Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mistaken beliefs about the crisis of the American law school: If you sue a law school, it will stop publishing fraudulent employment data

A little more than a month ago, Professor Deborah Merritt emailed the career services dean at New York Law School regarding representations the school was making on its web site about career outcomes for graduates two to four years after graduation. The dean promised to respond the following week. When she didn't, Professor Merritt sent a follow-up email, to which she received no response.

Professor Merritt has invited me to write about this (lack of) correspondence in the context of NYLS's representations, especially since an increasingly popular line of defense in legal academia is that one can't merely look at first jobs, because salaries for law graduates often improve dramatically within three to five years of graduation.  This is precisely what NYLS is claiming regarding its own graduates. Let us look at the "evidence" the school presents for this claim -- "evidence" which, we should note, is presented in the context of an explicit recruiting pitch to prospective law students on the school's web site.

First, under the heading "What Can I Expect To Earn?" the school presents seriously misleading information about average salaries in first jobs upon graduation, including statements such as that graduates entering "business" reported salaries ranging "from $50,000 to $150,000."  Obviously this claim is based on the school's employment data for the class of 2010, where the salary for the "corporate/business" category is given as $50,000 to $150,000.  Now Judge Schweitzer's "sophisticated consumers" of employment information will, if they click through to another document on the web site, and read it with the attitude of opposing counsel combing through documents produced in discovery, discover that this range is based on a grand total of ten reported salaries.

Our sophisticated consumers ("sophisticated" here means "people who expect as a matter of course that institutions of higher learning will attempt to seriously mislead them if they can get away with it") will go on to perform some calculations on the "nested" statistics presented by NYLS, and realize that these salaries represent less than ten percent of the graduates employed in the "corporate/business" category (if they are even more sophisticated they will realize that "corporate/business" is in most cases a synonym for "low-paying non-legal positions graduates could have gotten without spending $200,000+ on a law degree first).  Etc.

But NYLS is being a model of transparency at this point in comparison to what comes next.  What comes next is the following statement:

The entry level salary is one indicator of what you can expect to earn, but many law graduates change jobs three times in their first few years of practice . . . Upon changing jobs, our graduates do see an increase in salary. Your first job will certainly not be your last.

A recent study of New York Law School alumni who graduated between two and four years ago showed their salary increases in their second and third jobs. First salaries in the $40,000 to $60,000 range were the most common (46 percent) but that shifted with the graduates' second and third jobs to the least common (20 percent). At the same time, salaries in the $60,000 to $90,000 range grew from 22.5 to 35.5 percent. Salaries in the range above $90,000 grew from 26 percent to 40 percent. All of these jobs changes took place within four years of graduation.
A bar graph table is then represents this information.

Let us consider what the reasonably reasonable person reasoning reasonably about whether to enroll at NYLS would reasonably conclude from this information.  Note that this information is presented as the fruit of a "recent study" by an academic enterprise, rather than as a sales pitch.  Here again we see how law schools trade on their cultural capital as academic institutions rather than as mere businesses trying to make a buck (and again the irony is that a "mere business" would be running a much bigger risk in the courts of New York state if it tried to pull anything quite this sleazy on its prospective customers). All of which is to say that an academic institution presenting data in the form of "study" is representing that something intellectually rigorous or at least minimally respectable is being offered up to the ingenue seeking reliable information on the subject at hand.

What the prospective law student would reasonably conclude from this data is:

(a)  Almost everyone who graduates from NYLS gets a first job that pays at least $40,000.

(b) More than a quarter of NYLS grads get a first job that pays more than $90,000.

(c)  The percentage of of NYLS grads who are making more than $90,000 increases significantly within four years of graduation from the percentage expressed in (b).

(d) 75.5% of NYLS grads who change jobs within two to four years of graduation are earning more than $60,000.

All of these conclusions are based on a profoundly misleading presentation of the available data.  A straightforward presentation would include the fact that the salaries of only 26% of the NYLS class of 2010 were known, and that the "study" of how much growth supposedly took place in regard to initial salaries within two to four years of graduation was based on X number of graduates.  We of course do not know what X is but I trust the people who are currently suing NYLS will use New York's rules of civil procedure to extract this information and make it public.

Remember, all of this "information" being presented by NYLS to prospective students is being put forth even as the school is being sued for misleading prospective students about employment prospects. Now what could possibly explain such behavior? Some candidates:

(1) Arrogance

If I were a New York state judge hearing the suit against NYLS, I would be prone to consider this part of NYLS's web site to be the metaphorical equivalent of flipping me off.  On one interpretation, these appear to be people who simply feel invulnerable.  They're accused of fraud, and their reaction is to continue to publish egregiously misleading statistics under the rubric of an academic "study."

(2) Stupidity

On another interpretation, the people responsible for publishing this may be so clueless that they don't understand that the numbers they're presenting are inherently phony. There are a lot of genuinely stupid people working at law schools, and, as real academic studies have noted, one of the big drawbacks of being a stupid person is that you tend not to realize this fact about yourself.

 (3) Incompetence

This is the inevitable product of the combination of the first two factors.  NYLS put up a bunch of phony new salary stats even in the midst of getting sued for doing exactly that, got called on it by a law professor, and then proceeded to not only fail to do anything about this (such as for example taking the stats down), but to also aggravate that professor unnecessarily, by not even bothering to reply to her queries after assuring her that they would, thus leading eventually to this very unpleasant public discussion of their behavior. That's grotesque institutional incompetence, but as anybody who has had much in the way of dealings with law schools knows, pretty much par for the course in this business.


  1. After calling out Michigan, it's about time Prof turned to some shit schools.

  2. Speaking of psychology, I really can't fathom what's going on with someone like 7:41's attitude. Bizarre.

  3. The schools will continue to publish misleading or fraudulent statistics, due to corporate bagmen on the bench, such as Melvin Schweitzer. Furthermore, the ABA does not police its own member schools. Don't expect a legislative "solution," either.

    In the end, Law School Transparency has been a failure, but not of their doing. They have put forth some good proposals. However, if the ABA - and its law school diploma mills - can thumb its nose at U.S. senators, then the pigs will certainly not succumb to, or comply with, a request from a small group of law grads for better numbers. Clearly, the law schools do not give one damn about their students. And no one in power has the balls or willingness to strip the ABA of accreditation.

  4. It seems to me that the "arrogance plus stupidity equals incompetence" is exactly what leads people to enroll in NYLS in the first place. It's one thing for people to miscalculate the value of a UCLA or Georgetown degree because of misleading information, but don't NYLS students pretty much deserve what they get?

  5. You're being too cynical, Nando. Look, if anybody's going to clean house at the ABA, it will be the former dean of Concord Law that's taking the job as the ABA's "consultant on legal education."

    Who better to ensure that law schools honestly report their employment outcomes than Barry Currier?

  6. I thought the case was dismissed. How would they get any information in discovery?

  7. 8:09

    All information that LawProf got was on their website.

  8. @8:09 The plaintiffs in the NYLS suit are appealing the dismissal, so all hope of getting this information is not lost.

  9. You shouldn't have to sue a law school. Law schools are supposed to be teaching us ethics. They should be holding themselves to a higher standard. How can they teach ethics when they are unethical themselves? The ABA should be holding them to a higher standard. Law school deans have the ethics of used car salesman.

  10. An excellent article I read today, which captures what many of us are dealing with:,0,185201.story

  11. "$53,400 — Average starting salary for Baltimore law grads working in firms with 2-10 lawyers in 2010"

    I'm sure

  12. Frankly,

    The way to go here is not class action suits. It should be 100 individual suits per year per bloated law school class.

    Won't the law factories learn about the surplus of law students when they have to litigate 100 separate suits, with 100 sets of depositions, with 100 notices to produce, with 100 demands for particulars or interrogatories. They'll have to raise tuition just to pay for it all.

  13. First, let me say, again, that Professor Campos is a hero for daring do something that no one had the courage to do within academia: challenge corrupt practices in a manner that conflicts with his personal interest in order to save people. He is also a hero for continuing to fight against this machine even though things appear to be (and probably are) futile.

    Now, let me post this comment as one final attempt to try to save lower-middle class kids from doom. Let me break it down real simple for everyone.

    Politicians respond to people that vote for them and people that give them money. Very bad people give the politicians money to do very bad things to America. You will never beat these people unless the money they give is outweighed by the votes you can give to the politicians. This principle is so fundamental that it will still hold true as the country collapses.

    I believe that about more than 65% of the population does not have a college education of any kind. I believe less than 1% of the population has a law degree (this portion is itself a subset of the 35% that has a college degree, obviously). This means that the roughly 35% of people with college degrees, and particularly the about 1% of people with law degrees, need to 1) pay the politicians to get their way or 2) muster enough votes to get their way.

    It is unlikely that the 35% of college educated people will get relief because i) the remaining portion of the population in large extent envies this 35%is portion, and will always vote to punish this group, and ii) the portion of the 35% group with money will probably not give any money to stop the issue (they probably do not feel the need to do so).

    However, it is not impossible for the 35% to get some relief because i) it is an incredibly large portion of the population, ii) many members of the remaining 65% are having loved ones affected by this, which could cause love and self-interest to take precedence over envy, and iii) a large portion of those of the 35% may feel compelled to act as they see wages plummeting due to desperate indebted slaves (willing to work for peanuts) flooding the market.

    Despite the fact that there is a sliver of hope for the 35%ish of college educated people as a whole, there is absolutely no hope for the 1% of the population that is lawyers (which, again, is a subset of that 35%). These are the reasons why:

  14. 9:04 A.M. continued,

    1) It is too small of a portion of the population to muster votes in a significant way.
    2) The public loves that lawyers suffer because the public absolutely hates lawyers. The public, which also comprises a majority of 65% of the people, also likes the fact that people who tried to get an elite education wind up worse than people who did not get an education. This validates their life decisions that, despite everything they were told, their decisions not to get an education were correct. They will always vote to screw the lawyers.
    3) The subset of educated people, i.e. the remainder of the 35%ish, does not even like attorneys. They also enjoy seeing attorneys suffer, and they also feel validated, for again, choosing not to get a law degree despite cultural perceptions.
    4) The legal elite are not merely indifferent to the plight of those entering the market: they like it. Most very prominent attorneys like that their competition is getting destroyed (it’s just the way most successful people in the legal field feel). (This does not apply to all elite attorneys, just most).
    5) The remainder of the legal elite knows this is an injustice, and may even speak out against this, but said elite does not believe this will have any effect on them. They think they will be immune because they have good trial skills, ridiculous pedigree, or [fill in the blank of skill that they feel will immunize them from market forces]. Some of them might be right, but others are very, very wrong. This causes a lack of urgency on their part.
    6) The 99% of the population that is not lawyers cannot be convinced to quash their envy and protect the 1% of lawyers, like they do for doctors, because lawyers are not viewed as important as doctors for a whole host of cliché reasons that I do not think I need to get into.
    7) Most people who go to LS become psychologically broken because the outcome is so horrific. Also, most people will not speak out because they are afraid that this will deprive them of any small chance they had to succeed.

    I think most people will not read this post because it is too long, and I do not write as well as Professor Campos, but if there is some kid from a non-rich background considering law, and said kid read the above please not the following: what I posted above is true, it is not a lie. Unless you have a crazy elite background, i.e. HYS or Hard IP background with other solid credentials, you are going to throw your life away to go to LS.

    If you think you have no options, think again:

    The above jobs are just a smattering of politically protected jobs available throughout America. Are they glamorous? Perhaps not, but they pay well. Are they easy to get? When you consider the population as a whole, no, but if you can get into law school, you can probably beat out the competition for one of these jobs (as long as you do not politically disqualify yourself by getting too much education). (Take a look at some of the tests given for the jobs, and you will understand).

    Again, the above is just a sample of what you can do with your life. I know it was not what you expected, but if you are white and cannot break a 175 on the LSAT (or break a 165 with hard IP background) or are a minority who cannot break a 165, then the above options are better than throwing your life away at LS. The absolute worst case scenario is you will make the same as most attorneys, but with no LS debt, no opportunity cost lost, and better job security.

    Tread carefully my non-rich, non-uber elite lemmings.

  15. 9:04:

    Not very simple, cowboy. Let me put it uber-simple, my non-rich, non-uber elite fellow-poster:

    The system cannot sustain itself and will fail because costs coupled with predatory debt have spiraled out of control....It already happened once in 2008 with the housing market. The system cannot sustain the costs and schools cannot contain the lies.

  16. You're right--I didn't read it because it was too long.

  17. (4) Desperation

    I think it's utter desperation. NYLS is a stand alone, bottom-feeding institution. Its very survival depends on fooling enough people to take out those loans. They are feeling the squeeze and have no other choice.

    They are very aware that the truth about the product they are selling will be its demise.

  18. And let's not forget the most important number here: the $71k cost of attendance ($48k in tuition and fees) at NYLS.

    LawProf's reference to "$200k+" in debt is dead on.

  19. Nando, have you seen ?

  20. $71K to attend NYLS? Are these kids fucking insane? This isn't NYU (which is not worth $71K). This is a putrid stench pit known as NYLS. Sophisticated consumers? These kids are borderline retarded. In a way, they fucking deserved to be fleeced.

  21. Really the bitterness here is ridiculous.

    NYLS should be closed down, no doubt about it, but I would hardly call the entire system "broken".

    There will always be need for high-priced corporate lawyers.

    There will always be need for low-priced lawyers who cater to poors.

    It's very obvious that we need to move to a 2 tier system--with HYSCC continuing as 3 year institutions that open directly to Wall Street firms, and the rest (maybe 50 or so law schools, one in each state) become 2 year vocational schools that turn out the PI/insurance ambulance chasers.

  22. 10:33 A.M.,

    I disagree. The system is broken because it is catastrophic for people to try to cater to those lower end markets. Sacrificing close to a decade of your life to be a "low-priced" lawyer that makes less money than a NYC sanitation worker, while having the stresses and responsiblities of being a professional is no longer a sane option for people who are not rich.

  23. 10:30,
    Agreed, I've never understood why anyone would pay that much money to attend a shit law school that is priced comparably to the best law schools.

  24. Shorter (barely) 10:33: Although three quarters of law schools should be closed and almost all the rest transformed into cosmetology schools, the system is not broken.

  25. Alums of NYLS include university presidents, CEOs of major companies, BigLaw partners, Judge Judy, and congressmen. Therefore, if you attend NYLS, then you will be successful yourself. Right?

  26. I am not sure why you would expect a law school which is being sued to respond to such a request while the case is still under appeal. Practicing lawyers usually advise their clients to use a "no comment on pending litigation" response to similar inquiries from the press. The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who went to law school.

  27. 10:33 here.

    I forgot to mention that the vocational law schools (lower tier) would of course be much much cheaper so its a good investment for people who have to settle for (or maybe even want to) work for poor people.

  28. at 10:33

    There is nothing wrong working for poor people, unless ofcourse, you become poor yourself in the process because then who will help you?

    I graduated LS with no debt, and I can tell you that unless you work in a public interest job, i.e. Legal Aid, working for poor people in shitlaw sucks hard. The price of the degree does not matter given the opportunity cost, and the black mark that it bestows upon a cv.

    Being a garbageman would have been a much better option for me (and for everyone like me).

  29. I think that the vast majority of the deans, professors and employees of all of the law schools think that they are doing a fine job in teaching their students and it is the economy, "the system", capitalism or something else that is the problem. I've heard the statement: "Never underestimate the power of rationalization when a person's economic interest is at stake."

    I think that the folks at NYLS think that they are doing a great job and it is not their fault that in their view "a few or their poorer students" don't get jobs. I would guess that many may also laugh at the "salespeople" in the admissions department. Regardless, they personally are a great teacher et cetera.

  30. The system is so broken that Concord Law School, an online law school of all things, is probably a better "ROI" at only $10k/yr than the overwhelming majority of brick-and-mortar law schools.

  31. @10:33

    You are foolish. I am what you indelicately refer to as an "ambulance chaser". And, while I may cater to "the poors", I am not low-cost. I cannot afford to be. Before I take a dime in salary, I have to make $100 per hour, eight hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, just to cover my fixed costs. Since I have to put up the expenses for every case (because I represent "the poors"), add another $25 an hour to that amount. Then, there is the finance cost of my "high value" cases. The last medical malpractice case I had cost me $75,000.00 dollars in expert witnesses, exhibits, court reports, records, etc. There is no such thing as a "low cost" lawyer" because the economics of a law office, marketing, and case expenses forbid the existence of such a creature. An "ambulance chasing" practice is very expensive and the front-end costs render it nearly impossible for a newly minted lawyer to start such a practice. The only reason I managed to pull it off 25 years ago was because I had a husband who made an excellent living and a father willing to bankroll me during the early, difficult years.

    So what about taking on, for example, $300 dollar divorces? I don't do family law, but the first difficult trick, I imagine, is finding enough clients who can afford $300 dollar divorces to keep one's office doors open. Do you have any clue what a yellow page add costs? And yes, as distasteful as it may seem, you have to advertise or you will not make it. Then there is the problem of just how much time does a $300 dollars divorce client receive? One hour? Three hours? What if they want to talk to you for an hour every day, as I understand some do? If you don't return their calls, simply because the economics of the situation forbid it, sooner or later, one of them is going file a complaint about you with the Board of Professional Responsibility.

    Do your homework before you say something so ridiculous about "representing the poors". It takes money and a very specialized kind of practice to "represent the poors", keep your office open and make a living. Most newly minted lawyers do not have these skills or resources. The sooner we end this fantasy that our surplus of young lawyers can make a living providing "low cost" legal services, the better. As an old colleague once warned me: "you can get all the free work you want; you just can't make a living doing it".

  32. There is a large percentage of people in this country for whom the effective amount they would be willing to pay for a lawyer is less than it would cost that lawyer to break even in fixed costs, food/rent, and loan payments.

    Some academics truly believe that a surplus of lawyers is a good thing, as it will drive down prices and make legal services affordable for the lower and middle class. Let's ignore for a second that they want lower and middle income clients to be served by novice lawyers with no experience practicing law. I would argue that it is de facto malpractice to let novice lawyers handle client matters without supervision.

    However, they then graduate students with even more non-dischargeable debt every year, meaning that for these lawyers, the break even point, where they can cover fixed costs, have enough to eat, and pay down their debt- is higher the more debt they have, thus placing them out of reach of these lower and middle income clients.

    I don't seriously wonder why academics can't reconcile these two notions. The quote about rationalization when your self-interest is threatened is on point. They also have fundamental lack of knowledge about the market for low-income legal services, what it takes to run a small practice, and probably never have actually known any real poor people in their lives. But it's still very frustrating.

  33. I cringe when people don't place corresponding punctuations inside quotation marks. However, you do make an excellent point. This whole "just cater to a lower class clientele and you'll be fine" notion is ridiculous.

  34. If you are rich or can go to HYS, go to law school. If you are not rich and cannot go to HYS, then find something else to do with your life.

    Nothing else is going to save you. Politicians do not care about you, the public does not care about you, and the judiciary is not going to give you any recourse.

  35. To "anonymous" at 9:45 am,

    The LST team of Kyle McEntee, Patrick Lynch and Derek Tokaz has not had much success. A total of 47 schools - out of 198 ABA-accredited trash pits - have supplied info to the organization.

    Keep patting yourself on the back, for the research of others. The public shaming of these schools provided the encouragement, for them to supply data.

  36. the system is broken with respect to the huge bloc of students who will waste years and go into debt, but with respect to the law school staffers and deans and profs, the law school test prep company owners, the banks and rich investors that loan $$ to students, the system is working just dandy.

  37. Like I said (10:33), we should move to a 2 tier model.

    You telling me that lower tier legal work is hard to do and not lucrative doesn't change the above. If you want to make money under the new system, then you better go to HYSCC.

    If you want to work for poors, go to the other schools.

    The new system will discourage people who are now applying to NYLS and dreaming of working at Skadden. Those are the people that are out of touch with reality.

  38. The general public still thinks that higher education and law school makes economic sense. They don't - as of yet - see that most of this higher education is a tremendous waste and in many cases is a "scam". They see law school graduates and lawyers as an elite and if these folks are unemployed it must be the graduates fault. Most people do not like lawyers and are actually afraid of lawyers. Lawyers have historically been granted a reluctant respect solely because the public believes that they make a lot of money.

    Very few people appreciate the large overhead costs of doing business.

  39. I second tdennis wholeheartedly. I am a new lawyer who was forced into solo practice after a job offer was rescinded (and bored3L; this is not de facto malpractice, although potential malpractice lurks around every corner).

    I was actually interested in doing personal injury work, or at least taking some cases in that universe (i.e. disability appeals). I am a member of my state's "Association for Justice." But before I officially entered any appearances, I decided to refer that stuff out, because there's no way I can afford the front-end costs, much less work on contingency.

    I have nearly as close to a "shoestring" budget as you can imagine, so I can, and do, charge less than most lawyers. However, the longer I do this (it's been a little over a year), the more I realize what I HAVE to charge to remain viable, and how it's typically higher than what I've been charging.

    People in this conversation and the general public need to know that $150/hour does NOT mean I'm making $150/hour, not even close. Rates like that - or higher - is literally what it takes to cover your expenses and still make good money. Unfortunately, a lot of people just can't afford such fees. And with legal services constantly being slashed (including my own would-be legal services position, which was eliminated from my would-be employer's budget), a lot of people just aren't going to be able to afford a lawyer (at least one they can't hire on a contingency basis).

    I do family law, and I do uncontested divorces without kids for around $500 flat. Honestly, after doing a few of these, I'm considering raising that fee. I see these Craigslist ads of people doing them for $300, and I don't know how they do it. You burn a couple of hours with the initial consultation and preparing the initial documents. Then you need to file them. And as tdennis suggested, a lot of them consider your representation carte blanche to call all the time, because many people don't understand the process at all and have many irrational concerns, or need to be explained the same thing more than once. Then you need to prepare a judgment and appear in court, and then prepare any other necessary documents in addition to that (in Michigan, there are a couple things other than the judgment itself), and have all that filed and served. You ALSO have to write letters and send stuff to the opposing party no less than three times, to cover all the procedural bases.

    The above-described services are easily worth $1,000, not $500, not $300. I just wish more people could afford to pay that.

  40. 11:44 --

    Spot on. Law is custom work, and it requires a lot of individualized attention.

    The reality is that a newbie with debt cannot hang a shingle or make any money as a lawyer, even if he actually knew something -- which he doesn't. There simply isn't enough demand to pay for it.

    Experienced lawyers in my city are lining up for appointed counsel criminal assignments because at least that work pays. It doesn't pay well, mind you, but you can get $70 per hour guaranteed doing it.

    There is no low cost law hourly practice, because the revenue is so limited. If it were possible to bill 50 billable hour weeks, 50 weeks per year, at $100 per hour [And this is quite tough to do], it equates to only $250,000 in revenue per year. As with all service industries, when you are a lawyer, you are the product.

    So working like crazy at a rate that exceeds what most people want to pay for an hour of time, only gets you $250k in annual revenue.

    Now what's your collection rate? Say it's 80 percent, which sounds about right. You're down to $200k in the door every year.

    You haven't paid rent yet. You haven't paid electric yet. You haven't paid malpractice insurance yet. You haven't paid health insurance yet. Nor for computers, phones, paper, photocopier, yellow pages, other supplies, etc. To actually bill 50 hours, you'll need at least a part-time secretary to work the phones and do scheduling/billing/banking. Add in that cost, and add in another 10 hours per week minimum in nonbillable work.

    All of a sudden, you just worked yourself to the bone to clear $80k pre-payroll tax. Deduct your double payroll taxes, Mr. Self-Employed (and you're a lawyer and honest, so you can't just treat it all as a distribution). So before income taxes you're under $70k.

    You'll need suits, bar dues, CLEs, a presentable car.

    And your clients will still whine about the price.

    I don't know what you'd do with student debt.

    Frankly, the low-paid government workers the unions and the left always invoke sound pretty well off at the end of the day. 40 hours in the office -- not billed, health care, pension, all for $45k to $100k annually. Not so bad off when you do the math.

  41. I lol'd at this quote from a CSO officer

    "Combined, UB Law and UMd Law graduated just under 600 J.D. candidates in 2011, the schools reported. Green contends that the legal market nationally and in Maryland is not over-saturated. "The problem is not too many lawyers, the problem is the inability to provide low-cost or moderate-cost legal services to those who need it the most," she said.

    Green sees varying factors on students' minds. "Some have numerous offers and struggle with choice, others are unsure of what will make them feel professionally fulfilled, and others are simply worried about paying back their loans," she said."

    Newsflash: If people can't pay for your services- they aren't clients. Everyone needs to eat, but the restaurant market is over-saturated, because nobody can afford to have a sit down meal every night.,0,185201.story

  42. Thanks Schweitzer you fucking moron

  43. I hate law school faculty, except for you Campos.

    If Prof. Green in Baltimore wants the ability "to provide low-cost legal services to those who need it the most" then the solution is fewer lawyers making more money, not more lawyers chasing fewer paying clients. Why? Well, if a guy could actually make a living as a lawyer, perhaps the bar would be more willing to do pro bono work or receptive to mandatory pro bono service.

  44. This is an excellent piece. One of the best ever on this site. P.s. The answer is arrogance, and the expectation that the appeals court will be a dumb s judge Schweitzer.

  45. @bored3L

    I love your analogy! How true!

    This discussion has helped me recognize the obvious and I'm as thick as a gaggle of law school administrators and professors for not grasping it until now. Many of these professors and administrators actually think the are doing the Lord's work, as we say down here in the South. They are living the liberal dream: by producing an abundance of lawyers, they are bringing justice to the masses. Atticus Finch would be so proud of them! Except, Atticus Finch is as fictional as their uninformed and yes, destructive delusions about what real lawyers are able to do. Your right LawProf: these people in so many cases are just stupid--there is no other explanation.

  46. @12:31
    Government work is indeed a sweet, sweet trough at which to supp for the JD-holder. But not everyone is invited to dine. At present, there are less than twenty open positions for staff counsel in CA (starting at less than $60K p.a.), even fewer DAG positions. And I've heard anecdotally that the A.G. is receiving many earnest applications from HYS grads; so the jobs that would have gone to McGeorgies in past are no longer available to the locals.

    2Ls should familiarize themselves with the sunk cost fallacy, then abandon law school immediately with a minimum of regret.

  47. Oh no! A new law school.

  48. Unbelieveable! It staggers the imagination. I'm a member of the Georgia Bar Association and this is the first I heard of this school (I guess I should read their stupid magazine more often). Where will it end? When every burg and hamlet has a law school and the village idiot is Editor of a law review?

  49. When is University of Phoenix opening a law school?

    @ 12:56: LOL, I thought you were talking to me and misspelled my name (as people often do), then realized you were talking about His Honor. Carry on.

  50. Until the education bubble pops, the best gig for the un/underemployed is to start a school and qualify to receive federal student loans.

    I'm only half joking. Students don't think of it as a real cost because it's just a signature on paper. You get real money to operate the scam mill. What a deal!

  51. @Rob, you mean "When is University of Phoenix opening a second law school?"?

  52. (paraphrasing the simpsons)
    "I can't Believe It's a Law School!"

  53. These sites are nice, but they have no relationship to our political system, which insane.


    It says that a GOP candidate compared connecting the interest rate on student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent is socialism.

    Interest rate cuts given the debt is the bare minimum that can be done to address cost to students.

    I can't imagine in this environment where we can't even get interest rate reductions that we are going to get bankruptcy protection or any other reform. I expect even bankruptcy reform will be labeled as "socialism."

  54. I think you meant to type "Phoenix School of Law."

  55. You know this blog must be getting some Above the Law traffic when there are comments referring to huge numbers of one's fellow citizens as "the poors." That's some uncut, Wall Street-grade upper class disdain right there. Good stuff.

  56. this site is mentioned at above the law so that's not a surprise. must be getting under someone's skin.

  57. Brian Tamanaha is right. The only information law schools should have to report is what jobs their graduates have that are JD required. Everything else can be seen as misleading.

  58. I just posted an excerpt from my Experian credit report on my blog.

    Tell me that student loans can't harm a person's credit and life.

    The path to a similar fate such as mine is, you guessed it:

    The Law School Scam

  59. These representations by NYLS astounded me, for many of the same reasons LawProf gives. NYLS, like many other schools, learned that they should at least note the "percentage reporting" when publishing first-job salary info. But then they published information about this multi-year "study" without giving any indications at all about how the study was performed (random sample?) or the response rate (10%? 26%? 95%?). Talk about a failure of analogical reasoning.

    I don't know how NYLS conducted this study or how reliable it is; that's what I asked the CSO dean about in my email. I also emailed her because I want to conduct my own (hopefully reliable) study of 3-5 year job outcomes and I was curious about NYLS's method. But I received no response and these figures remain on the website under the heading "Consumer Information."

    Take a look at the bar graph, if you haven't already checked it out from LawProf's link. How would you read that graph, especially knowing it was based on an academic institution's "study" of its own graduates? I have now learned to distrust law school representations. But before that unpleasant lesson, and especially if I were a 0L with little knowledge of the relationship between a school and its alumni, I would assume that NYLS obtained information about every graduate--or, at the very least, that this was a very well designed random sample with a very high response rate. This just gets uglier and uglier.

  60. These statistics are clearly misleading. The law schools need to post more accurate data.

    So many grads are solos after several years of practice. Who would go to one of these schools at this type of cost to make under six figures as a solo. If you work for the government in a career position, even in a menial job, you make as much or more, without the huge tab for law school. You don't need to work 60 hours a week in a menial government job.

    Some people just shoot themselves in the foot. Now people going to law school ought to know better, so there is no excuse.

  61. tdennis:

    Absolutely. Indeed representing poor people and poor companies has the drawbacks that: (a) they typically are disorganised and do not have a "general counsel" so large amount of time has to be spent on logistics and fact gathering which does not arise when you represent "the riches"; (b) their problems are often worse - and they have proportionately more at stake than the "riches" do; (c) they are often late paying their bills - if ever.

    This fantasy that "the poors" can be represented by a lesser degree of lawyers leaves me continuously astonished - the term "shit law" leaves me puzzled. Most of the top corporate litigators I know - who are now in their 60s and 70s "cut their teeth" and what the pissants now want to call "shitlaw." I bill at somewhere around *** per hour depending on exchange rates - and I can do that because I have some esoteric knowledge and an odd combination of skills for a lawyer - much of which I picked up representing people and companies without a lot of money - sometimes doing the sort of cases pro bono that these fools deride as shitlaw.

    A lawyer representing "the poors" still has to take depositions, still file a complaint, still make and defend motions, still stand in front of a judge and still know the law. That lawyer will often be up against a BigLaw lawyer defending the case with a little host of bag-carrying HYS associates coming to court with him/her. A "slip & fall" case, or a workman's comp case can still be about a family's livelihood - indeed many workman's comp cases are about millions of dollars - all the ones, and OSHA cases (employer side - I needed to get paid to pay my way through school)) I worked on when in law school (and I ghost-wrote part of a book on that topic too) were worth millions to the defendant and were defended by a BigLaw firm.

    My aunt spent years representing "the poors" and became quite a famous lawyer as a result - but did not make much money at it. I did find it interesting when being interviewed by a BigLaw firm partner as a new grad in her city who snottily asked "your father isn't a lawyer ... so is anyone in your family a lawyer" - I responded naming them and when my aunt's name came up he visibly blanched as he stammered " did you say your aunt is THE M.... B....!" Apparently she had rather crushed him when he was going after one of "the poors"

    My grandfather famously started his career in a small rural town during the depression - without a secretary he had an office up a long flight of stairs over a bakery - and whenever he heard anyone open the door he would randomly hammer the keys of his typewriter to sound busy - he eventually did rather well, but it took him years to get there.

  62. My father also started practice in a small town in the fifties. He made a sufficient living to raise a family. He had no debt because he went to law school on the GI bill (Vanderbilt for free!) as did most of his cohort. There were much fewer lawyers then and he had an old fashion "general practice" --- some bank work, title work, appointed criminal, personal injury, work for the county. The fairly steady hourly work allowed him to get himself elected to the state senate and then become an early crusader for the rights of disabled people. While he was serving in Nashville, he didn't have to worry too much about some cutthroat,whippersnapper stealing his business. There were gentlemen's agreements (yes, I wince when I say it) about how the work was distributed among the town's lawyers. Of course, that was only possible because there was no oversupply.

    Ten years after opening his practice, Vanderbilt hired him because of his work on disabled rights and his service in the senate. That kind of story is now impossible. There are no generalists anymore. Too many lawyers for two little work. Overhead is so high and the fear of losing market share bars most lawyers from the statehouse now. Look at your own state's legislature. How many are lawyers as compared to fifty years ago. Do you think if our legislatures were still primarily comprised of lawyers (particularly small town lawyers) law schools would have grown out of control? I don't know. Perhaps not.

    Most of the small town lawyers didn't get rich. But it was a good life.

  63. Well your life story was FASCINATING to read, but I did not spend all this time energy and money working for poors billing $150/hour.

    I'd rather be on the winning side--winning for myself, that is.

  64. My best story about my Grandfather is from the 70s when he was semi-retired and I was around 10 or 12. One day he was driving me somewhere - but pulled up outside the firms offices, which then, as now, are in a rather elegant 18th century townhouse and went inside to deal with some papers, leaving me in the car. As I sit in the car a police car pulls up behind and waits, the two officers not doing anything - just chatting. A few moments later a man taps on the window and I roll it down:

    "is that Bill _____'s car"


    "will he be long"

    "I don't think so"

    "I'll wait for him then"

    After a few minutes my grandfather comes up and this gentleman strolls up to him and presents him with two bottles of clear liquid. My grandfather looks at the bottles, looks at the police car and manages to perform a remarkable contortion which consisted of crossing his bottle holding arms inside his jacket and somehow opening the car door and sliding the bottles under the seat. As he drives off he turns an alarming shade of red and starts to emit choking noises. I was convinced he was having a heart attack. Finally around the corner he pulls up and collapses over the steering wheel - leaving me in a real panic.

    After a moment or two he looks up and I realise he is laughing - and he tells me:

    "did you know, I got that fella off on a charge of illegal distilling 20 years ago and that is the first payment I have ever seen out of him."

    Later, when I went to law school - he took me out for a lunch in which he and my uncle explained that there were certain expressions I needed to understand when I heard them form a client:

    "Money's no object" - translates as "because I am not going to pay my bill"
    "it's the principle of the thing" - which is why you should do it pro-bono
    "it is really simple and straightforward" "I don't really need you and the bill for this matter should be tiny"

    To this my Aunt has added a few she recalls from him, the best of which is:
    "I'll fight them to the last drop of blood" - notice the absence of the possessive pronoun.

  65. @4:59

    Tell me again - why did you go into a service industry? It may be a professional service industry - but it is a service industry- on e where you work for clients.

    And as for not working for "the poors" billing $150 per hour - I'm sorry, even working for "the riches" most junior associates are not worth more than $150 per hour - and I say that knowing my rate to be a substantial multiple of $150.

  66. Now, I have always wondered if there was a link or nexus between Sallie Mae and the Collection agency, GC Services, about whom I posted in my Post previous to this one.

    In other words, if you go here and look at this flow chart:

    See where it talks about the "Second bite of the Apple Theory"

    And I always wondered if Sallie Mae got a second crack at collecting on my student loan through GC services.

    How can anyone really know, for Sallie Mae and GC Services are private corporations, and their inner workings are pretty mysterious.

  67. Starting associates at AmLaw 100 firms bill around $450. Get your facts rights Ms. Self-righteous attorney for the poors.

    But it's more the principle of the thing. I'd much rather spend my life helping close deals that actually matter and litigating cases that people give a damn about than doing...what you seem to do...

  68. @5:15

    Here is the thing - I spent a month this time last year negotiating a €4.5 billion acquisition - I litigate cases with tens and hundreds of millions in dispute - I represent billionaires, millionaires and poor people. You I can tell from you postings do not represent people who could pay even $150 per hour - and by the way, based on your postings I would not hire you.

    As for junior associates billing at $450 per hour - are you a billing partner - are you a GC ... no and you are not likely to be one. If you were you would be aware that no-one pays $450 per hour for a first year, a large proportion of junior associate time is written off - and they waste the time of partners billing at $750+ per hour. In short junior lawyers are - in almost every firm - small and large - money losers for at least their first year.

    It is the view that they can be paid $450 per hour - and are remotely worth that much, that is part of the reason why so many cannot get hired. It is also why law school tuition is too damn high.

    The profits that law schools make is also why they let in people who are clearly not appropriate for the practice of law .... and so far by your postings ....

  69. The rate of first year associate is public knowledge, and has floated around $450 since 2009.

    As for you "impressive" me, I have better options than to work for your shitlaw firm. It seems that you're the last of a dying breed who've worked their way "up" from shitlaw into slightly better shitlaw and are proud of it. Gold star to you.

    I for one am very apartment buildings and office buildings in New York all have doormen to keep the riffraff out, and that at least the towncar company hires decent drivers that aren't too boorish to deal with.

    Oh and if you're such a hotshot...what are you doing on blogspot all day?

  70. 5:39--

    I suspect you're a student. There are no riches in this profession any more.

    I was a midlevel biglaw associate in 2009 in NYC, and my billing rate was substantially below $450. Starting billing rates for first years have moved down since the recession, if you can find work. For that princely sum, you'll barely need your law degree, but you will work like a dog with some obnoxious personalities.

    "Shitlaw" really is offensive and ignorant. Most biglaw lawyers are very good at the one specific task they do over and over again. I've heard junior partners confess that they don't really know the basics of practice that every "shitlawyer" knows -- service of process, witness disclosures, etc. The only ones in this profession who know anything are seasoned litigators and general practice guys in "shitlaw" who actually practice as professionals.

    The gravy train stopped in 2008. You will not become rich in this profession. If that's important to you, you'll probably be happier in the long run if you quit now.

  71. Being rich is tremendously important to me.

    However, I still think (I know the prof disagrees) that a Yale Law degree still has some value outside of law firms. In any case my family has enough to keep me comfortable while I see just where it gets me--paying the tuition, maybe a down payment for a nice apartment, etc.

  72. @5:39

    Public knowledge is often wrong - what your posting shows is that you are probably a former paralegal and a little impressed with yourself. Somehow though I think you have never: (a) billed a client; (b) never retained a law firm; (c) never negotiated a retainer; (d) never negotiated billing rates. In short, you really have no idea what I was talking about - and that is in itself revealing of the fact that what you know about legal practice you learned from looking at website like TLS and watching some legal dramas.

    You also have no idea where I am, what time of day it is for me - or who my clients are - and they are my clients - I have to service them.

    As for better options - since I cut my teeth with Editors of the Yale law review in the next office - and I have worked all over the world .... well it is different from what you face.

    The fact that you have contempt for lawyers who represent "the poors" and that you describe any part of the profession as "shitlaw" is probably the reason you are, or shortly will prove to be, a failure as a lawyer. You have already amply shown that you are a failure as a human being. That a law school let you in speaks volumes about the current state of the profession.

  73. "The fact that you have contempt for lawyers who represent "the poors" and that you describe any part of the profession as "shitlaw" is probably the reason you are, or shortly will prove to be, a failure as a lawyer."

    My OCI results and previous work experience would suggest otherwise.

    When I was an analyst at Morgan Stanley, we got together at 230 5th and laughed at the people who worked for "regional banks". During that time, I met many lawyers--senior associates and partners--who laughed with us at the people who worked for shitlaw.

    I think my kind of thinking is what prevails in the segment of society that matters. You, however, are not part of that segment. When you're sitting in the bottom of the well, the world sure looks all figured out...

    And oh, I can always take my degree and 1) go back as a associate at M&S, or 2) work for my father's Wall Street firm.

    You and I are from different worlds. I now see there's a reason for that. Some people are happy working 9-5 for a steady paycheck and a 2 bedroom house. Sometimes I envy them, but not that often.

  74. MS*--Morgan Stanley, not Marks & Spencer.

  75. And oh, I can always take my degree and 1) go back as a associate at M&S, or 2) work for my father's Wall Street firm.

    You put the crony in crony capitalism.

  76. That almost makes me sound unqualified.

    I do have a Princeton and (soon) Yale Law degree...worked at the most prestigious IB in the world for 2 years...etc.

    Sometimes children of the well-off tend to be well off themselves because they were brought up with better values you know.

  77. @5:39

    "Boorish town car drivers"? It appears you know a great deal more about boorish behavior than the rest of us. In fact, you seem rather accomplished at it.

  78. I stand by my assessment.

    If my daddy bought me into choate, or Cantonese lessons, or whatever made you such a special snowflake, I could have gotten into Princeton.

    Lie to yourself. Tell yourself that you are the ubermench. Know that your daddy bought you a life.

    If your parents gave you such great values, why are you here taunting the poors? Doesn't seem like something a well-bred guy like you would do.

  79. You were a Morgan Stanley associate and you went to law school? Was that after you were fired? You met senior associates and partners who took the time to laugh with you at people who work for "shitlaw"

    You are increasingly looking like a fantasist or a troll.

  80. I was an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Chose to go to law school over business school.

    And yes, we had social events, where, yes I met and made friends with senior associates and partners. And yes, we talked about our less fortunate counterparts over drinks.

    I don't see why this is hard to understand.

  81. You were a 21-22 year old entry level analyst in an investment bank who spent time yoking it up with senior bankers and senior legal associates and partners - drinking and mocking "the poors" the regional banks that were the clients of your bank, and the lawyers who practiced "shitlaw" And they spent time with you because of your great personal charm and the wonderful Princeton Bachelors in Business Administration you had ... oh and MS* gave you the time.....

    Troll and fantasist is much easier to understand. Your getting fired and going to law school is easy to understand - especially if you did actually behave as you described.

  82. They spent time with me because we all agreed.

    I'm really thinking of a particular event we held in the summer. We were talking about the difference in the caliber of person who worked on Wall Street versus someone who worked "off" Wall Street. We all agreed that the difference was huge. This may be mutual backpatting, but there WAS agreement, and my way of thinking seemed to be generally accepted.

    And no, the standard path is analyst--> Bschool--> associate. I chose to go to law school because I've always wanted to be a lawyer. But if that doesn't work out I can return as an associate.

  83. We were talking about the difference in the caliber of person who worked on Wall Street versus someone who worked "off" Wall Street. We all agreed that the difference was huge.

    Yeah, wall street figured out how to get the government to subsidize helicopter rides to the Hamptons.

  84. It is not a big deal for low level associates to talk to partners at a social event. That does not mean they become best friends.

  85. DJM -- do you have a school email address?

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