Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No comment necessary

I am not making this up.

Yesterday, Sarah Kendzior published an article in Al Jazeera about the plight of adjunct professors, who make up two thirds of faculty at American universities today, where they are paid sub-poverty level wages to do the bulk of the teaching at our institutions of higher learning.  It's a thoughtful and disturbing piece which should be read in its entirety, and it even includes a reference to the dire economic circumstances of recent law school graduates. Kendzior, who just completed a PhD in anthropology, wrote that she is unsure whether she will even pursue an academic career, given how exploitative and unfair higher education in America has become.

The piece elicited an unsympathetic response from a law professor, who posted several comments.   First the professor criticized Kendzior for failing to anticipate that her investment in her degree would generate an unacceptable return:

A surfeit of academicians would seem to suggest American academia is doing quite well. I happen to be a professor. This unfortunate woman does not understand how it works. She is Iike most people who choose disciplines that are woefully oversubscribed. We should discourage people more strongly from doing that, but one hardly has to be blind to see it.
(BTW Kendzior reveals in the comments that she was on a full-tuition plus cost of living stipend during her PhD program, and incurred no educational debt).

The law professor then subsequently posted a rambling, somewhat incoherent comment, which deserves to be posted in full:

I have to say that her situation is mostly down to her, unfortunately.  Doesn't make it "OK," but she made a choice of a discipline that was going to be almost impossible to break into (stands to reason; it's pretty interesting!).

Anthropology has been oversubscribed in the U.S. since my mother, now retired from a long career in education, decided not to pursue her masters in anthropology and chose another discipline because she doubted that without a degree from a better school than even Washington University in St. Louis (don't bother if you aren't Ivy League in such a subject) she would ever get a job!  Anthropology looks like a great gig from the outside -- the profs spend a lot of time doing research because students aren't flooding the major.  And they are bummers of classes to teach, frankly, because all of them are big lecture hall required courses for students who probably preferred to be elsewhere.  Bluntly, it's less of the boring work, and what boring work there is is easy.  In fact, schools require students take courses in such areas because it is the only way to keep the professors they are paying, normally incredibly large amounts, working.  This did not "happen" to some disciplines.  It has been this way since before this woman was born.

Just bear in mind that this is what's going on.  It's an easy gig -- and understandably, it's not easy to get one!Now, there IS a horrible story here -- and that is the crime committed by years worth of anthropology professors who taught and mentored her who did not tell her to "get out" of the discipline.  Why?  You retain your relevance at research institutions by how many Ph.D students you have.  She would have been hugely valuable to them for that purpose so they were not going to advise her to get out.  They were not hugely valuable to her, unfortunately.  In other words, these people used her.  That's really bad.She did have options.  I have a colleague who just got hired at my school who is a legal anthropologist who teaches students things they need to know and does insightful and useful research in anthropology -- with a specific focus that allows him to be employed in what are among the highest paid positions in higher education.  Law professors are well into the 1 percent, believe me.  But you have to plan those things and be savvy.  Anthropologists can find work in business if properly dual trained -- but too many young folk aren't willing to compromise a bit, and in fairness, these positions are not out there growing on trees.But she seems to have landed on her feet.  She's the one being paid to write for an international publication.  I'm the one giving my stuff away for free!  The irony is not lost on me.  (emphasis added)
This professor and her legal anthropologist colleague teach at . . . Wait for it . . . the Phoenix School of Law.


  1. What things does a law student "need to know" from a legal anthropologist?

  2. From the article:

    The American Anthropological Association tends to hold its meetings in America's most expensive cities, although they do have one stipulation: "AAA staff responsible for negotiating and administering annual meeting contracts shall show preference to locales with living wage ordinances." This rule does not apply, unfortunately, to those in attendance [i.e., adjunct faculty who are paid poverty-level wages].

  3. "you have to plan those things and be savvy"

    Savvy like a leech.

  4. Un-fucking-believable amount of tone-deafness, self-absortion, and douce-baggery. Tell this Pheonix Law Prof to eat shit and die slow...he's like the person who works at a credit collections agency for $7/hr and thinks he's better than the debtor on the other line who was paying their bills until a medical emergency or some such mallady.

  5. She has a PhD in anthropology and teaches at a university, where she is paid $2100 per course."

    Wow, getting a JD sounds way better after reading this.

  6. "These people used her. That's really bad."

    Just wow.

  7. The world is such a better place with LP and DJM.

  8. There's nothing bad about what this prof. said. Seems to be telling it like it is.

  9. Seems to be telling it like it is.

    In other words, "I did it right. I got into a field where the pickins are so good, the marks practically beg you to take their wallets!"

  10. Correction, please.August 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    "The law professor then subsequently ["provided"? "submitted"? "wrote"? "posted"? "vomited forth" - please pick a word or phrase to insert here] a rambling, somewhat incoherent comment"

  11. I don't think we can discount the possibility of trolling, and if she's not, she's a natural.

  12. She's not a troll - click on her picture and it takes you to her facebook page.

  13. "What things does a law student "need to know" from a legal anthropologist?"

    There's a whole big would out there with a variety of legal systems! Thus:

    - It is not legal in the U.S. to dig up and keep for oneself Native American artefacts. You will be fined for such acts.

    - It is not legal in the E.U. to dig up and keep for oneself Olde Norse or Gallic artefacts. Interpol will chase you down and will jail you for such acts.

    - It is not legal in the Middle East to dig up and keep for oneself any artefacts or any object appearing, smelling, tasting or feeling like an artefact. We will chase you down (like the un-cir.... dog you are and will severely discipline you for such acts.

  14. (Darn! He selected "posted". I really had my heart set on "vomited forth"). :-)

  15. As somebody who rathered enjoyed the one or two "Law and . . . " courses I took in law school, I'm not sure what purpose at all a legal anthropology course would serve me as a future lawyer, to say nothing of the value of paying law school tuition to have it taught me by someone who, I'm guessing, didn't even attend law school.

  16. And to LawProf,

    You're welcome : )

  17. P.S. LP please feel free to delete both (now "all 3") of my "Correction, please" posts.

  18. No hat-tip for you!

  19. Wow...it's a good thing that law was not saturated field when that professor entered law school.

    I wonder if the Phonex Law School students are more stimulated from 8 weeks of BarBri than 3 years of indoctrination, which includes classes like legal anthropology.

    Wouldn't it be better to have a class devoted to finding clients or learning how to find relevant expert witnesses?

  20. I actually didn't bother to look up this commentor's faculty profile when I brought the link to Law Prof's attention. Having looked at it though, two things stick out to me about her(and, no i won't say whom): 1) how much more private practice experience she has than your average law prof (albeit in a very small market) and 2) how comparatively non-elite her academic pedigree is. This is not to say anything about the quality of her insight (or even her scholarship, which I know absolutely nothing about) but this may not be somebody to we can ascribe the usual cocooned self-referentiality that afflicts legal academia's perception of itself.

    Then again, I have to remind myself: It *is* the Phoenix School of Law (says this T2 grad without a trace of irony)

  21. Legal Anthropology - presuming such a course title even exists, where I went to law school (and I imagine in most instances) the pedagogical venue for retreading all your undergraduate critical theory studies was in a Jurisprudence course - is most likely an elective, so I don't know how many people would feel they've been indoctrinated by a course entirely of their choosing.

    That said, I loved my Law & Humanities class and nobody - not myself, nor the bona fide legal autority emeritus who taught the class - would suggest that any of it was information I needed to know as a lawyer.

  22. The University of Phoenix is ONE GIANT SCAM, period.


  23. Phoenix School of Law, though still a scam, is not part of the University of Phoenix.

  24. where are the professor's comments in the al-jazeera website? Can someone link?

  25. The last six comments or so in the first page are written in reply to hers.

  26. Thanks for the laugh this morning. Legal anthropologist??? I want to be a legal geologist!

    This poor dear was forced to adjunct at gunpoint, I suppose? And her demanding part-time job leaves her no time for money-making work.

    At my law school, ALL of the adjuncts have real jobs and I think they get paid even less. Our adjuncts are staggeringly talented, and I am amazed that such successful, often wealthy people are willing to spend their time teaching with no financial motivation.

  27. I love how those who "made it" via the higher ed route blast those who took the same path afterward. This "professor" is a cockroach.

    From my AskMen piece on "higher education," from September 2011:


    "According to Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, coauthors of Higher Education?, “In the US alone, between 2005 and 2009, the country produced 100,000 doctoral degrees and only 16,000 new professorships.” That is one hell of a gamble -- a gamble that falls entirely on the student. Graduate schools such as the Department of Anthropology at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School are happy to charge $1,162 per credit hour. (Syracuse University also announced plans to build a new law school building, which will cost $90 million.) Of course, greedy American businesses are happy to further exploit these highly educated, heavily indebted workers, as evidenced by the article "Why Today's Abundance of PhDs Is Good For Business," published in Universum Quarterly, an employer branding publication."

    By the way, the STEM fields are also glutted. I personally knew one Harvard graduate, with a BS in Biology, who bagged groceries after earning his degree.

  28. 10:12am,

    I'm guessing you've missed the crux of the entire article. If you're only able to get adjunct work, in spite of being fully qualified to do full-time academic work, then it can hardly be described as something done entirely of your own willfull volition.

    I know plenty of people who have struggled to find work in "oversubscribed" (i.e. non-STEM) areas in spite of having even more sterling credentials than the author of this article and it certainly wasn't because of any flagging effort on their own part.

    I simply do not understand the mentality (pervasive in the legal profession, it seems) that if you can't find work that is even faintly remunerative, it's your own damn fault.

    And nobody is disputing that a lot of law school adjuncts don't get paid very much. But as enrollment numbers continue to tumble, you should expect to see more and more of them, and not teaching courses like CPLR or Legal Accounting.

  29. From the January/February 2012 edition of the Columbia Journalism Review - the piece is entitled "What Scientist Shortage?":


    "But what “we all know,” as Senator Cornyn put it, turns out not to be true—and the perpetuation of this myth is discouraging Americans from pursuing scientific careers. Leading experts on the STEM workforce, including Richard Freeman of Harvard, Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Paula Stephan of Georgia State University, Hal Salzman of Rutgers, Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown, and Norman Matloff of the University of California-Davis, have said for years that the US produces ample numbers of excellent science students. In fact, according to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, THE COUNTRY TURNS OUT THREE TIMES AS MANY STEM DEGREES AS THE ECONOMY CAN ABSORB INTO JOBS RELATED TO THEIR MAJORS." [Emphasis mine]

  30. @10:20,

    It is comical and disgusting to see "law professors" and deans state "Don't be greedy and expect big salaries or chances for advancement" - and in the next breath claim "If you can't find such a job, it's on you."

  31. The real losers in this game are people who actually got into an area before it was super-oversubscribed and were scammed by the schools putting out too many graduates in the area. Virtually all academic PhDs have led to areas that have been oversubsribed for at least 40 years. Anyone who got a PhD knew or should have known that there was a risk of not working. Law was not oversubscribed to the same degree as now 10 or 20 years ago. There was always a big risk of not being able to work if one went to the type of law schools that are now being sued. What has happened in law is that now everyone- even from the good law schools that post 50% first year employment or better- is either unemployed, underemployed or likely at a more than 50% risk of spending a substantial amount of their legal careers unemployed or unemployed. A lot of people got caught in this because there was not this type of supply-demand imbalance when they went to law school. The people who went to law school since 2002 or 2003 could look on the internet and find substantial numbers of stories of unemployed lawyers. Those stories made any law school employment statistics promising full employment at high salaries questionable. The people who started law school before then, especially at good schools, were scammed because the galloping oversupply of lawyers produced since then has made it very hard for lawyers to find employment and to stay employed.

  32. These comments are crazy. If you got a PhD degree in any one of these majors, the best you could/ can expect is so work as an adjunct in some remote area and cull together a few teaching spots many miles from one another where you get paid $2,000 a course. Anyone who though otherwise, even with a PhD from a top school, had/has Special Snowflake Syndrome.

  33. @10:20 "If you're only able to get adjunct work, in spite of being fully qualified to do full-time academic work, then it can hardly be described as something done entirely of your own willfull volition."

    See, here's where math comes in. If schools are producing dozens of PhDs but only hiring a handful of full-time academics, odds are you won't get a professor gig. It's really that simple. Responsible people would know that before getting a useless PhD.

    I'm "fully qualified" to be senator or a movie star, but that doesn't mean they are hiring. So, yes it is her fault, for getting a useless PhD and then complaining about its uselessness. Oh, and after this whiny piece of something, she'll never get hired in academia.

  34. Someone from Harvard was bagging groceries. Well, I guess that settles it, Harvard College is too risky to take a chance on.

  35. @10:24,

    There's some dispute as to when oversubscription reached critical mass with respect to law schools. I started law school in Fall 2002 and, believe you me, the voices in the wilderness, especially on-line, were few and far between back then (we were still in Web 1.0 back then, pre-Friendster, if you'd believe it). In my case, I grew to realize after only a few months into my first year how self-reinforcing the legal profession (and the academy's) ideas of itself were and how no set of particulars could dislodge anybody so holding it from the belief that a JD was never not a winning proposition. After my first year, I knew I had a steep uphill climb to find work after graduation, but I was constantly assured by classmates, professors, even associates I once worked with as a BIGLAW paralegal, that there was *always* a job to be found out there, even for a T2 graduate with middling grades, that would pay well (or well enough, usually implied to mean high five figures) and that all you had to do was pass the bar and it would only be a matter of time.

    I wound up entering the legal profession just in time for the beginning of the "Credit Crunch", the now quaint-ish seeming precursor to the Great Recession. I consider myself underemployed in the legal profession (on the wrong side of the bimodal distribution, well below the "well enough" figure alluded to above), though many, many out of work attorneys would disagree. Everyone's story will be different, but the volume of stories pointing towards avoiding law school at all short-term costs now far outweighs the unqualified success stories that become the stock in trade of our profession during the boom times.

    The most important part of this discussion (that Prof Campos has helped to accelerate) is to bring about an unwinding (for lack of a better term) of all the collected dillusions we have told ourselves about our profession for far too long. Along the way, we have unearthed issues that, while endemic to law school and the legal profession, are not exclusive to it. When you look around at all the underemployed or unemployed JD's, BA's, and STEM graduates, it's hard to envision any kind of way forward for a lot of the (increasingly former) upwardly mobile middle that involves neither medical school nor finance (and BIGLAW is, for all intents and purposes, an allied profession of finance).

    Meanwhile, there's a Charlie Sheen-like attitude about "winning" held by those at the top of our professions that stands in the way of any meaningful changes taking place. While these arguments are certainly annoying to deal with (and also substantively desctructive to the profession as a whole), the saving grace of them is that they are almost pathetically easy to refute.

  36. To the piece of garbage who posted at 10:45 am,

    That Harvard grad incurred $100K in student debt. As a young, first generation American - with Chinese parents - trying to improve himself, I suppose he should have known better, right, Dumbass?!?! Or perhaps, he got what he deserved!

  37. "I'm "fully qualified" to be senator or a movie star, but that doesn't mean they are hiring. So, yes it is her fault, for getting a useless PhD and then complaining about its uselessness. Oh, and after this whiny piece of something, she'll never get hired in academia."

    Thought puzzle, what's the difference between working as senator and/or movie star and working as an academic? Could you, or any movie star (Senators are another story, since apparently any idiot voted out of office can land a sinecure at the Harvard Institute of Politics) "screen test" for an anthropology teaching gig, or really any university level teaching job?

    Could you? Assuming you don't hold a PhD.

  38. the " piece of garbage here" @Nando-- do you really think that any school guarantees that every single one of its graduates will get a job no matter what? It's a problem any time someone who goes to college, whatever college, has to resort to bagging groceries for a living, especially if that is not just a job to tide him or her over while they look for something else. There are people who would think that was "beneath them". At least your friend wants to do what he can to help support himself.

  39. 10:47
    You write very nicely. I enjoyed reading your comment.

  40. Jennifer Spreng, clerk to Andrew Kleinfeld of the 9th Circuit (batshit crazy conservative jurist). Saint Louis University School of Law graduate. Not very high standards for those who are willing to pledge their fealty to the Federalist Society and indefensible modes of legal reasoning. If you really want to give yourself a leg up in the legal profession, mark yourself as a conservative - the conservative pillars of the legal world must choose from a very small pool of young lawyers who meet their ideological bent. If I were a law prof, this would be my advice - mark yourself as severely conservative, and you should be able to get a circuit clerkship and, later, a professorship at some joke school provided that you can write at a 10th grade level.

  41. 10:47 here.

    Thanks @Law Office Computing. :)

    The BIGLAWyer version of this compliment usually run along the lines of, "You write so well and are so well-spoken. Why aren't you an associate?" Each and every time, I have to restrain myself from saying, "Some of the most inarticulate people I've ever worked with in my entire life are on the partner track at this firm."

  42. Nando, you truly have good points to make to the debate.

    You ruin it by the fact that you choose not to use the letter "S" and just come across as so angry and bitter, ruining your credibility.

    If you were to tone down your bitterness and resentment over getting scammed, then you would certainly draw less trolls (like me), and maybe spark an honest debate.

  43. Oh snap what the hell fuck *starts speaking in tongues*

  44. Is Phoenix SOL ranked?! Are their admissions standards higher or lower than Cooley?

  45. It's hard to believe anybody could be so completely lacking in self-awareness as Jennifer Spreng.

    OTOH she is a law professor.

    Seriously what the fuck is wrong with people like this? I mean she's not an idiot in conventional terms. An emotional idiot I guess.

  46. Finance peaked in 2007, so it's no longer serving as a key path to the upper middle class as it did several years ago.

    Considering that't its too big for the economy that it serves, it's function became more and more parasitic as the credit bubble expanded.

    I suppose that leaves medicine as the sole remaining "easy path" to the upper middle class.

    However, medicine and education are attached to ongoing sovereign debt origination. Once *that* stops, then things will change again.

    I don't know why it didn't occur to me before.

    BigLaw lawyers were riding the private credit bubble while law professors were riding the sovereign debt expansion.

    Now the private credit origination is gone, which means that the demand for law degrees from students has declined. The (financially parasitic) gilded age for *lawyers* has ended.

    However, there's still plenty of government debt origination, so the sun has not yet set on the gilded age for *law professors*.

    Therefore, there's currently a disconnect between law professors (Winning!) and law students/lawyers (hey, this six figured debt and $40,000 job combo is asphyxiating me!)

  47. Nando,

    Go get your meds refilled, loser.

  48. Isn't it ironic that SOL can stand for "School of Law" and "Shit Out of Luck."

  49. Spreng is clearly insensitive. And she is doing to her law students exactly what she complains that anthropology professors are doing to their graduate students - using them. The irony is sublime.

    But I did take something from her piece. Graduate schools should be frank with their students about job prospects and the job market. I am not sure what Kendzior's mentors related to her, but it does appear that she is somewhat surprised to be in this position. I say this not to blame Kendzior, but once again to point out that this market is not efficient in terms of market information, or that the actors are not rational, or a combination thereof. While I feel badly for Ms. Kendzior, she is fortunate in a sense that she has no debt. This is in sharp contrast to law school, where many find themselves with huge debts and a degree which is a very poor value. Kendzior only has half the problem - the poor value degree - but not the debt. She can recover, although it will be difficult for her to enter the halls of academia in a tenured position. And there's no question there will likely not be a full utilization of her talents.

    By the way, a big culprit here is tenure. Very few leave. What other profession has so few exiting it, leaving it almost impossible for new entrants (law has a slightly different problem - a lot leave - but the oversupply is so great it does not matter)?

  50. 10;17, "By the way, the STEM fields are also glutted. I personally knew one Harvard graduate, with a BS in Biology, who bagged groceries after earning his degree."

    I don't know about Harvard bio, but generally speaking a BS Bio has not been a good bet for 30 years. There's just very little you can do with it, except go on to get a PhD and hope for an R&D slot at that point.

    And no, I'm not 10:45, so swallow your unrighteous indignation for a bit.

  51. It seems like nowadays, every single kind of traditional "get out of poverty and join the middle class!" career path is at least partially a scam, but PhD's in humanities/social science really take the cake, perhaps even more so than law school.

    Step 1) Find a group of students who have been at the top of their class for their entire lives, and are mostly interested in humanistic values rather than money.

    Step 2) Encourage them to enroll in PhD programs by giving them free tuition and a small stipend, while subtly leading them to believe that becoming a professor is a realistic career plan.

    Step 3) For 10 years, make sure they develop no job skills other than teaching freshman grunt classes, and brainwash them into thinking that they'll be a miserable failure if they do anything other than become a college professor.

    Tada! Now you have a whole crop of "really smart suckers" who will teach classrooms full of college students each paying 5 figures of tuition, for only $2000 a course. Which is worse, a $30,000 a year income with $200,000 of law school debt, or no debt and a $10,000 a year income?

  52. "...the conservative pillars of the legal world"

    Commonly referred to as "unicorns".

  53. "Nando, ... the fact that you choose not to use the letter "S" and just come across as so angry and bitter, ruining your credibility."

    Is joke? (not use letter "S"?)

  54. If adjuncts are so low paid - why is tuition so high?

    1. "If adjuncts are so low paid - why is tuition so high?"

      Is this is a real question?

  55. @11:13 - save your pearl clutching for your Sunday brunches with mom and the gals. Nobody gives a fuck.

  56. @ 1:16,

    Nando replaces many of his "S" with "$" for emphasis of the money grubbing - to me it just looks like a jealous child slashing out.

  57. @JP

    "I suppose that leaves medicine as the sole remaining "easy path" to the upper middle class."

    I certainly hope I wasn't portraying mine, or anyone else's, attitude towards the legal profession as that of an "easy path" into the upper middle class. For one thing, a lot of kids stumbling along this path may themselves be of the upper middle class (and, no, upper middle class does not necessarily signify full or even partial parental financial support), only to find themselves at the end of their legal education and the outset of their legal careers,slipping into an already vanishing middle class with few viable hopes for sustainable upward, or even lateral, mobility.

    For another thing, the point I was trying to address is the presumption of "easyness" many successful lawyers and legal academics impart on their peers, their classmates, and those planning on entering the legal profession. It is assumed for example, that anybody with the basic bearings to get above average, or even excellent, grades in college has the intellectual bearings to be a lawyer. But the idea that anything you've done in the way of academic coursework as an undergrad is in any way relevant to your likely success in law school is one that's entirely laughable on its face. When I was applying to law school, a 160 was still considered an "okay" LSAT score, when the truth of it is that most people who get below a 165 will probably struggle as 1Ls (this is to say nothing about variations in grade distribution - My LSAT score was shored up by near perfect reading comprehension numbers, although I performed abysmally in Logic Games, which I would argue is a much more relevant metric of one's performance as a first year). Few people will tell you this plainly at the time when it matters most, even when candor is requested. Few successful lawyers (forget law school professors) ever struggled as law students and, very likely, had no difficulty with the LSAT. Perception bias abounds in the law school scam, but it cuts both ways.

    But all of this is neither here nor there. The reality is that wages in the legal profession are, and perhaps have always been, strictly bimodal. For JD holders who are not making six figures out of law school, the conversation has to be not about those few, precious non-existing high five figure positions, or even how to angle yourself into a low-five figure position in the public sector, but whether or not you can support yourself where you currently live on your likely mid-five figure salary, assuming that you even hold a job that isn't on a project-to-project basis. And this idea is a non-starter for many JD holders for reasons that have nothing to do with personal pique. Many JD holders have families they cannot pick up and relocate very easily, and just about every JD holder will have to either waive into, or take the bar examination for, any jurisdiction they would have to move to in order to find work. Either path is time consuming, costly, and precludes the idea of earning in income in the interim. When you've got collectors and lenders breathing down your neck within months after graduation, this amount of long-term contingent planning is a luxury few can afford.

    There are, no doubt, some very hard truths to be spoken to many law students and 0L's, but the academy, for the most part, will continue to spew its usual cant about "long term benefits" and "alternative career paths."

    We've beggered a couple of decades worth of law school matriculants and, by hitching pretty much the entire corporate bar to the easy finance bandwagon, eliminated the likelihood that we'll ever see anywhere near the number of jobs necessary to meet more than a tenth of the demand for JD-required jobs.

  58. "Nando replaces many of his "S" with "$" for emphasis of the money grubbing - to me it just looks like a jealous child slashing out."

    Oh, okay, thanks. Guess you mean over at his blog$iTTTe (hadn't noticed it here today anyway).

    Went there once but it was just a bunch of yammerers yammering away at each other, so departed posthaste.

    By the way, even if the pun quoted above was unintentional, it was still very funny.

  59. @1:40 - Oh, I'm only looking at the dependability of annual income with respect to what I'm calling "upper middle class".

    The only thing I see left are the ROAD specialties in medicine. That will get you the steady $200,000 - $300,000 year after year that you need to make real progress in wealth building.

    GPs already seem like dead money, so to speak. From what I see around here, they're really only in the low six figures. You aren't going to class climb with that resource base.

  60. There has to be a relatively smooth transition, and without too much delay, from graduation and into the marketplace.

    Otherwise time and consistency gaps are created and a truthful resume will reflect the gaps in employment or time spent underemployed, and that does not look good in the eyes of prospective employers, and/or bode well for the currently underemployed job applicant.

    The prospective employers will not take a poor job market into account most likely, and all they will see is, for instance, a law grad that worked at Starbucks 9 months or more after graduation.

    Perhaps this statement, by @11:06 AM is the most telling:

    "It's a problem any time someone who goes to college, whatever college, has to resort to bagging groceries for a living, especially if that is not just a job to tide him or her over while they look for something else."

    The chances for success as one is "looking for something else" gets harder and harder, as I have tried to expain above, in direct proportion to the length of the term of the underemployment.

    Prospective employers do not care if you were trying to survive and pay your bills. All they see are strange gaps in employment consistency.

    I have seen young plumbing apprentices and electician apprentices working and getting paid as a senior tradesman taught them the trade and help transition them into their careers, and the idea that the young apprentices would go on to work at anything other than what they have invested several years into (again while earning and learning) seems preposterous.

    Law, it seems, does not work that way.

    The law schools really do throw a young person to the wolves and wash their hands.

    Moreover if the person is saddled with debt, their doom is pretty much sealed.

  61. As you can imagine, it's anathema to pretty much everything American society tells itself about itself to suggest that class mobility is effectively unattainable for most people now.

    And it's an even greater scandal to suggest that the reasons for this are entirely market driven.

  62. "ROAD specialties"...

    Had an old co-worker who when applying to med school was very bent on becoming a derm. Sole focus.

    Asked why, his answer was "My entire practice will consist of 3 creams, two lab tests, and zero midnight calls."

    Side note on the "R" in ROAD - radiology is easily offshored as it turns out, particularly with the advent of no-film/all digital techniques, and no longer a safe haven.

    Also as to the "A" - amazing how many anaesthesiology concerns are making do with more and more N-A's supervised by fewer and fewer MDs. Just waiting for OR mort rates to start creeping upward, if they aren't yet.

  63. N-As seem to be doing ok as nurses. Over six figures, so it's a good deal. For the nurse.

    I know a young dermatology-ophthamology couple. They're doing just fine making $600,000+ a year. Local youngish radiation oncologist is making about $400,000+, I think. I only got to see the derm's contract so the rest is speculation.

    My cousin's a pathologist and absolutely despises his job. He sounds like a bitter lawyer, actually. My other cousin *is* a bitter lawyer who tried to get in to med school. He wasn't very persistent.

    I wonder how boring the practice of medicine is.

  64. " '...the conservative pillars of the legal world'

    Commonly referred to as 'unicorns'."

    I suppose it would have been more accurate for me to say "the pillars of the conservative legal world." Point is, so few intelligent law students and lawyers are willing to buy into garbage like originalism that it doesn't take much to get ahead if you are a true believer. Take a look at the "legal experts" on Fox News for a taste - those idiots aren't qualified to comment on anything, let alone the ramifications of Supreme Court decisions or the constitutionality of executive actions.

  65. Are there any good blogs where I can read what being a doctor is like these days? (not necessarily a scam blog) I'd like to know more.

  66. Or see, e.g., the recent Thomas clerks from Rutgers-Camden, LSU, and Creighton.

  67. It's funny 2:41, the "liberal pillars" of the legal profession, which are overwhelmingly liberal, have wrought onto us a gigantic scam which affects minorities and lower-income people even worse than middle-class/upper-class people.

    Those liberal pillars have done such a great job creating a system where 45,000 legal graduates vie for 25,000 "legal" jobs with an extreme bi-modal distribution, all while incurring tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of high-interest nondischargeable debt.

    Those great liberal pillars. Those are the archittttect$ of the law $chool $cam.

  68. People, check out the picture of Jennifer Spreng, the associate professor of law at the Phoenix School of Law who engages in victim-blaming.


    Good God - she is ugly enough to be Brian Leiter's dream girl. I bet Leiter has her faculty page bookmarked, much like a teenage boy does with the SI Swimsuit Issue.

  69. Sometimes this site reminds me of the characters in "Gone With the Wind".
    There is the Ashley Wilkes character who is continually moaning for the lost South and just wants things to return to the way they were, and there is the Rhett Butler type who realizes he is living through a train wreck in history and might as well make the best of it.

    In the current farce I think Rhett would go to the oil sands, make some money and pay off the debts, or go to Brazil, Argentinia, Norway (wherever!) marry a local, make his fortune, and later pay off his debts for pennies on the dollar.

  70. Law Professors and Administrators:

    I ask again, what does your (or the "typical") employment contract provide you if you were to lose your job due to some sort of downsizing or closure (not a firing for cause, etc.)?

    The answer to this question may provide the answer to why all of you are willing to continue this "scam" even if it means ruining your jobs and/or the profession.

    Why won't you answer it?

  71. ^^But Margaret Mitchell lamely, and for the sake of her flawed novel to continue, had to rehabilitate the awful Rhett Butler Character by making him oddly have a sudden and not very believable change of heart, and go back and fight for the south, and from a safe distance, long after Ashley had put his ass and life and limb on the line.

    Ashley Wilkes protested when Scarlett wanted to use cheap prison labor overseen by a cruel Irish boss to run a reconstruction sawmill.

    Ashley was not so bad in the end, and Rhett Butler is no hero in any sense, but, and in the language of the scambloggers: more of an Antebellum shill for the carpetbaggers?

    Do not forget that Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes and the Dr. all participated in a KKK raid and that Melanie, Scarlett, and all the gang supported them.

  72. ^^Dammit I meant Postbellum and not antebellum.

    Drinking myself to death over my student loan debt destroyed life and am a flickering light bulb.

    There are days where all I think in my head is: "I am ruined. I am ruined. I am ruined."

    No bankruptcy way out and radio shows like the Mark or is it mike Ramsey show that make me want to scream.

    No way out

    no way out

    no way out

    no second chance in american life

    all student loan debtors will be severely punished and thrown into one of the many for profit and publicly traded prisons by the Corrections Corporation of America, and google cca and start getting afraid.

    IMHO, Alexis DeTocqueville pretty much said that the Jacksonian American Democracy experiment would end up evolving and becoming very offensive to humanity and the human race in general.

  73. @ Antiro:

    True dat. Irrelevant to my point that being conservative significantly lowers the bar for success in the legal profession, but more relevant perhaps to the general discussion on this blog. And I readily concede the point to you. Liberals as people are often awful; but conservative legal philosophy is an utter and complete joke.

  74. Just took a look at that picture of Prof Spreng.

    She looks like she sucks.

  75. There is no surprise in this post. Exactly what anyone who did their homework would expect. You need to go where the demand is. The only people who were really screwed is those who went into an area before it became apparent that the area was no good for most people. That was never the case for anthropology, and anyone who does that can expect to be an adjunct if they are lucky or if not to teach high school. Even in the generation of the grandparents of current )0Ls there were tons of PhDs who taught high school because they could not get better positions.

  76. "Law Professors and Administrators... ask again, what does your... contract provide ... due to some sort of downsizing or closure....? Why won't you answer it?"

    A. `Cause you're some anonymous pissant?

    B. `Cause no lawprofs as yet have even seen your (apparently repeated) question(s)?

    C. `Cause you're some anonymous pissant?

    D. Answers A and B.

    E. Answers A-D.

    F. `Cause you're really just some anonymous pissant, like the rest of us.

    You Are Welcome.

  77. 3:29, you sound like the kind of guy who frequents alt-right or game blogs, lol. Not saying that in a derogatory sense (I agree with it), just the tone.

    10:47, you are exactly right. There are so many traps waiting for college-age people, and so few people willing to advise anybody about them. I've seen a grand total of ONE book recently that was willing to be completely honest with readers about their probable chances with given undergraduate majors and graduate degrees ("Worthless", by Aaron Clarey) from normal state schools. No anecdotes about that one English major (who unsurprisingly went to an Ivy) they knew who got work with Goldman Sachs or that one Poli Sci student from a second-tier state school who now does exciting work in Southeast Asia with some non-profit, just the likely outcome for graduates from a mid-tier school.

    The democratization of education has unfortunately led to an extreme dependence on pedigree for career purposes. A few fields are distinguished by the fact that their elite schools aren't HYSCCN, such as accounting, but ultimately a degree from an Ivy or similar will kick open doors that are forever locked to someone with a degree from State U. I had the brains to get into an Ivy but didn't bother applying to any even though I would probably be a legacy at Harvard (Mom got her MBA there) and went to State U instead. Stupidest decision of my entire life.

    But yes, given how terrible the job market is and how incredibly high the stakes are with tuition, it's a disgrace how few people there are who are willing to give genuine useful advice to the youth. On the more cynical hand, though, I suppose it's good because God knows I don't want a bunch of finance majors flooding accounting.

  78. The problem is that 20 years ago, many lawyers were not particularly successful, but relatively few were unemployed. There was probably a lot of drop off even then from lower ranked schools. That picture started to change maybe 10 years ago when most of midlaw disappeared, and for the first time you saw increasing numbers of highly credentialed unemployed lawyers. Today, unemployment is very common for grads of top schools, treating solos, real estate brokers and others in questionable positions as unemployment. In house is very tough to get into and stay in unless one goes in pretty young and is lucky enough to get into a stable company and a stable group. Today, there is much in the way of layoff, takeover or other activities that threaten in house jobs, and there is also a very new and rigorous concept of "fit" where even the HYS grads may find themselves on the street because they are not part of the clique, so to speak. Being able to join the clique and stay in the clique in house may be critical to staying employed in a legal job, and not everyone has the social and intangible skills. Not something one one expect as to being a lawyer.

  79. NCLB - Really, We Mean It!August 21, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    "The only people who were really screwed is those who went into an area before it became apparent that the area was no good for most people. "

    Yes, but we have to ask ourselfs - is our children learning?

  80. 5:23 Plenty of people are successful today with degrees from not such top schools. Their first jobs may not be as good as for those from top schools, but they can end up in great positions. The problem in law is that there are not enough positions to go around even for top grads, and the percentage who are successful has to be lower from the lower tier schools. Does not mean you will not be successful. Just gives you lower odds.

  81. All one can do is beg one's children to go to an area where they are likely to be employed. If someone is stupid enough to be among the 66,000 applying to law school this year, they honestly deserve what they got.

  82. And "plenty" means, uh, wut?August 21, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    "Plenty of people are successful today with degrees from not such top schools. " (emphasis is added)

  83. Going to a law school that is not in the T20 or even T50 is simply not fatal to having a good career. Just take any law school that is not top rated but also not at the bottom and then go to Martindale and look at the people employed in that law school's home area. You will see a lot of successful people. Still does not mean most grads are successful. It is just that some actually beat the odds and are currently working in good jobs.

  84. And "plenty" means, uh, wut?August 21, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    "Still does not mean most grads are successful. It is just that some actually beat the odds and are currently working in good jobs."

    Okay. Can't argue that. I know several people from Tier 2 schools who are 8-10 years out who are still hanging in there. Also know a similar number who are now barely hanging on by their fingernails... ...as well as (of course) some who have all along been barely hanging on by their nails.

  85. And "plenty" means, uh, wut?August 21, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    ^^^ Beg pardon - meant to write 8-20 years out, not 8-10.

  86. Well if anyone needs work, there is always pro bono or public defender work.


  87. It is harder than ever for non-top graduates from outside T14 to find even faintly remunerative work as lawyers. It *is* indeed simply true. What may have been the case for, let's say, a Class of 1986 grad from Rutgers (the real, respectable Rutgers, not the one in Camden) will be completely inoperative (and unrecognizable) for someone similarly positioned today , unless they happen to be at the very top of theirclass. Besides that, how many more law schools are there now in any given market compared to what was the case twenty or thirty years ago? And how many law firms are there now compared to then?

  88. On the question of employment contracts: I haven't answered this before partly because I'm not sure. My contract has no special provisions, and I doubt other professors have special provisions. It's possible that some deans have golden parachute clauses, but that's more typical for university presidents and football coaches.

    My protections, like those of most tenured professors, are whatever the university's general tenure provisions say. And darned if I can find those provisions on the OSU website! The university definitely can lower my salary (as long as that's part of a general program, rather than a targeted hit). And if a unit closes, I think the university's commitments to tenured faculty are (a) lay off staff and other nontenured people first; (b) try to move tenured faculty to other units (where they would be paid by the standards in that unit); and (c) give notice--probably of one year.

    So there are sizable protections but probably not what you are thinking of in terms of a golden parachute. Hope that answers the question. I still want to find those provisions on the OSU site!

  89. Anthropology is a complete waste of time and energy. I received my bachelors of science in anthropology from UCLA two years ago and the program is for half baked students who fell out of the more demanding life and physical sciences. I feel sorry for the ones who actually go into the major as a first year undergrad. These are the most delusional types who actually go on to pursue graduate studies, because their grade point average tends to be higher without all the chem, bio, physics, and math for the b.s. The average grade in these anthropology classes is an A or A minus so that you can feel ever so special about yourself for having studied gender and language with a minor in chicano studies. What's really sad about this whole affair is that these professors in subjects like linguistics, archaeology, bio anthro, and cultural anthropology are the ones who actually write the letter of recommendations for students to go to law school or graduate school thus perpetuating the vicious cycle. These professors dole out A pluses in order to get students off their backs. Its a mixture of annoyance and incredulity when students actually show up for office hours. It's almost like, "hey, I made the class easy enough so you don't have to show your face around here.. What's going on? There is no need to brown nose or kiss ass" I remember a anthropology of religion class where the final consisted of a cross word puzzle and fill in the blanks.

    Law prof, I'm writing to you from Sydney Australia where I recently moved because I think the us as a country is preparing for the final reckoning. Did you know student loans here in australia are interest free? Did you know law students are undergrads? Did you know us dollar which used to be twice that of australia is now weaker than that Australian dollar? Did you know it's also the only country in the world that wasn't hit by the 2008 financial crises?

    Australians actually seem to care about infrastructure. If you exploit the young, your taking a terrible risk. Students aren't toxic mortgages that you can package and resell on the market.

    I have friends at UCLA law right now. They tell me that it's hard to fail any of the classes. Im going to repeat it again if you didn't catch it the first time. It's hard to fail any of the classes at UCLA law school. The classes are designed so that once your in, the administration and faculty do every thing they can to boost students gpa's and make classes difficult to fail. That should be a telling sign in and of itself. A top school has made its curriculum easy in order to assist students in finding a job in an almost impossible job market.

  90. DJM,

    Yes, that answers the question as far as profs, so thank you for that!

    As profs don't make the policy and don't set the tuition, I didn't really expect that it would be the profs with the golden chutes though.

    However, if the administrators do, what do they really have to fear by simply raising tuition along with all the rest of the schools, even if they know it's gonna crash? They'll still get taken care of, plus, since that was the status quo, it won't help their re-employment chances either.

    Just look at all the wall street folks who went from vaporizing billions of dollars, keeping huge bonuses, and going right into top government positions and as chairmen of other corporations in the same arena...no different here.

    So how can anyone expect to change the path that we're all on? The federal government is never going to turn off the loan valve because the policy makers don't care (too much) about what happens more than a few years in the future. We'll worry about that then...

  91. A generation ago, a friend of mine was considering going into anthropology, but was talked out of it by one of his professors. His professor told him "You don't write well, and yo9u don't have a cute ass."

  92. "I suppose that leaves medicine as the sole remaining "easy path" to the upper middle class."

    If your goal is to make six figures, it can be a tough road.

    But the truth of the matter is, one would be lucky to make $40,000 a year as a lawyer. At this income level, it is not hard to come up with alternatives to incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

    For example, people in medical fields get 75% of their student loans forgiven if they work in rural areas.

    A few weeks ago, some of the law schools were suggesting that law graduates could work in places like western Nebraska. But, here's the difference.

    You can work in western Nebraska, and, if you are lucky, make $16,000 per year as a struggling attorney taking court appointed work -- and still be stuck with horrendous law school debt.

    Or, you can work in western Nebraska as a nurse or a physician's assistant, make over $50,000 per year (which is good money in western Nebraska) and have your student loans forgiven.

    There are many jobs in medicine which do not require medical school and do not require exceptional academic skills or qualifications. There are other jobs, which require a two year program and offer student loan forgiveness.

  93. @DJM - I think this is what you are looking for: http://oaa.osu.edu/assets/files/documents/Handbook12.pdf


  94. "Im going to repeat it again if you didn't catch it the first time. It's hard to fail any of the classes at UCLA law school."

    OH MY GOD. WOW. Thank you for your meaningful contribution to the discussion. You sound like a complete idiot - hope the dingo didn't eat your baby.

  95. I see Jennifer Spreng has now gone public with her insanity. Pay her no mind. That is exactly what I did for two agonizing semesters of her Civil Procedure classes, and I survived. Spreng is in desperate need of psychotropic medication, and we can't help her stay in touch with reality if she won't help herself.

  96. PSOL is a diploma mill

  97. Wow, I don't even know what to say about this. It's actually quite astonishing, her views are incredibly warped. I'm glad I came across this article, the only reason I stumbled across it was because I had recently applied to a diploma in law and wanted a better picture of what it was going to be like.

    I'd also like to add that I'd never heard of “Legal anthropology” before now. I guess you learn something new everyday!

  98. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. plumber covina


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