Tuesday, January 15, 2013

They write letters

With applications to law school continuing to plummet, some schools are reacting by slashing already low admissions standards. I hate to keep picking on New England Law -- this is a rhetorical phrase, actually I don't mind at all -- but last year the school managed to increase its class size despite ghastly employment figures and a Harvardesque cost of attendance (given HLS's grant programs it's actually less expensive to attend for the average student than NESL) by lowering the median LSAT for its full-time class to the 41st percentile, and that of its part-time admits to the 33rd percentile.  

What are the long term consequences for the legal profession and, more important, the public, of dozens of ABA-accredited schools adopting essentially open admissions policies?  A recent graduate writes:

Prof. Campos,
I find the desperateness of even some T1 schools startling.  Hopefully the collapse is imminent, even though those of us who graduated in the last five years in New York are totally fucked unless then Court of Appeals suddenly has an epiphany -- but with five Republican appointees, I am not holding my breath.
Your comment about the 25-year-old nervous defense lawyer really struck home for me.
I wanted to suggest that you write a post about the result of the flood of new lawyers, especially in urban areas like New York City, with huge debt and growing desperation.  I will admit that eight months ago, when I showed up to my first court date with my first client, I almost crapped myself.  No amount of Mock Trial, Moot Court, public speaking, or internship shadowing can prepare a new lawyer for showing up to a simple court date without knowing a damn thing about what to do.  I read an entire practice guide, just to show up and turn in a basic omnibus motion.  When the judge asked me questions, I just nodded my head.
The judge and prosecutor knew that I was green.  They both had a similar expression on their face: something between annoyance and pity.
Now that I have done a number of these court dates and a trial, I am much more confident.  Law school taught me nothing about state law and only focused on preparing me for the MBE.  My internships allowed me to see cases at different stages, but I did not get to follow a single case from arraignment to trial, which would have been very helpful.  I have a few "mentors," i.e. people I can call up about twice a month before wearing out my welcome, and I can ask questions and see a sample motion or two.  But I am basically flying blind, and it is the only option I have without employment and training.  I have to learn on the job to actually gain experience and hopefully be attractive to a public defender's office someday...even if that is a long shot.  I just read a lot of state case law, every day, and it does help over time to educate myself.
I am curious to see the effect of the flood of new lawyers, many less competent than myself, on the court system.  Will we see a rash of disbarments and reversals for ineffective assistance of counsel?  The profession really shot itself in the foot by expanding the number of law schools, thus lowering the standards for many attorneys.  Now, with the extreme competition for less students, more law schools will lower standards further to people without the intellectual capacity to write even a grammatically correct motion or to pass the bar exam.
The end result of all of this will be scary.  I can now pass for a lawyer with some knowledge and experience (because I have some knowledge and experience) but I know that I am not the only person going the solo route in New York City...there are thousands of us under the age of 30 poaching clients.  I am sure this is the case in the other major cities -- and elsewhere.  
Some readers in the DC area may want to consider attending this lunch time event tomorrow.  (It will also be streamed live on the internet).

98 comments:

  1. I also practice in NYC, though I do real estate litigation [mostly tenant-side L&T] and some transactional work. One thing I have noticed over the past few years is a big increase in the number of solo attorneys I never heard of practicing out of their apartments. [The giveaway is an address with "Suite [sic] 3F."

    Lots of these newbies [and some may not be so new any more] will take a "routine" L&T case in Housing Court for a lot less than I charge. More often than not, they don't know what they are doing. With the complexities of NYC rent regulation [the Court of Appeals once called it "an impenetrable thicket"], these are not simple cases.

    More than once I have had a client come to me after having one of these solos dig them into a hole. The usual scenario involves the attorney agreeing to a settlement that is prejudicial to the tenant and know attorney who knew what she was doing would ever sign. They are, however, very difficult to undo. The courts treat all attorneys the same. If the client had an attorney, it's presumed they received competent advice and were fully informed. Not.

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    1. It is not just in NYC. A criminal court clerk in the sparsely populated northeast corner of Connecticut recently told me that even the most respected criminal defense lawyers in that area are now "scrambling" for work because lawyers who have practiced 12 -15 years and never handled a parking ticket are filing appearances in serious criminal cases, with no clue what they are doing, because they can't get any other work.

      Divorce lawyers are moaning that everyone is now doing divorces and real estate lawyers are moaning that everyone is now chasing the few residential closings available. In both cases they also bemoan that fees are being pushed down by desperate compoetitors.

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  2. State bars should step up and fail most of the new examinees. That would help fight the brain drain.

    Law school is becoming more similar to culinary, cosmetology, and graphic design school than it is to medical or dental school. Basically anyone who is dumb enough to pay the tuition can go. Obviously this is harmful to the profession long term. It also takes away one of the big things that law schools sell... PRESTIGE.

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  3. In New York City, the number of solos practicing out of their apartments or virtual offices that cost $50 a month is not limited to newbies. There is such an oversupply of attorneys - even going to a top school like Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Virginia does not assure an experienced attorney a job once they have aged out of BigLaw. The options of being a solo or being unemployed are horrible, but those are the options many of us face if we want to use our law degrees.

    The irony is that even people with top BAs, with honors, including Brown, Yale are finding no employment options a few years out.

    The big law firms have no obligation to provide a reasonable number of career positions for attorneys outside the partnership rankd. These big firms have no obligation not to train a surplus of young lawyers in each practice area. In some practice areas, there is really not a market outside the larger law firms.

    You would not expect that with top law schools and top colleges, you end up screwed a few years down the road, but that is increasingly the case because there is no effort on the part of the ABA to control surplus at the law school level and then surplus at the inexperienced job level leaving maybe 10 lawyers trained to do each experienced legal job.

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    1. "In New York City, the number of solos practicing out of their apartments or virtual offices that cost $50 a month is not limited to newbies."

      Ah yes, I always love it when I check out a law firm's address only to find out that it is actually a virtual office. One particular charlatan I knew claimed to have a network of offices spanning Asia - but a quick review showed almost all of the offices in his personal empire to be Regus space.

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    2. FOARP, what is so demeaning about having a virtual office? It makes sense for a lot of people.

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    3. I'm sure it does - which is why companies like Regus make good money. But when a law firm list an address as its own office that turns out to be virtual space, it is basically playing a little scam on prospective clients who naturally assume that if a firm can at least make rent on a real office, then it is a step above those that cannot. This is even worse when virtual space is used to show that a law firm has a local presence in an area when in fact no such local presence exists.

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    4. PS - seems New Jersey agrees with me:

      http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/notices/2010/n100326a.pdf

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    5. The deception also implies that the "firm" includes numerous lawyers and employees. A single person with no employees does not maintain offices all over Asia.

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    6. In my practice area in New York City, the cost of setting up a real solo office with no staff, just the solo lawyer, is at least $15,000 a year. The cost of going to events where the solo sees and meets people who can help establish the practice? Realistically at least $10,000 a year more, and maybe much more.

      You cannot do some of this work out of the suburbs. The clients who need my expertise are mostly medium sized to large and they are not looking for a law firm in a suburb. They look to Manhattan.

      A solo needs a stable base of business before signing up for $15,000 in expenses. You cannot just open up a bricks and mortar office without that client base. It will be a very expensive form of unemployment.

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    7. People tell me to become a sole practitioner. I say that that is a quick road to penury.

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    8. FOARP:

      You'd be surprised who uses Regus, some pretty top lawyers. When we started funnily enough we thought we needed some prestige office space - to go with the old builders yard workshop in a so-so part of town we used - but every client went to the workshop and none to the fancy offices (which I never ever used.) Regus took over two floors below out office and made us an offer - that got us out of the lease, which was good - but we could use some extra space now.

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    9. @Mack - Personally, and with no implication towards your company which I'm sure is above board, I've always seen flashy down-town offices for new businesses as a warning sign. Given the number of new business that fail and the lack of certainty when starting a business that they'll be able to make the rent, setting up in a flashy office that they don't know they'll be able to pay for cast doubts on their judgement.

      Virtual offices are also a warning sign to me when included as a letterhead address and are not marked as virtual space. To me they indicate a "fake it until you make it" mentality which I find concerning.

      Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of legit reasons for using virtual space. It's just that a real presence at an address where I've got a decent chance of getting hold of you indicates a degree of stability and security which a firm with nothing but virtual space can't match. More to the point, virtual space is a favourite for charlatans trying to circumvent the most basic kind of due diligence (i.e., do they have an office that isn't actually their parent's basement?)

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  4. The author of this letter seems to have forgotten how versatile his JD is. A JD opens doors! For example, in NYC right now there is a clear demand for pimps for coeds who need to augment their financial aid.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/co_eds_sugar_high_56fPUelUxnaBy6TpVjIXGI

    Is this not a perfect alternative career for a newly minted JD? Granted, pimpin' ain't easy...

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    1. "Pimpin' ain't easy"

      Yep...just ask the law schools with declining applications...(cue the Deans)

      "You know it's hard out here for a pimp

      When he tryin' to get this money for the rent

      For the Cadillacs and gas money spent
      Because a whole lot of bitches talkin' shit

      You know it's hard out here for a pimp

      When he tryin' to get this money for the rent

      For the Cadillacs and gas money spent

      Will have a whole lot of bitches jumpin' ship"

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  5. In Boston, it seems that the market is very good at pushing out new attorneys who cannot find work. Massachusetts is known as "passachusetts" because the bar exam is a bit of a joke compared to other states. So, the bar is not necessarily a barrier to practice. Being able to make ends meet between graduation in May and full admission in December is a huge barrier. Friends from my 2010 law school class have moved far and wide; many of them made the decision to leave shortly after the bar because they could not afford to stay here and risk it. Even those who did have jobs in Boston after graduation were likely to leave for NY, CT, or DC within two years. One of the main complaints that people make is that Boston courts and legal communities are like an old boys' club. You never even get a chance to get experience.

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  6. This is also just an abhorrent failure of higher education. I realize that there is more to education than vocational training, but any model, with this price tag, that is predicated on turning people loose and dumping everything on the private sector to do the clean-up work is no better than GM turning out crappy cars in the 70s and letting the dealerships handle the problems and do the rework. Funny, GM tanked hard for a long time, and by some standards still is, bailout or no bailout.

    Apparently, these deans, administrators, et al feel absolutely no sense of contibutory negligence or even human decency regarding the monster they have all collectively created. It's always someone else's fault. Reel them in, take their money, kick them in the ass on the way out.

    I would say "typical Boomers," except this falls to an even lower level of duplicity and willful blindness than a generic stereotype deserves. I guess we should call them something like "Banksters" instead, as that is more targeted at the demographic slice we're talking about here. Deansters? Profsters?

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    1. These are educators and leaders of the ABA that have failed the profession. I have no idea if they are boomers or not, but lawyers of all ages, including boomers are the victims of this failure.

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    2. "Deansters? Profsters?"

      Bullsh*t, posturing liberals.

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  7. Trying to run a solo practice out of your home is a double edged option. It certainly reduces overhead and you don't have to commute to work. But I've had clients tell me they hired me because I work in a real office, and they don't have confidence in attorneys who practice out of their homes.

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  8. "Now, with the extreme competition for less students, more law schools will lower standards further to people without the intellectual capacity to write even a grammatically correct motion or to pass the bar exam." English grammar says that should read "for fewer students," not "for less students." But it's always fun to take gratuitous pokes at Republican appointees!

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  9. Some BIGLAW firms have also created bifurcated tracks of lawyers which, contrary to the popular discussion about these positions, pay significantly less than a first-year associate's salary (or, for that matter, a lot of senior paralegals) and are often subject to the same rigors and time-constraints as partner track associates. I'm not talking about the Wheeling, WV Coder positions we hear so much about, but positions that involve doing the same level of substantive work as any other associate, except billed the client at the same right.

    And the sick thing is, if you're being paid mid-five figures to work BIGLAW associate hours, you're probably one of the lucky ones these days.

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  10. You need only *pass* the bar exam, a far lower threshold than with law school, and yet you're being tested an information that is several magnitudes more granular and relevant than anything you encountered in the previous three years (at least in NY). I'm sure with the passing grade I got, it would've amounted to only a B on any law school exam. Of course, I would've gotten into "A" territory with my essays, but I doubt anybody reads your bar exam essays unless your MBE is marginal.

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  11. Anonymous at 7:06 knows the score.

    "Law school is becoming more similar to culinary, cosmetology, and graphic design school than it is to medical or dental school. Basically anyone who is dumb enough to pay the tuition can go. Obviously this is harmful to the profession long term. It also takes away one of the big things that law schools sell... PRESTIGE."

    This is not far off the mark. If you truly want to go to law school - and you don't care where - then you can pretty much gain admission to at least one ABA-accredited trash pit. In contrast, if you really want to be a veterinarian, dentist or doctor, then you better have a scientific background, strong undergrad GPAs in hard courses, and stellar entrance exam scores. Otherwise, you will not be accepted to those properly accredited, professional schools.

    Desire is not enough in those fields. You need to have talent and skill. In the end, law schools are similar to MBA programs, in that neither require you to show competence or experience in the given area. At least with beauty school, you don't piss away three years of your life or shell out $140K in non-dischargeable debt. Plus, those students must attain more than 1,000 hours of practice before they get their license.

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    1. It's interesting, in that both MBA and JD programs have created a de facto minimum set of requirements, in the form of M7 and T14 programs. These programs still act as gatekeepers for the elite jobs that people associated with the MBA and the JD. Sure, you can go get an online MBA with little more than a credit card and a PO box, but it won't land you an interview at McKinsey.

      Nevertheless, even amongst the M7 and T14 grads, we can see the pernicious effects of an essentially zero-level barrier to admittance at the raft of programs ranked (or unranked) beneath them, as the Wharton MBA or Harvard JD starts to lose a bit of its luster, just by association, and employers can put downward pressure on wages even for grads of these highly selective programs. After all, there is no shortage of MBAs or JDs.

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    2. I don't know about Medical School - I seem to recall the Baby Doc College of Offshore Medicine having very loose admission standards - not to mention St. George's School of Medicine.

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  12. "even though those of us who graduated in the last five years in New York are totally fucked unless then Court of Appeals suddenly has an epiphany -- but with five Republican appointees, I am not holding my breath."

    Yeah, right, because it's all the Republicans fault. As we all know, academia is controlled by Republicans.

    Face it, you are being screwed by liberal Democrat law school administrators and faculty, who use their liberalism as a shield for how exploitative they are being at the law school.

    If you haven't noted, the latest gimmick of crap law schools is to emphasize their work in "social justice", and "public service", and how they are providing opportunities to "underrepresented groups".

    Sounds like Republicans to me!

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    1. Thank you asshole. You made me spit coffee all over my laptop.

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    2. Your acronym sent me to the Urban Dictionary; check out the usage example!

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    3. Sorry, here's the URL: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=titcr

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    4. I think the author meant that Republican appointees have shown increased hostility to the law school lawsuits.

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    5. Well - Prof. Diamond based on his profile seems to present himself as a Republican - and the argument the judges used to ding the scamsuits so far seem much more free market conservative than liberal.

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    6. @ Mack,

      The overwhelming majority of deans and professors are liberals that claim they are for protecting the public from fraud and for protecting the poor. They also constantly harp about self sacrifice and the evils of greed.

      Do you think they are living up to the standards they espouse?


      I had a few douche bag liberal professors tell me LS was a business that did not owe the students an ounce of duty. One of these guys even openly told me LS is a life ruining decision for poor kids that don't graduate in the top two-thirds of the class. Yet this same douche would put on such a show in class about social justice, greedy corporations, etc.

      A republican tells you being a crook is good, whereas liberals tell you being a crook is bad while acting as such; that is why the latter are so much more dangerous than the former.

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    7. MacK: Prof. Diamond seems to be a former labor lawyer who writes a lot about human rights law. Dean Mitchell has such titles as Corporate Irresponsibility: America’s Newest Export and If I Only Had a Heart: Or, How Can We Identify a Corporate Morality. I'm not going to read any of their crap, but it looks like they are at least moderate leftist.

      I think libertarians, who are you are more likely to find on law school faculties than Tea Party or neocon types, are probably against the current student loan market on principle. Although the progressives are supposed to be against runaway tuition on principle too.

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    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. With respect to the writer looking to the New York Court of Appeals to solve all of his or her problems:

    The court is now considering making law school two years rather than three. If adopted, you can expect more New Yorkers to go to law school because it will be only two years, and you can expect schools to accept more students in each class. So how do you think that might affect the number of solos lurking around Brooklyn Supreme in the next few years?

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  14. As I've mentioned before, LSAT scores should be reported as percentiles. A score of 147 doesn't sound; it's not far from 170, is it? But a score of the 33d percentile is plainly awful.

    Make the New England Law Skules tell the world that their median student is at the 33d percentile on the LSAT. The veriest idiot will then know right off the bat that those schools are toilets.

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  15. The JD scam is much worse than MBAJanuary 15, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    Although MBAs are the closest professional degree to JDs in terms of scams, the JD scam is much, much worse for a number of reasons.

    1) Quite a few folks get MBAs while working as to enhance their credentials, not get a new degree that allegedly will open doors. So the opportunity cost isn't nearly as great.
    2) Employers often cover the cost of an MBA.
    3) MBA takes only two years to complete.
    4) I wouldn't say an MBA is very versatile, but it isn't anti-versatile like the JD.
    5) You don't have all the social justice crap in business school.

    I will acknowledge that anyone who has been lured into the Cooley equivalent of an MBA with hopes of working at Goldman Sachs has been duped.

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    1. When people hear you have an MBA, they think you can help them start a business or do your taxes or talk about the stock market.

      When people hear you have a JD, they think you're a greedy obnoxious prick looking to start frivolous arguments.

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  16. If you really want to produce competent counsel, get rid of the generic bar exam and go to rigorous, area-specific certification. One of the stupider myths of the legal profession is that all lawyers are created equal and that the same license can have you represent murderers and handle small business stock purchase agreements and handle copyright litigation. This makes it very easy for the least competent and least experienced to "versatile" it into an area where a paying client has walked through the door.

    If you've been a criminal defense attorney for 20 years, you should not just be able to start doing Chapter 11 - or even Chapter 13 - bankruptcies. You should actually take a test and be certified.

    When you go to an orthopedic surgeon or are referred to one, you can be assured that you're not getting a trained ophthalmologist who has decided to "branch out" on a whim. The state has ensured you're getting someone knowledgeable and skilled not just in medicine, but in that specific discipline.

    Law needs the equivalent. It's way too easy for shysters to pretend that they can handle major personal injury cases or felony drug trials and it's way too easy for them to compete at super-low price points out of ignorance and desperation. Law is all about getting paying clients, and paying clients are all about sales, since quality often can't be determined by the law person until it's too late. We could stop the worst damage immediately by having more rigorous, periodic, subject-specific testing.

    The letter-writer is a bit behind the times. Lousy quality has been going on for years at the lowers levels. Half the briefs I look at have major errors or are just bad - like F-quality. And it's not all toiletteers, either, but former federal clerks, BigLaw washouts, etc. That's not going to change because it's partly the result of economic forces, but t would go a long way if we forced these people to specialize and develop a practice in one subset of the law.

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    1. Not just Big Law washouts, but Big Law itself. I see horrible briefs coming out of white-shoe law firms.

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    2. Yes, let's place even more restrictions on practitioners, there really aren't enough of those already.

      I'm sure the problem of attorneys accepting cases outside their expertise is caused by greed and shysterism, rather than economic desperation.

      Putz.

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    3. "I'm sure the problem of attorneys accepting cases outside their expertise is caused by greed and shysterism, rather than economic desperation."

      I wouldn't dispute that economic realities cause people to take whatever walks in the door. "Shyster" in this case means "unethical," and that's exactly what happens when one takes a case they aren't fit to handle.

      And I don't want to tack on regulations, I want to replace the generic bar exam with a subject-specific one and replace CLE with subject-specific topics instead of "building a website for clientz" or "Jack Marshall's Ethical Sing-a-Long."

      "I see horrible briefs coming out of white-shoe law firms."

      Not long ago, I read a case where an appellate panel ripped one of the Chicago elite firms (K&E, I think, don't quote me) for massively screwing up. Economic pressures kill the ability to be perfect or even great in some cases. I just think forcing counsel to specialize would go a long way in protecting clients, which includes the Fortune 500 companies who prop up the BigLaw system.

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    4. Economic desperation doesn't justify incompetent work.

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    5. Anecdotal observations don't justify restructuring the bar to limit the areas in which members may practice.

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    6. "Anecdotal observations don't justify restructuring the bar to limit the areas in which members may practice."

      Can you provide a plausible justification for the system we currently have?

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    7. So if I don't agree with your proposal I'm somehow justifying the system we have? Shoddy reasoning.

      The problem is too many law schools producing too many JDs. What you propose won't address that, and will merely place more burdens on already overstressed and underemployed JDs.

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    8. No, what I propose is that we have multiple problems created by fundamental issues in the system. I propose that we look at the system from the ground-up. I merely asked if there was some reason the system is the way it is that I'm not seeing. Nothing shoddy about it, merely asking for your positive case or for the grounds of your skepticism.

      As I said above, there would be no additional burdens, and it might solve one problem. The issue of too many JDs for too little work is a separate, albeit related, problem. Yes, we need to close law schools. But we also need to make sure that the oversupply of attorneys isn't causing unethical conduct by the economically-desperate. What I propose is a control on that.

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    9. Or we could just have state bar regulators do what they're supposed to.

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    10. Yep - the biggest problem is that some area of law becomes flavor of the month and suddenly everyone is a expert. It is very visible in intellectual property where all sorts of idiots are putting themselves forward as experts - some even give seminars for other lawyers, which takes real chutzpah. I have also seen it in international practice and antitrust and competition law.

      I know pretty well SFA about family law and only the employment law I needed to know as a GC (which was not insignificant, but not enough to practice, just enough to know when I am looking at a minefield).

      In Europe Arbitration is helped a bit by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators - who have an exam system with ranks to Fellow, ditto for mediation (AAA seems to be packed with gobshite former state judges who did not get reelected.) I like the idea of different specialist areas having similar systems with subject specific exams.

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    11. "..or "Jack Marshall's Ethical Sing-a-Long."

      Comment of the day.

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    12. Doc:

      One big problem with requiring area-specific specialization is, most lawyers have no idea what they'll be doing after school. Rather, you end up going where the work is. Three years out of law school, I fell into a job at a small personal injury practice. Prior to that, I had done criminal defense and some civil stuff, but no PI.

      On top of the JD, how much time, money and effort should a lawyer have to expend on additional certification before transitioning to a new practice area?

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    13. ^Isn't the better question what is the minimum level of protection clients deserve from incompetence?

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    14. Here we have a perfect example http://www.torontobarristers.com/
      A Nigerian monday "practicing" everything under the moon from PI to IP including, but not limited to, general litigation, entertainment law, family law and traffic tickets to name a few. It is not a surprise that the bar is prosecuting him on two counts of professional misconduct
      http://www.lsuc.on.ca/uploadedFiles/For_the_Public/Hearings_and_Discipline/Regulatory_Proceedings/Current_Hearings_and_Regulatory_Notices/Opara%20LCN60-12%20NOA%20May24-12.pdf

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    15. "Isn't the better question what is the minimum level of protection clients deserve from incompetence?"

      Yes. As much as I'm biased in favor of making the JD-riches path as easy as possible, the state bar exists to protect clients and the integrity of the legal profession.

      Lots of older attorneys advised me to "let the profession come to me." Could you imagine telling that to a med students? "You might be a plastic surgeon or you might be a podiatrist, just go where the work is!"

      Yikes.

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  17. Correction: It's tomorrow at 12:00 P.M.

    http://www.cato.org/live

    http://www.cato.org/events/failing-law-schools

    "Failing Law Schools"

    (University of Chicago Press, 2012)

    For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis. Please join us for a luncheon on January 16 at which Tamanaha will discuss his book.

    If you can’t make it to the Cato Institute, watch this event live online at http://www.cato.org/live and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #CatoEvents. Also follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.

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  18. If schools go to nearly open admissions, will the bar examiners relax their standards and keep admitting the same percentage of test takers? Or will they use MBE cut-off scores (which correlate highly to LSATs) and reject huge percentages?

    Is this a new round of fraud? That is, if schools admit lots of people whose stats show probability of bar passage at 5%, is that a civil wrong?

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  19. Prof. Campos, will you respond to Professor Burk's pissy bitching at you at Faculty Lounge?

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  20. "I just think forcing counsel to specialize would go a long way in protecting clients, which includes the Fortune 500 companies who prop up the BigLaw system."

    And will also protect established practices like yours from competition, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

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    1. I don't have an "established practice."

      And I'm not concerned about anyone having a monopoly over PI, med mal, ID, WC, immigration, title work, divorce, child custody, DUI, criminal defense, bankruptcy, or any other area/sub-area of law. Every single mid-sized or major metro area is saturated where demand is.

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  21. Starting a business is notoriously difficult, as is mastering a professional craft. Close to 50% of law grads, if they ever want any more than a token return on their massive law school investment, will have to do both of these things simultaneously, in an oversatured market, while weighed down with student debt obligations. Oh, and many states have digital databases of attorney disciplinary histories, so any rookie mistake that results in admonishment will be immediately and permanently available to potential clients.

    Maybe law school should be abolished altogether, and aspiring lawyers educated via a structured series of fee-for-training apprenticeships to ensure that they gain the skills, confidence, and local contacts to practice successfully in a couple of practice areas of their choosing. There could also be a series of qualifying exams, culminating in the bar exam, to ensure mastery of doctrine and associated analytical framework.

    dybbuk


    ReplyDelete
  22. "unless then Court of Appeals suddenly has an epiphany -- but with five Republican appointees, I am not holding my breath."

    -If it were up to me, I would close down every law school in New York except for NYU, Columbia, Fordham, and Cornell. But its not up to me, and its not up to the Court of Appeals either. Also, due to one death and one retirement, there are only 5 judges on the Court, one of whom (Chief Judge Lippman, the guy responsible for forcing new attorneys to perform 50 hours of pro bono work) was appointed by Democratic Governor Patterson. The two replacment judges will be appointed by the current Democratic governor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why Fordham or even Cornell for that matter? CUNY and U. of Buffalo make more sense. Keep at least some public options. Forget Fordham, place is as dumpy as BLS or Cardozo.

      Delete
  23. The law school scam has now hit the Alex Jones Show:

    http://www.infowars.com/we-are-witnessing-the-slow-tortuous-death-of-the-american-worker/comment-page-1/#comment-3724812

    "So if you can’t find a job in healthcare, what field are you supposed to go into?

    Please don’t say law. There are hordes of new law school graduates competing for very few entry-level jobs each year. In fact, one law firm has come up with the bright idea of making young lawyers pay a fee for the “privilege” of getting legal experience by working there. Just check out their Craigslist ad."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Being saddled with nondischargeable debts with no job means Earth truly is a "prison planet."

      Delete
  24. I can think of many adjectives the general public uses describe lawyers, but traditionally "dumb" "lazy" are not among them. But if an entire generation grows up with the idea that the people who fell for law school were suckers, had poor judgment or were simply too lazy or unable to do anything else, why should those people be given the ability to charge guild rates for work just because they went to law school and passed an exam that most people from law schools pass?

    I also don't think they will distinguish between people who went to T14s or who scored in the top x% of their class and students who went to TTTs. One reason we're in this mess is that applicant think that ALL lawyers make bank, whether they went to NYU or NYLS. I don't see why that presumption doesn't apply equally in the other direction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might want to think that through a little more carefully...

      Delete
    2. The common wisdom on this site and JDU are that the average student attending law school is irrational, dumb, or has poor judgment. I'm not sure why you think this can't bleed into the population at large, and that it would not effect the laws that allow lawyers to practice without competition. There's no guild for art history or sociology majors.

      Delete
    3. You might want to consider that most of them won't become lawyers and therefore won't affect the public perception.

      Delete
  25. There's also the issue of the deplorable services that clients are receiving by incompetent, inexperienced attorneys established by a system that values access over competence.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "But when a law firm list an address as its own office that turns out to be virtual space, it is basically playing a little scam ... even worse when virtual space is used to show that a law firm has a local presence in an area when in fact no such local presence exists."


    Saw some clown the other day commenting (under what appeared to be his own name) on that WSJ Law School "Caveat Emptor" op-ed by Chris Fletcher that was linked here (WSJ link again below but to avoid a wall google "chris fletcher" and "wsj" and nav from there).


    Anyway, this clown was bragging about how patent law was "booming" (which is not actually the case) and seemed to say that lawyers doing any other kinds of law were basically only good for doing odd handy-man jobs to repair his building.

    So, I figured let's see who this irritating guy is. Let's say his name is "John Doe".

    Found his his website which proudly proclaims him "Doe And Associates, LLC" and "Intellectual Property Attorneys" (i.e., plural usages despite the fact that he appears to be a solo, and he is the only lawyer I could find named on the website).

    And then across the top of the website it lists a number of major cities, as if this practice of "Intellectual Property Attorneys" has a presence from coast-to-coast.

    The "contact us" page lists addresses for each city.

    Googled them and, you guessed it, looks like virtual office space.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323320404578213223967518096.html#articleTabs%3Dcomments


    Anyway,

    ReplyDelete
  27. "If it were up to me, I would close down every law school in New York except for NYU, Columbia, Fordham, and Cornell."

    I am sure most law schools would be happy to close down their competitors as well. And most would look at those below them in the pecking order and say "why doesn't that school just close down, they are flooding the market."

    ReplyDelete
  28. Rookie attorneys from TTToilets are professional malpractice disasters waiting to happen. Take Dan Dargon, a graduate of University of New Hampshire Law School which only requires 149/3.1 for admission.

    This aTTTorney, ran a "loan modification mill" and charged clients upwards of $2,500 with the promise of reducing their interest rates and payments. Of course, he was too busy finding new suckers instead of actually working with creditors. Any work done by his firm consisted of filling out forms that could have been easily done by the scammed clients.

    "Judge also found that Dargon broke the law by entering into best efforts contracts with his clients and collecting advance fees for his services, which along with the unlicensed loan originations are violations punishable by fines of up to $2,500 per client.

    And he found that Dargon failed to safeguard client files and employed two people who misrepresented themselves as attorneys."

    http://www.wmur.com/r/26001288/detail.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NO IT DOES NOT REQUIRE ONLY A 149/3.1 for admission. I'm an alum and I can tell you that you are using incorrect data. Look, every school is going to have its share of cannon fodder with malpractice issues. UNH Law is no exception to the rule. Find another school to beat up.

      Delete
    2. Lol, no, of course not - there is no minimum score!

      You can probably score a 148/3.0 and get in this cycle. ABA data shows last year's 25th percentiles were 150 and 3.1. LSN shows admits at 147/3.4 and 150/3.1.

      Given the last-minute waitlist deck-shuffling that took place last year and the starvation for applications this year, 149/3.1 likely gets you in the admit pile today for the Franklin Piece Law Center.

      Delete
  29. Concord attorney Dan Dargon and his disbanded law firm have been ordered by the state Banking Department to pay more than $330,000 in fines and restitution for modifying mortgages without a license. But it's unclear whether the department - or the 71 clients it decided were entitled to restitution - will see any of the money.

    "It's not going to happen," Dargon said yesterday. "Number one, I don't have a half a million dollars or whatever to pay. I'm 29 years old, I'm a young lawyer. I'm actually going into the Army late October. I'm not really happy about too many things with the practice of law right now."

    Dargon, who started his own firm after graduating from the former Franklin Pierce Law Center in 2008, closed the doors to the North State Street business last fall as the Banking Department pursued an investigation into its practice of modifying mortgages without a state license.

    The licensing requirement had only recently been enacted by the Legislature, and Dargon took the Banking Department to court over the dispute, maintaining he and his staff of 30 attorneys and paralegals were practicing law - not working as loan originators - and were therefore exempt from oversight by banking investigators. But after several days of administrative hearings last winter, a presiding officer decided Dargon and his lawyers had, in fact, broken state law by working as unlicensed loan originators, entering into "best efforts" contracts and collecting advance fees from clients.

    The officer, Stephen Judge, didn't decide until the end of last month how much Dargon would be fined for the violations. He found Dargon's firm responsible for paying $129,500 in fines and $147,196 in restitution, with amounts ranging from $500 to $3,400 per client.

    Judge also found Dargon individually liable for an additional $56,000 in fines.

    Although his firm no longer exists, nine of Dargon's former employees are named in Judge's order and could also be liable for the fines. "If there is no firm, we're going to chase the individuals," Richard Arcand, a spokesman for the Banking Department, said yesterday.

    And if no one pays, Arcand said the department will take Dargon to court for the money - "on behalf of consumers."

    "We're going to be investigating the appropriate course of legal action, which could involve the attorney general or the court system," Arcand said. The order against Dargon includes a provision that if he declares bankruptcy, he will have to list in his petition each person to whom he owes restitution.

    Dargon, meanwhile, said he intends to file a motion for reconsideration. If the department rejects it, he said he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court, confident that new regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would lead the justices to side in his favor. New Hampshire enacted its licensing requirement for loan originators in light of the federal SAFE Act, passed in 2008 to enhance consumer protection and cut down on fraud in the mortgage industry.

    Dargon, whose firm was filing loan modification requests to get clients lower monthly payments on their mortgages, has argued that the kind of work performed by attorneys at his firm isn't regulated by the SAFE Act, a position that ran contrary to the Banking Department's interpretation.

    But Dargon pointed yesterday to new HUD regulations that say the licensing requirement for loan originators wasn't meant to regulate activities that constitute the practice of law by an attorney [ . . . ]

    Several hundred of Dargon's clients were waiting to hear from their lenders when his firm closed last fall. A number of those clients called the Monitor, alarmed that they suddenly hadn't been able to reach their lawyers and angry that they were never informed of the firm's closure.

    -From the Concord Monitor

    ReplyDelete
  30. 10:11 - I don't care about Campos' personal life. I don't care about his teaching either, since it impacts so few (and even then, there is a difference of opinion over this subject). I don't care about his scholarship either, because at most about 20 people read the average piece of scholarship found in law reviews (I am a formal law review editor of a top 10 school main law journal). In fact, the lack of value issuing from legal scholarship is part of the problem, since it costs so much and so little is received in return. I have to admit your comments make me chuckle. A law professor actually produces something of value to a portion of the general public, and he thus becomes (falsely) a contributor to the problem of ineffective law schools. No, the problem with law schools is that there are far too many, and the term of instruction needs to be no more than a single academic year. Cut the number of law schools by 70%, and trim down the curriculum to a solid first year course which prepares the truly bright students (because that is virtually all who will be left) for the bar exam, and, well, we might begin to make some progress with "ineffective" law schools. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who are you responding to?

      Delete
  31. "--with five Republican appointees, I am not holding my breath"

    Forgive me, but what exactly makes this individual think that a Democrat appointee would be any different?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct that three democratic appointees affirmed the NYLS "sophisticated consumer" dismissal.

      Delete
  32. I do not understand the vitriolic response to a solo practice. People in this forum make it seem like being a solo is deplorable. I started a solo practice about a year and a half ago after I was sick and tired of doing document review. I went to a T-30 law school. My first year of practice was grueling and I made a lot of mistakes. Lucky I did not try any major felonies until I got a lot more experience. However, I learned.

    Judges could tell I was brand new and helped me along. My first few clients understood I was new and they were taking a chance on me.

    I survived and made a decent salary. I eventually qualified for 18b panels in New York that pay pretty well and going into my second year of practice I make about as much as an associate at a mid sized firm.

    Young Solos need the experience so they will get it at the expense of their client, but how is that any different from a first year associate getting their experience at the expense of a large corporate client's war chess.

    Botton line if you really want to practice law and get a feel what it is like to build a business try going solo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Young Solos need the experience so they will get it at the expense of their client, but how is that any different from a first year associate getting their experience at the expense of a large corporate client's war chess."

      There is a big, big difference.

      Delete
    2. 1:36 you cannot possibly be that stupid...

      Delete
    3. @1:36 - oh hai there Joseph Rakofsky/Ratfucksy

      http://abovethelaw.com/2011/04/mistrial-declared-when-judge-is-astonished-by-touro-grads-incompetence/

      Delete
    4. If you ran a practice you would know that malpractice insurance is cheaper the newer you are to the profession because insurance companies have calculated that because you have little experience you will make deadlines and make less mistakes. The longer you practice the more your insurance goes up.
      There is nothing wrong with a solo cutting his or her teeth with some small cases with clients that can barely afford to pay. If they are prudent they will ask the clerks what they should do and the clerks will tell them. It is not rocket science.

      Delete
    5. No, your insurance goes up the longer you practice because you generally have more outstanding potential liability sources. Insurance companies don't guess about who will file on time (do you think they assume older attorneys are late and make common mistakes?), they look at how many different ways they can sued for your conduct. A new attorney carries a clean bill.

      There is no problem opening a small or solo law office. There is a big problem when they bite off more than they can chew, which happens a lot. The wise man knows of what he's ignorant, but the fool sees no limits to his.

      The clerks are great for practical procedural questions. They will not prevent malpractice on substantive issues the attorney has no clue on.

      Delete
  33. The problem is America seems to have collectively vastly overestimated the number of lawyers it can support. Every middle class family thinks their son or daughter could become a lawyer, when in fact only a small percentage of them should ever really hope to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this is the flip side of special snowflake syndrome.

      Delete
  34. Everybody, don't go to his blog. He has been known to post the IP addresses of the people who visit it for some strange reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well duh, he OBVIOUSLY set it up for that reason. Such a valuable use of his time ... far more productive than, say, trying to get a public sector job that'd discharge his debt in 10 years. You know, if he'd gotten a job like that the day after he failed the bar exam, he'd only be a year or two from being able to retire at half-pay for life. Isn't that funny?

      He has not made wise choices.

      Delete
  35. A depiction of Hell that a wise law prof recently likened to the plight of fans of this blog...

    - The dismal Situation waste and wild,
    - A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round
    - As one great Furnace flamed, yet from those flames
    - No light, but rather darkness visible
    - Served only to discover sights of woe,
    - Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
    - And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
    - That comes to all; but torture without end . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shut up PaintRoach. You make me sick with your erudite wanna be ways. Do you actually think you come across as some intellectual with all your fancy words? Think again.

      Delete
    2. ^^^ LOL, you're so sad and easy to troll 9:43.

      Now you're even falling for bad (and unintentional) JDP knock-offs.

      Delete
    3. Here, dipwad, read these series from Bernie Burk.

      http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2012/11/what-matters-most-in-legal-ed-these-days.html

      http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2012/11/more-on-what-matters-most-or-paging-dr-pangloss.html


      http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2013/01/still-more-on-what-matters-most-or-a-guided-tour-of-pandaemonium.html

      Delete

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