Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tournament guild

DCM and I have posted our contribution to the many pieces reviewing Brian Tamanaha's book, Failing Law Schools. We make two points that may interest readers here.

First, we suggest that many of the problems that plague law schools and the legal profession stem from the profession's guild status. At first, this seems counter-intuitive: Doesn't a guild benefit its members? In particular, doesn't it limit entry? Almost everyone agrees that we have too many lawyers. How could a guild create a glut?

The answer is that law is a "tournament guild" rather than a classic "limited entry" one. The latter type of guild operates by restricting initial entry: The American Medical Association functions in this conventional manner. Some medieval guilds worked the same way, simply specifying the number of producers in each region.

But even in the middle ages, many guild structures were more complicated; they operated as tournaments. In a tournament guild, new entrants first pay high fees simply to train for the guild. The "training" may not teach much; newcomers may simply watch others work. But the training fee is essential to purchase a chance to enter the guild. The new entrant then invests significant time learning the trade as an apprentice, often while providing valuable work to the master. To move to the next level (journeyman), the apprentice may have to produce a signature piece of work, demonstrate specified skills, or prevail in a formal or informal competition. Surmounting these hurdles may require investments of money as well as time, because the would-be journeyman may have to purchase materials or equipment to complete the required task. Apprentices in a tournament guild do not inevitably become journeymen. Some fall to the side as they fail to muster the required time or money for advancement; others lose competitions to more skilled, luckier, or better-connected foes.

In the tournament guild, a similar process unfolds as journeymen attempt to become masters. The journeyman may have to complete a set number of years, produce a particular product, or simply please the established masters to join the command circle. A tournament guild doesn't promise every journeyman--much less every apprentice--a master's berth. New entrants are willing to devote time and money simply to compete for the chance of becoming a master. Some of those who fail will find satisfaction as life-long journeymen; others will turn to other things. The guild masters, meanwhile, reap the guild's economic rents through three processes: (1) the higher prices they can charge for their own "master" products; (2) the entry fees they charge new entrants; and (3) the profit they derive from leveraging the work of apprentices and journeymen.

If this sounds familiar, it should: The American legal profession has long operated as a tournament guild. This is why it costs so much to go to law school; the guild can extract fees from eager entrants willing to pay simply for the chance to become masters. This is why we have endless competitions in law school and law practice: In what other system would it make sense to distinguish the top 10% after only a third of basic training, with that designation having long-term career implications? And the tournament system is why so many lawyers have always left practice after 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years...That's the way the guild operates.

Is there a powerful committee somewhere, controlling this system? To some extent, yes: The ABA, AALS, state supreme courts, and state bar associations set rules that keep this system operating. But if you take a sociologist's perspective on this, you'll know that social structures operate through a large number of interlocking systems. No one has to sit down each year and decide, "hey, this guild system is working great for us--let's keep things just as they are for another year." As long as the system benefits its most powerful members, the pieces are likely to stay in place.

That brings me to the second point that DCM and I make: The best way to address the problems in legal education and law practice is to end the guild. Competition from outside is already fracturing the guild, and there is no way to stop those forces. Technology, unbundling, offshoring, and the expertise of nonlawyers (compliance officers, HR managers, and others) will continue to chip away at guild profits. Soon there will be enough profit only for the masters themselves--not enough to attract new entrants or keep journey-people working toward master status.

Meanwhile, a tournament guild isn't very kind to its members. People invest in education that won't pay off for them; peers compete at every stage for advancement; and a select few reap much of the profits--not necessarily because they're more talented, skilled, or hard working than other entrants, but because they had some of those attributes and were also lucky or well connected. Nor, of course, does a tournament guild help consumers: It creates all types of market distortions.

This may sound like heresy, coming from inside the guild, but most lawyers and potential lawyers would be better off without our guild restraints. Remember that even our free markets in the United States are heavily regulated. A free-er market for legal education and legal services would create more efficient, cost-effective means of education, workplace advancement, and service delivery without compromising consumer and worker protections.

Here's just one small example of what we mean: Licensed lawyers aren't protected by minimum wage laws because they are professionals. If you're a newly licensed lawyer, eager for work and experience, you get our guild protection rather than general marketplace protections.

You may agree with us or disagree, but we hope you'll be intrigued and continue the discussion on how to fix legal education and the profession.  DJM and DCM


  1. Law school is the problem. We want limited guild not tournament guild.

  2. "As long as the system benefits its most powerful members, the pieces are likely to stay in place."

    You know what the secret to living happily ever after is? Power. Money and power. See, once you have those 2 things, you can secure everything else, and keep it that way.

  3. your proposal would hurt those of us who graduated in recent years and came away with nothing or little. I have been able to use my JD outside of law. Having more JDs simply devalues the JD for me.

    No, what we are doing right now is working--it is extracting some degree of revenge against the criminals who operate the law schools, and it is building public awareness that may eventually give us some tuition refund of some sort.

  4. Law would be better as a regular guild like the medical profession.

  5. Does the analogy with the guild fail because in a small system the truth about employment prospects and potential jobs would be known to the apprentices?

    Law is in such a state because of the deceit involved. The people at the top collectible colluded, whether by tacit agreement or not, to lie about employment and salary .

    These lies about employment and salary enticed applicants to invest more than they would have if the truth had been told.

    Also, I don't know if tournament guilds would have supported the creation of more and more guilds creating apprentices. I think somewhere there was always a limit on the total number of apprentices per area, not an ever in creasing number.

    We have to keep shining the spotlight on those lying liars who lie- like the post about that published piece of manipulated and biased statistics made by Seto - one of the kings of the liars in my estimation.

    1. Top of the collective (not collectible)

  6. Prof. M,

    Interesting analogy but I like the law school/college football analogy better.

  7. Whatever the analogy, this guild benefits very few people. It is likely that only 1,000 or 2,000 lawyers from each older law school class actually get to work at real paying legal jobs until age 66 at the average salary for lawyers in their state published by BLS. The law school class size was 30,000 in the mid 1970s so the number of survivors for 40 years is likely tiny.

    The guild institionalizes age discrimination with experience caps on most legal jobs and an increasingly tiny number of paying jobs for which older lawyers qualify.

    If people understood the system most would not sign up for it.

    1. Thanks, please continue to post these comments on each and every thread. I see you made an effort to try to tie your comment to the thread but in the future you should not do this. Simply injecting your opinion into each thread is far more effective.

    2. I do not know if you are being sarcastic, but the survivor statistics are root of this thread. Very few masters.

    3. The sarcasm is misplaced. I haven't seen those comments by 8:29 in every thread. And, as 9:17 said, they are indeed relevant.

    4. My observation is that aside from over enrollment in law schools and hugely excessive costs of law school,experience caps on jobs are the culprit also. If you don't get promoted,so what? If you cannot make a living at all with your law degree, there is a real problem. If experience caps fall, the whole guild falls.

      There will always be the Mr. Aronfields who are great businessmen and can build a great practice from scratch.

      For everyone else there should be a reasonable chance of a career with a law degree.

    5. 9:27,
      No sarcasm here. I really think 8:29 should post comments of this type in every thread. I agree, this is probably the first time I've seen comments of this type and they should certainly be mentioned on every thread. I agree there's some relevance but I think trying to tie these comments to the relevance of a post really detracts from them. Like I said, post these comments on every thread even if it isn't relevant.

    6. I don't think any 0Ls feel sympathy for, or can relate to, boomers who worked until their 50s and now can't find work.
      This story will not dissuade a single person from going to law school .

      Keep posting all the time if it makes you feel better- but I am certain 21-25 year olds would feel they had it made if they had decades to build their lives and plan for retirement. Even more when compared to the years they have to work just to repay debt you didn't have.

      I know you feel sorry for yourself and your colleagues but you aren't going to stop anyone from going to law school. You are an example of the wasteful boomer that they ate determined not to emulate.

      Believe it or not, despite your deep bitterness, you are a law school success story in their eyes.

    7. The people who might make a difference are those biglaw associates who can't find anything when they are forced out. An over- 50 year old complaining about not getting the last 8 years of a 30 -40 year career is a joke to most 0Ls.

      You will not get sympathy from them. They will not look at you as a cautionary tale.

      ( sorry continued post from above

  8. On a more positive note, can we suggest a standard set of information about law school that college career offices should post for their students?

    Which websites, and how can we compile information about career outcomes so that college students see the legal profession for what it is? My college one of the top in the country may be receptive to posting more infomation and perhaps could take a lead on this.

    Thanks for all thoughts.

  9. "On a more positive note, can we suggest a standard set of information about law school that college career offices should post for their students?"

    1. Publish the full details of the NALP form (including salaries)
    2. Publish information about average debt at graduation
    3. Publish detailed information on scholarships (including retention)
    4. Publish detailed information on LRAP or other loan assistance programs

    I think that's a good start anyway. maybe others can think of other important information.

  10. Where do you get items 2,3 and 4?

  11. One other thing that might work is for bar associations to act as clearing houses for legal work by allowing free posting by those who need legal services with contact information of the potential client. At least where the client is a sophisticated business and can evaluate prospective lawyers this would enable lawyers to find available work. The bar associations could also publish lists of lawyers and their specialties for clients to find lawyers. The idea would be to bring together clients and lawyers much like insurers do for doctors. So if a lawyer needs work there is a real place where the lawyer can find work.

    1. They already do the second suggestion...

    2. Some of them already have a service that refers people to a lawyer. Can one build a business on that sort of work?

    3. The association of the bar of the city of New York I has an excellent referral service. But you have to have proven expertise to get on their list.

      They also have a dispute resolution service that helps work out issues between clients and lawyers that have been referred to by them.

  12. Thanks, DJM (and DCM) about bringing up the point that legal professionals aren't protected by the minimum wage protections. This gets 'violated' ALL the time in the legal field.

    It's not enough that recent graduates were screwed by the law schools and lied to about employment statistics. It's also not enough that they were screwed over by unbelievable tuition hikes that now make it possible for only the very wealthy to go to law school today. Recent graduates have to also be screwed over by employers who try to squeeze out whatever blood is left in them for a dime. Question: is there anyone in the legal profession who isn't actively always trying to screw someone over 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? That's a rhetorical question as I already know the answer to that one...

    So glad I left this 'profession' and not a moment too soon. It truly is a disgrace and can hardly be said to represent anything remotely like justice. I am licensed in one state but live in another state and I keep getting encouraged to take the bar in the state that I live in. Hell no! They are not getting a penny more from me.

    An absolute disgrace!

  13. Good analysis...but it would be interesting to see more discussion of the *demand* side (not to mention that it would be especially useful for the "The Damned" - those of us already defrauded by our "profession").

    Drs. have definitely been more successful in restricting supply (20k MDs/yr vs. 45k JDs) but it is on the *demand* side that Drs. excel.

    1) Poor health is inevitable and mortally serious. Legal trouble is not truly inevitable and almost never mortally serious. Therefore medical demand is much higher than legal demand.

    2) Probably because of #1, the medical profession has conned society (much to society's detriment) into paying almost unlimited sums for medical care (~20% of GDP of the largest economy on Earth, in all of human history) - to a highly, highly restricted number of providers - sparking decade after decade of wildfire inflation.

    Anybody disputing the economic power of the medical lobby over the nation (which it has made its thorough bitch) need only take one look at the annual obscenity that is the Medicare SGR waiver...

    Lawyers (probably to the good of society) have nothing *remotely* like Medicare, Medicaid, etc - wherein non-current-utilizers of a service (medicine) are legally coerced (taxed) into paying for a service they don't currently use.

    3) The law (for reasons currently unclear to me) seems given to bi-modal outcomes - the NALP has (alas too late and far too quietly) documented the bi-modal distribution of salaries - an open question exists as to why there is the apparently preceding bi-modal distribution in willingness to *pay* for legal services...

    The "$100k-salary-per-year-question" - Why is there little middle-range willingness to pay for legal services?

    The middle class *is* being hollowed out - but somewhat slowly.

    So why is there residual demand at the high end (NLJ Top 250) and enormous unaddressed (but apparently impoverished) demand at the low end...but almost no demand in the middle range of incomes (individuals and small/mid-sized businesses).

    Why does legal demand fall so precipitously as incomes/business revenues decline?

    An answer to *that* question might help us all - *now*.

  14. There are aspects of the guild analogy that are good - and others that fail. One issue that is true is that the US bars descended from the English (and Irish) legal system where both the solicitors and the barristers were organised in what were quite nakedly a guild system - I.e., the Law Society and the Bar (the various Inns, chambers in those Inns and in Ireland the Law Library), with the Law Society operating an apprenticeship system where apprentices (as they were called) were "articled" to a qualified solicitor and trainee barristers "devilled" for admitted barristers, while juniors would be supervised by Queen's/King's Counsel or Senior Counsel (aka "Silks".) The solicitors in particular historically and quite blatantly operated a quota system, deciding how many apprentices could enter the profession each year - since most did quality, eventually. Barristers inter alia did nt a operate such as system and thus there was a large number of so called "briefless barristers," i.e., barristers who had never been retained to try a case - they supplied a lot of the in-house counsel types, and many joined civil service. The apprentice system also was a social filter- it kept the professions very middle class.

    The system broke down initially because of some abuse by solicitors of apprentices as cheap or even paying (the master) labor. It also fell apart because the cap on numbers was regarded as blatantly anticompetitive and in Ireland illegal in a Supreme Court case (I don't have the citation to hand.) At the same time in the UK the strictures against unauthorised practice of law have largely collapsed - and the results have not been pretty, clients ripped off, widespread incompetence, a legal claims business that charges fees to clients entitled to cost recovery, etc. etc. It is a mess.

    The tournament theory though has some merit - the issue being that law schools chose to profiteer in effect from overselling the profession. It may make me sound like a grumpy old man, but (harrumph) some of the people they are letting into the legal profession should never have been considered - and I am not just describing JD painter guy. That too is a result of simple profiteering. So to is the extreme leverage structure of BigLaw - the never ending apprenticeship of the US associate hoping to become a journeyman - a junior partners - and some day to rise to the ranks of the master, the equity partner. In most apprenticeship systems a master who failed to promote apprentices would soon lose his best workers, and slowly go out of business. Why has this not happened with BigLaw?


  15. Wonderful. "Law. Fucking people since the Middle Ages."

  16. This article is not at all going to dissuade unemployable losers from taking out loans to go to law school.

    In fact, you've now made law school sexy, because you're explaining how it's like the World of Warcraft they play in their mother's basement every night.

    1. You obviously don't know anything about World of Warcraft. Stop trying to make comments based on something you've just seen people talk about.

  17. Dear DJM,

    I do not believe your social science explanation is the best way to explain how the current mess developed. I would say there is a historical explantion -- that certain *people* in the past made *decisions*, under the influence of *theories*, that created the situation we see today.

    I do not know much about the people or decisions, but I do know about some of their theories.

    You write that "Almost everyone agrees that we have too many lawyers." That's not quite true. Most elite law professors, deans, and ABA powerbrokers still believe there are TOO FEW lawyers. They believe there are "underserved" communities, mostly of "oppressed minorities" without enough lawyers and the best way to get lawyers there is to flood the country with lawyers so that they reach into these communities. Also, see Marc Galanter's famous article about there being "too few lawyers". See this youtube video of Dean Post of Yale:

    So, this is one theory that has been put into operation that is ruining the legal profession. Other silly theories that shape the legal education system are much older:

    1) Legal education can only take place at the graduate level
    2) Legal education should last 3 years
    3) Legal education requires an unusual teaching methodology used nowhere else -- the "Socratic method".
    4) Legal education should make the student into a "doctor", hence the D in JD
    5) Legal education by apprenticeship is irrational and bad

    Those 4 ideas are about 100 years old and represent the reaction against apprenticeship style at that time and the attempt to professionalise legal education. They are also the result of Americans following developments in the German Empire and turning away from the British/common-law-style apprenticeship that predominated. In Britain, the Inns of Court trained lawyers, while Oxford taught Roman Law, something purely theoretical with no relation to actual practice. German thought in law was extremely influential at the time -- due to the developments in procedural and substantive unification and codification following the German national unification of 1871. German law was the hot new thing at this time, and its legal training focused in school, rather than in apprenticeship (although it existed in the referendar system) seemed progressive and rational. Also, many great legal minds of the time studied in Germany or read German books regularly. Then German legal prestige was destroyed by WW1 and then WW2, and their ideas were no longer trendy.

    You are correct that the style of legal professionalism in the USA is a problem, but I would argue that this style developed historically. If we can expose the silly history of legal education in America, everyone will see clearly the ridiculous ideas on which it is built. Then preserving the current system becomes a hard argument to make. Critics need to focus firepower on the following ideas:

    1) America has too few lawyers. The best way to get them into oppressed communities is to massively expand their overall number.
    2) Points 1-5 about law school above.
    3) BONUS: (The redistributive impulse) Legal education must be extremely expensive because the fatcat rich students paying full price can subsidise the poor students.


    1. "BONUS: (The redistributive impulse) Legal education must be extremely expensive because the fatcat rich students paying full price can subsidise the poor students."

      I find it hard to believe that the elites of the legal profession are so liberal, when it comes to money (and power).

    2. In Britain Inns of Court only trained barristers - sort of, but had an apprenticeship system, solicitors were apprenticed with an examination system on top


    3. Hi Barry,

      Believe it. They are.


    4. They don't believe there are too few lawyers. They just say they believe it.

  18. While I'm here writing down my idle thoughts, let me propose my ideal new system for legal education, drawing on American tradition, British, and German systems.

    Law can be taught on three tracks: at the undergraduate level, graduate level, and by apprenticeship. (And undergrad should last 3 years for the motivated).

    Undergrad track (most academic track) - 4-5 years to qualification
    1) 3-4 years of classroom instruction, with opportunities/requirement for mini-internships with courts, prosecutors, lawyers, and various types of practitioners (big firm, small firm, doc review, litigators, transactors, in-house, public interest, etc)
    2) the student takes a very hard bar exam; the pass rate isn't determined by a curve but by an objectively high standard.
    3) After the exam, apprentice lawyers work for 1 year (paid) at one or more of the places above and get experience.
    4) Then there is a second, very hard examination.

    Graduate track - 4 years to full qualification
    1) 2 years of classroom instruction and mini-interships
    2) Very hard exam #1
    3) 2 year paid apprentice
    4) Very hard exam #2

    Apprentice track - 3 years to full qualification
    1) Very hard exam #1 (no prerequisites to sit this exam, not even a BA)
    2) 3 years apprenticeship(s)
    3) Very hard exam #2

    Some further points. Hard exams should be the main gatekeeper to keep the number of lawyers small and professional quality high. The second exam should be standarised for all 3 tracks, while difficulty might vary among the first exams for the 3 tracks. Legal education should cost 15-20k per year tops and the loan system has to be reformed to do that.

    Just some idle thoughts, criticism is welcome.


  19. Neither the article nor the comments to date even mention that the 'problems that plague law schools' (presumably the lying about employment to justify high tuition) are enabled by the student loan system in America.

    Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because "That's where the money is", people start law schools for the same reason. Remove the money and the problem goes away.

    This same problem plagues all of higher ed. The fact that no one on this web site even mentions it as a possible problem shows how brainwashed everyone has become.

    The real estate debacle just occurred a few years ago and took down the American economy. Was anyone paying attention or is this just another example of Upton Sinclair's saying?

  20. This whole tournament vs. classic guild discussion is juvenile. Go back to your dungeons & dragons.

  21. Many people are not really clear on what bar membership really gets them: the ability to appear in a Courtroom and argue before a judge.

    Theoretically, non lawyers are not allowed to give legal advice or state legal opinions. But they can and do every day. Title Insurance companies give opinions on legal titles through the policies they write. Insurance adjusters, many of whom work for personal injury firms, negotiate personal injury cases. Scrivener services prepare paperwork for bankruptcy, dissolution of marriage, wills and contracts. Real estate agents prepare the paperwork for the sale of real property. Human Resources "professionals" give advice on employment. Mediators settle disputes. Paralegals do legal research and prepare legal pleadings.

    American lawyers play the same role as Barristers in the U.K. The only people who need that law license are those who are going to appear before a judge or hearing officer (in some cases). Even at that, many non-lawyers are able to appear in court without a law license -- collection agencies are a case in point.

    The simple truth of the matter is that there is not a huge need for more people to appear before judges. Certainly, most big law associates never see the inside of a courtroom.

  22. I want to know why I am not eligible for overtime. In my chop shop discovery mill, I have to sign out to use the bathroom, I have to turn in my cell phone to the front desk security woman every morning, and they force us to work long into the night and even on the weekends in deplorable working conditions. After Sallie Mae takes her pound of flesh from me every month, I found out that I earn less than a cleaning woman.

    1. Actually, you may be. SALARIED professionals don't have to be paid overtime. The same may not be true for hourly workers. If they make you punch a time-clock, pay you by the hour, demand an hourly quota or do anything that takes you out of being salaried, you may be entitled to overtime. Put you legal education to work, and figure it out!

  23. @7:49

    Sounds horrendous. Is this doc review, or an insurance defense mill? How many years out of LS are you? Have you ever been able to get a "normal" (!) law job, as an associate with a future, or was this straight out of LS?

  24. This suggestion is for an information board that goes two ways- lawyers offering services and clients needing services. It is not a screening service.

    The city bar is a screening service - very different. The city bar referral servuce gets requests mostly from unsophisticated individuals with small legal matters and requires lawyers to go through hoops to get on their referral lists.

    This proposal just involves posting of information so lawyers and clients can find each other.

    Why shouldn't RFPs (where clients ask many law firms to bid on a piece of work) for example all be in one place so many lawyers can respond?

  25. @8:02

    Yes, this is doc review. I have never been able to land a full time permanent legal position. Back when I got out, there was no IBR, and if I took one of those 35k entry-level positions, my private loans would have pushed me under. That's all water under the brige now anyway, as there are hardly any entry-level positions left, as people are working for free, and even if there were positions available, I wouldn't be hired, as I have no experience. So now, I am stuck in the document review/unemployment purgatory, where the predictive coding software continues to drive down demand, rates, and working conditions. I pray that I can find a way out. In the meantime, I feel like a 3rd world factory worker, who continues to be raped by the "guild," while desperately trying to escape.

    1. Get together every dollar you can in cash and credit.

      Board a plane pointing to Latin America or India or Southeast Asia.

      Stay there.

  26. 4:57 The problem is that this is not just a baby boomer problem. The problem is that there is a gradual weeding down of the employment pool in each law school class over time. The weeding down knocks most people out of the profession or into solo practice, even if they got a job out of law school.

    You may think at 25, wouldn't it be great to be able to work in the legal profession until I am 35 or 43 or 52. After that I will be set for retirement.

    That is crazy. With $113,000 average income for lawyers and the amount of debt most lawyers are carrying, nothing could be more unrealistic. You are not going to make enough money to retire at any point before you get close to your 60s or maybe even reach Social Security retirement age unless you hit the jackpot in law.

    You guys are not realistic about the economics. You need close to a 40 year career to make this whole arrangement financially viable if you are making $113,000 and carrying $120,000 of debt.

    Dream on and call it a baby boomer problem. Not your problem. Someone else's problem. That is why the law school scam goes on.

    1. If you read the comments on this blog, plenty of lawyers are weeded out of the profession in their 20s and 30s. You may work for two years as a lawyer and then not find any other legal job.

      The weeding process is something 0Ls need to understand in taking on mountains of debt or even going to law school for free. This degree may not produce a living. The chance of it producing a living decreases each year a lawyer ages under the current tournament system.

      It is going to matter to you once you hit [fill in any age ] that there is a {fill in a number less than 50%] chance of making a living as a lawyer.

      So if your plan is to work as many years as you can, save for retirement, and when you cannot get a legal job, go solo, good luck.

    2. The law school scam continues because of the deceptive practices of the schools. Few 0Ls are going to be looking much beyond their first or second job after law school. They aren't going to stop going because they might only get to work for 30 years instead of 40. It is unreasonable to expect them to be impressed by this story.

      I'm sorry you think you are making a compelling case, I'm just telling you that no 0Lis going to listen to your story and think you have it bad. Most of them would be overjoyed to have a career track where they can get paid to practice law for 30 years.

      You are not the cautionary tale you think you are.

      I agree with the above comment- 0Ls need to understand what happens if they don't make partner or can't take the heat and have to leave biglaw. The lack of a second job would be much more convincing.

    3. Very shortsighted. What are you supposed to do if you have been practicing for 5 years, are laid off and can only find occasional doc review, which is of itself competitve?

      The problem is that the numbers of people dropping out from law each year after law school graduation are not out there.

      A giant portion of the scam occurs with first or second jobs. Do you really want to use your ivy or 3.6 honors college degree to do doc review for the rest of your life if and when you can get it, at $30 an hour? with no benefits?

      The numbers we have: 1.4 million law grads of working age, 500,000 real legal jobs and 25,000 first year jobs.

      Does this mean everyone who starts with a legal job gets 20 years of work and no one works after 20 years? Clearly no, because there are some older people in the profession.

      Do the math and see how good your odds might be for having more than a few years of work as a lawyer for your three years of leaving the labor force and incurring lifelong debt that will prevent you from getting credit for a house, a car or anything else if you do not hit the law jackpot.

  27. @7:49:

    Why do you even put up w/ that? If you are not even getting paid what the cleaning woman gets and you get less respect than a Wal-Mart worker, surely somewhere on God's green planet isn't there another position available for you? The reason these conditions prevail is because everyone is so afraid to leave the legal field, as they are so desperate to use their law degree and want to keep the legal doors open that they allow the exploitation to continue and flourish. That's what keeps us in these shit conditions. We would prefer being treated like garbage than having to say "I deliver pizzas and make about 5 times what I would have made as an unpaid law clerk or on doc review, but I don't use my law degree."

    It felt so liberating for me to throw off those expectations and leave the legal field completely. I don't have to put up w/ working for free at my umpteenth unpaid internship, grateful that my 'employers' are permitting me to work for free so that my resume doens't have a non-legal gap in it because those that benefitted from my free labor convinced me that having a non-legal gap in my resume was the kiss of death. Guess what? Having a non-legal gap allows me to once more make a living, like I used to do before law school. It allows me to be treated like a human being. If those individuals still considering law school saw what career options TRULY are like for graduates and what working in the legal field REALLY looks like, there would not be one single individual left who would enroll in a school....No wonder law schools work so hard to conceal this. It really would be the kiss of death for them.

    1. The fools who now enter the profession due so to be paid in "prestige" and "status" rather than in money. Milly and Cameron want to have the upper middle class respect that young professionals did in the 1970s and 1980s. They still can obtain that (at least from mom and dad and aunt Barbara) by being a licensed lawyer, even at sweatshop wages.

      They may make more money as carpet installers, line cooks, sheet metal workers, real estate appraisers, vegetable wholesalers, etc. But those aren't "prestigious" professions.

    2. Not true- most of the posters on TLS have a dream of making bank or models and bottles. They expect money not just some fast disappearing prestige.

    3. I think its both prestige and money. Being a lawyer is still regarded as being enormously prestigious, and naive people assume this prestige automatically means a decent, at least, living.

      I don't know why the practice of law is regarded as being so prestigious, as from reading this and other blogs you can see that the reality is far more mundane. But this prestige is something that's been building for decades, if not centuries.

      This accumulated prestige is actually a valuable resource which all these sub-par diploma mill law schools have learned to exploit. They are actually strip-mining it as fast as they can, and they don't even realize what they are doing. By the time they are done the practice of law will be about as prestigious as the practice of selling used cars.

  28. @ 8:31 AM--- Well stated.

    If a new JD is just unable to find a paying job in the legal field within a year or so of graduating, they would do themselves a favor by just moving on and finding another type of job. Some things just aren't meant to be and the sooner one accepts it, the more quickly one can move on.

    It's true that having a non legal gap on one's resume may be the kiss of death. It is what it is.

  29. This post can be summarized thus:

    There are too many law schools.

    The rest of it reads suspiciously like a law review article...


  30. 11:12 This is different from too many law schools. There is also a big weeding process in the legal profession that pushes out more lawyers each year from graduation. The weeding process leaves lawyers very much unemployed. You did not get the point did you?

  31. 11:23: Yes, I got the "point" and find the post as well as your comment unconvincing. A weeding out process certainly exists, but it is likely a side effect of the overproliferation of law schools. This overproliferation is the result of abundant easy loan money, i.e. it is a "bubble" that occurred irrespective of any conscious effort to regulate entry to the profession (albeit imperfectly) by contructing a "tournament guild."

    If the number of seats at law schools corresponded with the number of jobs available, most JDs (even you) would find jobs in law after they graduated.

    Law schools are inadvertent gatekeepers to the profession, rather than by design as the post implies. In truth, law schools have been largely oblivious to their students' outcomes (until recently). They are merely profit centers (until recently).

    Another red herring DJM post, offering more hypothetical "reforms" on the part of an incorrigible privileged class that has proven utterly incapable of reforming itself.

  32. You are right that if the supply and demand were balanced, the weeding out on account of age would not occur in the legal profession.

    The problem is that the supply and demand of lawyers are not balanced. They will not be balanced for a long time if ever. Therefore the weeding out on account of age will continue in the legal profession for the forseeable future.

    Prospective law students need to know that a job at graduation will provide maybe a 70% chance of having a job 10 years later and probably a 30% chance of working 10 years after that. They need to know that once they hit a few years out of law school, even with the best record, it is very hard to get hired and very easy to get fired.

    We are where we are, and that is in a state of huge lawyer oversupply. So everyone who goes to law school now and is lucky enough to get a first job will go through a weeding process. 0Ls need to understand it - you probably only work for a few years as a lawyer, and in any event a limited number of years for most people. After that you are not marketable and you likely do have a job.

  33. Yeah, to the "0Ls aren't sympathetic to unemployed baby boomers" person, I don't know what to tell you. Why should people who have spent their entire lives struggling to maintain employment in a profession, who get thrown out on their keisters 10 years shy of retirement, care about some bright eyed kid who "really really wants to be a lawyer"? Why is that person's story more compelling? That person could do literally anything with his/her life. When you're 50 and have done ONE THING your whole career, and no one will now hire you to do that thing, and likely no one really wants to hire a 50 year old to do ANYTHING, let's be honest, that's a really different, worse situation than someone who is 25 and has done nothing at all, who now has a useless degree. Yes, that is sad, but you can come back from that. And I'm not even close to being a boomer. I've only been working for 10 years since LS. But come on, guys.

  34. "When you're 50 and have done ONE THING your whole career, and no one will now hire you to do that thing, and likely no one really wants to hire a 50 year old to do ANYTHING, let's be honest, that's a really different, worse situation than someone who is 25 and has done nothing at all, who now has a useless degree."

    No, it's not. The 25 yo with the useless degree is also likely to be saddled with non-dischargeable 6-figure debt and the scarlet letters JD which prevents him/her from obtaining a decent job in other fields. If a 50-yo still has unmanageable debt, then it's on him/her.

    And why are you more entitled to do the ONE THING you desire to earn a living than the 25 yo?

    Your posts reek of boomer entitlement, which is one of the root causes of the law school scam in the first place. Not that pointing it out will keep you from harping here incessantly...

    1. The person posting that was not even close to being a boomer. The originsl post was intended to point out the lack of job security AT EVERY AGE once one gets a job in law. True at any experience level. True by the numbers. True for all lawyers and not only with respect to new grads, so people who have jobs mistakenly think they are safe. There is no safety in law. Law has a terrible lack of job security at any age.

      There are internships and starting jobs advertised in various areas where a JD is useful. Try human resources, human resources consulting, compliance, banks, insurance companies. They have some jobs. Hard to believe a JD will screw you for those jobs. Maybe you will not get a premium salary for those jobs, but the JD should not be a liability. If someone says it is and they do not understand - not a very good employer.

    2. Also look at real estate investment firms, hedge funds, private equity firms, acccounting firms (the large and mid-sized firms do tax and consulting where a JD is useful) and if you are good at math, look at taking the actuarial exams to become an actuary (law is very useful for actuaries). Needless to say, it is very hard to get a job, but as the eoonomy improves, hopefully the unemployed and underemployed JDs that reside in areas where the types of jobs listed are available will be absorbed into good careers.

    3. All the areas listed have good earning potential (in HR you have to be more careful to move up to the high salary). You will have gained rather than lost anything going into any one of the above areas because they are not as oversaturated as law. They all have earnings potential that is on a par with law if you do well. The failed JD is a gain, not a loss, in the above areas if you can get in.

    4. 2:34, I'm the one who posted about 50 v. 25 year olds. I'm not a boomer. I'm 36 years old, which I'm sure seems "suuuuper like tottttalllly olllld" to you, but actually is not. If you honestly think that someone who has a lifetime to pick an alternate career and be successful in it is in the same position as someone 10 years from retirement with only one skill that is no longer marketable, there is no hope for you. Get outside your self pity for a second and look at the bigger picture, please. Shoot, I've got 6 figures in debt too, AND if I couldn't get a job in law anymore I would go back to school, take on more debt, and do something else! Life goes on, dude, it really does.

    5. "Dude" at 7:30: What part of "The 25 yo with the useless degree is also likely to be saddled with non-dischargeable 6-figure debt and the scarlet letters JD which prevents him/her from obtaining a decent job in other fields" don't you understand? You can offer straws to fit your argument all day long, the fact is a 25 yo in this situation is going to have a difficult time finding an "alternate career" that will allow them to manage their debt and have a decently enjoyable life.

      Oh, and I'm 35, douche, I very much doubt you are 36, but whatever... if there's anybody on this board looking to hold a pity party for themselves it's you.

  35. The attrition factor from law is a problem no matter what age you are.

    The point about very few people being left a few years from retirement was to make the point that this is a risk that 0Ls all face. It gets worse every year from graduation and will get worse over time because the law school classes are still more than twice what the market can absorb. It is the same point that DJM made about washing out after 5, 10 or 20 years.

    No one realistically expects to wash out. Tons of lawyers do wash out. Being double Harvard or double Yale gets you a job for some period but in no way protects you from washing out.

    If you are a 0L and are really prepared to take that risk of washing out, go ahead and enroll. But please understand that is what is likely to happen to you.

    I think people assume that once they get a job they are golden. Who would know unless people who are in the profession warn those 0Ls?

    1. Fair enough, but unfortunately that is true in most professions these days. All the more reason for young people not to leverage their futures on a JD. Or almost any other degree, for that matter.

  36. Plenty of health care professions allow people to work long term. Teaching with shorter hours and longer vacations is usually tenured. Harder today, but still more job security than in law and less cost if you can survive the first few years. Opening your own business is something you might want to think about even if you have to slave away at low wages in someone else's business to learn the business. Accounting allows you to pick up your own repeat client base of individuals and businesses that need tax preparation and the world be damned. Of course you need to start out working for another accountant. There are any number of areas people should consider before thinking about law.

    The high salaries in law are misleading. They go mostly to only a few people and then for only a few years. Taking out the top 250 law firms, the salary figures in law are probably pretty low over all.

    From an economic and career standpoint, it is not clear that law compares favorably to other lines of work.

  37. Becoming a master of a tournament guild creates smugness and great wealth, which are both nice to have. The reason it is durable is that people with the intelligence and drive to overturn the system are usually able to obtain a position as a master. Moral people like Campos are aberrations, most people whining in the comments would not only take a job, but try hard at a job, at the admissions office if a new for profit TTTT.

    1. And the system perpetuates itself by convincing the losers that their failure is their own fault.

  38. 6:36, I don't pity myself, I have a stable job and have had one since I graduated. I do have sympathy for 25 year olds with debt and no prospects. I just think it's *relatively* easier for those people to start over than someone who is 55 with no prospects. I'm not getting why you think it's the opposite. The younger person has more time, is more likely to be hired for entry level jobs, probably has fewer health problems, etc. And I include myself in that category. Like I said, if my job went away tomorrow, even with my debt (which I'm guessing is just as large or larger than yours), I would try to do something else. Honestly, I might be a lot happier doing something else. But am I going to give up my good salary that allows me to meet my loan obligations to do that? No. If circumstances beyond my control forced me to, I would. Pitting generations against each other does nothing. All generations of lawyers are hurt by oversupply, except maybe those 70 year olds who are still practicing by choice.

  39. There is no question the legal profession is a system that pits generations against one another. There are not enough jobs for the number of lawyers. Experienced lawyers are competing with entry level lawyers for jobs.

    Also, no question that tournament guild is an apt description of the system that exists in the legal profession today.

    One thing that special snowflake system confers - a belief that going to a top law school and doing well there puts one in a limited entry guild. Nothing is further from the truth. For grads of top law schools, the tournament guild just starts a little later than for other law school grads.


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