Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mid game

Several commenters have asked me whether faculty are discussing the issues raised in this blog and, if so, what any of us see as the endgame. At mid-week, it's relaxing to write a post that's all speculation--none of those pesky facts or studies! So here are my thoughts.

First, I do know quite a number of faculty--at my school and elsewhere--who are discussing these issues. Their views and awareness differ, but the comments arise far more frequently in conversation. There's still a tendency everywhere to think that "our school is different," but there is steadily growing concern.

As for predictions, I can't see the endgame from here; the economy and profession are changing too rapidly. But here are four predictions about what might happen by the end of the game's first quarter (roughly within the next two years). I offer these with the hope that I won't be much further off than the average sportscaster:

1. This summer will produce shock waves at almost every school. Applications are down, including among those who scored highly on the LSAT.  In addition, based on comments at sites like top-law-schools, 0Ls are much more reluctant to pay sticker price outside the T14. Even some applicants with multiple offers in hand are still weighing whether to attend law school at all.

Schools outside the T6 almost certainly will have trouble filling their seats with applicants as qualified as the ones they currently enroll. The challenges may be greatest at schools ranked roughly 15-100, who will face pressure on three fronts: (a) fewer applicants in their original pool, especially at the higher LSAT levels; (b) more competition from schools ranked just above each of them, who are dipping further into their own pools; and (c) more competition from the schools ranked just below each of them, whose scholarship offers will be more tempting to applicants than in the past.

A significant number of schools at every level may pare class size to maintain LSAT and GPA levels. Alternatively, they may end up inadvertently under-enrolled because students change their minds in late summer. This summer probably will be a volatile one for admissions, with lots of students admitted off waiting lists who leave gaps at other schools.

The schools that do cut class size may face a sobering outcome: the unfilled seats are likely to be full-price ones. I suspect, in other words, that schools will continue offering scholarship money to attract the best students; they may even push those budgets to maintain their entering-class profile. When classes start in August, the missing bodies may be ones who would have paid full tuition. Losing 10-25 students at the "average" seat cost isn't too bad; losing 10-25 students who would have paid full tuition for three years is a bigger blow.

If shocks like this occur, then many more faculty will start talking about tuition, job outcomes, and other issues on this blog.

2. Tuition won't rise nearly as fast as it has in recent years. Some schools may even freeze tuition to attract students, although I think few will go so far as to roll back sticker price. Instead, schools may try to increase scholarship offers, de facto lowering tuition. Scholarships are an appealing way for schools to cut tuition, because they can differentiate among applicants.

Some schools may find other ways to court students by cutting students' anticipated costs. A thoughtful school, for example, could guarantee all of its students "scholarships" for credit-earning summer externships. Essentially, the school would say to applicants: "If you attend our school and don't find a paying job after your first or second year, you will be able to enroll in our summer externship program without charge. That summer externship will help you learn skills, make workplace connections, and build your resume--and you'll get free academic credits to boot!" This would be attractive to students, and would not cost schools very much. Externship programs are inexpensive to run, and most students pay for a full six semesters of law school even if they earn some credits one summer. A creative student in my "Business of Law" seminar wrote a paper developing this idea.

3. Schools will begin looking for new sources of revenue. They are likely to admit more international students to both LLM and JD programs. They may also create revenue-generating courses targeted at practitioners. These courses would offer more depth than CLE workshops, but without the commitment of full degree programs. Despite often-justified criticisms of law professors, every school has at least a few faculty who have useful technical knowledge and decent presentation skills. As law firms and other organizations become leaner, they may find this type of training increasingly cost-effective.

The internet may help schools tap some of these revenue sources. A few schools have already started offering internet-based courses to LLM students in other countries. Practicing lawyers and professionals in allied fields (e.g., human relations) are also excellent targets for internet-based training.

4. Schools, students, and employers will adapt to new hiring patterns. I don't think the boom times of 2007 will come back--certainly not within the next two years. The new patterns will vary by law school prestige and geography, but some likely overall trends are:

(a) More externships, volunteer positions, and fellowship-funded positions during the 1L and 2L summers. These positions will give students useful practice experience, but at a worrisome financial cost: the rise in student debt flows, not only from increased tuition costs, but from a decline in paid employment during law school.

(b) More staff attorney, career associate, contract attorney, and other "alternative" positions at law firms of all sizes. Some of these positions will have positive features: Full-time staff attorneys and career associates may handle interesting work, while maintaining more regular hours than partnership-track peers. At least some of these full-time positions pay better-than-average salaries, and the full-time jobs usually include benefits. But even the most desirable jobs in this category make it difficult for graduates to pay down their law school debt. The increasing number of these jobs will challenge law schools to address tuition costs and debt; the question is whether schools will rise to that challenge.

(c) Much more mobility and part-time work during the first 2-3 years after graduation. The job market overall is unstable, and new lawyers clearly are having a hard time establishing themselves. We'll continue to see graduates moving among contract positions, government jobs, fellowships, and law firms. My informal contacts suggest that this movement is multi-directional. Some BigLaw hires are downsized to less remunerative work within two years of graduation. Other graduates who initially took fellowships or part-time gigs have landed associate jobs at solid law firms.

(d) Increased emigration. American JDs have value abroad and, as the domestic job market remains rocky, foreign jobs may become more attractive. US firms are also continuing to expand overseas offices. Law students, meanwhile, are increasingly likely to have lived or worked overseas, to have friends in other countries, and to feel comfortable relocating to another nation. Whether employed by a US firm or an overseas organization, we may see more alumni skyping into reunions.

Whatever the trends, we'll know much more about them in two years than we do now. I'm starting to research new career paths among our graduates, and I suspect faculty or administrators at other schools are doing the same. That research, if it happens, will be very beneficial to current and future students--and even to some alumni.

*   *   *

Notice that my "first quarter" predictions do not include massive closings of law schools. It's possible that some law schools will shutter, and I think that would be a good result. But law schools have a lot of resources and considerable fat to pare from their budgets. Meanwhile, although the applicant stream has diminished, it is still large enough to fill all existing seats at law schools. At least during the next two years, I think we'll see reduced class sizes rather than closures. What happens after that may depend on how schools themselves react during the next two years, especially on predictions 2-4. Will we find ways to attract more students by cutting some costs? Will we find new sources of revenue? Will we place more of our graduates abroad? Will we find out more about the new job market so that we can help our graduates better navigate those waters? 

Somewhere in there, I also hope that schools will modify parts of their academic programs. Relatively modest changes could make a significant difference in preparing professionals--and perhaps even in placing them in better jobs. But that's a matter for another post.


55 comments:

  1. Do not go to law school. Even "good" outcomes are not good in any objective sense. Lawyer dissatisfaction is at an all time high. Salaries are going down, as is professionalism.

    The degree is not versatile. If it were, I can't think of a single lawyer I know under age 35 who wouldn't leave the practice to enter industry.

    Getting a law degree 10 years ago was a good way to shoot yourself in the foot for a few years before entering the middle class. Now it's a good way to shoot yourself in the head.

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  2. Cutting professor salaries...

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  3. All of these options seem expensive. You say that law schools have fat to help out. Can you give us some idea how much fat the typical law school has?

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  4. Nice analysis. I think you are right that few schools will close in the next few years. New revenue sources plus the ability to cut class sizes will save most schools in the short term. I wonder, however, whether application to law schools will continue its downward trajectory. One can hope!

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  5. 8:03 AM > I know lots of lawyers over the age of 35 who would leave the practice of law immediately if they could.

    Even if you can get a job, law is a soul-sucking venture.

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  6. I disagree with Point Number 2. The biggest fleece out there is income based repayment.

    IBR just made the American taxpayer subsidize the high cost of law school, and it did so in such a convoluted way that students won't appreciate it. Just as marketers convince buyers to purchase boats, cars and houses based on a monthly payment, so too will law schools market IBR. No matter the price, it will cost you 15% of your income for 20 or 25 years, but think about how much bigger the other 85% will be than if you had not gone.

    Buy now pay later law school. Oh, and when it's discharged at the end, Joe Taxpayer is takes a bath to the tune of $200,000.

    Patently unfair to taxpayers. Subsidizes the law schools who get their cash up front.

    This is wrong, wrong, wrong, and immoral.

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  7. The schools simply want the federally-backed student loan gravy train to continue. The "professors," CSOs and administrators do not give a damn about their students' outcomes. The pigs are paid up front, in full - regardless of how well or poor their graduates are doing. The grads are left with mountains of non-dischargeable debt. What a great system, huh?!

    If we can expect more part-time work for lawyers and JDs, then there is NO JUSTIFICATION for ABA-accredited diploma mills to charge $30K-$47K per year in tuition!

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  8. This is a great analysis. I just wanted to note that the law school where I used to work (ranked in that deadly 15-100 range) tried to organize "revenue-generating courses targeted at practitioners" and it was a complete and total bust. (And by that I mean that not a single person signed up, notwithstanding a big marketing effort.) The practicing bar simply had no interest. I'll leave it to the snarkier commenters to dissect the reasons as to why that might be.

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  9. The LLM numbers will definitely go way up. Law schools may see their social capital among U.S. undergraduates decreasing rapidly, but from what I've seen they still have a large reserve to draw on when it comes to enticing foreigners to spend 50K for a one year vacation/networking opportunity. Oh well, at least they'll round out the bottom of the curve for the lazier 2Ls and 3Ls.

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  10. If schools are losing revenue due to fewer seats being filled, I think we'll see hiring freezes to cut costs (though probably not layoffs). Schools will make up for the loss in faculty in two ways:

    First, higher teaching loads. Law profs typically have a 2/1 teaching load, and so it just takes 3 profs going up to 2/2 to replace a missing faculty member. One less lower level faculty member makes up for 2-3 missing students. Probably see more VAPs taking on a 1/1 load, or a 0/1 load at schools with no teaching requirement.

    Second, we'll see more internships/externships offered. Internships provide students with credits (at full price), but don't really add any work for professors, other than a bit of paperwork. This game has become more popular at undergrad programs, and some even have internship requirements. If you get 60 credits total 2L and 3L, requiring 3 to be an internship reduces the upper level teaching load by 5%. That's not a lot, but needing 5% fewer faculty translates to pretty big savings.

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  11. Excellent post, DJM. I think one of the reasons faculty and administration have been so resistant to change and so viciously angry at Campos and the other critics is they either consciously or subconsciously realize that solving (or at least mitigating the problem) is going to have an impact on themselves personally. They will have to lose pay, other benefits or security, or teach more classes, and the idea infuriates a lot of them.

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  12. I wish U.S. News shook up its methodology and employed an audited "employed in jobs requiring a J.D. one year after graduation" metric in the rating.

    This would immediately shrink classes, end the scam, and scare law faculty.

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  13. This was a fascinating read.

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  14. How about current students simply dropping out after one year, when they realize they are at the bottom of the class and don't want to rack up any more debt?

    Also, what about the schools ranked 100 to 200 or so? Are they on even shakier ground?

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  15. DJM,

    All of your predictions are limited to the effects of market forces. Do you not believe that there is a possibility that other forces will intervene?

    Specifically, what are your thoughts as to the likelihood of the following interventions:

    1. Discipline by state bar associations for violations of Rule 8.4.
    2 Intervention by Congress in the form of hearings and investigations.
    3. Reform of the federal government's student loan program.

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  16. "American JDs have value abroad."

    What! I did not know this. Can DJM and commenters please elaborate? I'm not being snarky, either. Details, please!

    I have more than a decade of experience and I'm still utterly desperate in this job market (completely saturated legal market/non-legal employers could not be less impressed by my JD) and would happily go -anywhere- that I could make -any- money.

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  17. Fascinating read. But #4 seems overly optimistic to me, particularly 4b. "Alternative" forms of employment (read: poor job security, prospects and benefits) will not come close to filling the shortfall between graduates and new jobs, and T14 grads who didn't land biglaw or gov jobs will get first dibs at these positions; I suspect TTT grads will remain as fucked as ever or worse. And 2007 was not "boom times" unless you graduated T14 or live in legal academia. In fact, more like 1997. "And they ain't comin'back..."

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  18. "The missing bodies may be ones who would have paid full tuition."

    In other words, there will be less muppets coming through the door.

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  19. "American JDs have value abroad."

    Where? In Europe, forget it. In Asia, not unless you are fluent in the native language and have western legal experience. Otherwise, enjoy teaching English like a dancing monkey for 20K a year which is what you could have done with a BA degreee.

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  20. Also, don't expect there to be an uptick in contract attorney jobs. Earlier this year, a federal judge for the first time put his stamp of approval on the use of predictive coding in large scale discovery. Overnight, work which would have kept thousands of lawyers busy suddenly evaporated with the click of a mouse.

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  21. 11:28, yeah that statement has me puzzled too. Would like to see some statistical support for that.

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  22. The next step will be government guarantees of law loans.

    Policy makers should get rid of them as they are such a horrible deal for taxpayers.

    Two things will prevent this: (1) bellyaching that loans make school affordable and attainable to the poor; (2) that a law professor is in the White House.

    There is no policy reason that the federal government should be in the JD or MBA grad loan market. It only furthers the scam.

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  23. @ 12:01PM

    Regarding student loans, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing affair. It is true that 100% guaranteed loans made available to pretty much anyone is a big problem. But this doesn't mean we have to go to a 0% guarantee. How about, say, a 50% guarantee for example?

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  24. Student loans were somewhat sane 15 years ago. At that time, you could borrow federally guaranteed loans of up to $18,500. If you wanted to borrow more, you had to seek out the money on the private credit markets. Still wanted to attend the private school but didn't have the money or the credit to do so? Too bad. You either had to attend the part-time program and work full time, or you had to save up the money and defer admission for a few years. This happened all the time to people and it wasn't "opportunity denied," or the end of the world.

    They should have left this system alone and merely indexed the $18,500 figure to the consumer price index. Things however started to get really funky around 2005. The schools, banks, and their lobbyists pushed a bizarre, crony-capitalistic private loan non-dischargeability program through the Tom Delay Abramoff oil Congress. Lending became loose, diploma mills popped open, and people entered law school who had no business being there. You started to read stories of people graduating with $250,000 worth of debt a few years later. Unsurprisingly, even with the non-dischargeability provisions, the private loan markets seized up in 2008. Instead of reverting back to the somewhat sane system we had, the Obama administration (another crony-capitalist) pushed through an even more bizarre structure started by Bush that federalized the entire student lending bubble and implemented IBR.

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  25. "Despite often-justified criticisms of law professors, every school has at least a few faculty who have useful technical knowledge and decent presentation skills."

    DJM:
    I guess I'll be the snarky one. I read your well-written post to my lunch group of four other lawyers: one specializes in bankruptcy; one in criminal law (white collar mostly); one in healthcare law and one other personal injury trial attorney like myself--and all with at least 15 years experience. Their rection to your statement above, was, to say the least, unenthusiastic. We agreed, that law professors are far too removed from the reality of law practice to offer us anything new or relevant. Frankly, if one is a good lawyer, like I believe these gentlemen are, they are already keeping up with new developements in their areas of expertise. If they wish to branch out into a new area, they buy a treatise on the subject or call a more experienced colleague with their questions.

    More likely than not, while law professors with "useful technical knowledge" may exist, it is doubtful that the technical knowledge surpasses the knowledge of most lawyers with any significant experience. I guess your "technically knowledgable" professor could teach new lawyers, but what would be the point of that? They just finished teaching them, now they need more instruction? Isn't it just easier (and cheaper) to buy a treatise on the particular subject?

    Other than that criticism, an excellent post.

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  26. DJM, thank for you picking up the torch. However, being a 20 year veteran in this field and knowing hundreds of attorneys, I find your statement "JDs have opportunities abroad" to be completely unfounded. Please elaborate this point.

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  27. @10:28, I'd like to see all three of those things happen but, realistically, I think the odds are low. Of the three, the most likely may be discipline for violations of Rule 8.4 or 7.1. I say that because (a) there are some pretty appalling violations out there, and (b) if just one state sanctions just one person, that would make waves nationwide. On the other side of the balance, lawyers are slow to discipline other lawyers--even when those lawyers are professors and deans.

    Congressional hearings are possible but I think they're unlikely to lead to action. As other commenters have noted, Congress seems unable to get much of anything done--other than engage in rhetoric and posturing that makes even law schools look tame.

    On loans: I think a rational Dept of Ed administrator could conclude that law school loans stand out from the rest of the pack as problematic. They are very large compared to most other fields, and fall far short of guaranteeing employment (as medical school loans do). On the other hand, loans to law students are a small part of the overall budget, and the Dept of Ed has plenty of other issues to worry about (including all of elementary and secondary education). So I'm not optimistic about action on that point.

    The most likely non-market action, I think, will come from the ABA (not huge reforms, but little nudges) and state supreme courts. The latter actually control the legal profession; I think they are an overlooked resource for reform. Maybe I'll do a separate post on that.

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  28. I think it is time to call a company like this:

    http://exteriorsolutions.com/c-31-exterior-wood-shutters.aspx?gclid=CPONwqeol7ACFYhM4AodiDnH4A&

    Personally, I like Board N Batten style

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  29. I agree with tdeniss239, practicing lawyers will have no use for law school classes. Pretty much every lawyer I know already resents the expense [in $$ + time] for mandatory CLE. It's pretty much a joke, at least here in NY. I can't really imagine what any law professor could offer, especially at what would undoubtedly be an enormous sticker price.

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  30. 10:52 and others asking about jobs abroad: I see this change as a trickle (the current number of grads emigrating) that will grow to a small rivulet. The actual number of affected grads will still be quite small in two years, but I think it's an important part of the market to think about--partly because we'll be fried globally if we don't start thinking this way.

    Most of these jobs, sadly, won't be partnership-track positions in large firms; many will be with legal process outsourcers or as nonpracticing staff attorneys at foreign firms or corporations.

    I realize that, reading my prediction against the steady drone of law school promotional materials (jobs! jobs! jobs here! jobs there!), this might have sounded more optimistic than I intended it. I see this as a trend that will grow slowly over the next two years and continue beyond that; not as a panacea for the JD jobs crisis in the US. Note, however: schools that increase LLM or foreign JD enrollment might try to tap those students to help US JD's who want to go abroad. That won't be a big lift, but it could be a useful move.

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  31. Just to engage in some speculation, I wonder if ABA requirements and declining enrollments at law schools might cause a few schools to close. I am thinking in particular of law schools attached to state funded universities in states where state aid is declining. Most university departments can cut costs by pushing more teaching duties off on adjuncts and teaching assistants.

    ABA rules prevent more than a certain number of classes from being taught by adjuncts. So law schools are stuck paying full-time faculty. I would not be surprised to see a situation where a university faced with tight finances and a sharp decline in law school enrollment might decide to close the entire law school to get rid of the costs of so much full time faculty and administration.

    As word continues to spread to 0Ls about the financial risks of law school compared to the often minimal rewards, the time may come when there will not be enough applicants to fill enough seats to make law schools cost effective for some universities.

    Again, this is just speculation, but it doesn't seem to be an entirely unrealistic possibility.

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  32. tdennis, snarky is always fine--especially from a well established practitioner! I'm curious to see whether law schools manage to make a go of this. I think they may try, given revenue pressures, although I was interested in the comment about a school that had already tried this and failed.

    I enjoy trying my hand at CLEs on evidence, although I don't do too many. For the crowd's possible amusement, here are two Xtranormal videos I created for a CLE. The first illustrates the interplay of rules against character evidence in federal civil cases, and the second acknowledges the bad legal job market while exploring some issues related to social media. I use these in class too, just to mix things up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2_ReWBTgKs&list=UU52OwLLx0ICZht_PorY96YA&index=3&feature=plcp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L4mZXLJuyk&list=UU52OwLLx0ICZht_PorY96YA&index=2&feature=plcp

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  33. @8:03pm: "Getting a law degree 10 years ago was a good way to shoot yourself in the foot for a few years before entering the middle class. Now it's a good way to shoot yourself in the head."

    I can personally attest to this fact. I graduated in '04, and I'm just now returning to the middle class, in a non-law job, after seven years of horror in the legal job market - or to be more precise, the lack of a legal job market. But I feel for those idiots - er, I mean, "students" (Baby Boomer Professor Retirement Suckers), who are going to law school now...

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  34. @8:53am - you miss the point about IBR.

    IBR, when you actually run the figures, helps only the worst-paid employees, like poverty level. For everyone else, the government has cleverly set the IBR calculations so that by the time the minimum payments have been paid, there is nothing left to forgive!

    IBR is one of the biggest scams out there, second only to law school.

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  35. Empirical evidence shows that based upon the return to loss ratio as opposed the projected growth factor of extant and other immediate investment prospects, both short term and long term, the manifest risks tangentially associated with investment in legal education as compared with the obvious benefits of immediate return of scratch off lottery ticket speculation suggests that an ordinary citizen of higher education is on par with, and on equal footing for prosperity in the United States with the concupiscent lottery winner....

    oh you figure it out

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  36. Something I found:


    Just as college seniors prepare to graduate, experts are warning about an alarming new trend. More students are declaring bankruptcy to help get out from under a mountain of student loan debt.

    “We are starting to see the first big wave,” says Christina Henry, a bankruptcy attorney at Seattle Debt Law.

    Henry said she has seen a notable increase recently in clients coming to her with student loan debt. Unlike most debt, student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, so Henry is working with students to pay off other loans so they can focus on the student debt.

    “In my opinion, we are going to see a whole generation of people where standard of living is going to be diminished because they can’t find a job to keep up with payments,” she said. “Most people don’t understand the terms on these student loans are inflexible.”

    Total student loan debt just reached $1 trillion this year in the U.S. That's higher than total credit card debt. About two-thirds of college graduates have some student loans to pay off, and their average debt is about $25,000 to $28,700, according to estimates by education experts and organizations.

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  37. DJM

    Loved poor Raleigh's video! Ah, the good ole' days. Perhaps if I had you for evidence, I wouldn't have spent the first five years of my career bumping into the furniture. I have finally grasped the hearsay rule, but I will never break my habit of asking too many leading questions on direct. Do you have a video for that? LOL (Of course, as one judge recently pointed out to me, if we didn't ask leading questions, a simple carwreck case would last for two weeks.)

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  38. The hillman exception was clever, too.

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  39. Uggh - DJM, you are a nice person but an utterly clueless academic.  4(b) above is a joke.  You do those fucking jobs for a few years carrying massive loans and then get back to me.  That crap reads like a TTT brochure trying to entice clueless potential JDs.  Those jobs are horrid and the ABA, if it truly represents all attorneys, should be done away with.  They just reward the current baby boomers and reward them for their luck at being in top in this climate.

    4(d) is just utter bullshit.  Please, just spare us.  Again, you sound like a TTT brochure.  Please let us all know about all of these magical jobs abroad, in countries that have their own reqs, that need a US JD.  It just sounds like you sit in a circle jerk during a faculty meeting brainstorming answers with absolutely no practical experience.

    Sorry for sounding harsh but we do not need another clueless academic poking around in the dark providing BS conjecture.  Our lives have been filled with out.  Its bad enough that the discussion threads have devolved into baby boomers e-stroking each other (MacK excepted)…baby boomers who were on the receiving end of 10% of the crap we've had to deal with…now we have to read to your pollyanish posts?  Enough with lawprofs…we already have one…and it took him months just to get to the point where he fully understands the scumbags and the scum they create.

    Lawprof - I've been here from the beginning and I've had it out with you a few times about the subject matter….but I've always respected you.  Its been really nice to see the evolution in your thought process and how much the tone and substance of your posts have changed.  But having another lawprof post is a huge step back.  Please have someone who lives in the real world and understands the day to day of young attorneys post, if you're going to have anyone at all.

    Just one man's opinion.

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  40. Re: (3) attracting more international students.

    Now that the domestic racket has reached its peak, it's about pulling in more foreigners who are still blinded by the glitzy prestige of 'studying in America'. A tragicomic example: the recently emigrated Chinese dissident Chen Guacheng wants to study law in the US. Talk about "out of the frying pan into the fire".

    Are LLMs internationally transportable degrees? Does anybody care about those (1-2 years) courses? Maybe it's a nice bonus for those who already have something real. But I suspect it's a niche market, at least for international students.

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  41. There are a few great jobs for US lawyers abroad. I have one of them, and there are another dozen or so in my office. But bear in mind, please, that these are not entry-level jobs. I won't say that I and my colleagues are an elite group--there is only one HYS grad among us. But there's no one in the office who hasn't spent many years in the States developing needful skills. We're even less inclined that most US employers to complete someone's legal education.

    Publius

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  42. I agree with 9:05 PM that Lawprof is sorely missed, but DJM's posts are better than nothing while we wait for his return. I thought this was the best post she's come up with yet. However, I did feel like she was completely out of touch with practionitioners by suggesting that law firms would pay for technical training from law professors. Can't imagine any corporate lawyer doing that. They might pay a little for needed CLE credit, though.

    As for 4d, I work in China. The market is not as bad as it is in the U.S. If you come out here as a fresh grad, you might be able to get a very low paid position at a local law firm and work up from that (if you can speak some Chinese that's even better). I've seen it done, but that would be a hard route. If you can get in the biglaw door in the U.S. and can speak some Chinese, however, you have a very good shot at making it out here. In any case, for you younger folks in college or law school, doesn't hurt to start studying Chinese--you probably won't learn much of anything else that is too practically useful in school.

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  43. Key word there being "few."

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  44. With all respect DJM, the notion that green law school grads are valued abroad for jobs sufficient to pay their debt is fanciful at best.

    If the hypothetical grad when to law school after three years with the department of state, then they have a marketable skill. K-JD . . . not so much.

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  45. @9:05

    " Those jobs are horrid and the ABA, if it truly represents all attorneys, should be done away with. They just reward the current baby boomers and reward them for their luck at being in top in this climate."

    You make some great points in your post, and your anger is more than justified, but I have to call you out on the above statements: the ABA does not reward all baby boomers---just the ones in big law and academia. The small firm lawyers are on their own. That is why most of my colleagues in the plaintiff's bar utterly disdain the ABA. We probably hate them as much as you young lawyers.

    Do you honestly think that our baby boomer status keeps us immune from the effects of the over-crowding of this profession on our income and ability to pay our overhead? Do you honestly think we small law baby boomers (the majority of practicing lawyers, by the way) don't know that the ABA leadership is comprised of big firm, silk-stocking types that hold those of us that represent regular people in utter contempt? Oh yes, they will condescend to pander to us now and again with some spotlight in their stupid magazine about a "small, entrepreneur lawyer", but they hold the ordinary lawyer, baby boomer or not, in utter contempt. Do you think the baby boomer, small lawyer has enjoyed seeing our profession turn to crap and find that the important work we do is viewed by you younger lawyers as contemptible ("shitlaw", really?)---a view, I may add, that has been fostered by biglaw and most of academia. Well, fuck them. I assure you, it is not contemptible.

    The truth is---except for those in big law, and the small law idiots who long to be in big law, the other 50% of baby boomer lawyers are on your side on this issue. Unfortunately, because of the state of the legal profession, we have to spend too much time just trying to make overhead and make a living to fight the ABA and its big-law/academic dictators. Hell, most of us aren't even members. In my view, a small law lawyer joining the ABA in 2012, is like a Jewish person joining the Nazi party in in 1938. (And yes, I know that the last comment will raise howls---well, dear reader, if you don't like it, fuck you too---the economic life of my profession is at stake here.)

    Put accreditation in the hands of the small-law organization, the American Association for Justice, and the closing of law schools would happen so fast it would make your head spin.

    Don't indict my entire generation, please. Not all of us deserve it---in fact, most of us don't.

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  46. I currently live in Asia. Here is the hiring situation:

    1. Big firms only hire lawyers who are currently employed by other big firms or have large portable books.

    2. Recruiters will not speak to you unless you have a "perfect" resume.

    3. Small firms highly prefer you to have local language skills even if the legal language of the jurisdiction is English.

    4. You are competing for jobs with an ocean of ABCs (Chinese born abroad) and "sea turtles" (Chinese educated in the West and returning to the region), not to mention grads of the local schools.

    5. It can take roughly a year to become barred in a local jurisdiction.

    6. In-house departments prefer that you be barred locally.

    7. You are in a much stronger position if you already have a local work permit, relieving the potential employer of the responsibility of sponsoring you and waiting for government approval.

    8. In many jurisdictions, the client with the most connected attorney wins. You are not connected.

    9. Americans will be shocked at the low pay offered for Asian legal jobs (outside the large firms).

    10. Think about the snootiest, most status-conscious, most paper-credential-obsessed lawyer you know. In Asia, that's the laid-back, open-minded partner.

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  47. Ms. Dennis--

    Great post. Although the concept of law school accreditation in the hands of the AAJ fka ATLA is hilarious.

    I was born in 1972, which puts me firmly in the middle of Generation X. I've been practicing for about 15 years (gosh, that's depressing).

    I think that when people in my generation (or the younger generation) gripe about "Baby Boomers," they are not complaining about individuals as much as the structural changes that seem to make it impossible to have the same lifestyle as our parents.

    The bottom line is most of my generation went to law school thinking it was an elevator to the middle or upper-middle class. There's a lot of frustration to find that not only is is NOT, but that we'd (possibly) have been better off in the low end entry level jobs we abandoned for law school.

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  48. ^ this is an example of that law where in an interenet argument it will only that so many posts until someone resorts to mentioning hitler, jews, or wwii

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  49. And I share your anger and your frustration. Not just for myself, but for you. It should have been an elevator to the upper-middle class. I want to live in a community that does well and my community does not do well if the next generation doesn't do well. We are very much on the same side.

    I am curious at your hostility to the AAJ (and yes, I liked it when it was the ATLA---I say be proud of what you are--apologize to no one.) Anyway, if you read this point, I really want you to tell me. I don't know everything---in fact, the older I get I realize I know very little.

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  50. re (4)(d):

    I suspect that that comment is most relevant for some subset of Asian Americans (7.4% of law school enrollment nationally in 07-08, tending to be higher at more prestigious schools).

    @6:23am - Much of that is correct throughout Asia, but if one is talking about Korea, Japan or India as opposed to China, YMMV. For example, in-house at Japanese firms will likely require language skills, but wouldn't expect anyone (Japanese, Japanese American or non Japanese American) to be a member of the Japanese bar. I'm familiar with several Korean Americans (really 1-1/2 generation) who've returned to S Korea to practice with 2nd tier US JDs.

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  51. On the portability of US JDs abroad, I too am a bit skeptical. I graduated in 1998, worked at Biglaw, then at Notsobiglaw, then emigrated to Western Europe about a year ago. Anecdotally, I am told by local friends and family (executive types) that companies with international operations DO love to hire American lawyers. And there do seem to be a lot of in-house job listings here for English speakers (no local bar required, but by "English speakers" they do mean "bilingual"). That said -- I am still looking.

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  52. Re #3:

    My background: I was a military officer who left service to attend a private law school in San Diego not named Cal Western or TJ. After about a month of school, I realized I'd made a mistake but my military ethic pushed me towards a "make the best of it" approach and prevented me from simply walking out with a partial refund. Even before getting my final grades, I was counting on taking my JD and returning straight to the military to resume my career in warfighting. Getting my grades back after the second semester simply sped up the execution of this plan, not the decision. I left school with a little less than 40K in debt with nothing "on paper" to show for it, but at least I was able to walk right back into the service and made up a good chunk of it by spending a year in Afghanistan, which was much more fun than sitting through law school classes.

    Fast forward a few years, I'm currently a federal agent making a six-figure salary. I have a job that is both exciting, rewarding, active, and lets me carry a gun all day. I still have some debt to service, but it's nothing that will ruin my life.

    Now, on to the point: I recently learned that USD Law has created a Master of Science in Legal Studies degree aimed (partly) at local professionals who could theoretically stand to benefit from an academic study of law. (As law enforcement, I'd argue that I fit that profile perfectly.) The most interesting part of the program is that all it requires is 26 credit hours of courses that are ALREADY IN THE JD CURRICULUM AND ON THE CLASS SCHEDULE. MS students would simply attend classes with and for law students taught by professors that were already committed to teaching them, though sadly not for free (The MS degree costs, per credit, basically the same as one year of USD Law, though one has up to four years to complete it.)

    I won't bore you with the details of how I then wrote USD Law asking them to simply give me an MS degree since I already had 26 credits of USD Law courses in the can. Suffice it to say, they said "No" and immediately changed their website and handbook to preempt clever punks like me from asking for it in the future. However, I made it clear that anyone with a brain could see that what they were offering was nothing more than 1/3 of a degree at no discount, with no special consideration for its students (i.e. no tailored "professional" courses or anything like that), and at no actual expense for the school itself; The only cost, in theory, USD Law might incur would be whatever a new plastic chair costs in order to keep MS students from sitting on the floor.

    I'm curious to find out how many takers USD Law has for their MS program...at least so I can bet the under. I'm sure it's not proven to be the cash cow someone hoped it would be.

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  53. Look for the med school faculty scam to start, with faculty required to get a significant part of their income from outside practice, but that money being funneled through the school so it forms a part of their institutional base salary.

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