Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thinking the unthinkable

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this job is that doing it seems to entail making an implicit representation to one's students that attending law school is going to end up being a good long-term decision for at least a solid majority of them.  It doesn't seem plausible to me to characterize accepting money from students in return for a legal education (or in any event a law degree) as an arm's-length transaction.

This is particularly evident when we're asked by the school's administration to attend events at which admitted prospective students have a chance to meet faculty, as they attempt to decide whether to enroll at this or that law school.  I doubt that the average dean, or for that matter the average faculty member, seriously considers the possibility that a prospective student at such an event might be told to think about going to another law school, or, even more shockingly, to not go to law school at all.

Now why is that? It's not, I don't believe, because such gatherings are conceptualized by administrators and faculty as sales events, so that giving prospective students genuinely candid advice about going to law school would be considered as strange as a car dealership giving people looking to lease new cars genuinely candid advice about whether leasing a new car was a good idea for them all things considered.

Rather, my impression is that for most people in legal academia the proposition "our students would as a group be better off if they hadn't enrolled in law school" is as a practical matter an unthinkable thought.  That isn't a thought which is available to a well-socialized legal academic, because being a well-socialized legal academic means, among other things, that one's social identity is constructed on the basis of an axiomatic assumption that going to law school is a good decision for one's students -- not in every single individual case, of course, but "generally," which is to say collectively. 

Since producing a collectively beneficial outcome for one's students would seem to be the minimum criterion for doing a job worth doing, rejecting that assumption means accepting the possibility that one's job -- which is to say a core aspect of one's identity if one is an upper class professional -- is in an exercise in bad faith.  And since that is an extremely unpleasant possibility, most people don't find it too difficult under most circumstances to accede to whatever combination of social, psychological, and ideological forces keep that possibility from ever being considered seriously.

But let us consider it anyway.  To frame the question in economic terms, at how many law schools at present are the transactions involved in getting a law degree going to end up being "efficient" for the student body as a whole?

Now obviously something like getting a law degree is even under the best possible social and economic circumstances never going to produce Pareto efficiency for the collective student body. (Pareto efficiency is defined as a transaction that leaves some party or parties to it better off, while leaving no parties to it worse off.)  But what about the far more modest demands of Kaldor-Hicks efficiency, which is defined as a transaction that produces a collectively positive result for the parties to it, although some individual party or parties to it may be left worse off?

I'm not asking this question rhetorically.  I'm merely suggesting that it's a question that, under present circumstances, should become a very real and pressing one at every law school in the country, as it is not, I would suggest, completely clear that any law school now meets this criterion, while it is quite clear that many do not.


  1. Law Prof, why isn't Pareto Efficiency the goal of legal academia? In theory, this should not be hard to substantially achieve.

  2. You don't have any control group, so tough to say. Would the HYS crowd have done better in other industries than graduating from law? Who knows? Would the mouthbreathers at TTTT have been welfare cases without TTTT? Who knows?

    I do know this: the law school case method model does not produced practicing lawyers and does not advance knowledge of the law. It is just plain crazy that everyone needs to purchase a barbri course to pass the bar exam after graduating from law school. Why? Why can't law schools teach law?

    We should return to an apprenticeship system.

    We never would tolerate a medical or dental education system that produced graduates who were completely unprepared even to begin a profession. Newbie docs have a lot to learn, but they at least have the basics down (anatomy, immunology, biochem).

    Legal education prides itself on being useless. The closest analog I can think of is if a requirement existed for a practicing artist or musician to become licensed required that they first complete a 3-year-long program in art history or music theory. Just insane!

    Until 1890, no law school used the Langdellian case method. There were fine lawyers before 1890, mind you, some of whom even attended law schools for a year or two. The method now is the universal method for joining the legal profession, and it is taught by people who are not practicing attorneys. Why???!!! Just insane.

  3. Ok. Point taken. But given that your students HAVE enrolled in law school and are in your class, shouldn't you at that point make the best of it and do everything in your power to teach them well so that they may master the subject - say, property - to give them the highest chance of actually securing a job when they graduate? Instead of doing whatever it is you do in the classroom...

    Even if you think the entire edifice of law school is a ridiculous undertaking at this point, don't you still have a responsibility to teach your students to the best of your ability if you maintain your job as a professor?

    I ask these questions as someone who does respect the points that this blog makes.

  4. LawProf - isn't the current state another form of efficiency (perhaps without an academic name)? Isn't law school a "transaction" that now produces a distinctly negative result for many of the parties to it, with only a handful of individual parties or parties "better off"? And if this is true, as I believe to be, isn't the suggestion that Pareto efficiency or even Kaldor-Hicks efficiency should be the operative objectives delusional? If either of those would be the in fact objective of legal education institutions, the number of schools and students would have to be reduced by at least half, if not more. And we may only require one year of legal education, followed by apprenticeships (and so on). As a reminder, the information and analysis you provide is priceless. Thanks again.

  5. @8:27

    Only "fine" lawyers? I'd recommend reading some of Daniel Webster's arguments. For my money, modern authors WRITE as well as Webster SPOKE.

    Here's a link to his famous "Second Reply to Hayne)

  6. Nards,

    I meant to say "few modern authors WRITE as well as Webster SPOKE" directly above at 8:47. Oh well.

  7. The question law faculty should be asking is, "are we adding anything of value to our students"?

    I would humbly suggest, that you are not, regardless of price. You don't teach them to be practicing lawyers. You don't teach them to be academic researchers. Really, what good is law school at any price?

    It is a barrier to enter the legal profession, plain and simple.

    Prof. Campos, would you hire any of your colleagues to do any legal work on your behalf or on behalf of a company that you owned? My suspicion is that you would not.

    Would you entrust the faculty to teach barbri? My suspicion is that you WOULD trust SOME of the faculty to teach their respective subjects in a bar prep course. But I also suspect that you would not trust other faculty to teach even their fields of scholarship in a bar prep course.

    That is the real problem with law school. It is ultimately useless. And very expensive.

  8. Another point to consider is that things are going to get worse and worse, and the “success paradigm” will continuously and consistently shift. For instance, at 1L OCI I was interviewed by an alumnus of my T2 LS for a position at a very reputable IP firm. This individual graduated with mediocre LS grades, did not have any significant academic pedigree, or a particularly impressive technical background, and was still able to get a job at said firm and become a partner therein.

    Of course, that was 20 years ago.

    Fast forward 10 years later from that mark, and you needed decent grades and a decent technical background to work at said firm from a T2. Fast forward 15 years from that mark and you needed good grades and a very strong technical background to work at that firm.

    Fast forward to today, and with stellar LS grades, a very reputable and desired UG technical background, and I could barely interview at said firm, let alone get a job there. Instead, I am relegated to contract work I get here and there.

    Similarly, 10 years ago, the top half of Georgetown would be ok, and 75% of those graduating from the T10 would be ok. Fast forward to today, and I think the trend is forming that if you do not go to HYS, you have a more than 50% chance of getting screwed if you go to LS (no matter what other school you attend).

    In 10 years time from now, HYS will not be enough; rather, people will need HYS with solid grades and LR.

  9. When I was interviewing for federal summer gigs, I was continually shocked by the academic credentials of the interviewers. The older attorneys (graduated in last 10-15 years)went to TTTs or even TTTTs or were night students at more reputable programs. All of the younger attorneys (graduated in last 3-5 years) at the agencies were from the Ivies.


  10. 9:08, the legal job market was terrible 20 years ago. Much worse in fact, than it was 10 years ago. There is one difference between now and then however. A graduate from 20 years ago could reasonably expect the market to rebound, as indeed it did. There will be no rebound this time. As you pointed out, if anything, it will get worse.

  11. If law schools no longer work as a process barrier, what good are they? Years ago, when they acted as a process barrier, they were, perhaps, tolerable even if they taught little of value-- as long as the price wasn't too high. But, when they treble the price, act as floodgates to the profession and still teach very little, then what good are they to the vast majority of students?


  12. Off topic:

    I believe that emplotment is the paradigm for the synthesis of all that is heterogeneous in the narrative.

    In any event, we've got to Pray just to make it today (without sounding too cerebral, no offense.

  13. I think that a fairly high percentage of even recent law graduates are happy they went to law school. I don't know why they are happy - but maybe it is worth it to go into 200K debt to make 40K. Are they delusional? Probably. Are they rational consumers? An economist would say so.

  14. It's very hard getting caught up in other people's decisions.

  15. Concern Troll - The conundrum you present is interesting. My take on it is that for the K to JD TTTT crowd the prize at the end of law school is to be able to say, to others but mostly to themselves, "I'm a Lawyer!" Even if they never practice a single day. As you say, "Are they delusional?" William Ockham

  16. Administrators and tenured "professors" are delusional, if they believe that the average student is better off by not working for three years AND incurring $110K in NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt. Then again, these fuzzy-headed academic pinheads have never had much of a grasp of reality.

    At Third Tier Drake, a now-retired "professor" once told me - in the hallway - that the job market is shrinking. His son ended up working for legal aid, after law school. He knew the score, on some level. Looking back, he was the rare "legal educator" who recognized the situation for recent graduates.

    Perhaps, many choose to ignore reality, because it is easier to make big sums of money - for minimal work - if you believe that what you are doing is a social good. Look up willful ignorance. Those who are aware of the shrinking job market, but still believe that they are performing a public service, fall under the category of cognitive dissonance.

  17. Jonathan Haidt just released a new book with some fascinating findings. According to his research, humans actually make decisions and form opinions based more on intution than rational thought, then reverse engineer to make the intutions logical. In fact, he argues humans not only have a confirmation bias, but a very strong one that they are virtually blinded from.

    He suggests this is why as information becomes more accessible, people are becoming more, rather than less polarized. If you are a conservative, there is no shortage of data or sources to reinforce your bias. Same for liberals.

    How much more stratified and cocooned are law professors from the rest of society? They see the world one way, and this is backed up by virtually everyone they know.

    Thus, as DJM reports that Ohio State is hiring five new professors, the current professors are far more likely to see that development through the prism of "less work for me" and thus a good thing, as opposed to "completely unneccessary added expense for our students---a significant portion of which will likely be devastated by the debt they are acquiring at our school."

    As long as the ten thousand dollars is direct deposited into their bank account every single month, what do they care? The majority are likely far more proud of their law review article that 14 people might read than in the lives or outcomes of any random 14 students they might teach.

  18. 2:21: Haidt has some interesting ideas but he completely ignores an even more important paradigm than the left-right one: the libertarian versus statist one. Currently, almost everyone lives in the statist paradigm, and they think left or right within a centralized state are the only choices. Therefore, the choices are whether the government or Monsanto controls you; whether the government should allow gay marriage, abortion, etc. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme these are largely inconsequential choices, as they all lead to dictatorial, command and control authority and therefore loss of freedom. Do you think the millions of people killed under Hitler and Stalin cared that their regimes were supposedly on opposite ends of the left-right spectrum? No, they cared about the libertarian-statist metric.

    Whether you are a conservative or liberal, you should support devolving power to the people or to local communities whenever possible. There are leftist, centrist, and conservative libertarians - the fact that conservative libertarians such as Ayn Rand and Ron Paul are the most powerful symbols of libertarianism right now shouldn't mean that liberals don't have a place within the camp. Libertarians believe in freedom to decide one's own values, and economic exchange through voluntary interaction. Who could disagree with us?

    People like Haidt distract us with values struggles when the only thing that matters is power struggles.

  19. Haidt actually added the "liberty/oppression" componenet as a moral foundation within the last few years.

    You do make some valid points, though.

  20. LawProf, schools should be asking exactly the question you pose and working seriously to get real data. It's frustrating because we already have much of the data available internally (e.g., debt, tuition, and placement information for decades) and could easily get additional data. It would not be that hard, for example, to survey our recent alumni about their jobs, debt, and satisfaction. But it would have to be done as a real survey, not as a "push poll" or PR stunt designed to identify good news.

    But people don't even want to gather this information for the reason you offer: it's literally unthinkable to most law faculty that our enterprise could be harmful to so many students. Rather than confront that reality--and ask whether there's some way to improve the situation--people are stuck in denial.

    That's not true of everyone. A number of my colleagues are starting to express unease, and others are willing to listen when I start talking about debt-to-salary ratios. But most are still searching for an explanation that will make everything seem all right. They're using all of the psychological mechanisms that you and others have written about here--while completely convinced that they are objective, rational people (because, after all, that's what faculty are supposed to be).

  21. Concern Troll, I'd like to think that a high percentage of recent law grads are happy, but do we know that? Anecdotal reports are unreliable in this area because people will remember the reports that support their own beliefs. You may remember a lot of happy grads you've encountered, while Nando will remember all the unhappy ones.

    Even survey results will depend heavily on response rate (the disenchanted may not respond or may not even be in touch with their law schools) and the way questions are asked. Few people like to admit--even on an anonymous survey--that they are unhappy with their lives. Adults between the ages of 25-30, who have college degrees and were smart/hard working enough to finish law school, may have lots of reasons to be happy--even if they also believe that their law degree was a waste of time or money.

    At least some law grads are desperately unhappy about their job prospects and unmanageable debt; we've seen that on this blog. There may be a much higher number who are "happy" overall with their lives (they're in good health, live in a prosperous country, have found a soulmate...) even though their educational debt is a source of constant worry. One has to probe pretty specifically to get information about how a JD and the associated debt are working for a graduate.

  22. DJM,
    Any thoughts on the study published by UVA?


  23. "the legal job market was terrible 20 years ago. Much worse in fact, than it was 10 years ago. There is one difference between now and then however. A graduate from 20 years ago could reasonably expect the market to rebound, as indeed it did."

    I am basically in agreement with all of the above, with the following caveats:

    1) If the graduate from 20 years got out of school more than a year or two before the market rebounded, and wasn't able to get their foot in the door of the legal field in the interim, it did them no good when the market rebounded. Like their modern-day counterparts, a lot of these people never really got to work as lawyers.

    2) The market rebounded, but never to a level that was as good as law school employment stats suggested. Even in the relatively good times of 10 years ago, there were a lot more grads struggling than law schools wanted to admit.

  24. @2:21 p.m.: The faculty prism, I think, is much more insidious than "less work for me." The faculty want to hire five new colleagues (most or all of whom would be replacements for retirements) because more faculty means "better rankings and more prestige." And it's relatively easy for faculty then to persuade themselves that better rankings and more prestige are good for our students and alumni--not just for the faculty themselves.

    For faculty inclined to think this way, the prism has several facets that seem quite rational. More faculty do, in fact, tend to produce higher rankings (or at least maintenance of current rank in competition with other schools who are also hiring). Students and alumni do care about rank, and the school's ranking can even affect job prospects for new grads.

    That's one reason it's so hard to shatter the prism--self interest combines with factors that have superficial appeal and may even have made sense 20 years ago. I do think the debt and salary numbers are striking (and very surprising to many faculty) so I keep plugging away with those. But even there, I think there's the delusional hope that if we just raised our ranking a little, then our students would get much better jobs, and everything would be fine with the world again.

  25. The Monahan and Swanson study is very well done. For those who haven't looked at it, they surveyed Virginia's class of 1990 twenty years after graduation. 72% of the class completed the survey, which is a very high percentage for most social science studies. And the survey was conducted by an organization independent of the law school, with strict assurances of confidentiality, which should have increased the candor of responses.

    But even a well done study like this has serious limits when examining today's law schools--as the authors themselves acknowledge. In separate comments, I'll explain two ways to interpret Monahan & Swanson, both of which can lead to pessimistic views of different types. (I've learned to keep these comments short(er) to avoid the spam filter, so on to a new comment....)

  26. The "positive" way to interpret the Monahan and Swanson study is to accept the data as the authors report it: Twenty years after law school, 81% of Virginia's 1990 grads were satisfied with their decision to become lawyers and 86% were satisfied with life more generally. The average 2010 salary of grads working full-time in big law firms was $523,000, with lower means in other fields. But even in government (the lowest paid category), mean salary was $129,000 twenty years after law school.

    Notably, these grads also thought very highly of their law school preparation. 38.9% strongly agreed with the statement "the University of Virginia School of Law prepared me well for my legal career," and another 45.9% agreed. Only 4% disagreed with that statement.

    If these findings are representative of the class, then they're a pretty happy group. And that can be a problem when challenging the conditions in law schools today: The picture conveyed by this study corresponds very well, I think, with the image most professors have of law school graduates. Most professors graduated from T14 schools (like Virginia) and most graduated in times much more like 1990 than 2012.

    My guess is that recent Virginia grads face many more challenges than these 1990 ones. 78.6% of the 2011 class graduated with law debt, and that debt averaged $117,886. Nine months after graduation, 17.3% of the class was working in fellowships funded by Virginia itself. Those fellows earned from $27,000 to $40,000, with the majority earning the lower figure.

    Yet it is hard for faculty to discard their image of law school careers as they used to be for graduates of T14 schools. The positive interpretation of Monahan and Swanson supports that image--and distracts us from addressing today's practice market for today's graduates at a large range of law schools. Now, remember, that's the "positive" interpretation....

  27. Oops, a correction on the data from Monahan and Swanson: The graduates were surveyed in 2007, twenty years after they began law school (rather than twenty years after graduating). The difference between 17 years in the workplace and 20 probably isn't much, but the particular timing of the survey is: Monahan and Swanson had no way to know that the legal market would crash in 2008, but of course it did. So all of these grads were surveyed before they experienced any fallout from the great recession.

    Sorry to be posting so many comments in a row, but I thought I'd answer the question about Monahan and Swanson.

  28. DJM, I agree that the UVA study is interesting but limited for the reasons you note -- conditions in the legal profession as a whole are very different today for entrants in general, and of course graduates of elite national schools are in many ways an unrepresentative subgroup.

    A side note: I worked on the Chambers study the authors cite (I was Chambers' RA) and this is an area of special interest for me.

  29. It's kind of hard to see how a comparison to a study done 20 years after students graduate with "law students today" is helpful. This is not to deny the problems that have been recounted here, but the fact is that we do not know what is going to happen over the next 20 years. We just don't. We can guess, and may turn out to be correct. But you can't know. So, the Virginia study is interesting for its time. We can't have a 20 year out comparison until today's grads are twenty year out.

  30. Waiting for the negative interpretation of the study...don't leave us on a cliffhanger here.

  31. And now a few negative items from the Monahan and Swanson study; these are data points suggesting that, even for Virginia's class of 1990, things weren't entirely rosy in 2007 (the high point of the legal market). Monahan and Swanson themselves note these facts:

    First, the women in this class had a hard time combining work and family. Only 61.1% of the women were employed full-time in 2007. The most common reason for part-time or no employment was to care for children. That's a choice that the women made, but we have to think about the finances of a professional system that offers high salaries to some but makes it difficult--as a practical matter--for people to earn those salaries if they want to spend time with family.

    Second, although the mean salaries sound relatively rewarding, they appear to mask large variation. When asked to identify household income (which would include the salary of any partner, as well as the grad's own salary), ten percent of the grads reported a pre-tax household income of $75,000 or less. One quarter reported a household income of less than $150,000--that's after 17 years in the workforce and including the income of any spouse.

    Third, although four fifths of the respondents said they were satisfied with their decision to become a lawyer, about half of those respondents (38% overall) were just "moderately satisfied." That still leaves 43% who were "extremely satisfied," an impressive number, but the "moderately satisfied" group might be less enthusiastic than the overall "81% satisfied" summary suggests.

    Finally, there's the question of the 28% who didn't respond to the survey. Are their views similar to those expressed by the respondents? No one knows for sure with a survey like this. If they're just like the respondents, then 81% of the class overall was satisifed with their decision to become lawyers. If the nonrespondents are so happy practicing law that they couldn't be bothered to respond, then about 86% of the full class is satisfied. On the other hand, if the nonrespondents hate their decision--and threw out the survey in disgust--then only 58% of the class is satisfied with their decision and 37% are somewhat or strongly dissatisfied.

  32. I have read this study regarding Virginia graduates before, and I was honestly shocked by it. I went to a solid second tier school and was very near the top of the class (5% or so). I came out in the early 1990's when the job market was terrible (it had tanked really in 1991 as I recall), but not as bad as it is now. Admittedly, few of my school's graduates had ever gone to biglaw in New York or Chicago or Washington or Los Angeles. Hence, I don't know the New York corporate and financial crowd. However, I went into the patent field first in Los Angeles, then Washington and then Silicon Valley during the technology boom of the late 1990s, first a large patent (IP) boutique and then biglaw. At that time intellectual property was arguably the hottest subspecialty and still is warmer than most subspecialties. There was a lot of movement and growth in that field, and admittedly firms grew and shrank (mostly grew and a lot), and the landscape changed rather quickly. During the last almost 20 years, I witnessed a lot of job changing on both coasts and encountered plenty of t14 graduates. My experience is that there are many of those once highly sought after IP attorneys, t14 included, associates and partners alike, who are not presently working at all, who are severely underemployed (as in billing a number of hours that would not be enough to remain employed in biglaw for very long), or who are working in corporations where their compensation does not compare favorably to that reported for the UVA graduates from 1990. Many/most of my colleagues have had rather booms and busts in their career, and unfortunately a very large percentage, perhaps a majority, are in a bust currently. For what it's worth, the compensation reports of the UVA graduates does not appear to me to be representative of the people that I know, largely 1990-2000 graduates, t14 included and biglaw included. I'm just saying, the Monahan and Swanson report does not resemble the reality I know.

  33. DJM,
    Wouldn't the study reflect the downturn in the 90's along with the downturn after 9/11?

    With regard to point #1 on your list, earning a high salary generally requires time and attention commitments that are inconsistent with being the primary care provider for children.

    However, I would note in addition to your points that tuition has increased dramatically at UVA even from 2006 when I started (about $30K) to $45K for this year.

  34. 7:40, I think your observations may connect with the timing of Monahan and Swanson--they collected their data in 2007, when the profession was at the height of a boom. It might be informative to survey the same Virginia graduates now to see how they have fared after the big bust of 2008. Still much better, I'm sure, than new grads coming into the market after 2008, but these more experienced grads must have felt some shockwaves.

    Your comment reminded me of some other interesting points from Monahan and Swanson. First, consistent with your view of turbulence, only 14.6% of the respondents were still working in their first post-clerkship job at the time of the survey. In other words, even after disregarding clerkships (as inherently time limited), about 85% of the respondents changed jobs at least once.

    Second, consistent with comments posted here before about how many associates leave BigLaw, 57.6% of the respondents took their first post-clerkship job in a large firm, but only 27.6% were working in one of those firms 17 years later. Even those figures don't tell us about BigLaw because M&S defined a large law firm as one with 100 lawyers or more.

  35. Leaving BigLaw is a nonissue isn't it? I mean, is there really anyone who honestly thinks they have a chance at making partner? I thought it was common knowledge that you go to BigLaw to get the training and skills and then leave / get pushed out and go do something else. Now, whether or not those "other" opportunities are still around is the question although it appears those opportunities were around for the people in this study.

  36. fat guy, I think the downturns in the 90s and early 00s were different in both kind and scale from the current downturn. I don't have the data yet to support that but my personal impressions are of great difference.

    I was thinking just today, with our graduation on Friday, that over the last two years I have stopped asking graduates what they "are doing next year." That's no longer a happy question to ask at graduation; there are just too many graduates still looking for jobs.

    That wasn't true in the 80s, 90s, and earlier part of this decade at either the U of Illinois (where I taught before) or Ohio State. Even during the downturns, I routinely asked grads about their jobs and most had them. Quite a number didn't get the jobs or salaries they wanted, especially during the lean years, but almost all of them had legal jobs to point to.

    It says something dramatic, I think, when a professor at a top-50 school no longer feels comfortable asking graduates "so where will you be working next year?" And, of course, the even scarier question would be, "so, when do you think you will finish paying off your law school loans? Any chance you'll finish before you send your own children to college?"

    What this says is just what LawProf and others have been saying for months/years now. But it struck me how the questions I ask grads have changed so much. "Where will you be studying for the bar? Will you have a chance to relax this summer? Do you have any travel plans?" Those seem to be the appropriate "happy" questions for graduation 2012-style.

  37. DJM, it's 7:40 here again, you are absolutely correct that many more experienced grads have experienced shockwaves since 2007. I know some of them. I was reading an article from BCG Attorney Search today entitled "Are You About to be Laid Off" which discussed some of the unfortunate changes in the law business as it became a pure business and much less a profession progressively since the 1970's. Lawyers are no longer carried very long by a firm, at least biglaw, once the work decreases, which most often is a pure product of the economy, not the lawyers affected. The relatively rosy results of 2007 are unlikely to remain so true in 2012 among the respondents. For instance, I'll share a personal example. I was hired via a headhunter to a very biglaw firm. They paid 60K to the headhunter to hire me. One small group of partners took over the work that historically had been done by another partner because their litigations had gone away unexpectedly, and whoof, I was put on the street less than 2 years after being hired....given all of 2 months to find another job though it took this really biglaw 3 months to navigate their own redtape to hire me and pay the 60K for the privilege of doing so.

  38. "I came out in the early 1990's when the job market was terrible (it had tanked really in 1991 as I recall), but not as bad as it is now."

    That's correct. It probably bottomed out around 1993 or 1994, and remained depressed for a couple of years after that, not getting back to something resembling normal until 1997.

    With regard to the survey under discussion, though, Virginia may have been highly ranked enough to have been largely unaffected by the down job market of that era. That's one thing that makes the current down job market different from past ones. In the early '90s, the T14 probably barely noticed that anything was amiss. In the current recession, I'm not sure if any schools can say that; at most, maybe HYS can.

  39. @7:40/8:20, ouch, I'm really sorry to hear that--although not surprised. My law school classmates are now in their late fifties, and I've heard about a surprising number of "retirements" during the last three years. Some of them are people pushed out of BigLaw firms--the few who persevered through to partnership years ago only to discover that partnership isn't nearly as secure as they once thought.

    And the selfishness of the "haves" in this recession has really surprised me. I'll have to look back but, when the legal economy slowed in the early 90s, I remember faculty salaries freezing--and I think tuition froze as well. During the last four years, schools have blithely continued raising tuition and faculty salaries. There's been no sense of helping one another (i.e., our students and recent grads) through bad times. The same seems to have been true at many big firms. I don't know if I'm falling prey to the nostalgia trap (people were kinder and gentler then...) or if it's a real difference. But the current ratio of law school tuition to jobs and salaries definitely cannot continue at most schools.

  40. @DJM

    As a 1992 graduate I think it important to recognise that 1990 was a really great year to have graduate from law-school. 1988 and 1989 OCI at say Georgetown was crammed, associate pay had soared to $60,000 to $66,000 and it seemed that everyone who could walk and chew gum at the same time got jobs. 1991 was a bad year to graduate - OCI was way down (about 1/2 or less), job offers were being rescinded and by 1992 the market had cratered and never really recovered and OCI was at about 2-30% of the level it had been. Two years made a huge difference. 1993 was a trainwreck.

    A survey of 1990 graduates would seem to me to be to be at a moment when graduates to some degree have had a charmed moment - never to be repeated.

  41. No, the current ratio of law school tuition to jobs and salaries definitely cannot continue at any school. "Half as many (or less) for half as much (or less)" as LawProf has offered. I am employed again for several years after a few months on the street unemployed after 11 years experience, but the partner I was hired to work for has not been consistently employed since then and he/she isn't a lot older than me. I have tried to make the point repeatedly for months now that even as bad as the first job statistics are, they get even worse long term. Only a small percentage of graduates get high paying jobs at all, and a much smaller percentage remain employed in high paying jobs over a period of 10 or 20 or 30 years. I have made that point to my own law school dean via conversations, and I intend to make it known to the law school faculty who taught me. I have confirmed my anecdotal observations with my law firm colleagues and law school colleagues. The status quo is ruining tens of thousand upon tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of lives based upon assumptions that are no longer true. There are far, far too many lawyers.

  42. "No, the current ratio of law school tuition to jobs and salaries definitely cannot continue at any school."

    Sure it can, easily. Taking out loans to attend a shit law school still beats working at walmart for $7 an hour, even if this vacation only lasts 3 years.



    Rewrite the laws ANNUALLY, and RANDOMLY and make it illegal for any non-lawyer to attempt to interpret or apply them.

    Booyah, full employment + huge huge demand for law schools.


  44. Things will never be how they once were, the "profession" is over. Calling oneself a lawyer is like a chiropractor calling himself a doctor

  45. Hey guess what - apparently I was a fool not only for paying so much for private law school (T2/3) but for completing my bachelor's degree as well!

    This online law school says you can get your JD admission after just an associates! or less!!:

    "A Bachelor's degree is not required for JD Law Admission. The Law School requires only one of the following to be admitted to Novus Law School:

    An Associate’s Degree or
    60 semester units or
    Passed School Exam or
    Five years professional or technical management or administrative experience"


  46. Feeling guilty much?

  47. Anon @12:24am, isn't that pretty much how things are now?

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