Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What Happened to JD Underground (JDU)?



At about this time a decade ago, I had recently graduated from law school and was on the cusp of taking what would be both the most intense and the most meaningless exam of my life (my state bar exam). Soon thereafter, I would come to the full realization that my wayward decision to attend law school had obliterated both my career prospects and my financial solvency before I had even celebrated my 30th birthday.

To memorialize this occasion, my plan was to author one final post as a retrospective of what has changed in the law school universe over the past 10 years.  One of those major changes, however, has been the closure of many of the resources, which once were required reading for those interested in the wayward practices of the law school cartel.

As this present site is only rarely updated, it draws very little traffic on its own. In the past, I have relied on two outside sources to generate views for any new posts: Nando’s Third Tier Reality and JD Underground. After nearly a decade of heroically profiling every ABA school (and their corrupt practices), Nando both stopped blogging and inexplicably removed TTR from the web. 

Likewise, about a month ago, JD Underground (JDU) – the subject of this post - met a similar fate. It would not make sense to spend time writing a retrospective on the law school scam that nobody will read, but as probably one of the few former JDUers with the SEO (or at least the web presence) to attract a few eyeballs, I thought I’d instead use my final posting to address JDU’s closure for those who wonder what happened.

To offer a full explanation, I think it’s necessary to give a little history, but for those who want the condensed version (or TLDR, as the kids say these day): There was some internal strife among JDU posters which led the administrator to just shelve the whole site.

If you want the longer story, read on, but please note that I was just an infrequent poster and not an insider. There may be more to the story, which I welcome you to share in the comments. Everything disclosed below is from my (limited) perspective.

History

JDU began in 2007 (shortly after I enrolled in law school). My understanding is that it replaced a site called JD Jive, which also served as an online forum for disaffected lawyers and law students. It featured a no-frills interface for the aforementioned attorneys and students to share war stories and gripe about their circumstances. 

JDU wasn’t – strictly speaking – an anti-law school message board. It did feature some threads poking fun at delusional 0L’s (non yet enrolled students), who thought they would easily be able to repay six figure student loan balances after law school. There were, however, also discussions about bar exam prep, law firm reviews, and other more mundane matters of legal practice.

I believe I checked out the site once or twice while in law school. In my youthful foolishness, I dismissed much of what I read. I assumed that even if things were as bad as JDU sometimes claimed, I would at least be able to take on doc review work and easily satisfy my loans and move on. 

I became more of an avid reader of the site after graduating from law school. I think I mostly relied upon it for information on when my state’s bar results had historically been released. Once I completed the bar, and it slowly sunk in just how perilous my situation was, I started taking more of the critical comments to heart. Moreover, several of the recession wave of scam blogs began positing links directly from JDU. The truth had been revealed: I was just a chump the law school cartel had bamboozled and then shuttled out into the post-law school abyss. 

Soon thereafter (with little else to do), I joined the anti-law school brigade with this blog. Like the others, I used JDU as a resource to generate traffic. It was through these links that a number of reporters from various publications found my blog (and the others) and contacted me. These early articles helped bring the scam to the attention of a wider community.

As mentioned, at the time, JDU wasn’t purely an anti-law school resource. The founder (who went by “admin”) always seemed a little ambivalent about the cause, and there were other posters who commonly challenged the scam blog movement with quips about “whining” and “entitlement”. 

JDU had a bit of a reputation of being a “wild west” forum where insults flew easily and caustic comments were the norm. I can’t recall the exact evolution of the site, but eventually there was an off-topic section with fewer law school-oriented comments. I think at one point there was a medical grad sub forum as well as special fora with topics such as dating.

One of the reasons why my memory is a little sketchy regarding this era was that as I started to repair my life, I spent less and less time on JDU. I may have only visited it a handful of times between 2012 and early 2015.

Starting in 2015, I found myself in a position where I had a little more time, and I was curious about some of the developments in the anti-scam movement. By this time, almost anyone who wasn’t a self-interested party in the law school cartel recognized something was rotten in the system. JDU was no exception. Almost all the apologists were gone. (Even the once rabidly pro-law school Top Law School Forums were willing to listen to reason.)

Nonetheless, JDU had initiated some reforms. The law school forum could no longer could be used as a battering ram against the scam. If someone asked a question about going to law school, posters had to take care to be very gentle should they want to dissuade that person. Standard anti-law school terms like Third Tier Toilet (TTT) could no longer be used. Bans were also frequently employed against violators. (This may have contributed to the site’s eventual decline in activity.)

Except in the rare cases when I had a new article to share or there was something about the scam bloggers I wanted to address, I used an alias other than “Esq. Never”. That said, almost all my posts were about the law school scam (school closings, law school lies, etc.). I weighed in a few times about the Dan Markel case, but I almost never interjected on non-legal subjects and tried to avoid US political discussions.

The Off-Topic section was the home for most of these exchanges. While I never really contributed, I’ll concede there could be some amusing threads. There was one character named “George Constanza”, who like his namesake, apparently drew the short straw in life and really hated the modern social scene. Another guy posted as “BizzyBone123”, who pretended (?) to be some type of Cuban rapper. On the less amusing side, a poster named “Myth” apparently was killed in a tragic accident and was memorialized in a few threads on the site.

That JDU had attracted such a colorful cast of characters probably helped lead to its downfall. The acrimony really dialed up on JDU (as it did across the country) after the 2016 election. Admin was kind enough to create a political subforum to shelter the rest of us from the brawls. (There was also the “Dome” which served a similar purpose in keeping the more salacious and offensive exchanges sequestered.)

Towards the end, the two remaining sub-fora: Politics and “Dome” eventually were merged into the Off-Topic section. It seemed like this was done because the site was less lucrative than it used to be. There were only a handful of active threads on the law forum and OT wasn’t that active either. Maybe the better economy had produced less law related griping and social media had undermined the reach of such a forum, but regardless, admin became convinced things needed to change

The Fall

The merger, however, turned the OT section into a near free for all. The rivalries from the dome spilled over and the animosity between Trump supporters and detractors helped fuel the contentious atmosphere even more.

On Friday, June 14 (2019), JDU shut down for good. On the OT section, there were a number of posts wishing everyone else goodbye. One thread allegedly had the inside scoop. Apparently, there was an “offline” e-mail group among some of the regulars. Tensions were boiling over in that arena, and one user was threatening legal action over some things that had been disclosed about her on JDU.

There had been warnings about this earlier on. Admin had asked other posters not to comment on discussions related to the e-mail chain. Nonetheless, it seems that given the decline in revenue and the threat of legal troubles, it wasn’t worth it for admin to continue to maintain the site for the benefit of its dwindling following.

Presently, the site just redirects to a generic page with some spammy advertising links. It’s not clear if admin just gave up the domain or if he still owns it but parked it in order to extract a little revenue from those said links. In either event, it seems unlikely the site will come back online.

Legacy

As mentioned, JDU served an important role in warning potential law students of the perils of going the JD route. It also was an important hub for other sites to grow and to connect mainline journalists with the scam bloggers. There’s no doubt that it helped propel the movement even as it was at times bogged down by law school shills, goofiness, and rivalries that may have brought the community down.

For the time being, the law school scam battle is in a d├ętente (neither advocates nor opponents seem to be very active). It will be interesting to see what happens when the next recession hits. Sadly, JDU won’t be a force during that stage, but at least it was able to witness the fall of a few ABA accredited schools. Perhaps, the next revolution will make more use of ascending social media tools.

Unlike JDU, Esq. Never will remain up (for whatever it’s worth) until it’s deleted by Blogger. Like JDU, however, I personally plan to end my internet involvement in commenting on the scam. I know I’ve been in the periphery of the periphery (who knows if anyone will even read this post), but it’s been a decade: I’m glad to see some changes, and maybe there will be more, but on this, I agree with admin, there comes a time to just officially close things down.

Best wishes to anyone who has followed the sporadic postings throughout the years, and for anyone considering law school, please read some of the earlier posts and be very, very cautious in making a decision that can literally upturn your entire life.

E.N.

14 comments:

  1. Hey thanks for the update. As my handle states I'm the father of a law school graduate and I've been following JDU, Inside the Law School scam and other sites since probably 2008. I was an avid reader and sometimes poster to JDU. Sorry to see it go, it has some pretty funny moments. Hopefully it helped some kids make the right decision about law school.

    Thanks for the update.

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  2. Thanks for the update. Also been following JDU on and off since 2007 and had been wondering what happened and whether it was coming back.

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  3. It was a long downhill slog.

    Moo.

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  4. Are there any replacement forums, it served a purpose?

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  5. Unfortunately, no. Even during it's prime, there never really was a similar site. The comments sections of the scam blogs and mainline sites like ATL served a comparable purpose, but most of those sites are dormant or no longer permit comments. Some of the mainline law boards have become more realistic about law school outcomes, but they are focused primarily on prospective students. JDU was one of a kind.

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  6. I've followed this blog over the years (sporadically) and was an active poaster, well written article. The thing I miss about it is the actual friendships, talked to those folks more than some of my IRL friends. It was a community of those scammed (that ended up mostly alright when it was all said and done) RIP

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  7. As the Greatest JDU Poster Known..(The "GPK") who used to go to war with lawland shills like uncle admin, I am saddened that there will be one less source for future lawland lemmings to get the truth about the scam that is the so called legal "profession". God bless! The John Bungsolaphagus.

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  8. I stumbled on to JDU in 2011 because I was doing research about the
    current state of affairs re the profession and law school stuff. Not being in the field of law myself, my interest was triggered by a tragedy in the family -- my brother-in-law, a practicing attorney of about ten years, committed suicide -- tbc

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  9. Thank you very much for posting this. I read jdu for about ten years, but much more rarely the last five. The weird animosities among some of the posters ruined it. Glad they got what they wanted, sad that I and the rest of us no longer have the place, though.

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  10. https://web.archive.org/web/20190414155129/http://www.jdunderground.com/law/

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  11. https://web.archive.org/web/20180907085518/http://www.jdunderground.com/pol/

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  12. I didn't really participate as an OP until Trump was elected and at the time it was in the OT forum which was open to anyone that cared to post comments -- when Admin realized how intense the back and forth was becoming he opened up a new forum for political discussions which I believe became the most popular forum except maybe for the Dome where it was a free for all with no censorship -- I was hooked on JDU/pol -- the rabid Trump supporters on there inspired me to come up with a canned response which I would drop in their thread discussions when I felt like crapping on their obnoxious Trump fawning --
    THAT'S MY TRUMP -- He's a rolling sh!t show / But no matter what he says / I'm with him all the way / cause he loves the USA / and that what makes my day / hey!! that's my Trump / I'll kill you if you diss him / God bless and have a nice day --
    Hey more cowbell!! Hit it like you mean it Bubba --

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  13. Back in the day, not long after the site started, I used to post as "Katie." Then the place started filling up with trolls. I tried posting as "Poverty Stricken" to see if a non-female name would draw less hostility and - interesting reaction - the trolls liked me a LOT better as "Poverty Stricken" than as "Katie." I eventually gave up posting (excessive trolls) but I'm still friends with some of the people I met there. I wonder what became of some of the others. Whatever happened to iElephant and JohnJohnPlanecrash and the others of that era?

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