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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Esq, Never's 100th Post

Well, after nine months of blogging about the non-legal job search and the law school scam, I've finally reached 100 posts. It would be great if I could use this occasion to make an exciting announcement - but I can't. I wish I had something particularly creative for this post - but I've been too busy.

Instead, I'm going to do what every great production of the past has copped out by doing when it reaches a milestone of some sort - A "Best Of" episode!

For those of you who have been regular readers since the beginning (or those who have read through the archives), I'm afraid there won't be much new in the post. For those who may have missed some of my earlier posts, I'm going to try to highlight some of the articles I've enjoyed the most that you may want to check out.

If you've already read these posts, I'm going to provide a few additional comments that you may or may not find interesting.

Thanks to everyone for reading. I hope others have found my blog to be either informative or entertaining.

The Best of Esq. Never

Not Another Law Blog

My very first post. Find out why not all unpaid internships are bad. Mine, for example, finally convinced me to move on with my life and leave the futile search for an attorney position behind me.

But I Have a Law Degree!

I wish I had put more effort into getting more people to adopt this catch phrase. Sure, you know somebody who graduated from Bob Jones University who is doing just fine while you're barely qualified to pick up cans on the side of the highway with you first tier J.D., but you have a law degree!

A Law School Carol

I'm probably the only 2009 law school graduate (at least from my school) to be featured prominently in the National Law Journal, the ABA Journal, the Wall Street Journal (law blog), and the National Jurist.

Is this because I'm secretly some hotshot attorney biting the hand that feeds me? No, it's because I spent part of my year of unemployment creating a cartoon known as "A Law School Carol".

The Thanksgiving Day Turkey

Thanks to law school, I'll probably have to eat crow at every single family gathering for the next decade.

E-Mail Scam Alert!

This is almost as honest as the marketing materials that most of the law schools use.

The Fallacy of the Sunk Cost

Say it with me: There's no use crying over spilled milk. There's no use crying over spilled milk. There's no use crying over spilled milk.

This makes sense, so why do so many people continue with law school or with being lawyers just because they've incurred some associated expenses? My guess is that most lawyers never took an economics class in college. Oh wait, I majored in economics, and I still made this mistake. Never mind.

The Greatest Sham on Earth

"Wow! You passed the bar! Congratulations! Now, let's squeeze you into an overflowing room for one of our fifty swearing in ceremonies this year. See everyone else who is here? You'll be competing against them for the eight attorney positions that are available in the state."

I'm Everything I Ever Hated

I used to be pleased with myself for avoiding falling into the trap of earning a worthless liberal arts degree. Thanks to law school, that's no longer the case.

The Federal Student Loan Program

Speaking of economics. Here's an economic analysis of why the law school scam has been able to prosper and thrive. Hint: Free student loans + shameless law school deans = lives of misery and shame for law school graduates.

Esq. Never's Season's Greetings to Law School Deans

I'll bet you think I don't like law school deans, but this year I actually had a present for them: An Esq. Never original poem.

Pride and Prejudice

Remember how that after Elizabeth married Darcy she found out that his wealth was actually illusory and that Pemberley was financed through his Sallie Mae student loans, so she subsequently left him for that loser who was in the military? No? Well, that's probably why Jane Austen made Mr. Darcy a businessman and not a barrister.

Yes, I'm kind of ashamed I know that much about a romance novel aimed towards women. Another reason why I'm glad this blog is anonymous.

In any event, if you're prideful about going to law school, I can guarantee you that you won't live happily ever after.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Look at this picture and tell me it doesn't send a chill up your spine. Bonus: If you're a recent graduate who still thinks you have a crack at a serious attorney position and can look at this without breaking a sweat, you must be fearless, an idiot, or legally blind.

The Networking Trail of Tears

What's worse? Being a Cherokee who is forced to live in Oklahoma or being an attorney forced to rely on the kindness of your network to get you a job? This is an honest question. I don't really know.

The Craigslist Test

Want to find a used washer, an apartment, or a one night stand? Craigslist can help. Want to find an attorney position - or at least one that pays better than home depot? Craigslist probably won't be quite as helpful.

There are some more recent posts that I think are pretty good, but I assume most people have read them.

I know plenty of people question whether it has been worth my time to run this blog, but if it has stopped one person from going to law school or plays any role in eventually encouraging some reform, then it has been worth it for me.

Law school is a scam. There's no reason for there to be an entrenched system that charges thousands of students so much money while providing a reasonable rate of return to only a tiny percentage of graduates. It shouldn't be allowed to be propped up by unjustified loans and distorted employment data.

I'm glad that I've been able to play a small role in attacking this corrupt system for 100 posts. I also hope I've been able to assist those looking for non-legal jobs. It's been my pleasure to bring you this blog, and I hope you've enjoyed it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Calico Cat

Calico Cat was one of the first bloggers to try to expose the law school scam. He did so as a top 10% (at graduation) student from a tier 1 school back in 2004! Imagine what he would have to say about today's environment.

Unfortunately, this forefather of the scam busting movement's site is no longer available, so I have decided to run his salient essay on this blog. (Thank you, Google Cache.)

The lousy post-graduation opportunities for new attorneys are nothing new; it's just that both the economy and COA are much worse today. Don't be fooled. Even if the economy recovers, happy days will not be here again (for lawyers).

Law school: the big lie

(Reprinted from the now defunct Calico Cat blog.)

Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.

Thus the title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.

This news is hard for people to accept, because “everyone knows” that lawyers make a lot of money. Right? Well look at the salaries for government lawyers in your area. They probably start in the 30s. Why would anyone take a job paying in the 30s if law jobs pay six figures? They wouldn’t. After a decade or more of service to the state, you salary will most likely max out in the five figures. That’s a pretty lousy salary for a job that requires three years of graduate school education. There are plenty of people without any graduate education earning six figures, and they don’t have to pay back the student loans that lawyers have to take out in order to pay for law school. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and he doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree.

There are some lawyers who start out with a good salary. They work for what they call “BIGLAW” on the internet message boards. Big law firms pay their associates a starting salary in the six figures. But here’s the sad news: only a tiny percentage of law school graduates will ever get these six figure jobs at big law firms. Unless you go to a top law school, the six figure big law firm job will most likely not be yours.

There are only 14 top law schools. That’s right. Not 10, not 15, but 14. They are, in descending order of prestige: Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown. And that’s it. Go to any other law school, and your chances of getting a big law firm job will be slim to none.

There are also distinct levels of prestige within the top 14. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford are head and shoulders above the rest. Then Columbia, NYU and maybe Chicago round out the top 6. Attending one of these top top law schools will vastly improve your odds. The guy graduating at the bottom of the class at Harvard will have better career opportunities than the guy graduating at the top of the class at an ordinary law school.

Outside of the top law schools, the only law school graduates having decent job opportunities will be those who graduated in the top ten percent of the class and who made law review. Law review and top ten percent are usually the same people because at most law schools the law review members are selected from those whose grades are in the top ten percent at the end of the first year. If like me, your grades weren’t in the top ten percent at the end of the first year, but you managed to graduate in the top ten percent, you are screwed because you weren’t on law review. Furthermore, most big law firms make offers to their summer associates, who get interviewed and hired during the second half of the second year, thus it’s mostly your grades during the first three semesters of law school that determine your entire legal future.

If you are reading this, and you’re a law student who already received your first semester grades, and they aren’t top ten percent, then my advice is to drop out now instead of throwing more money down the law school black hole.

Despite being warned that the only way to get a decent job in law if one attends a non-top 14 school is to make law review and the top ten percent, tens of thousands of suckers will enroll anyway. They think “I will be the one who makes the top ten percent” or “even if I don’t make the top ten percent, things will work out.” Let’s state the odds clearly: 90% of the class will not make the top 10%. You are not the only person in law school thinking they are going to bust their butt to make the top ten percent. 80% of the people start out thinking they are going to bust their butt. And some people from the 20% who are slackers are going to wind up in the top 10% too, because law school grades have a huge random element. One of the biggest slacker/party girls in my first year law school class made the top 10%. She wound up getting a high paying job at a big law firm because the law school gods decided to randomly grace her during her first semester.

The law schools will trick prospective students with bogus statistics about the great career opportunities available to graduates. Don’t believe everything you read. First of all, there are the documented lies, like the admissions brochure for my law school alma mater, Arizona State University College of Law (ASU), which listed the average starting salary for graduates with job offers at graduation from private law firms. But what percentage of the class graduates with a job offer in hand from a private law firm? About 10%? Trumpeting the average salary for 10% of the class is damned deceptive.

I further suspect that some law schools outright lie on their reported career placement statistics. Think about public companies. They have a strong incentive to lie on their financial statements, so that is why they have to prepare their statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and the accounting has to be audited by an independent public accounting firm. Despite these safeguards, companies like Enron are still caught lying on their financial statements.

Law school career placement statistics do not have to be prepared in accordance with generally accepted principles, and they aren’t audited by independent public accountants. Therefore they can’t be trusted. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because they are “non-profit” they can be trusted, or that they are run only for the benefit of the public. There’s no such thing as no one making a profit. “Non-profit” only means that no one owns the residual profits from the law school, there are plenty of stakeholders making out like bandits. Law schools are run for the benefit of the law professors who have cushy six figure jobs, and the money for their salaries comes from the gullible chumps called law students.

How cushy is a job as a law professor? Law professors earn six figures and only have to work six hours a week. And they get summers off too. How much better can it get? That’s right, law professors are only allowed to teach six hours of classes a week. If they taught more than six hours a week, the law school would lose its accreditation. Maybe some of the new law professors have to spend some time preparing for class, but by the time the law professor has a few years under his belt, he knows the material cold. Some of the older law professors were able to recite the entire textbook without ever even looking at it. In class one day, all the students looked quizzically at the law professor while he recited the exact details of a case that wasn’t in the textbook. Finally this was brought to his attention. It turns out that he was reciting from the last edition of the book. He didn’t even bother to look at the textbook in front of him to see that the case wasn’t in there.

The only time that law professors have to do any real work is when they grade exams. And law school exams are only given once at the end of the semester. So we are talking about two weeks of real work at the end of each semester. And in one case, a law professor at ASU, was apparently too lazy to even put in his two weeks of work and he made up fake grades for the students in his class. When his deception was discovered, all he got was a temporary suspension, and a short time later he was back at law school teaching law.

So we see, law professors have cushy jobs, therefore they have a strong incentive to lie on the career placement statistics because those are equivalent to a for-profit company’s financial statements, and it’s what the prospective law students look at to decide if they want to “invest” in the law school education.

Another fallacy that prospective law students hold onto is that the law degree has some kind of value outside of law. They think, “if I don’t practice law, at least it’s a prestigious degree that will help my non-law career.” This is completely false. Having a law degree hurts your chances of getting non-law jobs. No one wants to hire you if you have a law degree. Because “everyone knows” that lawyers make so much money, they can’t understand why someone with a law degree would want to do anything else but practice law. If you say “I couldn’t find a job practicing law.” which is probably the truth, they will think “this person is a loser because everyone know how easy it is to find a job practicing law, and we don’t hire losers around here.” If you say “I was just exploring my options but decided I didn’t want to practice law,” then they will think “this person has no idea what he wants to do, we want to hire people who know where their career is going.” There is absolutely no way to spin the law degree in a way that it helps you get a non-law job. Hiring managers are looking for cookie cutter resumes, not resumes where people have education unrelated to the job. From their perspective, they’re not hiring a lawyer so they don’t give a crap if you know how to synthesize appellate cases (assuming they even know what “synthesize appellate cases” means, which is unlikely). The only way I have been able to find any jobs outside of law is to leave the law degree off my resume. Whenever the law degree has been on my resume, it has been the kiss of death that prevents me from finding a job.

Finally, this essay would be incomplete if it didn’t discuss the burden of student loans. Whatever salary you make after graduating from law school has to be discounted by the cost of your student loan repayments. The student loan payments are not tax deductible (except to a very limited extent which will likely not apply to you). Your marginal tax rate will probably be around 45%, which means that for every $100/month in student loan payments, you need to have a stated additional salary of $182/month to cover the student loan payments. This means that if your law school education adds $500/month in student loan payments, you are paying $6,000/year in student loans and you need to earn an extra $10,910/year to cover the payments. This means that a $40,000/year job as a law school graduate gives you the equivalent disposable income of a $29,090/year job if you didn’t have a law degree. And it’s a lot easier to find a $29,000/year job with a bachelor’s degree than it is to find a $40,000/year job with a law degree.

Even if you are one of the rare and lucky law school graduates who can obtain a six figure job at a big law firm, those jobs are rumored to be bad. I can’t say much about this because I never worked at a big law firm, but according to what I’ve been told, a large percentage of the partners at big law firms are jerks who treat their associates like garbage and make them work ridiculously long hours. Some of this may be unjustified whining, because I was treated like garbage at a job where I was making $9/hour. Nevertheless, one needs to consider that the ultimate goal of law school, a big law firm job, attained by only a small percentage of law school graduates, may not be the great reward it’s supposed to be.

I predict that some prospective law students will find this essay, read it, and not believe it. Because no matter how much you try to tell a prospective law student the truth about law, they don’t believe it. “Everyone knows” that lawyers make a lot of money, how can this be true? Believe me, it’s true, and if you attend law school you will learn this the hard way. Don’t waste three years of your life and go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt that can never be discharged in bankruptcy to find out that your career opportunities suck after all that. Please, learn the truth now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Joined the ABA

If learning this comes as a surprise to you, it actually came as a surprise to me as well.

Apparently, while the law school scam is humming along nicely during the recession thanks to an endless supply of federally backed loans, the ABA hasn't been so fortunate. (I guess even recessions have bright sides.)

This makes sense as struggling solos and unemployed lawyers, who need to decide between heating their homes or eating from somewhere other than the nearby dumpster, probably are not in the position to pay the annual $125 dues to the ABA.

Therefore, it looks like Ms. Lamm and her criminal buddies need to engage in some creative marketing techniques to ensure the long term fiscal help of this worthless organization. One such tactic is apparently to offer free one year ABA memberships to "recently" barred attorneys with the hope that many of us will lazily renew our membership at cost the following year.

I put "recently" in quotations because the ABA granted me free admission to the ABA under the guise of congratulating me for passing the bar - a "feat" that is now several months old.

The letter they sent me promises that as an ABA member I'll get networking opportunities, access to the ABA website, and use of the ABA's "economic recovery resources". In other words, I get nothing.

Oh, but they are going to mail me my PRESTIGIOUS ABA membership card. Yes, they actually used the word "prestigious". I didn't realize that being able to write a check for 125 dollars is all it takes to earn prestige.

The most insulting part is that they advertise my ability to sign up for CLE's and that if I send in a survey, they'll match me with appropriate products and services. Pretty much they have to hide behind the veneer of doing me a favor when they're just trying find a way to sell my information to make more money for themselves. Thanks for looking out for me, ABA.

Ah, but it isn't entirely a loss. After all, I received a certificate of membership to the ABA, which can double as a place mat for my Chinese food, and I was able to save a whopping ten bucks on a car rental thanks to some deal they have with Hertz.

That almost makes up for the $90k I wasted on law school. Oh wait, it doesn't.

Carol Lamm, if you're not going to do anything about the law school scam, please just leave its victims alone. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Five Weak Reasons for Attending Law School

Above the Law recently ran an article defending attending law school. They were kind enough to link to this blog, but sadly not kind enough to provide a particularly compelling justification for their wayward advice.

To be honest, I actually think this article may be an example of very subtle satire. Can David Lat really believe that educational trust funds and potential sinecures are really relevant to the debate?

In any event, here are my summaries of his five "arguments" and my brief responses to each point.

Argument 1: Hey, winning the lottery is possible.

Sure, there's a better chance of getting a BigLaw job than winning the Power Ball. Nevertheless, when you win a lottery jackpot, you walk away free and clear with millions. When you "win" a BigLaw job, you still have to work long hours for an annual salary of $100k plus dollars.

Would I have taken a job like this if it was offered to me? Sure, but that doesn't mean it's fun. Many lawyers are miserable and plenty end up washing out of these jobs after a few years.

More importantly, however, is the penalty for not making the OCI cut for BigLaw. In the legal world, it's a loooong way down if you're not in the magic top X% of your class.

If you play the lottery and lose, you're out a couple of bucks. If you lose the law school gamble, you could throw yourself into massive debt and torch your career trajectory for years to come.

Argument 2: You can always become a law professor or work for daddy

If you don't have BigLaw grades, you don't have law professor grades. Plus, do you really want to be part of the law school scam?

Also, we all know that if your name is William P. Buffington III, your old man can find you a law job. He can probably also get you a non-attorney position. This is axiomatic, and anyone in this position already knows he is set for life. This isn't germane to the debate.

As for some of the other jobs listed, sure they're all possible. It's also possible that you could be a PG in the NBA, but I wouldn't risk six figures of debt on that potential opportunity either.

I can't believe people still suggest that a law degree is useful for pursuing "alternative careers". Unless the alternative career they have in mind is in janitorial services or being a "professional companion" to male executives, please see the rest of this site for my rebuttal.

Argument 3: A B.A. in liberal arts is also worthless

A J.D., for many people, is essentially a graduate liberal arts degree. It doesn't teach you anything practical, and aside from the mostly inaccessible legal jobs, it isn't valued by employers.

You don't get out of a hole by continuing to dig yourself deeper; you get out by trying to climb out by working your way up from low level jobs and picking up some practical skills.

Argument 4: Not Everyone Takes on Debt

Yes, but most do. Once again, if your old man can write a check to cover the ordeal, congratulations. This website probably isn't for you. For everyone else, even "a little debt" can still mean big payments for many years in return for a largely worthless piece of paper.

Debt isn't even the biggest problem. Thanks to the IBR, even larger debts are now manageable (if annoying).

The big problem is having a three year gap in your resume and a degree that makes you overqualified for virtually every non-legal position that would otherwise be accessible to you.

Even if you do go the attorney route - for those who aren't at the top of the class - your sentence is a life of toilet law and/or document review slavery.

Argument 5: Pride

I have been introduced as Attorney [My Last Name], and I receive mail addressed to [My Name], Esq. I also live at home with my parents and spent about 14 months unemployed. That kind of takes some of the wind out of the old sails.

I look forward to Lat eventually letting us in on the joke. This article would have been better suited for April 1.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Present from Esq, Never: Resume Advice for the J.D. Looking for a Non-Legal Position


After reading the title, some of you may think to yourselves that this "gift" is the equivalent of receiving tube socks for Christmas. After all, aren't "resume tips" a dime a dozen on internet?

Others may contend, "Right, Esq. Never. Why on earth would anyone take advice from you - a man who has frequently complained that he couldn't even buy a job since this blog began?"

Well, fair enough, but let me try to respond. As to the first point, it's true that virtually everything from to pay-per-click ad based "filler" sites host content regurgitating the same basic advice for preparing a resume. In my case, however, I'm offering advice that's specifically tailored to those with J.D.'s, who are looking for non-legal jobs.

As to the second point, it's also true that I've struggled to find employment. However, within the past month or so, I've had three "waves" where I've submitted my resume via job listing sites (probably no more than ten submissions per "wave"), and I have received an interview for a substantive position each time. (Though the interview wasn't always substantive.)

I also met a recruiter at a job fair who practically begged me to apply for an analyst position based entirely on my resume. (I declined because I am not currently in the position to relocate.) Finally, I'm on track to actually be gainfully employed (see my last post) also largely due to my resume.

Now, maybe the economy is getting better. Maybe I, at least, live in a part of the country where the economy is improving. I don't know. It's certainly possible that more is at play here than my resume, but my improved fortunes in terms of receiving interest in my resume began when I made some improvements to it - thanks to some advice I received from a free resume critique at a job fair.

At the very least, my resume isn't seriously flawed, and I want to take the time to help out others who have faced the same struggles I have.

Preliminary Points

Before proceeding, here are some caveats. The university to which my law school is attached is pretty well regarded in the region in which I live. I had a reasonably practical major - economics via my undergrad school's business school. I worked for two years in a substantive position before law school, and I have pretty well developed computer skills.

The good news for those of you liberal arts majors who went to law school right out of undergrad and can barely do anything more than check your e-mail and update your Facebook status on your computers is that I think a good resume can still compensate for limited practical skills.

After all, I'm not really a specialist in anything. Economics requires good math skills and a logical thought process, but I highly doubt that any job will ever require me to calculate the optimal price for a firm to charge in a monopoly market.

Moreover, while I had a solid, white collar job before law school, I was sort of a jack of all trades - I really didn't have a specific position like being a financial analyst or a programmer. Finally, while I have solid computer skills, there really isn't an area or relevant piece of software over which I have mastery.

Therefore, nobody was really going to hire me because I brought a specific skill set to the table.

What Not to Do

With that out of the way, let's focus on how to write an appropriate resume.

At the risk of sounding like some insipid career adviser guru, it's important to remember that your resume really is a sales pitch. Okay, if I heard some CSO slug say the same thing, I'd probably roll my eyes too, but it's true.

Aside from your cover letter (which is usually essential), it's pretty much what every employer is going to use to judge you. It's an advertisement for your "employee services", and it needs to tell your prospective employer why he should shell out tens of thousand of dollars for those services by way of salary, benefits, and taxes. (Particularly because you have so many competitors).

Now, don't take this analogy too far. Your resume should still be pretty conservative even though it's an "advertisement". Use of graphics and other gimmicks should be saved only for the most creative marketing and related jobs.

What you don't want to do, however, is hand in some plain resume that contains only the most basic information about your background. Unless you have a background that immediately is going to catch somebody's attention (e.g. 4.0 GPA in CS from MIT), then you can't get away with this.

If your resume just states your contact information, where you went to undergrad and law school, and that you worked a couple summers at the Olive Garden, your phone isn't exactly going to be ringing off the hook.

Aside from having a "non-sales pitch" resume, the biggest mistake a J.D. can make in applying for non-legal jobs is using his legal resume to pull this off. Nothing says, "I'm just settling for applying to work for your business because I can't find an attorney position," like submitting a resume better suited for a law firm than the business to which you're applying.

CSO's usually advises students to create a resume with this format:


Law School: GPA (if good); Honors; Co-Curricular Activities (Journal/Moot Court); Other Activities

Undergrad: GPA (if good); Honors; Activities


Most Recent Legal Internship to Least Recent: Bullet points based upon tasks performed

Pre-Law Work Experience and Any Relevant or Impressive Internships

Additional Skills
CLE's/Other Practical Experience Interests

This may work well when applying for attorney positions, but it's not going to work for other jobs. Some of you may be thinking, "No kidding, Esq. Never", but I'm not sure if it's quite that axiomatic.

After all, if you're apply for both attorney and non-attorney positions, it can be very tempting to submit the same resume for each. Some people who haven't applied for non-legal positions before may not even have experience using a non-attorney resume. Also, there is a certain logic to using this resume for non-legal positions: Ostensibly, it does tell an employer that you're well educated, intelligent, and that you've spent the last few years working intellectually demanding jobs.

The problem is, as mentioned, that it tells employers that you're really only suited to be an attorney and are not a good fit for the non-attorney positions to which you're applying (particularly entry level positions).

Professional Summary

So what should you do? Well, obviously, I'm not an expert, but let me go through the categories I used on my resume that helped me improve my job search fortunes.

A great way to market yourself is to provide your prospective employer with a brief introduction to your resume. When employers have to sift through reams and reams of bullet point laden resumes, anything that can help focus your "sales pitch" is going to give you an advantage.

First, give your professional summary a title that will grab the reader's attention. If you're a computer programmer, it would be something like:

Computer Programmer with 7 Years Experience Developing Software in Java and C++

If you don't have a specific field in mind, then use a broad term and highlight some aspects of your skill set. For example:

Entry Level Professional with Strong Writing and Editing Skills


Business Professional with Excellent Quantitative and Computer Skills

After writing your title, you should then include your professional summary in paragraph or bullet point form. (I recommend a paragraph format, so it stand outs.) Use three or four sentences to summarize your background. Make it sound professional and objective. Do not use personal pronouns.

Sentence 1: Hit the best points from your previous work experience.

Example: Two years as a researcher using VB script and Access databases to organize, calculate, and report data.

Sentence 2 (optional): Additional highlights from your professional work experience.

Sentence 2/3: Undergraduate education - Can substitute additional explanation of work experience if more relevant than undergrad degree.

Example: Graduated from well ranked communications program that emphasized public relations coursework and concise writing skills.

Sentence 3/4: Addressing the J.D. It's going to come up at some point. This is your chance to take "the question" head on and try to explain why you pursued a J.D. even though you don't want to be a lawyer.

Example: Recently received a J.D. [don't say law degree] for the purpose of enhancing [insert skill set here, e.g. analytical skills, writing skills, communication skills, ability to be a heartless parasite (j/k), etc.]


Now that you've given a summary of your background, it's time to get into the "meat" of your resume. How you approach the divisions within this section depends what type of experience you have.

What you want to do is try to emphasize the non-legal skills you have acquired while downplaying your legal acumen. This can be tricky if most of your work experience is legally related. (If you were a paralegal for three years before law school and then had a bunch of legal internships, I don't know what to tell you.)

Also note, we're including experience BEFORE education in order to help to downplay the law degree.

There are three ways I would recommend dividing this section depending on your experience.

If all you have is legal experience, then you really have no choice, start with your most recent legal position and list them all (see next session for some caveats) under the heading "Experience".

If you have some non-legal experience, but they're only internships or part time jobs, you should divide this section into two parts. The first part should be called something like "Business Experience" or whatever best describes your non-legal experience. You should list this experience chronologically.

The second section should be labeled as something such as "Recent Internship Experience" or "Other Experience". This allows you to chronologically list your legal internship experience while drawing more attention to your non-legal (and with any luck, more relevant) experience while still highlighting important aspects from your legal internships.

For those who were fortunate enough to have worked in a full time position prior to law school, you should divide the "Experience" section into two sections "Professional Experience" and "Internship Experience" both under the larger banner "Experience". This, once again, allows you to draw more attention to previous work experience than your legal experience.

Improving the "Experience" Section

The order in which your work experience appears is important, but there's more you can do to help emphasize your non-legal attributes and downplay (but still receive credit for) your legal background.

Chronology: There is such thing as a "functional resume". That is, a resume that emphasizes skills rather employment history. This may be a tactic some of you can use, but from what I've heard this will confuse if not annoy employers. If you're taking steps to conceal when and where you worked, employers may assume the worst and not consider your resume.

The reason why we're dividing the "Experience" section into subsections is because it allows you to maintain a chronological resume while still emphasizing your non-legal experience prior to your legal experience.

Detail: This is pretty standard resume advice, but don't just list the tasks you performed. Give details about the assignments you were responsible for and emphasize your achievements.


Awarded 2006 salesperson of the year for most B2B sales in department amounting to over 20% of company's revenue

instead of...

Successfully engaged in B2B sales

If you want anymore advice on this type of writing, most resume assistance sites/books should be able to give you additional information.

Emphasize Non-Legal/Transferable Skills: You need to be careful when explaining the tasks you performed for legal employers. If you worked for an administrative office, a non-profit, a company, or a judge during law school, that's good. It will be easier to spin your experience.

If you worked for a law firm or anything that put you into a courtroom (i.e. a DA or PD internship), you may want to reconsider including this experience. It may be something to mention in an interview (e.g. "I can handle stressful situations thanks to arguing for indigent clients in municipal court."), but try to not confuse a prospective employer.

Skills to Emphasize:
-Writing - particularly getting something published
-Research - particularly computer and on-line research
-Managing projects
-Meeting and speaking with clients

Skills that are Generally Irrelevant:
-Court room observation
-Filling out legal forms
-Arguing/Appearing in court
-Taking depositions


Education should be a chronological listing of the institutions from which you've received your degrees. Usually, this will be your law school and undergrad school though some of you may have a masters in between.

There is still, however, work to do in this section to "de-attorney-ize" your resume.

Law School: I recommend just using the name of the university, noting your J.D., the year it was received and then moving. Listing an impressive GPA (but not class rank) is okay, but nobody cares about Order of the Coif, Law Review, Moot Court, or any of that other garbage in the real world. Also, don't mention that you are licensed to practice law. "Just the facts" and then move on.


TTT University
, Anchorage, AK, J.D., awarded May 2010

Following this, you should list your undergraduate degree in a similar format, but this time do everything you can to emphasize your achievements and degree.

Things to include:
-Major (particularly if it's a practical major)
-Good GPA
-Honors (Latin Honors, Honors Program, Honors Societies, etc.)
-Activities (particularly if you were an officer or leader)
-Relevant courses (computer courses, writing courses, math/quantitative courses, business/finance courses, etc.)

If You Have Room
If you have additional space, you should add any other skills (particularly computer/software skills) you have, volunteer experience, and/or your (appropriate) personal interests and hobbies.

So There You Have It

I'm going to provide you with a sample resume at the end of this post, but this is pretty much the format I used. Am I full of baloney? Maybe, but this formula helped me.

If I don't know what I'm talking about, well, at least you didn't have to pay for this advice. Nevertheless, I sincerely want to help everyone else who is going through this ordeal. Feel free to modify this format as you'd like. There's no magic bullet, but I hope others will see some success as well. Let me know if you think it's useful.

(Look for Part II: More Esq. Never Advice: Cover Letters and Where to Apply)


Ralph Marley
123 Document Review Purgatory -555-5555 -

Experienced Sales Professional with Ten Years Business to Business Sales Experience

Ten years as B2B sales professional for fifth largest software vendor in the state. Received multiple awards for outstanding sales performance. Graduate of ABC University with major in communications that offered practical curriculum in client interaction and business writing. Recently received a J.D. for the purpose of enhancing client assistance and presentation skills.


Professional Experience

Software Company, Anchorage, Alaska, Senior B2B Sales Representative (1997-2007)

-Awarded Salesperson of the year award from 2000 - 2006 for generating the most sales for the company
-Frequently made sales presentations to top business executives that resulted in a successful sale more than 70 percent of the time

Internship Experience
County Office of Revenue, Anchorage, Alaska, Clerk (Summer 2009)
-[Sorry, too lazy to come up with some non-legal spin for a legal job]

Hon. Judge Steven, Anchorage, Alaska (Summer 2008)


TTT University, Anchorage, Alaska, JD, awarded May 2010

ABC University, XYZ School of Communications, Honolulu, Hawaii
BA in Communications, awarded May 1995

Honors: Dean's List, Communications Honors Society
Activities: Assistant Editor, ABC Newspaper

Relevant Courses: Public Relations, Marketing and Advanced Marketing, Web Design

Additional Skills: Quark Publishing, Powerpoint, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver

Activities/Hobbies: Public Speaking Society, Volunteering at Dog Kennel, Amateur Photography

Friday, July 2, 2010

Almost There...Plus, Ranking the Job Search Methods

Well, folks the end of my nightmare may be drawing near. I recently received word that I've been accepted for a temporary position.

Now, that may not seem like big news, but I have received strong assurance that should things work out, the position will be made permanent. It looks like a great company, and I think if things do work out, I will be in a good position to put my career back on track.

I'm going to hold off on giving any further details or analysis about the position and how I got it until I see what happens at the end of the trial period.

As a bonus, let me break down the levels of success I've had with the various job search methods I've used.


Grade: D-

This is the bread and butter of CSO and job search guru advice, but I've seen almost nothing but failure from using this method. I've e-mailed, called, and talked with people in person. I've talked to friends, alumni, school officials, former employers, and even potential employers.

Sure, I've received plenty of encouragement, promises, and even a bit of advice, but most of what I've received has been pretty worthless. I've seen multiple promises broken; I've been blown off more times than I can count, and I've even been outright ignored by people who I know.

Sure, the critics will say, Esq. Never, this is probably because you're a huge jerk and nobody you know wants to help you. It's a possibility, but given what I've heard from plenty of others, the majority of job seekers must also be "jerks" and this method simply doesn't work for us.

I give it a D- because I did get put in touch with ONE person who was hiring, but was in a part of the country I wasn't able to move to at the time.


Ranking: C-

These guys (and gals) tend be quite friendly when you first contact them. Once they realize that your J.D. and minimal to non-existent work experience makes it more likely that they could place Dean Matasar on a date with JJD, you'll be lucky to ever hear from them again.

Let's face it, these folks don't eat unless they can place candidates into positions, and this usually means taking cookie-cutter IT, financial, and administrative professionals and dumping them into corresponding positions at big companies.

I got a few temporary employment offers through recruiters...or more specifically offers to be offered to the companies, but none of them actually turned into real interviews.

One recruiter actually called me in to interview me a few days after contacting me. Meanwhile the company filled the positions with somebody else.

Unless you have a cookie-cutter resume (and if you have a J.D., you don't), these people won't be much help.

Job Fairs

Ranking: C+

Job fairs can range from depressingly pathetic - just showcases for commission-only positions with insurance and financial advisory companies - to somewhat helpful - larger events that bring together serious employers.

The best thing about job fairs is that they give you the opportunity to actually speak with people who may have influence on the hiring process. Unfortunately, in many cases, plenty of people manning the booths are just there to promote the company, and it won't give you a leg up in the hiring process. They'll be happy (maybe) to explain the position, but then point you to their website to apply. (If you're lucky, they may take note of your presence at the fair.)

I got a couple bites after speaking to HR reps at a couple fairs, but unfortunately, the positions didn't turn out to be good fits for me.

(Bonus Tip: If you're an attractive woman and don't mind being hired primarily for your looks, you should definitely investigate being an HR rep at these sorts of events. The women at many of these booths look like they also have side jobs as super models.)

(Real Bonus Tip: Many times they have free resume critiques and other workshops that are surprisingly helpful.)

Job Listings/Job Fairs

Ranking: B

I know what many of you are thinking - you mean the black holes into which I've thrown my resume multiple times only to never hear a word back?

Hey, I've been there. Between November and March, I had one single interview. I was lucky if even got rejection letters.

Nevertheless, all of my substantive interviews have come from responding to jobs listings. In fact, virtually all of them have come from using my local Craigslist. I think this is the case because CL tends to attract smaller companies that are more likely to consider those with unconventional resumes.

The key to finding employment via the job boards is to have a resume and cover letter that stands out. How do you write such cover letters and resumes? Well, for only $19.95, you can purchase my new e-book "Esq. Never's Guerrilla Tactics for Making Money off of Desperate Job Seekers"!

Actually, I think I have found a good formula, and I plan to share it for free in a subsequent post.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PSA: Rising 3L's Cut Your Losses

Let me be blunt: If you've just completed your 1L year and you've learned that you are not in the top 25% (save those from the top 3 schools or who have some incredible family connections), it's probably time to start looking at other options.

In fact, let me be even more blunt - If you're in this situation and you're even considering signing another promissory note with Aunt Sallie Mae and heading back to your TTT this fall, you, sir or madam, are insane.

If people who have the logical reasoning ability to crack 160 or even 170 on the LSAT can't recognize that pursuing entry into a glutted field with anything less than stellar credentials is a bad idea, then I have to agree with the critics of standardized testing: There must be something seriously flawed with the exam.

While the willingness of 1L's to hang around doesn't negate the wickedness of the law school cartel, it certainly does make these students seem like less sympathetic characters. What else do they need? A front page story in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, If You Stay in Law School, You'll Be Unemployed and Living in Your Mom's Basement in Two Years?

Unfortunately, the WSJ hasn't been kind enough to run such an piece, but we have something that's pretty darn close in the US News and World Report article entitled, Law Jobs Will Be Harder to Come By.

In this article, the law school cartel's court statistician, James Leipold (of NALP) admits that's it's going to be ugly for the class of 2011, and he's not exactly ready to predict a return to normalcy in 2012 either. (Though he does leave just enough room for hope so that 1L's and prelaws can talk themselves into going down with the ship.)

If people like Leipold can't come up with optimistic things to say about the legal market, then you know that happy days aren't here again.

How is this particularly relevant to rising 3L's? Well, while any sane member of the class of 2012, who isn't law review bound, should be preparing for his law school exit interview, members of the class of 2011 are in a far more difficult situation.

After all, as the conventional wisdom goes, if you realize after 1L year that LS isn't for you, it's time to cut your losses and move on, but if you've already invested two years into law school, you might as well stick it out and at least get the degree.

I respectfully disagree. Yes, walking away from two years worth of intensive school work (particularly when the third year is the least difficult) with little to show for it is not appealing. Nevertheless, one needs to keep in mind the sunk cost fallacy - it is irrational to make future decisions based upon costs that have already been incurred.

For many people having a law degree and a license is of absolutely no help. They can't find (or really don't want) legal jobs. The J.D. does nothing to help a person find non-legal work. Even trying to bail yourself out with doc review work isn't really an option anymore.

The cost of completing a third year is also prohibitive. At most private schools, tuition alone is between $30 - $50k. Throw in living expenses and the total cost could easily exceed $70k. Upon graduation, the fallacy of the sunk cost can become even more enticing. If you've completed law school, you "might as well take the bar exam". Of course, this little intellectual exercise can cost thousands more in test prep programs, exam fees, and even living expenses.

What's more there's still the opportunity cost of forgoing yet another year (and a summer) of wages. Add up all these costs - plus the interest on the amount you'll need to borrow - and you'll see that "just finishing up your degree" is hardly something you can do on the cheap.

Now, I know the psychological barriers to pulling the trigger and bailing out at this point are high. (To say nothing of the peer - and likely parental - pressure.)

Therefore, let me pose some more modest steps you can take.

It's still summer and the law school beast won't be demanding it's feast of your tuition dollars at least until August. Use this time to search for a job. If you can land something that pays decently and seems interesting, dump your law school faster than the average law school dean dumped his or her sense of decency.

While landing a half decent job that quickly may not be the easiest feat ever, you do have some advantages when compared to the average law school graduate. For one thing, you're only two years removed from either college or full time employment. Moreover, nobody is going to be afraid that you'll just run off and take an attorney position when the economy improves because you won't be eligible to even sit for the bar.

If employers seem skeptical about your decision to drop out, you can at least reply that you had hoped that law school would help prepare you for a variety of fields other than law, but once you realized that it had little application outside of practicing as an attorney, you decided to withdraw. Plus, a little lawyer bashing will warm the hearts of more than a few prospective employers.

If you can't bring yourself to drop out and you don't land anything over the summer, you should dedicate yourself to using your 3L year to find a job. By this, I don't mean occasionally applying for something. I mean putting in as much effort as those of use who are out of school. Network, try to get internships (non-legal), send out a ton of resumes (learn what works and what doesn't), etc.

Pretty much devote as much time as you can without failing out of school. Don't worry about law school. What do you think is going to be more important to your future? Getting a serious jump on finding a non-legal job or getting a "B+" instead of a "B" in Complex Litigation or making the "Octo-Final" round of the "Moot Court Tribal Indian Law" competition?

You guys didn't listen when you enrolled in law school. Now, you have an opportunity to mitigate the damage you've already done to your careers. If those who have already graduated are any indication, those who fall for the fallacy of the sunk costs are, well, sunk.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good News; Bad News

I have some updates coming about my recent interviews and other events from the sad tale that is my job search. In the meantime, I thought I'd give you some insight into what I've seen in the job market in recent weeks.

I was somewhat surprised to hear the bad economic news this morning that consumer confidence plunged this month (and has taken the stock market with it). The main reason for the decline appears to be the weak labor market.

Obviously, it comes as no real shock that the economy isn't exactly booming, but at least from my own experiences, things are looking up.

One of the most depressing aspects of the job search used be just looking at the job boards for available positions. Entry level prospects usually only amounted to little more than sales positions or retail management trainee positions.

More substantive roles were available, but they usually either required years of work experience or a well developed skill set - usually acquired by having a practical degree in something like computer programming.

Recently, there have been far more positions available. Many positions also don't have the same strict guidelines they once did. I have found a number of roles where the employer actually appeared to be looking for bright, well educated, and talented candidates rather than someone who fits an inflexible rubric.

Moreover, within the last month, I have probably been offered a chance to interview one out of every ten times I have submitted a resume. Though, I'm not sure if it's entirely due to an improved economy because I've also received some help making my resume more professional.

The bad news, for many others with J.D.'s, is that a lot of the interest I have received in my resume has been based upon my previous work experience. (Though I have kept the J.D. on my resume.)

For anyone else who is pursuing a non-legal career, have you guys also noticed an improved market and better jobs options? Feel free to weigh in using the comments section.

Monday, June 21, 2010

For Shame

The other day I was talking to an elderly lady I knew. Sadly, she felt compelled to ask the question I dread hearing the most these days, "So, how's the job search going?" I tried to brush it off by saying I was still looking.

Nevertheless, she persisted. She wondered how I was supporting myself, and I was again forced to remind her (and myself) that yes, I am a 28 year old with both a college and graduate degree who lives at home with his parents. She continued to lightly reprove me by reminding me that this was a long time to be out of work and that I needed to find something soon.

Had this not been an old lady, who probably thought she was being helpful, I probably wouldn't have tolerated this line of questioning, but in truth, she was only expressing in words what I'm sure many people are usually thinking when they learn about my situation.

What acceptable response can I possibly give? The myth of the law degree permeates society (at least for people who don't make hiring decisions). Nobody understands just how few legal jobs exist - and just how crummy most of them are. Few people realize that the J.D. will automatically exclude you from many non-legal positions.

It's next to impossible to explain that because of the dearth of attorney positions and the difficulty of transitioning into another field, many law graduates are left in unemployment purgatory where the odds are stacked against them in finding any work at all during a recession.

Over the course of writing this blog, I've written about most of the woes related to attending law school: the debt, the lousy employment prospects, toilet law, doc review sweatshops, arrogant professors, all of the incidental costs associated with attending LS, etc. These are all bad, but the worst part is the shame.

When expectations are so high for law graduates and opportunities are so limited, people are confused. An unemployed lawyer? Something must be wrong here! And guess what? In the eyes of most of these people, that "something" is YOU.

It's amazing the number of people who ignore first hand accounts of just how bad the job prospects are out of law school. I had a friend who went to a TTT law school (and is continuing after his first year) even though he knows all about my situation and that I went to a better ranked school than him.

It doesn't matter if you went to a good school, had average to good grades, or a strong resume, these prelaws "know" that they just have to do better, and they'll be fine.

In the same way, people who don't go to law school will judge you based upon what they "know". Can't find a job? You must either be a real loser or you're just not trying hard enough.

The latter assumption has underscored what many people seem to feel about my job search. It doesn't matter that I've submitted tons of resumes, gone on interviews (which plenty of JD's can't even get), gone to job fairs, and networked with just about everyone I can. This is practically a full time job to me, but no, if other people don't see results, they assume you're just sitting at home watching the Cartoon Network instead of trying to find a job.

There's nothing I can really do to rectify this problem. It isn't like I've been particularly picky when applying for jobs. I've told temp agencies I would accept clerical positions. I've applied (and begged for) entry level positions designed for recent college graduates. I've been willing to accept salaries south of $40k.

The shame game doesn't necessarily end after finding employment either. Suppose I did land one of those low level positions, that's not exactly the sort of thing that's going to be trumpeted in my law school's alumni newsletter. Even if I could get a decent $40k a year, corporate job with room for growth, that still wouldn't impress too many people (even though it'd be a dream come true for me). Heck, if I became a corporate VP making $100k, I know some people would still be disappointed in me for not being a lawyer.

For those who do become attorneys, there's still plenty of shame to go around. If you're paying back loans while finding yourself in small law, people are going to wonder why you don't drive a fancy car and live in a luxury condo. If you're chasing ambulances, you better believe people are going to make fun of you.

How about being a doc review prol? Trying to explain what you do to a non-attorney probably isn't exactly fun. "Well, I essentially click a mouse all day in a windowless basement. Those three years of law school really were necessary for this."

Going to law school certainly is a good antidote to pride. It's hard to be arrogant when you're in your late 20's or early 30's and either living with your parents or barely squeaking by while working a job that doesn't require a GED. There's not too much room for boasting when you spent three years in law only to make less money than you could make with a college degree.

If you're somebody who hasn't been able to reign in his ego through any other means, give law school a try. It'll certainly help bring you back down to earth (and even lower). For everyone else, unless you want to be filled with shame every time anyone asks you about your career prospects, please stay away from law school.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Response to a Commenter

[Note: This comment appeared in the comments section to my last post. I've decided to address it as a separate post because it raises some important issues.]

Just a question: What exactly is "toilet law?" It sounds like you are saying there is "Big Law" or "Toilet Law" or "Non-Profit/Public Sector Law" and that's I getting that right?

I'm only asking because I will be attending law school (on a scholarship) and would not work in so-called "Big Law."

Don't bother telling me not to go to law school--I've weighed everything and am going, at least as long as I maintain the scholarship.

And on a side note--why WOULD anyone think that a JD would help with a non-law job? I think anyone who would go to law school based on that (or give that any weight whatsoever) is kind of foolish to begin with. The purpose of a JD is to practice law. Of course a job that gains no benefit form that isn't going to pay a premium for you (or even hire you) based on that! Instead, I'm sure most employers look at that and think that you'll just want more money either now or down the road while a "less educated" applicant will not want as much.

Gerald T. Studebaker

Esq. Never's Response:


Thank you for providing an intelligent comment from a pro-law school perspective. I'm sorry that you can't be talked out of going to law school, but I certainly hope that you're somehow able to succeed.

"Toilet law" generally refers to small firms that are not very pleasant to work for. They have low starting salaries particularly when weighed against the average starting salaries depicted in the law school marketing materials. (See some of the links from my last post for examples.)

Moreover, there is very little room for advancement, much of the work involves tediously filling out forms for different courts, and the time one spends in court usually takes place in some of more depressing court rooms in the jurisdiction. I urge you to take a look at Big Debt, Small Law's "about" section also linked in my last post.

I know that you probably think that you'll just work for a mid-law firm or a "good" small law firm. This is not quite as feasible as you believe. Many of these boutique and mid-sized firms don't hire law school graduates straight from law school. In most cases, you actually need to work for Big Law and then lateral over to these firms once your time as a big firm associate comes to an end.

Some of these firms may hire a handful of recent graduates, but in those cases, the graduates will likely have the same credentials that most Big Law starting associates have (either very high grades or a degree from one of the top few schools).

You may believe that you're a shoe in for ending up in that category, but just remember there are currently plenty of unemployed T-14 students, and even if we assume that the end of the recession will take care of this "anomaly", even before the recession, plenty of good law students were in tough shape. (Hence the topic of my last post.)

If you don't believe me, Angel the Lawyer of "But I Did Everything Right!" graduated from a top 30 school with a scholarship (pre-recession). Big Debt, Small Law graduated in the top 1/3rd of his class from second tier, Seton Hall. This was also pre-recession. Both of them ended up in "toilet" law making only slightly more than many college graduates are able to make. They didn't even have real benefit packages (e.g. no real health coverage).

The reason why so many bright students who miss the cutoff for Big Law but are still able to find firm work end up in "toilet law" is because those are the firms that tend to hire. Many small firms are small for a reason, and if they are going to expand they either want attorneys with a pre-existing book of business or at least somebody they don't have to waste time training.

The law firm "mills" that make money on the volume of cases they are able to churn out tend to be the low level personal injury and insurance defense firms. Because they just need warm bodies to keeping pushing the clients and settlements through, they're willing (or at least were willing, pre-recession) to take on inexperienced recent graduates and continue hiring them as older associates burn out and can't endure working for these firms anymore.

As for your query about non-legal jobs. You are correct that there is no reason to go to law school if you don't plan on practicing. Moreover, I'm glad you're going into school recognizing that getting a non-legal job after graduation isn't really an accessible option.

Nevertheless, plenty of law students enter law school every year under the assumption that if that can't make it law, they'll at least be able to market their skills in another field. The law schools certainly do nothing to persuade law students against believing this fallacy. They often highlight the ostensible versatility of the J.D.

Regardless, many students do eventually end up never practicing either because they hate the law or can't find work as an attorney. At my decent, second tier school, the school's own statistics indicated that almost 20% (1/5) of the students went into "business" after graduation! This was also based upon the Class of 2007, who graduated before the market crashed.

The problem with the legal field is that there are so many attorneys and only a limited number of jobs. As I mentioned, before the recession, many of the surplus J.D.'s could find mind numbing temporary jobs working in document review. Now that those jobs are largely unavailable (at least to recent graduates), the only exit for many students is to try to find non-legal positions.

Moreover, a good number of people end up going through law school and realize that being an attorney is not for them.

Once again, I regret that you seem unwilling to listen to some of these warnings, but if you do end up in a position where you either lose your scholarship or don't have the grades to get a good job, I urge you to remain open minded to the possibility of dropping out.

Best of luck,

Esq. Never

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Essential Law School Talking Point: Blame the Recession

You don't have to tell me that recessions stink. With unemployment hovering around 10% and unemployment for folks under 30 usually reported at about 15%, who knows when I'll ever find a job. Moreover, those statistics don't include the underemployed and people who have just stopped looking for work.

Recessions aren't bad for everyone, however. Those with stable jobs that are largely unaffected by the business cycle (or are living off savings) can enjoy an indirect boost in discretionary income due to the falling price level. Certain speculators can take advantage of depressed prices and eventually profit when the economy and prices rebound. Even scam artists can take advantage of those who are out of work and are looking for an easy way to generate extra income.

Speaking of scam artists, law schools aren't exactly hurting during the recession either. For one thing, the economic collapse has resulted in a skyrocketing demand for graduate education as throngs of dupes flock to the ivory tower to wait out the recession. This has allowed the law schools to keep the scam (and tuition prices) growing stronger than ever.

Not only that, it has given them the cover they need to explain away the disastrous employment prospects that await their victims, err, graduates. "Surely, the law schools aren't to blame for the downturn in the economy," they contend. "Why everybody is hurting, and unfortunately the legal industry has been no exception." Plus, they make sure to add, "Prospective students should not be deterred; after all, the recession will surely be over by the time you graduate. Pay no attention to the plight of the classes of 2009/10."

It's, of course, true that jobs aren't exactly plentiful in any field. Nevertheless, as I pointed in in my "Craigslist Test" post, while there are few if any opportunities for attorneys (at least at the entry level), there are listings for positions in other fields - even in legal support roles!

There have also been multiple Craigslist ads offering salaries south of $40k in which the employer is only willing to consider the most elite applicants. Other firms have sought to hire new "attorneys" at hourly wages comparable to what one could make at Home Depot.

This ugly scenario can partially be attributed to the recession, but the reason why the market for attorneys is particularly atrocious (when compared to other industries) is because it never was all that robust to begin with. When the economy collapsed, the legal labor market got pounded into the ground.

To be sure, aspects of the legal industry were booming during the middle of the last decade. The large corporate firms were raking in the dough, and as a result, graduates from the elite schools, the top 10-20% of the "decent" schools, and a few "affirmative action" picks from the true toilets made their way into the coveted SA positions and eventually landed cushy first year associate positions.

Those who were truly gifted at networking, were born into the right families, or were just plain lucky also did alright. Also, those who were willing to accept the vow of poverty could likely find some DA or PD position to allow them to get the experience of working in the courtroom and to call themselves attorneys.

For pretty much everyone else, the golden age of legal employment wasn't exactly golden. Sure the media didn't really start to notice until their Ivy League golden children were no longer getting wined and dined by the big law plutocracy, but life wasn't so pleasant for the average unconnected graduate of virtually every school below the top 25 schools (and that's probably being generous) during this era.

For one thing, grad plus loans and the IBR plan have only been available since 2007 and 2009 respectively. While tuition was slightly lower a few years ago, going into six figures of debt for a private law school degree was hardly out of the question. That meant that it was easy to rack up nearly half of ones debt in private, non-dischargable loans and essentially become Sallie Mae's indentured servant for life.

But let's put that aside because the debt issue has been "solved". (At least until the the expense of the IBR blows up in the government's face.)

One cliche from that "golden era" was that law students were forced to take the high paying but largely unfulfilling associate positions at large firms in order to effectively pay down their debts. The truth was, of course, that only a limited number of students even had this opportunity.

What about the rest of the poor schlubs who were saddled with just as much debt but less impressive transcripts and/or academic pedigrees?

It's true that between 2004 and 2008, this wasn't an automatic sentence of unemployment and living in your mom's basement. Instead it usually was a sentence of wishing you were unemployed while working in Paul Weiss' poorly ventilated document review basement.

You see, this age of abundance was an era when the bright and well educated were flushed out of the back of law school machine only to work for some ambulance chasing parasite, click a mouse for $35 bucks an hour in a document review gulag, or abandon law altogether, rendering one's entire graduate education worthless.

And you know what? Those really were the good old days! I'm serious. As mentioned, today's toilet law firms essentially want top 10% students from tier one schools who were on law review. (All for the princely sum of $35k/year sans benefits.)

Doc Review gigs now requires experience - meaning entry level attorneys are actually under qualified to click a stupid mouse. I've personally been waiting for almost nine months to get a JUNIOR doc review position that pays $17/hour. We all, of course, know the score when it comes to finding a non-legal job.

Still, while I am left to dream about the days in which I could sit around in some third-world-worthy landlord tenant court or where I could actually be taken seriously at an interview for a job that doesn't require more than a BA, it probably says something about the law school industry when its most prosperous years were still a vile nightmare for most graduates.

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at our friend, Big Debt, Small Law. He graduated in 2005, top 1/3 of his class, from a second tier school. His reward? Cutting and pasting some mind numbing motions while representing the dregs of society for some ambulance chasing chop shop. Somehow, I doubt that this lovely career option was in the ol' Seton Hall brochure.

Tom the Temp was around long before unemployment launched into the stratosphere. In fact, his website gained notoriety largely based upon the sheer number of law grads who were being carted into these legal gulags to help the large firms keep up with their reams of discovery during the last economic expansion.

At least back then, watching your career and dignity slip away into oblivion before your very eyes earned you around $35 an hour plus overtime. Today, if you can even find this sort of work, you'll be lucky to make $20. (Experienced "attorneys" only, of course.)

Recall, it was during 2005, the height of the expansion, that the WSJ blew the whistle in its print edition on the fudged employment statistics published by the TTT diploma mills and helped expose the subterranean, doc review sweatshops.

How about trying to jump ship and finding a career outside of the law? Well, admittedly, back before the recession, it seemed like more companies were willing to give those with law degrees a second look (or at least were more forgiving about resumes with an unexplained gap).

To be sure, this wasn't because non-legal employers valued a JD; they just had a smaller pool of candidates from which to draw their "talent". A writer from the now defunct Barely Legal blog successfully transitioned into the corporate world before the crash, but guess what key piece of advice he has for those following in his footsteps:

"[Your J.D.] doesn't entitle you to anything more than you were entitled to coming out of college."

Did you catch that? After three years of law school and hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt (and possibly securing a law license), you'd better not expect any special treatment when applying for entry level positions outside of the legal field. Just try going into an interview with any sense of entitlement, TTT Grad, Esq., and see how far that gets you.

On top of that, almost every employer that takes your application seriously for a non-legal position is going to grill you over your legal education to a degree that would impress even the fictional Jack McCoy. This might be the only time in your life that having moot court experience will actually be of any benefit - to help you quickly address a barrage of hostile questions.

Barely Legal claimed that the only way to handle this inquisition is to simply explain that law school was just a detour in your educational development that helped you prepare for entry into the business world. I have found this advice to be pretty accurate.

If you find this account unpersuasive, Calico Cat wrote a few years earlier (also during the same period of prosperity) that the only way he was even able to find a job was to leave the J.D. off his resume altogether. Oh, by the way, he graduated in the top 10 percent in his class* from a tier 1 school.

So, let's assume the economy bounces back tomorrow. Let's further assume that the legal market returns to the way it was before the recession. I'd be overjoyed.

Nevertheless, what would await the majority of graduates of the class of 2011 in this more prosperous environment? Working for toilet law firms for $30-$50k per year. Being able to take mind numbing, document review jobs for hourly pay without gaining any substantive work experience. Taking a job which only requires a BA/BS and therefore rendering three years of graduate education entirely worthless.

Not exactly worth the $150k worth of debt.

Here's the Essential Esq. Never Talking Point: DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL!

*Based upon his final GPA; not his 1L GPA
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