about an orderly decline not being possible may become reality. I got friends from parts of the world where things were not so orderly, and I certainly don't want to see that happen in my home country.

    Bruh Rabbit

  22. Actually ,as I think of it,we probably won't see because this will play itself out over many, many decades.

    You'll be dead. I'll be alive. That's why you are optimistic.


    I agree. I don't think china or russia (a petrostate) could help us if they wanted to.

    If we have to live smaller, so be it. Leverage (student loans, home mortgages) is what let us all feel like we were not in decline. Now the bill is coming due.

    I just want everyone to see how bad things can get so we stop bickering and start planning for the long winter ahead.

  23. I am sick and tired of the millennials' "remorse, lament and complain" attitude. I was born right after the boomer generation. I did not have the same advantages they did. For example, the boomers had the GI Montgomery Bill, which paid for full tuition, books and even provided a modest stipend for living expenses. I grew up without the benefit of modern technology. I weathered through many snow storms to get to the law library and do manual research. I didn't have the benefit of doing legal research from an IPad while wearing only underwear and sipping on a latte made from a machine ordered through the "Air Mall" catalogue. When I was a kid, my parents would pack me in with my brothers in the back of a Pinto and drive for hours with no air conditioning. Today, I see kids in the back seat of a Range Rover, playing video games and watching Pixar movies in 3D while enjoying AC and organic smoothies.

    Today's generation is motivated by greed. When I went to law school, we didn't have employment stats. We didn't have some rag called the US News and World Report which purportedly ranks law schools using some bullshit combination of metrics. Kids today are dumber yet they feel smarter because of grade inflation and the "ata boy/girl" coddling from their parents. Today, kids get 4.0 GPAs for breathing. They get the benefit of advanced tutoring for standardized test (such commercial tutoring was not available in my time). And still, these kids cry. What these kids needed was a good ass whupping from time to time. Unfortunately, their parents did a poor job of wiping their ass every time they fucked up and now they expect to be bailed out every time they encounter a problem. They deserve this problem. I have no sympathy for them. Based on my 2 decades of legal experience, I can confidently say those class action lawsuits will fail. Maybe Cooley will lose against the kid who published a critical blog of Cooley but no court is dumb enough to side with kids who drank the Kool Aid all too willingly. I only hope the judges sanction those idiot attorneys who brought these frivolous class action lawsuits.

  24. ^ wow, what a bitter, pathetic loser.

    s/ sandwich for the troll

  25. Today, I see kids in the back seat of a Range Rover, playing video games and watching Pixar movies in 3D while enjoying AC and organic smoothies.

    That is not luxury, that is leverage.

    now they expect to be bailed out every time they encounter a problem

    That's the boomers right?

    Didn't that just happen four years ago?

    These "parent" that fell down on the job, what generation were they from?

  26. Terry,

    I don't think your concern, which is a fair one to bring up, can happen on a site like this. The discussion here is to atomized. The focus here is often on discussing lawyers, the legal market, and law school or "the law" as an atomized aspect of our society rather than canaries in a coal mine.

    Indeed, the atomization gets even worse- the focus on student loans without going into why the debt is necessary in the first place other than comments about greed or evil law school administrators.

    I wish the discussion was about what you are pointing out. That we are society in decline. That we have fewer resources. That means what we are seeing is predictable based on that. So we need to start rethinking how we do education to make it cheap so that we can live on less because that's probably the coming reality for everyone, not just lawyers.

    You got schools cutting engineering programs because they can't afford to keep them open, and the problem there can not be described as a problem of not needing engineers (although in some cases you actually do have too many engineers, but I won't go into that here).

    The point is the discussion needs fundamentally be re-oriented away from lawyers (who most Americans still view as rich, and wonder why we are whinging because they think this) towards how the plight of lawyers fits a bigger picture.

    People here like to tell me what's possible in the American electorate. I have to think that if you want to convince the electorate that our issues matter, we must relate those issues to a larger problem in our society that affects them directly.

    The way to do that is to point out that we are canaries in the coal mine of what's happening with the American economy.

    When Law Prof was talking to the older lawyer- I would have loved to have asked him does he think the young or lawyers in general are atomized or unaffected by the overall trends in the economy, and what he thinks of what's happening in the economy in general.

    If he had said he sees no problem it he general economy, I would have ended the conversation because I would have realized I was dealing with someone divorced from reality.

    Bruh Rabbit

  27. There's a saying, "Don't feed the trolls" that would seem to apply to comments that are so clearly off the train into crazyville. The point being that if someone is babbling on in a way that divides in conquer in a way that does not generally reflect economic trend, why argue with them? You aren't going to get 100 percent agreement on anything. So, why bother to try. I am interested in the view who are the persaudables and growing the numbers who aren't. Trolls are neither.

    Bruh Rabbit

  28. view = few

    perils of fast typing

    Now back to the mines to work.


  29. Bruh,

    I shouldn't have responded to the troll.

    I've got to focus as well. If I proof read three more documents, I get a cookie.

  30. "we are canaries in the coal mine of what's happening with the American economy."

    In truth, lawyers are some of the last victims of what has been happening in the US economy. We're just some of the first upper class (or formerly upper class and "prestigious" learned) professions to get whacked.

  31. 1:07

    I stand corrected. You are right. Blue collar workers and many other industries predate us.

    I should rephrase to say that the Neoliberal claims by Clinton in the 90s that re-education and training was the way to solve the problem of the deteriorating American economy has been proven false.

    That lawyers are the canaries in the coal mine that all professions, including upper class ones, are vunerable to being "creatively destroyed." Just like the recession of 1990 proved that white collar jobs were now vulnerable to the economic cycle of boom and bust. Prior to that, no other recession saw white collar workers affected after WWII until the 1990 recession.

    Bruh Rabbit

  32. I got to go back work.

    bruh rabbit

  33. I agree it is true that lawyers are feeling the effects of the economy and massive technological change. Obviously other industries have been dealing with these forces for a lot longer.

    I don't really care if some old people think that people are just entitled or lazy. They are not going to understand or be supportive or do anything to help anyone else. Their attitude is not the problem here: the problem is the schools, the lies of the schools and tuition increases; and, the attitude of the students that insist on blindly going to school.

    I see people on TLS arguing about how they have to go to school this year; how they are going to choose between two terrible schools, and aren't interested in contrary opinions; how they are sure that if they work hard they will get jobs. There was one person who thought that a full scholarship at Golden Gate (with the 3.0) stipulation was just as good a deal as a prestigious scholarship at Michigan. Another person got upset about the characterization of GWU as a "trap school" because it was trampling on their dreams. Pretty much everyone assumes they will end up in the top of their class, no matter how often they are warned.

    I don't blame the past graduates who were deceived. But, starting with this year's matriculating class, there is (starting to be) no excuse for not understanding the legal market. There is so much information floating around, applicants are beginning to lose the excuse that no one warned them. I am starting to hold students just as accountable as the schools. The students sign for the loans, they need to do research before they sign up for $150,000.

  34. "Another person got upset about the characterization of GWU as a "trap school" because it was trampling on their dreams."

    Can you post the thread to this? I need a good laugh.

  35. @1;06PM - The cake is a lie.


  37. I'm pretty sure that whining is an individual trait rather than a generational one. The worst offenders, in my view, are those who whine about whining that they perceive in others. (I'm looking at you, UGA audience member and 12:40. And by the way, 12:40, your whine doesn't even make factual sense: The GI Montgomery Bill was passed in 1984.)

    When my son was young, we had a family friend who complained constantly about her child's "whining." The child seemed perfectly normal to us--in fact, she seemed to weather falls, scrapes, and other setbacks better than other kids her age. Of course, she might have been a handful when alone with her mother--who knows? But my son rather perceptively said one day: "Why does Mrs. Smith whine all the time about Susie's whining?" (names changed to protect the guilty)

    As for "entitlement," isn't that what whites used to say about non-whites ("They feel so entitled to these jobs we've always had!") and men used to say about women ("They feel entitled to join the workforce on the same terms as us!")? Well, fancy that.

  38. "I am starting to hold students just as accountable as the schools. The students sign for the loans, they need to do research before they sign up for $150,000."

    This may be true. But I think it is a red herring. The question is whether allowing the students to make these bad decisions has negative effects on the profession and society as a whole. I think the answer to both of those questions is yes.

    One idea I hope that will die with the boomers is the idea that we all live in little bubbles and that the poor financial (or other) decisions of others will never have any effect on us, and therefore that our success comes only from our own hard work and innate ability and never from the support of others. I've worked in consumer frauds before, and I can attest that there is a never-ending supply of suckers who will take out huge loans, make risky investments, and fall prey to all the sorts of illogical behaviorial mistakes that are conventiently ignored by the rational consumer operating in a free market folks. So if we can't stop these people from making crappy decisions, perhaps we need to focus on making sure those decisions are not available to people in the first place. Perhaps it is paternalistic, but if it saves the profession in the long-term...

  39. @ 2:02,

    Yes. The Cake is a lie (nice portal reference).

    Cookies I can get from the vending machine.

  40. "Somehow though, the problem in his mind -- and something like this view is shared by tens of millions of people in his demographic -- is the attitude of today's entitled younger generation."

    It's not just that demographic. My brother is 35, from a poor background (as am I) and in graduate school getting a second Master's degree. He is living on student loans yet he thinks that people like myself who can't get a legal job (or any job) are just whiners.

    Nobody is going to believe the "woe-is-me" argument about the "so-called" stigma of a JD. He has bought into the boomer mentality that it's entirely your own fault if you can't find a job. It's infuriating. I am really hoping that he can't find a job in May and realizes that life isn't as simple as he believes.

    No matter how much evidence I send him, he's always convinced that if you "network, volunteer and are willing to move (it's my fault I'm not working because I live on a coast) you'll find work.

    He doesn't understand that the nostalgic employment picture he's thinking of is no longer exists. He even points to his boomer boss, who doesn't work in law and graduated years ago, as proof that you can find a job, if you work hard enough.

    Mind you, he's never spoken to another law school graduate directly and has done no research into the matter yet he knows because every job search is the same. So his experience, based on the boomer mythology, tells him all he needs to know.

  41. I agree with the whiners "whining" comment above. Somehow they see whining when others complain but exempt themselves whenever they whine.

    "But whining about a sense of entitlement their actions helped to bring about won't fix the problem either."

    Boomers just don't get it. They are perpetuating the problem by selling the myth that if you work hard enough you can succeed. That model is gone. And by telling the current generation that it will be the same as when they went to school and graduated, they are just prolonging the problem. That's the irony of their arguments about personal responsibility. Until we, as a society, recognize that education has to be fundamentally reformed, people will continue to pursue the American Dream (and think they can beat the odds) into ruin.

  42. i don't know that it's prudent to say the trope "hard work will lead to success" is a lie, which implies either a) "hard work will come to nothing" or b) "it doesn't matter if you work hard or not, you will not find success."

    things ain't the way they used to be, but one can still turn a buck if one's willing to work, in my opinion. that doesn't mean you'll own two houses and a yacht, of course.

    but, the good professor focused the argument a little bit ago when, in a post, he repeated the refrain "but there aren't enough jobs." he meant that there aren't enough jobs in the legal profession. that's the problem, and that's the scope of this blog, as far as i'm concerned. this profession will never be the same.

  43. "but one can still turn a buck if one's willing to work, in my opinion. that doesn't mean you'll own two houses and a yacht, of course."

    That's insulting. People aren't seeking to "own two houses and a yatch."

    People are trying to survive. You cannot do so on "hard work." And being willing to work doesn't ensure you can "turn a buck."

    Do you have any idea of how many recent graduates are working hard for no pay, just so they can try to compete for a job that pays down the road?

    They are "wiling to work hard."

    They are working hard and still not turning a buck. You seem somewhat sympathetic to the arguments that form the central thesis of this blog, so please consider what you are saying.

    What good is turning a buck when you have debt that is hopelessly out of control? We need to be able to "turn a buck" that is meaningful, not simply make money to fork over to loan companies.

  44. From JD Underground:

    George said: "People feel entitled to 100k a year based on a couple years and a piece of paper."

    I think this is a strawman argument that oversimplifies the issue. College graduates are not complaining about being unable to earn $100,000/year. Rather, they're complaining about a lack of entry-level jobs that pay a humble $30,000 (undergrad)-$40,000/year (grad/professional degree). I highly doubt that people expect to earn $100,000/year for doing nothing. What they expect their college degrees to do for them is to PROVIDE THEM WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO PROVE THEMSELVES in the real world through entry-level jobs in the fields they trained for.

    That's the problem. Such jobs are in short supply and what's often available might be of low quality, and even if you do prove yourself there's liable to be an oversupply of similarly-situated people who also proved themselves.

    It's easy to dismiss all of the complaints as, "I thought I was guaranteed a cushy $100,000/year job," but it's more complicated than that.

  45. See the point about working hard in law school is that even if you work hard you can end up below median. Hard work will not guarantee you the grades you need to get a job. That is why people who go to law school assuming they will just work harder than everyone else is mistaken.

    I've seen post after post on TLS where people assume it is fine to go to any law school because they will work hard and do well. Or people will post expecting to do well their 1L year so they can transfer to a better school. They don't think it will be that hard. ( Same attitude goes for the people who take scholarships with stipulations, they think that the scholarship will be easy to retain.)
    Sadly after 1L grades come out there are always people who post saying that they worked as hard as they possibly could and ended up at the bottom of the class. They are depressed and don't know what they did wrong. They are still correlating hard work with the reward of a high grade.

    Generally: People don't understand how hard it is to do well in law school and that effort is not enough. People think it is like undergrad where half the class didn't even study. People are used to being the top of their class in every subject and the smartest people in their school. So they think that if they study like maniacs all semester they will be certain of doing well in school.

  46. For what it is worth, I have never seen a post on TLS by a 0L or 1L who doesn't expect to work very hard. The only people who seem to slack off are people who get good SAs. But even those people are often doing law review and internships as well as school. I don't think you can accuse any law student of being lazy or not wanting to work hard. (possibly people who are independently wealthy but I don't know them.)

    People are willing to work very hard. They are willing to give up their lives for biglaw hours. They are willing to work for no money to get LRAP in public interest jobs that are very challenging. Most people just want a chance to have a job, not to be lazy.

    I guarantee that every lawyer working today is working a hundred times harder than the old time Georgia lawyer ever did when he got out of law school. When he graduated there weren't even computers, emails or blackberries. I don't think many people worked all night or were expected to turn around perfect documents in a few hours. He is so mistaken when he judges the work ethic of today's law students.

  47. Anyone still babbling about hard work at this point in our society is just willfully delusional and in complete denial. Look, at some point, there's a such a thing as empirical data and facts. Both of which tell the tale more than the economic religious fundamentalist arguments about personal responsibility and hard work. You may as well say progress will happen by transmographication. If the entire economy is in decline overtime, you cannot work your way out of the problem.

    This has been so thoroughly proven by people far smarter than me that I feel the need to only list a few books on the matter, and suggest that the "hard working, personal responsibility" types read them with an open mind:

    "Two Income Gap"

    Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi

    The Great Risk Shift

    Jakob Hacker

    Nichel and Dimed

    Barbara Ehrenreich

    Not to mention the volumes and volumes and volumes of economic data out there on stagnanat wages, rising costs (with both education and health going through the roof and the US fallowing behind Europe on key indicators, etc.



    We have fallen behind Europe in both social mobility and the employment of people by small businesses. This is true despite more regulations and more taxes in Europe.

    To keep speaking of "hard work" and "personal responsibility" in the face of these economic realities is psychopathic.

    Bruh Rabbit

  48. transmogriphication should read transubstantiation.

  49. 4:12: It's even worse than that. Traditional law school grading practices are so arbitrary that many students find there is literally no correlation between how hard they work and what grades they get.

    A recent grad told me that he worked like a madman the first semester of his 1L year, got middling grades, and concluded that given the nature of the evaluation system studying 10-12 hours per day made no sense. He spent the second semester working literally half as hard and ended up getting better grades at the end of it. Yes data isn't the plural of anecdote but I've heard many, many anecdotes along similar lines over the years, and more to the point the evaluation methods employed in law school make such stories quite believable.

  50. "'I am starting to hold students just as accountable as the schools. The students sign for the loans, they need to do research before they sign up for $150,000.'

    This may be true. But I think it is a red herring. The question is whether allowing the students to make these bad decisions has negative effects on the profession and society as a whole. I think the answer to both of those questions is yes. "

    I'm sure you are right about the consequences. Still it is frustrating when people willfully ignoring the advice to not go to a bad school, or to not go for sticker, or to retake and reapply, or that they are facing a lifetime of debt. It seems impossible to stop people from making big mistakes. I suppose the schools are counting on this, and they - the schools and the obstinate 0Ls- will never change without a massive amount of pressure.

    Many people on TLS try to give good advice, but just as many people won't listen. Here is a comment by a guy who is determining between Cal Western and Southwestern in response to at least 5 different posters telling him not to go and asking him why he feels he must go this year:

    "I hear your warning and im ignoring it. I wont bookmark anything and I wont read this thread in a year or two. Ill worry about my future and deal with my options as they come thanks. Your conscience is clear. Anything of substance to add about which school might be a better fit?"

  51. I don't believe the $29k figure.

  52. 4:41

    You don't make rules based on people being perfect or always making the right decisions.

    When I am helping with setting up practices and procedures regarding risk management (in this case I am now dealing with privacy practices), I don't suggest rules that are about everyone doing the right thing because they have been warn of the consequences of a privacy breach. I help develop rules that take human nature into consideration in a realistic way.

    In short, you aren't being realistic becuae you are expecting perfection rather than what humans are- which sloppy, messed up, irrational, and a lot of other things.

    Bruh Rabbit.

  53. I'm not expecting perfection. I admit I am frustrated from person after person after person being completely unwilling to accept that they could be making a huge mistake. I am surprised that people happily take on six figures of debt after knowing that the market is terrible.

    As an aside, I think this undercuts the argument that if grads had better information in the past they wouldn't have gone. (not one specific person, just the general argument that the schools are to blame for misleading students. There are plenty of people who want to go even after being repeatedly warned about facing a lifetime of debt.)

    I'm thinking,based on your comments, if people are going to do what they want anyway, why bother? Let them go and make their mistakes. But then there is the conflicting notion that the debt of others affects us all and our profession.

  54. @ "Terry Malloy"--neither you nor I -- no one,really-- knows the appointed times of our inevitable deaths. Translate "many, many decades" into centuries, and we can both be sure neither one us will be around. That is what I was saying.

  55. The ABA has undermined the legal profession and all supply/demand dynamics. The increased proliferation of technology will make the profession unrecognizable in 10 years time. There is not much that can be done to salvage the eco-system besides closing law schools down.

  56. Two more thoughts from a classic Boomer (born 1955)--

    1. I think the Millennials are awesome--truly. You are smarter, more sophisticated, more tech savy, more multicultural, and more tolerant than any of us Boomers were at your age. I've been teaching law school since 1984, and the students keep getting better.

    2. But you've got to lose the idea, expressed by a few of you, that Boomers created the ethic of hard work and individual responsibility. That ethic is about as old as Plymouth Rock in the U.S. Believe me, if the Boomers had invented the idea you would easily beat it down. But you're up against a centuries-old cultural force on this one. If you can change it, I'll be delighted--but I think you have to realize that you're working against a stronger force than just Boomerism.

  57. Your generation must have been pretty dumb.

  58. Grading is arbitrary/subjective to some extent, but that does not mean it does not serve its purpose. When a student has a transcript full of As and A-s, it is a clear sign of an excellent student. Similarly, a transcript full of B's with the occasional A, or C for that matter, thrown in sends another message. It is performance over time, judged by different people, that tells the story.

  59. 5:09

    I never bought into the "better information," and, therefore, better market argument about education costs.

    This is precisely because I work in the private sector, and I can tell you that better information does not trump entrenched belief. I can explain a risk in multiple ways, say it multiple times, bring in experts to explain it, and it still may not change behavior if the audience does not want to believe it.

    Am I unique? No, sadly I am not unique:

    "When I was at McKinsey in the early 1980s, one of my clients was then then Citibank. The partner on the account asked me to get the organization charts of the major investment banks (commercial banks in those days were desperate to become investment banks and not very good at most of the investment banking businesses they could participate in, like M&A and private placements).

    I knew Citi’s problem was not its organizational structure but its culture, so I dutifully followed orders, got the org charts, and then wrote a presentation that contrasted how investment banks operated versus commercial banks on five major issues. It became a best seller at Citi.

    More than 20 years later, when I saw the partner who was still at McKinsey, he remarked, “You remember that document you wrote on investment banking culture? They are still using some of the slides at Citi.” He thought that was a good thing.

    I thought it was a bad thing. It meant Citi had still not learned the lesson of the presentation."

    Her experience is my experience, and, the people with whom we are dealing are sophisticated "savvy" business actors rather than some wet behind the ears college students who still no knowing of the real world yet.

    That being said, you can't know who will or what percentage will be influence by the correct data. In short, whether people will or will not influenced by the right data is not an excuse to allow fraud. We don't create anti-fraud laws to prevent suckers from being born everyday. We create anti-fraud laws to develop some minimum standards. Its the same approach I take to risk management- what is the minimum level of risk avoidance/mitigation/transfer/awareness that I expect?

    I don't consider my job to be a failure just because no everyone will take advantage of the rules to their maximum effect. I assume breach. Just like one has to assume some people are going to go no matter what.

    WHy bother? Because without a minimum standard against fraud we are screwed by the process, not just the one's who would have gone anyway.

    You strike me as middle class. That can be a problem. I didn't grow up in the middle class. I grew up poor. So I judge people be a different yard stick. I don't expect perfection. I expect screw ups. You seem to want to punish individuals who screw up. I want to created system so that we all don't get screwed, even those of us who would have heeded the correct information, because you have decided those who don't justifies the fraud against all of us.

    Returning to my analogy- that's like saying I should encourage a system of breaches because I know there will be breaches despite my attempts to minimize them. That's a strange argument to make on your part.

    Bruh Rabbit

  60. DJM

    It will either change or this country will continue to decline. So, people will either change or reality will do it for them.

    Bruh Rabbit

  61. 509

    Not sure what happened to comment so I will keep the repost short. You would invite fraud because others would ignore the information? That's interesting position about how a system should work.

    Bruh Rabbit

  62. By the way, I also do not think awareness is the solution to the crisis. But, then, I have made it clear several times now that I don't believe in market solutions to this problem. The only real solution is a restoration of the public good, which would reorient the problem to address our dwindling resources as a society. Outside of that one is just moving the chairs around the deck of the Titanic.

    Bruh Rabbit

  63. 4:12 and Law Prof at 4:30:

    I know this is a side-issue on the thread, but
    I honestly believe that there is a NEGATIVE correlation between how hard a student studies in law school and his or her grades.

    Law school is not like undergrad, where a student's path to an "A" is to immerse him or herself in the material and rely on classroom lectures and question-and-answer periods to guide him or her through the thickets. A student who follows this path in law school will sink down to the bottom of the class.

    Law school pedagogy utilizes what students call, with ever-growing bitterness, "hide the ball" in which a few months of doctrinal material is stretched out to fill three long years. The alleged reason for this technique is to sharpen the student's mind. The real reason is because it is the easiest way for the faculty to extract three years' tuition, without providing clinical training.

    I would advise a student entering law school to do the following:

    1. ASAP, 1st day of class: Read and study a short hornbook or outline to get an overview of the core doctrines of the subject and the associated analytical framework or "tests".

    2. Do not glance at the caselaw book until you have studied the outline and have a good overview of the subject. Do not try to learn the law through reading the caslaw book.

    3. When you finally do look at the cases--skim them, but do not study them (and do not highlight anything with rainbow colored magic markers). You simply want to get a sense of how courts applied the doctrine you have already learned in real world circumstances. You do not want to master the logic of the cases--which is often impossible, in any event, since the caselaw book generally emphasizes those seminal cases where the Supreme Court was formulating a test for the very first time and so is making all sorts of logical flips and leaps and is barely coherent.

    4. Try to tune out the useless psuedo-Socratic classroom games, if you cannot safely cut class. Sit in the back row and play video games on your cell phone. (See point 3).

    5. Take lots of sample exams so that it is second nature to apply the core doctrines and tests at the appropriate points in the professor's preposterous bluebook story problems.

    It is a bitter pill for law students that the smartest, most diligent, and most committed among them often get the worst grades, and watch as the most cynical and anti-intellectual students carry off the top grades and better life prospects. This is because of a tragic flaw-- they were too trusting and too naive, and, therefore, studied not wisely, but too well.


  64. LawProf, where does one find historical law school tuition figures? Is there a paper out there with this data?

  65. @6:00

    Very good advice. I did terribly 1L and it wasn't until I got to 3L that it dawned on me that I should have been relying on hornbooks instead of plodding through assigned readings.

    That is not the way to learn the law. I think a lot of the students who did well were able to discern quicker that supplements and hornbooks are very good at explaining the law in a practical fashion. I felt cheated when I learned that some of the observations and points the "smart kids" in class were making were actually in the supplements. Up to that point, I was thinking they just got "it."

  66. 6:37: I gather historical tuition data from a variety of sources. The HLS data is from the HLS annual guide, which is on line (I use an on-line internet inflation calculator to adjust the figures into present dollars).

  67. 6:37 here. Are there any other sources you care to share? I'd be curious to see data for other schools.

    I figured the inflation-calculator part. You might want to look into Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) as well for insight into how LS tuition stacks up against other education prices.

  68. ABA stats:

    Michigan Law School has its annual tuition back to 1950 on line. Law School Tuition Bubble has yearly stats for every law school going back to 2004.

  69. Can you please tell us exactly what you said to the audience member? Sounds like it was a beautiful opportunity to square him away.

  70. These days I don't see how it is difficult to land in the top 10% of the class. The assigned casebooks are uselesss. Study legal lines or Emmanuels and access the law professors' prior exams with model answers. Commit the model answers to memory. The professors are so lazy that often times they repeat the same questions from past exams. I gave this advice to a kid who graduated 5 years after I did and he blew the competition as a 1L and transferred to Columbia based on his first year grades. When I walk past the law library on a weekend seeing all those kids furiously outline with their highlighters, I just shake my head and think "they are doing it all wrong."

  71. People have to do what is comfortable for them. Some folks on this site can be so authoritarian, so polarized in their thinking: "it's either this or it's that."

  72. This is true only if people have all the information they need. When people willfully turn their back on advice, and refuse to even explore the possibility that they should wait a year, retake, or whatever, then I don't understand their thinking. Likewise, when people are relying on fraudulent statistics having been manipulated by schools into believing their job prospects are exponentially better than reality, I think they deserve to know the truth.

    To me the risk of a lifetime of debt is such an onerous burden to undertake, people need to at least consider all the information before they make decisions. Schools need to provide adequate information so students can make good decisions.

    If that is authoritarian or polarized, I don't apologize. The downside of a lifetime of debt can be so horrible that people have to think carefully before they sign the line.

  73. Fuck these kids. Let them all go to law school. Let them all fall for the sucker's bet and waste three years of their lives while they spend their entire life paying for it. The lemmings won't listen. They think you are being jealous and trying to hold them back. When someone asks me whether they should go to law school, I encourage them. They will go regardless of what you or the good professor says. Every millennial feels they are a special snowflake. They will graduate in the top of their class. They will make law review and order of the coif. These losers will waste their lives on JD underground after they graduate making less than before they enrolled in law school or unemployed. They deserve their fate.

  74. Bruh - start your own blog. Reading about your opinions on the economy and ideology for the millionth time is getting old.

  75. I think Bruh's posts are actually some of the best I've read (probably THE best), especially when compared to the drivel that floods most of the scamblogs (I include this site as a scamblog).

  76. Two things:

    It is difficult to get top 10% because of the mandatory curve. May e lawprof can expose law school grading at some point. 0Ls don't understand.

    The quote from the 0L going to cal western who says" I hear your warning and I'm ignoring it." is going to stick in my mind for a while.

  77. 3:30ish here.

    i am extremely sympathetic to the basic ideas in this blog. the "hard work will generate success" trope is a dead one in the legal world. i just wanted to focus the argument on legal education and the legal industry. i'm not ready to say, as others are in these comments, that the notion of hard work is dead in every subset of our economy. but i certainly grant that the united states is on the "back nine" in terms of being an international superpower without giving up the game entirely. the income gap was worse in the gilded age, and prudent legislation coupled with general discontent sorted that out. i'm hopeful. for now.

    only a fool would argue that one can turn a buck in the legal profession if one is willing to work hard. that is not what i said at all. i would encourage any 0L reading this blog/comment to do something else with his/her life. i can think of no alternative career that wouldn't be a better gamble.

  78. 4:48

    Thank you. The problem with most of the scam sites is the atomization that refuses to link what's happening to lawyers to the greater economy. They, including here, do a lot of navel gazing, whining, and trying to develop "solutions" with the the existing framework of thought that they grew up hearing was their only choice.

    The desire to attack me, of course, arises out of someone who can not explain why their beliefs in "personal responsibility" or "hard work" (which are really just dog whistles from the culture wars in the U.S.) should trump data and economic reality. Better to try to get me to not comment than to answer the problems that they don't want to think about to much, or not at all.

    Bruh Rabbit

  79. @ dybbuk and the earlier poster about studying/hardwork vs. grades:
    I agree about studying through the traditional assignments usually lead to more confusion. I don't necessarily agree about hornbooks. I never opened one in law school and most semesters I had great grades.
    I personally think (in case any 1Ls read this blog) that the key was usually to do as many practice tests as was available, and either looking at model answers/getting prof feedback to get used to spitting out the answers you should be giving.
    But still, despite that, the mandatory curve still flattens this out. If everyone studies the exact same amount, gave in the same exact test, not everyone can get an A. It was one of the things that baffled me about legal education because it just didn't make sense: grades are meant to be an objective evaluation of the students skills, but this mandatory curve destroys the objectivity of it. Hard work literally loses all its meaning in the face of this curve.
    In my experience, the curve made classes with good professors who were clear that much worse, because everyone understood everything and the difference between the A paper and the A- paper was maybe one sentence or point.

  80. @ dybbuk and the earlier poster about studying/hardwork vs. grades:
    I agree about studying through the traditional assignments usually lead to more confusion. I don't necessarily agree about hornbooks. I never opened one in law school and most semesters I had great grades.
    I personally think (in case any 1Ls read this blog) that the key was usually to do as many practice tests as was available, and either looking at model answers/getting prof feedback to get used to spitting out the answers you should be giving.
    But still, despite that, the mandatory curve still flattens this out. If everyone studies the exact same amount, gave in the same exact test, not everyone can get an A. It was one of the things that baffled me about legal education because it just didn't make sense: grades are meant to be an objective evaluation of the students skills, but this mandatory curve destroys the objectivity of it. Hard work literally loses all its meaning in the face of this curve.
    In my experience, the curve made classes with good professors who were clear that much worse, because everyone understood everything and the difference between the A paper and the A- paper was maybe one sentence or point.

  81. @6:37 University of Pennsylvania tuition at all schools going back to 1900 is available online:


  82. 448

    Thank you. Despite the fact some of my comments are deleted, I try to add a different perspective other than more of the same

    Bruh Rabbit

  83. Bruh Rabbit: I've never deleted a comment of yours. Long comments occasionally get caught in the spam filter, but when I find them I post them.

  84. Okay, thanks Law Prof

    Bruh Rabbit

  85. That $12,500 2011-equivalent for Harvard Law in 1971 is interesting. My first job in 1972 paid about $14,000 and friends working at Wall Street firms got about $22,000.

    Yet none of us graduated with much debt. How come? That's an interesting question and the answer may shed some light on the complexity of the current problem.

    Most of my LS cost was paid by savings from summer jobs & family support.

    Back then folks still had some of the post-war savings mentality. We didn't spend everything we made & then some, in part, because credit cards were in their infancy.

    None of this is to say that I blame the present generation. It's real nice to say that we had some self-discipline then but when you can't buy on credit it's easy not to.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents (a dime in 2011 dollars).

  86. @Some Old Coot:

    Provided that you already have an entry-level job appropriate for a college graduate, pay little or no taxes, and live rent-free with all of your physical needs, you could still pay for most state law schools (for which you could get resident tuition) by working. Well, provided you worked for a solid year before each year of law school, instead of just a summer.

    So what was your point again?

  87. Some old coot- what rock have you been living under? Do you understand that people cant earn 50,000 from their college life guard, research assistant or sales clerk jobs? That would cover a years tuition.but nit books or living expenses. Do you know what rent costs now ? Even if you live at home and your parents paid your living expenses, it simply isnt possible to earn enough to pay tuition. If you can't live at home, you will be spending thousands for rent and living expenses. If you need a car, gas is 4.00 now- how much was it in the 1970s?

    And even after you got a jib in new York you probably got a low cost rent regulated or controlled apartment. Do you know what the vacancy rate is for rental apartments in manhattan now? I was looking at 4,000 for a one bedroom with a balcony in a doorman building. What did you pay? Now I can find something cheaper- but around 2000 is probably right just for rent.

    You are delusional if you think people are wasting money to such a level that they could have gone to law school simply on their savings from menial jobs. It isn't happening. You need to wake up and understand the situation.

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