Friday, July 6, 2012


A former student came by earlier this week to share the good news that he had managed to get a job with a small local firm. I had given him phone and written recommendations for it, and he had no other current employment possibilities, so I was pleased and relieved.  He wanted advice about what to do about his loan situation, so we went over it a bit.

His after tax salary is going to be around $3,300 per month (this is typical and perhaps a little higher than average for small firms in the area).  Rent is going to run him about $1000 per month (average for a one-bedroom apartment).  He has around $125K in law school loans (no undergraduate debt fortunately), so he would have to pay about $1475 per month on a ten-year repayment and around $910 on a 25-year.

So in the first instance that would leave him with a little more than $800 per month to live on for everything other than law school debt service and rent, which to this decadent baby boomer's ear sounds almost impossible, although of course I realize lots of people in this fair land have to manage it somehow.  Plan B would kick that figure up to $1400 per month, which seems more "realistic" (especially in theory rather than practice), but which would turn his law school debt into the equivalent of a larger than average mortgage that he would be stuck with until he was 50.

He asked me about IBR, which he had just heard about recently, so I told him what I know about it.  And of course all this conversation was contingent on the assumption that he can hold onto his job for a good period of time or convert it into a similar or better position, which, given the volatility of very small firms in the current legal economy, is a problematic one.

All this, by the way, adds up to an unambiguously "good" outcome, in the context of what's going on with our current graduates.  (Real legal job, i.e., non-temp full-time employment requiring bar passage = better than median outcome).

Would it be considered a good outcome by the typical graduates of, or prospective students at, elite or sub-elite law schools?  No it would not.  Let's take a quick look at how many graduates of such schools are in fact having similar outcomes (or much worse ones).  I've taken the new ABA data and calculated a "clearly bad outcome from an ex ante perspective" percentage for the top 20 schools.  This includes graduates who nine months after graduation are unemployed or whose status is unknown, employed in a law school funded job, re-enrolled in school, working for a firm of ten or fewer attorneys, or are in "business and industry," in "academia," or in a state or local clerkship.  Everything else counts as a good outcome.  Also, I'm assuming for the purposes of analysis that everybody who is listed as having a job in "academia" is actually employed in a law-school funded job, to avoid the risk of double counting in that category since no doubt a lot of grads employed by their own schools are dumped into that category.

Now of course this method is both over and under-inclusive.  Some individuals in these categories have had good outcomes from the ex ante perspective of prospective students at high-ranked schools -- they're in state supreme court clerkships, or in six-figure consulting positions, etc. On the other hand a lot of people categorized as having had good outcomes clearly haven't.  I'm counting all firm jobs with firms of more than ten attorneys as good outcomes, along with all "government" jobs (which could mean practically anything) and so forth.  The point isn't to make individual judgments but general estimates, and if anything this estimate is conservative, especially once we're past the HSY tier, where "business and industry" probably does mean something positive in most cases (At Yale and Stanford that category includes 3-4% of graduates.  By the time you get to Chicago it's 9%. Head north to Minnesota and it's 17%).

Anyway, the numbers:

Yale:  21.4%

Stanford: 10.9%

Harvard:  20.9%

Columbia:  19.0%

Chicago:  26.6%

NYU:   26.6%

Penn:  20.0%

Berkeley: 22.2%

Duke:  25.5%

Michigan: 29.5%

Virginia: 31.1%

Northwestern: 25.8%

Cornell: 31.8%

Georgetown: 34.3%

Vanderbilt: 37.9%

Texas:  45.0%

UCLA:  50.0%

USC:  45.9%

George Washington:  47.3%

Minnesota: 64.4% 

So basically with the charmed exception of Stanford something like one out of four to five of grads at the very top schools are having what traditionally have been considered by graduates of such schools clearly bad outcomes -- a ratio that becomes more like one in three toward the lower half of the T-14, and then immediately falls off a cliff toward the bottom of the top 20.

And of course all this has a ripple effect down the food chain.  When people from top schools take jobs -- state appellate court clerkships for example -- that traditionally would have been considered bad outcomes for T-14 grads but good outcomes for top 50ish school grads, the top 50ish grads that would have taken those jobs in the past are instead taking traffic court positions where they're paid $35K to be slightly glorified secretaries for a year before becoming formally unemployed as lawyers. Etc.

Good times. 


  1. As a graduate of one of these top top schools, I can tell you that it is a struggle to work after a few years. In my case, it has been the last ten years or so. I am currently unemployed for the nth time. I work hard, look good, am personable and am very good at what I do. I would think it is me, but most of my similarly situated classmates are in the same boat if they are not working for the government. Going to law school, even a top law school, is a mistake if you want to be in a good position to earn a living. Be a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or educator in a lower cost area, or something else where you have a better chance of getting and holding a job as long as you want. The odds are stacked against you long term from one of the above schools, no matter how hard you try. The floods of new people coming in will take over your job sooner or later. Just look at pictures of formerly famous actors or fashion models as they age. Do you really think these guys can compete with actors and models at their prime. The truth is you will be history in a profession that is putting out many times the lawyers that society needs each year, even from the above top law schools.

  2. The glut makes this an employer's market. We all know that a JD does not make you stand out, in non-legal positions. If anything, it makes you come across as a desperate loser who couldn't land a legal job - especially with interview committees comprised of ignorant Boomers. Hell, they may think "Why is this guy turning down the big bucks to come work here? What's wrong with him?!"

  3. w/r/t budgeting for debt repayment: the firm likely has minimal health insurance and no firm matched retirement accounts. Get sick or old, and you're on the street. And that's if you can keep the job long enough to get sick or old.

    In retrospect, striking out at real legal work and going into regulatory/complaince work was my most fortuitous failure. I have good health insurance and a %5 gross matched 401K.

  4. A lot of those listed in "academia" esp. from top schools are actually in joint JD/PhD programs, so it makes no sense to count them as "bad outcomes."

  5. Perhaps the student should look into cheaper lodgings (studios) or get a roommate.

    I make $170,000 a year and I have a roommate, and we each pay $800 a month in non-controlled rent in the NYC metropolitan area. There are even cheaper accommodations a few blocks away in Union City NJ, but I figured I would splurge a bit.

  6. Law Prof, good for you for helping this student land a job (even if it is a far from ideal job) and for knowing enough about IBR and such to give him honest, educated opinions about the matter. That alone is far more than maybe 90% of law professors are willing or able to do for their students.

  7. At some point, the trickle down stops and merges into the same giant pool. This is why there are a lot of TTT/TTTT schools that have better 9 months out numbers than much higher-ranked places.

    I know this because I was an honors grad at a top 75ish school. Ten years ago, the top 10% at my school would land lower-tier BigLaw, state appellate clerkships, etc. Today unless you hit a home run at OCI, you're getting cast in the outcast pool as everyone else.

    One of the many crude realizations of life at a lower-tiered school is thus that there is almost no incentive to even try at all after OCI. The outcome for the 76% grad is almost equal to the outcome of the 6% grad when they're both thrown in the pool: whoever schmoozes the right ass first will get a job first. There are complete idiots from my law school who nabbed jobs during 3L year while 4/5 of the top 10% remained unemployed.

    Small law employers, it turns out, don't really care about grades or skills or specialties. They only care about who someone knows from something or other. And in some cases, they will openly discriminate against people who went to nicer law schools than them (a firm full of American and Catholic grads isn't normally hiring a Virginia grad as an associate).

    So the "food chain" not only has pushed people "lower," it's also pushed more people into the "indistinguishable" pool where non-merit criteria decide life's fortunes.

    What a swell system.

  8. "A lot of those listed in "academia" esp. from top schools are actually in joint JD/PhD programs, so it makes no sense to count them as "bad outcomes."

    On what planet is a PhD not a worse outcome than a JD?

  9. 6:40: From the OP

    "Also, I'm assuming for the purposes of analysis that everybody who is listed as having a job in "academia" is actually employed in a law-school funded job, to avoid the risk of double counting in that category since no doubt a lot of grads employed by their own schools are dumped into that category."

    So he's not counting "academia" as a bad outcome. Idiot.

  10. The US Labor Dept. just released the monthly jobs report for June: 80k, down from 100k the month before. "Official" unemployment is at 8.2%, the actual rate of un-and-underemployment is much higher. The economy needs 125k new jobs a month just to keep up with population growth.

    The devastation in the legal hiring market is just part of a comprehensive employment crisis. The best strategy for young people in this environment is to try to stay out of debt, which should preclude taking on ANY non-dischargeable school debt to attend ANY institution, T14 or not.

    IMO the "recovery" is a sham. And the political process is a farce performed by Corporate-owned Party A vs. Corporate-owned Party B. Our economy, and culture, is in a slow-motion collapse.

    Change must come. It will come. But who knows what form it will take?

  11. I can't wait until the united front that the law schools present cracks. Mark my words: this will happen.

    At a certain point when the leftist ivory tower of some fairly decent (or even objectively good) schools are threatened, they will turn on the TTTs and the ABA.

    I can't wait to see a George Washington versus Cooley knife fight.

  12. Anyone who wants to be an academic in the legal profession will go to a federal clerkship. There is no academic category after law school that is really a success. A few people will legitimately get MBAs for a year. A few people mostly with MBAs will take business jobs. These few categories are the exception rather than the rule because of the sprialing cost of education today.

    Most important point is that the job openings these grads take are for the most part dependent on pushing other older grads from the same schools out of their jobs. There is little growth in the legal profession. The job you want is not from an up or out system that dings 95% of all hires or from a difficult boss who is permitted to run through a high percentage of lawyers he or she supervises and put them out on the street without cause. Very few legal openings are the permanent growth types. The prospects are poor for all but a small percentage of the top tier grads.

    The real problem is that all of the above schools are graduating much too many people. If they were forced to do the survey, it would be obvious that the only reasons the new grads get jobs is that they are pushing the older grads out of work. It is a sick system of systemic unemployment and underemployment, and it hits hardest if you are not a white male and do not want to work for the government.

  13. "As a graduate of one of these top top schools, I can tell you that it is a struggle to work after a few years. In my case, it has been the last ten years or so. I am currently unemployed for the nth time. I work hard, look good, am personable and am very good at what I do. I would think it is me, but most of my similarly situated classmates are in the same boat if they are not working for the government. Going to law school, even a top law school, is a mistake if you want to be in a good position to earn a living. Be a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or educator in a lower cost area, or something else where you have a better chance of getting and holding a job as long as you want. The odds are stacked against you long term from one of the above schools, no matter how hard you try. The floods of new people coming in will take over your job sooner or later. Just look at pictures of formerly famous actors or fashion models as they age. Do you really think these guys can compete with actors and models at their prime. The truth is you will be history in a profession that is putting out many times the lawyers that society needs each year, even from the above top law schools."

    The fate of the 5th-year or so attorney has to be the next front in exposing the law school scam. Here in NYC I can say that my anecdotal impression is that this poster's experience is pretty common but not sinking through. Plenty of T20 or whatever grads are getting BigLaw jobs but not accepting the reality that, just a few years down the road, the vast majority of them will be let go, many of them scrambling to form their own "boutique" firm or worse.

    Newbies simply have no idea how nasty, brutish and short most BigLaw careers are.

  14. "lot of those listed in "academia" esp. from top schools are actually in joint JD/PhD programs, so it makes no sense to count them as "bad outcomes." "

    Please pardon my ignorance, but don't joint JD/PhD programs graduate on the same schedule?

    Or does the JD get done first, and the PhD take a few more years (and years of debt)?

  15. Law Prof. You can find out about the nature of "business and industry" jobs by looking at the reported salaries. Your are right, It does not mean the same thing at HYS as it does at many other schools. For 2010 the average salaries for people in that category at HLS was over 120k, the median 122,500, 75th percentile was around 143k, 25th percentile 115k-- it's up on the site. Do you have any other information about 2011?

  16. I feel bad for your student, but I really oppose IBR. All IBR does is subsidize Colorado law school. Why should taxpayers subsidize this young man's tuition? How is that 'fair' and how will it improve legal services or solve the problems with the glut of law students?

  17. It is not that people do not want to stay in biglaw or in a good in house job. They are not allowed to stay. The only question is whether you get enough notice of your inevitable termination to go to your next job, or whether you will be humiliated and be put out on the street.

    You need to understand that these are not legitimate terminations in the sense that they do not relate to bad performance.

    The result as a lawyer gets older and older is decreasing ability to earn of living of any kind.

    If LawProf could force even the T6 to reveal their numbers by 5 year intervals from graduation and by minority status and sex, you would see a high proportion of the older grads who are not white males long-term unemployed from the T6 schools. All of this while 80% of the younger people from the same schools in the same categories have jobs, in some cases $160,000 + jobs.

  18. @6:52, you yourself may want to go back and read the OP. Yes, LP counts academia as a law-school funded job. But he also does count law-school funded jobs as a "clearly bad outcome".

    So you should maybe avoid labeling people as idiots indiscriminately...

    (Disclaimer: I am not 6:40 who you labeled an idiot, and overall I think 6:40's point is incorrect. But at least 6:40 was not guilty of a fundamental reading comp error...).

  19. &7:14 here-- average salary was... Sorry

  20. With regard to JD/Phds- I am at a well-regarded school, and there are only THREE (3) people at the entire school doing that. That is not screwing with Professor Campos's numbers.

  21. 7:03 wins Inadvertent Alliteration-Packed Comment Of The Day With:

    "It is a sick system of systemic unemployment and underemployment, and it hits hardest if ..."

  22. Assuming this student has a pre-tax income of approximately $50,000, I just ran the numbers. Thanks to the federal government's giveaway to the law schools, he will only have to pay $415/mo if he gets into IBR. At the end of IBR, he will have had a total of $105k forgiven by the taxpayers. What a damn scam!

    Not to pick on the student, who in many ways still is screwed, but this is not fair to those who graduated a few short years ago, are drowning in debt, and yet have to now compete with a flood of newbies in an invisible-hand-proof scam between the law schools and the government to keep them open and keep them subsidized. Complete Bullshit!

  23. how do i apply for these traffic court positions

  24. Harvard had zero 2011 grads listed as going into academia so 6:40's point is basically a load of crap. Probably just a law prof trying to deflect the conversation with ridiculous quibbles.

  25. Law schools are like Soviet factories manufacturing product despite market forces.

    You can't turn off demand for school, so long as there are desperate young people out there who will return to the student womb if only to defer the miserable reality for three more years and to take a spin on the roulette wheel.

    You can't turn off supply of schools so long as someone else -- read the taxpayer -- is paying the bill.

    This is pure madness!!! Make it stop, please make it stop.

  26. It's also an interesting point about counting all law school funded jobs as a presumptively "bad outcome". Again, it depends on the school and the job. Some of those folks at HYS are at jobs they want to take because they think, and they have been right in the past, that it will help them get on at that place or one like it--usually the very competitive and scarce public interest jobs. Others, of course, are using it as a bridge to give them more time to get somewhere else. That's not great, but it's a good thing if schools do not just drop their graduates off into nothing. I know structural change is a comin' and blah, blah, blah. The question is what do you do with people now as that transformation rolls over us. Is it good for schools to find jobs for their weaker graduates or not? The critical point with this was to get schools to be transparent.

    Also, it's not clear that it is worse to be in a say, two year fellowship with health benefits, than it is to be in BigLaw for two years and then be sent off. The graduate in a school funded position might actually get more work experience that would make him/her marketable than someone who has just spent time in BigLaw without being trained to do anything.

  27. I agree with 7:43, but it's nice to see that Brian Leiter still visits the website from time to time.

  28. 7:28

    If this the grad from the OP pays $415/month for 25 yrs. (I think this how long loan forgiveness takes), he will have payed $124,500. This leaves him $500 short of of the 125k mark that he took out in the first place. Maybe it isn't fair in the sense that he got a 'better deal' than those who aren't in IBR but I don't see how this is really screwing the tax payer - especially when the amount forgiven is taxed as income at the end of the 25 year IBR period. So tack another 25 - 30k (income tax) on to the amount paid to the government.

  29. Probably just a law prof trying to deflect the conversation with ridiculous quibbles.

    That sounds like Orin "but aren't law firms scamming their clients" Kerr.

  30. 7:47,

    7:28 here. Tell you what, loan me $125,000 now, and I promise to repay you $415 per month every month for 25 years. Sound like a good deal?

  31. @ 7:28

    The tax payer neeeds to stop being ignorant, malicious, and uninformed. If the tax payer does not want to get fleeced by subsidizing the rentier class's need for desperate and indebted wage slaves, then the tax payer should END the federal subsidy. Only the rich and brilliant will benefit from education. There is no need for everyone to get a college or law school education. Plenty of high paying blue collar jobs out there if you enter at the right time and dont become over qualified.

  32. 7:52,

    How is the tax payer being screwed by IBR? Not a high enough return?

    I'm not saying its an intelligent thing to do with 125k or that IBR is a reasonable response/solution to the student loan crisis.

  33. Why is this guy living in a 1BR for $1000? He should be living with 3 roommates and paying $400. Man up, entitled brat! Get your own place when you can afford it. I'm sick of subsidizing these people.

  34. Frugal_and_PuzzledJuly 6, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Why do you budget living in a 1BR for $1000? He should be living with 3 roommates and paying $400. Get your own place when you can afford it. I'm sick of subsidizing these entitled people who can't be frugal. Let me guess, the guy is going to lease a new car, as well.

  35. 8:07,

    I think it self evident even with the $415 per month/$125k borrower, but let's juice the numbers a bit. Say borrower took out $200k with everything else equal. Still repays the same under IBR, and taxpayer gets an additional $75k plus interest screwing. Now $250k . . .

    What do you think IBR will do to tuition? Hint, it won't lower it.

  36. One of the drivers of this scam is the EEOC which will not challenge the age pyramid at law firms. Another driver is $160,000 jobs almost all of which at up or out firms that do not have to disclose their placement rates or more importantly, the placement of their alumni who left 5 or 10 years ago and longer than that. Many of the $160,000 jobs lead to long term underemployment, but the T20 do not have to disclose that fact to anyone.

  37. @6:14 a.m.
    "Going to law school, even a top law school, is a mistake if you want to be in a good position to earn a living. Be a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or educator in a lower cost area, or something else where you have a better chance of getting and holding a job as long as you want. The odds are stacked against you long term from one of the above schools, no matter how hard you try. The floods of new people coming in will take over your job sooner or later."

    This is exactly correct. The law firm environment is nasty, toxic and inhumane for the most part. I have been unemployed twice in 20 years. Once, a small boutique firm in the city I went to law school in hired me expecting/hoping to get work from a corporate client that instead tanked so that the work never came, and once, after a power play where one group of partners assumed the work that had historically been done by the partner I was hired to work with, both me and the partner I was hired to work with were driven out. DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL IF YOU WANT ANYTHING RESEMBLING JOB SECURITY OR A STABLE CAREER. I have lived on both coasts to remain employed, and I am in a field that was considered booming for a long time. I know so so many unemployed completely or severely underemployed after they worked for several years...and these are the ones who scored biglaw as a first job out of law school.

  38. Why do you assume the people for whom data is not available all had bad outcomes? Some of them may just have been too busy/uninterested/hard to find to give the information.

    Same for 2-10 lawyer law firms... Are they really so horrible that they categorically are bad outcomes?

    If you're listing percentages down to the tenths of percent, it makes it look like you have very precise information, but in reality there's no reason to assume the worst automatically.

  39. 8:11AM

    A few points on the rent - it does depend on where he is living and the local rents there. $1000 would be cheap in DC for example. In addition a new associate is expected to work horrendous hours - I started on §337 cases for example and worked such awful hours that we took to referring to the Connecticut Avenue Filenes as Flynn's laundry because that was where we go clean shirts, socks and underwear - once I could afford a housekeeper to come in (my fiancĂ©e now wife insisted when she found me doing laundry on my day off a month, I did not have to buy a new shirt or shorts for 5 years). I had a rent stabilised apartment with heat, light etc, included - but that was an odd result of my work history. Otherwise I would say that the $1000 includes utilities.

    Moreover, I had friends that tried the house share as junior associates - bad idea! The typical roommate that you can get in such a share does not understand the need for sleep, not partying at the weekend, hygiene, etc. Plus, house shares are usually rare within the 10 minutes, 3 metro stops of the office I needed to have to accommodate the working hours.

  40. 8:43: The reporting range for these schools is around 99%.

    Yes a job with a 2-10 lawyer firm is a bad outcome for almost anyone going to an elite school. That's why the percentage of grads from the very top schools going to such firms was essentially zero until quite recently, and is still very low. But you don't have to go far below the very top to find schools (like UCLA and GW) sending dozens of grads to such firms. These jobs had a reported median salary of $54K in 2010, and since salaries were reported for only a third of them the true median was no doubt quite a bit lower.

  41. Correction: The reported mean was $54K -- the reported median was $50K.

  42. Law Prof; Any answer to my question about 'business and industry" jobs and salaries at HYS? Sorry if this is readily available somewhere and I'm just not unaware.

  43. In New York, Con Edison tried to cut the bennies and pension of its unionized work force. They went on strike. They have six figure salaries, benefits, and pensions. They are not going to be punished for trying; instead, they will be rewarded for voting for the right people.

    Why do kids insist on going to get an education? If you can't go to Harvard or your parents are not rich enough to make other people cover up your medicority, the answer is not to go to college, and especially not law school.

    Its not worth it. This is a rich man's game. Vote for the politicians and do not become a wage slave working for the guy with a trust fund.

  44. just unaware...terrible typing today

  45. Whatever happened to the Congressional investigation?

  46. The placement statistics of the T20 are better called the Biglaw Scam. Most of these firms have actual policies against keeping more experienced non-partner lawyers except in tiny numbers. They also have policies for how they will fire to bring in the newbies. Two months notice or 2 months salary with no notice is common. The top firms are getting more and more top heavy with experienced non-partner lawyers because people cannot find comparable jobs from Biglaw in large enough numbers.

    In the old days, law firms did not fire. They gave ample notice so their lawyers could leave for other jobs. While it often took several months even up to year, lawyers would land in decent places with long-term opportunities. Often these places were mid-sized firms.

    The legal job market has changed, but Biglaw's firing policies that apply to most of their hires have not.

    Go figure. For many Biglaw alums, these circumstances spell long-term unemployment and underemployment after Biglaw.

  47. If your former student is reading this, my one recommendation would be to do whatever you can to live beneath your means. Pack your lunch, drive a used car, buy suits on sale at a department store, etc. etc. Insofar as I have a happy life as a lawyer, I attribute it to frugality.

  48. 9:18,
    Actually market for BigLaw is three months paid severance. Usually you can negotiate an additional three months where you are still considered an employee.
    That's not to say landing in a new job is easy, but how much more do you expect the law firm to do?

  49. 9:04,

    Everyone has been conditioned to get an education and to avoid working with one's hands unless in the surgical room. It's the same reason everyone bought a hula hoop, a McMansion, etc. Americans are sheep.

  50. A general point. Even when you take the successful outcomes - i.e., a job in BigLaw earning say $160k to start, the alumni of BigLaw I have either interviewed or worked with (when they are in-house) are generally poorly skilled for lawyers at say 5-15 years experience. This underpins their poor employment prospects when they ultimately get the push from BigLaw. As a GC I preferred to hire people from mid-level firms (30-100) that had a broad mix of work because they generally had developed better practical skills and judgment than lawyers who were in BigLaw.

    Some of this problem can be ascribed to the departmentalisation of BigLaw - corporate does corporate, litigation does litigation, etc. I have before described the Skadden "senior ...." who after 9+ years at Skadden had spend his entire time assembling HSR 2nd Requests - who we could not hire because that was the only thing he knew how to do. Only Skadden would have a job for this guy - he had a "high level of micro-competence."

    But another big factor is law school debt. It is unreasonable to pay a 1st year associate $160k - indeed $100k is pretty steep. To make this pay an economic proposition that associate has to be used in two ways - in a limited role where he/she can achieve micro-competence quickly - and on tasks where there are unlikely to be complaints about the time billed - "due diligence" and until recently massive document review projects (now clients complain about those costs.)

    Partners and senior associates, under pressure to bill hours themselves also do not want to give a 1st or 2nd year the sort of project that will often require that partner or senior associate doing the task again - so drafting a contract (from scratch), or a pleading, or a brief. I do give juniors tasks where the first few times I need to redo most of the product, and I show them what the issues were - and it takes a while, but they make my life easier because after a while they can do stuff with limited supervision. We can do this because many of our clients have put us on a monthly retainer - which used to be common 30+ years ago.

    However, returning to my general point - even in 1992 when I left law school, it was an open secret that the really big firms offered monotonous and unvarying work, that one would get very limited experience in such a place. Still, my classmates flocked to such firms (and I secured two offers in overseas offices, but both offices folded, leaving me high and dry to join a small boutique international trade/antitrust/tech firm.) Why did they do it - prestige was one reason - and money to cover their student loans. People who in principle had choices took bad options because of student debt. In a weird way I probably benefited from the implosion of my offers, because I got much better experience, which, "touch wood," continues to serve me well - as compared to classmates who exited law school with, on its face, better credentials. But my pay sucked for 5 years compared to my peers.

    In a roundabout way what I am saying is that student debt and the high cost of law school also drives the poor long term prospects that so many BigLaw lawyers are now experiencing (that and Hildebrandt pushing billable hours targets that are insane on law firm managements.) The need to be paid say $160k as a 1L drives the inability of large law firms to spend time on training and mentoring.

  51. One of the drivers of the Law School Scam is the up or out. It is not appropriate in large corporate-like organizations which dominate high paying jobs and placements into high paying jobs in the entire profession. Up or out should not be allowed. Law firms should be forced to have a reasonable cross section of age groups in associate and other non-partner legal positions.

    Once you get rid of the up or out, the Law School Scam comes to a standstill. There will be limited $160,000 jobs. Prospective law students are not going to go to law school for a 1 -2% chance of earning $160,000 at best.

    The EEOC has perpetuated this scam by allowing an incredibly age discriminatory up or out system to permeate the high paying jobs in the legal profession.

    The EEOC should change its position immediately and not allow up or out in large law firms because they are like corporations and they dominate the high paying jobs and high paying placements in the U.S. legal profession.

  52. Some biglaw is 2 months notice, some 3, some none but equivalent severance. Depends of the firm Anyway, when you go into biglaw, know that you may have to get out quickly.

  53. I've never heard of anyone getting no notice / severance except, of course, in the firms that went under. If that happens it's an unrepresentative minority of firms.

  54. @9:24,

    Yeah well, people need to get de-conditioned. Even if you graduate totally debt free and get a BL job, which is one of the absolute grand slam victories in this LS game, you still are not going to be better off than a blue collar municipal worker when you factor in the fact that you had to spend 7-8 years to get the education, and that you will likely be underemployed or unemployed 3-5 years after your BL stint ends. AND THAT IS THE BEST CASE SCENARIO. Almost no one gets that.

    So why risk your whole life and sacrifice the best years of your life for such a shitty outcome?

    Let’s say I am wrong. Let’s say blue collar work for the major cities sucks; you can always go back to school. Once you have the education though, the gatekeepers guarding the path to that sweet, sweet government gravy train will fuck you. They will not let you get a piece of the action because you did what they could not do, and they want to punish you for it. You got A’s in school, they got Cs. You got college and professional degrees and they got GEDs. You joined the military to protect this country and put your ass on the line, they voted for the right people to get jobs with a less than .00001% chance of getting injured, but they get to say “their job is dangerous.” You come home from Iraq to find the unemployment line waiting, and they go on strike because a 120k salary, full health benefits, and a pension that rivals people’s salaries is not enough: AND THEY WILL GET THEIR WAY. Consequently, when they look at you, they hate you. They want to punish you for trying; they want to elevate their ego at your expense. So if you get the degrees first, you are screwed.

    However, if you try those blue collar jobs first, without getting the shit pieces of paper, then you will not be punished. If I am wrong, you can always go back to getting a degree or many degrees. The student loan slave scheme will be there waiting.

    There were quite a few cops, firemen, and even one plumber that attended my shit law school. Guess what? When we graduated, 98% of those guys went to work doing what they did before they enrolled. One cop told me “fuck man, I cannot believe how good I have it, this is crazy (laughs out loud). What kind of a profession is this? This is a fucking joke, I got all Cs and I am going to make more money than everyone in this class by doing a job that requires 2 years of community college. And to think I was going to throw it away. Imagine I went straight through school and did not become a cop before enrolling, Fuck, I feel bad for you kids.”


  55. @9:04; wow, a whole post from you without once mentioning getting a job as a cop? Is the sky fallin'? ;-)

  56. lol @ 9:47, I know right? We should all apply for one of those 500K per year cop jobs.

  57. Hey that kid making $3,300 after taxes is doing WAYYYY better than most law students and Americans.


  58. "The EEOC should change its position immediately and not allow up or out in large law firms because they are like corporations and they dominate the high paying jobs and high paying placements in the U.S. legal profession."

    Yes, because underproductive overpaid overentitled old people are not enough of a drag on the American economy.

    It's so funny when an old person loses their high paying job and NO ONE, I MEAN NO ONE wants them because in reality they bring nothing to companies.

  59. even in 1992 when I left law school, it was an open secret that the really big firms offered monotonous and unvarying work, that one would get very limited experience in such a place. Still, my classmates flocked to such firms

    That was also true when I graduated in the late '90s. I was one of the half dozen or so students in my class who chose to go to a firm in a small city. Not surprisingly, I'm also one of the half dozen or so students in my class who is still with the same firm where he started his career.


    Sorry, but I always have this knee-jerk reaction to categorically general statements, and feel the need to moderate them.

    This profession does also reward ability alone. Maybe there are fewer success stories in 2007-12 than in 2000-06, but they are still there. And yes, there are likely fewer examples of the self-made success story than of the monied kids who make it, but again, they do exist.

  61. Why do we humor the law schools? How about this solution: Anyone who can pass the damn bar exam and who has apprenticed with a licensed attorney for 3 years can be a lawyer. And there will be no federal student loans for law school.

    This solves the problem. People who want to be lawyers still can be lawyers. Many law schools will close. The oversupply will disappear. Law schools will be optional.

    This system worked quite well for, oh, i don't know, say 200 years. When the law schools took over, they fucked the profession all up.

  62. LP: I wanted to take a closer look at one of your assumptions that you used to calculate your statistics: that a state clerkship for a graduate of an elite school is a bad thing, so I looked at the 2010-11 clerkships reported by HLS students (it's on the Intranet, but let me know if you need to review it for some reason.) There were 18 state supreme court clerkships reported (split between AK, AZ, CT, DE, DC, HI, MA, MD, NJ, TX, and VT - several of these courts have more than one clerk.) There were nine state intermediate appellate court clerkships reported (MA, OK, VA, TX, WA - again, with multiple clerks going to some of these courts.) Finally, there were two state trial court clerkships reported - one to the "state trial clerkship pool" of RI, and one to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

    On one hand, it's indisputable that this is definitely a dip in outcome. For example, the list of HLS state clerks for 2007-08 indicates that there were 14 - all state supreme court jobs (AK, DE, MD, MA, NY, TX, VT, with multiples). On the other hand, it is still not the case that HLS clerks are flooding the ranks of the state trial courts - though it's exceptionally discomfiting that there are even two such clerks. Still, I can't conclude that a state supreme court clerkship is a "bad" outcome: every state supreme court clerk I've known has had a great experience and raved about their court and justice (yay anecdata!) As for the intermediate appellate courts, while assuredly a step below what HLS grads would consider in good times, they probably still provide useful experience to people who are likely to be practitioners in the state in question. I don't think they are an adverse outcome - just not a great one. I agree with your assessment of the state trial "clerkships" - but 2 people (out of a class of 580+ going there) is statistically trivial.

    Sorry for focusing in on just one school, but I don't have access to the same breakdown of data for any others.

  63. 10:15 here again. I understand and agree with LP's point about "trickle down" issues. However, I don't unilaterally agree that "one out of four to five of grads at the very top schools are having clearly bad outcomes" - though I could definitely sign onto "one out of four to five of grads at the very top schools are accepting offers that they would not have had to consider in 2007." (also NB: re: clerkships - this isn't just because of the economy. It's also because judges have moved en masse away from the LCHP - more because it irritates them than because of the economy - and are happily hiring alums rather than 3Ls.)

  64. Could someone please review for me the tax consequences of IBR and the other income-based program, at the end of the "term" when the balance is forgiven? I seem to recall that one results in tax liability for the borrower, but the other does not.

    A few days ago I was talking with the parent of a 2L at a "top tier NYC" Law School [to preserve his and his child's anonymity, I won't name names]. He noted that although she was going to be $200K in debt by the time she finished law school, she was "certain" she could qualify for IBR, since she'd worked for a well-known and highly competitive NYC-area public defender-type outfit prior to law school, had done well in law school, and had received indications from the PD-type outfit that they wanted her back.

    I was trying to explain to him the various pitfalls in this scheme: the need to remain employed at an IBR-qualified program AND the tax consequences of loan forgiveness. But I was uncertain about the details.


  65. Any debt forgiven for the 25 year IBR program will count as income and will be taxed by the IRS. E.g. run of the mill law student who works at Starbucks and cannot obtain a job that pays the minimum required monthly obligations for his/her loans.

    Debt that is forgiven at the end of 10 years as part of the public service loan forgiveness program is not counted as income. The public service loan forgiveness program applies to teachers or work in certain areas of the government or nonprofit (501(c)(3)). organization

  66. @9:44, 9:47, and 9:50,

    If you dont have a trust fund and have to make your own way in life, most city cop gigs beat law 9 times out of 10. And of those remaining 1 out of 10 outcomes, there are cops who do make 500k a year, while living a better life than most people who get the 1/10 "good" outcomes in law. Is it likely? No, but neither is success in the law and other white collar fields.

    I promise you that if someone acquired the stats, we would find that the number of post-boomer successes in this business who did not come from money is staggeringly low. Much worse than any other profession.

    Yet, this is one of the hidden motives for this catastrophic policy: people born with money wanting to attribute their success to something other than bein born with money, and foisting this fiscal catastrophe on the rest of us. God damn shame that so many lives are going to be destroyed as the tax payer gets fleeced.

    There are other blue collar jobs that provide great income and stability as well, but I guess people prefer white collar slavery.

    When you read some of the hubris filled comments made by some people here and elsewhere, the only pity one can feel is for the tax payer.

  67. 10:47:

    When I read the constant rhetoric in this blog's comments about the desirability of police officer jobs, I wonder how many commenters here are genuinely up for experiences like this:

    Keep in mind, that officer had an "unambiguously good outcome," to use Paul's terminology, in the context of a law enforcement position in which he is daily called upon to risk his life. How many commenters here, who often complain about the "cushy" salary and benefits that police officers supposedly receive - and who apparently wish they had gone into the police academy rather than to law school - are prepared to do the same?

  68. 10:15-- I agree. LP overstates the case in saying that 1 out of 4 graduates at top schools are clearly having bad outcomes in a number of ways, but chiefly because it ignores context. They have had to work harder to find jobs and may take jobs (good to mediocre ones) as opposed to the "super fantastic ones" they would have taken a few years ago. Unless you are in a tunnel, and don't see the economic devastation stalking the land, getting a steady paying good job, but not the great one you wanted, is not clearly a bad outcome. Everyone is being adversely affected by the changes in the legal profession, but to suggest that everyone but Stanford is in the same boat goes too far.

  69. 10:15: As someone doing the SSC route from a top school, I'm convinced it will be a great experience. I can't wait to start and it should be a lot of fun.

    But the more important question for purposes of calculating whether the grads going into SSCs are getting good outcomes is this: what kind of jobs are available to SSC clerks who did not have prior biglaw SAs (as I assume many of them did not). What jobs are they getting after 1-2 year stints? That I can't answer.

  70. @10:52,

    In the entire history of the NYPD, one of the most "dangerous" departments in the United States, there have been LESS THAN 1000 deaths. In over 2 centuries, less than 1000 people have died doing that job.

    I have anecdotes too. Anecdotes like several people who killed themselves because of student loan debt and/or poor job prospects. Anecdotes like the fat, over weight, over stressed office worker who dies of a heart attack and leaves his family on the street when his boss fires him and outsources his job. However, those stories are anecdotes, just Luke your story. Just because your anecdote conforms to certain well held and incorrect social beliefs, whereas my anecdotes do not changes nothing.

    Most of the people who are reading this blog and do not have a trust fund or sociopathic amount of pride would take a 125k a year job with a pension given the odds I outlined above. It beats student loan slavery, being outsourced, and/or white collar and non-union blue collar slavery.

    You know what's a dangerous job: Alaska crab fisherman. You know what's a soul crushing job: lawyer and/or neo-wage slave. You know what's neither: NYPD cop making 125k a year with the option of retiring at 45.

    So take your outdated, unexamined, and out of touch boomeresque rhetoric and stick it.

  71. @15:52, "How many commenters here, who often complain about the "cushy" salary and benefits that police officers supposedly receive "

    Please do not conflate numbers of comments with numbers of commenters.

    My own personal opinion is that the ratio of "be a cop" comments to discrete "be a cop" commenters, very likely equals the number of "be a cop" comments.

  72. ^^^ oops, typo, "@15:52" should be "10:52". The Department of Typographical Errors Corrections regrets this typographical error.

  73. Most police deaths on the job are from routine traffic accidents caused by spending a lot of time in a car.


  75. @ 11:14, "Anecdotes like the fat, over weight, over stressed office worker who dies of a heart attack and leaves his family on the street when his boss fires him and outsources his job."

    OMG YOU'RE KIDDING ME? This actually happens?

    What a TOTAL JERK that guy's boss must have been.

    I would never, EVER fire a man who had just died of a heart attack and then outsource his job.

    And I mean that.


    (Big fan of "Weekend At Bernie's" and all that, ya know.)

  76. 11:14:

    I'm a few years out of law school, and I'm not a boomer: I'm a happily employed attorney who has found this profession far from "soul crushing." Anyway, since you clearly view "NYPD cop making 125k a year with the option of retiring at 45" to be a preferable career choice, then why have you not applied? It sounds like a great way to pay off your loans.

    As for me, I appreciate (based on my practice experience in criminal law) that police officers take practical risks I'm not willing to take. They are the first to respond to horrific crime scenes (which I experience only second-hand as an attorney, and which I find quite challenging enough to deal with.) They continually risk their lives, their physical well-being (there is a risk of injury too, not only a risk of death), and their mental health, given the sadness and suffering they encounter daily - particularly in a large city like NYC. These are not "anecdotes" - these are daily, broadly shared realities of police officers.

    If you want to join them, you have my support and respect, including my ungrudging support for the salary and pension you will receive. However, if you want to sit around and whine on the Internet about "student loan slavery," then you have only my well-deserved contempt.

  77. 11:25 again: the "contempt" is for the laughable, racist, and insulting comparison between student loan debt and slavery - not for the fact of the student loans. I'm still paying mine off, too.

  78. 10:52--google "most dangerous jobs." You'll find that police officer does not even make the top 10 on most lists. And many in-the-line-of-duty deaths are preventable, the result of inadvisable high-speed chases or other driving mistakes.

    I am not knocking police officers, it can be a difficult and dangerous job at times, but the "we put our life on the line every day" bit is somewhat over done. The real dangerous jobs are deep-sea fishing, logging, farming, sanitation workers, taxi drivers, high-rise construction etc.

  79. @10:52, 11:18, and 11:25

    There are plenty of blue collar jobs out there, cops are just one example. No matter what you say, said jobs, including the cops, have it better than most newly minted white collar folk.

    The rest of what I have to say does not apply to 11:25, since you are obviously one of the very few people who hit the LS lottery.

    If you do not want to do to those jobs, stop complaining about poor job prospects and student loans. Most jobs, blue collar and white collar, are susceptible to outsourcing and oversaturation because of globalization. White collar jobs have the added tinge of having a high cost of entry, in addition to exposing one to competition from people that can work for free and/or have an edge because of familial connections.

    The only jobs that cannot be outsourced or driven to poverty wages are politically protected city jobs that receive the sanction of the state. These are largely blue-collar municipal jobs that receive extreme political protection.

    Some of you may feel that these jobs are beneath you because i) you hit the LS lottery and/or ii) you have a trust fund and have been told these jobs are for the peasants. Good for you. Hopefully the fiscal disaster caused by the student lending scheme will not have an impact on your take home impact.

    Some of you may feel these jobs are beneath you because you were told these jobs are for low-lives since you were little. Whether this is true or not does not matter. What matters is that these are the last remaining jobs providing a decent middle class existence. This means that if you do not come from money and/or you are not in the top .1% (not 10%, 5%, or even 1%, but.1%) in terms of ability, those jobs are as good as its going to get.

    Now, if the last group of people I mentioned still feel those jobs are beneath them, you need to do the following: i) stop complaining about your prospects and ii) stop complaining about student loans. There are not enough white collar jobs for you AND the exceptional people AND the trust fund champions to go around.

    Whatever you do, I shouldn’t have to have my tax dollars subsidize your hubris and failure so that the trust fund champions can have even cheaper labor.

  80. 11:25 you have credibility. You really did, but then you said the comment was "racist." The higher-education racket doesn't discriminate based on race, religion, or gender. It destroys people equally. Yet, the comments was racist because if a moral travesty that impinges on freedom does not rise to the level of injustice involved during 19th America, it cannot be called “slavery,” right? Nevermind, if you bothered to look at the stats Professor Campos proffered, you would see the scam affects more minorities than whites.

    Take your trolling elsewhere my man (or woman). People are having their lives ruined, and guys and gals like you are telling them that any option that does not involves going through the higher-education industrial complex is not "good enough."

    You can try to ridicule people like me all you want, but I will not let you obfuscate the issue. SCHOOL IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO SUCEED. In fact, for most, it’s not a good idea anymore.

    If the politicians change things, maybe it will be again, but right now, a college degree, and particularly a law degree, is bullet to the back of the head.

  81. I take back the "equally part," what I meant to say was it destroys people of all races/religions and both genders.

  82. 11:49:

    You're incoherent. I'm not trolling, and I'm certainly not saying that blue collar jobs are not good enough. Nor did I say anything about school being the only way to succeed. I genuinely and sincerely told you (assuming you're the same champion of NYPD jobs) that you can and should apply, and I would support and respect you for doing that.

    I'm just saying that I find your (or your compatriot's, if there are two of you posting) hyperbole to be over the top: slavery, bullet to the back of the head, etc. It demeans murder victims and former slaves to analogize your economically poor decision to take out student loans (even if that was the result of law schools' immoral and arguably unlawful deception) to their incredibly poor fortune.

  83. 11:49/guy who always promotes being a Nassau co. cop - please stop. We get it. Blue collar work with union/political backing = better outcome than law school (in your head).

    Problem - aren't towns going bankrupt? Who is to say these magic pensions will even be there in ten years? Let alone the mine to pay municipal workers a living wage let alone a six figure salary. We are in this mess because of this attitude. You are a slave, uncreative looking to rip off his taxpayer neighbor. Yes, municipal worker is good short term prospects. But people who aspire to white collar professions, rich or poor, are striving for more.

  84. @ 12:00,

    The fact that student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy makes the situation a form of slavery. Although it is nowhere near as severe as the slavery experienced by African-Americans for the majority of this country's existence, it is still slavery.

    The fact that people owe this amount of money results in employers drastically taking advantage of the situation precisely because of the debt. Without the debt, employers would not have this kind of power, and since this bargaining power is sanctioned by the state by prohibiting the debt from being liquidated, it is a form of slavery. This is having an effect on people with no debt, as slaves always drive the price of labor as a whole down.

    The fact that you resorted to characterizing the comment as racist, ESPECIALLY when the higher education industrial complex is having such a disproportionately adverse impact on minorities, demonstrates that your motives here are not pure.

    As to the effects of a college education, most reasonable people would know very well that the “bullet to the back of the head” comment constitutes an implicit analogy that: the degree is a bullet and the head is a person’s financial life. A college degree, and especially a law degree, is a financial death sentence for most people today.

    Keep up the propaganda my friend. At first I thought you were some guy or gal that was part of the extreme minority of people that had a favorable outcome in the law field, but a bull-shitting propagandist always has his/her calling card, and nothing beats the old race card to let people know who is in the room…
    motives here are not good.

  85. @ 12:26,

    Have at it. Aspire to more. Pay back your loans if you borrow money and do not complain if there are no jobs when you get out. Do not use IBR and do not default because that is stealing.

    I can start to see why people do not have sympathy for people that feel victim to this scam. You borrow money from the public coffers knowing that the odds of paying it back are slim to none because you "aspire to more.” You know the odds are that other people are going to have to pay for your mistakes. AND YOU LOOK DOWN ON PEOPLE WHO HAD THE GOOD SENSE NOT TO DO THAT? Without the tax payer giving you welfare in the form of loans, you would not be able to “aspire to more.” Yet, you say I am trying to “rip off” my “tax payer neighbor.”

    At least these people provide a service to the tax payer, at inflated cost true, but at least they provide something. What does some poor proud bastard who takes out 250k in federal guaranteed loans and goes either i) goes to the unemployment line or ii) some ultra-low paying job that requires IBR give back? Also, at least these people are able to live a life that gets a taste of the middle class as it said class is eliminated.

    These jobs are the last jobs out there for the middle class. Globalization has resulted in a permanent oversaturation in the labor force. Every job, except those jobs, can and will be done over seas. Game is over. I am not going to criticize the last group of people that had the guts and the power to resist the economic forces turning this nation into a third-world nation. Good for them. The more bright kids that can save themselves from doom the better.

  86. 12:43, I generally agree with what you are saying. My point is that, historically, over the last 50 years or whatever, is that the people you are telling to go to muni jobs are the ones that went to law school, to make a difference, to make a good living. And not to suck at the tax payers teat. The irony is that is exactly what's happened by attending law school. I just don't agree that your solution - don't get educated, beat te rich guys who are blocking you anyway by getting high paying muni jobs - is not sustainable in the long term, and in many places in the short term. Those jobs may have existed 10 years ago - with every other job - but don't today. You can't waltz in to a 6 figure cop job in the Hamptons and expect to retire with a pay package in 10 years, even if you ever could.

  87. @2:01,

    You might be correct. However, even if you are correct, it makes sense to try the muni route. One thing is for sure: globalization is here to stay. The people of this country are too stupid to know this is what is doing in 95% of them. Moreover, there are some very powerful and nefarious financial forces that will not prevent this from stopping.

    Consequently, there are three scenarios here:

    1) The politicians take all measures necessary to protect the muni jobs because they realize at least someone has to have a decent life in America so there can be some stability for finance capital to have a safe home base. The cost shifting to the private sector slaves continues full force, and benefits for the muni jobs remain the same or in any event largely superior to what everyone else has. If you tried to go down the municipal route and succeeded in getting the job, you win. If not, you can roll the dice with the education scam or try to open a business in the private sector. There is minimal risk in trying to get that muni job.

    2) You get that muni job, and by the grace of God the people wake up. We end globalization in its current form and decide to protect at least some of our industries. There are solid jobs in the private sector. Well, if that happens, and you are in a muni job, you can go and work in the private sector, you can go to school for STEM, law or otherwise. Or you can stay at your muni job if you like it. Whether the muni job sucks or not, if this happens, you can do what you like.

    3) You go to school first because you think muni blue collar work is beneath you. Globalization continues. You are probably fucked. You can't get the muni job because the gate keepers hate you. They are offended you did what they did not, and in many instances, could not do. Whether this blue collar muni job even remotely resembled its former self, two things are certain: i) it pays slightly higher than your job which is close to Mumbai wages and ii) no debt was required to do it.

    Under any scenario, the kid that is not rich or ultra elite is better served by getting.the muni job first. Whatever happens, this option will likely provide the most benefits for the least amount of pain.

  88. I don't get the assumption that everyone who works at a firm gets pushed out after a handful of years. This could just be more typical of intellectual property practice, but all the associates I've seen leave have gone in-house by choice for the better hours, with the exception of one guy who lateralled to a peer firm.

  89. I couldnt tell you about intellectual practice, fill in the blank allegedly lucrative practice, or BL in general. I work in shit law and it sucks. My friends in big law tell me that 95% of associates are gone by year 7 and less than half of them get anything remotely close to what they had. So, some of the winners in this game have it rough. If you crunch the numbers, I will wager the muni guys have it better than 98% of all lawyers from non-rich backgrounds, and they really have it better than the 75% that will never get Big Law.

  90. Doesn't any thinking person know that a class of 40 or 50 associates will not translate into 40 or 50 partners. No one I know, or I could say only a tiny, tiny, tiny number of people I knew (okay, on or two) went to Big Law thinking we were going to make partner. That was not the point. People are writing as if this is a surprise that most folks do not stay. Most people didn't go in with that expectation. This was just when the classes at firms started to get really big. How could anyone going to Skadden with a class of 100 people expect to be a partner?

    We were there for varying numbers of years. Some stayed and did make partner. Most other went in-house, to smaller firms, back to firms in their home regions, to the government, started businesses, ran for high office and won, went to financial houses, became homemakers, federal judges, in academia and myriad other things. No one should be surprised that not everyone who goes to a large firm becomes a partner.

  91. 3:49:

    Former IP litigation associate turned government attorney here. I don't think that anyone disputes the fact that not every associate becomes partner. I think the point is that most of us who leave do not get "pushed out," but happily and voluntarily flee to greener pastures. I've been gone from my firm for three years (gave notice and left for a COA clerkship - didn't get lathamed), and I actually celebrate the anniversary of my departure from biglaw every year as though it was a great achievement. Biglaw was miserable and unrewarding; my post-clerkship government job is interesting and stimulating, such that I don't mind the lower pay. The hours here are usually better than biglaw, but even when they are not, I don't mind, because I enjoy and believe in what I'm doing, something that only my pro bono work in biglaw allowed me.

    I understand why biglaw seems like a "successful outcome" and lesser-paying legal jobs may seem like an "unsuccessful outcome," in the current economic climate. I know that today's students are graduating with crazy amounts of debt at much higher interest rates than my student loans are at, and they want the rapid paydown ability that biglaw offers them. But biglaw is not the brass ring. It's not "making it." It's certainly not a ticket to happiness. For most people, it's a ticket to meaningless work, inconceivably difficult hours, strained personal relationships, and unhappiness. People who are on the outside looking in may think that's success. But those of us who have fled the inside of that world know much, much better.

  92. @4:12 We agree. I knew going in that I wasn't in it for the long haul. I knew as a summer associate that I wasn't going to stay. It is a tough life, and not for everyone. But I do have friends who are partners now, and some enjoy their work very much. They really do. Others not so much. To the extent that my friends who love being in BigLaw express discontent, it's almost always about the business aspect of it. They love the law part. But if they were in another type of business, they would have some of the same problems. Being in business is always tough.

    At the same time I know people who are in jobs that amount to meaningless work, long hours, and the rest...and they don't get paid much at all. They are mired in drudgery, can't pay their bills, and will face a real crunch time when, and if, retirement ever comes. This is all to a great degree about expectations.

  93. @4:38,

    The work your describing without the pay has a name: shitlaw.

  94. Well, actually I was talking about people who are not lawyers. There's a world of pain out there. Even outside of the law people have problems.

  95. I went to a T6 school and practiced for quite a few years, in BIGLAW and outside. The percentage of partners in BIGLAW who come from real money can't be over 10% ... and at least half come from modest middle class backgrounds.

    Also , I haven't met one BIGLAW associate who was partner material -- ability, will, interest, carefulness -- who failed to make a strong career, most as partners in substantial law firms (BIGLAW and MIDLAW) and occasionally elsewhere, in those cases due to some compelling opportunity to go in-house well before up for partner, or some odd and unlucky politics that locked them out.

  96. To the guy talking about the municipal jobs, do you see that being any less of a house of cards than the law school scam?

    I mean, look at all that was thrown at Scott Walker, in a wildly liberal state, and he still sits in the Governor's chair.

    Public sector unions do not have anything near the popularity that they once had, and resentment against them will only grow as taxpayers' seeth at their gold-plated pensions and health benefits (to the extent that these exist (NY, California, NJ and other states following the blue social model might see this phenomenon--most other states do not) and they are unsustainable in the long term. Very real reforms are coming soon to these professions as well.

    So I'm not sure what you're saying IS a good idea so much as it WAS a good idea, in that if you had a time machine to go back 15-20 years and do this coming out of high school so that you'd be safely vested now, then good choice.

    And departments are also stratified just like law firms. Just as firms have many more associates than partners, there are tons of beat cops but one commissioner. There are tons of teachers, but one principal.

    It's essentially the same spiel the law schools give the 0Ls. They show them the very thin slice that made biglaw (with 160K salary--STARTING SALARY!! Just imagine what you'll make as a partner!) and they don't pay any attention to those that never get legal work at all.

    Now, granted, someone of high intelligence may well raise to the top of these muni fields as well, but it's not like they are pristine and don't have their own cronyism, nepotism and political structures as well that might impede your path to the good life.

  97. 10 am You are clueless. In terms of older lawyers losing jobs, we are talking about people having a fraction of the career they want and deserve as lawyers. We are talking highly motivated hard working and productive people who start losing jobs and the ability to work as lawyers as early as a year or two after graduation and a snowballing number of people losing jobs each year after that and not being able to recover. That is the nasty secret of the legal profession that the law schools are hiding. It is not funny when you incur $250,000 of debt to go to a top school or a second tier school and do well, only to find there are no jobs once you hit a certain age. The number of lawyers finding that out increase for each increasing year from law school graduation. Wait till you are laid off and cannot find work in early or late middle age after killing yourself on the job. You will not think it is funny. It is a function of a profession where the supply of talented labor vastly exceeds the demand, each year you age as a lawyer, your statistical chance of being able to work as a lawyer without being unemployed or underemployed decreases. It is the nature of a profession that is yes, that competitive in terms of the job market. this goes to the ability to get a job and the ability to hold a job.

  98. @5:37,

    See my post at 2:48. Anyway this plays out, going for the muni job is the best move. You can always go back and gamble your life away at the higher education casino. Also, if they severely restrict the power of these public sector muni jobs, it still does not mean that said muni jobs will not be better than 80%-90% of outcomes in the law.

  99. With that in mind:

    Think that will ever happen to someone in a muni job?

  100. 3:03 You are naive. People who do not leave law firms on their own will be fired unless they make partner. Only a small minority of lawyers get non-partner positions that are career positions in law firms. The good firms tell people to start looking early so they land on their feet. It is sort of a don't ask don't tell. Sure some people leave a few years before they have to and a few who leave could have made partner. However, most people who are leaving have been told something about their prospects for a permanent job at their firm not being good long-term.

  101. Some big firms are blatantly up or out (i.e., you either make partner or are asked to leave). Some allow you to stay if you don't make partner but treat you like the slow associate whom no partner wants to work with and who gets all the dog cases, in the hope that you will leave on your own. A few firms have of-counsel/non-equity-partner options, which (even when they're available at all) can still be quite competitive and entail being treated like a poor relation.

    If someone leaves a firm within his/her first five years of practice for a position in-house, in the government, in academia, or in the public-interest sector, I tend to assume that s/he left voluntarily because s/he just didn't like the law-firm pressure cooker. But if someone does that after five years, I'm inclined to believe that s/he has been informed that partnership is pretty much off the table.

  102. The firms start eliminating during the first year. They need to to bring in the newbies. Some people leave before they are asked to leave, but many because they have been asked to leave or are told that this will inevitably occur in the future

  103. "The firms" -- all firms?

  104. In my experience, the only associates eliminated in the first couple of years (unless it's a downsizing situation, in which all bets are off) are the total f***-ups, i.e., incompetent, obnoxious to the wrong people, lazy, or obviously unethical.

  105. 6:21 Not true. You need to understand the new hires are predicated on people leaving. If people cannot leave because of the scarcity of jobs, the firm needs to fire. Same goes if an area slows down or the firm hires a consultant that tells them to enforce productivity targets. All of these firms are hotbeds of stealth layoffs for the purpose of clearing the ranks to bring in the newbies when not enough lawyers are able to leave on their own in a profession that is spiraling downward in terms of growth.

  106. In every class there are people like the ones 6:21 speaks of. It's natural that not all the people hired are going to be fit for the job. Not everyone hired wants to be in the job. They think they do until they get there. Being a summer associate is not the same thing as being a first or second year associate. Even when times were flush, firms shed first and second year associates who should not have been there and/or did not want to be there.

  107. 6:49 is correct to some degree, but from what I have seen, 5:53 is much more correct. Sure there are a few who are slackers or don't want to be there, but much much more, "You need to understand the new hires are predicated on people leaving. If people cannot leave because of the scarcity of jobs, the firm needs to fire. Same goes if an area slows down or the firm hires a consultant that tells them to enforce productivity targets. All of these firms are hotbeds of stealth layoffs for the purpose of clearing the ranks to bring in the newbies when not enough lawyers are able to leave on their own in a profession that is spiraling downward in terms of growth."

  108. 5:53 is speaking too broadly about what "all firms"do. All firms do not dump a significant portion of their first year class every year to bring in "newbies". They do not all have consultants coming in each year telling them to get rid of large numbers of first and second year associates. What the do, and have done, is cut the number of hires in half or more. Sure, some firms get rid of people when they experience tough times. But the basic model is not hire one year, get rid of them the next, and hire more.

  109. 5:53 sounds like outsider bullcrap to me. Associates don't even start earning a profit until their third or fourth year. A firm that is constantly firing first years to get more first years would be like a grocer who throws away fruit before it's ripe in order to stock his shelves with more green fruit.


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