A law professor forwarded me links to a couple of law school-produced podcasts/youtube videos flogging the "versatility" of what one of them actually refers to as the "magical" JD degree.
The first is from Cal Western -- a school whose 2011 graduates had average law school loan balances of around $175,000 when their first payments came due in November of that year, and whose employment statistics are morbidly fascinating in a car crash sort of way: 104 of 285 graduates purportedly got legal jobs, broadly defined, not counting solos, while 76 were either completely unemployed or simply untraceable.
I got about halfway through the 27 minutes of it, but that's more than enough. Steve Smith, the dean of the school, talks at length about the purported versatility of law degrees, citing "being a CEO" or a "politician" as potential alternative non-legal careers (he discusses Barack Obama's career as an example of what you can do with a law degree other than practice law, in what appears to be a completely sincere and non-ironic way, although who can tell any more in this crazy mixed up pomo world of ours?).
The really disturbing part of the thing involves an African American professor, who talks about growing up in south central Los Angeles, and overcoming adversity to become a lawyer. Although I have no basis for judging the sincerity of his particular mental state, one of the most deplorable things law schools are now doing as institutions is to cynically exploit the hopes and dreams of people from marginalized ethnic groups and modest socio-economic backgrounds. (In some cases ignorance rather than cynicism may be the formal cause of this exploitative behavior, and while this is the more charitable interpretation, we're reaching a point where ignorance is no longer distinguishable from the sort of willful blindness that is in some ways morally worse than conscious exploitation).
As difficult as law has become as a career path in general, it's even more difficult and potentially catastrophic for people who don't have the sorts of family financial backing, cultural capital, and social connections that are proving ever-more crucial to success in a particularly hierarchical and status-obsessed profession. (It should be unnecessary to add that many of these vulnerable people are white. Nevertheless, I believe we law school faculty and administrators from ethnic minority backgrounds have a special obligation to do what we can to make sure our institutions are not exploiting vulnerable members of our communities, given that "ensuring access to justice" is such a politically convenient translation of "getting people to take out loans they won't be able to pay back.").
The other paen to the versatility of law degrees is this short Youtube video from Chicago-Kent, featuring Dean Harold Krent, who was last glimpsed at ITLSS arguing that getting a law degree was a good entree into the worlds of journalism, counseling, and investing. (Key words and phrases in the video: "network," "sports agent," "help other people," "intellectual firepower.") It's a semi-slick production -- although the sound quality of the dean's contribution is sketchy -- and it would be interesting to know if this kind of thing is worth the money the school is spending on it.
Something that would be even more interesting to know is the extent to which arguments that a JD is or at least was "versatile" have any basis in reality, since as even Smith acknowledges there's simply no longitudinal data on this issue. This of course doesn't stop either him or Krent from arguing that it is, which tells you all you need to know about the extent to which intellectual integrity plays a role in these particular corners of legal academia.