Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Law is 4 Losers (aka Skadden Farts) has had a number of different web presences in the five years since graduating law school. His latest incarnation is as the author of Big Debt, Small Law, a site that skewers both the law school industry and the New York City legal community (particularly the small law toilet firms and big law document review sweat shops). The blog lay dormant for a few months, but it is now back with a hilarious look at the after-scammer scavengers over at Solo Practice University.
I assume many of my readers have already taken a look at the new post, but if you haven't, it's definitely worth your time. If you like Esq. Never (or probably even if you don't), you'll love Big Debt. (Feel free to think of Esq. Never as the poor man's/law school grad's Big Debt, Small Law.)
Also, take a look at Law is 4 Loser's profile. He went to a tier 2 school and graduated during the boom times with a top 1/3rd class rank after 1L year and a top 15% rank at graduation. His reward? Five years of alternating between NYC's illustrious personal injury chop shops and handling doc review for the big boys in their infamous boiler rooms. Remember, study hard, kids!
Sadly, Law is 4 Loser's road to destruction led through one of the most depressed locations in which you could possibly live this side of Serbia: Newark, New Jersey. Like my dad queried when I once ordered the fried shrimp platter at a rest stop Bob's Big Boy, "Man, what were you thinking!?"
Now, of course, I can't get too high and mighty. After all, I'm in pretty much the same situation except for the fact that my tier two diploma apparently doesn't even qualify me for a document review position. Nonetheless, by attending a school in a much nicer location, at least I had a window seat on my plane ride to career perdition.
Seton Hall, L4L's alma matter, suffers from some other problems. For one thing, I had never really heard of Seton Hall before I began learning more about law schools. The only thing I knew about it was that at one point one of dorms burned down and a number of students tragically died when they failed to evacuate in time. While that's probably a good analogy for what going to law school is like, I'm not sure that's for what you want your institution to be known.
Furthermore, when you compare SH's career statistics with my school's CSO's numbers, you'd think that my 2TT employed Honest Abe himself - and trust me, that's saying something.
For instance, Seton Hall has the audacity to actually claim that students who work in NON-legal fields make at least an average of over $75k a year (Class of 2007). Apparently, the class of 2008 did even better with those entering the business world making a median starting salary of $125k a year.
Do most MBA programs even boast starting salaries that high? Unless SH graduates an inordinate number of students who end up becomimg international arms dealers or high end escorts, I'm pretty incredulous.
Seton Hall Law: Where your most difficult decision at graduation will be whether you want to make six figures at a big law firm or become a corporate tycoon.
No wonder tuition is over $40k a year.
In any event, welcome back, Law is 4 Losers. I'm glad we can once again add your voice to the anti-law school choir. I'm sorry that you have to toil away in a dungeon, and I'm particularly sorry that you had start your legal career in a city where Seton Hall is one of only the many tragedies to beset it.
In other law blog news, please welcome the Jobless Juris Doctorate to the scene. She has a great post with this choice quote from New York Law School's Dean Matasar:
“We own our students' outcomes," Matasar said at the AALS program. "We took them. We took their money. We live on their money. … And if they don't have a good outcome in life, we're exploiting them. It's our responsibility to own the outcomes of our institutions. If they're not doing well ... it's gotta be fixed. Or we should shut the drat place down. And that's a moral responsibility that we bear in the academy.”
What? Haven't the law school apologists informed us that graduates have gotten what they deserve. Does this Dean actually have more sympathy for us than those folks who graduated in 1972 (and dagnabbit if they could find a job so should we)? Maybe so, but until he's willing to make good on his suggestion to place the "Going out of Business" sign on the NYLS, I'm not about to sing his praises.
Readers, please don't be misled. The sorry state of the legal market isn't confined to the greater New York metro area. No, Esq. Never attended law school away from the "Capital of the World", and he any many of his former classmates are currently weighing their options as to whether to accept first year associate positions at Baskin Robbins or the Honey Baked Ham store.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I would wish the law deans a merry Christmas, but everyday is Christmas for those guys. Besides, those grinches were probably too busy with their annual raids on Whoville to bother celebrating - and I can guarantee you their hearts didn't grow three sizes that day (their bank accounts, maybe).
An odd criticism this blog receives is that it's just a virtual plea for sympathy. For some reason some folks believe that I'm hosting a cyber pity party for my tale of woe and sorrow.
I recognize this may just be an extension of everyone's favorite aspersion: "You're a whiner". I also acknowledge that I've invested more time in criticizing law schools than I originally intended. The main focus of this blog is supposed to be exploring job opportunities in fields outside of law for those who hold a JD.
Nevertheless, most of my overt "moping" is usually intended to be (perhaps poorly executed) self deprecating humor. My condemnation of the law school industry is not intended to be an extension of my own dissatisfaction with my current station in life. Instead, the points I make are applicable to a broad group of law school graduates.
If I was a lone loser who erred in going to law school and everyone else was doing fine, very well. Given the attention this blog has received and the fact that this message has been repeated across the internet, I don't think that's the case.
Even if I was seeking sympathy, what good would it do? It won't erase the debt or reverse my experience of the last three years. At best, there's the remote possibility that somebody would take pity on me (or even be impressed enough with this blog) and offer me a job. Of course, because I wish to retain my anonymity, I probably wouldn't even accept such an offer.
Contrary to popular opinion, I concede I made a mistake. Like George Bush would likely contend, I feel I made a mistake with the best possible information I had at the time. (More on the availability of information in a later post.) Nevertheless, I agree I do need to take some responsibility for my bad decision.
This, however, is largely irrelevant to the despicable way in which the law school industry conducts itself. One's objection to the law school industry is not dependent on his sympathy for the plight of the various lemmings who were convinced to dance to it's pied piper tune.
If you think that charging obscene prices that force students to endure a lifetime of crippling debt in return for meager job opportunities and only the most minimal practical training is A-okay, that's your business (probably literally). I, however, believe that most reasonable people would recognize this to be an absurd and corrupt business practice.
One commenter once compared the relationship between the law schools and their victims to tobacco companies and smokers. Personally, I think a better analogy would be between drug pushers and drugs users - and not just because it makes the law schools look even more wicked.
You see, I have zero sympathy for people who use recreational narcotics. (Well, there goes half my audience.) It's stupid, it's disgusting, and it's illegal. Furthermore, there no lack of information telling you that that most of these drugs won't just lead to serious serious psychological and health problems, they can very easily kill you. Even if you can evade the Grim Reaper, you probably won't also avoid the slammer.
Everyone pretty much knows that drugs are dangerous and illegal. If somebody faces the consequences of his stupid behavior, I'm not going to be particularly moved. Sure, I believe in second chances, but for the most part, drug users brought their situations on themselves.
Despite my lack of sympathy for most druggies, I don't believe their foolish choices excuse the actions of their enablers, the drug dealers. The dealers are wretched criminals who profit off of human misery. They full well know the ill their "products" have wrought upon society. They, however, do not care - as long as their ill gotten profits continue to flow.
Personally, I think these pieces of human debris also get what they deserve. May they rot in jail for the rest of their miserable lives. (I wonder why I didn't get a call back for that public defender position?)
The same is true for law schools. The deans, et al. know perfectly well that their graduates end up heavily indebted, working document review jobs, etc. They simply don't care. They have no compunction about destroying the lives of others as long as they can profit.
It doesn't really matter how naive, arrogant, or stupid admitted students may be. Knowingly destroying somebody's life for one's own personal pecuniary gain is simply untenable.
As you can guess, I honestly believe that the law school deans and their confederates are simply bad people.
If, per chance, I am wrong, then perhaps this blog (and others) will encourage the law schools to take an introspective look at their conduct. Perhaps, they will voluntarily agree to cease printing their exaggerated employment figures. Maybe they will make law school more practical and truly train people to be attorneys. Perhaps they'll warn students about the limited career prospects for those who don't make the cut at OCI. Who knows? Maybe tap dancing pigs will perform at the the ABA's ceremony announcing the closure of all non tier 1 schools.
Of course, I doubt I'm wrong about the law schools' motivations. If that's the case, then I hope that I (in a small way) can help put pressure on the ABA to independently audit the law schools' bogus statistics. I hope this and similar blogs can encourage legislation to force law schools to adhere to the same standards for reporting statistics as financial firms are currently required. I want to provide further impetus for mainstream journalists to make it clear that law school is, at best, a very risk investment. If nothing else, I hope that any 0L who stumbles across this blog won't just think twice but three or four times before enrolling in law school.
Just as I'm perfectly happy to see drugs dealers exposed and hauled off to jail to pay for the destruction they've caused, I think it's equally appropriate to see the law school scam exposed - both to shame the industry and to warn the next batch of victims of the destruction that awaits them - regardless of how foolish the victims may be.
Oh, and no, I wouldn't mind a few law school deans being dragged off in shackles to Club Fed to face the same fates as Michael Milken, Bernie Madoff, and Ken Lay for their fraud and deception.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Twas the Night Before Christmas (Law Dean Version)
by Esq. Never
Twas the night before Christmas for one shifty law dean
As he looked in the mirror and wondered "Am I really that mean?"
"No, I'm simply a businessman", he brashly declared
"Can I be blamed if so many students enrolled unprepared?"
"Why am I somebody these bitter grads do so deplore?
Have they never heard of 'caveat emptor' ?"
Suddenly he realized he wasn't alone as he turned around quick
And to his surprise, he saw a not-very-jolly old St. Nick
"Dean", a glaring Santa blunty stated
"It's perfectly fair for you to be so ardently hated"
"But why?" queried the Dean to the overweight elf
"Does it have anything to do with my promises of wealth?"
"Those salary stats are a lie not in part but in whole
For this you deserve a suitcase worth of coal"
"But", the Dean protested, "on average our graduates make 80 grand!"
Replied Santa, "... if those figures are calculated in South African Rand!"
Mr. Claus took out his laptop to navigate to Craigslist
He wanted to show the Dean some job postings he may have missed
"Look at this" Santa said, "Grads can work per diem for 50 bucks a day"
"They'd be better off on a farm pitching bales of hay!"
Said the Dean, "Come on, there's plenty of great work in temporary document review!"
Santa replied, "They'd have more dignity cleaning the monkey cage at the zoo!"
"At least they'd make good money," the Dean stood resolute.
Santa scoffed, "22 bucks an hour to work for some brute?"
Santa began to deliver a powerful speech
Hoping somehow the Dean's grinch heart he could reach
"Dean, who enters law school to code documents in a dungeon beneath the city
Or to chase ambulances for a chop shop that is as corrupt as it is gritty?"
"Does anyone come to a TTT law school purely for intellectual edification?
Certainly not at the price of a life time of negative amortization."
The dean indignantly asked, "Why do I care what you think?
There's an endless stream of student loans from which I can drink."
Replied Santa, "Careful dean, I'm more powerful than you know
I can do far more than just say, 'Ho, ho, ho' "
"Are you threatening me, Santa? Will you cause me to die?"
"No, Dean, I'm going to make it so you can no longer lie."
The dean was distraught about what he now had to do
He was forced to reveal that the employment stats were horse poo
The salary figures were adjusted to the 40k range
He had to admit the number of unemployed students now dancing for change
And to this very day nobody really knows
The true story as to why that one TTT finally had to close
Merry Christmas to everyone - even all of the law school apologist grinches out there. I'll be back after the Christmas weekend with plenty of new material.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Despite all of the attention Esq. Never has received, I never thought I would be contacted by a celebrity! That's right, former financier to the stars (and current felon), Bernard Madoff checked in with Esq. Never this week.* Apparently, Bernie unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) isn't a big of fan of this blog or its related endeavors. Nevertheless, assuming e-mails are as rationed as phone calls are in prison, I decided to allow Mr. Madoff the opportunity to express his thoughts for all to read.
I recently came across your blog and "Law School Carol" videos while perusing the Wall Street Journal on-line. Let me be blunt, you sir should be ashamed of yourself. Not only did I waste valuable minutes of my web surfing allowance here at Club Fed reading/watching your drivel, but I found myself becoming enraged at your miserable attitude.
It's people like you and the other complainers that are the reason why I am being unjustly incarcerated by the government. None of you whiners understand a thing about risk and doing adequate research. Didn't anyone tell you law school washouts or my investors that life isn't fair? Now society wants those of us who have been able to exploit this axiom to suffer. I thought this was America!
Fortunately, there seem to be voices of reason out there to counter the caterwauling on this blog . In the comment section beneath the ABA's story about your little video, a few real Americans decided to weigh in.
For example, one commenter noted "Please don’t whine about the shiny school brochures and things you “heard” from others or what the dean told you. Do you really believe everything you’re told? I hope not. If you do and now you have a crippling student debt and either no job or a poorly paying one, then you’ve learned a valuable lesson – do your research!"
I told my lawyers I wanted to use something similar to that line, too, but no, they said the court wouldn't buy it. Is it MY fault that my investors were foolish enough to believe what I told them or that they were swayed by some silly prospectus my firm produced?
Furthermore, I really like this guy, "This sense of entitlement is disgusting with law school grads now. Sorry mommy and daddy can’t always make it right, Gen Ys and Mills. So many of you go to law school for the wrong reasons and then cry because you can’t back out of the debt and misteps you made and the lack of critical thinking skills used to make such an important decision. If you want an absolute promise or guarantee in life, commit a felony and go to jail."
Right on, my friend. I wasn't even working with you selfish youngsters, and I still faced this entitlement problem: "Some admission officer convinced me to borrow a lot of money in order have better career options; some investment guru promised a strong rate of return if I invested my life savings with him - Now *I* feel entitled to have that promise upheld." You people make me sick!
There were some great points in there about actually doing research. Come on, just because the ABA, NALP, US News, and the law schools themselves all publicized respectable starting salaries and great employment statistics is no reason to take those claims at face value. You should have realized that there's no way those statistics were reasonable.
It's the same thing with my company. I mean it was mathematically impossible for me to provide my clients with the returns I claimed through any legal process. Somebody even complained to the SEC as early as 1999 about my tactics. How dumb were these people? They didn't even seem to care that I didn't allow them to have on-line access to their own accounts or that I sold all of the the company's holdings for cash before the end of each period to avoid making disclosures to the SEC.
After ignoring all those red flags, now those crybaby investors are whining just like you losers!
Also, kudos, to Dean JoAnne Epps (most likely speaking on behalf of all law deans) for dismissing the idea of an outside audit of law school salary/employment statistics. I did the same thing when some whiners complained about my firm's failure to use an outside auditor. I just made up some malarkey about the need for secrecy and that my brother was taking care of that in his role as chief compliance officer. Claiming that collecting the data would be too hard is a nice touch. Who's going to disprove you?
I hope you have the courage to post this dose of reality, Esq. Never! I especially want to encourage the deans to continue with their great business model. I mean, I wiped out the savings of old people and even some not for profit institutions, but I don't think I ever drove anyone into debt. I mean inducing a bunch of young people to mortgage their futures on some illusory promises of employment, that's just ruthless! I LOVE it!!!
Plus, hiding behind the cover of being a not for profit champion of higher learning is just pure genius. (Though I am intrigued by the for profit schools trying to get a piece of the action.) Oh, and the fact that you can reap your revenue almost exclusively through an endless stream of government guaranteed loans just brings a tear to my eye.
So here's some lessons, members of the entitlement generation: Never trust anyone (not your financial consultants, not the guardians of higher education, and for the love of Pete, not lawyers!); Caveat Emptor (even if that doctrine has technically been abolished) - if what you pay for doesn't work out, tough luck; and if you're going to brazenly rip people off, make sure you use a non-profit vehicle to do so.
I should have taken my own advice: The Bernie Madoff School of Law - I like the sound of that! Alas, I'll never have that chance because apparently government lawyers won't go after their own but are willing to come down hard on those of us in the financial sector.
P.S. - If any of your readers are looking for legal work, let me know. Because the government has seized my assets, I can't really pay them anything, but just think of the experience they'll build. Plus, I write great letters of recommendation.
* Correspondence may not have actually taken place.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Under a student loan regime, students would have easy access to federal loans and would then repay the money with interest with the money they earned from their higher paying jobs. Unlike a system of government subsidies (or nationalized higher education), the government would not have to pay for every twenty something to go to college and eventually be forced to engage in some form of rationing to curtail the otherwise unchecked demand. The system could also be seen as more "equitable" than the then existing laissez-faire model.
Sadly, the law of unintended consequences eventually reared its head. I assume for a while the system worked as planned: students borrowed, got better jobs, and paid back their loans. The problem is that thanks to the lower cost (at least in the short term) of deferring payment to attend college, the number of people pursuing higher education increased.
This not only diminished the value of having a degree but also increased the demand for higher education. The higher the demand, the higher the price a supplier can charge its consumers. The easy credit in addition to the chorus echoing from society that "education is the key" has driven higher education prices into the stratosphere.
As the cost of education has increased, government loans often were not enough to cover all expenses. In order to take advantage of the public loans, student often have to also resort to borrowing private loans, which usually have less favorable terms than the federal loans. (Within the last few years, graduate students have been able to borrow the entire cost of their education by using GradPLUS loans.)
This flood of abundant credit has also encouraged another economically inefficient practice: Rent Seeking. Rent seeking takes place when an entity seeks to profit by taking advantage of the (usually artificial) economic environment rather than through the production of actual wealth. As long as schools can convince students to attend their institutions, they can tap into an almost limitless supply of these government backed loans (and often residual private loans).
Law schools have particularly benefited from this student loan system. Law schools are relatively inexpensive to run when compared to other graduate programs (there is no need for expensive labs unlike for the sciences and medicine). There are few barriers to entry - no upper level mathematics or science requirements. Law has a relatively revered role in the American intellectual tradition and has been commonly seen as the path to wealth for those who were neither mathematically nor scientifically inclined. Like other graduate programs, the devalued undergraduate degree (particularly in the humanities) has made the law degree more attractive.
The rent seeking phenomena has been particularly evident with the rise of a multitude of new law schools. One for profit company has opened three new law schools within the past several years. Drexel, Liberty, and LaVerne all have relatively new law schools. The UMass system is looking to acquire a currently unaccredited law school while the SUNY system is mulling the addition of a new law campus at Binghampton.
The ability to draw from this reservoir of easy credit is at the heart of the problem. New schools enter an already saturated system and current schools charge ever increasing prices for degrees that are ever decreasing in value because there's very little capping demand.
Things have become even better for the law schools. Private lenders can lend with impunity because their debtors no longer have any protection in bankruptcy (except in the most extreme circumstances). The GradPLUS program makes it possible to borrow the entire cost of a legal education from the government will minimal barriers.
What's more, while the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan has been a great relief to borrowers, it's also something law schools most likely applaud as well. Not only does it slightly mute some of the resentment against them from recent graduates, but it also shifts the burden from the borrowers to the tax payers.
Under the IBR, borrowers need only pay 15% of their adjusted gross income less 150% of the poverty line every year (for all public loans - including GradPLUS). After 25 years, the remaining debt is forgiven (though possibly taxed). If a borrower works in the public sector or non-profit sector for 10 years, his loan is discharged after 120th payment.
Dissecting the new repayment policy is best left for another post, but for all those who shrug their shoulders at the law students who "should have done more research" before they borrowed so much money, now the law schools are coming after you. The law schools will now be reaping "profits" (I know they're "non-profit") not only off the backs of their students but also off of the backs future tax payers.
Like a typical rent seeker, they don't really add any value to the economy. Instead, they are scavengers and parasites simply taking advantage of a federal program gone awry. It's not like there is more demand for attorneys or an increased number of jobs to warrant either more schools or higher prices for receiving J.D.'s.
If we can't agree that the law schools are crooked, can't we at least agree that they are economically inefficient?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Today, I'd like to to discuss working with recruiters -sometimes known as headhunters. One decent piece of advice I did receive from my career services office is that entry level graduates from law schools really can't make use of recruiters. The reason is that as recent graduates we "don't have heads to hunt".
This is reasonable advice. There's little value to recent graduates (of any institution) aside from their degrees and whatever honors or achievements they earned while seeking those degrees. Therefore, a firm or company doesn't really need a middleman to help determine if a recent graduate will be right for the job. The employer can just evaluate the applicants course of study, internships, etc. It's also fairly easy to advertise an entry level position and have a number of recent graduates apply for it.
For those of us with pre-law, professional backgrounds, however, there may be some benefit to working with recruiters. You see, while the path to becoming a first year associate is a narrow one (you either get recruited at OCI or your don't), there are a number of different avenues people with some substantive work experience can take to get into different fields. For example, I recently spoke with someone with only a few years of work experience who was looking to relocate, she spoke with a headhunter who was able to get her a bunch of interviews (which led to a job).
One thing to keep in mind is that recruiters usually make their money by collecting a fee from the company which hires their recruit. This makes it more expensive to hire a recruited candidate rather than one who applies to the company directly. In this economy, with so many people seeking work, this could put you at a disadvantage.
On the other hand, given the volume of applicants, head hunters may be a good way of sorting through unqualified candidates and zoning in those who reliable head hunters have recruited.
If nothing else, if a head hunter is willing to work with you, it seems like there could be other benefits besides possibly landing some interviews. A recruiter is likely to offer you significant advice on both your resume and your sales pitch. After all, the more marketable you are, the more likely he is to place you and collect his fee. He may also be able to help spin your law degree with employers in ways that you are not able.
I'm going to speak tonight with a guy who's going to put me in touch with some friends who are recruiters. I'll let you know how things work out in later posts.
Readers, have any of you worked with recruiters/headhunters in the past? Any advice or information you'd like to pass along? Please post in the comments below.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sadly, as I've received more e-mails, comments, and attention on other forums, thanks to some of the recent publicity, my critics have become less disciplined and have been omitting parts from the script.
Such TTT quality criticism really is a shame. Therefore, as a sign of good will, I'm going to provide all of my condemners with the definitive stock anti-Esq. Never comment. I'll even provide you with the URL for this specific post, so you can just refer me to it when voicing your displeasure. In fact, I'll even forgo giving a rebuttal or any commmentary on the sample retort.
You are a whiner. That's why you have been unsuccessful so far. You deserve your fate because of the bad decisions YOU made and continue to make.
Law schools are businesses. Their "distorted" statistics are merely part of their marketing campaigns. You should have done more research before attending and borrowing so much money.
Even if the employment/salary statistics are not accurate, there are still plenty of great opportunities for law school graduates. You just don't want to pay your dues. Your mediocre (at best) credentials certainly don't mean anybody owes you anything. You just think you're entitled to a six figure salary and only care about money.
Why don't you stop whining and find a job? If you spent less time blogging and creating animated videos on Youtube, you'd already probably have one.
You're a nerd, a loser, ugly, and probably gay.
An attorney who graduated in 1971/0L entering law school, fall 2010/TTT law school administrator/TTT law school dean/The Prince of Darkness
As a postscript: Law school apologists of all stripes, I understand that this week has been a bit difficult for you guys. There's been at least three major articles urging students to think very carefully before deciding to go through with the decision to attend law school. The impetus for those articles have been this site and others like it.
While the recent publicity may have allowed us to help pluck a few naive prospective students from the flames, there's plenty of good news for you. LSAT administrations are up, and application numbers will likely be up too. Don't worry, you may have lost a victim or two, but there's plenty more where they came from to keep the government backed loans flowing in.
Do you hate Esq. Never? Copy and paste this link and send it to him to save time on expressing your contempt: http://esqnever.blogspot.com/2009/12/im-concerned.html
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It may come as a surprise to you, readers, but Esq. Never wasn't exactly Big Man on Campus in high school. Showing up ten years later while living in the house in which I lived when I attended high school after seven years of education isn't exactly the path to belatedly advancing up the social hierarchy.
While I don't know what I'll be doing while my former classmates are busy one-upping each other with tales about their careers and personal lives a year from now, I do know one thing: I don't want to end up being a caterer at the event. This means doing what I can to secure to real employment sometime this year.
Okay, I don't honestly think there's any chance I'll be a caterer at my high school reunion - I'm overqualified after all. Why then do I bring up the event? Well, given my current networking outreach, it seems like I'm having the high school reunion I never planned (or wanted).
Because I did not have any decent employment prospects when I graduated from law school, I was forced to move back home. I neither went to school (past high school) nor worked full time in my current state. That leaves me with limited contacts.
The only people I really know are those who graduated from high school with me. Here's a sample conversation I had with one of my former chums:
Esq. Never: Hey, Ralph, it's [Esq. Never]. It's great to talk with you again. How's it going, buddy?
Ralph: Who is this?
EN: It's [EN]. You know, we sat in the same row in 11th grade trig. Boy, those were some crazy times taking those derivatives and stuff.
R: I think that's calculus...Yeah, I kind of remember you. You aren't trying to sell me something are you?
EN: No, man, you've got me all wrong. I just want to catch up with my old buddy. Say, did you end marrying Amy? You two were so great together.
R: No, actually, she ended up dumping me after college to marry some hot shot investment banker. It's actually really painful to think about. Thanks for bringing it up.
EN: Hey, that stinks, brother. You know what also stinks? This job market.
R: Yeah, I've heard it's tough. I'm just glad that I have a steady job working for a wholesaler, marketing our merchandise to local retailers.
EN: Are you serious?! I've been trying to get into the uh, merchandise retail, err, marketing business.
R: I thought I heard that you went to law school.
EN: Law school? No way. I spent the last three years, uh, building thatched huts for poor people, in, uh, one of them loser countries.
R: I see.
EN: So anyway, do you think maybe you could put me in touch with some of the contacts you have in, err, the business you're in? Maybe pass along my resume.
R: Well, I guess...Hey, weren't you the guy who never returned my Warcraft IICD and when I tried to get it back from you, you told Amy I was seeing other girls?
EN: Whoa, man, would you look at the time? I've got to run, but hey it was great catching up with you. I look forward to seeing you at the reunion. [Click]
Well, in all seriousness, it did seem a bit awkward to contact people out of the blue to ask for career assistance. While it was pretty transparent that I was getting in touch with them out of self interest, people seemed genuinely happy to help. Obviously, I'm going to owe a lot of people favors in the future, but after going through this from this side of the table, I'll be happy to help.
I know there's a lot skepticism about networking, but it definitely works better if you're working with people you know personally and not just as professional contacts. After all, not everyone gets their jobs through OCI and job listings...even in the non-legal world.
The big problem with trying to do this with legal jobs is that the people you know (from say high school) can't do much to help you. If your buddy is a solo practitioner, he probably can't afford to take you on. If he is a BigLaw associate, he has no clout to bring you on board.
This isn't necessarily true for non-legal industries. Sure, most of your high school and college pals aren't CEO's, but within a few years at many companies, a person could be in a position to either hire new employees or to influence whom the company hires.
We'll see how this pans out, but it's great to have people who are personally interested in you succeeding on your side. I just wish I didn't make so many fat jokes about them in back in high school.
Speaking of fame, today I'm presenting to you the testimony of a reader who successfully transitioned from the law to a career in the entertainment industry. No, I don't mean she's a performing artist or that's she somehow broke into the virtually non-existent field of "entertainment law". I'm also not just trying to set the stage for a snide comment about a law school graduate who is now forced to run a movie projector or clean up spilled Slush Puppies at the local cinema.
That's right, for those of you who think this blog is just dedicated to cynicism and despair, you're wrong (that's only 90% of what Esq. Never is dedicated to). Occasionally, we do offer some hope and encouragement.
One of my advantages was the fact that I'd moved from CT to NYC due to my husband's getting his dream job in Queens while I was finishing law school.
Second, I have a separate entertainment background & even incorporated some of that background into things I did in law school like performing in a law school talent show or joining entertainment committees in bar associations (I was in ABA & NYCLA, New York County Lawyers Association as a law student & today for discounts).
Third, I lived so many places I simply didn't have significant attachments aside from going to school somewhere (didn't even join a CT bar association or participate in networking efforts there since my plan was ALWAYS NYC).
Fourth, I told people point blank I'm a creative person & just don't fit in the typical law firm environment; entertainment was my back-up career & I decided I didn't want to put my talent and experience away in a black box, never to be touched again. I also worked as a legal intern in my school's legal clinic & left a job at a mid-size Atlanta law firm to go to law school so I had some basis for that belief. Having my brother in law die at 21 right before I got accepted also made me decide life was far too short to spend it all kissing some big firm partner's behind (I was 22 at the time).
I had character & fitness issues when I was getting admitted, mainly b/c of not being born to money & having to survive on my own. This meant I had time on my hands to seek something to do. I chose entertainment internships (largely unpaid but I took out loans to cover living expenses while searching for a job in NYC). Led to an internship w/a veteran talent agent & working as the Exec Asst to the CEO of an up & coming film production company. Being in the right place at the right time has led me to some very unusual circumstances & achievements, including a partnership in the film company. So responding to relevant CL ads was what helped me. I also think not coming off helpless is a good tactic. Downside is I'm not making a fortune but you really work w/new companies for passion. I also came from very limited means & when that happens, you have to learn how to adapt or you don't make it. Not to mention most lawyers envy what I'm doing & other young ones don't have the same contacts or even the freedom to regard people at higher levels as equals like I can.
So I think luck, a good spin and proof of your story can make a real difference. I also did document review once & decided that if I wanted to be demeaned I'd be a prostitute instead of hanging around that environment. I went through a lot to get where I am so I don't see why anyone else can't do the same w/proper motivation.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking. "Thanks, Esq. Never, this is advice on how to land a job that's even more difficult to get than finding a decent attorney position. That's a real help." Well, first of all, maybe somebody out there actually does want to get into the entertainment industry. Secondly, if it's possible to get into the entertainment industry despite all of the baggage we carry from graduating from law school, it's definitely possible to find a run of the mill corporate or government job.
At least that's what I'm telling myself...
Monday, December 14, 2009
Northeastern University School of Law Dean Emily Spieler said prospective students should be aware of the potential downsides of law school, but should not take the Internet-based law school bashing at face value.
"The Internet is an egalitarian and a flat form of communication," she said. "That has its values and its negatives. It concerns me because I think it gives a lot of voice to deeply unhappy people."
Those who are satisfied with their decision to attend law school are less likely to share their experiences online, and anti-law school Web sites offer a skewed view, she said. Additionally, those sites tend to focus squarely on the availability of large law firm jobs and don't address the broad array of public interest and nonlegal jobs open to law school graduates, she said.
Apparently, "unemployednusl", a poster on JD Underground respectfully disagrees. You can read his awe inspiring rant in full at JDU (Dec 13 at 3:37 PM).
I've provided an excerpt for your reading pleasure:
This view is enhanced by a consistent and very vocal minority of the student body who parrot the administration's perspective that every single person at the school should work in the public interest. Mind you, only 12-15% of a given graduating class go into the public interest. Interestingly, many of the most vocal public interest folk (in my class, at least) came from pretty serious money, lived in luxury apartments/condos on the waterfront, Beacon Hill, or in Back Bay, and drove to school in BMWs and Audis. In their three years of law school, they spend absolutely no time whatsoever in the poorer neighborhoods of Boston, whose residents they claim to champion. In fact, I rather doubt they incurred any student loans at all...
If I could find an entry-level $30k job at some company somewhere, I would gladly take it, even though my minimum student loan payments are about $26k after taxes. There is not one entry-level position at a MA law firm on the school's job board. NOT ONE. Suffolk and New England School of Law have such positions listed, even if they are at shockingly low wages (think $25k). What they do have listed are a stenographer salesperson listing, a two-year unfunded fellowship in frigging Liberia, an attorney listing for Pangea3 in Mumbai, and an attorney/assistant position for a solo in Tiverton, RI, which is a lower-middle class suburb of Fall River, MA, a destitute mill city of 90,000 at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Plus an incredibly random smegma of public interest positions in Arizona, Florida, Alaska, DC, and basically anywhere except Massachusetts, where the vast majority of grads take the bar.
Am I deeply unhappy? [Indeed] I am! I had no great shakes before law school - as a graduate of a non-Williams/Amherst/Bowdoin/Middlebury NESCAC institution (the only ones with decent career services and loyal, high-placed alumni), I was in the midst of discovering how useless a liberal arts education really is in a city of research universities like Boston. However, even with the variety of crap retail and sales positions I held, I could make my loan payments. Today, I look at my future, and I need to make about $60k to spend as little as half my after-tax salary to Access and Nelnet. I have literally ten times the student loan debt that I did post-undergrad. I live in my parents' house with no health insurance, no car, and basically no hope. I have no expectation of making even $30k in my first job, whether in the legal profession or not. I feel successful if an employer I have applied to takes the time to send me a rejection letter, which happens maybe one time out of fifty. Informational sessions done as favors aside, I have not had a legitimate job interview in about a year and a half. Given that I took a spate of corporate and transactional courses, cannot afford malpractice insurance, and live in one of the most overlawyered states in the country, the idea that I might set up a virtual law office or troll the county courthouses for DUI's is risible. Every time my parents juggle credit cards or take money from their 401k's so that I can buy food, I want to vomit. I would try to get a job at Best Buy or something, except that I am "overqualified" and my student loan payments would drown me. My running shoes are four years old, and my glasses prescriptions are seven, but I cannot bear to ask my folks to help me get new ones. I screwed up something in my left shoulder really badly this summer, and still have not told them, because they cannot afford to send me to physical therapy, but would anyway. I have trouble sleeping without downing a few drinks - when I don't, I am usually awake until four or five in the morning, doubled over with fear and regret. Living with my parents in the middle of expensive metro-Boston suburbia, I can't even remember the last time I talked to someone of the opposite sex, much less had any sort of relationship. Which is of little consequence, because the salary I need to make to support a home and a family is far more than I ever have a reasonable expectation to make. Call it a buck-fifty, at least.
Wow. If Dean Spieler ran over this guy's mother on his birthday, I wouldn't be able to feel more sympathy for him.
Sounds like he's really making the most of those public interest and non-legal job opportunities you tout, Dean.
So, let's see, Dean Spieler pushes a radically liberal law school program, but hates free speech that affects NUSL's bottom line. She forces her students to fight for radical moon-bat crusades, but is dismissive of complaints about the destruction her and her colleagues have wrought on thousands of law school graduates. She boasts about the great public interest and non-legal careers available to graduates while simultaneously (along with her career services flunkies) throwing this guy (and likely others) under the bus to enjoy a life of debt and financial ruin.
Northeastern Law: Where you're not a REAL liberal until you experience a life of poverty first hand!
According to the WSJ:
Frankly, we found it hard to get past the computer-generated voices, but appreciated the message — that for many, graduating from law school is like being dropped off a cliff.
Apparently, these philistines don't know fine art when they see it*, but I appreciate the additional publicity.
For those of you who are new to the Esq. Never blog thanks to the recent publicity, welcome.
Here at Esq. Never, we have a good time poking fun at the law schools and their lies. I also try to encourage people not to go to law school (except in extraordinary circumstances). That said, I also want this blog to be instructive - to help those with J.D.'s to be able to transition away from the legal industry. I hope you can learn from my experiences and (numerous) mistakes as I look for a decent paying, non-legal job.
So, please bookmark this page, subscribe to the RSS feed, or just check back frequently as we continue with my quest. We'll laugh, we'll vent, we'll watch me lose my temper at the various commenters who insist that I'm just a self entitled, whiner with a bad attitude (hey! that's only a half truth!).
* I agree that the computer generated voices are annoying, but I'm glad that xtanormal still provides the free software to create these little cartoons. Thank you, xtranormal, the revolution wouldn't be possible without you.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Overall, I am happy with how the story came out. Obviously, I would have loved for it to have been a call to arms to expose the deans and the law school cartel for the crooks and sham that they are, but this is an industry publication, and the author had to be even handed.
Karen Sloan, the author of the piece, spoke to me for about a half hour. She seemed sympathetic to the backlash against the law school industry, but reporters probably try to empathize with the person they're interviewing in order to encourage them to be more forthright during the discussion.
I'm pretty pleased with how Esq. Never was portrayed. I only received a few quotes in the story, but they came early on, and they pretty much got to the core of my objections to law school. It was also great to get some more exposure for "A Law School Carol". Whether you think it's lame, funny, or something in between, I think it's a concise warning about what a bad decision law school can be for many students.
I think the article really gave our side a good hearing. While Ms. Sloan was obliged to give the Deans and the ABA a chance to respond to our concerns, they mostly ended up coming off as buffoons who are detached from reality. In sharp contrast, she didn't just rely on the scam busting blogs (whatever you may think of us) to issue the dissenting opinion. She also turned to professors of law, who are actually taking up our cause and calling on the powers that be to be more responsible and honest in reporting employment and salary data.
While others may disagree, I think this was a good article that helped expose at least some of the problems with the law school cartel. Thank you, Ms. Sloan. Let's see more of this sort of reporting in the future.
While I'm pleased with the article, I'm not pleased with what some of the people in the article have to say.
Let's turn to the Cheers and Jeers:
William Henderson, Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington
Prof. Henderson is a true hero, and if the law school industry ever decides to admit its deception, it will be in no small part due to his efforts. In this article, he pretty much tells it like it is: Law schools let everyone believe that they're on their way to great jobs with good salaries, but the reported median salaries are misleading.
In his own words: "We can no longer sweep bad information under the rug. We need to change the system."
Well said, sir.
Daniel Thies, Harvard Law School, 3L
Maybe it's the recession, but it looks like you don't have to be a TTT grad to recognize that the law schools are trying to pull a fast one with their criminal marketing techniques. I don't know what Thies' situation is - whether he's also looking at few employment opportunities, or if he's just someone who is able to recognize that while he may be among the fortunate elite, most people underneath him are getting hosed. If it's the former, be afraid prospective law school students; if it's the latter, maybe he can teach a thing or two to the law school apologists on JD Underground, etc.
Herwig Schlunk, Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School
Prof. Schlunk has authored a study that demonstrates that law school is a losing "investment". His statistical analysis takes into account both accounting costs and opportunity costs to determine that the total cost of attending law school is not justified by the expected earnings for a future graduate (regardless of the school he attends). Even more sobering, the numbers he used were based upon pre-recession data.
Sorry law school apologists, even if you think the anecdotal evidence weighing against attending law school is just the byproduct of whiners and losers, it looks like cold hard mathematics is also at odds with your sad assertions.
The American Bar Association
Why am I not surprised that our friends at the ABA help compose the villain wing of this article? If you thought that the testimony and statistical analysis of a couple of prominent law professors from tier 1 schools might encourage the ABA to take some responsibility for the malarkey being spewed forth by the law schools and NALP as reliable employment data, you'd be wrong.
No, you see this isn't the ABA's job. I guess when you're too busy accrediting every law school that somebody operates out of the back of his van, you don't have time to worry about the financial Armageddon that's awaiting the next pool of "lawyers". I guess helping ship the remaining document review jobs to Albania or advocating for every political, moon-bat crusade is more of your thing, right guys?
Let me get this straight, the ABA's flunkies in the individual state bars somehow can coerce us to give everything but a blood sample to take the state exams and want us to remember the exact addresses for the people by whom we got paid to shovel snow in 11th grade, but somehow they can't gather current employment data to report back to "central command"?
If that's truly too much work for our ABA friends, how about just requiring the schools they accredit to remit the raw data they collect back to them, so they can verify just how many students report information and to what degree the schools engage in any "artful" marketing practices. How about setting guidelines for the honest reporting of employment and salary data and forcing the deans to sign off that they adhered to these parameters under the penalty of perjury?
No, no, the honor system is just fine. I mean people never lie about data and financial figures when it's in their own self interest. Maybe when you boys are done defending various Jihadist terrorists, you can help Bernie Madoff and Michael Milken out. They could sure use your support.
Dean JoAnne Epps, Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law
Pay no attention to those bitter bloggers, cries Dean Epps. She claims it would be too difficult for an independent authority to track down the data about post law school employment. Like I said, I doubt this is true, but how about turning over the data you ALREADY HAVE, Dean? I think what she meant to say is that it would be difficult for law schools to explain the gross deception in which they've been engaging for decades (if not longer).
Dean Epps also throws out the canard that the recession is to blame for our lousy career prospects. I'm sorry, I guess your graduates who were toiling away in Philadelphia document review projects during the boom period were there because it was their dream all along. (Not to mention students from other schools in other cities doing the same thing.) I'm sure during the credit bubble, non-legal employers were just fighting with each to hire J.D.'s and never saw it as a mark of being "overqualified" or directionless.
Check out the (now defunct) State of Beasley blog for a honest appraisal of Philly's illustrious public law school. (Temple Law: The Charm of North Philadelphia with the Document Review Options of a NYC School - Enroll now and get a free bullet proof vest!)
Dean Emily Spieler, Northeastern University School of Law
Apparently Dean Spieler, the dean of a famously liberal law school, isn't a big fan of free speech when it adversely affects her institution.
To wit: "The Internet is an egalitarian and a flat form of communication," [Dean Spieler] said. "That has its values and its negatives. It concerns me because I think it gives a lot of voice to deeply unhappy people."
Oh, sorry, Dean are the ABA, NALP, and individual law school propaganda machines not enough for your arsenal of misinformation? How about we give you the whole internet, too?
Unfortunately, it doesn't concern the Dean that there are deeply unhappy people. After all, that would mean accepting some culpability for this mess.
Sorry, Dean, you have plenty of avenues to spread your claims about reasonable salaries and fulfilling work being available at the end of the law school rainbow, and I have my humble blog to let the world know that instead of the pot of gold you promise, there's just a metaphorical Nelson Munce with his trademark "HA HA" taunt waiting for us.
I'll tell you what, when the law schools start producing honest marketing materials, I'll close down this blog. Deal?
She also offers this howler: "Additionally, those sites tend to focus squarely on the availability of large law firm jobs and don't address the broad array of public interest and nonlegal jobs open to law school graduates, she said."
Oh, you mean like washing cars at the Soap and Suds or driving four hours a day to volunteer for the state AG? Actually, this entire site is dedicated to the "nonlegal jobs open to law school graduates". Sadly, Dean, aside from covering up that you actually went to law school, there aren't any nonlegal jobs (this side of wearing a paper hat at a drive thru window) for law school graduates. I think I'm too ill (from reading this tripe) to even address the nonsense about the "ease" of finding a public interest job.
So there you have it, folks, further proof of the (slightly edited adage): How do you know a law school dean (or ABA representative) is lying? His or her lips are moving.
Friday, December 11, 2009
"The talk" of which I speak in regard to law schools is the - "Are you sure you really want to continue?" talk. To my knowledge no school actually does this.
Let me elaborate. Law schools know pretty well what happens to their students after graduation. Whether it's based upon survey data they receive from graduating students or just the school's reputation in the local legal community, they're aware of how the graduating classes place.
That means they know if their students are working in the large regional (or national) firms. They know how many of them can only find work working for smaller offices. They should have a good idea if their students end up doing PI work or actually find their ways into more substantive areas of the law. They're well aware of how many of their graduates end up taking temporary jobs and toiling away in document review. They also know how many graduates are forced to "hang a shingle" or give up on the law altogether.
Furthermore, it shouldn't be too hard to discern which students get which jobs. Do only the top 10% end up with the type of firm jobs where there are summer associate positions, personal secretaries, and six figure salaries awaiting them? Are there decent options for people who miss the top 10% but still are in the top half? Does ending up in the bottom 50% sentence students to a life of ambulance chasing and document review? Do state judicial clerkships actually lead to desirable positions or do they just delay the inevitable by a year? Are those who are at the absolute bottom more likely to be abducted by aliens than to ever get a job with a firm?
I don't buy that most law school deans (or their underlings) don't have pretty good answers to each of these questions. As most of us know, for those school outside of the Top 25 (sometimes better), the answer ain't pretty. In the current recession, things are even worse.
Many students from good schools (good ranks, high minimum LSAT scores, low acceptance rates) and those with strong academic/extracurricular records will likely end up disappointed.
Think of the body count: Law is 4 Losers finished in the top 1/3rd at a tier 2; Loyola 2L finished just outside of the top quarter at another 2nd tier; Angel the Lawyer went to a top 30 school; Third Tier Reality earned (and maintained) a full scholarship to (albeit) a third tier school; the comments and e-mails our blogs have received indicate that this is a common sentiment even among those with even better credentials; you could fill Madison Square Garden with the number of posters who have logged onto JD Underground to voice their dissatisfaction; "good" schools like Brooklyn, Seton Hall, Syracuse, and Suffolk are casually referred to as expensive diploma mills.
Given the empirical data law schools have and the amount of dissatisfaction that exists, can't the law schools do something to minimize the carnage out there? Sure, it would be nice if they stopped distorting the employment figures and salary data they report, but if they're unwilling to do that, I have another solution: "The Talk" I mentioned earlier on.
"The Talk" would vary by the prestige of the school, but essentially it would consist of providing an honest assessment of the job opportunities that await those in the bottom X% of the class after the first year. Those who have particularly struggled at all but the best schools should be strongly urged to reconsider their options.
This would be quite fair. At least during good times, everyone does have the chance at all first tier (and most second tier) schools to land a good, legal job. After the first year is over, this is no longer true (except among the best schools). True, some people wouldn't have taken the gamble but for the inflated figures (which make it seem like less of a gamble), but at least they'd have a clearly marked exit after all hope is lost. "The Talk" would also only be a suggestion - If the guy who is dead last has an uncle who has guaranteed him a job as long as he graduates, fine. If some schlub at the median of his class at St. John's thinks doing document review in NYC beats digging ditches in Kansas, that's fine too.
Does this seem unreasonable? It shouldn't. Law schools do the same thing when their own self interests are at stake. Schools in the fourth tier, which are barely hanging onto their accreditation, regularly and involuntarily axe those at the bottom of the class to keep their bar passage rates at an acceptable level. Even at my tier 2 school, there apparently was a little "chat" with the "less gifted" students urging them to take some remedial measures to make sure they could pass the bar. Supposedly it was billed as an offer to "help us, help you", but it's pretty clear that they wanted over 90% of the class to pass the bar on the first attempt.
Think about it, at those fourth tier schools, it probably feels bad to get told that you're going to be a casualty of academic attrition, but I'd wager that's a much better fate than just barely making the cutoff. The former student is booted out of school, but is only down one year's worth of expenses and can go off and do something else. The poor chump who was able to just barely hang around is looking at six figures worth of debt and worse job prospects than a high school dropout.
Shouldn't better schools also try to stop the bleeding? If most people who attend a tier one or two school attend because they're hoping to have a nice office, earn a nice salary, etc., shouldn't they be told that their class rank makes them virtually ineligible for this dream? What harm is there in telling this students or sending them the following letter:
To: Class of 20xx [Admin Note: Do not send to URM's; we can't risk losing our "diversity"!]
From: [Some TTT Dean Who's Making A Modest Effort to Avoid Jacob Marley's Fate]
Dear Class of 20xx,
Congratulations on successfully completing your first year at [Some TTT] law school!
In truth, at all but the worst law schools, it's pretty hard not to successfully complete your first year of law school. Ordinarily, we'd just pat you on your back and continue to allow you to mortgage your futures, so I can buy a third house. This year, however, you're in luck! Three spirits visited me this past Christmas Eve, and convinced me to issue you this note of caution.
Some of you may be happy with your first year grades. Some of you are not. To once again be honest (boy, this is hard), most of you should not be.
You see, historically, at our school, anyone outside of the top 25% is usually unsuccessful at fall OCI. In fact, once the courtesy interviews are over, the percentage falls to about 10%. Those of you outside of the top quarter should take this into consideration when determining whether you should return to law school in the fall or try to bag a rich spouse over the summer.
The news is even more grim for those of you in the bottom half of the class. Very few people with your class rank end up making more than $50k a year after graduation, and it isn't unheard of to land attorney positions that pay around $30k with no benefits. You do know Starbucks offers health insurance, right?
Sadly, for those of you sad slackers stuck in the bottom quarter, I'm afraid you're the most likely to end up not even working a job that requires (or even prefers) a J.D. Save yourself the future headache and just submit to the inevitable right now. As they say, the world needs ditch diggers, too.
Finally, for those of you at the absolute bottom, I feel ethically compelled to inform you that while we've lost contact with most former graduates in your position (I don't know why USPS won't deliver to cardboard boxes), a not insubstantial number of the ones we do know about end up fleeing to Uzbekistan to evade their creditors. I'm just saying...
There - this will almost certainly ruin my Christmas next year. I hope after you all make your decisions, I can still make it a "December to Remember" by being able to buy both my wife and my mistress new Lexuses. Those ghosts better have been right...
The "Repentant" Dean
The reason why you won't see this letter is that "A Christmas Carol" is a fictional tale, and greedy malcontents don't get visited by the undead to convince them to change their wicked ways. The law school deans obviously don't care that they're sending at least half of their classes (if not more) to lives of low wages, temporary work, and/or crippling debt. They just want to make sure the checks keep rolling in and that a high attrition rate won't adversely affect either the prestige or profitability of their diploma mills.
[Look for my upcoming "Open Christmas Letter to the Law School Deans" as I say Bah-Humbug to these bums. Coming soon!]
Thursday, December 10, 2009
That's pretty disgusting, but I'd contend that this incident is still less repugnant than the Commonwealth's most recent (albeit more metaphorical) toilet related story. It seems that the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees voted to saddle the state's taxpayers with the burden of supporting one of Massachusetts' 90 law schools. The Board voted to acquire the Southern New England School of Law.
SNESL is one of two unaccredited schools of law (think of it as a TTTTT). Along with the Massachusetts School of Law, these two institutions remain ABA unaccredited* but allow students to sit for MA bar. It presently has one of the worst bar passage rates in the Commonwealth, which is often times nicknamed Passachusetts for it's remarkably high bar passage rate (90% among first time takers this July). Presumably, UMass will do what it takes (and apparently it doesn't take much) to received ABA accreditation.
This will add another accredited school to a market that is already flooded. The difference is that the taxpayers will be forced to subsidize this particular diploma mill. Of course, proponents of this absurd acquisition claim that UMass lawyers will do the jobs other lawyers won't do, namely public interest work.
Can law school apologists and administrators ever stop lying?
For one thing, even with the subsidized tuition, it will still cost about $20,000 a year to attend the new law school. Over three years, that's $60k just for tuition. Given how expensive the Boston area is (though SNESL is outside of the city), it could easily still cost someone in excess of $100,000 to attend UMass Law. That's not exactly a debt load that makes it easy to pursue a non-profit career.
For another thing, public interest law isn't exactly a guaranteed job for anyone with a heart of gold. It can be just as hard to find a paid public interest position as it to find a good firm position. Do they honestly believe that Suffolk and New England School of Law grads (or Northeastern on up) are awash in big firm offers that they feel compelled to take either out of greed or necessity to pay off their private school debt?
Graduates from those schools (if they can find legal jobs at all) end up chasing ambulances and collecting debts for under $50k a year not because they are unable or unwilling to work for public interest causes, it's because that's all there is out there. UMass grads will find that out too - of course, they'll be chasing ambulances and filing frivolous law suit, in part, courtesy of the Massachusetts taxpayer.
* Isn't that sad? The ABA would probably accredit a taco stand if it claimed it had a law library. The Florida Coastal school of law is even ABA approved, and it's application for admission is less complex than most credit card applications.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
What does this have to do with my recent revelation? Well, today I realized I now hold a dreaded Liberal Arts degree. Think about it, that's all the J.D. is once you get away from the law. Nobody cares if you know what the Rule Against Perpetuities is. Heck, the arrogant BarBri lecturer from the MBE Advantage (or whatever it was called) videos said we could just skip any multiple choice questions on it. Congratulations, if you memorized all of exceptions to hearsay rule. That and the ability to stand and a smile will get you a job as a Wal-Mart greeter. You can deliver a knockout appellate court rebuttal, you say? Great. I'm sure your future cubicle mates will be really impressed.
As most people who majored in the arts and social sciences (aside from economics) can probably tell you, whatever knowledge they gleaned from their majors, it only had limited marketability. Just as above mentioned legal skills are of little use in most professions, few employers are looking for an expert on the political philosophy of the Renaissance period or somebody who can provide a feminist critique of Jane Austen.
Liberal arts/social science majors are usually forced to articulate the broad skills they obtained from their ill considered choice of a major. Sound familiar? While law schools may claim that graduates can market their knowledge of the legislative process and government to land policy jobs, can't political science majors do the same? What about the great writing skills we developed? Something tells me that English majors might also possess that skill. How about analytical reasoning? Sorry, philosophy majors (not to mention econ and math majors) have that covered as well.
Look in the mirror, my fellow J.D.'s and you'll see a glorified Women's Studies major. (Of course with an extra degree that makes us "overqualified" for many positions.)
Take heart, though. While liberal arts B.A.'s and J.D.'s will both likely end up delivering pizzas, it will be those lowly college grads who will be stuck working for local shops. Career services once let me know that Papa John's and Domino's look favorably upon a J.D., so it looks we've got the inside track to BIGPIZZA.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
There was also another Fox show that took a less sanguine view of the "noble profession" than most of the Hollywood programs: Malcolm in the Middle. Malcolm was never as popular as some of its contemporaries. It was a bit "quirky" and even weird, but it also was at times quite clever and smart for a Fox program about an "out of control" family.
Malcolm didn't have any recurring attorney characters like the Simpsons' Lionel Hutz, but it had some good attorney jokes. For example, in one episode, the bitter grandmother was suing the family for an accident that took place on their property. She believed that even though Malcolm's family was strapped for cash, she could just reap a settlement from their insurance carrier. It turned out, however, that the family's insurance policy had lapsed. When the grandmother's attorney learned the bad news, he picked up his briefcase and headed out. When the grandmother protested, he responded, "Hey, I have no problem throwing a family out into the cold, but I'm not going to do it for FREE."
If you consider that to be just a cheap lawyer joke, fair enough. Malcolm, however, had the most honest appraisal of the law school "investment" of any show I've ever seen.
In another episode, Malcolm's wayward, older brother, Francis is stuck in an Alaskan work camp trying to eek out a living. In this episode, he and the other workers are scrubbing a disgusting vent above the stove. The following exchange takes place (slightly paraphrased from memory):
Francis: This is awful. Remind me again why we are doing this?
Other Worker: I don't know about you guys, but I'm still paying off law school.
[A dead possum falls down from the duct, revolting everyone.]
It's funny because it's true, folks.
On the bright side, assuming that joke is the product of experience, it looks like one of our comrades was able to get a job writing scripts for a television show. Unfortunately, (even though I liked it), Malcolm in the Middle was kind of a TTT of the sitcom world.
[If anyone has a clip of the aforementioned scene or a copy of the script, let me know, and I'll link to it.]
Monday, December 7, 2009
At the beginning of Godfather III, Michael Corleone is being honored by the Roman Catholic Church for his "generosity". As we all know from the earlier movies, Michael's criminal deeds make him an odd candidate for such an honor. I personally couldn't stand to watch too much of this unworthy sequel, but I did make it to the part where his ex-wife confronts him and declares that the church ceremony was nothing more than a sham.
I recently felt like making a similar outburst . You see, in my jurisdiction, the state bar/court system doesn't stop tormenting and teasing you once the bar exam results are released. No, they've decided it's necessary to make us appear at a special, ceremonial court session to formally induct us into this "noble profession".
The day started off with us receiving eight different directions (all of them wrong) on how to line up alphabetically. We were then paraded into the auditorium where we were surrounded by family and friends who stood by to share in our "achievements".
The main event was the actual swearing in of the new attorneys. This didn't exactly work too well. It was kind of hard to raise our right hand as we were packed in like sardines. It must have been funny to see this hoard of new attorneys, feebly lifting up their hands like elementary school students who aren't sure they have the right answers. This awkward session made it difficult to properly swear the oaths, but I guess whatever we mumbled to ourselves counted. I think I heard the guy next to me accidentally swear that he would file frivolous law suits and then rattled off his lunch order.
The speeches were boring. Most were either self promotions or advertisements for the industry. The law schools already have our money, guys - no need to keep selling us on it. There was, of course, the obligatory moon-bat judge waxing poetic about our need to work for social justice. (I'm sure that the ABA/Law School cartel is exempt from such ethical obligations.)
As the ceremony wound down, the cracks in the facade became apparent. We were informed that this filled to capacity ceremony was one of only nine. Each session would dump hundreds of new attorneys on the state. As soon as each participant's (judge, speaker, MC) role was over, he or she bolted for the door.
In order to formally record our status as attorneys, we were supposed to sign the "roll of attorneys". All this meant, however, was that we essentially signed an attendance list - kind of like what your 1L legal writing teacher passed around to make sure you didn't miss out on a single thrilling Blue Book lesson.
Finally, after all that, we were invited to come up to receive our licenses. The process was orderly but not formal. Pretty much, it was just a chance for a parent or spouse to pose with the new attorney and get a picture taken for this year's Christmas letter*. It was kind of the barrister equivalent of getting your photo taken at Santa's village. There was even a cop, who looked like she moonlighted as a North Pole elf, to move the line along.
Once we had our certificates, we were free to leave. We exited the building and there was no more fanfare, just the cold reality that (aside from the fortunate few with jobs) we now had to find some way to make a living and keep Sallie Mae from seizing our newly acquired licenses (not that it really matters). The only future step is waiting for the bar to come to pick our pockets once more for our annual dues.
This was really all this ceremony was - a circus paid for with our bar exam fees. It's kind of like when a local police officer comes to a school assembly and let's the kids take turns playing around in his cruiser, turning on the siren and pretending to be police officers. For a day, we got to pretend we were something important, officers of the court. It was nothing more than a fantasy camp.
I assume after months of unemployment, many of my fellow inductees felt the same way, but what was sad was all of our family and friends were there beaming with pride. You see, few of them realized that this was just a ritualistic activity meant to portray the legal industry as some sort of select profession. They might as well have been swearing in Subway's certified sandwich "artists".
Here they were, parents, spouses, and children, all exchanging hugs, kisses, and handshakes with their new lawyer family members. What a scam. How many of these people will ever even practice law? How many will bounce around temporary document review projects? How many will work in dingy, disreputable offices while scrounging for clients?
My dad shook my hand and said he was proud of me. I could barely look him in the eye. My guess is that he'll be significantly less proud in nine months when I'm still at home and am responsible for organizing the Dorrito display at the local 7-11.
I opened with a reference to a bad movie, so let me close with one as well. Logan's Run is a crummy, old sci-fi movie. It takes place in a Malthusian inspired future in which the population is able to enjoy a life of ease and pleasure. The only catch is that in order to maintain this system, the population is strictly controlled. As I recall, nobody lives past 30 (making law school an even worse investment).
Those who attain the age of 30 are required to attend a ceremony known as "Carousel". The friends of those who have come of age shout "Renew!" at the ceremony in hopes that their departed comrades will regenerate rather than simply be incinerated. While some resist this fate, for most part, the promise of reincarnation (and the forfeiting thereof by those who disobey) lead most to attend the ceremony and hope that the promise is true.
Of course, the reincarnation is just a myth. It just lets everybody feel better about the situation: the onlookers, the victims, and the administrators. So too was the bar ceremony. Family members could swell with pride, admitted attorneys could gasp one last breath of dignity, and the court officials could rationalize that they at least sent us to our demise with a pep rally. At the end of the day, however, there was no reincarnation in the domed city of Logan's Run and there's no future in the law industry in this world.
* "This year has been great. Timmy finally graduated from law school and received his law license. It's too bad he has to sleep under a bus and compete with Mexican day laborers to work odd jobs to make ends meet."
Sunday, December 6, 2009
If I had known the supply curve of lawyers was bowed so far to the right that it had brought the equilibrium price/wage down to the point where we have to beg to GIVE our services away, I would probably have avoided law school. Sadly, that empirical evidence escaped me.
Fortunately, I did gain the understanding of another economic concept: The fallacy of the sunk cost. A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred. No future action can help you avoid what has already been lost. (This is the "no use crying over spilled milk" concept of economics.)
The fallacy that often tempts people is that simply because they've already incurred a cost, they need to continue following a related course. This is fallacious reasoning because future decisions should be based upon their own cost/benefit analysis not upon costs that can no longer be avoided.
For example, say you purchased a non-refundable movie ticket. Later you learn that the movie is awful. You would derive no pleasure from seeing it. You'd much more prefer to sit at home watching TV. Still, you might try to rationalize to yourself that "I've already paid for the ticket, I might as well go." This is irrational. You'd be maximizing your utility (happiness) by staying at home, and you've already paid for the ticket either way.
When it comes to law school, this fallacy is a powerful force which can get you into trouble: I've already taken the LSAT, I might as well apply to law school. I put the time and effort into applying to law school, I might as well try it out. I hate law school and I have crummy grades, but I already completed the worst year of it, so I might as well just plug along to get my degree. I don't really want to practice, but I might as well take the bar. I'm a licensed attorney, but the profession stinks and the pay is low, but I might as well try practicing. I hate my job and I'm wasting my life, but I might as well put on a good face and log onto JD Underground to rebuke the posters for daring to criticize my profession.
Despite understanding this concept theoretically, I sadly failed to apply it to my own decisions regarding law school. When I didn't get the LSAT score I wanted, I shouldn't have applied. When I didn't get into the school I wanted, I should have done something else. When I realized I hated law school, I should have bailed out.
Well, the Esq. Never blog is dedicated to stopping this trend. I'm personally stopping myself from continuing down the road of least resistance towards destruction. Yes, I have taken on six figures of debt and wasted three year of my life. I labored tirelessly and passed the bar. I've been duly sworn in as an officer of the court. I, however, am perfectly happy to "throw it all away".
I don't want to be a lawyer. I certainly don't want to earn under $40k to work for some legal chop shop. I don't want to chase ambulances. I don't want to represent scumbag drunk drivers. I don't want to take part in the local court's daily cattle call. I don't want to harass (fellow) debtors. I don't want to click a mouse "reviewing documents" for the next several years. I don't want to work for a slime ball whose picture and 1-800-Lets-Sue advertisement appears on the side of the municipal buses. I don't want MY picture on the back of the bus. I don't want to deal with low life clients. I don't want to fill out redundant and wasteful forms. I don't want anything that comes with being an attorney.
Should I have realized this before I enrolled in law school? Sure. Nobody wishes that I did more than me. It's too late to take that decision back. It's not too late, however, to stop pushing forward. Say I land a low level PI, ID, debt collection, or similar position. In five years, I'll be that much further down the road towards destruction. I won't have any transferable skills. It'll be even harder for me to spin my experience to get out the industry. I'll have to take a pay cut to switch industries, and if I get laid off I'll have few options but to go solo or find some other sleazy firm to take me on.
I'm under thirty. I'm not that far removed from my non-legal career/experience. The income based repayment plan will help make my debt more manageable. It's time to right the ship, move forward, and look back at law school as an expensive "lesson learned".
Readers, if you're in the same boat, don't wait until you're in too deep that there's nothing you can do about your situation. Put your pride and law degree behind you. They took three years of your life and a ton of money, don't let them take everything else.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
My Lloyd Braun (MLB) didn't quite overshadow my childhood like the original character did George's. In fact, prior to high school, we were both pretty unimpressive, nerdy guys. When we later enrolled in high school, MLB bulked up both physically and in self confidence. I remained wimpy and introverted. He wooed the girls, charmed the parents, and was a regular big man on campus.
Apparently, my parents ran into him at a local event while I was in law school. He currently works for a state representative, and as is typical for many such employees, loves to give the impression that he can "make things happen". After glad handling my parents for a while, they brought up that I might be interested in interning for the local DA over the summer. He gave them the old wink and nod and told them that I should get in touch with him and he could help get me in.
I was pretty skeptical when I heard about his offer. I had live in DC for a while and knew plenty of these sorts of people who always liked to make it seem like they were better connected than they really were. I didn't really have much to lose, so I sent him an e-mail with a note thanking MLB for his "help" and an attached copy of my resume.
Not surprisingly, I never heard back from him. I had also sent my resume and cover letter to the DA's office. I received a form letter back, informing me that they had received materials too late to be considered (even though I was well within the deadline posted on their website). Remember, networking with the well connected always pays dividends!
MLB ran into my parents again during my 3L year and the topic of my career came up once again. I guess they brought up the DA, and once again, he said I should get in touch with him to see what he could do for me. My parents once again urged me to take advantage of this "resource".
At least the real Lloyd Braun had some actual clout - he was able to get George an appointment with an exclusive physician. MLB may walk with the same swagger as the Seinfeld character, but he is just as powerful as those summer interns on Capitol Hill who wear their fancy badges around town but are just sorting through mail for free in some building down the street from the actual Capitol Building.
Sadly, his charm and empty promises worked on my parents. At the end of the day, however, while George's mom wanted him to be more like Lloyd Braun, it turned out that Lloyd Braun became more like him.* If life imitates art, I have a message for MLB: Enjoy law school, my friend.
* - Lloyd Braun loses his job and eventually is committed.