Friday, June 1, 2012

And the New York Times said law is dead

Brian Tamanaha has a piece in the New York Times, summarizing some of the main contentions and recommendations of his new book Failing Law Schools.  Brian's description of the situation in legal education is refreshingly concise:

The economics of legal education are broken. The problem is that the cost of a law degree is now vastly out of proportion to the economic opportunities obtained by the majority of graduates. The average debt of law graduates tops $100,000, and most new lawyers do not earn salaries sufficient to make the monthly payments on this debt. More than one-third of law graduates in recent years have failed to obtain lawyer jobs. Thousands of new law graduates will enter a government-sponsored debt relief program, and many will never fully pay off their law school debt.
I hope it comes as a salubrious shock to most readers of the Times to discover that law schools can literally charge whatever they want for their increasingly dubious wares, and the federal government will then loan anyone law schools deign to admit the full cost of attendance (tuition plus living expenses), in the form of high interest non-dischargeable debt.

That this is a recipe for disaster should be obvious to anyone who got to whatever week in the Econ 101 syllabus started touching on the extent to which "the free market" is a heuristic fiction rather than a sociological fact. 

Brian's recommendations fall into two categories: loan reform and accreditation standards.  He argues for caps on the amount of federal loan money law schools should be able to take from students, for making private educational loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, and for changing the ABA's accreditation standards so as to make it easier for at least some schools to offer significantly cheaper models of legal education.

These recommendations are elaborated on at length in Failing Law Schools, and adopting them would certainly represent a significant improvement on the present absurd situation, in which taxpayers are expected to underwrite the budgets of 199 versions of the Yale Law School.

I suspect that for tactical reasons the piece maintains a discreet silence regarding the fairly obvious fact that, given the underlying statistics it is referencing, a large number of law schools need to disappear.  Failing Law Schools consistently puts what is, from the perspective of the status quo, the best possible face on those statistics, again I suspect for tactical purposes, i.e., even the most optimistic reading of the data compels the conclusion that the present structure of legal education is unsustainable.

The real bottom line is that there's a massive and growing oversupply of people with law degrees, and that while stopping the rapid increase and eventually reducing the crazy amounts of debt people are taking on to acquire those degrees would be a positive step, reform efforts must at some point soon address that problem quite directly.

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly report on the state of American labor.  Keep in mind that, as a technical matter, the Great Recession has been over for three years now (GDP has been  growing since June 2009).  People who think an economic turnaround is going to save legal academia's bacon should consider the very real possibility that this is the "economic turnaround," and that the debt-leveraged growth of recent decades simply isn't going to be repeated in the foreseeable future.

In any case, let's consider what's going on not just in the American economy as a whole, but in the legal sector. Over the last twelve months the legal sector has added a total of 4,800 jobs. Keep in mind that at best perhaps 70% of these jobs have been filled by attorneys, since the sector includes all support personnel (paralegals, administrative positions etc.).  So we can estimate that there are about 3,000 more attorneys employed in America today than there were a year ago.

Now a certain number of people who were working as attorneys a year ago aren't today, because they've died, retired, moved into other lines of work, or have simply become unemployed.  The BLS estimates the total annual "outflow" from the profession to be about 13,000 people at present.  So that means that about 16,000 lawyer jobs have been filled over the last 12 months by people who weren't working as attorneys at the time they moved into these jobs.

Note this does not mean that 16,000 new law graduates got real legal jobs, since some unknown number of these jobs were filled by unemployed attorneys who moved back into the legal work force.  It's true that the 2011 NALP stats claim that 25,654 of the nation's 44,258 2010 law graduates had a full-time job requiring a law degree nine months after graduation.  This blog has been dedicated to, among other things, explaining why that (atrocious) 42% functional unemployment rate for new lawyers is actually seriously understated.

The BLS statistics suggest that the real unemployment rate for new lawyers is more on the order of 63%, if "employment" is defined as having a real legal job, as opposed to the the almost unlimited number of fake legal and quasi-legal jobs the NALP statistics count as full-time employment requiring a law degree (such as for example getting hired into a short-term low-paid position by your alma mater in order to goose its reported employment rate).

It's a very positive development that Brian's critique of the growing economic crisis in American legal education and the legal profession is reaching a wider audience.  And it's probably unrealistic to get that audience to appreciate all at once how serious that crisis really is.  After all, law schools have barely begun to grapple with its true extent.  But this is an important start.

UpdateNo comment necessary.


  1. Finally getting in front of the mainstream audience that needs to hear it.

  2. I'm not sure that loosening accreditation standards is a very good answer to the problem. Won't that increase the number of people getting law degrees. Sure, it might be cheaper, but if there are no jobs, what's the point?

  3. To put JD on your res and impress chicks at the bar.

    Woman: “So, what do you do?”
    Guy: “I’m a lawyer.”

    For all she knows he could be really rich or broke. Either way there’s a better chance that he might get laid compared to if he said “Retail Sales Manager.”

  4. I think that if you just post realistic starting salaries on the school's website, then you will see a massive change.

    Undergrads just wont spend more time in school for the same amount of $ that they are already making right now.

  5. Also to further @8:25's point, I bet if you lowered accreditation standards it would cause all law schools to race to the same bottom. There's no point in having libraries with Reporter books that real lawyers never use. As soon as low-cost options are available, the market will force all law schools to stoop to utilize them equally.

  6. Lawyers cannot control the economy. There is a chance to cut costs by creating different types of law schools. Many commenters on this site have expressed exasperation with law professors and theory, law and... classes, and schools that do not emphasize practical skills enough. Fine, there should be schools that do not do any of those things for people here who want something else. Students who want to stick with the HYS model, though even those schools are trying to bring in more practical training, can go with that.

  7. The real issue is whether what Tamahama suggests is lowering accreditation standards - or perhaps allowing them to rise. Tamahama suggests changing that standards to require full time professors to teach more, taking less time for sabbaticals and dubious writing (lots of typos, on the Acela) as well as encouraging more teaching by legal practitioners.

    Would this be a race to the bottom - or would schools where say more law firm partners were teaching actually do better in teaching lawyers and placing them into good jobs? If it turns out to be the second there would be a race, but not necessarily to the bottom - it could be to the top.

  8. The press is good, but I am a bit confused by Tamanaha's motivation.

    First, of course, he continues to profit handsomely from the law school scam.

    Then there is this book...who is it's target audience and what is the goal of the book? Are legal academics and decision makers going to actually spend $25 and read it?

    Is it for students, in order to warn them away from this poor investment? If so, why not provide the eBook for to any potential 1L that wants it?

    At the very least, Tamanaha should direct the profits from the book (probably won't really be any anyway) to Law School Transparency or some similar organization.

    It just seems a little bit dirty to 1) be a salaried cog in the law school machine, and 2) write a book on that machinery and profit from saying how shitty it is.

    Oh well, I guess the eBook will be "freely available" on Peer-to-Peer networks across the internets anyway. Hopefully Tamanaha won't file suit against all of the downloaders and seek millions in damages for that on top of his salary and royalties.

  9. "......fairly obvious fact that, given the underlying statistics it is referencing, a large number of law schools need to disappear."

    There it is....the most important statement of the day.

  10. "......fairly obvious fact that, given the underlying statistics it is referencing, a large number of lawyer scumbags need to disappear."

  11. @Dubious--So, any person who critiques law schools has to quit her/his job?

  12. @ MacK-- I don't think that's what he's saying at all. He does not say all schools have to change what members of the faculty do, requiring them to teach more and research less. Schools that value research can stay as they are. The point is to create schools where faculty don't do that, and those schools can still be accredited. HYS, and others who want to stick with their way of doing things, can remain as they are. But create schools for students who do not want to pay for that.

  13. "The BLS statistics suggest that the real unemployment rate for new lawyers is more on the order of 63%, if "employment" is defined as having a real legal job, as opposed to the the almost unlimited number of fake legal and quasi-legal jobs the NALP statistics count as full-time employment requiring a law degree[.]"

    You nailed it. In fact, law school diploma mills - including the highly-ranked ones - cynically use this as a way to bolster their nonsensical argument "One can do anything with a like degree!"

    Yeah, such as sling lattes, serve pizzas, sell insurance, review mortgage applications and legal documents, teach grade school, walk neighbors' dogs, work the ticket booth at NBA games, sell peanuts at the baseball park, tend bar, become a bouncer, etc.

  14. @9:20

    What I am saying is that the HYS model may not be the model that creates the best lawyers - that a model where there are more practicing lawyers teaching, and judges, and senior government lawyers - and where professors focus more on pedagogy and less on dubious "scholarship" may actually prove to be a better more successful law school - and better at placing its students.

    Look at it this way - what would it mean for Yale (New Haven) and Harvard (Cambridge) if the law schools in New York, DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago were to have numbers of top lawyers including BigLaw senior partners on their adjunct faculty - able to see the bets students up front - would that be a disadvantage to Yale. In answering that question consider the history of the accreditation standard requiring mostly full time tenured faculty - it was pushed form the 1920s and 30s by the Dean of Yale in response to the competition from schools like Suffolk where most of the faculty were senior practicing lawyers, judges and officials.

  15. The wolf in sheep's clothing is unlimited federal debt.

    Here's the reform: (1) max federal student debt per person capped at $100,000; (2) non-governmental student debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy 10 years after origination; (3) federal loans must have an educational institution co-signer or surety.

    Schools want the cash, they get the risk. Problem solved overnight. You're welcome America.

    Will it ever happen? No, because universities, and law schools are evil. Really selfish and evil.

    The model of the altruistic educator stops at high school. In higher ed, there are great researchers and scholars (mostly in science), but the vast majority of faculty care about getting theirs and avoiding the real world.

  16. Dubious

    Your arguments are the very reason that whistle-blower protections are in place. A person can't be fired for bringing important information to the public. Why should a person quit their job when they are performing the same service of informing the public?

    On the other hand, some people feel that his article is common knowledge, so him writing it isn't some huge moral conflict.

    The audience for this book is every potential 0L and their parents, faculty and law advisors at colleges and high schools, and practicing lawyers who are ashamed at how their profession is behaving.

    I'm sure there are plenty of college libraries and local libraries who will have this book available. Students can get it for free that way. Why should the author not get paid? That argument makes no sense to me.

  17. 9:33:

    "Will it ever happen? No, because universities, and law schools are evil. Really selfish and evil."

    True but too general. Along with this "evilness" is a government that is willingly in on the scam that takes lobby money from this crappy industry and passes laws that are favorable only to the industry, while predatory to the borrower. Big business and big government working together as done in education, healthcare, social security, etc....

    In other words, there are so many forces at work here and so many people have a vested interest in the system staying as it is that they will defend it vigorously and with all the weapons (money, press, and lies) at their disposal.

    The only way for things to change is for the entire system to come crashing down on itself and to have a new one put in its place. At the same time, we need to hope that we don't get an evil dictatorship like the ones that evolved in early 20th century China, Russia, 1930s Germany, etc....

  18. I don't think that any law professor who criticizes "the scam" needs to quit his/her job. In fact, being "inside" can be very important.

    That being said, I think those law professors who admit that they're part of a scam should put some of their monies where their mouths are.

    Have Tamahama, Campos, and JDM ponied up any support for Law School Transparency or the like? Maybe they have. If so, great. If not, why not?

    But to write a book about the scam (and probably on paid professor time) and then sell it to potential victims for $25 seems disingenuous.

    It seems a lot like, "I was just following orders...I didn't like what was going on, but that was my job...paycheck please?"

  19. @ MacK, HLS brings in partners from Ropes and Gray, Skadden and others firms like that to teach first year students in a new problem solving course. It is described on the school's website. Good luck with getting partners from top firms to be adjuncts in large enough numbers to form the backbone of law schools in NYC, LA and other cities you mention. That is time away from billable hours.
    Anyway, why worry about HYS at all? Why the need to put those schools down? It just sounds so insecure. By the way,they do produce good lawyers. You keep saying they don't. But, they do. If a new model beats them out, then that's that. The point is not to change them. The point is to open things up for other types of schools.

  20. 9:47 (first one):
    I actually gave that a lot of thought. Thing is, Campos and others are probably financially set for life (or they should be if they've been saving) so giving up some of his pay isn't really all that meaningful. I think speaking out and sacrificing his "social life" at work for lack of a better word is far more meaningful.

  21. Just read a story over at Above the Law. 32 applicants submitted a resume for a legal position that pays $10K a year. $50K a year in tuition X 3 years to make $10K a year? Something is fucking wrong here.

  22. Heckle the law schools day.

    Frankly, there should be organized protests on law campuses. No one has any balls anymore, but this is a scam dammit! Kids, the profs are not intelligent. They are not people to be looked upon with respect. They are sellers, and you are customers, and the customer is always right! Where's that entitled attitude of Gen Y that's omnipresent everywhere but campus. Get angry! Protest! Demand reform!

    These guys are screwing you, and you're just taking it. Wake up!!!!

  23. LP,

    Thanks for your comments on my op-ed. I agree entirely with your observations. The book, which will be out next week, uses very conservative numbers because I want to show that even under the most optimistic scenarios we put out far to many law graduates, and the bulk of new graduates do not earn enough to manage their debts. In fact I believe the actual numbers are worse than the ones I use in the book--and recent data (I finished the manuscript about 5 months ago) show that things have indeed gotten worse, both on the debt side and on the job side.

    As for the readers of this blog who call me a hypocrite for keeping my job, I won't argue otherwise. It's my living and I have no other. Like your stereotypical law prof, I was a lawyer (PD) 25 years ago and have no illusions that I could do it today.

    To the skeptics who ask, I have donated to LST (they read this blog and can confirm it if they want to), and I created a scholarship fund (in my wife's name) for our students in the amount of what I expect to earn on the book. I get that this will not be enough to make up for my sins in the eyes of many readers of this blog.

    What's important at this stage is to keep building the pressure for reform. The scam blogs are doing that--and this blog is doing it in a big way. I hope my book will contribute to that momentum among circles of people who do not read blogs.

  24. Mr. Tamanaha wrote:

    "The book, which will be out next week, uses very conservative numbers because I want to show that even under the most optimistic scenarios we put out far to many law graduates"

    Right. That's why used optimistic numbers. Your entire career has been one of criticizing law schools using rosy numbers that paint a far better picture than would the reality of the situation. I'm guessing your book generally has, oh, an estimate that the output of law grads is too high by a modest 20% or so.

  25. Since Brian mentioned it, I will confirm that he gave LST a generous donation. He's been an incredible ally for us and will continue to be.


  26. Prof. Tamanaha,

    I have to applaud your efforts. You're doing your best with the resources you have available. That's all any of us can do.

    Self-immolation won't help anyone.

  27. I'd also like to add that the majority of the money we've raised has come from law professors.

    If every law professor gave $100 each year we'd be funded for a few years. I encourage people to encourage their professors to donate -- we're struggling mightily. I think we'd also consider a merger with another nonprofit or becoming a funded center at a law school (though we'd have to seriously consider the particular circumstances).

    Personally, I am looking for another job right now because my fellowship with another nonprofit is almost up. This fellowship has allowed me to work full-time on LST in addition to that nonprofit. From the looks of things, LST will be resigned to a hobby.

    I bring my personal situation into this because it points out that the most active voices have something else keeping them afloat. For Brian, Paul, and Debby, it's their lawprof jobs. For me, it's been a fellowship from Vanderbilt. You all need to encourage those who have the ability to contribute to do so, rather than implying that they should quit their jobs. It reeks of short-term thinking.


  28. Kyle,

    Please keep it up. Just sent a donation to do my part. Your data are very good, and I like the position taken by LST on Rutgers-Camden recently.

  29. "I'd also like to add that the majority of the money we've raised has come from law professors."

    That's an interesting bit of news.

  30. With the technology available today one would think that the bricks and sticks or rather the physical structure of the University is not all that necessary anymore.

    Recorded lectures can be posted on the internet and administration and and other jobs can be eliminated if the educational experience became more virtual.

    Costs could then go way down wouldn't you think?

    And as far as meeting and dating women, I have never had a problem with that, Law Degree or no Law Degree, Student, Painter, unemployed or whatever.

    The real problem is finding someone who wants to stay long term with or possibly marry someone with so much debt like myself.

    Women are lovely creatures that want to have faith in men and believe the best about them.

    Green Grow The Rashes Oh!

    The sweetest hours I've ever spent
    I spent among the Lassies oh.

    And don't none of you go talkin bad about Tamanaha


  31. Drunk already, Painter? It's still early, even for you!

  32. "This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly report on the state of American labor. Keep in mind that, as a technical matter, the Great Recession has been over for three years now (GDP has been growing since June 2009). People who think an economic turnaround is going to save legal academia's bacon should consider the very real possibility that this is the 'economic turnaround,' and that the debt-leveraged growth of recent decades simply isn't going to be repeated in the foreseeable future."

    Consider also that the BLS statistics are about as reliable as law school student employment reports, and that the real economic situation is even worse than is being reported, and may get worse still.

    But you're right, the first step in "reforming" legal "education" is to close about half of the law schools.

    Before the scambuster movement really can gain traction, expect a major PR counteroffensive from the law school cartel. The loudest argument from the most marginal schools (i.e. the first that should be closed) and their loan shark allies will be that they are making legal education "affordable" and "available" to otherwise shut-out students, which will correspondingly make legal services "more accessible" to the underprivileged. It's a pure lie, but they'll preach it like gospel.

    Massachusetts is adding yet another law school based on this reasoning.

  33. To answer the commenter's question: I have also given to LST and encourage others (especially professors) to do so in any amount they can afford. Kyle and his colleagues have done an incredible job. Months ago, a commenter on this site made another suggestion that I also followed: I gave 2% of my law school salary to our students' public interest law foundation to fund summer fellowships for students. That seemed like a useful suggestion because the summer fellowships offer hands-on experience when paying summer jobs aren't available. I can't remember who made that suggestion, but I liked it.

  34. 10K a year: Mainstream News:

  35. DJM:

    That is great. Does not change the fact that I have not heard you once advocate shutting down law schools. Instead you talk about diversity and other red herrings.

    I would give $$$ to LST but I just spent a bunch on a headshrinker. The topic of convo? Two many lawyers, too few legal jobs, and life-crippling student loan debt.

  36. I consider Brian, Paul, and Deborah to be on the right side of this thing and I appreciate them for it.

  37. @1:30 - I dont get this hate against DJM and Law Prof and BT?

    These people acknowledge that there is a problem and work to try and solve it.

    Who gives two shits about anything else? For speaking up against their own self interest we should be grateful, as it aids much needed legitimacy to our plight.

    If you want to give them something, I suggest a high-five.

  38. How is DJM going to shut down law schools? Schools will shut down when students stop applying. It is not likely that her school will shut down. Why is there an imperative to talk about things you cannot control? Of course, some people like to do that, but that is a personality trait that is neither good nor bad.

  39. The word people are looking for is "misdirection."

    The point isn't the moral purity of the professors who are speaking up. It is whether the critique they are making is valid, and whether the solutions they propose would move the ball downfield. Since the answers to both questions are unequivocally yes, complaints about the messengers are transparent bullshit.


  40. Re "The Update" from LawProf and the post at 1:27.... meanwhile BC, which posted this "job," reports on its website that the median private sector salary of reporting 2010 grads is $160k (overall response rate given as 261/265, but this doesn't mean they all reported salaries).

    If their grads are doing so well, why post this job at all?

    It's not only the TTTs that are "massaging" the data. Nando, you need to start looking at what more of these so-called "1st Tier" schools are reporting!

  41. 1:37s:

    I have no hate towards any of them. I see Lawprof and BT (to a lesser extent) directly or indirectly hinting at less law schools. Where do you get that I am hating on one, much less all three? I am on their side, even if I don't necessarily agree with DJM's stance, I believe her heart is in the right place and I respect her for giving money to the movement. I would too, if I could.

    Furthermore, I did not say that DJM should be shutting down law schools-as if she has that magical power to decide. I was saying that she is not ADVOCATING for their closure. Her solutions seem to be soft and fluffy. Almost the way a politician sounds when they are running for office. Lawprof and BT, through their writings, appear to be a heck of a lot more blunt and to the point.

    It is my right to disagree in much the same way it is your right to disagree with me.

  42. @1:30 p.m., Are you sure you are listening when I speak or write? Or do you just get irritated by my comments on diversity and then typecast me?

    I believe that many law schools should and will close; I've said that before. I've also tried to find realistic paths to that end: One was my letter to the ABA's Accreditation Committee in November advocating that schools be allowed to maintain accreditation only if their tuition level corresponds with their graduates' earning power (as measured, in part, by any type of loan restructuring, like IBR; deferral; or default). My letter had a number of related recommendations; I plan to continue pursuing all of them with the accreditation committee.

    I would say that my data collection efforts against schools, sometimes reported in these comments (Pepperdine, New York Law...) also do something for the cause, wouldn't you?

  43. Huey Lewis: Note that BC reported salary information for 92 people in the private sector, which is almost exactly the same number of graduates that got jobs with law firms of more than 100 attorneys (87). This represents about a third of the entire class. So the school's reported law firm salary data appears to be limited almost precisely to those graduates who got high-paying jobs.

  44. DJM:

    @1:30 p.m., Are you sure you are listening when I speak or write? Yes...but I have not followed EVERY word that you have spoken or written so it may be that I missed something.

    Or do you just get irritated by my comments on diversity and then typecast me? No....I try not to typecast. It is wasted energy.

    "I believe that many law schools should and will close; I've said that before." Bravo. Again, maybe I missed it. I have not seen you write it until now. This is all I needed to hear:):):):).

    I have no disagreement with the rest of your post.

  45. 1. Yahoo isn't mainstream news.

    2. As I keep trying to tell you, the reason a few law grads are unemployed is purely and solely their own fault. They're bums. They don't do anything. They always ask others to do stuff for them. Just look at this deadbeat bum asking DJM to "shut down law schools" (lol). I guarantee you he can't even get his lazy ass out of the chair in his bedroom, at his mother's welfare funded house. All these lazy bums do is sit around asking for handouts (loan forgiveness), whining and asking others to do stuff for them.

  46. 2:03:

    "As I keep trying to tell you, the reason a few law grads are unemployed is purely and solely their own fault. They're bums. They don't do anything. They always ask others to do stuff for them. Just look at this deadbeat bum asking DJM to "shut down law schools" (lol). I guarantee you he can't even get his lazy ass out of the chair in his bedroom, at his mother's welfare funded house. All these lazy bums do is sit around asking for handouts (loan forgiveness), whining and asking others to do stuff for them."

    Are you sure you are not talking about yourself, scumbag?

  47. 2:02 is a troll. Ignore him (or her).

  48. ^^^

    *2:03, not 2:02.

  49. @ 2:06, probably best not to feed the flaming trolls...

    Just a suggestion.

    More generally, note that LawProf's article concludes with "Update: No comment necessary.". For whatever reason, that's a cryptic reference to a (linked-therein) post at ATL on the $10K/year lawjob BC LS posted to its students (and defended having posted). See:

  50. Professor BZT: Do you know why comments are not enabled at your NYT opinion piece? Most of their op/ed pages allow comments, but for your piece it seems no comments are allowed (or I'm just too dumb to find them....).

    For those lamenting the milquetoast nature of BZT's NYT piece, it's useful to note that they (and WSJ as well) seem to have a habit of rejecting legal-interest articles that are more firebrand-like in nature.

  51. I agree with Painterguy, and commend his perspicacity.

    And I love Robert Burns!

    Technology has made the physical presence of a Professor mostly obsolete, and has also made the University as Real Estate unnecessary, save for perhaps sporting stadiums and nostalgic old libraries, and maybe an art gallery.

    Eliminate the Bricks and Sticks and cut back on faculty pay, and focus on real education, and the cost of a University degree will come down and students will perhaps not even have to borrow money for one.

    And, of course, shutter half the law schools.

    I guess the law schools think it's neat
    to gobble on the lending teat;
    to know that half the student body
    ne'er will buy a pissin' potty;
    to ride that gravy train on tracks
    laid across poor debtor's backs.

  52. LawProf (@2:02), So noted, thanks. It's rather curious that not a single one of the 33 grads working at <100 firms chose to report salary. (Note: I do not have an axe to grind against this institution, quite the opposite, but I want them to report honestly!)

  53. Federal student loans and IBR are the problem. Please focus on this. Please do something about it. We're going to end up with a generation of indentured servants in the legal field. That's crazy.

  54. Query whether IBR violates statutes proscribing peonage.

  55. "Federal student loans and IBR are the problem. Please focus on this. Please do something about it. We're going to end up with a generation of indentured servants in the legal field. That's crazy."

    In other words, "I'm a bum and I want a free taxpayer handout to get a three year vacation, without any consequences whatsoever."

    You had your fun for three years, now pay back your debt you deadbeat scum.

  56. I'm so tired of people pretending like they went to law school to get a job as a lawyer.


    You went because you wanted to escape reality. Well you got your escape. Time to pay up.

  57. @3:49PM

    You sound young

  58. "You had your fun for three years, now pay back your debt you deadbeat scum."

    Wow. Just wow. I pity the person who wrote this down and published it.

  59. RE: The Title of this post--

    It sounds like the Sir Elton John (BTW Elton John is solidly one of the 99%) lyrics to a tribute song about Levon Helm, who died recently.

    But here is a somewhat problematic quote by Levon Helm:

    "Dad and mom would have preferred that I be a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, or a great humanitarian."

    Which is not to say that Helm wasn't a humanitarian, perhaps.

    But still, why is (with no College degree) Baby Boomer Capitalistic Icon Elton John so outrageously rich, while at the same time the outrageously indebted Indentured Educated American class so poor now?

    Ideologically speaking: the counterculture, after "gutting the humanities" as a prior poster said, who made reference to Philosophy Allan Bloom, went on to become pretty horrible in terms of its disdain, if not outright hostile contempt for Higher Education and students, to the tune of 1 Trillion Dollars.

    Today, my stomach pretty much turns whenever I hear the Rolling Stones, and pretty much all of baby boomer classic Rock and roll, going on half a century now, and I wonder if Classic Rock will be seen someday by future generations or at least by the rest of the world as very low level expressions of American Capitalism and its untutored art during a historical cruel anomaly.

    As Plato said: If one wants to take the spiritual temperature of a society: Mark the music.

  60. LawProf/BT:

    Have either of you ever done a direct comparison with how legal education works in other countries? I'm a Canadian student studying in the U.S. (my tuition is covered, thankfully), and it seems the Canadian model, while unlikely to succeed in full because of the very different political cultures, has some helpful recommendations for the U.S.:

    - Loans are generally dischargeable in bankruptcy 7 years after graduation
    - In cases of "hardship," you can cut that down to 5 years
    - In cases of "bad faith," the government can deny the forgiveness. Given the politics of the U.S., it seems like this kind of clause might make legislation allowing for bankruptcy discharge of loans more palatable.
    - Student loans are done jointly by federal and provincial governments, but in all cases they are capped (much like BT suggests) by year and by total amount one is able to borrow. I think my cap for three years of education is about 75k or so.

    Some other notes:
    - Obviously the number of schools is also more heavily regulated in Canada--the main problem to this system is the influx of foreign trained lawyers, a problem that isn't really replicated in the United States
    - Something that will probably never fly here: interest doesn't accrue on loans until graduation and the interest rates in general are much lower (my provincial rates are at prime and federal are at prime+2.5
    - Because costs usually aren't met by the government loans, most students have to secure a LOC with a bank--and some are denied if their credit is bad enough
    - The "articling" system (students article for a year post-graduation) has some interesting effects on employment, but one thing it does, I think, is give a very good sense of whether there are more students than there are jobs -- because articles are for one year and are a barrier to employment, the oversupply of lawyers is very easy to calculate: students (domestic + foreign-trained who are accredited through the NCA process) - articles = oversupply. It is much easier to hide the unemployment ball in the U.S.

    BT's piece this morning reminded me of the Canadian model so I just thought I'd raise it as a point of comparison. I'm also of the impression that Canadian law schools have ruined far fewer lives than their American counterparts.

  61. - Forgot to add the obvious: tuition is about half of what it is in the U.S. U of T is by far the most expense school and last I checked it was in the high twenties for domestic students. Most are cheaper by thousands. This is balanced by the lower salaries in Canada, of course (Bay Street biglaw pays just over 100k, I think)

  62. 4:42, Canada:

    You are describing student loans as they were (generally), when President Johnson initiated the product. The terms:

    1. 2% interest, fixed.
    2. BK was allowed
    3. No capitalization on deferment and forbearance. When a borrower could not pay, nothing accrued, credit was not hurt, and the student loan companies waited until the borrower could pay.
    4. Standard loan rules applied to them.
    5. Dirt cheap tuition.
    6. Plentiful jobs.
    7. BK rights were taken away after 7 years in the late seventies, then totally removed. The scumbag bankers moved in and lobbied the scumbag Congresspeople to slowly take away protections until you get the POS you have today. It is no coincidence that when BK protections were removed in 1998 that college costs soared beginning in 1999. They went even higher when private student loans became non-dischargeable in 2005.

    None of these rights were taken away all at once. They progressed over time. Come July 1, 2012, graduate students will no longer be able to take out subsidized loans at all.

    In other words, the system was fine until big business and big government came together to 1) make money off education and 2) get the press to create lies in order to increase demand, while 3) shaming the victim into making sure they are vilified if they do not pay their debts.

    My father, a Baby Boomer, struggled to pay on his student loans when he first started in his career. He wrote them a letter stating that 1) he was just starting in his job at 12K a year (1973), 2) his non-working wife just had a baby (me), and that because they were a one-income household he could not afford his payments (borrowed 12K for seven years of higher ed). They wrote him a letter back stating that they understood and that he should send payment when he was able to do so. A few months later he did send them payments and when I as ten years old I remember him announcing that he had paid them off.

    These loans allowed my father to build a business, hire hundreds of people, create hundreds of jobs, and make a name for himself. He has money and lives a good life.

    Funny (not haha) how things change.

  63. I was stupid enough not to go into his line of work. I chose THE LAWWWWWWWWW.

  64. Fuck the baby boomers. They'd never hesitate to fuck you.

  65. Haven't read all the comments yet, but was wondering if anyone else got an ad for Thomas Jefferson School of Law at the bottom of the op-ed page. LOL


    Law firms and academia the two biggest "campaign contributors" *cough cough* to Obama

    Of course I wouldn't expect Romney to be of any use to the Student Loan, and Law School Debt issues

  67. reform will not take place. All we can do is spread the word and sue.

  68. I'm still laughing at that $10K a year job post and 30 applicants, freaking morons. I would say more for them but the reality is if they really value there skills (legal and non-legal skills) at only $10K a year, then they deserve their lot in life.

  69. I was watching Salman Khan of Khan Academy fame talking at the All Things D Conference in Silicon Valley yesterday. He is planning to put law lectures on his web site.

  70. Poor Grad:
    Check your spelling, you $5K ...........

  71. Surprised they are offering even $10k/year. I heard that many grads are so desperate for experience, that firms having to beat back the hordes of applicants for free internship positions.

  72. Am I missing where it says the position is full time? Isn't it possible and more likely it's part time?

  73. I'm still laughing at Tamanaha's excellent response ITT to Prof. X's usual, embarrassing trolling.

  74. It says on BC's symplicity quite clearly that it's a full time position, and that the expected pay for a first year is around 10k, although even that is not guaranteed - it could be even less. It's a percentage of work billed AND collected.

  75. What makes for "Good Faith?"

    If a SL debtor uses an economic hardship deferment option for one year, is that year a year of bad faith?

    Is it good faith for the banks to pile on more interest during that year?

    And why is it, as far as student loans go, that the method for dealing with a debtor (either un or underemployed) is to pile on more and more interest and penalties until the loan may well become impossible to ever pay off?

    In fairness to the Law schools, all of this will take place in the time to come after graduation, and that is why the scam can be said to be multilayered in that first comes the LS scam, and then comes the SL scam.

    I don't know what a pyramid scheme or scam is, but one cannot deny that there are multiple parties to one overall Scenario, if you will,
    that is likely to keep a borrower in debt for life, and those parties are:

    The Schools
    The Lending Industry
    The Collection Agencies
    The Federal Government

    And then one must conclude that it all translates or merges into an ideological problem, which June 1, 5:13PM seems to have described Re: his father and his letter to the rather more benign bank.

  76. As a practicing lawyer who is against cannibalizing our young, I am grateful to LP, BT and DJM for speaking out. The law school scammers have used the cream of at least one, perhaps two, generations to inflict horrendous damage to a once noble profession.

  77. A Saudi princess was caught trying to leave the Shangri-La hotel in Paris without settling a six million euro ($7.4 million) bill for her rooms, police said Saturday, confirming a report in the daily Le Parisien.

    Maha al-Sudani, the former wife of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Nayef ben Abdel Aziz, tried to walk out on 3:30 am Thursday without paying for her suite and those of her 60-strong entourage, prompting staff to call in police, Le Parisien reported.

    The Saudi Arabian ambassador was also contacted during the incident, added Le Parisien, which noted that Sudani enjoys diplomatic immunity.

    When contacted by AFP, the luxury hotel's director Alain Borgers said that that are "no problems" with its clients and "no unpaid bills" at the moment.

    The princess has already had previous run-ins over unpaid bills. In 2009, fashion chain Key Largo went to court to obtain 89,000 euros owed by the princess.


    lmao at you poor losers

  78. Some might criticize BT or Paul Campos for holding on to their positions while criticizing the system that allowed them to have those positions.

    What those people forget is that BT's and Campos' positions as insiders give them the knowledge and authority to offer a clear analysis of the situation. I, as an outsider, know there's something wrong, but there is much that I don't, and probably will never, know about the way law schools and the legal professions operate. (That's why I touch on them only peripherally in my own blog.)

    It makes me think of how some of the best advocates for peace--and for dismantling the military-industrial complex--were military men like Smedley Butler. And, it took a former colonial officer--Charles de Gaulle--to convince the French establishment that holding onto what remained of its overseas empire was actually weakening France.

  79. I pulled an old paperback, published in 1968 by Fawcett/Ballentine Books, off the shelf and found this Ad on the back page. It says:

    27 million Americans can't read a bedtime story to a child.

    It's because 27 million adults in this country simply can't read.

    Functional illiteracy has reached one out of five Americans. it robs them of even the simplest of human pleasures, like reading a fairy tale to a child.

    You can change all this by joining the fight against illiteracy.

    Call the Coalition for Literacy at toll-free 1-800-228-8813 and volunteer.

    Volunteer Against Illiteracy.
    The Only Degree You Need in a degree of caring.

    Ad COUNCIL Coalition for Literacy.



    The ad struck me as ironic I guess in that illiteracy probably is not as harmful to one's solvency or finances as a JD is today.

    In fact, I would gladly surrender all of my diplomas and even eagerly become illiterate if that were possible, and cut off my right arm and sell a kidney if it would get me out of a lifetime of soul destroying debt.

    There are times when I am so depressed about it all.

    The negativity and downward spiraling drain of debt. Hard to get out of. Maybe impossible.

  80. "There are times when I am so depressed about it all."

    So depressed that you forget to wipe your rear end?

  81. To all the victims of the Law School scam:

    Start life over and try your best to get into an entirely different field or industry outside of law. You have to do this and have no choice but to try.

    If necessary leave the JD off the resume and make up some story about what you were doing for those 3 wasted years of life and income.

    It is your only hope, and you might have to even emigrate to another country.

    There will never be anything other than token and patchwork, watered down changes to the scam and to the student lending system that will never be of any help to you.

  82. The damage here is not only to the young. There is extreme pressure on employers to make room for the young oversupply of lawyers. The oversupply of lawyers has caused extreme harm at all levels of the profession and all ages. Ten years ago and before then, the legal profession was much more stable. Now the profession is pyramiding lawyers into greater levels of unemployment, the more experienced they get. LawProf's whole point about experienced lawyers making less than new lawyers is so true at the median compensation.

  83. "There is extreme pressure on employers to make room for the young oversupply of lawyers."

    You're an idiot with no understanding of economics. This system has create a legal employer's paradise.

  84. No Fucking health insurance, and no fucking air conditioning in my truck which I cant afford to fix, and the fucking power steering pump made a loud squeal and just died as I was driving down the fucking road today.

    Ever try to steer a truck after the power steering pump fails? It is a real hump.

    No Fucking way can I afford to pay a mechanic to replace this part, which should only cost about 65 bucks.

    Anyway, here is how to replace it and this is what I am going to do tomorrow.





    Remove the serpentine drive belt, Refer toooling.
    Remove the hoses from the power steering pump and cap the fittings.
    Remove battery ground cable and unthread stud from cylinder head, do not remove from bracket.
    Loosen upper bracket bolt and remove the lower bracket to engine block bolts.
    Pivot the pump assembly past the coolant tube.
    Remove the upper stud and remove upper bolt from cylinder head.
    Remove steering pump and mounting bracket from engine as an assembly.
    Remove the pump pulley, to access pump attaching bolts.
    Remove the front pump bracket On 8.0L engine remove rear pump bracket

    Install the front pump bracket and tighten bolts to 47 N·m (35 ft. lbs.) On 8.0L engine install rear pump bracket and tighten nut to 47 N·m (35 ft. lbs.), tighten bolts to 24 N·m (18 ft. lbs.)
    Install the pump pulley.
    Install steering pump assembly on the engine block. Install the upper stud and bolt in bracket.
    Pivot the pump down past the coolant tube and install the lower bolts in bracket.
    Tighten the bolts and nut to 41 N·m (30 ft. lbs.)
    Connect the hoses to the pump.
    Install the serpentine drive belt Refer toCooling for belt routing.
    Fill the reservoir with power steering fluid, refer to Pump Initial Operation.

  85. "There is extreme pressure on employers to make room for the young oversupply of lawyers. The oversupply of lawyers has caused extreme harm at all levels of the profession and all ages."

    The only thing with "extreme harm" is my head after reading this BS.

  86. @6:39 "The oversupply of lawyers has caused extreme harm at all levels of the profession and all ages. Ten years ago and before then, the legal profession was much more stable. Now the profession is pyramiding lawyers into greater levels of unemployment, the more experienced they get. LawProf's whole point about experienced lawyers making less than new lawyers is so true at the median compensation."

    Others disagree with one of your points, but the above points that I quote are true. I am a patent lawyer. I used to refer to patent law as the rolls royce of the law business. No longer. There has been tremendous consolidation of the patent work into NLJ250 firms from the patent boutiques. As the consolidation has occurred, only the most profitable survive in the NLJ250 firms, and many are thrown away. Then, the NLJ250 firms work their leverage schemes so that there is a massive influx of new hires, and seasoned experienced people are pushed out. This is a new phenomenon in the patent law business. Moreover, these unfortunate and inhumane dynamics have produced a huge glut of patent lawyers. You are entirely correct that the law business is "pyramiding lawyers into greater levels of unemployment." I admire LawProf's work and efforts immeasurably. However, I chuckled when LawProf assured Stanford students that they were in a different league and would have much better results than the majority of law students. This may be true in the short term, but I know from experience that it is not true in the long term. As a veteran of Silicon Valley, I know multiple unemployed Stanford (as well as Berkeley, UCLA, USC, GW, Georgetown, Penn, BU, BC, UVA, etc.) graduates a few years out of law school. I know of scores of law firms of X or X, Y, and Z Law Firms where X, Y and Z have little if any revenue.

  87. But Stanford students will have a better shot at doing something else. All any school is is a shot. The idea that any school creates a guarantee of lifetime employment to everyone who goes there is a fantasy. So, LawProf was right about the relative prospects of Stanford students.


    1 c. fresh orange sections
    1/4 c. orange juice
    4 c. cranberries, fresh
    2 1/4 c. sugar
    1 c. chopped unpeeled apple
    1/2 c. raisins
    1/4 c. chopped walnuts
    1 tbsp. vinegar
    1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

    Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until berries begin to pop. Chill until serving time.

    This colorful sweet chutney is the perfect accompaniment to meat dishes, especially at holiday time. Keep stored in refrigerator. Yield: 5 1/2 cups.

  89. @9:34 AM

    Agreed, although a number of the BigLaw patent and IP departments are leaving ... the leverage model works badly for them.

    One issue that has not been addressed is the impact of the extreme level of legal competition on lawyers' professional ethics. Even in IP litigation I am increasing astonished at what lawyers and even reputable law firms are willing to do. The level of competition is such that there seems to be no line on behalf of a client that many lawyers are unwilling to cross - and it is much worse than say 20 years ago. Then a lawyer could and would "fire a client" when they wanted the lawyer to do things that were unethical and would reject matters that were pretty unconscionable - though it was rare - today, it seems that so many lawyers are willing to do anything because they fear losing the client so much.

  90. "One issue that has not been addressed is the impact of the extreme level of legal competition on lawyers' professional ethics."

    This is actually a good argument for shutting down some law schools. The adversarial system can only police so much.

  91. Good News!

    Sort of.

    It turns out that the problem is not a failed power steering pump.

    It is the alternator, which is a lot easier to replace. Two bolts and an electric plug! And, I can do it standing up and not from underneath the truck.

    You see, what happened was that last fall...

    last fall like I say, my AC compressor unit failed, and was making a constant squeal.

    So what I did was go and get a shorter serpentine drive belt and bypassed the AC pulley altogether.

    The problem was that the new belt was a tad short or rather too tight, and it caused too much tension on the alternator pulley, and even made the alternator housing crack under the added stress.

    Well, 8 months or so later, and yesterday, the alternator bearing finally froze up, and what happened then was the entire serpentine belt snapped off (That was the big squeal I heard).

    When the serpentine belt breaks, the power steering unit has nothing to drive it, nor does the fan and alternator, or water pump etc.

    Gosh darn it I'm lucky I wrestled the truck home home and the engine didn't overheat and sieze as well.

    So what I am going to do is get a new alternator (about 200 to 250 bucks and I'll go down to NAPA auto parts and get a price and also try Auto Barn to see if they sell it cheaper).

    This time around I will use the original length serpentine belt, which I had kept, and not bypass but rather include the AC pulley, and listen for tell tale squeals from under the hood from the AC unit in case that pulley siezes up. Like I say the AC compressor is shot, but the pulley still spins freely, so I might be able to buy some time with it and try and scrape up the money to either get the AC fixed or maybe do the AC repair myself. To have someone do it costs around thousand bucks. (half of a full monthly student loan payment for me)

    After all, summer is upon us and some really hot days are ahead.

    Another day in the life of an underemployed poor student loan debtor with ruined credit.

    If I could get a credit card, I would be able to get the AC fixed right away.

    But I don't and we do what we have to.

    And hey that Orange Chutney recipe sounds delicious, although I'm more of a marmelade fan myself :)

  92. Larry Lessig has an article in today's Atlantic:

    It is his commencement speech at John Marshall - Atlanta. Lessig, for those who don't know, is the leading legal ethic's professor at Harvard - which means he taught an awful lot of law school deans their ethics. My post in response is below:

    I would be so much more impressed if Larry Lessig had discussed the ethical issues that law faculties around the US (many populated by Deans he taught ethics to) are facing in being honest with their own students - many of whom are going massively into debt based on fraudulent and deceptive employment statistics peddled by those very law schools. Ethics starts close to home - you cannot teach ethics without being ethical. On that level it is worth looking at the Law School Transparency Project's rating of John Marshal-Atlanta (there is another in Chicago). Ethics also requires the nerve to say things - and no mention of John Marshall's dismal performance entered Larry Lessig's speech - or possibly the real reason a nephew with no experience plans to "hang-a-shingle," the dismal employment results of this school.

    John Marshall is one of the law schools "hiding the ball" by not releasing is National Association for Law Placement report - the NALP report would be a good guide to the real employment statistics for the school - this for a law school that costs over $200,000 to attend, most of whose students are graduating with student loan debt, and thus most of whose funds come from the taxpayer. For those who don't go the the LST website, only 24.7% of John Marshall law graduates appear to have secured real legal jobs 9 months after graduation - less than a quarter. If you add in the desperate 12% who have declared themselves - with no practice experience - sole practitioners - you get 36.1% - and that was for 2010. The recession in legal jobs has become worse and the data is doubtless worse this year.

    Most lawyers regard legal ethics professors with disdain because they talk ethics and don't practice it. Here is a prime example - the entire legal academy, pretty well every lawyer, the New York times knows of the crisis in legal education and the ethical failings of law school administrations (heavily Harvard graduates and Lessig students) that promoted the mess. And from Larry ............ we're waiting......waiting.......waiting.......

  93. Larry Lessig has taught legal ethics to lots of law school deans?...

  94. He is an ethics professor who teaches at Harvard and has taught at other legal academia feeder schools ... what do you think?

  95. Mack:

    I liked your post. Why don't you email it to good ole Larry? That way, the solid points you made does not become a discussion amongst ourselves but rather, a discussion between him and his criminal colleagues. Just a thought.

    If you don't want to do it, let me know, I will send it to the hypocrite.

  96. Hey loser bum with a shitty car:

    1. Take public transportation. You're not entitled to a car. Why do law school failures (bums) always feel like the world owes them something?

    2. No one gives a crap about your car. Please stfu.

  97. What do I think? I think we would have to have a bit more information to know that he has taught legal ethics to lots of deans. The Safra Foundation that he heads is not strictly about the legal profession. He does not head the HLS program on legal profession, which is what you are talking about. How do we know he has taught legal profession at all the schools where he has worked?

  98. I am waiting to hear of an ex-pat community of young, heavily indebted J.D.s setting up in London, Paris, Barcelona, or some other place where they can break free of that millstone hung around their necks. There are a lot of bright, educated, young people that have been completely fucked over. They studied hard, earned a graduate degree, and now they are ruined. There is so much wasted potential in their creative talents. There is nothing for them here anymore.

  99. And exactly how are they going to "set up" in "London,Paris,Barcelona" without work visas and no prospect of getting one?

  100. Well, the answer is I don't know how. There are tons of young, bright folks with no reason to stay here and drown. Some will turn to alcohol, some may set themselves on fire. But some are going to bail.

  101. They better have a lot of money in their bank accounts, or they aren't going to get "to bail" into Europe.

  102. Good point. I shouldn't have limited that list to three in Europe. Canada, Mexico, South America, anywhere but here.

  103. 3:31 - Inside The Law School Scam is not where I normally go for recipies, but thanks for the alluring concoction. A word of caution though. 30+ years of law practice leads me to suggest that anything with that much citrus juice, made for attorneys, should contain a lot more vodka. William Ockham

  104. Re the 10K "job," it is legit, and the posting is drawing attention even beyond the scamblog community:

  105. This is because the economic recession left most people with corporate jobs unsure of their financial future. HVAC Schools in NY


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