Thursday, April 8, 2010

Swindled Abroad

A foolish friend of mine is finishing up his 1L year at a true TTT - that is, a school that is ranked below the Top 100 fold in US News and World Report. He refuses to listen to reason. He refuses to accept that I and many of his other friends that went to "better" schools are now struggling to find employment - any employment.

What is even more disconcerting is that if I can somehow get a job and place of my own by the time he graduates, he'll probably end up sleeping on my couch. He'll also likely eventually bludgeon me to death with a tire iron after weeks of coming home from his job as a bagger at the Piggly Wiggly only to hear me obnoxiously repeat "I told you so!"

Ah, but my friend's lack of discernment regarding the law school scam extends not only to his willingness to spend himself into the red for a TTT diploma. He has also recently decided that it would be wise to spend his summer abroad - paying tuition to his school for the most overpriced vacation available.

If you've ever wondered if the avarice of the law school deans knows any bounds, the very existence of these summer study abroad programs should answer that question with a resounding "No!".

In college, study abroad programs make some sense. Sure, they are often just another stop on the average liberal arts major's trip to academic perdition or a brief and frivolous diversion for those with more serious majors. In fact, I heard about one program available at a number of colleges called a "Semester at Sea", which per my understanding, essentially consists of earning academic credit while on a cruise ship. Your tax dollars at work.

Nevertheless, from a student's perspective, why not spend a semester in Europe, Asia, or Australia? As long as you can swing the travel and other attendant expenses, you're paying the same tuition dollars for an interesting experience.

Moreover, college is more than professional training - even if one takes a practical major - it is designed to help individuals mature both personally and intellectually. Okay, I honestly don't really fully buy that line given that the only thing many college parasites learn is how to use a fake I.D. Nevertheless, college does give young adults the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of some academic subjects, learn what it's like to (sort of) live on their own, and possibly gain a deeper appreciation for world around them.

Studying abroad in college does nothing to frustrate the stated purpose of undergraduate education while only putting students in slightly less advantageous financial positions. Studying abroad in law school, on the other hand, is nothing more than just another element of the overall scam.

Law school's ostensible purpose is to serve as a professional school to give budding attorneys the education and training necessary to enter the field of law. Now, we all know that's a load of nonsense, but that's the story they tell us.

If this is the case, what possible purpose does an extra semester of law school - spent abroad - serve? Having the opportunity to get inebriated in another country isn't exactly worth the price of admission.

I assume the reason why most law students bother taking on the debt for such a program is because they're afraid that they'll be left with a gap in their resumes over a summer when paid (and even voluntary) legal work is scarce. This is a bad idea. Working at the 7-11 will earn you a paycheck; studying abroad over the summer will cost you money and do nothing for your career prospects.

"International Law" is the pipe dream of far too many matriculating law students. Like "Entertainment Law" and "Sports Law", there is very little demand for such a specialization and far fewer opportunities for entry level attorneys to break into these fields - particularly from TTT law schools. While "International Law" remains popular among guileless law students, even many CSO's will admit that this is a difficult field to break into.

The small contingent that does end up practicing in this field consists almost exclusively of people who were bound for BigLaw anyway. Only a small percentage of law students practice at the big firms to begin with (or have the credentials to do so), and only a sliver of that group will end up practicing anything resembling international law.

Anyone who thinks that studying abroad will help one secure a full time position in this field is just fooling oneself. No employer in this competitive field is going to overlook a "B" transcript from a non-elite school simply because an applicant happened to spend a couple of months "studying" in some foreign city.

Moreover, whatever GPA boost a student can earn by studying abroad isn't going to be of much help. Employers are concerned about a student's performance in the first year core courses that are subject to the mandatory curve not some frivolous seminar held at the Timbuktu School of Law. That "A" in "International Peace and Conflict Legal Studies" isn't going to impress anyone.

The only beneficiaries of the law school study abroad programs are the brass at the law schools and the universities to which they're attached.

If you're that desperate to visit a foreign country, why not apply to teach English abroad and get paid? How about finding a job (even a low level one) in another nation - it can't be that much harder than finding one here with unemployment hovering around 10%. Or better yet, just take a vacation without paying the law school crooks thousands more to take their worthless courses.

In fact, just drop out of law school and spend the summer exploring the world. Even if you have to put it on your credit card, it'll be less expensive and more rewarding that two extra years of law school.

If you do plan on completing law school, I would advise you to spend as much time as possible in the U.S.A. After all, if you decide to leave the country in order to flee from your student loan creditors, there's probably no coming back.


  1. These study abroad programs certainly are a reprehensible scam. Employers recognize that spending a summer in Nantes or Berlin is simply a way for law students to purchase a higher GPA. Your 'A' in International Conflict Resolution will NOT impress the janitor at a law firm, much less a hiring partner.

    Criminal defense attorneys who represent child molesters, drug dealers and undocumented aliens want someone with practical knowledge and experience with the exclusionary rule, ICE deportation methods, and motions in limine. They simply do not give a damn that you aced your International Human Rights Law final. In sum, they want someone who can help them and their clients - even if it is just to keep the illegal immigrant here just long enough to get some more money out of him.

    What is so pathetic and embarrassing is that kids at dumps actually think they can get hired on at a firm and practice "international law." At Third Tier Drake - the toilet in the center of Iowa (which is itself shaped like a toilet) - people joined the International Law Society and talked as if they could get into this very small field.

    Thanks for highlighting this smaller component of the law school racket, EN. The schools are always thinking of ways to remove lemmings from their (borrowed) money.

    Who knows? Maybe the schools will send students to feed the homeless and bill it is an advanced course in "Poverty Law." The final will consist of the following: (a) how fast the student can serve soup to people - for 30 percent of the grade; (b) an oral recitation of the experience from the student - 25 percent of the grade; and (c) a 10 page, double-spaced term paper on the experience and how this will make the world a better place.

  2. I absolutely agree with your statement for about 95% of the people who do it.

    As someone who did a semester abroad, the only real way I could justify it was this way:
    1) I loathed law school so much that I wanted a mental break but I also wanted to finish as quickly as possible
    2) I needed to take summer classes in order to escape
    3) After doing the financial breakdown, it was actually more expensive to take classes at my school than fly to a second world country and take the same number of transferable credits there. Let me repeat that because it's hard to believe. MY SCHOOL OVERCHARGED SO MUCH PER CREDIT HOUR, I COULD FLY TO ANOTHER COUNTRY AND TRANSFER THE CREDITS FOR LESS MONEY.

    I spent a long time wondering, how in God's name is this possible? Well it turns out that the rat hole of legal education that I attended wanted as much money as possible. This was a major turning point where I realized the entire system was a massive scam.

    Of course I factored in airfare costs, living expenses, and the fact that I would have to sublet my apartment while I was gone, but in the end it was still cheaper than if I had stayed at my school and did classes there for the summer (Also, in order to do this you have to shop the various programs available rather than just sign on to one done by your own school).

    I really enjoyed my time overseas and tried to make the most of it by learning as much about the other country and its people as possible. All of my other compatriots were from another, higher ranked school and their professors came along for the ride (I chose the program because it was the cheapest one available and programs to the same country cost twice as much for no apparent reason). The classes taught by the American professors were literally worthless and they could never get away with such a lousy teaching job stateside. The final exam was a joke I could have gotten an A on when I was in high school. So if you really really want to get an easy A at least once in law school, go abroad and you can get the best GPA you've ever had.

    One class was taught by a substitute at the last minute who, one day at a bar after class essentially gave in and admitted that he only does these things because it's a huge scam where he gets to go on a long subsidized vacation. There were at least 9 other study abroad programs in the same city overseas while I was there from every tier. Even there, the rat race continued as the characterless, borderline personality disorders that constitute the vast majority of law school students were jockeying for which one had the better program, which had the better teachers, etc. All a tremendous load of bullshit. Although looking back now I probably should have just stayed in that country and switched to their law school. I probably would have much better employment prospects than if I had come back to graduate in the good ole USA.

  3. Funny how the law schools and ABA encourage studying abroad and engaging in such worthless ventures as "setting up judicial systems in military dictatorships or third world countries." It brings no practical or marketable skills to an employer in the USA. And good call on international law practice being the exclusive province of Biglaw. What solo or small firm has the resources to send their attorneys or set up offices abroad?

  4. Wow. Good luck to your friend- he is really going to need it. I can't say that I'm shocked that he did not heed your advice. It's hard to overcome years (entire lifetimes) of indoctrination from parents, schools, society as a whole repeating the mantra that more education is the answer. Your blog is a valiant effort in the right direction.

  5. 1Ls are all fucking stupid. They're like Obama Zombies. No matter what sense you try to imbue in them, they march to whatever tune their fucked up heads are playing, until its too late. They're a lot like children. Like Eddie Vedder says "The wisdom that the old can't give away". That's what we have gents. And these kids refuse to learn.

  6. I did a "semester abroad" and it certainly was expensive and unnecessary, but unlike the rest of law school at least I have some fond memories of it.

    Now, when I'm miserable and drinking myself to sleep, at least I can think back to a time when I was stupid and happy.


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