Monday, August 27, 2012

Nobody has any money

Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney, frequent TV commentator, and now per his website one of Florida's most successful private lawyers, had a bright idea the other day, which he shared with readers of the National Law Journal:

The economy continues to inflict financial distress upon many lawyers — excruciatingly so for graduating law students. With law firms downsizing, the previously unthinkable waves of lay-offs have compounded the new grad's dilemma by pushing experienced lawyers into the swollen ranks of job-seekers.

Ironically, while thousands of new law graduates fret about the chronic joblessness that awaits them, tens of millions of Americans need attorneys but cannot afford them. And much of the unmet need rests in America's middle class, which is neither rich enough to pay $250 an hour for lawyers nor poor enough to qualify for legal aid organizations.

One of the greatest challenges facing the legal profession is to facilitate an effective, broad-sale union of jobless lawyers with lawyerless clients. To meet the challenge, brand new attorneys would have to be willing and able to represent America's middle class.
The problem, according to Coffey, is that neither law schools nor law graduates are prepared to represent members of the wide swath of society that lies between people (hey corporations are people) paying Vault firm partners $800 an hour to try to extend a patent for ten months, and the wretched refuse of our teeming shores, which apparently has access to a plethora of "legal aid organizations."

Despite the obvious need, especially in light of current conditions, many law schools and new graduates are neither prepared nor inclined to focus upon middle class representation. Image-conscious law schools fear that doing so might lower their rankings; law students laden with student loans might prefer careers outside of law to the modest income a middle-class practice would bring.
Instead of fleeing to the many well-paid non-law jobs whose doors fly open as soon as someone possessing a Versatile Law Degree(TM) approaches, debt-ridden law graduates who haven't been able to find jobs with big firms should represent the middle class.  All they need to do is run low-overhead law practices, made possible in this wondrous age in which we live by The Internet, Social Networking Etc:

The reality is that with prudent office economics, recent law graduates could earn decent compensation and launch successful practices, with the opportunity to continue to earn more. Rather than work for a law firm at high rates, of which two thirds goes to the employer, new lawyers could charge much lower rates and keep the earnings for themselves. Rates of between $50 and $125 per hour would make new lawyers affordable to the middle class while providing the lawyers with enough income to succeed.

The reality is that attorneys working at law firms usually receive compensation — computed on an hourly basis — within a range comparable to what a middle-class practice might generate. To maximize earnings from middle class clients means controlling overhead expenses, but these days new lawyers have little need for secretarial assistance. And using a home office or shared space can assure that the vast majority of revenues accrue to the bottom line. Hard-copy legal libraries — once a financial drain — are virtually extinct, and computerized legal research is more affordable than ever. Once a field of affordable and competent lawyers appears, middle class clients will come. 
Now why didn't anybody think of something like this before? Indeed I think we may have a whole new economic theory here: if you cut operating expenses, you can cut prices, and new markets for your product will appear.  It's so simple it's brilliant.

Sadly, no:

I've spoken with many lawyers, many readers. You know who you are. You know that I know the truth. The business of criminal defense is dying. It's awful. It sucks. And you're hanging on by a thread, if at all.  Yet, most put on their game face, talking themselves up as if they are somehow beating the odds, knocking down the world, making a killing. Nobody wants to tell their brethren that they're in the same boat, struggling daily to cover the nut and praying that the next phone call isn't another nutjob or desperate defendant without a dime to his name.

It's not that there is a shortage of criminal defendants, though crime is significantly down and serious crime even more so.  There is a shortage of criminal defendants who can afford to pay for a lawyer.  Sure, there are  some lawyers who are doing well, but you can count them on your fingers and toes, without resort to dropping trou. And there are a great many criminal defense lawyers, exceptionally good ones, who fight over crumbs these days, because that's all they can do to survive.

It's time we admit this, because walking around the courtroom hallways with our chests puffed out isn't putting any food on our tables. 

During my phone call, we spoke of the baby lawyers hanging out in the hallways trying to catch the attention of a defendant's mother with $100 in her pocket.  We spoke of n00bs, barely competent if at all, taking felonies for $1500 total.  He didn't blame them, knowing they had loans to pay.

The lawprofs are busy reinventing law school so they can continue to churn out tens of thousands of new lawyers. The talk is about law school tuition and practice-ready lawyers.  The theory is that if they can produce lawyers without the $150,000 in debt, they can service the middle class, who can't afford legal representation.

It's a lie, but the lawprofs don't realize it. They've never experienced law office finance, what it takes to pay rent and phone, or staff and equipment.  While student loan debt is a factor, it's only one of many. They don't grasp what every criminal defense lawyer faces daily, the cost of merely existing. They never paid a rent bill during their judicial clerkship or stint in the United States Attorney's office.
Indeed we haven't.  But it's not just the lawprofs . . . I wonder what sort of overhead Kendall Coffey's firm runs through each month?  Of course Coffey's clients aren't "middle class" -- Coffey is for closers.  The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida believes it would be possible to run an actual law practice while billing $50 an hour, and that people aren't doing this because they would rather either make the big bucks doing law talking for rich people, or bailing on law altogether for apparently more lucrative alternative careers, rather than swallowing their pride and making a modest middle class living representing the Great American Middle Class.

I bet Coffey is one of those guys who thinks that somebody making $125K is "middle class."  That's the only way his math works, anyway, because real middle class people in this country (median household income is down to around $45K per year) don't have any discretionary income for something like paying a lawyer.

Nobody has any money.  That's actually the whole problem right there, in four words.

130 comments:

  1. Suze Orman also said: "Nobody has any money anymore!"

    I realize she said it in a different context, but it is @1:52 here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj5CcYSAjq8

    Good old Suze called this three years ago, and not much has changed except for the throwing of a tacit IBR bone at the debtors.

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    1. If it's any comfort, this whole situation royally s*cks for clients as well. I have been involved in several legal battles over the past 15 years, and each time, the hardest part of the whole ordeal was finding the right lawyer and establishing the right relationship with him/her.

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  2. try finding out what is the median income for INDIVIDUAL earners in america. It's not easy to find. The fed govt and the media keep pushing the media FAMILY income figures, which of course kind of leaves everyone in the dark when it comes to figuring out the real income in america.

    If you look around long enough, you will find that as of about 6 years ago, the median income of individual earners above the age of 25 is about 26K dollars. And of course that leaves out all the struggling youngsters who make far less.
    The USA is based on a widely-disseminated societal smokescreen of massaged, obfuscated and misleading statistics. Just like China and the Soviet Empire. Just like the fictional Oceania of Orwell's insightful book 1984.

    And the law school scam runs on the same principle. Or at least it has so far. But the outpouring of scambusting blogs and news article comments is pulling back the curtain somewhat.

    The law school scam is in many ways emblematic of one of the core problems in america--media/govt/academia is not really a helper to the working class, but a predator of the working class.

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  3. Admit it: this whole post was an excuse just to write "Coffey is for closers".

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  4. Wow, you mean another clueless baby boomer talking out of his ass? What a shocker.

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  5. Kendall Coffey is the same dude who bit a topless dancer in 1996 and had to resign his office. Ran up a $900.00 tab in the joint as well.

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  6. I just wrote about how we have to stop depending on consumer spending to save the economy when there isn't the same middle class anymore. Nobody buying anything> No kidding. You aren't oaying the same wages anymore, so they don;t have any money to spend- a healthy economy is about flow of money and it's be hoarded where it doesn't do much good.

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  7. Another major problem with this theory is that there just aren't that many people in the middle class with legal problems requiring them to hire an attorney.

    The vast majority of middle-class folks will require a lawyer for a closing, a will and, perhaps, a divorce. That's it. And, for these services, there are already plenty of affordable lawyers or non-lawyers or internet-based products. Right now in my market [NYC], the competition for simple residential closings is so stiff that some attorneys are doing them for a third of the pre-bust going rate.

    Other than this, what other situations might arise with any frequency requiring a middle-class person to retain a lawyer? Even at $75/hour, it's hardly cost-beneficial to hire an attorney for a speeding ticket unless you're in danger of losing your license. There aren't enough DWI's to employ an army underemployed lawyers. CPA's are more necessary to small business owners than attorneys, and can handle most routine non-litigation legal issues.

    So, separate and apart from the cost of operating an office, I just don't see that there's this vast pool of unmet middle-class legal needs.

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  8. The Anger is strong with this one.

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  9. He's clueless if he thinks you can't find a lawyer to represent you for less than $250 an hour. I had an experienced attorney meet with me for an hour and make an initial appearance on my behalf for $200 (she was just requesting a continuance so nothing substantive there but it saved me a trip) and this was in New York City.

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    1. Well, I have some experience dealing with lawyers in Wilmington, DE, and as far as I can tell, all of them want at least $250 for an initial consultation, and bill upwards of $250/hour. Your lawyer may have waived the initial consult fee, and charged you $200 for 0.5 hours for the appearance.

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    2. Which means I got at least 1.5 hours of legal services for $200, although probably more since the wait time in NYC family court is horrendous.

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  10. In my local area, I have personally seen attorneys take on cases - from beginning to final disposition - for $400. How in the hell is a recent graduate supposed to repay his loans, pay bills and put food in the fridge on such income?!?!

    http://www.josephscalia.com/

    When I profiled UNLV's sewer of law, I came across this ad for DUI lawyer Joseph "El Pelon" Scalia. This man bills his mill as "The $500 Law Firm."

    The freshly-minted lawyer simply cannot compete against that price. Scalia can offer such prices, because his firm is relying on volume. Plus, many of his DUI cases can be presumably handled with a brief court appearance.

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    1. lol, that guy looks like such a cornball.

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  11. $50/hour?! With a billable hour rate? Overhead will slaughter you, and there's no way you could afford the amount of advertising needed to generate the amount of business you'd need to stay afloat at $50/hour, never mind collections.

    Most rural attorneys who charge low rates (say $100/hour) have to have geographic areas of practice that span 10-15 counties, and none of them are making a killing.

    Besides, at $50/hour, we'd all be better off becoming certified mechanics.

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  12. Yo Paul...don't be a naughty boy and block IPs. You're all for academic freedom and discourse aren't ya?

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  13. CPA's are more necessary to small business owners than attorneys, and can handle most routine non-litigation legal issues.

    I agree with your comment on the whole. But I would edit this sentence to say that (many) CPAs think they can handle most routine non-litigation legal issues. As a business lawyer, I've had to fix a lot of CPA screw-ups.

    Relatedly, one area where I do think there is an unmet need that some low-cost solos could fill is advising small businesses. The lawyers with the appropriate expertise are primarily employed by big firms with killer rates. But the lawyers who charge low rates typically lack the necessary expertise.

    Of course, filling this need is emphatically not something a new JD or even a relatively unseasoned lawyer can do. And lawyers seasoned in the relevant specialty get that way by working for big firms, which they are understandably reluctant to leave if they don't have to.

    I know one senior associate who "washed out" (for lack of a better term) of big firm transactional practice and is now trying to make a living as a solo in this niche. I've been trying to direct small-business people her way as much as possible

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    1. I completely agree with this, especially in health care. I work in a small office that specifically services medical and dental practices in the Boston area. My boss tired of big firm practice 30 years ago and moved to the other side of the table when he saw a growing need for small-fry corporate counsel. Big firms focus on getting hospital and payor clients, but more and more physicians are shying away from big institutions.

      We never advertise, and we get all our business from client referrals. If you know a lot about the target industry and you work really hard at getting to know your clients, it is an extremely rewarding niche full of interesting issues. As a 2010 grad, I was obviously lucky to find this gig, but I am amazed that not a single mentor, professor, or adviser mentioned this kind of practice.

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  14. "All they need to do is run low-overhead law practices..."

    How's that $50/hr gonna pay the $20k/year for malpractice insurance? How about that $5k you just racked up on Westlaw? How about that mortgage? Gonna ride a bike to the courtroom while sucking down ramen noodles? Sounds like an excellent plan for an unmarried JD living with his parents.

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  15. "How's that $50/hr gonna pay the $20k/year for malpractice insurance?"

    Not to mention that a just-licensed lawyer doesn't know jack about anything important and has no business advising clients unless s/he has one-in-a-million mentor acting as a quasi-supervising attorney.

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  16. LP and DJM,
    What about a guest post (or it could come from either of you with some research) on the expenses of running a law office? It's new material I don't believe you've posted about before.

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    1. http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/03/economics-of-small-law-and-cost-of.html

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    2. I guess I was thinking more about the dollar amounts for those costs. The 20K per year malpractice cost mentioned above surprised me and made me realize I have no idea what costs for solos are.

      (I admit I stand corrected inasmuch as I forgot about that post). :)

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    3. Malpractice is **not** about $20K per year. It is in the low thousands for most attorneys, even new solos. Certain practice areas cost a little more, but nowhere near $20K. That figure is just some piece of bullshit plucked out of thin air to make running a law office seem impossible. (It is impossible, but not because of pretend facts and figures.)

      There are too many figures tossed around here without thought as to whether they are accurate or not, and too many people who will wholeheartedly believe everything they read that makes law look like the worst scam in the world. It **is** a scam but let's focus on real world reasons, not made up stupid shit like "malpractice insurance costs $20K per year".

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  17. Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice knows his shit. The worst lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves to keep getting out of bed.

    Everything is going to be ok. . . except it probably isn't.

    New Grads, just head Californee way, the handbills say they need tens of thousands of orange pickers.

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  18. Proessional Engineers are able to charge $80-90/hr in my average cost of living market for standard things like site design and permitting (Engineers represent clients more often than lawyers in front of town boards around here).

    Why can't lawyers?

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    1. 1) Malpractice insurance.

      2) Educational debt.

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    2. Engineers also have malpractice insurance running into 5 figures.

      As to the debt, I guess that's the point of this blog...

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  19. Law Prof,

    Though you may not realize it, the second part of this post where you extensively quote Scott Greenfield is priceless. If one knew the background of the lawyer (failed solo) that Greenfield is talking about, they would readily see how much of a losing proposition it would be for new grads or recent attorneys to "hang a shingle."

    It turns out that I once met the attorney profiled by both Carolyn Elefant and Scott Greenfield. He is a personable, well adjusted, and passionate lawyer that just so happens to be 1) a magna cum laude graduate of NYU Law where he served on the law review; 2) Order of the Coif; 3) a former Federal clerk with the NDNY; and 4) has 5 years of experience at Sullivan & Cromwell where he had a published decision based on his pro bono work.

    Here's his CV:

    http://law.buffalo.edu/Faculty_And_Staff/submenu/profiles/Parham_Matthew_cv.pdf

    Here's his old solo website:

    http://www.matthewparhamlaw.com/

    This gentleman was a winner of the law school prestige race in every way (and a hell of a nice guy to boot). He brought experience to his solo experience as well as considerable savings. He also garnered an adjunct position at SUNY-Buffalo Law School while working as a solo.

    If someone like this can't make a go of it as a solo, who can?

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    1. How'd he go from biglaw to shitlaw?

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    2. Voodoo94,

      You claim to admire the practitioner in question, but you then go on to out him (while maintaining your own anonymity, of course.) Sorry, but identifying him by name while you keep your own mask on is slimy and unethical. Shame on you.

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  20. "Wherever there's a fight so hungry JDs can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a law dean beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad - I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry for JD-required positions an' they know the market has jobs for 'em. An' when the JDs are practicin' the skills they paid to learn, and livin' off the fees they earn - I'll be there, too.

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  21. I was in a social setting last night where a newb pediatrician was saying she was having difficulty living decently in NYC given her student loan payments (she makes about 125k a year). She intends to move to a rural area where the COL is cheaper, and where perhaps, she can take advantage of one of those medical loan forgiveness programs.

    Everyone was on her case about saying that. She got an earful about how being a doctor is special, 125k is a good salary, she shouldn't be greedy, etc.

    This woman was not living lavishly by any means, but I still think most lawyers would be thrilled to be in her position. However, that is not the point.

    At the same function, I shit you not, there was a 30 year old NYPD police detective who was bitching that he only makes 130k, and he has to bust his ass to make that with overtime. This guy has no student loans, he has been earning income since he was 20 (GED), and he will retire at 45 (75k a year minimum for a pension).

    NO ONE SAID A FUCKING THING TO THIS GUY. NOT ONE FUCKING WORD. EVERYONE BASICALLY AGREED THAT HE HAD A ROUGH DEAL.

    I look around me and what I am seeing is that, barring a handful of people, becoming a professional is just not worth it anymore.

    It’s politically convenient to ask lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants to work for peanuts. It’s easy to tell people with 150k in student loans and close to a decade of formal education that they should suck it up and make a what a muni Janitor in LA or NYC makes. And that’s the point. That’s what it’s about now. Do the politicians have your back? If not, you are in big trouble.

    You can’t ask the high school drop out with barely 2 years of formal education to suck it up because his union will take the politicians to the cleaners. Hell, you can’t even ask him to work until the ripe old age of fifty, let alone making less than a six figure income on the tax payer’s back. But if you have done something special (although not special enough to rise to the ranks of the uber elite), then you are without such protection, and you get the hammer brought down on your head.

    That’s what I see here. They can keep telling you to go cheaper and cheaper because no one will give a damn about you unless your mom and dad are rich or you vote for the right people.

    That’s why guys like the one mentioned in this article can make such ludicrous suggestions: there is no political consequence for doing so. And I have news for you: there isn’t going to be any consequence because the professional classes will always constitute a small portion of the population, irrespective on the internal classifications therein.


    Keep going to school kiddies, higher education is definitely the answer.

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    1. This military gig kicks ass. Make about the same as the police officer, but with no overtime. Quart of the income is 100% tax free. Pension after 20 years (age 44 for me). Programs to reduce up to $120k in student loans and deferments if needed. Plus lots of discounts because restaurants and stores don't know a military lawyer from GI Joe.

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    2. "You can’t ask the high school drop out with barely 2 years of formal education to suck it up because his union will take the politicians to the cleaners. Hell, you can’t even ask him to work until the ripe old age of fifty, let alone making less than a six figure income on the tax payer’s back. But if you have done something special (although not special enough to rise to the ranks of the uber elite), then you are without such protection, and you get the hammer brought down on your head. "

      You really haven't paid attention for the past few years. Or decades.

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  22. The first problematic assumption is not that there's a demand for legal services in the middle class, but that the middle class still exists in the way it did when this guy was establishing himself. I guess if you never speak with average people you may able to insulate yourself from this reality, but we have an American working poor more than we have an American middle class at this point.
    Almost everybody in this country is going to be eating a smaller piece of pie going forward. As such, education needs to get vastly less expensive immediately or it is not worth the cost to the average person. No amount of silly blathering about streamlining the economics of solo law practice can change that fact.

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  23. At the same function, I shit you not, there was a 30 year old NYPD police detective who was bitching that he only makes 130k, and he has to bust his ass to make that with overtime. This guy has no student loans, he has been earning income since he was 20 (GED), and he will retire at 45 (75k a year minimum for a pension).

    My BIL retired from the FDNY in his late 40s. He was not an officer or higher-up of any kind. His retirement package, including pension and health benefits, has (as best as I can figure) a NPV of $3-4 million.

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  24. Great post, and great job calling this guy on his bullshit. It's not as if stuggling solo practitioners aren't already cutting expenses to the bone--no secretary, work out of your home, meet clients at Starbucks, etc. Not only do most people not have the money to pay an attorney, most people rarely or never need one.

    Think about it--how often have you, or your family, had to hire an attorney? Yes some people do but most people probably never hire an attorney in their entire lives. If they do, all they need an attorney for is a will, maybe a divorce, or maybe a DUI or a city ordinance violation if Junior gets busted for pot or underage drinking.

    Please tell me, where exactly is this huge unmet demand for legal services? Most people don't get arrested their entire lives, never are badly hurt in a car wreck, etc. This shibboleth from clueless idiots needs to be continually challenged.

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  25. "wonder what sort of overhead Kendall Coffey's firm runs through each month? Of course Coffey's clients aren't "middle class" -- Coffey is for closers."

    Colour me fan-boi if you must, but that's some great writing right there.

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    1. Most shitlawyers' clients drove a Hyundai to get to their offices, while Coffey's clients drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. *That's* his name.

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    2. So spot on. Like Henry Rowengartner himself, LawProf just continues to bring the heat.

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  26. Someone earlier asked about costs of running a solo practice. This will vary dramatically from community to community, but where I live many solos keep costs at about $15k per year, including malpractice insurance of about $2,500 (NOT $20k). Keeping costs down at this level virtually guarantees a successful practice for the single JD with no commitments, as an earlier poster suggested. It would be scary to do if you had law school debt, a family, a mortgage, etc. But these things would scare me even if I had a regular paycheck. (I've always had an aversion to debt, so I wouldn't have dreamed of taking out a student loan.) In my city, nearly every lawyer is a solo, or in a small partnership, and some net $200k-plus, easily. So it is possible (but far from guaranteed) for those willing to take the risk.

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  27. OT -- Am I the only one who is not a fan of the new nested commenting? Under the old system, all I had to do to see the latest comments was scroll to the bottom of the page. Now I have to go up and down the page to see if new comments have been inserted as replies.

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    1. I am the same way. The new system is great if you only read them once, but this blog is the only thing that gets me through my day so I check it literally every 4 minutes by clicking refresh.

      No way to toggle back and forth?

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    2. I wouldn't mind this format if a new reply would move the entire thread down. Let me test to see if this is the case.

      Right now, I see
      August 27, 2012 8:16 AM
      right below me.

      After I submit, let's see if my reply stays above Aug 27 8:16AM or if it moves to the bottom. If the latter its not that bad.

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    3. Okay looks like it stays on top. That's why this format is problematic!

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  28. @ 7:25,

    Exactly, and its not just that they get shit like that, but additionally, they get to complain to get more things. That is how it works now.

    The only people I know who are living a decent life are i) kids from wealthy families, ii) the extreme top of the professional classes (i.e. not primary care doctors, but neurosurgeons, not shit-lawyers, hell not even big law associates, but big law associates with pedigree and a very high-niche specialty, etc.), iii) successful small business people (God bless them because that’s the last stand), and iv) politically protected blue collar workers in major municipalities, i.e. NYC, Boston, and La.

    Everyone else is screwed basically, even though lower class Liberal Artists are screwed harder, and law graduates are screwed the most.

    So when you look at that list, what sounds like the optimum path? You can’t get in category 1 unless you were born into it. The politicians will keep screwing categories 2 and 3 by increasing the risk and degree of pain associated with failure, and by increasing the rate of failure. You think lawyers have it bad? Wait until you see the politicians telling doctors with 450k in student loan debt that they should be happy servicing the “middle class” for 50 dollars an hour; and if you think it can’t happen, that’s what they used to say about the legal profession.

    In contrast, politicians will keep protecting category 4 by decreasing the degree of pain associated with failure for those paths (what happens to you if you fail the cop test?) and making it more and more lucrative to join the ranks of the people in category 4 (do you want to be a 200k indebted TTT loser with no job prospects who is constantly told to pull himself/herself by the bootstraps, or do you want to be a high school drop out that gets to retire at 45 with a 4 million dollar retirement package, while also getting to bitch about your paltry six figure salary, which you start earning in your mid to late 20s with no education debt?)

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  29. And don't forget LegalZoom and other form providers.

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  30. Some people do have money...lots and lots of money. But, as a whole, our society hasn't gotten angry enough about this injustice to really do anything serious about it yet.

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  31. Love the blog. One problem with this theory, though, is it doesn't account for the fact that law schools still aren't teaching students how to be lawyers. I learned everything I know about transactional law during my 5 years as a big-firm associate. I can't imagine trying to handle a client's legal needs, with zero supervision, after walking out of school -- I knew almost nothing!!! (I went to a top 10 school, BTW.)

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  32. re: the unions.

    The pain is coming. Unions have been protected under Obama, but it's unsustainable.

    We're in a period of contraction, they just haven't experienced it yet.

    Everyone will be poorer in the end.

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    1. Um... Union membership has declined steadily since the Nixon administration. Wtf are you talking about?

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    2. "Wtf are you talking about?"

      The same thing that he (or other Anonymii) have been b*tching about for the past twenty posts).

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  33. When I did not make any progress with 1L interviews I went ahead with a solo approach, and spent my last two years of law school preparing for it by doing externships and only those courses that made sense in terms of the local economy. In my location that meant divorces and commercial real estate. This actually worked, and withing a year I was netting 15,000 profit, and 35,000 my second year.

    I washed out completely in year 3 because of the real estate collapse. Without a profit made when selling the family house, there was no way to pay off lawyers for details like discovery and trial preparation. I could get a couple thousand dollars off a credit card when my client first hired me, but that was it. Similarly, commercial real estate froze up and there just were not many transactions for a few years.

    The middle class is tapped out. They have no business playing games with contested divorces, opening or expanding business, or much else that requires legal advice or representation.

    Should have gone into bankruptcy...

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  34. In my neck of the woods, most solos are losing ground to Nigerians and "notarios" that are providing legal services without a law license on the cheap. For example, these non-attorneys will download the divorce and bankruptcy kits from the respective courts' websites and prepare pleadings for $300. This cuts the attorney out of the equation completely. The traffic court scene has been decimated by the exorbitant fines that the courts impose. 20 years ago, a driver would pay $40 for a speeding ticket and get 2 points. Back then, the drive would gladly pay a lawyer $750-$1,000 to get them no points and pay a bigger fine ($75) in exchange for a guilty plea on a no-point violation. These days, the speeding ticket fine is $200 and you have to pay $750 in motor vehicle surcharges. So that pretty much cuts out the lawyer, who nowadays charges $150 for traffic ticket cases.

    As for immigration cases, ICE actually encourages "notarios" to take on immigration cases knowing that they will screw the paperwork and get the client deported. Clients would rather pay a "notario" $1,000 to do an affirmative petition for cancellation of removal than pay the lawyer $2,500 for representing them in a defensive removal proceeding. It is absolutely backwards.

    Real estate closings? Don't get me started on that one. In South NJ for example, it is standard practice to allow title company reps to do the closing and cut out the attorney. Moreover, there are many "craigslist" lawyers that are offering their services for basement prices; thereby, undercutting the rest of the profession.

    And best of all, the attorney ethics committee has no jurisdiction over these non-attorneys or "notarios." Sure there are laws that criminalize the unauthorized practice of law but they are not enforced. Honestly, do you know of a case where someone was prosecuted, convicted and sent to jail for practicing law without a license?

    The legal profession is in dire straits thanks to the greedy law schools that have overproduced one or two superfluous generations of lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I used a title service for the closing on my house as well. Why not, the documents are simple as is the title search.

      Delete
  35. Bobby Donnell makes $250,000. - Kendall Coffey

    ReplyDelete
  36. The quoted comments about criminal-defense practice are eye-opening, as is the whole post that's linked to.

    Economist Tyler Cowen's 2011 book The Great Stagnation seems apropos. One of his theses is that the growth rate of the U.S. standard of living between 1950 and 2000 is gone and not coming back for the foreseeable future, because that growth was based largely on low-hanging fruit that has now all been harvested, so to speak.

    Among other things, being a lawyer or a doctor will (if Cowen is right) semi-permanently cease to be a path to upper-middle-class wealth. It will return to what it was before WWII -- just one way to earn a middle-class living.

    A few years back, while reading A Working Lawyer's Life: The Letter Book of John Henry Senter, 1879-1884, I was struck by how small were the amounts involved in most of the cases he took. In today's dollars, they tended to be in the $500-$1,000 range. He would write demand letters and appear in court to enforce debts in these paltry amounts. Admittedly, that doesn't necessarily mean that his clients weren't paying him more than what they stood to recover. But, since his clients were mostly farmers and small businessmen, I have to believe they weren't paying large fees just for the principle of the thing.

    In any event, I suspect that the typical law practice is returning to something much like Senter's was in the 1880s. Law schools should adjust their rates accordingly. And I assume they will, eventually, unless the Feds are insane enough to keep blowing air into the tuition bubble.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know lawyers, now in their early 60s, who were able to run solo or small partnership offices specializing in criminal law when they got started. They represented bank robbers, thieves, swindlers, embezzlers, numbers-runners, recketeers, all sorts of people who committed crimes in order to stash away money, some of which could be spent on a lawyer.

      Now that most crime is tied up in drugs, and drug money is promptly confiscated, there is no money to pay a lawyer. And various advances in technology and society have made crime for crime's sake to be unprofitable.

      Delete
  37. This post is related to my earlier point about a law degree being a luxury good.

    People just don't *need* lawyers for much of anything in terms of day to day or year to year activities.

    And if you don't have money, you don't need a lawyer because you aren't engaging in the types of transactions or litigation that requires lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Practitioner at LawAugust 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    One reason Coffey's idea doesn't work (and hasn't worked) is that most clients don't generally shop for attorneys by "best-price comparison." To the contrary, many prospective clients believe, rightly or wrongly, that the more expensive lawyers are the better lawyers. I have heard stories about clients ditching cheap lawyers for more expensive lawyers a few blocks away. Accordingly, any market share gained through lowering prices (if any) may also be lost by taking this action.

    Notwithstanding practicality, charging rock-bottom prices may create a perception that a lawyer is an incompetent flim-flam man. Much of this profession relies upon perception and image. For that reason, I would be very hesitant to charge less than the going regional rate for any particular service.

    Also consider that lowering service prices may not result in ANY (or negligible) change in the volume of clients/cases. Therefore, to go from $200/hr to $125/hr might just be shooting yourself in the foot, especially if the client is unlikely to return any time soon after his/her matter is complete.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Great post! But I disagree with the paragraph at the end. Just because 45k a year is the median, doesn't mean that they're necessarily middle class (would $500 a year make you "middle class" in Haiti?). Try raising a family of 4 on 45k a year... it can be done, but you will be poor. Not middle class, lower class. $100k is about what you need nowadays to afford the traditional trappings of middle class, like a decent home in a good school district, saving for retirement/kid's college fund, and yearly vacations. Most people in America these days just don't have any money, not even $20 bucks for a dinner out, and certainly not $1000 to hire a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Can you imagine the unmet demand for new Ferraris that cost $10,000? There is huge demand for these low cost Ferraris by middle class consumers. If Ferrari could only figure out a way to provide these cars for $10,000, this demand could be met.

    ReplyDelete
  41. um... ya.... be sure to read the second quote below for this gem: "So, it’s not just people that want to be a lawyer that should go to law school, but I don’t think it’s a smart move for people to say ‘Well, I don’t know. What else was I gonna do?’" Michael Moffitt, the dean of the University of Oregon Law School

    argh...

    http://dailyemerald.com/2012/08/27/qa-with-dean-michael-moffitt-why-law-students-shouldnt-be-worried-about-law-school/

    "I’m trying to do everything I can to encourage our current students and our recent grads to connect with each other and connect with us. Law Ducks want to help law Ducks. Every week, I get inquiries from people saying ‘Hey do you know anybody in this-and-such a city who specializes in (this) because I’m looking for somebody to give some more work to do.’ I need to be able to take advantage of that by knowing who’s out there looking for what. So, part of the answer is engage, engage, engage." Michael Moffitt, the dean of the University of Oregon Law School
    - someone needs to look up his number so we can call him and get a job!

    "As I’ve been out visiting with alumni, some of the people who have been the most rabid supporters of the law school are entrepreneurs. They’re people who started their own businesses, or they’re people who got into lobbying, or they are elected officials, or they work in jobs that don’t actually require a J.D. — but they say ‘It was that legal training that made me good at what I was doing.’ So, it’s not just people that want to be a lawyer that should go to law school, but I don’t think it’s a smart move for people to say ‘Well, I don’t know. What else was I gonna do?’" Michael Moffitt, the dean of the University of Oregon Law School

    ReplyDelete
  42. lol @ needing 100K per year to raise a family of four.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This seems right to me, especially on the coasts and if you want to save anything for retirement.

      Delete
  43. In my county, over 60% of divorces are pro se. There are plenty of lawyers, who charge plenty cheap rates for that work. But for most people, it's a luxury that don't think they can afford. My son was just in court on a speeding ticket -- two actually -- total fines under $150. There aren't even newbs patrolling the falls at those rates.

    CC

    ReplyDelete
  44. 15k for a solo practice is pretty barebones. If you're not including health insurance, though, it might be doable.

    I spend about 600 for rent, the same for 1/3 of a receptionist, 300 for Lexis, 250 for phones and internet; there's paper, ink, and various fees for bar and CLE, and I suppose one ought to amortize my computer, printer, billing software, and the like. And 2500 for malpractice is about right for me. And some marketing. Pretty tough to get very far under 30k, I think, without either student loans or health insurance.

    CC

    ReplyDelete
  45. I think part of what eats away at what little amount of traffic court practice there may have been are mandatory surcharges imposed by the courts. For example, in New York if you get a speeding ticket you're going to pay at least $70 in court costs alone, even if you forego the hearing and mail in a payment.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I spend about $2,000 per month for a family of four.

    That's maintenance fees, which doesn't count the price of buying new cars every 10 to 15 years.

    I have a standard issue house in a standard issue good school district, but no mortgage.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Does 2,000 per month include health insurance?

    Not trying to be confrontational.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, with a mega-deductable for the family. $5600 (?). Costs about $200 per month.

      I get insurance through the firm for me. Otherwise, I would be paying $300 per month.

      I'm one of those 50% of gross salary hypersavers, so I can't say that I recommend my particular approach to life.

      My wife stays home with the kids until she figures out what masters degree she wants, then it's back to school and my expenses will increase.

      My commute to work is 10 minutes in heavy traffic. 7 minutes if I hit green lights.

      Delete
    2. Jesus man, how hard is that check to write for your wife's masters? After my experience in law school, I don't think I could bear the thought of another dollar going to a university. And I even like the professors!

      Delete
    3. Pretty easy.

      Her father's a full professor at the school she will be attending.

      And at 0% interest, the money I've saved is just being inflated away anyway.

      Delete
  48. this blog is the only thing that gets me through my day so I check it literally every 4 minutes by clicking refresh

    LOL! I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    ReplyDelete
  49. My health insurance premium is $815/mo. I shudder to think what it will increase to under Obamacare.

    (Disclosure: My premium is for a single person, no spouse or family plan)

    RE: Malpractice Insurance-the premium will depend on the area in which you practice. Real estate and criminal defense attorneys pay higher premiums because clusterfucks are alleged more in these areas. However, I spoke to a PLI broker who told me that newbie lawyer claims are increasing to the point where the premiums will be increased across the board-even on experienced attorneys with no claims. Thanks law schools.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Let me tell it to you straight: I have been doing contract work out of the back of my car and a public library for a few weeks. I'm typing this from a public library. I'm not kidding. I have a milk crate of files and a half dozen books (only one of which was purchased during law school). I already had the cell phone, laptop, and the printer (I print at home, in case you're wondering). My overhead could not be any lower. I just need a table, electricity, and internet. I use two libraries, the public one in my city and a second one on the local university campus (quite nice digs, actually). The legal research I can do is extremely limited, but so are the motions I'm drafting. Client attorney provides bare-bones Lexis account to Shepardize. Second client attorney has asked for nothing that requires research yet, so it hasn't come up.

    To read of some rich-boy clown who bites strippers (really?) glorifying my current situation as sustainable in the long-term, or as any kind of pathway for others to follow is full-on bat shit crazy. I laugh at the insanity of my current situation. And, of course, I tell myself this is only for the short term, something better will come along, things will improve, etc.

    But, god damn, I seriously can't believe this is my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Sir, can not believe this is your life? Are you telling the truth ?
      Well,the paralegal salary is better then . The Walmart cashier gets better paid than this.

      Delete
  51. Afer reading all of the above about the travails of financially struggling lawyers in practice, I was wondering how well the law school academics and related execs/officers and administrators (although admittedly a much smaller group) of said schools do by comparison.

    And to satisfy that curiosity, are there available resources where one can view the annual salaries of all of the law school faculty members of any given law school school in the form of a list?

    I guess I thought of that because one commenter here continually tries to show how well some police officers do in terms of annual income and retirement compared to many not so fortunate lawyers.

    And I think I do recall that the same commenter was able to prove just how much police officers made, with a publicly published list with names and rank, and salaries, etc.

    But is there is a resource were one can look up--say the financial reports of X law school, and where can one see the salaries of all of the schools EE's who derive their income in whole or in large measure from student lending?



    ReplyDelete
  52. Given the fact that there are so many poor attorneys, will Obamacare help us in that many of us will qualify for medicaid/subsidized insurance?

    ReplyDelete
  53. As for Mr. Infinity, I say all is forgiven and we can forget the whole thing.

    If you are a law student, you have probably been bullied and kicked around by your school and professors and are emotionally in a bad place, and want to believe that everything you have gone through so far serves a larger purpose for the rest of your life (which includes your financial well being of course)

    If not, oh well.

    But just try to post when sober, and if that is not the problem, try to at least be more rational.

    And doesn't that go for us all?

    ReplyDelete
  54. The lists of public school salaries are available. They are not available for private schools.

    ReplyDelete
  55. ^^ It would be interesting to see the adjunct or associate professor salaries compared to the tenured ones.

    The tenured professors most always seemed the most haughty and obnoxious.

    Not all of course, and no offense to the blog's authors)

    ReplyDelete
  56. UT will be building a new $155million MBA building. Should let keep overhead low for graduates to help serve the middle class....

    http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2012/08/22/ut-to-build-155m-graduate-business.html?ana=twt

    ReplyDelete
  57. Decent article on "getting the repo-man out of the student loan business."

    http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/septemberoctober_2012/features/getting_rid_of_the_college_loa039354.php?page=1

    ReplyDelete
  58. Senator Dick Durbin (IL) remarked at a congressional hearing on student loans today that it was basically uncertain whether going to his alma mater, Georgetown Law, at $150,000 makes sense unless you happen to be of the tiny percentage that get the elite jobs in NYC or Chicago.

    That's paraphrasing on my part, but I was there and that's good sign the message is starting to get out. Now how about my Rebulican friends getting a clue?

    ChicagoDePaul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never liked Durbin much; met him a couple of times when he was basically a struggling nobody, and he always seemed like such a stuffed shirt. He'll never be half the statesman (or gentleman) Sen. Simon was.

      Oh well, put one anonymous opinion (mine) in one hand, put something else putrid in the other... and they both stink!

      :-)

      Delete
  59. Just noticed (with the upgrade??) that there are "Members" of LawProf's blog here. Is this a new thing?

    Of the 45 new Members, I only recognize a few as posters (Woody (L.O.C.), HueyLewis, AdamSmith, DonaF). Just kind of wondering - is this common?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's google friend-connect.

      Delete
  60. http://lawschooltuitionbubble.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/guest-post%e2%80%94lawyer-oversupply-does-producing-more-and-more-attorneys-result-in-better-prices-for-average-consumers-does-it-actually-help-the-new-lawyers-themselves-part-i/

    I once wrote an article for the blog Law School Tuition Bubble, explaining what it took to fully fund litigation in Connecticut on a bare bones basis. The bottom line was that to convincingly work personal injury cases, the PI attorney had to invest a minimum of $2,500 and probably closer to $5,000 in expenses to really get a case ready for court. I don't see how new solos can afford such fees.

    Its also dangerous for a new solo to take on certain types of criminal cases such as those which involve competency evaluations, for little money because the client will expect you to pay for such evaluations out of you small retainer.

    One of the worst things about PI lawyer advertising is that is has trained clients in other fields of the law to expect their lawyer to function as a "bank" for expenses even in such different areas as commerical litigation.

    Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Anybody hear of this new degree called the JM degree. I'm serious. Schools must be starting to get really desperate. I clicked on this as that said, "law school isn't just for lawyers." What do people think the value of this degree is?

    http://www.law.emory.edu/fileadmin/NEWWEBSITE/Academics/JM/ARlpages/index_ar.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. holy shit, they are really getting desperate. next thing you know, they'll have a law phd to rival yale's.

      Delete
  62. Law prof- please examine the TLS thread by the accomplished scientist ( self described) who cant get a job in biology so she thinks law is her ticket to employment , steady hours and a stable job.

    I would love to see your thoughts. People here keep claiming that s ience is a good way to go, but not for her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trying to supply link for youAugust 27, 2012 at 9:04 PM

      (Posted the link for you below). No way she'll get a job as a patent attorney as a bio without PhD, unless she manages to wangle a job in the school where she has her pre-LS contacts.

      Delete
  63. For some reason I can't post the link- the thread title is about an "accomplished scientist.". You might note in that thread that she attacks knowledgable posters who are giving her solid advice. Ignorance is more pervasive than you think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trying to supply link for you...August 27, 2012 at 8:39 PM

      http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=191566

      Holy cow, she couldn't do better than a 3.3 as a BA Bio major??

      If link doesn't post, it's topic "f=9&t=191566", if that helps.

      Delete
    2. Trying to supply link for youAugust 27, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      Okay, I just read the entire TLS thread. She's an immature, entitled little beeeyotch who goes ballistic on people just giving her a reasonable assessment.

      She's not going to make it through law school anyway. But at least she'll have her husband and "His Rather Lucrative Career" to fall back on. Assuming he doesn't go walkabout on her, that is.

      Delete
    3. she got the MRS degree. that is all that matters.

      Delete
    4. I was curious what Campos thinks Of people believing that law is a good career choice even in this market with south information out there. She specifically thinks she will make money and work less as a lawyer compared to biology.

      Delete
    5. So much - not south.
      Also she paints a grim picture of biology in academics- but I agree she needs a PhD to be competitive in law.

      Delete
  64. As someone who has actually practiced in a retail setting (representing middle class and poor people in family law cases), earning enough to pay the bills in such a practice is exceedingly difficult. In Cook County, the filing fee for a case is about $400. Then you must serve the defendant. So, even if you get a small deposit from a client (say $1000) one-half of that goes to filing fees. Even if you bill the client at $100 per hour, that gives you four hours of time to charge. You have to handle many of these cases and handle them efficiently to earn a living. Then you have to demand more money. This is why many litigants do these cases pro se. They feel they cannot afford an attorney. Pro se litigants make errors, sometimes huge ones, and they and their children suffer for it. Mr. Coffey is living in a different world and does not understand the world of a retail law practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried to get someone in NYC to help me with a child support case, and they wanted a $5,000 retainer a few years ago. I ended up trying to do it myself and made mistakes that cost me a lot of money. But I didn't see the point of paying an attorney a huge portion of my potential collections.

      Delete
    2. Why would you pay an attorney when DCSE will do it for you???

      Delete
  65. @7:36PM

    I read the first few entries of "accomplished scientist" on the TLS forum. She claims she is married to a wealthy husband so she (in her words) can afford to screw up her selection of a law school.

    I have seen too many accomplished scientists go into law. A majority of them cannot adjust to the law. I am not saying law is harder than science but for some reason science people for the most part have a hard time coping with the law school curriculum. I went to law school with a guy who had an MSEE from Michigan and he was working at Dupont making about $80K (in 1992). He went to law school and graduated in the middle of the pack. Big law (Pennie & Edmonds, Fish & Neave, etc.) shunned him. He wound up working for a small patent boutique making $28K in 1996. He had passed the bar in 2 states and had the patent bar under his belt. He was making less than state law clerks. Eventually, he went crazy and was institutionalized. I hope the accomplished scientist in the TLS forum goes to law school, especially if it is Notre Dame (that is my guess of her target school). She is in for a rude awakening.

    ReplyDelete
  66. As for the Campos blog the title is evocative, but the posts are daily and stray in theme, and try to cover a much larger scope of things generally wrong with the legal profession and with lots of commentary by senior lawyers who want to discuss these other things.

    His work is much appreciated, but it is not the same as the first hand accounts of people buried in SL debt and un or underemployed etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His view is from inside as a law professor. Other people are dealing with the stories of people buried in debt. And, most law students don't want to come forward because they don't want their name out there as a failure. Or they blame themselves and not the scam.

      Delete
  67. The title goes: Inside the "Law School" scam.

    It does not say inside the "Legal Profession" scam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have a little cheese...

      Delete
  68. I made the point to a coworker: if we charge about $100/hr for our professional (engineering) service, why can't lawyers? His response was along the lines of:

    "do you see the offices they have (and have to pay for) compared to us, do you see the cars they drive versus ours?"

    Individual exceptions aside (some of you are going to troll and mention your 1997 Dodge Neon) he's right. People in law firms who want to cut costs and overhead should look at the other similar professional services (Architects, CPAs, Engineers) and see how they manage to hold costs down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You must be a boomer. Lol - attorneys charge so much because of their frivolous lifestyle. Did you read about the guy who practiced from a strip mall?

      Delete
    2. My coworkers and I are not boomers, but right on the cusp of the Gen X/Y divide (early 30s).

      However, I will concede that my coworker is sold on the "all lawyers are successful and rich" fallacy.

      But, I am not seeing a convincing case of why legal services are inherently more expensive than design (Architect/Engineer) or financial (Accountant) services. All have liability insurance, expensive software/subscriptions, and administrative needs. The only real difference I can see would be debt of law school -- everyone would have roughly the same undergrad debt, but as this blog has documented, this is a relatively new phenomenon.

      Delete
    3. Where the heck can you get experienced PE services at $100/hr?

      Delete
    4. I wouldn't be surprised if people like PE's were able to function better because they are not in destructive situations. As has been pointed out, criminal defendants are poor risks, and civil matters are highly risky.

      A PE presumably bears no-pay risk, but is probably working mostly with clients who are not in either criminal nor civil trouble.

      Delete
    5. Legal services are not inherently more expensive than other services. There is just far less demand for, and/or far less money to be made in, the provision of legal services.

      Delete
  69. @Edward Clinton: Thanks for posting your experience! It's great to have some solid info from a self-authenticating source.

    ReplyDelete
  70. "Um... Union membership has declined steadily since the Nixon administration. Wtf are you talking about?"

    Ever hear of public-sector unions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who are getting the living snot beaten out of them. Please keep up with the news.

      Delete
    2. If only your perceptions were accurate....

      Delete
  71. Before law school, I made $60k AFTER taxes, non-legal, and didn't work all that hard. I was a supply, repair, and support supervisor at a decent sized company.

    Now, post-bar passage, I am dead broke and will be lucky to get $25k working in the law BEFORE taxes. This "job" is tough as hell and very strung together. Yeah, this b.s. has but another year with me before I return to my old job. (I just want to say that I made something out of it).

    ReplyDelete
  72. One of those hard lessons is nice people don't need lawyers. Think about the things middle class lawyers do:

    1. Criminal law: 90% or more of it is done by public defenders. Most middle class criminal law is drunk driving defense.

    2. Title Work: Real estate work has largely been taken over by the title companies. Lawyers seldom participate in real estate closings or review the documents.

    3. Divorce: Most courthouses offer DIY divorce kits. Most of the standard forms are available online. When things get nasty, people are sent to mediation or other non-lawyers to settle the matter.

    3. Wills: The estate tax is not a factor for the middle class. Most people need, at most a simple will.

    4. Bankruptcy: Many attorneys stopped doing these after the 2005 deforms. The law makes a lawyer rat out his clients. If someone makes more than the median income, it really is not an option. (i.e. there are no client benefits to a chapter 13)

    5. Personal Injury: All of those cases go to the PI mills, which have the full page ads at the front of the yellow pages.

    6. Landlord Tenant: If someone cannot pay their rent, how can they pay you. Most landlords represent themselves in court.

    High Plains Lawyer

    ReplyDelete
  73. Most of the posters here really don't seem to have a clue about small office economics. The major expenses someone hanging out their own shingle has to deal with{

    Office rent: one can expect to pay office rent to the tune of $250 to $500 per month. If you go too cheap here, clients will avoid you.

    Telephone/yellow pages: Yellow pages advertising is essential. It is included in your phone bill. Allow about $600 per month.

    Secretarial: Are you kidding? Not an issue until you are bringing in over $70,000 a year.

    Malpractice: You will start somewhere in the range of $1,500 to $2000 per year. It goes up every year. You are not likely to actually be sued for malpractice for your first year or two. In some states, you can go without it.

    Bar Dues: About $250 to $500 per year. Some states, like Colorado, don't have a unified bar, so you pay the Supreme Court and the Bar Association separately.

    Law Library: Most law schools have good law libraries. Most major courts (State appellate courts, federal courts) also have very good law libraries. Law libraries have been removed from many local courts. Bar membership often includes online access to caselaw and statutes.

    Practice manuals may run $2,000 or more.

    CLE: About $250 for six to eight hours of credits. One typically needs 40 to 50 credit hours every three years.

    Office furniture: Decent office furniture can be had for under $2000. Nicer stuff costs more.

    Computer: You can probably get a computer, monitor, laser printer and scanner for under $1,500. Use the scanner instead of a copy machine.

    Computer software: You will need a good time and billing program (forget Timeslips). Cost: under $1000. You will need Microsoft Office, Cost: around $250.

    Business Cards and Stationary: Printing your own business cards and letterhead is tacky. Plan on spending about $200 to $300 to start.

    Miscellaneous: Copy paper can be picked up for around $20 a case. Plus pens, notepads and other office stationary.

    As far as starting a business goes, opening a law practice is relatively cheap. You don't need extensive tools, and you don't need to obtain inventory. However, the odds of a bank loaning you any start up money when you are carrying over $100,000 in non-dischargeable debt is pretty remote.

    High Plains Lawyer

    ReplyDelete

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