Friday, November 4, 2011

You'll never fail like common people

Around 1999, at the height of the boom, Barbara Ehrenreich spent several months doing various low-paying service sector jobs, including waiting tables, working retail at Wal-Mart, and working for a maid service.  At the same time she tried to actually live on the wages she was making, which naturally she found extremely difficult to do.  She wrote a book about her adventures, Nickel and Dimed, which is well worth reading.  It's an exploration, more or less in the tradition of Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, of what it's like to be part of the working poor (Ehrenreich is perfectly aware that she can't really experience what that's like, since in the end it's impossible for an upper class person to understand an experience that she could always stop with a phone call.)

Still when I read something like this, I have a positively Maoist urge to force legal academics, and most particularly law school deans, to live life as it's lived by so many of their recent graduates, if only for a few months or weeks or days.

I do think that there are still many law jobs available—they just aren’t necessarily in the usual places that students look

Where are they?

Everywhere you look in society, it seems to me, there are people who need lawyers who can’t get them. Those may be people who are very poor and need public interest and pro bono lawyers, but they also may be individuals or families or small businesses that need lawyers and who are never going to be in a position to hire large commercial law firms.

The reason these people can't afford lawyers is because they don't have very much money.  They may not be "poor,"  but can't afford to pay $400 or $300 or $200 or $100 an hour for legal services, or at least not for anything that's going to take more than a few hours of a lawyer's time.  Dean Berman's point (I guess) is that maybe some of the more enterprising members of our legal proletariat ought to charge $50 an hour for their services. Except practicing law includes all sorts of fixed costs, and the more one tries to reduce those fixed costs by for example working out of one's home and meeting clients at Starbucks, the less likely it is that you'll have more than five clients a year, since even people who only have a couple of thousand bucks to drop on legal representation are understandably leery of paying somebody who doesn't really appear to be a lawyer to do legal work.

In addition, there are the enormous barrier to entry costs involved in being qualified to do even this, which in the case of Dean Berman's school are now running around 200K to 250K.  Here's part of an email I got a few weeks ago:

I just graduated from GW Law School in the top 10% of my class and am still looking for employment.  Needless to say, I can relate to many of the things you are saying and I appreciate voices like yours within the legal academy that are seriously addressing these issues.
 Dean Berman's school is ranked in the 90th percentile of the all-powerful USNWR list, so I guess his administrative predecessor was a big success, which I'm sure is some consolation to my correspondent.  Then there's this:

When thinking about loans, students need to consider that the legal education is meant to prepare them for 40 or 50 years of practice, not simply the first year out of law school. The loans are a significant issue, but students should take the long view and think about their earning power as lawyers over the course of an entire career.
 This is apparently becoming something like the company line among law school deans, as I've heard several say very similar things in the last few months.  I spent 15 minutes this morning reviewing all of the current job listings for alumni which are available through CU's placement office.   Guess what: there are no jobs.  Or rather, there are almost literally no jobs out there that don't require at least a couple of years of actual legal experience (not doc review).  And what jobs there are tend to be things like being an associate for a small family law firm, with a salary between 40K and 49K (and they want three years litigation experience).

Here's what the people selling the "lifetime value of a law degree" line don't or rather don't want to understand: The lifetime value of a law degree is going to be negative if you don't get a real legal job within a couple of years of graduating.   And more than half of ABA law school grads from the most recent classes haven't gotten real legal jobs.  The employment stats are fake: they include an enormous amount of stuff that doesn't involve practicing or learning how to practice law.  People doing those jobs are on their way out of a profession they never got into in the first place. In a year or two they'll be taking their law degrees off their resumes. It'll be as if they never went -- except for the six-figure non-dischargeable debt they incurred. That's what they'll have gotten out of law school.


  1. On the subject of providing low cost services to poor people as a viable way of making a living, there are already too many lawyers depressing prices for it to work. If a courthouse regular with ten years experience is pleading out cases for $700 dollars, what the hell is a newbie to do?

  2. People doing those jobs are on their way out of a profession they never got into in the first place. In a year or two they'll be taking their law degrees off their resumes. It'll be as if they never went -- except for the six-figure non-dischargeable debt they incurred. That's what they'll have gotten out of law school.

    I teared up a bit. This hits it right where it lives. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not even pretending anymore. I made a bad decision. And I'll carry that weight till the end of my days.

  3. His total non-answer to the question on out-sourcing was also something to see. It's bizarre, head-in-the-sand type stuff. The simple fact is that many of the legal jobs that are have been lost are not coming back.

    The reason why they are not coming back is because, when it comes right down to it, they consist in large part of reading large quantities of information to find particular details, or entering information on templates. It is much easier and cheaper to either automate or out-source these tasks to India, China or elsewhere: they certainly do not require any special knowledge that Dean Berman or his collegues might be able to impart to perform.

    I've seen a lot of people in the comments on this blog and others advocating legislating against outsourcing. I think this is impossible - what is to stop one attorney in the US signing documents produced by a Bangalore back-office as if they were his or her own?

  4. This post is so on point its not even funny. I graduated in the top 10% from Indiana and couldn't find a job so I went into sales.

    Once again, this is hands down the best blog on the internet.

  5. When Deans are forwarding arguments as bad as these, what conclusions can one possibly draw? Their goal is hide the true nature of the problem for as long as possible so they can grab that much more money in the meantime. They are villians, genuine bad guys. They should go to jail.

  6. This post does hit home with a stinging realism. It is a shame that the deans are willfully ignorant of this reality.

  7. My rage against these people is so strong that it scares me a little bit. I don't WANT to be as furious at the perpetrators of this scam as I am, but then one goes off and says something so craven and brazen and bald-faced that I can't help it. I want these people to suffer for what they have done, in part because they seen to feel no shame or contrition whatsoever.

  8. The real tragedy of the scam is that the people least able to give solo practice a go and offer cost efficient services are the poorest and it's all because of the debt to get an education that could be gained for free. Without jobs what's the point of paying anything for an ABA degree? And I say this as a solo.

    Anon 901am eloquently stated exactly how most grads feel I think.

  9. I am very surprised that with all the people who have ruined lives because of the "law school scam" that there have not been more "problems" at schools. By "problems", I mean disgruntled former students who have nothing left to lose...

  10. I have applied to over 8000 jobs since graduating in the top 10% of my class in May of 2010 at a Tier 1 school and passing the bar. I even keep a spreadsheet of all those jobs so as not to be duplicative. Initially, I had applied to only legal jobs, consisting of those found on USA jobs, CareerBuilder, TheLadders, Monster, and, of course, all of the postings on my law school's list serve. Those applications made up the first 5000 or so applications. Of those applications, I only received 3 callbacks and was able to get 1 actual sit-down interview. For the next 3000 or so applications, I applied to roughly 13 legal temp agencies: RobertHalf, et al. I have been on a few 1-month assignments that pay anywhere from 21-35 dollars/hr. In the meantime, I started applying to jobs and creating profiles on sites for companies such as Ernst&Young, Price Waterhouse Cooper, etc. There are no jobs that will enable to me to even live in the same manner I did before law school, which I would happily revert to if given the choice.

    Going to law school has been an error of cataclysmic proportions for me. I was the first person in my family to go to college, much less graduate school, and, while I don't want to seem like some type of victim, I didn't have the generational knowledge of this scam passed down to me from those "in the know." I was pretty much left to figure out everything on my own, and, unfortunately, I figured out everything too late. I keep thinking back to how positive and forward-looking life was just 4 years ago before going to law school and I contrast that now with everything that I am dealing with. Stupidly, I daydream about stepping into a time machine and undoing all of this. I never envisioned that I could potentially live out the rest of my life as a financial and emotional wreck, but that is exactly what is happening. That being said, it should be no coincidence that I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week.

    Having come this far in my life to supposedly "improve" myself and have a better life than my parents, I have come to the realization that all of my years of education and, yes, even success within education(grades/internships) has made me no better off or separate from the struggles my parents still deal with on a daily basis. I guess the dye is cast when one is born, and it truly takes something extraordinary to move beyond one's own economic class. I have returned to the fold from which I came. Perhaps there is such a thing as reincarnation, and I will have an opportunity in some other life to make it right. I can only hope.

  11. I am going to ask this for the tenth time.

    Have you set up a website listing every Law School Dean and Professor, along with whether they agreed to sign the law school transparency petition?

    Have you organized a protest at a law school?

    Have you done anything to tangibly put pressure on the schools to change in any way?

  12. I have an idea. Why don't we all post our feelings about this interview in the comment section of the US News article. While I have nothing against Lawprof's blog, I would think that more readers would see the US news article. In other words, rather than having this BS article become a conversation amongst ourselves (as usual) why not post our dismay below the original article so more eyes see it....

    Just a thought.

  13. "Why don't we all post our feelings about this interview in the comment section of the US News article."

    Here's an idea - why don't you get an ounce of courage so that you can do something more than "post your feelings." Holy cow what a bunch of meek and pathetic losers. You people are a damn disgrace.

  14. @9:37AM And you are a disgrace for not having done the very thing you complain about others NOT doing. Where was your name on the nightly news last night? Did you do something revolutionary this morning? Tell us what YOU did that was so momentous that we should all be modeling. Or, are you just some blowhard that goads others into actions that you would never perform yourself?

  15. @ 9:37 AM:

    You jackass. I have done plenty to let people know about the law school scam. Shit, my law school cannot even look me in the eyes without trembling because they know I speak the truth. I have also warned countless of new people in the last six months alone about the perils of law school as well as student loan debt. I changed their minds about attending these schools. Impacting demand is the most important activity somebody can do. You are dipshit.

  16. 9:34 AM: Yes.

    Not much, but it's a start.

  17. "... since even people who only have a couple of thousand bucks to drop on legal representation are understandably leery of paying somebody who doesn't really appear to be a lawyer to do legal work."

    This is a brilliant observation, and should be explored much further, because it debunks the assumption by these law school deans that charging $50 per hour is even a feasible option for a new lawyer. Only if we jettison the entire law office, and the chance that a new lawyer can have a supervisor or mentor, not to mention the cost of westlaw and liability insurance, does $50 per hour even become possible. (A typical small law firm costs over $50 per hour just to keep its doors open.) Who in their right mind would hire such a lawyer?

  18. I am the first in my family to get an education as well. I did not go to the best schools that I got into, and took a full ride to a lower ranked school instead. I am grateful for that, at least, because I have no loans.

    I would do anything to go back in time and drop out of law school, and even drop out of college. It was such an enormous waste of time. I am also a STEM major (that’s a waste too, just not as bad as everything else), and am eligible to do IP work, but despite graduating in the top 10% of my law school class, and having some decent work experience, I cannot get actual employment.

    Law school was a cataclysmic error. It was a mistake like no other. My life has also been dramatically set back because of going to Law School. However, it’s not true that it takes something “extraordinary to move beyond one’s own economic class.” Instead, you have to know your place.

    I have relatives who have GEDs and 2 years of community college. They work as cops, tradesmen, waiters, etc. They all make more money than me. One guy makes 130k as an NYC cop with overtime, another guy makes 200k as a cop in LI, another works as a fireman and carpenter and makes close to 200k, another makes 65k as a waiter, etc. Some of these guys dropped out of high school, none of them have a 4 year degree.

    Our mistake was not knowing our place, and our place was and is to do jobs like that, acquire capital, and then enable our kids to be white collar. We could have had decent lives, but we went the route designed for the rich, and if you go that route and are not rich, then yes, you have to be extraordinary. Hopefully some of us will recover.

    Good Luck, I hope things get better for you. I feel your pain because I am in my own personal hell as well.

  19. The comment at 10:24 was directed at @ 9:28

  20. @10:24 What you say does sting, but there's a LOT of truth in those statements.

  21. Yes, poor people have no business going to law school. There's an unspoken rule that you can't aim too high if you are poor because you don't have the bedrock of middle-class parents to of support you through your failed endeavors and screw-ups. One catastrophe for a "poor" will set them back, whereas kids with middle-class parents can screw up time and time again, falling back upon them for their support. Sadly, "poors" don't have it so easy. I monumental f@$k-up like law school will wreck your entire life because there are no mommy and daddy "basements" to live in or emergency "loans" that they can provide you to tide you over until you find a decent job. Instead, you must settle on mediocrity and failure because you HAVE TO.

  22. And the "poors" are conditioned to believe that putting a kid out on his/her own at age 18 is an "empowering" thing because it provides them a ready-made, noble excuse for shucking the financial responsibility for their kids beyond the age of 18 into the college years and true, autonomous adulthood.

  23. I was just looking at the bar survey in my small (population-wise) state. Respondents were 51% private practice, 26% government. 39% of private were solos.

    6% charged less than 80 per hour.

    Here are the income figures:

    Under 30k -- 13%
    30-50k -- 18%
    50-70k -- 25%
    70-100k -- 19%
    100-150k -- 12%
    150-250k -- 8%
    Over 250k -- 4%

    I'm sure the numbers skew low here, but wouldn't be surprised if this some kind of distribution was common outside of the 15 or 20 largest metro areas.

    These, obviously, are people employed as lawyers. Not sure how many thought that JD was going to be a ticket to big wealth, but, really, the numbers tell the tale.

  24. Class of 2011 here. All of my friends with jobs got them by way of their parents. In fact, many of the parents work in government jobs and have worked to get a job posted on USA Jobs because, legally, they have to post it for a certain number of days---all the while, the department already knows that they are going to hire X's son or daughter. Nepotism exists folks...and it is ALIVE and KICKIN' in government hiring practices in 2011. The posting of jobs on USA Jobs is just a legal ruse because they won't even bother looking at other's applications once they have their mind set on someone. Sad, but true.

  25. I've also heard awful nepotism stories, and too often re: government jobs where that's supposed to be against the rules.

  26. @ 10:55

    I agree with the spirit of what you say, but I disagree with the belief that a middle class kid will not have to settle with mediocrity as well if they do the law school fuck up. Both poor and middle class kids will have to settle for such mediocrity, its just the path to mediocrity will be less harsh for the middle class kid. In both instances though, LS will severely harm them. The middle class kid will become lower middle class or poor, but will fall down slower, whereas the poor kid will have his/her hopes of rising up smashed.

    If you are not rich and cannot go to super elite schools, then you should not go to school. I fucked up because I did not understand this. Even if you have no loans, its not worth it. The elite have set up jobs for prudent poor and middle class people to rise up: Cop (look at what NYPD, LAPD, LI cops, Etc. make), firemen (same), tradesmen, etc. You start those jobs young and with no debt and the earning potential is pretty good. We should not have scorned those jobs.

  27. @ 11:00,

    Excellent observation. Seriously. The rich pay for their kids rent and/or let them live at home sometimes well into their thirties. Sometimes, they make them take out student loans as a learning experience, and then pay them off in full. Yet the poor, well, you know...

  28. I posted this before, but it is true. A friend of mine is straight and attended one of those Lamda law events. He gave a blowjob to one of the partners at the event---because that's what happens at conferences. Needless to say, the dude got hired on as a summer associate and got an offer the following December. He is now in his 2nd year at the firm, making 160K. The guy is as straight as can be and now married, but he did what he felt he had to in order to get a job. We live in DESPERATE times.

    Fairness and academic merit are merely nice thoughts in today's world.

  29. The "lifetime value" of a law degree is an amazingly tenuous and strained rationale to justfy the cost or loan burdens of going to law school. First and foremost, the only data available for claiming that the lifetime value of the degree works is from people who are much older than recent grads. E.g. your data set for making this claim comprises people who graduated from law school many years ago and who are older (probably 50's, 60's). Law school tuition for these people in the 50's and 60's is in no way comparable to modern tuition rates--it's less by at least a factor of 10. Consider the average loan burden to recent grads. Many grads having 150-200k of law school debt will easily pay upwards of $1000 per month on a 30 year repayment plan. That means that even the youngest graduates who finish law school at 25 will finish paying off their loans when they are 55--which completely flies in the face of the Dean's argument for lifetime value.
    Second, the lifetime value of a degree doesn't take into account all the graduates who, like LawProf notes, never use their law degree. Sure, you can go to law school, go 150k in the hole, wash out on the job market, and then go into sales or another line of work and end up making a good living, but this success is completely independent of having a law degree or skills learned in law school. If you didn't go to law school you would arguably be more successful, since you wouldn't have debt and would have several more years of salary and skills under your belt. The lifetime value argument attributes any success post law school (in any field and by any means) with going to law school. The causal link isn't this strong. It's like claiming that you won the lottery because you went to law school, when that's clearly not the case for many graduates who are successful in non-legal careers.

    It's just amazing that people who appear to be intelligent can continually fail to understand the most basic and simple reasons that make up the law school crisis.

  30. The lifetime value of a law degree is a joke. As you proceed through life, more things add to your success, making the share your law degree is responsible for increasingly less. Unless the size of the pie grows very rapidly, your law degree has a decreasing value over time.

    Law schools need to learn the difference between a but-for cause and a proximate cause.

  31. @11.13 - I know a few people who slept their way into decent positions at law firms, but that's the first time I heard of guy-on-guy. There really isn't any greater way of demonstrating the way that hirers have you at the total mercy, and of how they see fresh grads - people simply there to be used.

  32. @BL1Y - Yup. By the standards applied by law schools, the lifetime value of pre-school education is very high, simply because you use what you learn there all the time and many successful people went to pre-school. This doesn't mean parents should be forking out $50K-a-year to send their kids there.

  33. LawProf -

    Please don't quit your important mission anytime soon!

  34. I find the steroid boy troll-boy disgusting but really, why isn't there more blowback? People scammed out of 6 figures and no job prospects really don't have anything to lose. Im in a pretty good situation but only through luck and extenuating circumstances but even I'm looking up my Dean's name and address just in case because I get so fucking pissed reading what these predators have to say.

    Quite honestly sometimes a punch in the mouth is whats necessary. If the Greeks can riot over less govt jobs and lower wages WITHOUT the added 6 figure debt....well, what are we waiting for? I saw firsthand the ability of 1st years to take massive amounts of shit from partners but they at least had a job and income to protect. Most of us have nothing to lose and a lot of sympathy and attention to gain.

    Just a thought.

  35. "Nagel recalled a faculty meeting last spring when Campos "carefully" raised several points of concern over graduate employment rates. When he was done, no one spoke in response, and the meeting moved on to the next item of business. "That's got to be uncomfortable," Nagel said."

    Wow. Damning and telling. What cowards.

    I would love to hear more about such interactions.

  36. Over on Law School Tuition Bubble I have a pair of articles on the fixed costs of representing clients.

    Incidently, in Connecticut, to pay the occupational tax, client fund to compensate victims of Attorney fraud, you are looking at $570, throw in an CBA membership and basic liability insurance and you are at $2,000 before even signing up your first client.

    Samuel Browning

  37. occupation tax and client fund

    my bad

  38. I highlight the truth that the value of a law degree over a lifetime is a joke. I entered the law market in the early 1990's. Most of my graduating class from a middle ranked school never got a job requiring a law degree. Of those that ever did, most were not working full time as a lawyer 5 years later, much less 10 years later.

    Intellectual property was a hot field when I graduated, and I became a patent attorney. Now, there is a huge glut of patent attorneys. I personally know scores who are unemployed, including those with 20 or 25 years experience. I receive a continuous stream of resumes at my firm from those having excellent academic credentials for which there are no jobs as a patent attorney. Probably the majority of these applicants whose resumes I see would have been far better served staying in science or engineering and skipping the law school scam.

    In short, it was the case 20 years ago as well that the majority of law school graduates would have been far better off in the long run had they not gone to law school. I support every effort at exposing this law school scam that has ruined tens of thousands of lives and caused untold grief.

  39. @ 1:44 PM. I ditto everything you just said. I had the same experience as well.

    One thing about OWS that I do not quite understand is that the news refers to young college graduates. There are plenty of people in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, especially lawyers, who have the same dim prospects. It was hard for me to find a job in the legal field ten years ago. It is much harder now.

  40. There are lots of prisoners with FOIA claims going pro se. Dean Berman should have noted this, and mentioned that a young, enterprising lawyer with his own typewriter could earn literally dozens of Honey Buns or Ice Creams per week, if he looked in the right places...

  41. The arguments are shifting as the effects of this blog and the good works done by Profs. Tamahana and Henderson as well as the scambloggers reverberate throughout the profession. I see two new arguments coming from the mouths and keyboards of legal academia.

    1) Although our graduates may not get very good jobs right away or will have a tough time out of law school, the lifetime earning power of an attorney is much greater than a bachelor's degree holder. Look at all the successful 40-60 year old practitioners all around the country. These impatient, angry youths just need to be patient. If they just stop complaining and work hard for 20 or 30 years they will have a successful practice.

    2) There are discussions about this very problem going on within the legal academy as we speak. These complainers, instead of choosing to have a voice in this process through real life action, seek to tear down their schools without providing solutions. Law school faculties are actively working on ways to change the law school education model that will be effective and practical. However, any solution we present won't be enough for these professional whiners, who are just on a vendetta against legal academia.

    To the guy above asking why law students aren't out in the streets, it's probably because they still believe, after all this time, that they will eventually get jobs and if they put themselves or their names out there it will make them unemployable. It may be a delusion or a necessity, since they may be unemployable in other careers and have to hold on hope that if they continue to be good an attorney job will be

  42. ^just around the corner.

  43. nothing is shifting. in fact it is shifting the other way. what you have here is a group of criminals and opportunists with courage against a group of victims filled with fear. my money is on the criminals. you people don't have the balls to do anything other than comment. you won't even pick up a phone.

  44. @3:53 p.m.:

    Jesus, you're right! How will we ever achieve the orgy of burning and looting necessary to ensure accurate employment reporting by law schools? Be our Trotsky, Bench Press Bro!

  45. John Im no fan of troll boy but Im tired of this idea that transparency will change much of anything. Its just a way of do-nothing profs pretending they are doing something by blaming the admins of their instituions to be more honest. The real issue is the cost of tuition skyrocketing because of unconcsionable non-dischargeable loans. But then this works directly against the interests and pocket-books of faculty.

  46. @HollyM/6:32 p.m.:

    Bench Press Bro makes for a fascinating study. If only we had balls and lost our distaste for implied acts of violence against some or all persons involved in law schools across the U.S., change would occur. His other comments from a couple weeks ago about his bench press and the physical weakness of others makes me think that he probably loathes his own physical appearance, maybe because he's insufficiently muscular. All in all, the best we can hope for with that idiot is that he turns the gun on himself before he kills others. But I digress.

    Tuition isn't skyrocketing because our loans are non-dischargeable. They're skyrocketing because (a) we need only enroll ourselves in law school to get a loan equal to our tuition for that semester, plus a modest amount with which to pay for room and board, and (b) the federal government is loath to change this policy, especially in a time of widening social inequality.

    As many including Campos have pointed out in the past, it's not just one "real issue" with law schools, but a multitude of them. Real employment data would exert pressure on schools who can't get their graduates placed as often or highly as the HYSs/Top 14s to (a) lower tuition, (b) improve their offerings, (c) both or (d) close down. Maybe I'm the only dupe in the room, but I did take the USNWR statistics at face value, if only because they were mentioned and tacitly endorsed by my school's recruitment materials. If I had known the reality, I wouldn't have left my job and paid even a reduced out-of-state tuition for law school. Accurate employment reporting's value is based on the idea that there are at least a significant minority of people like me.

  47. The legal profession is going through a wrenching transformation whose genesis goes back to the 80s and the "American Lawyer" where Steven Brill pushed the idea of law as a business and that everything in a legal office should be treated as a profit centre including the photocopiers and laser printers (he explained that a laser printer was really a copier and firms should change 25¢ a page.) By the 90s DC firms were genuinely able to say that some copiers were more profitable than associates - and then Brill published the Skaddennomics article. But even that article did not "blow the lid off" the leverage model - the model whereby a rainmaker at a major firm can be paid $3-10 million a year - how! At even a billing rate of $1000 an hour he could only bill say $2.5 million if he billed every working hour. The money was all made off billing out associates - and I remember in the 90s interviewing in a department at Skadden where the leverage was 1:15 one equity partner to 15 associates and of counsel - they lost the other equity person and moved to 1:30 Not surprisingly this spurred two phenomenons - the "greedy associates" who pushed high leverage firm pay up and up - and the greedy laws-chools, who wanted a piece of that money.

    What we are now seeing is a new model - clients are no longer prepared to pay for the leverage model. They expect any work that the "long tail" of non-equity associates and paralegals used to perform - essentially fungible work - to be billed at the market price for that sort of fungible work - not, as some big law firms now charge $300+ per hour, even $400 for a junior associate and $200 for a paralegal (noting that with a typical 45 hours under NY/DC/SF targets billed a $300 an hour associate is $650k in revenue - say $300k net margin - a paralegal $380k or so, or $200k margin.) This sort of highly profitable fungible work is what the paralegals did before going to law school (or deciding against it) and the new law graduates. Junior associates, used to also, hopefully, gain some experience and legal training along with the fungible document review and other dreck.

  48. What clients are still willing to pay is very high rates for the right lawyer - I know, my rate is up there. But they don't want to pay for trainees, for new graduates. I graduated in 1992 and saw some big firm job offers evaporate - and ended up following a somewhat unconventional path to being an international lawyer - 1990-94 was pretty bad for law graduates but not as cataclysmic as the current situation. One effect of the 1990-94 meltdown was that there is now a shortage of experienced lawyers in their 40s - not helped by the fact that as a place to train the big firms from the 90s onward were abysmally bad. My first 5 years in the profession were really tough - but to be blunt, I benefited from the lack of competitors as classmates flipped to other roles.

    What does this mean in practical terms. Well part of what it means is that those who are 10-20 years qualified and have acquired real and unusual skills will find themselves able to sell their services at premium rates - but they will not be able to sell a bunch of assistants - clients who ante-up $500 to $1000 per hour will want the complete attention of the senior lawyers. There will also be a shortage of senior and highly experienced lawyers and it will become more apparent as the un-hired of 2008-20?? don't rise up the experience ladder, along with the fired of 2006-7. Will I still be a winner - I don't know - I worry all the time about the future.

    But one thing - I was not entitled to student loans (various reasons) and so I worked my way through law school. It was tough - and I was astonished at classmates with nice apartments and new cars - all covered on student loans. Having an undergraduate degree from a foreign school where there were riots over a $100 tuition hike - phased in over 2 years (first world country) I was astonished to watch my classmates meekly queue at financial aid when the already tuition was hiked by 15% my first year and 10% the second - while I wondered how to pay my rent if I paid my tuition.

    I really have incredible sympathy for recent law graduates - they have been screwed - even if I feel like running away from them when I meet - because they constantly start begging for a job - any job - and I don't have one to give. If I did, it could not be very well paid, until that grad gained some real experience (we can place in major companies and firms all of our juniors after 1-2 years.) By the way, when we do take interns and trainees - we insist on paying them a living wage (they offer to work for free which is just sad) and that limits who we can take to those who can live on what we can justify paying.

  49. who said anything about violence?

    try simply talking in the real world. try simply preparing a list of admins and professors who are the problem so we know who to call. try a basic expression of first amendment rights like a protest.

    is the other side meek and cowardly? no they are obnoxiously aggressive. see turning 33% employment rates into 99% rates. see the motions to dismiss in the Cooley/nyls lawsuits. see them aggressively attacking this pathetic blog as "disgusting" and "extremist."

    if you don't think transparency will crush tuitions then you underestimate the degree of fraud.

    but you people will never win because you don't have an ounce of courage. a brave criminal will victimized a good but cowardly person all day.

  50. you're right Mack. biglaw isn't what it used to be.

  51. I realise I am being a bit long winded here - but I wanted to add a further point. A lot has lately been written about "unbundling" that is to say airlines in particular breaking up the service they sell so that you pay (a) for the flight, (b) for bags is any, (c) for a printed ticket, (d) for food - and if O'Leary gets his way (e) for the lavatory - as if this is a new thing. But law firms discovered unbundling in the late 70s and 80s - and showed it by not just moving to hourly billing, but adding paralegals to do what the legal secretaries used to do (in the 70s and 80s a good legal secretary in a big firm might earn more than a junior or even mid-level associate (then)). Senior partners subsidised their secretary out of their own pocket if the firm would not pay enough - and everyone had a real secretary - even the associates. Clerical work was not billed for, the library was not billed for, etc. Bills as one old partner told me were arrived at by a billing committee - as to what seems fair and reasonable (clients are responsible for demanding a lot of the changes - hourly billing, paralegals, etc.)

    The 80s was when the overhead became completely unbundled - everything that used to be rolled into the legal fees was charged separately - but rates did not go down. Paralegals started to do the work that secretaries did, but were billed by the hour, junior associates clerical time was no longer written off - it was billed by the hour - and so on. All of a sudden teams for projects swelled in size - you started to see 40 suits in court from one firm on one case. Billing went mad...

    That is now heading in the opposite direction - clients expect to know what they will be charged - they expect a $700-900 partner's bill to be it, not have all sorts of add-ons. They want firms to agree to run cases for $50,000 a month or $100,000 a month - or $1 million for the trial - and the firms are having problems (and so are the consulting companies) because they built their economics around billing with a large margin for support/overhead - and not around efficiency. There will be slowly a move back to a model where senior lawyers have secretaries and their juniors are to be blunt - assistants studying from their boss, where it will be unusual to bill a junior lawyer's time until he/she can work independently and not as an assistant - and where an assistant's cost is rolled into the bill from the senior as overhead. The problem is that a law-school model that expects graduates to be worth $160,000 or even $70,000 the day they graduate cannot accommodate this reality. And this is going to be a painful transition.

  52. Lots of law prof bashing, and I would like to post a nice note about a few law professors. Two took me aside in the third year to explain that the best career path for someone not Order of the Coif is the finance or compliance office at a large corporation. Arrogant classmates blew them off, happily I did not. My student loans were paid in less than 5 years. I play with my kids at night and on weekends, while neighbor lawyers slave away family time to make their billable hours (and they are in their mid 40's). Yes, law professors should cultivate relationships in the profession, but also outside the profession for placements like mine. Not every law grad needs to practice, and both students and schools need to wake up and realize this, and pursue opportunities that utilize law school training.

  53. hey class of 95, sthfu. we're in 2012

  54. I worked in a large southern state agency, where one of the lawyers, a minority, got fired 5 months back for falsifying the time sheets of a subordinate lawyer. She is now employed as a lawyer with the FED govt. If you are a minority, rejoice. You're an affirmative action target and may do just fine in the govt. legal employment sector. It makes the nepotism scam look like child's play. As a white male, I know exactly what the score is for my prospects.

  55. Experienced appellate lawyer chiming in. I have filed over 100 briefs of exquisite quality. My research and writing skills are, admittedly, just outstanding. I have a strong character and a good heart. I can't find a legal job- from attorney to file clerk. I can't find any job- the 183 jobs I unsuccessfully applied to the last two weeks of January, where I'm sure I was one of countless applicants for law jobs and not at all taken seriously for dish washing jobs and the like, is a sample of my efforts for over two years. Tonight is the last night I can afford the motel, and the $5 in my pocket will buy me an all-day, all-zone bus pass to take my cat, who has been with me for over 10 years, to a shelter (I will sneak her on in a duffel bag and choose a time and route with the fewest passengers). I'm one of the poor discussed above. I grew up total white trash but was always rather bright. I never knew any professional types, and, hearing about doctors and lawyers and such, went to law school and excelled. I graduated in 2001 and felt remarkably fortunate to find employment. It wasn't big law numbers, but the $50 to $60K a year I was making made me happy as hell, even with the student loan debt. This Great Recession affair hit and blight resumed with fervor. I don't have family to turn to, for real- just crappy white trash who won't even offer their couch. Perhaps anyone reading this can say a prayer, make a wish, whatever your well-wishing M.O., not for me to find trappings of wealth what not, but for anything better than this. Given the promise to escape destitution I once had, becoming a lawyer was undoubtedly the costliest error of my life. I guess the past is our present.


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