Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How many law schools should be operating in the United States in 2012?

An anecdote from the good folks at JD Underground, in response to a 0L's question regarding whether he ought to attend the University of Wisconsin  (BTW this web site should be required reading for law school faculty and administrators): 

I'm not saying don't do it. It's great if you can get in to UW-M. Just don't look for a job in Chicago. I went back to a recently formed-firm's website I applied to last year and here's who they hired.

Here is the original job posting:

Suburban litigation firm located in Illinois seeks a
licensed attorney with 0-1 years of commercial litigation and/or
business transaction experience.

Here is who they hired:

Northwestern Univ. JD (top ten school)
10 yrs experience at Sidley Austin (top five international law firm)
Clerk for federal judge

That's the reality of the market. I hope it works out for you.
 Here's an ad from the very top of the employment and classifieds section of the Colorado Bar web site:

Appellate Services
Experienced Appellate Attorney
Colorado Attorney with 30+ years of experience available for APPELLATE WORK AND LEGAL RESEARCH, Very Reasonable Rates contact Donald Brenner (303) 321-5459 Posted 03/30/2012
Among the many things we need more information on is the reality of the legal market now for people who have been in the profession for five and ten and twenty years. The disproportionate focus on first jobs out of law school is a product not of some methodological choice but of the fact that this data, as flawed as it is, is what's available.  To the extent we have data on longer-term outcomes it's largely from two sources: profession-wide statistics regarding how many people are working as attorneys relative to how many people graduate with law degrees, and indirect evidence from the outcomes for entry-level attorneys when they try to obtain supposedly entry-level jobs.

Regarding the former, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 212,000 jobs will become available for attorneys over the course of this decade, mostly as a result of replacement rather than growth. If the number and size of ABA-accredited law schools remains the same, that means 48% of law graduates this decade can be expected to get (not keep, get) a legal job, if we employ several unrealistically optimistic assumptions, such as that 100% of these jobs will be filled by people who graduate from such schools over the course of the decade, rather than by previously unemployed lawyers, graduates of non-accredited schools, and foreign attorneys.

The BLS projections also produce a daunting relationship between the 35-year ABA law school graduation total and the total number of people expected to be working as attorneys in 2020.  The latter number is 801,000. The former is just over 1.6 million.  So over the course of a generation law schools will have managed to overproduce attorneys, or rather potential attorneys, by a two to one margin, and, given the BLS projections, that ratio will will become worse every year going forward. (The BLS data and projections are bolstered further by the fact that a granular look at the annual NALP data suggests that less than half of recent graduates are getting real legal jobs).

If you think all this implies strongly that ABA-accredited law schools ought to be producing about half as many graduates now as they're currently producing, you're right.  What I would be curious to hear is any argument as to why the number ought to be significantly higher than that.  I'll anticipate a couple of replies that don't seem convincing to me.

(1) Big law business cycle arguments. As a structural matter attorney overproduction in the United States has very little to do with the ebbs and flows of big law firm hiring, which despite the enormous attention that's given to it accounts for only a small percentage of the attorney employment in the American legal system.  So whether big law hiring bounces back to the levels of five years ago has very little to do with the answer to the question of how many graduates law schools ought to be producing, given that for quite some time now schools have been cranking out two graduates for every job, roughly speaking, and the ratio appears to be getting worse going forward.

(2) Versatile law degree arguments.  It's to say the least very unclear whether having a law degree is a net positive for job seekers who don't get legal jobs -- so much so that we can't say with any confidence that, for such graduates, law school would be worth it even if getting involved no direct or opportunity costs. In other words for those who don't get jobs as lawyers, a law degree might well not be worth getting even if getting it were truly cost-free.

(3) Education for its own sake arguments. To put it in crass economic terms, it's possible in theory to model legal education as consumption rather than investment.  In theory.  In practice it can be a form of conspicuous consumption ("my son/daughter the lawyer").  I'm willing to bump the "rational" number of law graduates by 10% above the likely number of jobs available to take into account the trustifarians and their ilk.  So that means 23,000 grads per year rather than 21,000.

Of course there's the minor detail of exactly how we're going to get from here to there.


  1. Other than allowing student loans to be dischargeable in bankruptcy again (which will allow market forces to cause lower tuition costs, and in turn cause some law schools to close, etc etc) there hasn't been any other method proposed to achieve that. Until that happens, there will always be an endless commodity of ignorant kids willing to go $160,000 in debt to go to law school.

  2. People are not going to law school out of any desire or love of the law.


    1) students get out of undergrad able to make $40k on average. This is not an acceptable outcome for many bright college students accustomed to upper middle class lifestyles.

    2) LS's post - falsely - a median starting salary of $95k.

    3) students believe LS's, and apply in droves.

    Make law schools post realistic numbers and the applications will evaporate.

  3. Good article in today's Minneapolis paper re: student loan debt. www.startribune.com. It's titled 'Students weighed down by debt'.

  4. Some quick thoughts on your points:

    1) Biglaw hiring - Biglaw is generally always going to hire from the top schools. Biglaw generally hires only a small portion of the 45K law school grads. Law school shrinkage push up the demands of government and small firm jobs. Mid-size law rarely hires entry level.

    2) Versatility - it's amazing how people discover how "versatile" a degree is when it does not serve it's original purpose. It's a survival instinct and good way to brag and sell books if you're successful (or maybe not).

    3) Intrinsic value - Only ivy league (not T14) law schools could be deemed consumption degrees. Having access to the Harvard Club has substantial value. The other top schools are investments. The rest are a gamble.

  5. Law practice is like a pyramid, so the "right" number of graduates at the bottom is going to be a larger number than the "right" number of senior lawyers at the top. I wish I could think of a way to gather that career-long information -- I know anecdotally how hard it is for many lawyers who are 20 to 30 years out. Practicing law is like an endless game of musical chairs, except that the music doesn't end and you aren't in a safe seat unless you have substantial portable business or can make enough rain to support a practice. And these 20-30 year graduates largely weren't hobbled with six figures of debt at the outset.

  6. I agree with 6:54's bankruptcy discharge analysis. It's the only politically possible way to reform. If we just got rid of the schools that should be closed (for example, schools that rhyme with Fooley), "elitism" "harm to minorities" "harm to the poor" would be thrown about even more casually than they normally are. Discharge the debt and the lenders will tighten up lending standards. The banks can do the dirty work for the politicans, the schools, and the profession.

    Also, make originating institutions a surety for a portion of any loan. If State U had 20% skin in the game, they'd be more cautious about their admissions and size.

    Also, in my experience, law school is slightly less useful than tits on a bull. It used to be the norm that one "read" to become a lawyer in an apprenticeship system. The student would then actually learn how to practice from someone who actually knew how to practice. Just as one "reads" to become a plumber or an electrician. We could encourage State legislatures to adopt a more med-school-like hybrid system that encourages knowledge of something useful. Bar admission is a function of 1.5 years of classroom study and 1.5 years (or 2.5 years) of apprenticeship. Six months of that could be in-school clinical study.

    This would accomplish several things. First, students would actually learn something in law school. This is a profession, after all. Second, TTT diploma mills would be limited not by the number of seats in their auditorium (or volumes in their libraries), but by apprenticeship opportunities and clinical work. If a school could only anticipate securing and overseeing 100 apprenticeship opportunities with practitioners, then they'd be limited in the number of admissions they could accept. Third, it would benefit the students by actually teaching them what it means to practice law. How do you deal with a client? How do you deal with an unreasonable client? What kind of law do I want to practice? What do real estate lawyers do? What do business advisory lawyers actually do? How do the discovery rules actually work in practice?

    For all but the worst students in the most overcrowded of legal cities, this system would be win, win for the bar and the students. So why not do it? It would rob universities of their cash cows.

    End the scam. Shut them down. End the law schools. Shut them down. End the scam.

  7. +1 - Make law school about educating lawyers. It never has been about status or "learning to think like a lawyer" from faculty who do not know how to "think like a lawyer." The case method and current law school model was supposed to democratize the practice. We've now killed it.

  8. The question shouldn't be how many law schools, but how many students. I say keep all the schools, but cut their numbers in half and have more focus on clinics and apprenticeships.

  9. Bankruptcy discharge eligibility for all student loan debt is the right way to deal with the scam.

    But to get to the question in the title, it's 64. The 14 elite institutions + 1 public law school in each of the 50 states.

  10. Regarding loans being dischargable in bankruptcy, I don't think this is sufficient. It'll help, but the reality of the modern financial markets is that those loans are getting originated by banks, but then chopped up into financial sausage and sold on to other investors, with a mathematical model that says that the top-performing loans are a completely solid value & thus they can be rated as safe as houses. Even if the banks can't sell off the least appealing loans, they know now that the government will come in and make good any losses they take. Mortgage debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy, and we still had a housing bubble...

    So don't expect the market to solve things. To really solve things we need to give young people other options, and that means two things. First, it means subsidizing state schools more, to break the mid-ranks of the prestige model enough that there's a financial case for going to lower-ranked schools -- which will force all schools to compete on price. And second, we need to create a lot more non-legal jobs with a modicum of prestige and pay that will support a middle-class lifestyle.

    Neither of these things will happen, because they would involve spending money, and deficits are the cross our political and commentating class have collectively decided to hang themselves on.

    But you have to understand the behavior of law school applicants as a rational choice in really craptastic social circumstances -- a bad bet taken through lack of perceived alternatives -- and you can't trust Lloyd Blankfein and Dick Fuld to charge in and save the world, when Lord knows they haven't been doing that so far.

  11. "Make Law school about educating lawyers" There are many types of lawyers. Perhaps there should be different types of schools for the different types of lawyers-- schools for people headed to do work for corporate entities, to serve as clerks to federal judges, and to work at high level government offices and schools for people who do not (cannot) aspire to those things.

  12. ^ Actually, bankruptcy discharge for student loans is necessary, sufficient, and the only approach that has any hope of resolving the structural problems.

    It will also ease the disaster at the individual level.

  13. How does the bankruptcy analysis change considering the vast majority of student loans are now completely in-house through the U.S. Dept. of Ed.?

  14. Private loans are with Dept of Ed, right? And we could still make the law schools on the hook for a portion of the loan as an originating institution.

  15. but the reality of the modern financial markets is that those loans are getting originated by banks, but then chopped up into financial sausage and sold on to other investors, with a mathematical model that says that the top-performing loans are a completely solid value & thus they can be rated as safe as houses.

    I don't think that your statement is accurate. I don't think you can package or tranche government originated student loan Collateralized debt obligations.

    There were SLABS (student loan CDOs) backed by private student loans, but that market isn't very large. Plus, due to the Graduate Plus loans (nearly unlimited government backed for graduate school) private loans rarely come into play for post 2007 grads. I believe my first year, 2004-2005, was the last year when private student loans were widely used.

  16. Law schools being on the hook is a different scenario...private loans (other than GradPlus and ParentPlus that can be originated through private banks that you can then consolidate with other public (stafford/perkins) loans through Dept. of Ed.) are specifically not originated with Dept. of Ed. But most students (myself included) get most of their debt through the Stafford program (recently changed to prevent subsidized status for students going to grad school so that interest accrues and compounds the entire time the student is in grad school - a BIG change). Declaring bankruptcy for these loans that are almost exclusively housed within a public program seems unlikely, good for the individual, but can't see how that would relate to law school's changing. Unless you are saying it would come from Dept. of Ed. policy...and I'm not sure how that would work.

  17. There should only be about 50 law schools, in the United States. Prorate the figures down, and these institutions would produce roughly 11,000 graduates. If you want to be generous - and provide additional welfare money to the schools - then let them pump out 15K grads each year.

    While NALP data indicate that roughly 26K-28K jobs require bar passage, keep in mind that MANY of these openings are not attorney positions. Furthermore, this glut allows firms to churn and burn through associates - as they know that desperate lawyers will jump at the chance to work for them.

    AMA and ADA schools do not DELIBERATELY SATURATE the market, with physicians and dentists. There is no justification, for the ABA allowing the commodes to collectively award 44K+ law degrees annually.

  18. I'm @8.38 and just want to say I'm about 95% sure of those facts...not completely on whether GradPlus and ParentPlus can still be originated with private loans...and the most recent budget agreement is when the undergrad subsidized status of grad students got screwed but someone may need to look up in what exact manner grad students are getting screwed.
    As much as I hate to say it, and think the idea is akin to asking Goldman Sachs to self-regulate speculative investments, I can't see how anything else other than the ABA can mitigate this problem. Changing accreditation standards seems to be the easiest/most unlikely/most direct/rational way to go forward. My humble opinion only...

  19. Keep up the good work Professor Campos. Remember that even if the Law Schools have unlimited government (taxpayer) money and probable political patronage, supply and demand remains a fundamental economic principle.

    Destroy the demand, and the supply is restored to normality, irrespective of Uncle Sam, because student loans (i.e. Debt Serfdom Contracts) cannot be handed out to applicants that don't actually exist.

  20. There will be more than 50 law schools because there are 50 states, each will want to provide a law school for the residents of their states. THat is not an unreasonable desire. There will also be private schools alternatives.At the very least you will end up with 100.

  21. (1) Big law business cycle arguments.

    So true LawProf. Even in the best of times, Biglaw typically only hired the top 10% of students at schools ranked outside the top 25. Where do the other 90% go?

  22. @6:54 and @7:16. Bankruptcy reform with an impact is also politically infeasible due to the costs to the government. The two current bills apply only to private student loans, which represent about 7% of the market.

    Further bringing back bankruptcy for student loans would not harm the schools on bit, just the lenders. In the case of private loans, the lender is a private company. In the case of Direct Loans, the lender is the federal government.

    If bankruptcy were restored, the school would keep the money. Lenders, or in the case of Direct taxpayers, would be the ones on the hook for the remaining balance, not the school.

    There are two reforms which would help this situation tremendously:

    1. Stop PLUS Loans to the full cost of attendance: This should be obvious. Free flowing credit (@7.9%, no less) to whatever costs the law school sets is a recipe for disaster which we are seeing play out before us.

    2. Make schools share in the risk on federal student loans. After a certain individual debt-level threshold (say $20K for undergrad, $40-50K for grad), the school should be required to pick up some portion of the default risk on federal student loans. This is a way to incent schools to ensure their students can earn a living that justifies their investment.

  23. Don't you think you should redact the Colorado lawyers phone number? I always think putting a phone number on a website is an invitation to getting prank calls.

  24. Senator Durbin has been leading an inquiry into the downside of higher education, but does not seem to think that law school debt is a problem. See:

    Perhaps his staff has blinders on for a reason, but I would suggest the readers of this blog who believe there is a problem in legal education should contact that office. Here is a link for contact info: http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

  25. Don't you think you should redact the Colorado lawyers phone number? I always think putting a phone number on a website is an invitation to getting prank calls.

  26. @ 10:07

    As an Illinois resident, I am annoyed that the people continue to pull the lever for Durbin every six years. He doesn't seem to do any good there.

    Democrats want to be seen as spreading opportunities to the poor by increasing access to college/professional schools. They wanted to do the same thing with housing. The private market was happy to accommodate their political goals.

    The results was ruinous for the poor. I think we will have more traction with Republicans on reforming legal education, but perhaps that one California senator will prove me wrong.

    Legal education, and higher education in general, privatize profits, socialize the cost, and spread the ruin. An overproduction of lawyers has not reduced the cost of legal services, it has increased the amount of debt-ridden unemployed graduates.

  27. (a) Bankruptcy reform on the issue of student loans has a snow balls chance in hell.

    Its not cost issue, which is a concern over how much is dischargeable or interest rates. The real issue is creditors. Private student loans have no reason to be non-dischargeable. Yet they are.

    (b) Department of Education through its authority could easily cut the number of law schools in half.

    Bruh Rabbit

  28. How could they easily cut the number of law schools in half?

  29. 10:20 comment

    please delete that shameless ad. people dont need that useless shit for 60 bucks when we can all google.

  30. http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/


    If the DOE does not recognize the ABA or even threatens its recognition, what happens?

    Bruh Rabbit

  31. More on DOE's role


  32. How could that ever happen "easily"?

  33. Keep up the good work professor.

    Just yesterday I heard a 0L (HYP undergrad alum) talk about how "a law degree is so versatile". I felt like I should have corrected her but didn't have the heart...

    I hope she ends up at a T6 school at least.

  34. Make the LSAT more similar to the MCAT in terms of entrance standards or make the LSAT a pass/fail test like the bar exam.

  35. I don't think changing the way law schools educate students is going to fix the problem. Honestly, the way law schools educate was fine and dandy up until there ceased being enough jobs for the number of grads. Grads got their first job, and learned whatever it was they were doing on the job. The problem comes in when law grads can't get that first job, and are left with having to try to start their own firms right away. Then it becomes a problem that they don't know anything about the practice of law. But, brand new grads shouldn't have to be in that situation. It makes much more sense to practice for a few years, learn how to really be a lawyer, and THEN open your own firm, when you have something to offer to clients. Once again, the problem is that there are not enough jobs for the number of lawyers in the market, and the only way to fix that is to close at least half of the law schools currently in existence and to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy so that the "lost classes" of 2009-2011 can move on and do something else. Anything less, the market will remain hopelessly glutted for many years to come.

  36. Why make it pass/fail? Well, if they do people's undergraduate schools will become even more important. We'll go back to the days when HY just filled its classes with people from HY or schools just like that. That will continue all along the chain. Students from lower ranked undergraduate institutions will have a tough time (not impossible, but tougher time) moving into a higher ranked law school.

  37. @ 11:50. Not necessarily. If you impose a minimum standard, say a 160 for lschool acceptance eligibility it makes the lsat "pass/fail". Schools and students could then be slotted according to their scores above 160 still capped at 180. I think that having a more intensive entry level barrier to prevent kids from taking on 100k+ in debt would be more beneficial. Driven prospective students who had trouble scoring 160 or higher could restudy and retake the lsat until they received their desired or minimally satisfactory score (with a cap limit of a certain # before scores get averaged). People might say this is unfair or unjust to deny the student an opportunity, but this is the way med schools do it, and its more fair and just than allowing someone to accumulated 100k+ in debt with a chance of getting a full legal job that is worse than winning roulette. This is just one thinking out loud proposal (in addition to making lschool more practical skill based, discharageable student loans, and making lschools have some skin in the game by making them partially liable for student loans)

  38. I published a blog post about this subject about 1.75 years ago. Using BLS stats and the ABA stats for JD production over the previous 40 years, I concluded that at a minimum, 60% of the law schools need to close. You can find my posts and the calculations here:



    However, I think 75% of the law schools should close so that some of the excess JDs that were produced have an opportunity to finally enter the legal workforce. From economic perspective, our society would be wealthier if we made use of the JDs that have we have already expended resources in producing rather than produce new excess JDs. In fact, along those lines, a great argument could be made that all of the law schools should close for several years while the legal market makes use of current JDs.

  39. @11:48 You are almost entirely correct, but there ceased being enough jobs for all the law school graduates at least 25 years ago. This is not a new phenomenon, just worse now. There also ceased being enough jobs for all the experienced lawyers in most fields at least 35 years ago and perhaps even 40 or 45 years ago.

    @12:06 "I think 75% of the law schools should close so that some of the excess JDs that were produced have an opportunity to finally enter the legal workforce. From economic perspective, our society would be wealthier if we made use of the JDs that have we have already expended resources in producing rather than produce new excess JDs. In fact, along those lines, a great argument could be made that all of the law schools should close for several years while the legal market makes use of current JDs."

    You are absolutely correct!

    I believe that law schools in general are nothing more than parasites on society....no better than leeches sucking the life forces of young, naive, relatively bright victims.

  40. 12:06: why on earth should law schools producing top grads close in order to provide employment to unemployed grads who performed not near the top of their class at far weaker schools? That's ridiculous. However, I'm on board with the closing of 60-75% of the law schools, leaving open the top 14 + 1-2 state schools per state.

  41. @SD Atty-- Oh, so you just mean closing off law schools to anyone who scores 159 and below. That's an interesting idea, but problematic. I am sure there are lawyers who score d 150 on their LSATs who are doing well as lawyers, and people who scored higher who are not.

  42. Sorry, I meant to say 159 on their LSATs

  43. @ 1:31: I don't see why that is problematic. The bar exam supplies the same kind of clear score cutoff. Although there are people who repeatedly fail the bar exam but are able to perform in some areas of legal work (as supervised law clerks), we still have (and should have) a brightline cutoff for who will be licensed to practice law. I think that using the LSAT as a brightline test would be the same way. It's not hard to score above 160; my diagnostic test the first day I ever saw an LSAT was above that mark.

  44. @1:31. Yes, unfortunately the reality is there are too many lawyers and too few jobs. Imposing stricter entry level barriers is a possible solution. I agree the lsat is an arbitrary measuring stick (as is almost all standardized testing/academia). But if that is the socially agreed upon measurement standard than making it have higher stakes via pass/fail would be an option to curtailing oversupply. I am all for restructuring the measurement parameters, but working within the system it seems like a point of plausible filtration. I also believe that the horror of PROBABLY (not possibly) graduating with 100k of debt and no adequate job prospect is more of a crime/problem than not allowing someone to pursue such a degree. This process can be a harsh solution, but there are going to have to be harsh solutions to fix this disaster. In a forum openly discussing options, this is just another hat in the circle.

  45. Really, what we have to do is allow 100,000 new law graduates to hang from a pike (figuratively and hopefully not literally) as warnings to would be followers. Don't bail them out. No bankruptcy. Make their lives utterly miserable. And if you litigate against them, flame them. Chew 'em up. Show them how god awful this profession is. I mean really torch them and grind, grind, grind. No money, inescapable debt, and ruthless opponents should cut demand.

    Then, hopefully a few of the law school fraud suits survive dismissal. If 2 or 20 schools get tagged to the tune of $10+ million, the walls will come down and we can sack the system. That should cut supply.

  46. 2:13:

    I hope you are being sarcastic. If not, there is a special place in hell for ya.

    First, even if BK protections are re-instated and people like me, with stellar credit, discharge these loans, I still have a major problem: I am still UNEMPLOYED.

    It is not puppy dogs and ice cream if/when my loans are discharged.

    I need a job. Any fucking job.


  47. My own assessment is as follows. Each state and territory should retain one law school, if only because each has its won legal system to a degree. However, smaller state, smaller state law school - so if you say took Michigan as an example - each million residents would equate to about a class of 30 law graduates from the state school (there would be some very small classes.) That then would leave the T12 (after you removed Michigan and UVa) and those should survive. That gets you to about 7,500 graduates from the state schools and about 7,500 (or a bit less from the T12.) So now you have about 14-16,000 per annum. Maybe you allow a few more schools. That is in essence it 64 law schools or so (allowing for Puerto Rico, the Marianas, DC, US Virgin Islands, etc.) Maybe you go for a few more schools, but not many. There are good-jobs for 16-24,000 a year, max.


  48. Nothing will happen until the student loan sugar teat runs dry (out of milk)

    What a crazy idea: Student Lending and forced indentured servitude for an entire life with no risk at all on the part of the education "Industry"

    In the big picture: This is not a contract at all. Just a one sided take it or leave it scam, with no legal redress for the ripped off people.

    With a whole lot of extremely pissed off lives ruined in the process.

  49. I have the ironic existence of attending a school that I think should close, because I have the dream of working as a lawyer incurring 0 debt (because of my scholarship). I don't have the heart to directly tell some of my friends that they would be better off dropping out, but I try to hint at it as much as possible.

    I'm planning on meeting with the Dean to work on an article for the law newspaper, and asking about the legal job climate, if any of you have any ideas let me know.

  50. We need to re-imagine the system as a whole. Unfortunately, legal education ideas are stuck in the 1920s. You read an old case for an iron-clad principle of law, you sit in a room and talk about it with a smug man in a suit, etc. The best students go to the best schools, the best schools necessarily teach law better than the lesser schools because they have better students and men in suits, etc.

    Fundamentally and realistically, it's a load of crap. Law isn't an academic discipline where instructors should be graded on their publications. Law reviews are meaningless tripe factories. And law school is a horrible way to learn how to be a lawyer, largely because it tries to shoe-horn itself into the old university model while ignoring practicalities for the first year, sometimes for the entire time.

    They would rather believe that students can put life on hold for three years, take a gamble, and then see if their gamble paid off after spending three figures.

  51. 3:08:

    Here is my idea:

    Do what I do. Make an apt with the Dean and tell them straight to his/her face that you are onto the scam. Do the same with the head of the CDO. Might want to schedule these on the same day BEFORE they can talk to each other. Tell them it is not the graduate's fault but the systemic problems perpetuated by the law schools and student loans. Basically make the Nando and Lawprof arguments. People at these fucking schools seem to listen when you use the words "law" and "professor" in the same sentence. Put their mind at ease by telling them they are probably uncomfortable in hearing what you are about to say.

    In short, man up, and don't be silent about the problem. I see too many lawyers suffer in silence. Speak up and be loud. My law school knows I am coming from four miles out.

    They avoid me because I speak the truth. Some people write blogs, I prefer speaking to people face-to-face. Hard to believe I was so quiet in law school. I guess years of litigating bullshit cases and working for an asshole changed me.

  52. @ 3:24

    Thank you for the comment. I have seen hope at my school, recently a student asked a prof. about law tuition, and the other week I walked by a group of students (1L's) who were discussing what sense it made to go to school for 7-8 years (undergrad+law school) to possibly land 40K/year jobs starting out. I go to a lower ranked school so there is maybe one biglaw slot open for the valedictorian out of 200.

    On the other hand, one girl I know kind of berates me for posting X quote from Lawprof on facebook or whatever. Needless to say, she did not get into her top choices and almost failed CivPro first Semester. My heart breaks because she is paying full sticker and is not increasing her earning potential at all.

  53. The T14 Law School are really not going to suffer..Sure they may have one or two students who may fall by the wayside and that could be because they did not pass the Bar on the first try...

    The only way LS down the list can get a small chance at BigLaw is when some of those Firms have offices in those LS neighborhoods & they create a space or two as a courtesy to those lower places LS.

  54. "The T14 Law School are really not going to suffer..Sure they may have one or two students who may fall by the wayside and that could be because they did not pass the Bar on the first try..."

    1988 would like you to leave now.

  55. They may "suffer", but it will not be like schools below them.

    And that form of joke-- 1977, or whatever year "called" and they want this or that or the other thing done, or back-- is played out.

  56. You're repeating a line about employment out of T-14 schools that bears no relation at all to reality. Huge numbers of grads from these schools are either getting no real legal jobs at all, or jobs that don't come close to paying their debts.

  57. Wall St. Journal Best and Worst Jobs of 2012. I'm surprised attorney is as high as #87.


    But remember you can do anything with a law degree! (like "the arts") And law schools are molding the future leaders of society! Hey at least we are just one ahead of Vending Machine Repairer (do you think that means I'm too overqualified to get a job as one - half joking)

  58. no more than 50, one in each state

  59. If the "you're" is referring to me at 5:49-- I do believe that people in 3rd and 4th tier law schools are likely to be in greater jeopardy, even when the economy gets better. The problems there are bigger and require, I think, more sustained consideration than what is happening in the T14. Of course there are problems there. But, I do not think anyone is seriously talking about whether any of the T14 schools should even exist.

  60. Rick Santorum is going to be standing in line for an Attorney's job & he is going to jump in front of you to get it...

  61. We all have these ideas for how to address the problem.

    The problem isn't coming up with ideas.

    The problem is that we work in a broken political system so its not clear if any idea we come up with will mater.

    I am not trying to depressing. I have just been thinking through the problem. The problem isn't a lack of solutions. The problem is that we live in a system that has no sense of systemic solutions. Its all about the individual, short term needs and wants.

    Any solutions that we can think of requires a different approach to how voters, and more importantly, politicians think.

    Bruh Rabbit

  62. How can someone claim that T4 schools are not in trouble? Maybe T6 but probably only T3 are safe enough to attend at sticker.

  63. And I mean HYS by T3 in case readers dont know>Harvard Yale Stanford

  64. When I was at the newly(all of 3 or 4 years I think) ABA accredited Touro Law School in the 1990's, there was much talk about how Touro was going to relocate and become integrated within a newly built Federal Court Complex on Long Island.

    It was to become the first Law School to do so, and that the students would someday benefit from being "on location" so to speak and be able to observe the workings of the system, take notes, shoulder chuck judges and senior attorneys and heckle from high up in the wings of the federal courtrooms.

    I thought for sure that someday Touro would move up from the fourth tier when all of that would take place, and that my degree would go up in prestige/perception as well.

    Well, during the first Millenial decade the move did eventually take place, and Touro did all that it had planned.

    However, when I learned in 2010 (after the Jobless Juris Doctor and Third Tier Reality posted rather negatively about Touro) thaat Touro was still in the 4th Tier according to USNWR, I was pretty surprised.

    But of course, Mr. Morse, and his USNWR has redone its rankings methodology, and I say "Good Oh" to that: a cool and soothing rankings unguent on the hot pustule of the law school scam.

  65. Here's what the doctors did early last century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexner_Report.

    I advocated months ago that we need to close half the schools. We could allow the best 15 or so private institutions and reserve one public school for each state. Then, divy up another 30 or so public schools to the states by population. Since the ABA is extremely unlikely to do this, is there any possibility to have state governments place limits on the number of schools in there own state?


  66. We need to look more closely at the fundamental reasons the ABA (our trade organization) is so eager to ruin the profession. Yes, I know that the accreditation committee is comprised of law school deans for the most part but the bulk of the membership is not. How did the ABA allow a small cohort hijack such an important economic function to its membership as the supply of lawyers? So the big firms have more cannon fodder? But the majority of lawyers in the ABA are not big firm lawyers, are they?

    As for the anti-trust excuse, that is nonsense. The ABA could devise ways to get around that if it wanted to. It just doesn't seem to want to.

    I believe much, perhaps not all, of the solution lies with the ABA .

  67. "You're repeating a line about employment out of T-14 schools that bears no relation at all to reality. Huge numbers of grads from these schools are either getting no real legal jobs at all, or jobs that don't come close to paying their debts."


    T14 3L here. I think that's mostly accurate. I can't find anything. Decent grades too. One caveat though: as much as it's been a frustrating experience, I do think us T14 unemployeds are still in a significantly better situation than our unemployed colleagues who went to lower-ranked shops. I mean, I can occasionally get a conversation or an interview on the back of my institution, which isn't much, but it's something.

  68. When will someone talk about attorney job *creation*? From practicing in several firms these past 10 years and starting my own, I clearly see there is large demand for attorney services. But as my former bosses used to say, just not enough people who can afford to pay (our rates) to receive them.

    This problem can be addressed by the academic and capital enterprises as well as government and the bar. Somehow we pay engineers high salaries and blue collar laborers high wages to build the tunnels, wells, and plumbing to get cheap clean water the masses at cheap prices. Why can't we figure out how to get more legal services to more people so that there are plenty of highly paid jobs for lawyers?

    I agree crummy law schools should be closed down and transparency is an absolute must. But the demand in the true economic sense - the desire and ability to pay at a price we are happy to provide - is what needs to be addressed and worked on. People and businesses clearly need more legal help! I turn down people fairly often because they cannot pay.

  69. And even when law school was far less costly, legal services were too expensive for many people. Back in the 1970s observers were lamenting the fact that people lacked access to affordable legal services.

  70. If the government wants to provide more affordable legal services to the poor, then the government or the bar can subsidize the provision of affordable legal services to the poor with money or mandated public service (all lawyers must do x hours of annual pro bono work).

    Subsidizing crappy law schools and crappy law students will not serve this goal -- at least not efficiently. And to the extent that it does so inefficiently, it will provide the poor with the poorest of lawyers.

  71. Lawprof

    I may get flamed for this - but long term I do not think the T14 have an employment problem on the scale that they currently face. Most are situated in major legal centers and are the top school in that area and/or are highly regarded as national schools. Given their high bar passage rate it also seems likely that even the bottom third of their classes are competitive with the upper third in schools ranking 20 and below, and certainly the 2 through 4th tiers.

    To some degree the argument that the shortage of jobs is due to the recession is true - the recession has caused a fall-off in legal hiring and even given the structural changes that the profession has faced sine 1991 and especially since 1998, new lawyer jobs are probably at a nadir driven by the recession. The real issues are that if and when the recession ends and the economy recovers, (a) there will still be too many law graduates for the available jobs and the more marginal graduates, those from weak law schools, with weak credentials going in and with a poor aptitude for legal practice will still be in trouble, and (b) the market will not support a general income level for lawyers high enough to justify the current cost of law school and the money so many students borrow.

    Thus, even assuming arguendo a recovery in legal hiring, it will only be enough to probably partially solve the problems of the T14 (job availability), but probably not enough to deal with the problem of educational debt for the T14 graduates. It will also help the higher end of the state law schools. However, if a new JD is not a graduate of a T14 school or a strong state school a recovery will still likely leave that young lawyer totally screwed.

    There are 46,000 to 50,000 law graduates a year. The economy can absorb about 15-20,000. Of those BigLaw can absorb maybe 2-3,000 or 10%. Thus there is only room for that many to be paying $50k tuition (if that) and how do we know which ones they are. The safest guess is that the t14 is about 7,500 and some states schools will add another 7,500.

  72. In discussing how many law schools there should be, a couple of people have stated as a premise that every state should have - or needs - a law school.

    Note that there is not a single law school in Alaska, and from what I understand, there is not a lawyer shortage in Alaska, despite it being many miles away from any other state.

    We don't even need 50 law schools. Seriously, at this point we'd probably be fine with 30.

  73. Alaska is an anomaly in many ways.

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