I wanted to thank you for taking the time to honestly confront what is happening in the legal market. My wife and I both graduated from Michigan law in 2007 - and we really enjoyed our time in Ann Arbor. My fellow students were bright and engaging - and many of my professors (Rich Friedman, Mathias Reimann, Vik Khanna, and Christina Whittman) were fantastic. There were a few faculty that did not seem to care or have time for students - but we learned to avoid their classes rather quickly. And since we were in law school when the economy was doing well - and we all got multiple job offers - everything seemed great. And though we graduated with $340,000 in loans (the capitalized interest adds up) - we had a plan to pay it off.
Of course - a year after graduation - firms started laying people off. My wife saw a number of friends and colleagues lose their jobs. Some people were laid off six months into their first year. Layoffs happened at my firm as well. And we all knew people from the class of 07 - who were let go suddenly - and could not get another job. We spent two years watching smart capable people lose their jobs, and it was all we could do to just hold on. Meanwhile - our firms cut back on hiring - and each class kept getting deferred. I had former summer mentees calling me to ask if I knew whether they would ever be able to start - and I had no answers.
Through it all - my wife and have been fortunate to stay employed - and as a result we have scrimped and saved and paid off $244K in loans. Of course when I tell family members that we still have $96K in student loan debt - they cannot believe it. But I am hopeful that we have a shot at paying it all off reasonably soon.
Most of our law school friends that were laid off eventually found new jobs. But it took some of them more than a year to find anything. In addition, many of them are now working for a fraction of their previous salaries in non-legal jobs - which makes it unlikely that they will ever be able to pay off their loans. (emphasis added) And the lost classes of 2009/2010 - have almost no hope. And as you have noted -- there has been a major shift in legal hiring by law firms - and there are huge numbers of jobs that are not coming back for the foreseeable future.
So now - more than ever - all law schools need to be honest with prospective students about employment prospects. I would love to see the ABA pursue the AMA model - and close down about 100 law schools. But that won't happen as long as the money continues to come in from student loans.
All of which makes your blog even more important. Thank you for giving voice to the real problems that many graduates are facing - and also diving into the stark reality of law school loans and the legal market.
If there is anything I can do to help with the petition for law school transparency, please let me know. I am happy to contact the faculty members at Michigan that I still have good relationships with to ask for their support.
On a related front - I have been asked by the career development office at my undergraduate alma mater to serve as a resource for students interested in law school. I agreed to get involved as long as they understood that I was going to tell students about the real problems and costs of going to law school today. I also shared your blog with the Director of the CDO at [this school] - and it made a real impression. I am working on putting together a more formal presentation for students that helps them understand the real costs and benefits of law school today - so they can make a more informed choice.
I know that this project has made your life a lot more difficult - but I wanted you to know that it has made a difference already. Even those of us who have been lucky to be employed know there is a real problem. And until your blog came along - it seemed like everyone knew something was wrong - but no one could explain it. Your writing has clarified the issues - and raised a lot of awareness. And now the rest of us have to do our part and speak up as well. Thank you for helping us realize that.
I normally redact the superfluous complimentary parts of emails I publish, as I find that sort of self-praise when others engage in it quite grating, but I'm publishing all of this one because, in addition to several other important points it makes, it highlights the extent to which any amount of speaking out will often inspire others to do the same. Just as keeping silent when one should not can have devastating effects, speaking out when one should can do more good than the speaker could have reasonably anticipated.