"You should have done more research before going to law school."
If you've spent anytime criticizing the law school industry over the internet (or beyond), you've almost certainly encountered the above retort - or at least some variation of it. I'm not exactly sure what it's supposed to prove. If anything it seems to be a tacit admission that law school is indeed a scam - but that the victims got what they deserved.
If it's actually intended to be a defense of law school, it's a poor one.
For one thing, even if we agree that all law students are uninformed naifs who deserved to be taken advantage of, this hardly justifies the existence of the law school cartel - particularly when it's underwritten by an endless supply of federal student loans.
For another, as I've mentioned before, few of us are interested in having a "cyber pity party". All of the sympathy in the world can't reverse the mistake of going to law school. Criticism of the law schools can, however, encourage potential students not to make the same mistake and may even encourage future reforms.
Of course, the assumption that every disaffected law school graduate simply decided to apply to take the LSAT and send in their application materials on a whim (and at quite the expense) is absurd. Many law students do put in the effort to determine if they want to be attorneys. Sadly, most of the information they have is incredibly biased.
Take the employment/salary data that is compiled by the law schools (without an independent audit) and then regurgitated by US News and the LSAC. This data isn't just "slightly off" or a component of "creative marketing". It's a well engineered distortion.
It's not that the average student is only making $70k when the stats claim the average student makes $90k. It's that students are pulling in $40k (or even south of that post-recession) without benefits despite the misleading figures, or that the only students actually earning such "salaries" (once again, pre-recession) were prols working in some subterranean sweatshops reviewing documents. (To say nothing of the schools' attempts to hide unemployment numbers by temporarily hiring recent graduates, counting part-time jobs at Five Guys, or outright lying.)
If you think I'm too concerned with salary data, I submit that the same distortions also are made by the legal media and the schools when it comes to their claims about practical training that the law schools allegedly provide and the overall utility of a law degree.
Moreover, all of this information about law school is being provided by established publications and supposedly august institutions of higher learning. This isn't some fly-by-night internet get-rich-quick scheme. I'm sorry that kids in their 20's are so trusting that they're willing to believe that even if established institutions may embellish things a little that they wouldn't outright hoodwink them out of $100k and sentence them to a life of debt slavery.
If the whole point of law school was to convince me to never trust anyone again: mission accomplished.
Personally, I think I did do a reasonable amount of research before attending law school. I purchased US News' grad school guide. I read a number of different articles about law school. I spoke to people I knew who had enrolled in law school. I spoke to practicing attorneys. I solicited advice from on-line forums. I went to law school open houses (including admitted students day at my eventual 2TT alama mater). Only a scant few of these sources offered any caution about attending law school - certainly nobody conveyed that it would be a complete disaster.
Should I have done even more research? Evidently.
Nevertheless, virtually all sources from the misleading marketing materials produced by the schools to the pro-law school school propaganda found in US News' annual guide to graduate schools to the various pre-law hucksters at undergraduate institutions insist that law school is a good investment.
In fact, with few exceptions, these anti-law school blogs are the only consistent source of criticism against law school machine. (A few more neutral sources such as Above the Law and other less law school focused blogs heroically - but too infrequently - also sound the alarm against the scam.)
Contradictorily (but hardly surprisingly), the same law school apologists, who insist that we've forfeited our right to "whine" because we failed to conduct due diligence before attending law school, seem to hate these blogs (and other internet protests against LS). Where exactly do these law school lackeys expect prospective students to find accurate information (or at least the opposing perspective) about law school? Certainly not the NALP, not US News, not the mainline media, not most older attorneys, and for Pete's sake, not the freakin' law schools.
Of course, the apologists aren't all that concerned about prospective law students making informed decisions. Instead, they're more interested in defending the schools, waxing nostalgic about what it was like to graduate in 1972, or just being jerks in general.
When it comes to incoming law students, however, perhaps the apologists have little to fear. After all, applications are up and law students are notoriously hard headed about listening to those of us who have already been hosed by the LS diploma mill racket.
For example, here's a recent comment I received to a much older blog post:
I just stumbled upon your blog and I am sorry to hear about all that you are going through. I know it must be hard. However, you have some maturing to do. How old are you? This is life. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Sometimes our efforts do nothing to move us forward in life. Other times, we are blessed with things we never imagined. I know you worked hard for your degree and you spent a lot of money to obtain it. But my advice for you would be to take the life lessons you are learning right now and keep moving forward. I am a young woman who has experienced a deep career disappointment as well even with impeccable work experience. I plan on going to law school. But I know it does not mean that I will have a six figure salary. What it means is that I worked hard for something that I wanted in my life and I hope for the best. If the worst comes, then I will take that and make another career move. I do hope you find a position soon. It is very heart breaking to be unemployed and yet highly educated. But also realize that this is life. We are never guaranteed success and fortune. We are not even guaranteed the next day. We however do have to take what we been given and make the most of it. And besides, you never know what will happen in the future. Best of luck.
Now, to the commenter's credit, this is a much nicer note than I receive from most of my critics. Nevertheless, she's still is under the impression that the purpose of this blog is just to whine about my station in life. (Hey, that's only a half truth!) She fails to recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with legal education (if not education overall) in this country, and she could very well end up holding the same bag of law school manure the rest of us chumps are saddled with at the end of her three years.
Obviously, we can't reach everybody, but I can understand that the heavy cynicism and harshly critical attitude that you sometimes (okay - often) find in the anti-law school blogosphere can sometimes undermine our credibility.
For those of you prospective law school students that feel that way - and for those of you who know prospective students that are about to walk the plank - let me propose a neutral test to determine if law school really seems like a good idea. I call it "The Craigslist Test".
I assume most people know what Craigslist is. (For those who don't, it's pretty much an on-line classified ad website - broken down by cities and regions.) One feature with which most law graduates are amply familiar is its job listing section. Craigslist even has a specific section dedicated just to legal jobs.
Here's the test. Choose a city. Choose your city. Choose a better city. Choose multiple cities. It doesn't matter. Now, check out the number of job listings there are for attorneys - particularly for entry level attorneys. Can't find too many? That's not a big surprise. If you can't find any, here's one.
But, wait, that's just the recession talking, right? Well, to answer that, let's move on to step two. Now compare the number of attorneys positions with the number of other positions available. Chances are you'll find plenty of advertisements for financial analysts, accounts receivable clerks, sale managers, etc. - many looking for entry level candidates. Heck, just look at the number of paralegal and legal assistant positions available. The dearth of entry level attorney positions in comparison should be pretty astounding.
Oh, but you protest that Craiglist isn't exactly the best way to find legal employment? Okay, go ahead and try your luck at Monster, Career Builder, or any of the other job boards. Chances are that if you find any listings for attorneys, the employer is looking for lawyers with several years of experience working for big firms.
You see, the reason I chose Craigslist is because that's where you're going to find the bulk of the advertisements for small firm positions, which are going to be the only roles available to most students this side of the T-14. Skadden and co. don't advertise positions on job boards. They use On Campus Interviews, and if you wash out at the OCI game (as even plenty of T-14 folks are doing these days), you're about as likely to get a biglaw offer as Jack Crittenden is to stop carrying water for the law school hucksters.
Even if you've convinced yourself that "Hey, Brooklyn landlord-tenant court doesn't sound that bad" or "I think no fault insurance defense work just has a bad rap", too bad, those jobs aren't available. If you want to live out your dreams of mastering Word's cut and paste feature to update stock legal forms or hang out with dregs of society, it looks like your only option will be to turn to the wonderful world of legal networking. Feel free to search the rest of this blog to find out just how well that works.
So prospective law students, if you think anti-law school scam bloggers are just a bunch of losers who couldn't make it and seek to whine about their problems, then I guess I'll echo the law school apologists, "Do your research." Run through the job boards and any other source you'd like and see just how many entry level attorney jobs there are (plus take a look at the salaries).
Oh, and if you happen to stumble across a fabled entry level attorney job at a mid-sized firm that pays $70-80k, you may want to turn your gaze upward to take a gander at the recently airborne swine now gliding by you.