Friday, February 17, 2012

The message

In one of my other lives I've spent a great deal of time trying to do a little bit about the moral panic we've been having in America over fat (If you're interested in the topic here's a video of a debate I participated in last week with John Stossel, former Surgeon General David Satcher, and Pamela Peeke).

One thing I've learned over the years is that, when dealing with a deeply screwed up cultural message, it's important to avoid getting tangled up in all the details regarding just how and why that message is as screwed up as it is.  Instead, for the purposes of political action, (as opposed to scholarly analysis, which naturally must be much more complex) it's crucial to focus on one central point.  In dealing with what I've come to think of affectionately as the obesity mafia, I've come to understand that it's necessary to keep pointing out that we don't know how to make fat people thin.  The reason it's necessary to keep pointing this out is:

 (A) Nobody actually believes this, even though the evidence on this point is neither ambiguous nor open to dispute; and

(B) Pretty much everything the public health establishment says on the topic is rendered either irrelevant or nonsensical by this inconvenient fact.

I'm making a parallel discovery in the world of legal education.  There are a great number of things wrong with legal academia, but in the end the problem is this: There aren't enough jobs.  Everything else -- the failure to prepare people to practice law, the intellectually vacuous and socially reactionary atmosphere of the law school classroom, the ridiculous publication system, the pernicious rankings, the puerile obsessions with status, the profligate spending etc. etc. -- is secondary to the fact that there aren't enough jobs.

Let us do a little exercise.

Contrary to the disturbing things you may have read in the New York Times, legal education is actually changing in all sorts of wonderful ways, which are making our students far more practice-ready upon graduation.

There aren't enough jobs.

Contrary to the disturbing things etc., legal scholarship has entered a golden age, and is producing all sorts of wonderful insights regarding how to make The Best Legal System in the World even better.

There aren't enough jobs.

While it's true that a few law schools may have misled applicants into believing there were enough jobs, we are now starting to publish semi-transparent employment and salary statistics.

Which reveal that there aren't enough jobs.

I would like to point out that, while it is generally true that there aren't enough jobs, this generalization is not valid in regard to the graduates of the Harvard, Yale and Stanford law schools.


As soon as the recession is over, there will be enough jobs.

No there won't.

It's not my fault that there aren't enough jobs.

This is irrelevant to the fact that there aren't enough jobs.

You can do a lot of things with a law degree besides get one of those legal jobs which "some" say there aren't enough of.

No you can't.

If graduates network, and interview well, and move to Nebraska, and avoid falling prey to the desire for high-paying work, then things will work out for them.

No they won't, because there aren't enough jobs.

We need to hire more faculty, and open more centers, and create new administrative positions, and improve the Career Services Office, and spend $100 million on yet another building, and as a consequence of all this raise tuition ever-higher, because otherwise we'll fall in the rankings, and our graduates won't be able to get jobs.

No, your graduates won't be able to get jobs because there aren't enough jobs.

I could go on like this, but there still wouldn't be enough jobs.


  1. So, the answer is for people to stop applying to law schools. If the people who are doing it because they do not know what else to do, or because they think they will become rich, or who are marginal students stopped applying, that would cut out large numbers of folks.

  2. You're correct in that the root of the problem is that there aren't enough jobs. But you imply that there's not much law schools can do to change that: tossing out the old curriculum won't help create jobs, changing the JD from three years to two years won't create jobs, firing half the professors won't create jobs, lowering tuition won't create jobs etc.

    But that doesn't mean that there's nothing law schools can do.

    Surely the "not enough jobs" problem can be solved over time by turning it into a "not enough law schools" issue? Or finding a happy medium between the two?

  3. Is there a way to pay google to have this blog show up as the top search result for everything related to law school admissions?

    How much would something like that cost?

  4. This absolutely nails it, and when you state this as the actual root problem ("There are no jobs") a lot of other issues with legal (high education in general?) make sense.

    Poor teaching practices and a move from teaching professional law to teaching a liberal arts degree with a slant towards law occurred because in the past, students got jobs. Now they don't, so this is questioned.

    Law prof and administrator salaries kept going up, with the "costs" of running a law school, resulting in ridiculous rises in tuition. But in the past, students got jobs, so it didn't matter.

    Career placement and advice was pretty scant in schools. Again, since students got jobs somehow, this didn't matter.

    Great point.

  5. I agree with the first couple of commenters...

    Instead of saying the problem is "there aren't enough jobs," which there isn't a whole lot anyone can do anything about, focus on the problem that can be addressed: "there are too many (new) lawyers."

    Two sides of the same coin, but it's kind of like the budget problems in this country--it's not just about reigning in spending or increasing revenue, it's about doing both.

    Here, though, I'm not sure how you "create" more legal jobs, so hopefully the economy will take care of that on its own, but the schools (ABA?) need to do their part and drastically reduce the number of new lawyers until we reach some sort of equilibrium.

    I know, I know, it'll never happen...

  6. This post is genius. Please keep up the amazing work.

  7. I really really really love this blog.

  8. Its more than just "there aren't enough jobs." Its that there are too many law schools turning out too many J.D.'s for the number of available jobs. I don't think that it is possible to increase the number of jobs available. But it is certainly possible to reduce the number of J.D.'s chasing those jobs by closing down law schools and forcing others to reduce class sizes.

  9. Who is going to close the schools, or "force" them to reduce class size? The ABA cannot close law schools. If people who should not go to law school stop applying, things would change.

  10. Thanks for this! This is the thought I have every time I read an article about transparency, etc. "Yes, but...there still aren't enough jobs."

  11. 7:52, the ABA can withdraw accreditation from schools, can't it? I realize that there are some schools who continue to operate unaccredited, but that's going to cut into their applicant pool significantly. In my ideal world there would be no more than 75-100 law schools, total. Cut the rest. Nobody is going to miss them, honestly.

  12. "It's not my fault that there aren't enough jobs.

    This is irrelevant to the fact that there aren't enough jobs."

    This is the flaw in the lawsuits which seek to assign blame for there being not enough jobs.

  13. I love this blog. I am a Biglaw hiring partner. The extent to which law schools (especially career development offices) are ignorant of the economy's impact on law firm hiring kills me. Yet, they never seem to reach out to the community to understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it.

    But since you focus on this point, let me ask you this - when was the last time you asked either a hiring partner or a managing partner to lunch, so you could find out what's happening in the "real world"?

  14. Thank you. This nails the problem.

    Talk about any reform other than closing down at least 3/4 of the law schools is like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs stitches. I grow weary when the discussion on this blog or elsewhere strays into reforming legal education, making more "practice ready" graduates, etc.

    Even if 3/4 of the law schools were closed down, there would still be about 3/4 as many holders of a JD not working as a lawyer as there are JD holders working in some capacity as a lawyer. Moreover, a huge percentage of those working in some capacity as a lawyer are underemployed, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands even drastically underemployed.

    There are not enough jobs for entry level lawyers as we all know, no more than half enough. If you think that is bad, and it is bad...morally reprehensible to keep selling the JD degrees on credit in these circumstances, it gets worse in general as you get more experience and seniority. There are even fewer jobs per person for the more experienced lawyers. That is, there is more need for document reviewers, routine legal researchers, and drafters of routine documents than there is need for arguers of motions or structurers of deals or planners of litigation strategies. In short, not only is there not enough room to enter the tunnel for more than half the new graduates, the tunnel keeps getting narrower and narrower as the years go by.

  15. @7:52--based on what that would not be seen as a method of limiting the number of lawyers which would, in turn, be seen as a violation of antitrust laws? You are saying right here on this blog that the precise reason for withdrawing the accreditation would be to limit the number of lawyers, with the aim of limiting competition.

  16. Why can't the ABA withdraw accreditation based on the fact that most of these bottom-tier schools are admitting just about anyone, with no regard for admissions standards? Or withdraw based on having a too-low bar passage rate? There seem to be a lot of possibilities that wouldn't involve limiting competition.

  17. 7:59:

    Never. Here is why: Associates at Biglaw give more (and honest) information about the "real" world. Talking to a Biglaw partner requires peeling back the layers of an here, the listener has to hear them talk about themselves for an hour and "peel" back their arrogance before getting to the heart of the matter. This usually requires getting them drunk. Since most are alcoholic anyway, this could take a lot of time as well as cost a ton.

    Since I believe in working smart rather than working hard, it is better to talk to the Biglaw associate. Some of these people are assholes as well but they speak the truth. I think some just like it because someone actually listens to them and treats them like they are human.

  18. It is odd that supply and demand have no impact on law school admissions. I'm assuming this is because of the 6 figure loans that all require only an admission and a pulse. So there are no jobs, so no one go to law school now? How do you decide who should go? T

  19. There have to be a secondary messages, because it is not clear how this problem should be fixed. Make-work programs for lawyers might come to mind for some people. I would much rather cut off federal financing.

  20. Law schools and JDs are a classic example of market failure, i.e., a situation where the market does not behave as a market is supposed to behave - the allocation of goods and services is not efficient - there is a massive oversupply. In the case of legal education, it was apparent as early as the beginning of the 1990s that there was a problem of an oversupply of lawyers in the US when about 36,000 JDs were being awarded. Since 1990 the supply of new lawyers has increased to, depending on whose numbers you credit, between 44,000 and 48,000. So production rose and indeed capacity (ABA accredited law schools went from 175 to 200) in a market where there was by any measure already an oversupply.

    Moreover, because of the massive growth in legal education and indeed "Biglaw" over the last 30 years, the ranks of the existing legal profession skews young - which is to say that the legal profession in the US (unlike say engineers) has an overly large representation of members well short of retirement age as does "big law."

    Despite this situation - and despite the BLS statistics (which a large number of lawyers think are overly optimistic (and the BLS is in fact quite pessimistic about legal employment (certain law schools like Cooley have misrepresented the BLS data)) led to the conclusion that there are maybe jobs for 15-24,000 graduates a year, about half the law graduates. The jobs are simply not there


  21. There are no jobs and the bar is watered down.

    It also appears that the bar, NY included, is letting anyone become a lawyer. English is no longer required as I witnessed an immigration judge harangue a Nigerian lawyer for "improper grammar." The law schools might as well tell these foreigners "pay us $50K, we'll give you an LL.M and your ticket to sit for the NY bar exam.

    The law schools and the bar don't give a rat's ass about ethics or providing quality legal services to the public. Take for example CLE classes. When I became an attorney, CLE was not mandatory. It became mandatory when the bar's till was low and they devised a new requirement whereby attorneys paid outrageous sums of money in order to fulfill some useless credits. Of course the bar cited as an impetus for CLE the need to ensure attorneys are kept abreast of the latest developments on the law so that they can provide effective representation but this is bullshit. You can borrow the books and tapes from CLE from a colleague and certify you completed the credits but unless you pay the CLE providers, you do not get credit. The whole legal education/profession has become a pronounced racket.

    Kids will continue to enroll in law school like amateur chess players will continue to move their pieces even though they are aware of being checkmated within a few moves.

  22. There is a solution to the over-supply problem, other than relying upon the ABA to close down law schools. Bar Eaminers could raise the required score for bar passage so high that 75% of the test-takers fail to pass the bar. I am aware that this would be a wrenching solution. Failing young people with 150K to 200K in debt and with no hope of ever practicing law is harsh, I realize and would be another good reason to extend bankruptcy protection to thse loans. (See JD Painterguy's blog). But if we do not turn off the lawyer production spigot, the profession will decline further, year after year, decade after decade.

    Perhaps, after about three to five years of the majority of states failing the majority of bar applicants, the ABA's own meager "accreditation standards" would force it to close the lowest performing schools; maybe, just maybe, law schools would admit only those few students who had a real chance of passing a difficult bar exam, thus shrinking the student body of surviving law schools; and the number of licensed lawyers would decline significantly.

    Tennessee's Bar Examiners implemented a milder version of this "shock treatment" for the July 2011 test-takers. Vanderbilt, University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis generally have a bar passage rate in the mid to high 90 percentile. As I understand it from a credible source, the Tennessee Bar Examiners, disgusted that the ABA would give provisional accreditation to two new law schools in a state of 5 million people with four pre-existing law schools, failed about 20% of the test-takers from these schools, instead of the usual 5%. The view is that the Bar Examiners said, "Enough!" and took matters into their own hands. You will note that shortly after the Tennessee Bar Examiners published the bar passage results, the ABA refused to grant Lincoln full accreditation.

    I already know that some of you will accuse me of being a typical baby boomer who, now that I "have mine", wish to exclude others from competing with me in the profession of law. That is not the case, at all. But, if something is not done soon to limit the oversupply of lawyers, there will be no profession of law, as we know it.

    Tricia Dennis

  23. LawProf,

    A recent grad emailed me, and pointed out that even small states with one law school are producing too many lawyers.

    For example, the University of Wyoming College of Law proudly points out to prospective students that it features small entering class sizes. Yet, Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. estimate that there will be 40 annual attorney openings in the state of Wyoming, from 2010-2015.

    The problem is that 113 people passed the Wyoming state bar exam in 2009. In essence, enough people passed the test to fill the state's need for nearly 3 years.

    In the end, there simply are not enough jobs. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that tuition is SKYROCKETING, and graduates are strapped down with mountains of non-dischargeable debt. This is analogous to a chronically underfed, poor person being struck with cancer.

  24. The lack of jobs is certainly a problem...

    But the REAL PROBLEM is that so many of the students are burdened with tremendous debt.

    After graduating and passing the bar, I don't work in the legal field. I made my own job. I'm getting by. What is a real burden is the damn student loans. I've paid almost $70k and have $80k to go. If I did not have this debt burden, not getting a legal job wouldn't have been a life altering catastrophe.


  25. @8:11 -- Just because they could give a reason does not mean that people judging the reason will not be sharp enough to see through it. Of the two possible reasons you mention, withdrawing based on bar pass rates might be more plausible. 
    I could be wrong, but suddenly yanking  accreditation for schools that have had it for years, in the midst of hard economic times, would be seen for what it would be-- an effort to control the market for lawyers. That is why you are thinking of it. I do not know you. So, maybe that was unfair. But the idea to close law schools, one way or another,  did not arise because schools  have bad bar pass rates. That could be solved by doing away with the exam. It grows out of a concern about the number of lawyers, which inevitably involves the question of competition

  26. To the poster above, the debt burden is a general higher education issue, not a law school issue. And it's not like law grads have countless "low paid" jobs available that they would take, if only they didn't have loans. Yes, the debt is a problem, but it's got nothing to do with lawyer employment.

    The real issue is truly supply and demand, with too much supply and not enough demand.

    Will the ABA do anything? Unlikely, as it operates for the benefit of large law firms (which like lots of law grads to lower salaries for junior associates, and which ignores the low ranked schools anyway) and for the law schools (which like lots and lots of incoming students for the tuition it brings in.)

    There really isn't much that can be done right now, as every player with power is essentially profiting from the status quo. They have no motive to change.

    So where can change originate? Blogs like this. Low-level activism. Write to your Senator. Spread the word. You might not save every future victim, and you might not help yourself either if you've already graduated, but the very least we can do is try and stop other idiots making the same stupid mistake we all did.

  27. "I already know that some of you will accuse me of being a typical baby boomer who, now that I "have mine", wish to exclude others from competing with me in the profession of law."

    I graduated from law school in 2010 (and was K to JD) and I totally agree with you. I went to a small private law school in the top 40. At the small firm that I work for two of the partners also graduated from that same law school (it's how I got the job). One graduated sometime in the early '70s, the other in the mid '00s. The older partner sometimes talks about how difficult law school was and that the attrition rate was fairly high. I don't know how true that was back then, but I did read the Paper Chase in undergrad and distinctly recall the famous "look to your left, look to your right, only one of you will graduate" line.

    Having graduated in 2010, I can say with certainty that if law school was ever difficult, it isn't any longer. Sure it's difficult to get straight A's and be in the coveted top 10%, but it's laughably easy to simply pass. Nowadays, you can do nothing all semester, get a class outline from someone else or off of TWEN (usually posted by a member of law review so you know it’s decent) a few days before the exam, read the outline through a few times, take the available practice tests, and get your B or C.

    Why fails someone out and lose all that tuition money? It’s much better business just to pass them. This is compounded with the fact that more law schools keep opening and schools keep expanding their class size. Now when people act impressed about me having gone to law school, I feel compelled to tell them that going to law school is not impressive in the least. Anyone with an undergraduate degree can get a law degree. TYou can't graduate with a 2.5 GPA from West Northeastern State Technical College and waltz into med school, but you can certainly find some law school willing to take your money.

    Anyway, that was my roundabout way of saying that I agree with Tricia. While it certainly won’t relieve all (or even most) of the problems with the structure of legal education, there should be some kind of weed-out system and to the extent law schools acted as that weed out system, they don’t anymore.

    Ok, off my soapbox, now I only have 30 minutes for lunch.

  28. Several years ago in New York State, they raised the bar exam passing score by a mere 5 points. Several of the local TTT law school deans went down to the committee with a couple of civil rights activists in tow, and claimed that raising the score was somehow a "racist" action on their part. Like allowing disadvantaged minorities to pile on 200K in non-dischargeable debt and dump them into a glutted, oversaturated job market is somehow good for civil rights.

  29. 9:15, by your argument, the ABA should not have the ability to ever rescind accreditation, because people will believe that it is trying to control the supply of lawyers regardless of what reason it gives. If that is true, then the system of putting the ABA in charge of accrediting schools is completely broken. (Probably true.) If the purpose of the ABA is to set standards, it needs to start setting real standards, and not accrediting every fly-by-night operation that comes along.

    I practice in the field of Social Security disability law, and I can say that in the two regions I have practiced in (Philly and NYC), MANY of the plaintiffs' lawyers have no business practicing law. They are almost exclusively graduates of mid-to-low ranked local schools, and routinely engage in things that I consider to be borderline malpractice at best (horribly written documents, missed deadlines, copying and pasting information from briefs that are from 1995 and before). I could go on. I truly pity their clients, many of who have serious disabilities. Wouldn't it be better to raise standards at the front end? There are legitimate reasons for setting barriers to entry to the profession - for the public interest alone.

  30. Speaking of top-down solutions:

    As I understand it, the ABA is loaned the power to accredit by the Department of Education (as is the AMA, ADA, and perhaps so on, although I can't think of another such professional body offhand).

    Could, conceivably, the DoE take back the accreditation powers of the ABA and revoke accrediation to 50-100 law schools itself? Yeah, I know the DoE sucks too, and sucks badly (and they super-suck because they totally did not give me a job or even an interview even though I made the best qualified list, the little fucks), but at least they *could be* motivated to do so, given that it's ultimately taxpayer money, and a great deal of taxpayer money, that's at stake.

  31. Brilliant post. Just brilliant.

    Ok, there's not enough jobs. What can we do? Either decrease the supply (new JDs) or increase the demand (make more jobs), which basically requires more government spending to stimulate the economy.

    At the very least, state and local governments need to reverse the layoff they've been doing for the past three years.

  32. When I started at the University of Tennessee School of Law in 1984, it seems that about 135 students comprised my class. I think that out of that number, about 25 flunked out. Given what I had been told about law school (Paper Chase was a popular television program at the time), that actually seemed like a low fail number to me. Now, many of you tell me that it is nearly impossible to fail and that class sizes have grown to 250 students or more. I find this simply astonishing.

    As one OP pointed out yesterday, I believe on JD Underground, the best time to be a lawyer was in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Business was booming, but law school classes were small. My dad graduated from Vanderbilt Law in 1958. There were about 50 people (men) in his law school class. He immediately started making a good living as a practicing lawyer. I asked him if he ever heard of any of his classmates encountering any difficulty earning a living with their law degree. He looked at me as if I asked him when was the last time he road a unicorn? He didn't get it.

    (Sigh) A much different (and except for limiting opportunities for women), more responsible, time.

    Tricia Dennis

  33. One more thing, before any of you jump on my last observation, let me revise: (an except for limiting opportunities for women and minorities).

    Tricia Dennis

  34. @10:08  No, that is not the logical conclusion at all.  Remember the context of this discussion. We were not talking about the ABA's duties to insure a certain quality of education. The suggestion was that the organization had a duty to take action to limit the number of lawyers. I think suddenly yanking the accreditation of large numbers of schools --and it would have to be a large number of schools in order to do the work that was being suggested-- would be seen as move to limit competition for the benefit of existing lawyers. 

    We are not in disagreement that there are lots of people practicing law who should not be out there.The question is what to do about it. I think we might experiment with having schools that are are geared for people who will be doing high end type legal work and less expensive schools that train people who will know right off the bat that they will not be in that larger arena. We have that now, but it could be really formalized. So everyone would know what path they were on and not be unrealistic.  That might cut into demand, which is the best way toward solving these problems.

  35. Someone needs to investigate the NYC document review market. Before the crash, there were literally thousands of these people unleashed on the market, jumping around from firm to firm and being billed out at outrageous rates. I was once on a gig, where some guy wasn't even whom he said he was. He turned out to have a criminal record and had never even taken the bar exam. He disappeared when confronted. On another gig, one of the Nigerians didn't even speak English. Can you really pass the NY bar exam without speaking an iota of English? He would simply mass code check all the documents not privileged and leave early. I have a funny feeling that he wasn't even who he said he was and the foreign attorneys were renting out their names and law licenses. Total free for all, but as long as the law schools and biglaw partners are making money off of this insanity, the bar doesn't care.

  36. 50% oversupply of lawyers. 50% women in law school. Women entering the workforce drove the supply up and the wage down. Not that it's a bad thing. It's just a brutal fact. similar to the fact that the chicken I had for lunch was quasi-inhumanly murdered.

  37. By this logic,

    There are not enough jobs therefore
    There are too many law graduate therefore
    law school is too inexpensive.

    What if law school tuition was raised to 100K + a year? Then only total fools would attend, but perhaps just enough total fools to ensure employment demand was balanced with new grads.

    Law schools could continue building and hiring administrators. Tenured professors will be able to publish even more law review articles with the fewer number of students.

    Everyone wins, problem solved!

  38. Smithers, who is that go-getter posting at 10:43?

    I like the cut of his jib.

  39. The Prince of Darkness, Sir. Your 2 O'Clock.

  40. Between 50-100 law schools need to go out of business. It is really that simple.

  41. See I agree that debt is the problem. If every law student got a great job, they would still be burdened from 5 to 10 years of debt. That cost is just too high.

  42. In the law we're big on foreseeability. So what's foreseeable about this boondoggle. It's probable that law schools aren't going to stop churning out illusory lawyers anytime soon and those freshly minted indentured servants are going to be in for a world of hurt.

    Many of them, if fortunate will have to rely on family help and perhaps even live w/ their parents. They most likely will find it difficult to get married, or ever have kids. Since many of them come from bourgeois parents of some means, they will find themselves in a bleak limbo, until their parents pass. By that time, even if they do inherit some wealth, they will have become so misanthropic that no one except perhaps a faithful canine companion will want to be around them. Those are the lucky ones.

    For those w/out any family capital, they will have to suffer through even baser situations--closely related to survival.

    Meanwhile, those in power controlling the law school establishment will continue to cannibalize their meal tickets for as long as they can ride that gravy-train.

    Will their be any unforseen agents of change that derails this pernicious cycle? Perhaps, but I'd rather not speculate on wildcards.

  43. We need to present a compelling argument that will help convince non-JDs of the "meritocracy/personal responsibility/free market" dogma persuasion (hereinafter known as the "Personal Responsibility Crowd") that the law school scam (and the higher education scam in general) is bad and worthy of opposing. The Personal Responsibility Crowd objects to our message by reflexively responding, "Caveat Emptor!" in snide comments. Their callousness and almost complete lack of empathy is an expression of the "I've got mine, Fuck You!" mentality. In their eyes the higher education scam does not impact them.

    However, the Personal Responsibility Crowd, which tends to be right-wing, is very concerned about an issue that ties in well with the law school and higher education scams: The Economy. Thus, our message would probably be more compelling to them if we could convince the Personal Responsibility Crowd and the general populace that educating large excesses of people relative to the number of jobs available for college graduates damages the economy. This would hit the Personal Responsibility Crowd close to home.

    Very simply, our economy, our well-being, and our prosperity suffer when resources (human time and effort, raw materials) are wasted on educating far more people than there are jobs available for them. Instead of being wasted, those same resources could be better spent on goods and services that have actual value. For example, those resources could be used to construct more roads or more houses or to provide better medical care. This would result in an increase in our society's net wealth which would benefit everyone, including members of the Personal Responsibility Crowd. Instead of being burdened by student loans used to pay for unneeded higher education, people could instead purchase more goods and services which would increase the amount of employment in fields where those goods and services are produced. Also, presumably, one element of our nation's housing crisis is that unemployed and underemployed-out-of-field college graduates cannot afford to purchase houses; they already have student loan mortgages hanging over their heads.

    A terse response to Caveat Emptor comments might be, "You guys don't realize how much damage all of this unneeded excess higher education is doing to our nation's economy. This isn't merely about sob stories and personal responsibility. It's about the economy, stupid!"

  44. Yes allowing women to practice law is the equivalent to the chicken you had for lunch. So that is how you propose to solve the issue - only let white guys go?

    Really you are ridiculous- and I mean the not cool 10:43 poster.

  45. "There aren't enough jobs" is NOT equal to "there isn't enough legal work."

    If tuition was low enough to allow people to graduate without high levels of debt, and if new graduates were actually able to practice law, then new lawyers would be in a position to take on work that simply isn't being done right now.

    This is very much related to the massive defunding of public colleges and universities by the states, as well as by the market inefficiencies created by guaranteed, non-dischargable loans.

    However, assuming that the current system stays largely in place, Paul's point is directly on target: There aren't enough jobs.

  46. Why should anyone who is not a lawyer or potential lawyer support a scheme intended to raise the barriers to entry to the profession thereby limiting the supply of lawyers and increasing the price of legal services?

    Lets look at the problem from another angle. Because it is not just that there are no jobs (although I agree with LawProf that this is a necessary message to use in response to all the law school shills). It is that there are no (or very few) jobs that make the investment necessary to obtain a law license -- seven years of your life and $250,000 to $500,000 -- economically feasible. So is that investment is really necessary? Do you need an undergraduate degree in English literature or history or whatever to practice law? My own answer is no -- trust me, you will never need to discuss Milton or Bolingbroke's deposition of Richard II in your law practice. The basic grounding in the liberal arts that at least used to be obtained in the first two year core curriculum in college should suffice. Similarly, I never met anyone outside the legal academy who though the third year of law school was of more than marginal value. Put more bluntly, do you really need more education to be a lawyer than to be a chemical engineer?

    So what if you could become a lawyer with the equivalent of an undergraduate degree and perhaps an internship (and in medicine, interns are paid)? I suggest that changes the equation considerably. Because at the price on a BA a job with a $40K or $50K salary might not be such a bad idea.


  47. That is a political solution that the people of the states should take up. The lack of affordable alternatives in higher education hurts everyone. There is no leadership on the question. It's all people critiquing their own corner of the universe with little regard for context or history.

  48. RPL, we have had several threads of discussion of that proposal.

  49. @12:23. My husband is not a chemical engineer, but he is a nuclear engineer who is responsible for making certain about 15 nuclear plants do not become Chernobyls. He has a 4 year degree and what he does is much harder than anything I, or any other lawyer I know might do.

    Tricia Dennis

  50. It is harder in a different way, Ms. Dennis. There is no need to get into a battle about whose profession is "harder". Being a kindergarten teacher may not be "hard" in the same way as being an engineer, but it is extremely important. What people do as lawyers is extremely important to the clients they serve. People hate lawyers until they need us for something. Handling important aspects of people's lives is no small thing. Anyone who thinks it is, should not be a lawyer.

  51. 12:31 Do you recall where they are? I am a bit late to the ball.


  52. RPL:

  53. @RPL

    It's not perfect, but try the search function with a key word. Making law an undergraduate degree has popped up several times here. I did not mean to suggest that no one could discuss it further, but the issue has been talked about.

  54. Charles Pye wrote:
    "At the very least, state and local governments need to reverse the layoff they've been doing for the past three years."

    They actually need to cut even more. We will have a far healthier economy if budgets are more sustainable long term.

  55. One of the inherent difficulties with the student loan system was illustrated by the quote made above from the paper chase and its famous "look to your left, look to your right, only one of you will graduate" line.

    Most of the people who dropped out of law school at that time were not people who failed their first year exams - they were people who, at the end of 1L decided they did not want to be lawyers. My Georgetown section included numerous dropouts at the end of 1L - one I remember was Corva Coleman - a very smart, very savvy woman - very capable of being a good lawyer - who went back to her job in Public Radio and who I hear from time to time reading the news. She made it clear that after 1L she had simply learned that she did not want to be a lawyer. In a way that was what the legendary awfulness of 1L was about, persuading smart people to do something else with their life if the law did not interest them.

    Student loans have changed the equation, along with the increasing number of K-JD kids without earnings and savings going to law school, because it means that a law student at the end of 1L is maybe $40,000+ in debt - potentially $60k + and sees the only solution as doubling down on the bad bet - going to law school.

    Making law an undergraduate degree is not really a solution - that is what they do in the UK and Ireland and both countries are lousy with unemployed legal graduates who cannot get training contracts. There are 98 institutions or so in the UK offering un-graduate legal training - after which someone gets a further 3 years of training. Collectively in the UK there are over 200 law courses - 1,144 courses available to international students and 634 for UK students - there are about 20,000 students entering undergraduate law schools a year in the UK, there are jobs for about 4,500.

    Thus in 1970 there were 2,500 barristers and 32,000 solicitors in England and Wales which soared by 2010 to 15,000 barristers and 118,000 solicitors. Numbers have doubled in the last 15 odd years. Only 4,784 training contract places were offered in 2010, compared to 5,809 in 2009 - but 9,337 students enrolled on the Legal Practice Course in 2009 (for which the pre-requesite is undergraduate training in law) - though there were places for 15,000.

    So you think the US is bad and copying the UK is the way to go - think again.


  56. No, we need to stop spending money on hopeless foreign ventures and redirect that money to rebuilding this country. And neo-confederate governors who will not take the money should be voted out of office.

  57. Actually, all of this falls by the wayside if student debt becomes dischargeable again:

    [1.] Students won't feel locked into completing their degree like they are now. They can discharge the debt and get their proverbial "fresh start."

    [2.] Banks start scrutinizing JD programs and stop giving out 6 figures to anyone with a pulse and an acceptance letter.

    [3.] The legal market gets cleared out somewhat.

    [4.] Funds become less accessible, causing lower tuition.

    And it's not like this isn't new-- student loans were dischargeable in BK before 1976.

  58. Thanks MacK. We have disagreed about things before, but you are absolutely right about the problems with thinking that the system in the UK is the answer. There are many,many others problems. But you have hit on an important one.

  59. 2:27 - except for my typos - there are over 2000 legal courses in the UK (I nearly fell off my chair) and nearly 100 law departments - add in the Irish Universities UCD, UCC, UCG, TCD, DCU, DIT, Limerick, Maynooth and that is 106 accredited institutions giving out an undergraduate degree in law into what is essentially the same market for law graduates. So taking the UK and the Republic of Ireland that is 67-8 million people generating more than 20,000 law graduates a year - allowing for the RoI say 22,000 in total against 46,000 in the US with 313 million - the oversupply problem in the Uk is demographically about 5 times worse. With about 1/5th the population the UK and Ireland are generating 1/2 the number of law graduates.

    Things are not better in Germany, France, Spain, etc. - there are too many law graduates there too. There to they cannot get jobs as lawyers - there too the same "a law degree is flexible" line is peddled.


  60. A modest proposal to cut the number of law graduates. First, make student debt dischargeable after a period of years -- say 7 years. Second, as a condition of federal student loans, make every professional school a surety for 25% of the amount borrowed. I suspect that this would sort itself out very quickly. Lenders would be careful about lending. Schools would be careful about their admissions. Problem solved. It also avoids the arbitrary and seemingly unfair action of forcing schools to close and denying some whiner's dream.

    If you make debt dischargeable and make schools sureties for a portion of the loan, reason and fear of loss will return to the law school "market".

    Can it be done? Only if we have the will.

  61. Guys, it's fine. A law degree is so versatile, we can just use it do do something else.

  62. 8:48: I strongly agree with raising the bar exam standards so as to fail more potential takers. We have this to some extent here in California - thus weeding out many of the unqualified, incompetent would-be lawyers who could not even make it into an ABA accredited law school - but not to a great enough extent. And then, of course you get clowns like this, who take the bar exam over and over and over again (in this case, nearly ten times), without passing or having any serious hope of ever passing:

  63. (sorry, "potential takers" should be "potential attorneys")

  64. I check this blog periodically to remind myself that attending law school would be a terrible idea. That, along with watching a couple of college roommates graduate jobless (effectively, but obviously not in a way that would show in the data) from T14 schools, seems to have done the trick. Question for you all, though...

    How much of the supply-demand imbalance comes from the fact that 1st year biglaw salaries are how firms compare genitalia sizes? Obviously, the number of new grads qualified to be biglaw associates is much higher than the number of available positions, so you'd think salaries would decrease to reflect that. But they don't, I guess because high associate salaries are a measure of prestige for the firms. If the biglaw labor market became a bit more efficient, do you think that would help on both the supply and demand ends (with lower salaries, firms could hire more associates, and fewer students would go to law school if the absolute max pay they could expect after graduation was lower)?

  65. 4:20,
    If salaries were lower firms would not hire more associates. It doesn't work like that.

  66. Bullshit, 12:05pm. Absolute bullshit.

    It's not the case that there's piles of legal work out there that law grads would do, were it not for the fact that they had loans to pay.

    If you were correct, then there would be countless public service jobs paying $40K per year to mop up this work. But there aren't. A large number of law grads would happily work in a shitty little $30K per year public interest job doing immigration, housing, disability, etc, because they could get their loans discharged after ten years. Those jobs are actually good jobs these days.

    Nor is it the case that there's piles of work from private clients. I speak from many years of experience here; even the shittiest, junkiest, non-payingest client in the world has ten solo practice attorneys begging for his business.

    There is no work. Thus there are no jobs.

    End of story.

    Now, what can be done about this? The logical solution is close 50% of the law schools down. Transform their "JDs" into "MLS" degrees that confer no right to take the bar exam. I don't know.

    But let's be clear here: it's a gross oversupply problem, not a "can't take the low paid work because of my loans" problem.

  67. 5:04:

    "A large number of law grads would happily work in a shitty little $30K per year public interest job doing immigration, housing, disability, etc, because they could get their loans discharged after ten years."

    Ha, speaking as a public interest attorney, we take great joy in screening out desperate folks who view our work as "shitty" or are in it to get their loans discharged. Rest assured that there will NEVER be "countless" public service jobs available for the folks you describe (whom I would take the liberty to describe as shitty), regardless of how good the economy gets.

    Now, I actually agree with everything else you said in your post. But I admit to great schadenfreude every time an unemployed, non-practicing JD admits that they were rejected from even a "shitty, low-paying public interest job." Those folks are everything that public interest attorneys should not be.

  68. 5:04,
    The lack of funding for legal assistance for the poor has very little to do with the amount of need. I agree with most of the rest of your comment.

    The pricing model for legal services in the shitlaw market isn't really due to loans, it's more about the break even point for covering overhead. Just because you charge $200 an hour doesn't mean you're getting anywhere near 40 hours a week of billable work due to the saturation of the market for legal services. If there were less lawyers, someone could be the Walmart of legal services and have enough utilization to break even on lower paying work.

  69. All I have to say after reading this is:


  70. The "liberal arts" cycle continues to perpetuate itself. All of these fill-in-the-blank "studies" majors have blossomed, with no place to release their graduates (at least those without the resolve to enter the equally glutted Ph.D. track). Ditto history, english, poli. sci.

    Of course, if these degrees were no longer desirable, far fewer folks would go to college. They can't have that. Solution seems to be offer these degrees, then build a law school on campus. Use the rake-off of law school tuition to pay and expand the "studies" departments.

    And I type this as a poli. sci. grad turned J.D. who actually gained meaningful employment. I've got no reason to complain personally....but I realize that it could've been me. Five years younger, three points lower on the LSAT, any number of things could've really messed up my life for a long time.

    I feel awful for some of these kids today. There but by the grace of God go I.

  71. It's but for the grace of God go I.

    I feel that way every day at work as I watch my classmates get axed one by one wondering when my day is going to come.

  72. “There are not enough jobs” is the colloquial way off putting the facts; however, the more accurate description is that there are too many lawyers. From indications, the employment demand for lawyers is more-or-less flat. The true problem is that the supply of lawyers and “want to be lawyers” is excessive.

    There are posters that assert that there has been a failure of market forces. This is not true. The source of the entire problem is the market interference by the U.S. Government in supplying unlimited guaranteed government loans. Without the government loans the system could have never gotten this far out of control in excessive tuition, excessive number of law schools and excessive laws school class sizes.

    What would happen if guaranteed government loans were ended immediately? First of all, no market institutions would loan law students any money! Second, you would get your 50 percent of laws schools going out of business. Third, your top 5 or 10 elite schools would still have the best and brightest through scholarships and finally we would start to have a return of the inexpensive night schools for average level lawyers to be.

    The only reforms that can have any effect are limitations on government loans. As long as the money is there, the law schools and ABA will not reform themselves. Unfortunately, as important as full disclosure of “the law school scam” is, there will still be enough foolish and na├»ve young people to fill up the law schools. Making government loans dischargeable in bankruptcy would only makes matters worse. You would have even more law schools and law students with a free useless law degree with the expenses dumped on the taxpayer.

    What could work: Eliminating guaranteed government loans is not going to happen. Freezing the maximum loan levels could possibly happen. The students would have to self-fund all tuition increases. A variant of that would be to decrease the maximum loan amount by any percentage increase in tuition. Another idea is to have the law schools participate in the loans themselves. The schools could get 80% of the loans in cash and the remaining 20% if and when the students actually make the loan payments. If the law schools truly believed in their product and their students this would not be a problem. Likewise, the schools should be able to borrow against these student loans receivables for current cash flow purposes. If schools had some of their own money “invested” in their students they would certainly care whether or not their graduates got legal employment and they would have an incentive not to accept and not to graduate students that were unlikely to obtain legal employment.

    It is the government guaranteed student loans that are the source of the problem and the only possible practical route for reform.

  73. If they got 80% now they'd just take 20% more students ;)

  74. Where do I start.

    One of our problems in America is that we cringe at telling students "we only need so many Doctors, lawyers, dentists, art therapists, dance majors etc" if you you don't meet certain standards you won't get funding to study this subject because we happen to need more STEM graduates for the foreseeable future." Everyone thinks of themselves as a special little snowflake, whereas once they start tapping into federal money, we as a society have a responsibility to make sure we are spending our education money wisely and producing what society really needs.

    The ABA is captive to the law schools. They will not willingly shut down more then a handful of schools and this will be offset by class size increases by Cooley and other TTTT schools which will use anti-trust arguments to slow down or block any reforms.

    However there is no winning anti-trust arguments or constitutional arguments that would prevent the Federal Government from deciding on more strigent standards for those seeking government funds. Have an IQ of 40 and a rich family who wants to pay your way though law school. Fine, come to the Federal government for a federally subsidized loan? Great there are conditions.

    For example, if each year only the 25,000 prospective 1Ls with the top combined LSAT and undergraduate grades received access to federal funding then the remaining applicants would either have to show up with private funding or private loans or not go to law school.

    There could also be a foundation set up with federal money to provide loans to a specific number of minority students who missed these target numbers but would still have a reasonable shot at passing the bar exam. This would increase eligibility by perhaps another couple thousand students.

    What would happen is that the lower ranked schools would not be able to attract enough federally funded students to keep open or enough rich kids who would leverage their resources to go to higher ranking law schools.

    The only way to end the lawyer glut is to limit the federally funding spigot and starve some schools out.

  75. To make the Federal Funding Number more rational we could tie it to the BLS's projections concerning job availability in the legal profession.

    This would be a sea change in how we fund graduate education in this country, but I think it would be great if we used legal education as the first "lab rat".

  76. Did John Stossel actually show up himself, or just his mustache?

  77. This isn't even close to being right. The problem is that legal education costs too much because of the system in place.

    So you are justifying captured students repaying $200,000 if a job exists? A $60,000 a year job? When in history has this kind of calculus been acceptable?

  78. "So you are justifying captured students repaying $200,000 if a job exists? A $60,000 a year job? When in history has this kind of calculus been acceptable?"

    Anon, if they choose to be "captured" so long as they know those are the odds. This is the situation that has existed for non-wealthy undergraduate students who wanted to pursue a humanities degree for a long time - and, for that matter, people who wanted to pursue a humanities PhD who were not decent enough to secure funding. So, if the lower echelon of law students voluntarily wishes to take on 200K of death for securing a 60K a year job, I don't think anyone else should really care. To the extent that these students are "being lied to" (something that I don't really buy - these students had poor performance all the way through and were delusional if they thought that attending the St. Joseph's Law School at Tampa would suddenly earn them a 160K job) ... let's correct the lack of transparency, such that these losers, who failed at what they did before law school and who also failed at law school have no one else's alleged lies to blame for their failures.

  79. @1:58 - you're an idiot. Plain and simple. Try really hard to think a little deeper. Oversimplifications are for 5 year olds, retards, and libertarians.

  80. There have been too many lawyers and not enough jobs for decades. Maybe always. The difference was that, at one time, a person could save up or work during law school in order to pay the tuition. They weren't saddled with crippling, lifelong debt. The average LS student has something like 100k in debt, which with interest over decades will end up being upwards of 300k. This person will, for almost the duration of their working lives, have 15% of their wages garnished, at the minimum (and that's if they qualify for IBR). And this is for a job that may very well be low paying, and not even in the legal field at all. This idea of people going to law school to then become plumbers or teachers, etc, was fine when they weren't burdened with crippling debt that's not dischargeable. But for the LSs in this county to publish the outright false statistics that they publish, which make LS seem a good investment, is fraudulent. Law students are saddling themselves with huge debt only to find, as you say, there are no jobs. And the ones there are don't even start at the $60k that the LSs have led you to believe is the LOWER END of the starting salary. FALSE. The truer number is closer to 35k. Would you incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to find that you are considered LUCKY to come out of it and make 35? Imagine how long it will take this person to even get to 60. 3, 4 years minimum, I'd wager. All this while they owe thousands of dollars a month in loans. Try paying that back on 2k a month! Ha. There aren't enough jobs. True enough. So let's lower tuition to reflect that, so when half the class goes back to their barista jobs, they don't have to also be shackled to their loans for a life-sentence. Let's stop paying the admins such as the deans 700k a year. LSs are the cheapest schools to run and often pay for a university's less-lucrative undergrad or medical programs. It's unfair to put this cost on the law student. Especially in a time when, due to the glut of lawyers being churned out by the ABA, the few jobs that are out there are often low-paying, with long hours (employers love to exploit that "professional" clause of the labor law that says we're exempt from paid OT reqs)and zero benefits. Employers are really the only ones who've benefited from the oversupply of lawyers, since there's always a schmuk in line to do your job for less pay. Yet the glut of lawyers hasn't benefited the general public in the form of lower attorney fees.

  81. Campos,

    Your error re: obesity is that you keep focusing on the health issues. I frankly don't care about that. And don't try to make bottom line "it costs money arguments" because you're indisputably wrong - because from that point of view society is helped if people die before that age 65 to 90 period where they are a parasite.

    But obesity is a problem because it makes you physically unattractive. Look at your average American and you will want to vomit; they country looks like a third world country as people have completely stopped caring about their appearance. John Stossel never let himself go. He doesn't pig out and he looks as good today as he did 30 years ago.

    It's also one of the seven deadly sins - gluttony.

  82. @2:07 p.m.:

    Stop and think about how that comparison will make 5-year-olds and retards feel. You should be ashamed.

  83. "So, if the lower echelon of law students voluntarily wishes to take on 200K of death for securing a 60K a year job, I don't think anyone else should really care."

    "So, if the lower echelon of income earners voluntarily wishes to take on 400K of mortgage debt with a 40K a year income, I don't think anyone else should really care."

    Please tell me you went into a coma in 2007. Putting aside all moral considerations, nobody who lived through the recession should say with a straight face that the dumb financial decisions of borrowers won't have an effect on people who didn't make those dumb decisions. We're all in this profession together. The devaluation of the degree and the inability of the ABA and law schools to self-regulate hurts us all.

  84. @MisterB - when you make strawman posts like:

    "There are posters that assert that there has been a failure of market forces. This is not true."

    You are in fact missing the point. "Market failure" (look it up) describes a situation where a rational market does not exist - and discussions of market failure then examine why - and things like "agency problems," "informational asymmetry," externalities (i.e., the student loan system), irrational expectations ("bounded rationality"), etc. are generally discussed as causing such "market failure."

    We are in a perfect storm of factors that can lead to market failure - informational asymmetry (potential law students lacks the information that other actors in the market have and so make bad decisions about the value of a JD), agency problems (both main types - moral hazard and conflict of interest exists on the part of the law schools, but also the ABA), externalities (loans), and bounded rationality (people considering law school who even know about the problems in employment think that they will "beat the statistics" that they are special.)


  85. "Why fail someone out and lose all that tuition money? It’s much better business just to pass them."

    This is so true. I am a fellow at a law school not in the top 75; there are so many people here who should not be in law school period. That matters little; giving them "water wings" via special attention, etc. is the response of the administration rather than cutting them loose and saying "this isn't for you." The hand holding is not out of a sense of charity; it's about keeping that tuition money flowing.

  86. Lost in this discussion of legal education is the, you know, education part. The administrators are focused on building empires, and then blaming students when the goods they're selling turn out to be defective and/or useless. The professors (so called educators) are generally focused on the thoughts in their own heads, their next law review article or whatever else they do with the incredible amount of free time they have.

    It's incredible that when students return to their schools, and tell this institutions (in the best Kafkaesque sense of the term) that they can't find employment and those that can find their "educations" useless, the response is "didn't you know all along that this was an arm's length business transactions and we care not if you live or die."

    What ever happened to educators being invested in the success and growth of their students?

    Especially as those same students believe that no one could be so cruel as to shoulder a young person with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF NONDISCHARGEABLE DEBT if there wasn't a very good shot of repaying it. I mean, there's no way that literally hundreds of people would be so callous (what else can it be called at this point) to do that to young people looking for guidance in this world. Right? RIGHT?

  87. If you want to know the true state of affairs, look at what's happening now that the ABA has actually denied a school accreditation. Lincoln Memorial is suing the ABA, even though the ABA provided all the reasons for the denial. LMU contends that although their LSATs are low, at least a half dozen other schools have LSATs around the same range.

    Some students are suing the school now. The latest suit is quite telling. This young lady is suing for negligence, claiming LMU should not have allowed her to enroll since she had not completed her bachelor's degree, and she has since learned that she can't sit for the bar without having done that.

    LMU apparently does not have a 100% acceptance rate, so one wonders what the applications of the denied students must have been like, if they were admitting people without bachelor's degrees.

  88. It should also be noted that, when trying to justify a new law school in the state of Tennessee (which already has three ABA accredited schools in Vanderbilt, Univ. of Tennessee and Univ. of Memphis and a non-ABA accredited school, Nashville School of Law) they pitched the premise that Tennessee was an "underserved legal community."

    I'm unclear on what evidence they had, but they put forth the idea that the Appalachian region needed "low-cost" legal alternatives.

    Then, presumably with a straight face, they decided to set tuition just as high or higher as most other law schools. Just under $30,000 for tuition and fees alone, and they list the cost of attendance for the 2011-2012 school year as:

    $49,975 per year. One wonders how a fresh grad will service $150,000 of non-dischargeable debt while serving the poor, back-country hill folk in such desperate need of "low cost" legal alternatives. Is Sallie Mae accepting payment in chickens now?

    50 grand a year for a school that is not (and, it appears, may never be) accredited by the ABA. The State licensing board may not allow students to sit for the bar either, as they had put a lot of stock in LMU's quest for provisonal ABA accreditation, and now that has fallen through.

    LMU chose Knoxville as the place to start this "law school to serve the Appalachian region," despite the fact that the state's flagship school, the University of Tennessee, is a tier one school in the same city, has an unaparallelled alumni network in the region, and, perhaps most importantly, charges a fraction of LMU's cost.

    Undeterred, Belmont University in Nashville is also opening a law school in middle Tennessee, almost literally and certainly figuratively in the shadow of Vanderbilt, lest any region in the state go unsaturated.

  89. MacK: Thanks for the reply.

    Here is a definition for you: “ MARKET FAILURE [emphasis added] is a concept within economic theory wherein the allocation of goods and services by a FREE MARKET [emphasis added] is not efficient.” We do not have a free market in law student production because the government has greatly distorted the market through its guaranteed loan programs. Misallocation of resources as the result of government action (such as subsidized guaranteed government loans) is Government Failure not market failure.

    This is the question: is the oversupply of lawyers/law students the result of the failure of the private market place or is it the failure of government intervention? I believe that it is the government in the form of its guaranteed loans that has and is causing the misallocation of resources.

    The main point of my post is that it is the guaranteed government loan programs that are at the heart of the entire over supply problem and that reform must happen through reform of student loans. As long as “the money is there” the law schools will take it and no real reform is possible.

    The reply that if the schools would have a 20% holdback that they would increase students by 20% is a fair point. However, are not they now already adding as many students as possible as long as they can make a marginal profit on the additional students?

  90. Lets suppose the government actually underwrote the loans; that is actually considered the likelihood of repayment in determining whether to make a loan and the amount. For example, if the income prospects for a graduate of a third tier law school are, say $40,000 (that is a made up amount but the real amount is knowable), and a person with that income level can reasonably commit 10% of income to debt service then offer to lend the student the amount that can be repaid at the rate of $4000 per year -- about $10,000 per year for three years, by a back of envelope calculation. That would certainly put the cat among the pigeons.

  91. Instead of cutting out women, i vote for kicking out all the white guys. If we need to get rid of half of the students, let's get rid of the ones who haven't been in charge creating this mess.

  92. MisterB - I think you are misunderstanding the issue and terminology. Market Failure should not happen - when it does the question then is why - why is an apparently free market misallocating - law schools are a "free market" as their is neither rationing, price-control (either government or cartel), not compelled purchase (the three key features of a free market). Nonethless the market for legal education is for the most part not acting as a free market should - hence the "market failure." The issue you are raising is one of the whys - an externality - the student loan system.


  93. I say we kick out neither men nor women; we should kick out the fat asses.

  94. ...or we could go with the current, serviceable merit-based system of kicking out the people from low-ranking schools.

  95. LawProf:

    Keep doing what you're doing. Your efforts are helping and the message is filtering out to the mainstream. Maybe enough people will "get it" and stop giving money to these leeches at the law schools.

    At this point, I can't believe that anyone who works at/for any law school outside of the T14 actually believes the bullshit spewed as a tool to keep people enrolled or to get new people to enroll. If you attend a schood outside of HYS, and maybe CCN, you are fucked for life.

    People need to wake up and realize that these administrators at these law schools are nothing more than venal snake oil salesmen.

  96. This post really didn't do it for me. Focusing on "not enough jobs" doesn't accomplish much. Every tier 1 or 2 school would say do away with tier 3 or 4 and problem solved, and they could use it as an excuse not to change anything (this would solve part, but not all of the problem, as many graduates would still end up with legal jobs that couldn't pay their substantial debt). Problem is really not enough very "high paying" jobs. If there were more crap work law jobs that wouldn't change the situation at all (are people really thrilled to do doc review for minimum wage?). On the other hand, if high paying jobs were available for law grads, even non law related (e.g., i-banking) then no one would be complaining (at least not until they got fired in a couple years). Main problem is just that law school is a very bad deal for most people now.

  97. That is precisely what many people on here have been arguing for. Closing 100 schools, would shut down the 3rd and 4th tiers. Although there would be real problems with giving a magazine the power to say which school was in what tier. Past the top 14 all bets could be off. I do not favor that solution. But the argument is that it is a bad deal now for too many people. Having fewer schools would lessen the misery, and bring the market into some sort if equilibrium.

  98. "Keep doing what you're doing. "

    [While I do nothing but sit on my ass because the same laziness and ineffectiveness that causes me to be unemployed, and for which I blame the law school "scam" is the same laziness and ineffectiveness that causes me to encourage others to do work that I should be doing.]

  99. I would say that there are really two important messages. "There aren't enough jobs" is the first. The second is that the debt is not serviceable.

    If law school were dirt cheap, there would still not be enough jobs and people would still suffer the lost opportunity and stigma of being a failed lawyer. And if jobs were plentiful, people would still suffer from the crushing debt load.

    One of the things this blog has opened my eyes to is the way in which even the "winners" become losers eventually. For a majority, it seems, a biglaw job is temporary, while debt payments continue for 10, 20, even 30 years. Law school, for just about everyone, is a bad deal at current prices and something will have to give.

  100. There are plenty of jobs available for those willing to jump through the necessary hoops.

  101. @nyc/6:59 a.m.:

    Describe these necessary hoops, and why being willing to jump through them is apparently the sole criteria for the plenty of jobs you describe.

  102. 7:02 = nyc talking to himself.

  103. MacK: Thanks again for the feedback. We are "arguing" about definitions. I would say that any government actions including - in this case guaranteed student loans - are not externalities or market failure. The general argument concerning market failure is that the free market left alone does not take in to account common community costs such as pollution and that therefore government must intervene. Granted, the successful lying about job results by schools and the failure of students to evaluate the full cost significance of their student loans are indeed market failures. My point is that it is the government student loans that have and is driving the problem as a whole.

  104. 2:03 AM: You are correct. The excessive cost of legal education is the other half of the problem!

    If costs keep rising would it make any sense for even HLS graduates to pay/borrow $100,000 per year financed by government loans? How about $150,000 per year or $200,000 per year? If this seems impossible or ridiculous would not have people 20 years ago have thought that today's tuition of $30,000 to $40,000 per year impossible?

    I also have trouble with the idea that we should only allow the very best and brightest to become lawyers by eliminating the lower schools and raising the bar exam passage to extremely difficult levels. Are we in the future have our "elite" graduates doing drunk driver cases, wills, simple real estate title changes et cetera? There is a very vast range of legal work and in reality there is only a limited number of elite legal jobs that need to be filled by the elite. We are, in my opinion, already graduating too many elite lawyers for the elite legal market. This is especially true if you consider the top 14 or top 20 schools as elite.

  105. There could be different types of schools for different careers. Lower cost alternatives could be directed at training people to do more bread and butter type work. In the coming years, elite lawyers are likely to be involved in a market much beyond the United States. We cannot say at this point that the contours of the profession for elite lawyers will remain the same. Actually, we can, because we know that the structure of business will continue to be transformed.

  106. "Are we in the future have our "elite" graduates doing drunk driver cases, wills, simple real estate title changes et cetera?"

    No. There is no reason that three years of law school should be deemed necessary to perform those tasks. The bar's monopoly on them should be abolished, and non-lawyers should be able to perform them, perhaps after a year of vocational training (community college coursework should suffice).

    "We are, in my opinion, already graduating too many elite lawyers for the elite legal market. This is especially true if you consider the top 14 or top 20 schools as elite."

    I don't. I consider the top 3 schools to be elite. But how are you defining the "elite legal market"?

    "I also have trouble with the idea that we should only allow the very best and brightest to become lawyers by eliminating the lower schools and raising the bar exam passage to extremely difficult levels."

    I have no trouble with this idea. There are certain types of jobs where society needs to say: "Not everyone can 'grow up to be' [this thing]. You have to demonstrate a certain level of academic competence and talent all the way through school, to be qualified." We already do this with medical school. I had UG classmates whose dream was to be doctors, but who did not take their undergraduate coursework seriously enough. Come senior year, they received a steady stream of 15-20 rejections from medical schools - and had to choose a different career path.

    I would like to see the same occur within the legal profession. The tasks for which a law degree is required should be narrowed - as I said, we should exclude basic transactional tasks like simple will-writing or title changes, for which a modicum of vocational training should suffice. But also, we should recognize that many tasks within the legal field are complex: putting together a solid trial felony defense, drafting an appellate brief on a nuanced issue of constitutional law, litigating complex civil cases, preparing patents for cutting-edge technologies ... doing these things well requires both academic talent and rigorous professional training. They are too often messed up by incompetent attorneys who furnish, in the parlance of criminal and immigration law, the "ineffective assistance of counsel." I see nothing wrong with using both law school admissions and the bar exam to reserve these types of legal tasks for the "best and brightest," as you put it. But we should also reform the legal curriculum at the elite and sub-elite schools to prepare students to perform these tasks, rather than merely to write impractical law review articles (unfortunately, the latter task being the only thing that most of their tenured law professors are qualified to do).

  107. The evidence indicates that no matter how much they complain, elite lawyers are basically satisfied with the products of elite law schools. There are changes they would like to see, but they are not rushing out to hire students from lesser ranked schools who have been "trained" in more practical tasks. Do not fall for the rhetoric just because they are that magic word "partner". Same with clients of elite firms, they often prefer the products of elite schools, too.

    As the world market continues to change, the graduates of elite schools will have even more divergent interests. There is no one size fits all prescription for law schools.

  108. To 11:40,

    I had a unique undergraduate experience in that our political science major started out with upwards of 70 majors as freshmen and by the time the class graduated, only 10 received degrees in the major, as most must have either dropped out, transferred out, or changed majors.

    There were two primary professors in the program, one was an old school professor and the other no stranger to hard grading. It was known as a difficult major and perormed much the same function for the pre-law set as did the biology and chemistry departments in terms of narrowing the applicant pool for medical school.

    As a result, of the four majors who went on to law school, all went to top tier schools save for one, who had a relative already practicing. Based on what I knew of this student's grades, I assume that student took a scholarship to attend to the lower tier school since a spot in the family practice awaited whether he spent a lot of tuition money or not.

    At most schools, though, the opposite is true, and "pre-law" just means connecting any wayward soul with a degree in political science, history, art appreciation, english or a half-dozen other majors with a law school that will accept their particular GPA/LSAT combination.

  109. I am not a lawyer but I would still like to see registered and regulated lawyers doing the "routine" legal work. We do need low cost education for training for routine legal work.

    I agree that we do want the best and brightest to do the very important and high skilled legal work.

    Part of the problem in most higher education is that we don't "cut the good but not good enough". The reason schools don't say that you aren't good enough to be a (blank)is that they want the tuition money. My dad told me that years ago in engineering school the schools deliberately tried to "wash out" the freshman that couldn't make it later on. Now schools just want the money.

  110. MisterB:

    I have no problem with the "registered and regulated" part. The state regulates all sorts of professions, including hair stylists and manicurists. After completion of the yearlong vocational course that I propose, these non-lawyer providers of legal services could apply for a license from the state. It could even be administered through the state bar. This would allow for complaints to be filed against underperforming practitioners, discipline/suspensions, etc. My point is that three years of legal education are not necessary to perform these tasks. You don't need advanced courses like Federal Courts, Advanced Civil Procedure, etc. to file a simple, single-state divorce or to prepare a will for a 100K estate. Requiring three years of graduate education is driving up the cost for these simple services, to the detriment of the general public.

    For instance, while I'm an able-bodied young adult, I'd like to have an advance directive, just in case something goes very wrong (my family has different religious/end-of-life beliefs than I do). I don't want to pay attorney rates to set one up, so I'll have to take the time to research and set up my own. But, if I could pay a cheaper-but-still-qualified non-lawyer legal professional to help me, I might choose to do that and save myself the research time. I think this would also benefit non-lawyer members of the general public who are not able to do their legal research to make sure that they've gotten everything just right.

  111. I like how rather than lifting a finger to do a damn thing, you people spend all your day arguing about inconsequential nuances. What a bunch of pathetic do nothing losers.

  112. 1:59: no, I spend my day practicing law, and occasionally stop by this site to take breaks. I'm interested in the conversations about (1) how to reform the teaching of law at elite and tier 1 schools; (2) how we should modify regulation of the legal profession; and (3) what mix of credentials and experience should be required of tenured professors at elite and tier 1 schools. I don't care at all about the conversation about lower-ranked schools except to the extent that I support provision of accurate statistics to prospective students at these schools -- and, not being an alum of one of those schools, I have no desire to use my time to do work to make this happen.

    Don't assume that everyone who is posting here has any interest in your specific agenda.

  113. 2:11 what do you think of an undergraduate law major that qualifies one to obtain a basis law license with advanced training in graduate school in genuine specialties? I am a little concerned that one year vocational training is not enough unless limited to a single subject such as basic residential real estate or basic estate planning. And even then I am concerned that it will contain too little grounding in the Anglo American legal system.


  114. @2:11-- What are the specific causes of your concern about law professors and the curriculum at elite schools? The curricula at these schools have been changing for many years now, with more emphasis on clinical work and entrepreneurship. Law professors from elite schools are working in concert with law firms and businesses in the US and in other countries--on an individual basis and a school-to- firm/business basis. Whenever a new administration comes into office in DC, professors from elite schools are called in to fill important slots. On other occasions they are called in to draft constitutions and laws in other countries. These and other activities often provide experiences, and very often jobs, for students/graduates of their schools. There is always room for improvement and concern about being prepared for the future. In fact, some of the most perceptive research and writing, and deliberate action, are coming from professors at elite schools.

    The late Larry Ribstein very perceptively suggested that the question of how to train lawyers for the future is still unfolding, and that those changes will have to take place as events move along. As I indicated earlier, the future for elite law graduates will be far more global than ever. This is not the intended scope of this blog, but there are transformations taking place in the business world and, thus, the legal world that will have a huge effect upon the practice of law in the next 40 years. These changes are well beyond the problems of the 5 to 10 year business cycles. And people who have been broadly educated (in both theory and practice) will be able to manage those changes. People in other countries see the value of, and have respect, for theory and intellectualism in ways that Americans, very famously, do not. Those are the people we will be competing with. And things will not always be done on our terms.

  115. "I like how rather than lifting a finger to do a damn thing, you people spend all your day arguing about inconsequential nuances. What a bunch of pathetic do nothing losers."

    Please stop projecting your personal feelings about your useless career onto our part-time "cyber hobbies."

  116. Prof is right, the main point is that there are no jobs.

    I wonder if the path to law school also has to do with the fact that students are encouraged to do something they love and believe in. I was encouraged to do something I really wanted to do. And law school, being a flexible degree (so I thought), left me the option to fight for the enironment or widow and orphans. Or to go on to be Mitt Romney - law degree holder ruling over the business world.

    What if someone had told me that life is too complex and changes to much to think at 23 you'll be able to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. What if someone had suggested that I find a way to support myself and then maybe add in charity work, a religious affiliation, a hobby or two to make my life complete instead of living with the illusion that a job can fulfill you, support you, interest you everyday and so on. that asks too much of one activity. But I think this is another reason people go to law school. they think it is something that they will love. who doesn't want to save the environment and help people "fight the system" that oppresses them?

    sure some people go to law school b/c they don't know what else to do. but some of us go because we want to be more. its just that law doesn't really let you do that. and life changes too. now, i really want to raise my family. i still care about people outside of my family, but i didn't have these obligations. it would have been good to have more mature perspective rather than a sorry rendetion of the Dead Poets Society. It would be good if colleges spent some time explaining that one task won't do everything for you, and if you think it will you're on the wrong track. a life is composed of many different things. Some that you won't like at all and have no redeming value. Some that you won't like but will be glad you did. and others that are rewarding. But trying to find the one thing that will do everything is searching for the unicorn.

    I think Prof should consider this perspective as well. He's written brilliantly about the risks of going to law school when you don't know what else to do. I'd like to see him write about people who blow law up to be much more than it ever could have been.

  117. 5:54, you are exactly right. I and many people I know naively went to law school thinking that we were going to be able to use our law degrees to make a difference within the system. We also thought we would be doing challenging and intellectually interesting work. I knew I was signing on for a ton of debt, but, at age 21, I thought that wouldn't matter - what mattered was having a stimulating, meaningful career for a lifetime. I fully intended to practice law my entire life, and slowly pay off the debt. Now, 10 years out, I'm stuck in a job that pays decently (government) but that I find utterly mind-numbing, stressful, and hateful. Guess what? I still have a mountain of debt. I also didn't understand the magic of compound interest at 6 percent, unchangeable. And, I don't feel that I am making a difference in the way I thought I would be - I'm just a tiny cog in the massive machine. It's easy to look back with hindsight and maturity and say, "man what an idiot that 21 year old was to borrow 100k for this shit career," but I didn't have any knowledge of the world at that age. I had never lived on my own, worked a full time job to support myself, etc. I really had no concept of what I was getting into. I had college professors warn me against taking on so much debt, advising me to go to lower ranked school for the money, etc., and I just brushed it off because being a lawyer was my dream and my goal and I was willing to do what it took to get there. Now I wish I could go back and slap the idealism out of myself, but it's a little late.

    Yeah, and now I realize that there is so much more I would like to do in my life than work. At 21, I had no concept that my leisure time would be more important to me than my work time. (I mean, when your "work" is reading literature and studying for exams all day, that seems pretty awesome).

  118. Bernie Burk thanks you for this post. It's "What Matters Most", as some might say.


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