Thursday, September 15, 2016

Villanova Law: A Case Study in Second Tier Employment Outomes

I have to concede, there are times when I truly miss having this blog as an accessible platform to denounce the law school scam. Nevertheless, while I have been a victim of such an insidious system, I have been very blessed in recent years and wallowing in this pool of injustice just isn't healthy. That's why I left my blogging venture behind me years ago.

Moreover, the environment is very different than it was during that tumultuous time. Back then, it was just the bloggers versus the law school cartel. Today, any honest person with a modicum of sense recognizes that the law school emperor has no clothes. Blogging won't move the goal posts any further - only economic and political forces will bring the system crashing down.

Thus, as I have allocated my limited free time, I have resisted the temptation to post my thoughts on such topics as law professors who claim that a law degree virtually guarantees an additional one million dollars in lifetime earnings or the travesty that was the Thomas Jefferson Law School verdict.

I still peruse JD Underground for updates on the scam, and one post recently caught my attention because it included a link to the ABA's compilation of employment statistics - broken down by school.

Many other organizations such as Law School Transparency have extracted and crunched the numbers - exposing most schools as very poor investments. I, however, thought it would be helpful to create a case study of a single second tier school to evaluate the employment outcomes graduates can expect.

I have decided to profile Villanova Law for the class of 2015 (the latest data available). Villanova makes a good case study because it is neither an urban school in the heart of a metropolis like the New York schools nor is in the middle of nowhere like a more rural institution. It has access to the Philadelphia, New York, and DC markets. It also resides in a large state and borders New Jersey and Delaware (which has no law school of its own.)

The conclusions derived from this analysis should be applicable to most schools ranked between 26 and 100 in US News and World Report while graduates from schools ranked lower probably will have worse outcomes. If one disagrees, this analysis can easily be applied to any of the data sets for other schools.

There is no way to directly link to the data set, but the data for the Villanova Law class of 2015 - as well as all other classes/schools - can be downloaded here:

For May 2015 graduates, the survey includes ten months of post-graduate data (i.e. graduates had ten months in which to a find a position in order to be considered "employed").

According to Villanova's own website, tuition and fees are now roughly $43,000 or $129,000 over three years. The school estimates the total cost of attendance (including living expenses) is about $66,000 per year or just under $200,000 for three years. Throw in interest and any undergraduate loans and a graduate could easily find himself approaching $250,000 in debt at graduation.

It certainly would be reasonable for a prospective student to question what type of return he's going to receive if he's going to go a quarter million into the red.

Based upon the hard (and self-reported) numbers compiled by the ABA, a $200k JD is hardly a sound investment.

The data indicates that there were 213 graduates in 2015. After 10 months, 27 were unemployed and seeking employment. That's a 12.7% unemployment rate after nearly a year of job searching. The national unemployment rate in May 2016 was 5.5%. For such a massive investment, graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than the US population as a whole.

The data further notes that 138 of graduates found employment in jobs that require bar admission - the types of jobs people would expect if they graduate law school. This comes out to just under 65% of graduates - or nearly two-thirds of the class.

Of those who are neither employed as attorneys nor unemployed, a smattering (8 students) are not seeking employment, employed by the law school, pursuing another degree, or have been deferred by their employers.

Virtually everyone else has a non-legal job - the bulk of whom are classified as having "JD Advantage" jobs. Only two are listed as being employed in another professional field while two others are listed as being employed in a non-professional field.

(Sidebar: I'm not sure how this proud alumnus' career choice will be classified next year.)

This is where some of the chicanery of self-reported data begins to show. Let's be clear: there is virtually no such thing as an entry level "JD Advantage" job unless you're talking about being a Lexis or Westlaw sales rep or the school is shoving doc review roles into this category. Otherwise, feel free to search the job listings and see just how many non-attorney roles you can find where a company is really looking for someone with a JD.

Trust me, as someone who has had to answer the interview question - "So, why do you have a law degree?" - more times than I can count, a JD confers no advantage.

Anyway, back to the numbers. Given that it's unlikely any of these non-legal positions actually require a law degree, I think it's fair to lump these jobs (JD advantage, professional, and non-professional) together with the number who are unemployed after 10 months. If you add these groups up, the sum is 67. Divide by 213 and you get 31.4%.

This is what I call, the "Worthlessness Factor". These are the people, who after investing in a legal education either can't find a job or can only find a job that could have been secured without enduring the law school ordeal. Therefore, their law degree is essentially worthless.

If you remove the aforementioned special circumstances - the 8 people who pursued an LLM, landed an MRS, etc. - the breakdown is that almost exactly 2/3rds of the class found attorney positions and 1/3rd of the class would have better off buying lotto tickets.

Back when law schools used the the first year to weed out poorly qualified students, they used to scare the 1L's during orientation with a line like, "Look to your left, look to your right. After this year, one of you won't be here." They should amend this adage to read, "Look to your left, look to your right. One of you is essentially going to borrow and flush 200 large right down the toilet."

But what of the other 2/3rds. Theoretically if you can finish in the top two thirds of the class, you should okay, right? Well, let's take a look at the second table where the ABA breaks down the data for those are able to find employment.

It's impossible to link the data from the two tables directly because the categories shift - though we know the unemployed and special cases are no longer included. The "Business and Industry" category roughly matches the size of the "JD Advantage Category" - though some "advantage" jobs may be with the government.

"Business and Industry" - like "JD Advantage" - is also code for "does not require a law degree". Unless, you're offered a role to be a GC for your buddy's hair-brained startup that hawks some crummy mobile app, you're not going to work in a corporate legal office right out of school. It's not surprising that there's overlap between the two categories.

Taking a look at the numbers, let's first look at the number of graduates who landed a position at a firm...any firm: 85. I'm going to calculate the percentage out of the the graduating class as a whole - not just the number employed - because we're looking at overall outcomes for graduates.

The percentage employed at a law firm is pretty dismal: 40% (rounding up). That's right, only 2 out of 5 LAW graduates end working at a law firm. We're not even being selective - this includes everyone from the Skadden bound graduate to the guy working part time for a shady firm located underneath a highway overpass.

Let's examine the breakdown a little more. Most - though not all - law students dream of the elite jobs. The jobs that will produce six figure salaries and will confer upon the attorney the prestige he so desires. When you're talking about six figures of debt, it is probably fair to expect a pretty decent return on that investment.

The jobs that pay such impressive salaries are referred to as BigLaw. BigLaw usually is defined as firms that are larger than 100 employees. According to the ABA data, there are 27 such students (interestingly this is the exact same number as those who are unemployed). It's probably fair to throw in the three graduates who landed federal clerkships because they are likely BigLaw bound.

Combining the various tiers of BigLaw (most fall into the 500+ attorney bucket) and those with federal clerkships, the percentage comes out to 14%. Because maybe one or two other students have a BigLaw caliber government or PI job, we can call it an even 15%.

This isn't horrible for a second tier school. (Typically the cutoff for attaining such a job is being in the top 10%.) Nonetheless, 85% of graduates are walking away with non-elite jobs. That should definitely give anyone pause before assuming a mortgage size student loan balance.

A common fallacy among prospective law students is that even if they fail to land a BigLaw or another elite job, they'll just settle for a "mid law" position. It's a fallacy because the distribution of entry level law firm roles is bimodal rather than normal: the bulk of law jobs aren't at mid-size firms; instead, they are concentrated at the extremes (small law or big law).

The data supports this analysis. If we exclude the 30 students who landed elite jobs, only 8% of the remainder (everyone who didn't land a BigLaw or fed clerkship position) ended up at a firm with between 26 and 100 attorneys. Even if we're generous and count everyone employed by a firm with 11 - 100 attorneys, it only comes out to 15%. That is if you miss the BigLaw ship, you pretty much only have an 8-15% chance of landing a mid law job (most of which are likely uninspiring insurance defense shops paying between $60-80k).

If a graduate does land a law firm role, chances are he or she is going to end up joining a small firm of 2-10 employees. A plurality - 31 graduates with law firm jobs - ended up working for a firm of this size. A majority worked for a firm that was between 2 and 25 attorneys.

While there may always be a small law gem here or there, small firms tend to be the most likely to have high turnover, psychopathic employers, and fail to provide basic benefits that the employees of Starbucks and Whole Foods take for granted. Salaries rarely exceed $50k and may even dip down into the $30k or below range. Because the law schools aren't forced to disclose salary data, we don't know exactly how bad median salaries may be. Nonetheless, you probably don't want to gamble nearly a quarter of a million bucks hoping that this analysis is too pessimistic.

Moreover, of all graduates who end up working for small firms, one out of five of them aren't even employed full time.

The public interest and government employment numbers are probably the hardest to parse, but only about 10% class end up in either category. Even if someone claims that he/she doesn't really want to go into private practice and instead wants to serve the public interest, this isn't a significant portion of the class. These categories presumably include all assistant DA, PD, legal aid, and general bureaucratic (including non-attorney) roles.

Finally, there are state clerkships. Aside from *maybe* one or two graduates who end up working for a state supreme court, these jobs are mostly with low level state courts, don't pay much, and aren't designed to be long term career opportunities. Yes, they can sometimes serve as launch pads for better roles, but often it's a stepping stone to moving to an aforementioned small firm. For every clerk who lands a decent role at a boutique firm, many more will wrap up their New Jersey traffic court clerkships only to be unemployed or left scrounging around for work fighting speeding tickets.

This leads us to another figure, the combined percentage of graduates who end up unemployed, in a non-legal role, working at a small firm, or working in a state court clerkship. This comes out to 62% of the class. If you throw in the "special circumstances" - not looking for work, pursuing an LLM, etc., the number is 66% - just under 2/3rds.

Early on we noted that about 1/3 of the class pretty much has nothing to show for their time in law school. This figure indicates ONLY 1/3 of the class is likely to have a job that even begins to justify the six figure price tag: BigLaw associate, Fed clerk, potentially interesting public/government role eligible for PSLF, or anything that could be theoretically considered a mid law associate role.

Now, I can see someone criticizing these calculations or this analysis. Maybe someone feels I'm too pessimistic or I wasn't consistent in calculating the various rates. My calculations were intended to provide the most clarity regarding prospective employment outcomes, but it's fair to disagree. The numbers are out there and anyone is welcome to drill deeper into the data.

In fact, while I used Villanova's numbers, my point wasn't to vilify this particular school. (I intentionally veered away from mentioning the school's name too often in this post.) It's merely a case study. I hope this blog post will instead serve as a catalyst for prospective students to apply a similar analysis to the school he or she is considering. The breakdown will likely be similar (if not worse) for any school outside of the top 25.

You see, regardless of whether you'd spot the school a few additional percentage points here or there, it doesn't change the overarching analysis. Graduates will still face twice the unemployment rate of the population as a whole. Only around 15% of graduates are going to end up with the type of elite positions most law students covet. Mid Law is hardly a backup plan as it still constitutes a small portion of the class. A full third of the class won't end being attorneys. Most of those who are employed in the legal field are heading to small law or low level clerkships.

This isnt' conjecture, hearsay, or propaganda. This is based upon real, SELF-REPORTED data. As a prospective law student, you have to ask yourself, do I really want to take out a mortgage (in essence) for these results? Do I really want to forgo three years of work experience, retirement savings, etc. to possibly end up as state judicial clerk or personal injury associate pulling down $45k a year?

Obviously the choice is yours, but if you're a potential law student, you're the one - not a smooth talking dean or a law professor with a phony baloney "study" - who will assume the debt and the career options (or lack thereof) with which your degree will saddle you. If you borrow and gamble six figures worth of tuition for a limited chance to get a decent legal job and you lose, there will be no sympathy and no turning back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Bell Tolls for the Scam

One of the ironies of (at one point) anonymously managing  a blog lamenting the plight of dejected law grads is that I achieved a certain level of fame – most likely the greatest celebrity I will ever experience in my life.

No, it didn’t amount to the fame of a well-known legal scholar nor of even some of my other former “scam blogger” contemporaries. Nevertheless, I certainly never expected to be interviewed or profiled by the National Jurist or the Wall Street Journal.

It was, of course, ironic because all of the attention was directed towards a pseudonymous caricature, and instead of heralding success, it was a byproduct of my miserable condition.

Nevertheless, my anti-LS scam compatriots and I were usually one side of a story that also featured at least one apologist for the reigning system – whether law school dean, an ABA representative, or just a general mercenary for the machine.

In those days, condescending and dismissive remarks were the norm. I remember one dean bemoaning that LS critics tended to make the most noise because they were the most displeased. She further asserted that the majority of graduates were happily and quietly pursuing post-JD endeavors.

We now know this to be nonsense. In the years that have elapsed since this and other blogs have gone dormant, the mainline media has recognized that something is amiss as class after class of law grads are thrust into the unemployment grinder.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, and Slate have all run stories to this effect. If they don’t fully endorse the idea that the law school cartel is managing  a full blown scam, they are at least exploring the repercussions of saddling freshly minted JD’s with mind blowing debt while the schools shout ‘caveat emptor’ and hungrily look towards the next harvest.

Sure, every now and then an apologist pops his head up from the trenches in order to predict the imminent recovery of the legal market or to offer an unpersuasive case for paying the equivalent of three or four Mercedes for an unmarketable degree.

Nobody is buying it, though. The damage has been done. Yes, law schools are still signing up poor naifs who never paid attention to begin with, but class sizes have shrunk drastically. Anyone who has done a modicum of research knows that a nightmare awaits most law grads.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. What changed between 2009 and our present period in which enrollment is tanking, faculty is being axed, and even multi-campus outlets are shuttering some of their satellites?

For one thing, while the conventional wisdom about law school has moved closer to the truth, it still adheres to at least one fallacy: The idea that law school was an A-Okay option prior to 2009.

This was not the case. Yes, between 2003 and 2008, a T-14 degree probably would land you solid employment. Even grades in the top 50% at a top 25 school would make you competitive for large firm jobs.

This more sanguine picture, however, concealed the dark truth about the fates of non-elite students. After three years of study and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, these students ended up in toilet law legal mills, document review sweatshops, or non-legal roles that would have been easier to secure without the JD.

For years, the strategy of the law school cartel was clear: dangle the ostensible treasures afforded to the top 10% in front of prospective students and then lump toilet law proles and document  review slaves into the ‘ol “Employed – JD required” bucket for reporting purposes.

The masses bought it; the mystique and prestige of the law degree was preserved while unctuous law administrators and professors feasted on the ceaseless blood money flowing from Sallie Mae and Access Group via the financial futures of so many deceived souls. 

It’s little wonder that the perpetrators of the scam saw the crash as more of a hiccup than a catastrophe. In their collective minds, all they needed to do was enjoy the influx of prospective students fleeing an ailing labor market and lie and deny whenever pressed about the fate of their recent graduates.

They reasoned that once the market rebounded, it would be business as usual. There would once again be enough elite, “golden children” to mask the plight of the average graduate, and the scam could start humming along as usual.

The law schools, however, grossly miscalculated the extent of the crash. When the bottom fell out of the legal industry, it didn’t just filter out some participants, it utterly obliterated the sector’s very infrastructure.

Cost conscious firms carefully scrutinized their legal bills in an effort to save costs; the reverberations impacted the entire industry all the way down to the mills and document review.

BigLaw associate classes appear to have permanently shrunk. The ripple effect has made hiring down the chain even more competitive than it previously was. Less funding for public legal resources has introduced added pressure, and the once safe haven of document review – if safe havens can be found in poorly ventilated, converted boiler rooms – is nothing like it used to be.

While the overall economy has more or less rebounded from the Great Recession, the legal industry remains stagnant.

We can quibble about the mechanics of the sorry state of legal employment, but it is undeniable that five years out, there isn’t enough good news for the LS cartel to countervail the tales of debt and despair that dominate legal employment articles.

The economy is likely the best it’s going be during this present expansion, and at some point, there will be another recession. This will bring only further misery to attorneys and further deprecate the law school brand.

The jig is up. Even the slickest deans haven’t been able to spin the situation. Their previously enticing coos of prestige and prosperity sound more and more like a cacophony of used car salesmen trying to unload those jeeps from the 90’s that used to flip over.

This, however, still begs the question why haven’t we seen the cartel collapse under the pressure of these seemingly irresistible economic forces?

The easy answer is to point to the ubiquitous loans and their “generous” repayment terms.

To be sure, were the federal student loans to disappear tomorrow (particularly if coupled with the ability to discharge private loans in bankruptcy), the law school cartel would vanish as well.

Moreover, without GradPLUS loans and the IBR/PAYE repayment plans, the default rate among recent graduates would be astronomical. As depressing and infuriating as the post-law school horror stories are today, the criminality of such a situation would quickly bring the enterprise crashing down whether by the market or the courts.

Nevertheless, from a short term perspective, you can essentially go to law school for free. Moreover, when you graduate, you will never pay more than 10% of your AGI in student loan repayments.

Two hundred large in debt is hard to overlook even under these conditions, but if people really did believe that signing some promissory note and spending three years at school meant entrance into the upper middle class upon graduation, this might still be enticing.

The “free” education argument, however, isn’t washing with more and more prospective law students. Sure, the debt may be “manageable” (though non-repayable), but if there’s no pot of gold at the end of rainbow, why even assume supposedly manageable debt.

The law school machine has been routed in the PR game, yet despite the hits it has taken, no major, accredited law school has fallen.

While discouraging, I am nevertheless optimistic that we’ll eventually see some of the schools give up the proverbial ghost. The student loan elixir has delayed the inevitable, but at some point, market forces will give way to a necessary correction.

It remains to be seen whether the closing of a few law schools will either result in institution wide reform – more practical coursework, lower tuition, and fewer semesters – or simply a reduction in the number of “firms” in this saturated sector.

For the time being, however, law schools have to grapple with the present economics of reduced demand for their services.

With fewer prospective students, law schools only have two unpleasant choices: Reduce tuition and hack away at the scam’s raison d'ĂȘtre or attempt to retain the present cash flow and torpedo the prestige to which these pseudo-august institutions so jealously cling.

There really is no other choice. Bread and circuses won’t fly anymore. If prospective students are unpersuaded that there are ample legal jobs available, no amount of moot court rooms with mahogany benches and cutting edge technology is going to drive them in.

If enrollment continues to decline, maintaining both high academic standards and fiscal solvency will be a difficult feat. There will be a smaller and smaller pool of quality applicants, who will be on the lookout for either bargains or true prestige.

Prospective students will still be courted heavily with scholarship offers from schools that at one time would have been far outside of their leagues. It’s unlikely that the “pedigree” of a top 50 or even 25 school would be enticing in comparison.

As enrollment tanks, this will be a very costly strategy to pursue. Cutting costs could mitigate the impact of decreased revenue from tuition, but less impressive facilities and fewer perks like lavish moot court trips could make law school an even more miserable environment.

Moreover, cutting faculty could mean the availability of fewer interesting courses, and a reduced support staff would likely result in delays in important administrative tasks (transcript requests; graduation verification).

I’m certainly not advocating retaining the largesse of the cartel, but for students with shorter-term time preferences, the loss of such immediate perquisites could serve as disincentives to matriculation.

While reducing tuition either directly or more subtly via increased financial aid is a costly endeavor, sacrificing student quality could be an even more dangerous game.

Schools somewhere in the middle can tolerate poorer LSAT scores and GPA’s for a while. They just need to hope that their peer institutions need to make similar sacrifices, and they can at least hold their relative place in the LS pecking order – for whatever that’s worth.

While the mid-tier schools can try to wait out the rough seas in their metaphorical dinghies of reduced academic standards – awaiting either miraculous salvation or the final storm to take them under – the bottom feeder schools don’t have such luxury.

At first blush, one might see this as business as usual for the true toilet institutions. These schools never really served any purpose but to separate the fool from his money to begin with. What should they care if someone barely signed his name to the LSAT and did nothing else?

While the TTT(T) class of schools may have no problem emptying the local sanatoriums and having classes full of law students drooling on themselves while some old codger drones on with a canned lectured about Penoyer, the ABA may think differently.

Sure, the ABA and related bodies have been pleased to let the cartel run on its merry way, but they are starting to face more pressure. Moreover, even during the heyday of the scam, they were only willing to tolerate a certain bar failure rate.

This means, that unless the ABA abruptly jettisons all standards, the absolute garbage schools are going to start coming close to the end of the rope. They may be willing to tolerate students who don’t know the difference between long arm statutes and chewing on their own arms, but the state bar examiners won’t be so kind.

In summary, as long as conditions remain the same or continue to deteriorate, the law schools are stuck in a vicious cycle of financial decline and academic debasement.

Only the most elite schools – the only ones with any purpose under the present law school model – can attract strong student bodies. Middling schools will have to contend for what were once mediocre matriculants (and will pay heavily for them).

For many schools, this is the pathway toward a level of financial calamity that was once only reserved for their graduates. Nevertheless, the alternative – academic degradation – will instead send bar passage rates into the cellar (with the attendant possibility of loss of accreditation).

The nation’s fixation on higher education at any cost and the undying spigot of student loans mean that law schools still have time to limbo to see how low they can go both financially and academically.

Nonetheless, as mentioned, nothing short of a radical reversal of fortune for the legal labor market will change this trajectory. With this phenomena unlikely, the collapse of the law school scam is all but inevitable if not immediately imminent.

Yes, it would be nice if the courts or the government did their job and pulled the plug on this colossal fraud. Nevertheless, the slow, painful death of the scam is underway even if the government won’t give it the swift execution it deserves.

The law school apologists may be able to grab a few more bucks on the way out. They may even be able deny and continue to spin on their way to their demise, but evidence of the collapse abounds.

Faculty buy-outs are on the rise. One law school is teetering on bankruptcy. Enrollment rates are low as they’ve ever been. Deans are sucking in as many transfer students as possible to try to simultaneously retain revenue and preserve their academic rankings.

Perhaps the most telling sign is that the deans are even marching to war against each other in an academic survival of the fittest. The aforementioned scrounging for transfer students has pitted the American and George Washington deans against each other.

Regardless of the specific observations, the once unsinkable scam has hit the iceberg and is taking on water faster than it can bail it out.

When I was consistently blogging about five years ago, the debate was somewhat theoretical. It was a political debate like the death penalty or tax policy. Each side had their own arguments and metrics.

Sure, the anti-scam movement was correct, but in the same way you may feel you’re correct about the political issue de jure. Someone is always going to disagree with you, and the debate will often get lost in a morass of competing statistics, rhetorical barbs, and outright insults.

While debates over philosophy and theory may be difficult to resolve, debates over the feasibility of a commodity are subject to a market test. A business owner (or shifty law dean) can proclaim to the world that his product is the best, but if the masses believe he’s hawking overpriced schlock, he’s out of business.

Sure, he can believe that consumers are fools and they don’t know what they’re missing, but that will be all the consolation he will have as he fills out the bankruptcy paperwork.

I began this article with the irony of attaining “fame” while guarding my anonymity, so let me end with another unexpected twist.

At one point, the law school cartel and I actually had the same thought process. We both assumed the secret sauce of their scam just needed two ingredients: Easy money (in unlimited student loans) and a healthy dose of marketing deception.

In the case of the law school cartel, the realization of this miscalculation has resulted in the gnashing of teeth as they recognize Rome is burning. For me, however, it is an unexpected signal that - after all the debt, despair, and ruin imposed by the law school machine – an immoral empire will eventually be brought to its knees.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Questions that No Law School Dean Will Ever (Truthfully) Answer

I'm in the process of preparing some new useful (I hope) content for Finding a Non Legal Job. In the meantime, I decided to take another crack at a traditional "scam blog" article.

Above the Law has recently started running a series on law school success stories. It profiles law graduates who claim to be better off thanks to their J.D.'s. To be fair to ATL, they have published a number of stories about the difficulty in finding legal employment and some of the associated problems with law schools. They also disclaim that these success stories aren't necessarily representative of the environment awaiting heavily indebted and poorly trained law school graduates.

That said - what is the point of these stories other than to blunt the increasingly dominant message that law school in it's present form is a bad investment and needs to be seriously restructured? While law school critics rightly point out that the full employment statistics churned out by the law schools are borderline fraudulent data, nobody claims that there is a 100% UNemployment rate either. I have no doubt that there are a decent number of graduates who find at least OK jobs, and some subset of this group may even really enjoy their work (or at least their salaries).

Focusing on this subset is nothing new for law school apologists. One of the charges these folks make against law critics is that these critics just couldn't hack it in the law, so they're projecting their own dissatisfaction. I saw a comment on JD Underground the other week alleging this very thing.

Quibbling over this charge isn't particularly fruitful. Yes, some anti-law school commentators didn't make it too far in the law. Some did. The diversity among the opponents of the law school cartel is too great to ascribe a single underlying motive to the entire movement.

While I never went down the path of practicing law, I do know some peers who appear to be happy with their decisions to become attorneys. This doesn't matter. I congratulate anyone who has found success in the law (or any other field). I don't object to people becoming lawyers. Lawyer jokes aside, society does need a certain number of attorneys to write contracts, prosecute/defend criminals, etc.

The objection isn't to the desire others may have to become attorneys. The objection is to the law school system which: 1) knowingly plunges its students into untenable levels of debt 2) fails to provide these students with marketable skills, and 3) pumps out more graduates than the market can absorb into an industry that will only pay a select few (of those lucky enough to find relevant employment) anything approaching a reasonable salary.

Yes, some graduates are satisfied with their post law school opportunities, but highlighting this cohort is just a tactic law schools use to deflect criticism regarding the far larger carnage their collective greed has inflicted onto everyone else.

The law school deans and related apologists are quite skilled at trotting out their success stories. After all, these expert marketers are great at dismissing serious objections and instead offering well engineered PR campaigns, but here are some questions I'd love hear the law school deans address...

  • Do you honestly believe that it's worth $150k to $200k plus for a degree from your school?
  • Does your answer change if you knew that most experts believe you shouldn't borrow more than you expect to make your first year out of school?
  • Doesn't that reasonable rule preclude most of your students from attending your institution?
  • In the cases of particularly heavy debt loads, doesn't that preclude ALL students from attending your school? (The absolute highest starting salary even at Big Law is $180k.)
  • Law school tuition has increased considerably over the past decade, do you honestly believe the benefit of attending law school has justified this?
  • If you said yes, are you saying that you dismiss all the reports of the terrible job market over the past couple of years?
  • If yes, could you please explain why there are Craiglist ads offering $30k-$40k for entry level attorneys with top credentials?
  • Do you believe that $30k - $40k is reasonable compensation for someone who undertook three years of graduate education at the cost of six figures worth of debt?
  • If so, would you make this investment?
  • Would you encourage a family member or close friend to make such an investment?
  • Do you believe it's possible to live a normal life with such a salary and loan repayment obligations?
  • Would you feel comfortable raising a family under such a scenario?
  • Would you swear under oath that the employment statistics your school publishes are the truth - the whole truth - and nothing but the truth?
  • If yes, would your answer change if this means that the figures aren't based on partially reported data; don't include temporary work; don't include working for the school (except in a long term, professional capacity); don't include menial non-legal jobs; don't include paralegal jobs; don't include entry level, non-legal jobs that were pursued only as default options?
  • Your schools likely lists roughly 10-25% of its graduates filling "business" or "corporate" jobs - Do you believe all (or at least the vast majority) of these jobs are serious professional positions?
  • Would you swear that none of these jobs are simple service sector jobs that could be filled by someone without even a college degree?
  • Assuming 10 - 25% of your graduating class ends up with non-legal jobs, do you honestly believe 10 to 25% of your class willingly enrolled in your school to end up NOT being attorneys?
  • If yes, do you honestly believe that there are any employers that are specifically seeking (or strongly desire) non practicing recent law graduates?
  • Can you name ten such employers?
  • Can you name one?
  • Do they pay anything close to your advertised average starting salary?
  • Do you honestly believe that the average starting salary reported by your school accurately reflects what an average student will make after graduation?
  • If you answered yes, and I survey ten students ranked in the middle of your class, how many of them do you think will make within $10,000 of the average starting salary the year after law school?
  • Will any of them?
  • What if we exclude document review?
  • Do you believe temporary document review is reasonable employment for a licensed attorney who completed three years of schooling at your institution?
  • If yes, would you personally be happy reviewing electronic documents for relevance as your sole professional task?
  • If no, and you stand behind the published salary data your school offers, why do so many of graduates end up in this line of work?
  • Once again, assuming you stand by your salary data, why was this an issue even (or particularly) before the recession?
  • Do you believe any students would have really enrolled in your school if they knew they would have to work long term in document review?
  • Do you believe that students would have enrolled in your school if they knew they would end up in small personal injury law, low level insurance defense law, debt collection, or landlord tenant law?
  • If so, would you have been happy working in these areas of law after receiving an expensive graduate degree and forgoing three years in the workforce?
  • Do you believe that after three years at your LAW school, your students are capable of actually practicing law?
  • If so, would you be willing to be represented by any recent graduate assuming he/she passes the bar?
  • Do you honestly believe there are enough law or related jobs available to employ your graduates after they enter the workforce?
  • If so, why is there story after story in any number of mainline publications discussing the number of unemployed law graduates?
  • If not, do feel any culpability for leaving a generation of law graduates indebted and unemployed?
  • How do you sleep at night?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taking the JD Off Your Resume - An Update

I recently saw a post on JD Underground recommending that applicants remove the J.D. from their resumes in order to try to land a non-legal job. I have a few things to say about this matter, so I thought it would make a nice segue into what I guess has become my annual update.

I can certainly empathize with this sentiment. The JD pretty much guarantees that you'll hear the inquiry "Why aren't you practicing law?" during every job interview you'll have from now until eternity.

The problem, of course, is that if you simply take your law degree off your resume, you'll have to come up with a method for explaining the three year gap. For the most part, however, the only "method" you'll have available to you is to lie through your teeth. I don't recommend this for a number of reasons. If you go down this route, it will definitely have to be some amazing fib (remember, you're covering up a THREE year gap) and it will have to be unverifiable (think background checks for new hires).

If you're not prepared and not unethical enough to claim you were independently building shelters for displaced tribes in Africa, you've got little choice but to leave your JD on the resume.

Here are a few tactics to handle this handicap:

1) Provide a brief summary of your background on your resume to tackle the subject head on. In your summary, include a sentence that reads something like "Recently obtained a J.D. for purposes of improving analysis and writing skill sets for application in a corporate role."

2) If you do land an interview, and the subject comes up (and it will), make a similar statement about wanting to go to law school because of the benefits it offers aside from practicing law. Also, mention the number of people who go to law school but don't end up working as attorneys - it was about 20% at my school PRE-recession. You can also note that law school doesn't really teach you to practice law; instead it helps you develop critical thinking skills. Not only is this persuasive, it's also for the most part, true.

3) On your resume, under education, don't put down "State University Law School, Juris Doctorate, May 2009"; put down "State University, J.D., May 2009). You'll be amazed at the number of people who have no idea what a J.D. is. Many will just assume it's a masters degree. Plenty will also be too embarrassed to ask what a J.D. is. It won't always work particularly if you're looking for work right out of school, but it can prevent a red flag from going up immediately in the minds of HR screeners, hiring managers, and recruiters.

Will these tactics always work? No, but they give you a better chance of slipping by the gatekeepers. Once you explain the potential benefits of a law degree, some hiring managers may even see it as a slight benefit.

Once you land a job and have some significant post-law school work experience, the J.D. will become less of a focus because your potential employer will a) be convinced that you're actually not interested in practicing law b) be more concerned about your recent work experience than your education.

In the interviews I have gone through since landing my first permanent post-law school job, the law degree has become more of a curiosity than anything else. Occasionally, the issue hasn't even been raised; if it has, I've had little trouble dismissing it as a detour on my path as a corporate prol.

I could probably get away with dropping it off of my resume given that most interviewers are usually too lazy to actually do the math and uncover the gap in my work history. I, however, have refused to do so.

Perhaps I'm violating my own words of caution regarding the sunk cost fallacy, but after wasting so much time in law school and going into considerable debt, I'm simply unwilling not to try to extract at least some value out of my J.D.

Now I'm not backing away from my long standing contention that a law degree doesn't qualify you for any position other than being an attorney - and it barely serves that function. I'm certainly not suggesting anyone should go to law school with the intent of going into a non-legal industry. That's just throwing money away.

Nevertheless, the J.D. is a graduate degree, and it's one that many people still believe is an indication of one's intelligence and academic prowess - rather than one's ability to sign a promissory note.

You're not going to get a financial analyst job - at least one that requires experience because a hiring manager thinks, "Gee, this guy doesn't know anything about finance and can barely open an Excel document, but he is well educated. I'm going to hire him over the other candidates with multiple years of Bloomberg experience."

If you are, however, a financial analyst with experience, and you also bring a law degree to the table, many employers will then be willing to give you some credit for your degree in the hiring process - at least if you can give an acceptable explanation for having the degree.

For example, I interviewed for a position a couple months ago where I think the hiring manager just interviewed me because she was thoroughly confused by the trajectory of my education. I think I offered a good explanation, and I ended up one of two finalist candidates for the role. I didn't get the job because the other candidate had a little more of the experience for which they were looking, but my J.D. didn't hurt me and may have helped a bit. (It was, of course, no substitute for the relevant experience they wanted.)

On a more positive note, I recently did take a new position where my J.D. may have actually helped. It's a more senior role with better compensation. While I had most of the skills and background for which they were looking, the job description said the company wanted someone with about a decade of experience and a masters degree. I haven't even been out college for 10 years. The hiring manager said I beat out a bunch of other strong candidates, and I have to believe that the J.D. did help cover some of the missing work experience and substituted for the masters degree.

Now before any LS apologists start whooping it up that the J.D. did turn out to be useful, let's get a few things straight. It's true they wanted someone with more experience and a graduate degree, but if I didn't go to law school, I could have easily gotten the experience (and if necessary a cheaper and more useful masters degree) in the same time it took me to get the law degree. I also would have done so without incurring the debt and other opportunity costs.

Furthermore, while it's a big increase in pay for me, I'm pretty sure I'm making less than they originally envisioned paying for this role - so the J.D. wasn't exactly a perfect substitute for the work experience.

So where do I stand? I will be in a senior, non-managerial position with a large corporation. I will make in the mid $60K's plus an annual bonus and benefits. This is roughly the equivalent of what an I.D. attorney would have made at a mid-sized firm pre-recession. It's probably on the lower end of what I would have reasonably been making right now had I not gone to law school, so it looks like I'm starting to right this craft.

I've also been able to knock out about $20k of loans since graduating - though there's plenty more to go, and I'm finally able to move out of my parents house - albeit with roommates.

I am very grateful that I seem to be in a much better position than many other recent graduates, and perhaps even a large swath of the population as a whole. Nevertheless, it definitely bothers me that I'll be paying for years for a degree I don't really need and that my career has been set back at least a few paces.

I was glad to see that TJ Law lawsuit is being allowed to proceed, and I'm sorry that the NYLS case was thrown out. It's definitely heartening to see that the mainline press and individuals across the political spectrum have acknowledged (and even protested) the scam. In the end, I really don't see how it can be sustained. When tuition hits $70k a year at private schools and graduates struggle to land $40k a year entry level jobs, you have to think somebody's going to blow the whistle and bring this game to a close - particularly now that the taxpayers are on the hook for any unpaid loans.

I wish everyone else the best on finding gainful employment and trying to rebuild their post LS lives. I've always been happy to provide advice via e-mail, and I've answered a number of inquiries since I stopped regularly posting. Feel free to reach out if I can assist you at all.

I'm also thinking of starting a new blog dedicated to the providing advice about the non-legal job search tailored to those with J.D.'s. I'll keep you posted. (Positive feedback for this idea will likely encourage me to move ahead.)

Thanks for reading - E.N.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Update: Mission Accomplished

"Yes," I somewhat exasperatedly replied when a gentleman called about my resume and asked if I recalled applying for a position with his company. I then dutifully gave him a series of stock answers I had memorized to the all too familiar standard questions interviewers are apparently required by law to ask.

I didn't mean to come across as uninterested or even ungrateful for this opportunity, but I was tired. This had been just one of a number of telephone interviews I had entertained over the last few weeks. Meanwhile, I was on the third interview for a promising (and even lucrative) position in what probably could be described as consulting. Furthermore, I was trying to juggle these interviews without jeopardizing my current position.

So, for all you whiners who complain about law school, you should realize that you just need to think positive thoughts and everything will work out...Just kidding. Actually, I loathe the law school cartel as much as ever, but the rest of what I have written is true.

Some of you may wonder why I decided to start this post with such a sanguine introduction. Well, if you've read this blog before, I'm sure you know that a year ago things weren't looking so good. I repeatedly woke up with thoughts of offing myself. I couldn't buy an interview, and I was constantly being pressured to just "network" in order to find myself a great legal position...all while I watched people who barely graduated from colleges that aren't even accredited make great salaries, buy homes, and raise families.

In fact, here's a quote from a January 27, 2010 post:

"Right now, I'm even being strung along by temp agencies with the possibility of getting hired for JUNIOR document review positions."

Yikes. What a difference a year makes.

But what's the point of this post? Well, I never was really satisfied with how I ended the blog. No, I'm not staging a comeback. The current crop of scam bloggers are far more worthy of their blogger sites than I ever was, and I couldn't be more proud of the way they've permeated the media - everything from Slate to the New York Times.

Instead, I just want to provide one final update regarding what happened to me after I left the scam blog movement in order to preserve what was left of my mental health and try to rebuild my life.

In a nutshell, I can finally do what I had endeavored to do from inception of this blog: Declare "Mission Accomplished". Yes, slightly over a year and a half after graduating from law school, I now have a real, salaried, non-legal job in an industry in which I'm interested.

Here is my story:

For those of you who haven't had time to read through all of my prior posts, getting to this point was an arduous and depressing struggle. I left law school unsure of what to do. With few exceptions, the law didn't really interest me. The economy was in shambles and the legal sector, which had never been that healthy (in terms of providing jobs for the non-elite) was experiencing a complete meltdown. I was already toying with the idea of just going into "business".

Like many unemployed recent graduates, I reluctantly (after five years of living on my own post-college) headed back to live with my parents, hoping that I could quickly find a new job. In the hopes of maximizing my employment options (namely through document review), I decided to spend the time and money preparing for the bar exam.

For a few of months afterward, I once again drank the law cartel's kool-aid as I dutifully played the networking game - going to CLE's, having people put me in touch with their lawyer friends, and even taking an unpaid internship with a personal injury firm.

One day while sitting in a converted filing room, struggling to use a typewriter to fill out some superfluous form that wasn't available on-line, I had an epiphany: The law had been nothing but a curse to me. I had continuously sunk time and money into into this pipe dream, and it was time to get out.

By November of 2009, I began my quest to escape this horrid "career path" - not that there were actually any legal jobs to set me off on a legal career anyway. I knew it would be difficult with my three year gap in work experience, the scarlet letter of a J.D. on my resume, and a lousy economy.

I was right. It took me months to even get one interview. I sent out hundreds of resumes and attended career fairs that offered a choice between selling insurance on a commission basis or joining the military. When I did get a rare interview, it was usually because the company was too disorganized to screen candidates properly and almost always ended in disaster. Networking, recruiters, and temp agencies proved to be equally unfruitful.

Finally, in June, I was able to impress two guys with a new start-up enough that they were willing to take me on as a contractor on a trial basis, which is where I left off my blog.

At first things went pretty well. The work was pretty interesting and I was learning new things. The pay wasn't great, but I could work as many hours as I wanted, and I was getting in on the ground floor of something that could really take off.

Unfortunately, it eventually became apparent that I didn't know enough about the industry to take a leadership position in the company, which is what they were really looking for. I did complete some projects that impressed them, and they encouraged me to really take things to the next level. I briefly committed myself to doing this, but I was already working fifty hour weeks, enduring a long commute, and making little money; I just couldn't bring myself to invest anymore into the company.

With a heavy heart, I ended up coming in one day and politely informed one of the partners that I didn't think I could fulfill the role they needed. He was sympathetic and thanked me for my hard work, and so I was back to square one.

I was exhausted, so I took a little time off, but I got a certification that was relevant to my industry and started reading industry publications and even considered starting a blog to demonstrate my knowledge.

Once I started looking for work again, however, it wasn't too long until something landed. I applied for a temp to perm position with a company that was in the e-commerce industry that did similar work to my previous employer.

The most amazing thing was that my resume was actually read and considered by an HR rep from the company. (Usually, the JD was poison to any trained HR professional.) She scheduled a phone interview with me that actually was surprisingly intense.

I then got a call back. I was shocked to learn that there were some hiring managers who wanted to talk to me. I came in and things went so well that there was even the suggestion that they would hire me for a full time position outright.

That didn't happen, but I was offered a temp position working for one of the company's larger clients. I accepted it, hoping that this was the path to finally gaining full time employment in the industry I was trying so hard to enter.

At first things seemed pretty good, but I suffered plenty of indignities. I was constantly reminded of my temp status whether by being excluded from meetings or not having the same access to technology. I even bristled every time I was introduced to someone by my "rank".

It didn't help matters that I was often being bossed around by people who had just graduated college within the past few years...That is people who were still in high school back when I graduated college. I also earned an hourly wage that barely would be acceptable to the average Wal-Mart employee.

Nevertheless, you know what I did? I just shut up and grinned and endured yet this additional affront made possible by my JD.

I did make a few other efforts to find full time employment. I shockingly received a call from another HR representative from a HUGE company who thought my resume was a good fit for the financial analyst position for which I applied a month earlier.

The screening interview went great. The woman was really on my side and said that even if this job didn't work out, she'd definitely be able to find something else for me given my background.

The panel interview didn't go quite as well. The first guy with whom I spoke seemed pretty confused as to why I was even looking at this position. I was questioned about the JD, the gap in my resume, and to paraphrase him slightly "Why in Sam Hill did you spend all that money on your degree?"

That's probably the best question I've actually heard from an interviewer. (Closely followed by, "So you have a law degree...what is that some sort of hobby of yours?")

At one point, he actually tried to help me brainstorm ideas as to how to find gainful employment (elsewhere, of course)!

The last woman with whom I spoke seemed to accept my explanations about law school, but she also questioned me about the cost of attendance. Note: Financial executives don't really want to hire idiots who go into six figures of debt and forgo three years of wages for a worthless degree. Go figure.

Not surprisingly, I never heard back. (Despite promises that I would hear back from HR.) Oh, and that promise of there definitely being something for me, guess what happened...That's about lie 346 during this process.

I also got to a second round interview for another company that was located nearby to where I live and seemed like a great place to work. I didn't seem to have the stats background they wanted, though. Oh, they did promise to be in touch...Yeah, need I say more?

After taking time off for these interviews, I decided to put my energy into getting promoted from my temp role. The company was pretty laid back, the starting salary for full time analysts was pretty good, and I got to work in a skyscraper...and I'm referring to an actual office, not some subterranean dungeon in contrast to temp jobs in some other industries.

After a few months, I finally had my quarterly review with my manager and his manager. I got a strong score on my performance review, and my manager said he was pushing for me to move into a permanent role.

Finally, I got called into the "big boss' " office for my review. I was complimented on my performance and was asked general questions about how I liked the job. I was also asked if I planned to try to get into law...*sigh*....even three months of employment wasn't enough to convince an employer that I didn't want to be a stupid lawyer.

And then...the review ended. I was asked if I had any questions. I actually grew a bit of a spine and asked if there were any plans to make me full time. To which the reply was, "Are you interested in working here full time?"

"No, I'm actually so pleased to live at home as I enter my thirties that I want to make sure I never make enough to jeopardize this dream come true!"

What a question. Pro tip: Always take the initiative to push your boss if you (reasonably) are looking for a raise or promotion.

I was informed that there had to be a specific opening, but that it was definitely a possibility.

A possibility? Great. Three months of work for that. Did I mention that when I joined, HR said I would be on the fast track to permanent employment.

I then decided to take more initiative; I applied for a bunch of new jobs and posted my resume on Monster.

This is when everything changed. Not only did I get slightly less than a 50% response rate to my resume - compared to a .05% response rate in the past, but I had recruiters (both internal and third party) unilaterally contacting me about my resume. Where were you guys for the last year?

I have no idea if this means the economy is coming back, or if I have a great resume, or if actually having a job makes me more attractive to employers. Whatever the reason, it was definitely nice to be courted by employers for once. It was like those old milk commercials in which the skinny loser adds some more dairy to his diet and voila!, he's big man on campus.

I actually got within a hair of landing a job with a big company with a well defined career path and great starting salary, but I was missing one necessary skill set (that I could have obtained through a process a lot easier than getting a law degree).

As things turned out, I actually finally got promoted to a full time analyst position with a salary in the mid-40's and full benefits (health, dental, vision, 401k, vacation, etc.). Good enough for an exhausted man whose other options looked like they were going to pay about the same.

There's still some other options open, but for the time being, this looks like the job I'll have for a while. This would have been a great position if I had taken it back in 2006 instead of going to law school. It's not quite as impressive after taking four years (including the year of unemployment) off from the workforce and incurring more debt than I want to think about. (Thank you IBR!)

Also, I work with coworkers and for bosses who are actual humans, who even care about me from time to time. I have benefits. I'm on a career track. I don't have to go to housing court in the bad side of town or write horrible memos that nobody will read. When I look out, I can see the downtown of a major city instead of the industrial boiler in the bowels of some subterranean sweatshop.

All of this said, I'm obviously upset about law school, and I know it doesn't sound like it, but I'm quite grateful that's it's all over. I'm out. I don't have to work in law, and I can start rebuilding my life and repaying my debt (for the rest of my natural life).

So let's take a look at the final break down:

Number of resumes sent: Hundreds? Thousands?

Negative responses: Plenty, but not anywhere close to the number of resumes I sent out.

First round interviews ending without an offer: 4

Second/Third round interviews ending without an offer: 3

Withdrew application after being asked to interview or further interview: 4

Received and accepted offer: 2*

* - I resigned from the first position

Let's also see how I stack up against the goals I set forth when I first started this blog.

Feel free to check out the post:

Compensation: I said I wanted $40,000; I make a few thousand more. Looks good.

Professional: I wanted a job that required a college degree. This definitely does. It even requires some previous work experience.

Non-Legal: My current manager, who even interviewed me, didn't even realize I had a law degree. I'd say I'm safe on this point.

Minor Points: I didn't need to move. I got a very cheap certification, but I didn't head back to school. There was no bailout via an inheritance or a wealthy spouse, and I'm actually in the industry that I wanted to enter.

I guess that's mission accomplished as I try to fly away from the flaming wreckage that is my legal education and "career".

I kind of feel like a veteran of a war - and yes, I'm well aware that that soldiers have experienced worse things than any law grad - who somehow survived the carnage of the battlefield. He can never forget what he saw. He has wounds that last a lifetime. He may not even feel particularly proud of what he has done, but it's over. He can return back to society. It isn't so much joy that he's feeling. It's relief.

I hope that everyone else out there can also feel the same relief one day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The End of Esq. [Never] - Final Post

When I first started this blog, I was not sure what direction it would take. While I linked to the other scam bloggers, I think I saw this blog as more of an attempt to chronicle my quest to find a non-legal job and to occasionally share my thoughts about law school, the legal industry, and, of course, the dishonesty involved in both.

(As it turned out, however, the career search aspect became a secondary concern as my contempt for the law school scam began to take prominence. More on that in a moment.)

One thing I did know from the start was that I didn't want to end this blog until I could triumphantly declare that I had secured a serious, decent paying, non-legal position despite my J.D., work experience gap, and the miserable economy.

I sincerely regret that this will not be the case.

A few posts ago, I informed you that I was taking on a temporary, contract position with a company that was designed to evaluate whether or not I would receive a permanent offer. While I am pleased to report that my "employer" envisions me working at the company well past the initial evaluation period, it is going to take them longer than expected to determine if they plan to take me on as a permanent employee.

While this is a contract position, I still work long hours and have a long commute. This has left little time for blogging. While I have not run out of things to say, I have exhausted my motivation to say them.

Over the past month, I had hoped to receive the final word about the position, my specific role, and my annual compensation. Sadly, it appears that it could be weeks or even months before this is settled. There is also the possibility that in the end, I will not end up working full time with this company.

With no particular date in sight when I can foresee declaring victory, and with little time to blog, I have decided to "prematurely" bring this blog to a close.

As mentioned, I have run out of steam to maintain this blog. After 100 posts, while I may have some additional thoughts to share that may be either interesting or entertaining, I don't know if I can really add anything more of substance. I've made my case as best I could through personal anecdotes and more detached analysis.

In addition, whether this present position works out, or I am just able to finally have some recent, substantive work experience on my resume, I believe I am on the road to leaving the law and securing an actual career.

Moreover, while I stand resolute that the law school deans and their cohorts are as crooked as the day is long, I am somewhat concerned about the cynicism and bitterness that I have expressed in this blog. In all honesty, I do not want to be an angry or resentful person.

I believe most of what I've said on this blog is accurate and defensible. I know that one man's sincere regret is another man's "whining", and I am not oblivious to the duplicitous tactics of some of the law school apologists and administrators. That said, I do not think it's healthy to be a in a bitter feud with anyone - even the more corrupt and miserable elements of society.

I certainly am glad that there will continue to be a scam busting community, and I hope it grows into a larger, more visible organization, but I'm not the right person to be part of this movement. I don't regret most of what I've written, but I do regret some of the occasionally snide and nasty ways in which I've expressed myself.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this blog went in a somewhat different direction than I expected. With my resumes ending up in oblivion and my networking connections flaming out, I didn't have much to write about regarding my job search.

When "A Law School Carol" unexpectedly garnered national legal press attention, I was pushed into the forefront of the scam busting movement. I hope this event was able to draw greater awareness about the community and in some ways contributed to the success of some of the more popular blogs such as Third Tier Reality, But I Did Everything Right, and the Jobless Juris Doctorate.

I would have never believed that simply by creating a blog and some simplistic cartoons I would be featured in three national legal publications and the Wall Street Journal blog. Moreover, being able to draw hundreds and sometimes even thousands of hits every time I publish a new post has been an honor. Maybe I should write into my law school's alumni magazine to advertise these accomplishments!

I contemplated revealing my law school in my final post, but I decided it wouldn't serve much of a purpose. Listing the school could possibly hurt me in the future, and my objection is to law school as a whole and not specifically Syracuse Law....oh wait, I mean the University of Florida Law...oh, I mean Loyola Law, uh, yeah that's it...

I did, however, plan on posting a narrative about my job search, a closing argument about why law school is a bad idea, and a final farewell after I posted my intended "victory" post. While I don't have the energy to write three full posts, let me conclude with three micro posts within this one:

In all, I spent 13 months unemployed since I graduated law school. Eleven of those months were post the bar exam. Eight of those months were months in which I was seriously committed to finding a non-legal job.

I sent out over a hundred resumes. I probably received a total of fifty responses - most of which were outright rejections. I was asked to come in for four interviews for serious, professional positions.

The first interview went well at first but quickly collapsed when it turned out that I lacked the requisite technical knowledge to succeed in the position without additional training. I was annoyed that neither the job listing nor my resume made any mention of serious programing experience. I was also displeased because I couldn't get a hold of anyone at the company to find out my status.

The second interview was a disaster. The security guard didn't even have me in the computer to let me up to the office. The guy who interviewed me clearly had no idea what was on my resume and asked a total of three questions. I had to fight traffic and pay for parking. Obviously, I couldn't get a hold of anyone in the office after the interview. I'm still shocked by the lack of professionalism I experienced.

The third interview was far more professional. The interviewer was the CEO of the company. He was polite and professional but not very friendly. I appreciated that he not only read my resume but also memorized it.

Unfortunately, this was the interview I was dreading. The first three questions were essentially "Why the #$%! did you go to law school if you don't want to practice law?" I actually think I handled these questions well, but his interrogation pushed me into defensive, moot court mode, and made me come across as too adversarial and quick talking throughout the rest of the interview.

In the end, I'll admit that I blew the interview by coming across as too aggressive and over-eager. Though, I don't think the interviewer and I would have gotten along very well, so maybe it was for the best.

While the interview was as professional as could be, and everything that went wrong was entirely my fault, I did become annoyed after the interview. I called the guy afterward, but he kept brushing me off instead of just thanking me for coming in and but saying that they had gone with another candidate. Moreover, during the interview, he actually promised to put me in touch with a networking connection (not a great sign at an interview), but he never followed through despite my requests.

My fourth interview was with my current employer. I actually wasn't expecting to get a job. I had a phone interview with my company, and it turned out that I wasn't at all qualified for the position for which I applied. Nevertheless, they invited me in to talk more about the company.

I didn't think this would amount to much, but I figured I'd go because it wasn't like I had much else to do. I actually considered not wearing a suit, and almost walked out when one of the interviewers took a call during the interview without excusing himself.

Then something odd happened - after I reiterated that I probably lacked the requisite skills to fill the role, he brushed it off by saying that it didn't matter. He then had me interview with another employee. Then he came in and talked to me again. Then I talked to another employee. Then he came in and asked me about my salary requirements. Anything above minimum wage that didn't require me to wear a paper hat sounded pretty good at that point, but I gave him a realistic figure.

He said he'd think about it, and the next day called me back to offer me a contract position that paid around what I wanted (albeit sans benefits and with the requirement to pay the SE tax for the time being) to evaluate my work before taking me on permanently.

The position could generally be called an IT/business position, which is what I wanted. I would prefer it to be a little more development/tech oriented, but otherwise it's pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

I was generally offered this role because my "employer" (technically "client" since I'm an IC) thought I was an intelligent guy with a pretty solid computer background. For the record, yes, they did see the JD as a plus, BUT before you apologists start yucking it up, let me point out the following: 1) This was one 1 of over 100 employers; 2) I presently make less than I did at my pre-law job; 3) I'm not even a permanent employee; 4) I still have a mountain of debt to worry about - IBR or no IBR.

I am, however, very grateful for this job, and I enjoy it. I'm also learning a lot of new thing, which will be marketable should I have to move on. I don't think I will voluntarily do so because there are some great opportunities available at this company.

For those of you still looking for work, I'm afraid I don't have much new advice to offer. Trying to sell yourself as a generally intelligent and capable person is a good idea, but learning some new, marketable skills is really the best approach. Try finding software that is used in the field in which you're looking and see if you can master it to give yourself a head start. If you're a writer, learn about SEO. If you're creative, look into learning about filming and video editing.

Besides that, just keep trying. If you have something to offer, eventually you'll find somebody who will pay you for it.

While things seem to have turned around for me, I wouldn't wish this experience on my worst enemy - maybe a law dean or two, but I'm talking about actual humans here.

If you're a prospective law student, I don't know what I else I can tell you that isn't already available elsewhere on my blog to try to convince you not to go to law school.

At the end of the day, if you ignore these warning, I guess it doesn't really affect me. I have my debt and my shame already, but you see, I do care. Maybe you think I'm a loser. Maybe reading my blog makes your blood boil. Maybe you're a pompous punk who thinks that he'll sooner grow a tail than end up begging for an unpaid internship with the local DA after passing the bar. It doesn't really matter; I still don't want this fate to beset you.

In other posts, I've tried to appeal to your reason; let me use this last post to appeal to your emotions.

Aside from those of you who know you want to be lawyers - and unless you've actually worked closely with practicing attorneys, you DON'T know - the people who go to law school are either recent college graduates or dissatisfied young employees who think a legal career will be more lucrative and/or more exciting than their present options. (Law schools prey on these poor souls with the ruthlessness of a lioness picking out and pouncing on a wounded wildebeest.)

If this is you, let me empathize with you. I was fortunate when I graduated college. The economy was doing well in 2004, and I landed a decent paying professional job. In some ways, I had it all. I lived in a luxury apartment (albeit sharing the rent with a friend), I had savings, and I had no debt. I could eat out with friends, and I could pretty much buy (within reason) whatever I wanted.

Yet I wasn't happy. My job was mundane and boring, and while it paid the rent and let me live a stable life, I wasn't exactly rolling in the dough and didn't think I could support a family on my salary. I also envisioned holding a job that was exciting, challenging, and lucrative.

Then I drank the law school Kool-Aid. I believed the data about the average starting salaries. I listened to the anecdotes about appearing in court, working with interesting clients, and researching compelling issues.

Sure, I knew that at the very big firms, the work wasn't that interesting, but I was never all that interested in working at the largest firms anyway. Besides, if the money ever seduced me into taking such a job, I could always move over to a smaller firm with more interesting work later on.

All I "knew" was that there's lots of work for lawyers because everyone needs lawyers, even the average law graduate was making good money, and whatever job I received, it would have to be better than my current job.

Sound familiar?

So I dutifully dumped tons of money into LSAT prep courses and the application process. I researched the schools and essentially felt like I was a senior in high school again, weighing my options as I embarked on a new chapter in my life.

I actually laid awake paralyzed with fear one night, worried that I had blown the LSAT and would have to stay at my job and forgo law school (back then you only had one chance at the LSAT). If only I HAD bombed the LSAT!

Maybe my job was boring. Maybe I wasn't making enough money. Maybe I needed to find a new career path, but the answer certainly wasn't to be found by going six figures into debt and wasting three years of my life all to attend a school that would give me neither practical training nor a pipeline into a new and better industry.

On the eve of law school, I had a good job, my own place, and a positive net worth. When I graduated law school, none of these facts were true.

Let me put it this way, if I had access to a time machine, I would go back in time to find myself sitting at my desk, reviewing law school brochures. I would then rip the glossy brochure out of my former self's hands and throw him to the ground. I would proceed to kick him several times and tell him if he ever even considered applying to law school after this, I'd be back to finish the job.

Sure, I'd probably have a few bruised ribs today, but I'd also probably not be in the process of requesting Sallie Mae to put me on the IBR, so I "only" need to hand over 10% of my salary for most of the rest of my life.

With that, I guess it's time to close up shop. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment, or contact me with your stories.

It was an honor to hear from so many people who changed their minds about law school because of this blog, derived some comfort by reading my posts, or just found this blog to be an entertaining way to kill some time at work.

If this blog has helped one person find a non legal job or convinced a single person not to go to law school, then I'm convinced that my efforts have been worth it even if "Esq Never" hasn't moved the law school industry even an inch towards reform.

While I don't have any intention of pulling a "Brett Favre", I may occasionally post articles on Underdog, Esq. if I believe I have anything particularly compelling about which to write, but I wouldn't expect any such articles for a while.

I will leave this blog up (but not add to it) and available until Blogger goes the way of Geocities and deletes all of its pages.

I wish everyone the best of luck, and I hope that all of you who are currently suffering from unemployment and underemployment (thanks to your JD's) end up landing on your feet.

While I don't want to discuss law school or the scam anymore, if I can ever help anyone in the future with advice about transitioning into a non-legal job, please feel free to e-mail me. I can't promise an immediate response, but I'll do my best to check my esqnever at hotmail dot com account and try to respond.

With that, this is Esq. Never - signing off.
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