January 25, 2011

Are Law Schools Lying To Their Applicants?

fordhamlaw.jpg
Fordham's post-graduate employment data



Almost at the same time no one was asking why the WSJ was publishing excerpts from Amy Chua's, How To Make A College Student, no one was also asking why the NYT was interested in whether law schools weren't a scam.  I respect that this is an unwieldy first sentence, but it's late and I'm drunk.  That's how I start my essays.

I.

The New York Times asks, Is Law School A Losing Game? 

The piece has two main points.  The second one is that students incur a huge amount of debt with little ability to pay it back, and, if the law jobs don't materialize, won't ever pay it back.  This second point is presented first, indeed, in the first sentence:

If there is ever a class in how to remain calm while trapped beneath $250,000 in loans, Michael Wallerstein ought to teach it....

Mr. Wallerstein, who can't afford to pay down interest and thus watches the outstanding loan balance grow, is in roughly the same financial hell as people who bought more home than they could afford during the real estate boom. But creditors can't foreclose on him because he didn't spend the money on a house.

He spent it on a law degree. And from every angle, this now looks like a catastrophic investment.

Which brings us to the first point, the main point: law schools are lying.  Despite the fact that "JDs face the grimmest job market in decades" the schools are somehow reporting to prosepctive applicants that, e.g., "93% of grads are working" and "the median starting salary of graduates in the private sector is $160,000."

How do they do this?  "Enron-type accounting standards..."says a law professor.  "Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty."

A law grad, for instance, counts as "employed after nine months" even if he or she has a job that doesn't require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee's? You're employed.

 

The schools do this because the schools are extremely profitable businesses: high cost, low margin.

"If you're a law school and you add 25 kids to your class, that's a million dollars, and you don't even have to hire another teacher," [said an ABA commissioner.]

II.

Why do law schools bother to fake this data?  If it was "80% employed" vs. "90% employed," who would notice?

They fake it because that pointless data gets handed over to the illusionists at US News along with other pointless data (expenditure per student, library facilities, max bench press) to generate a single overall ranking, which is just the kind of simplistic, pseudoscience objectivity that students, parents, and schools demand.

A quick word on the US News rankings.  25% of the ranking comes from a "peer quality assessment" in which schools rate each other.  So, say you are Clemson Law School.  What should you do?  "Rate all other programs below average."  And, of course, do what University of Wisconsin did: give the highest score only to itself and one other school that you're not really competing against.  You can also bring up that "alumni donations" factor by calling alumni and asking them to donate $5, and whoever doesn't donate label as deceased.

A ranking, like the "percent employed", is an example of information bias.  You think you know something, but you don't.   If Fordham is #21, is that different than saying it is #29?  Or saying it is in the second decile?  It's a deliberately obfuscated precision that you can't act on.  That level of "certainty" does not inform your decisions.

By the way, the ranking doesn't have to be inaccurate for it to be information bias.  A ranking can be deadly accurate and still be ridiculous.  Back in college and yesterday, me and my boys used to rate women to the tenth decimal place, "yo, yo, yo, check this out, I just got maced by this 8.9!" and while our scale had confirmed 100% inter-rater reliability, what were we going to do with this information?   Was our audition going to be any different with a 8.4 vs. a 9.7?  "Hi, I'm here for the part of sketchy boyfriend, here's my headshot, references... Light my head on fire?  No problem." 

sharks rugby.jpg
this is a billion


See?  Grade inflation.  We already know about the problem of grade inflation in colleges; the LSAT was supposed to help offset this by offering a standardization.  Now the ABA wants to do away with the LSAT  requirement.  Fine.  But the result of all this is you can't really be sure how you compare to other applicants, so instead you demand objectivity in the schools' rankings as a proxy to guess where you might belong.  "I think I belong in a top tier school..."  How do you know?   The analogy is you have no idea what kind of a man you are and thus what kind of a woman would be right for you, so you just harass the girls that other people think are the best.  Then if you don't get her you're angry at the girl ("these bitches just want jocks and legacy applicants"); and if you get her you're surprised to find that three years with her has left you unfulfilled.

And once they're in law school, there is more grade inflation and even retroactive adding of .333 to everybody's GPA.    And now law school graduates are surprised to find they're unemployed.  Law students had no real measure of their status as an applicant; no reliable descriptor of what kind of a school they went to (short of branding); and no reliable measure of their performance there.  "What do you mean I can't get hired?"  They think to themselves,  "amn't I bright? Hard working? Fluent in legal theory?"  And the employers respond, "how the hell would we know that?"


III.


wallerstein.JPG

That's Mr. Wallerstein, I assume clutching a yellow legal pad. 

The structure of the NYT article is to offer a profile of an unemployed graduate and use it to explore the law school system.  In the vein of its analysis of the unemployed college grad, it exposes him as intelligent but entitled douchebag. 

Here's an example.  Though his massive debt is in the first sentence, it isn't until page 4 that you learn why he's in debt:

WHEN Mr. Wallerstein started at Thomas Jefferson, he was in no mood for austerity. He borrowed so much that before the start of his first semester he nearly put a down payment on a $350,000 two-bedroom, two-bath condo, figuring that the investment would earn a profit by the time he graduated. ...Mr. Wallerstein rented a spacious apartment. He also spent a month studying in the South of France and a month in Prague -- all on borrowed money. There were cost-of-living loans, and tuition of about $33,000 a year. Later came a $15,000 loan to cover months of studying for the bar.

 

He lives with his fiancee who is "unperturbed by his dizzying collection of i.o.u.'s."  She doesn't want him to get a corporate law job because (take a sip first): "we like hanging out together."  Carly, another unemployed law graduate explains, "I guess I kind of assumed that someone would hook me up with something."  I'm sure she felt she deserved it.

Do you hate law grads yet?  Hold on, here's how the article ends:

MR. WALLERSTEIN, for his part, is not complaining. Once you throw in the intangibles of having a J.D., he says, he is one of law schools' satisfied customers.

"It's a prestige thing," he says. "I'm an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I'm in a lot of debt, but I've done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important." [my edit: he isn't actually practicing law.]

...And he's a quarter-million dollars in the hole.

Unless, somehow, the debt just goes away. Another of Mr. Wallerstein's techniques for remaining cool in a serious financial pickle: believe that the pickle might somehow disappear.

"Bank bailouts, company bailouts -- I don't know, we're the generation of bailouts," he says in a hallway during a break from his Peak Discovery job. "And like, this debt of mine is just sort of, it's a little illusory. I feel like at some point, I'll negotiate it away, or they won't collect it."

He gives a slight shrug and a smile as he heads back to work. "It could be worse," he says. "It's not like they can put me jail."


Haters: this guy is asking for it. 

IV.

Let's take all this at face value.  Is he entitled?  Delusional? 

I don't doubt for a moment he sincerely believes he is a lawyer, because lawyer for him isn't a profession or even a job, it's a label, a code word for a kind of intellectualism he wants for himself.  As long as "all of my friends see me as..." it was well worth the cost.  He didn't study to become an attorney, he bought a back-up identity.

It's worth asking why Wallerstein chose a JD as a back-up identity, and not an MD or a PhD.  Can we agree it was easier?  Why not an MBA?  Because an MBA is for something else; a law degree is a brand in itself.  You can get an MBA and still be nothing unless you find a job.  Get a law degree, you're always a lawyer.

It's probably the same reason he didn't try some other hail mary like, say, borrow $200k and just open up a coffeeshop or become a daytrader.  You could fail at those.  Graduate from law school-- and everybody does-- and you can't possibly fail. (Surprise.)

I go through this to show you that law school, while it attracts people wanting to practice law,  also attracts college kids who are bright but emotionally adrift.  They don't know what they want-- besides a mental image of a lifestyle-- and they don't know who they are-- besides a mental image of an identity.  A three year law program is a great way to postpone reality and still have something to show for yourself. 

This is as good a place as any to point out that a huge portion of this failure to mature is the fault of the undergraduate college that gave him up for adoption.  If four years of mandatory  intellectual exploration not to mention electives in acid and penetration can't guide you to self-awareness then you probably paid too much for the experience.   Smart students will always tell you that most of what they learned in college they learned on their own, which is true but opposite to the purpose of college.  Demand a refund. 

Law schools are magnet for those kinds of people, because to people not in law school it sounds like it's three years of elevated debate, philosophy, history, thought, with a feudal ka-ching at the end for joining the club; in other words, it sounds like what college should have been.  

In actuality, law school is utterly useless. The only thing that was useful was the writing class, which basically taught you how to argue thoroughly but efficiently on paper. Law school is also the first place that many people are confronted with someone who tells them their conclusions are stupid, so I suppose there's benefit in that.

IV.

Please remember that as I quote the Times' description of Mr. Wallerstein, I have no idea if it's true, I only know that the NYT wants me to believe it's true, which makes me more suspicious than 6 clear vesicles on both labia.  The one thing I know for sure is that the New York Times-- throw in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, too-- hates its readers.  It wants them, of course, but see them only as organ donors.  The Times is accused of being a leftist/socialist paper, but that's not true, their collectivist perspective comes from assuming all of you people are free range cattle.  It thus feels it has an ethical obligation to construct stories that will get you to believe their message, even if the facts of those stories have nothing to do with the message they're interested in.  If you follow this, you then discover that Mr Wallerstein is an unemployed law grad--let alone an entitled douchebag-- but a straw man.

While it looks like this is a story about law schools, it is in fact a story about debt-- and who's to blame.  By debt I'm talking American style debt, the kind that Greece and Iceland scooped up like a Komatsu front loader only to discover they couldn't print money like we can.

So now we have a rewrite:  You're promised the American dream.  You borrowed against that dream, but now the dream is gone and the debt remains.  Someone's to blame.  That's the story of housing in Florida.

Put that way, of course it's the law schools'/mortgage brokers' fault. How could a kid-- or a hispanic-- be smart enough to ever consider that they were too much in debt when the people in charge were saying it was okay to leverage because it would all work out?  Predatory lending.

Now, no one would dare propose taking that money away-- we want everyone in big homes-- but something has to be done, right?  What would be an effective solution to the high cost of law school?


Steven Greenberger of DePaul recommends a mandatory warning -- a bit like the labels on cigarette packs -- that every student taking the LSAT, the prelaw standardized test, must read.  "Something like 'Law school tuition is expensive and here is what the actual cost will be, the job market is uncertain and you should carefully consider whether you want to pursue this degree,' " he says. "And it should be made absolutely clear to students, that if they sign up for X amount of debt, their monthly nut will be X in three years."

That is exactly the kind of solution I'd expect from a lawyer: completely ineffectual and CYA.

Solving the J.D. overabundance problem, according to Professor Henderson, will have to involve one very drastic measure: a bunch of lower-tier law schools will need to close. But nobody inside of the legal establishment, he predicts, has the stomach for that. "Ultimately," he says, "some public authority will have to step in because law schools and lawyers are incapable of policing themselves."

And again, the lawyer answer: we need more regulation.

If you want one single sentence that summarizes precisely what is wrong with the interpretation of what is wrong with law schools, it's this one:

Today, American law schools are like factories that no force has the power to slow down -- not even the timeless dictates of supply and demand.

 

If something is immune to the laws of supply and demand, it's usually because someone deliberately set it up to circumvent those rules.

Supply and demand should have caused these lower tier schools to lower their costs to entice students away from the better but more expensive schools.  But they don't need to, because all law schools are free.  Read it again.  All law schools are free.

Not after you graduate, of course, but right now.  Law schools can charge anything they want because everyone has enough money to pay for it- today.  As long as there are guaranteed government loans available for this, there is no economic incentive to lower the costs.  And as long as the price is zero, demand will always be infinity.

If it was true supply and demand, #1 ranked Harvard and #100 ranked Hofstra wouldn't have the same tuition.  But they do, the same as stupid Washington University, which is so stupid it's in Missouri.  "It's underrated."  Bite me.  Are we saying that Hofstra's worth the same money as Harvard?  That people would pay anything to go to Hofstra?  No, they don't have to pay anything to go to Hofstra.  That's the point. 

You cannot, on the one hand, say you want to lower the number of students while on the other hand incentivizing them to go.  But you're not incentivizing the students, are you?  It's a wealth transfer to universities.  That's why you want to directly limit the number of schools  while keeping the payments to the rest of them intact.  More for you.  And if you have to throw Mr. Wallerstein under the bus to hide this truth, well, sacrifices have to be made.



---

You might also like:


The Dumbest Economic Collapse In History

The Worst Thing That Can Happen Is You Succeed

The Conspiracy Theorist's Guide To The Financial Crisis

Vanderbilt University: The Goal Is To Keep Them In Puberty


















Comments

Are their (the law school's... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 12:29 PM | Posted by BS Footprint: | Reply

Are their (the law school's) lips moving, metaphorically speaking?

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Any bets on how long he's b... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 12:45 PM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

Any bets on how long he's been "engaged" and whether the marriage ever actually happens?

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The best part of the articl... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 1:06 PM | Posted by Cosmicomics: | Reply

The best part of the article is the "this is a billion" picture.

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It is all about making mone... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 1:21 PM | Posted by Joel: | Reply

It is all about making money for someone. Law School should be 2 years not 3. Some would argue it should be 1yr.
I remember awhile ago Glen Reynolds aka instapundit did a lecture regarding costs of Universities and said if you take out Admin costs Ivy league University would cost around $2500 dollars. Yes $2500.

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Here is the video from Glen... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 1:25 PM | Posted by Joel: | Reply

Here is the video from Glen Reynolds. Very interesting


http://vimeo.com/15821943

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" Boys and girls, raise you... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 1:29 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

" Boys and girls, raise your hand if you know what a shyster is.....Wow!, EVERY hand! "

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Awesome post.<blockqu... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 2:26 PM | Posted by Lee: | Reply

Awesome post.

If something is immune to the laws of supply and demand, it's usually because someone deliberately set it up to circumvent those rules.

The other example that comes to mind is farming. The demand for crops didn't go away. Why the need for the handouts? It would have taken care of itself. There would definitely be less farmers, but not no farmers.

I already hated law students and almost every lawyer I've met. I do volunteer Guardian work for the state and the way the lawyers treat those cases is crazy. Now I get to hate people who have a JD and don't even practice. Add universities to that list too.

I went to Clemson (for engineering) and that place is a money making machine. The tuition rose over 100% during the 5 years I was there.

On the other end of the spectrum you have your division I athletes that generate tons of money for the university but don't see any of it (legally anyway).

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Only rich kids should go to... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 2:57 PM | Posted by wisegirl: | Reply

Only rich kids should go to law school. I'm half way serious.

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---He didn't study to be... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 2:58 PM | Posted by SteveBMD: | Reply

---He didn't study to become an attorney, he bought a back-up identity.

But isn't this the underlying reason why everyone goes to school? Kids don't go to medical school to practice medicine (which sucks most of the time, trust me on this one), they go to be doctors. Kids don't go to college to learn a skill or a trade, they simply go to college.

It even pervades K-12. While in my ideal world everyone would graduate from high school, some kids would do just fine without it; they're not "losers" or "failures," they're just differently skilled. (OMG, I'm sounding PC.)

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"There's no patent law clas... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 3:20 PM | Posted by Josh: | Reply

"There's no patent law class" ?

Let's look at the law school I currently attend, Seattle University (the very definition of a mid-range school). Curriculum can be found here: http://www.law.seattleu.edu/Academics/Curriculum/Course_Offerings.xml

How many classes does SU have on the wider issue of intellectual property:
•Intellectual Property (3 credits)
•Intellectual Property and Development Seminar (2 credits)
•Intellectual Property and Global Health (2 credits)
•Intellectual Property Audit Lab (1 credit)
•Intellectual Property Licensing Lab (1 credit)
•Intellectual Property Licensing Law (2 credits)
•International Intellectual Property (2 credits)


Now how many courses are there in patent law?
•Patent and Trade Secret Law (3 credits)
•Patent Litigation (2 credits)
•Patent Litigation Lab (1 credit)
•Patent Prosecution Lab (1 credit)


I'm not even including the externships, the special focus classes, etc. What was the point of that paragraph where you say that law schools provide no practical skills for being a lawyer? Are you talking about law school 25-50 years ago?

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And the funny thing is, the... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 3:27 PM | Posted by Josh: | Reply

And the funny thing is, there are already ways to manage your debt from law school. It is called "income based repayment." You can consolidate all your federally backed debt into one loan, then pay only 15% of your income above the poverty line per year. After 25 years the rest will be forgiven. You know what that works out to if you borrowed 150K and make 50K a year? That works out to paying back the 150K without interest over 25 years. You pay ~$400 a month. I'll take that.

And, that time to loan forgiveness is dropped to 10 years if you work for the government or a non-profit full time.

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The Times is accused of bei... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 3:29 PM | Posted by Gary: | Reply

The Times is accused of being a leftist/socialist paper, but that's not true, their collectivist perspective comes from assuming all of you people are free range cattle.

Wrong? The very foundation of socialim is that the "masses" are cattle that require overlords. Perched high in Boulder, Portland, Ann Arbor, and Berkely, our "betters" create policy for our own good. Thanks, guys. Meanwhile, thanks to "land-use" restrictions, poor whites, blacks, and hispanics are forbitten to reside in these invisbly gated communities of our superiors. Keep Portland, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Boulder, and Missoula White!

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"Steven Greenberger of DePa... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 4:44 PM | Posted by RC: | Reply

"Steven Greenberger of DePaul recommends a mandatory warning -- a bit like the labels on cigarette packs -- that every student taking the LSAT, the prelaw standardized test, must read. "Something like 'Law school tuition is expensive and here is what the actual cost will be, the job market is uncertain and you should carefully consider whether you want to pursue this degree,' " he says. "And it should be made absolutely clear to students, that if they sign up for X amount of debt, their monthly nut will be X in three years.""

They aren't doing this already? Before I got my student loans, I was made fully aware this stuff, more or less. I had to have a counseling session regarding my loan, I had to sign that I understood student loans were not bankruptcy protected. There was informed consent.

Having said that, student loans should not be bankruptcy protected. The fear of bankruptcy is what keeps lenders from giving out money to people/projects that are too risky. $150,000 to get a degree in creative writing from Harvard? Without bankruptcy protection, this would not happen.

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Well, TLP is about half rig... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 4:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Well, TLP is about half right. The thing is that MOST majors are that way. And it's because of the excessive cultural pressure to create more college graduates. The idea is that everybody belongs in college, and that anybody who dares to say that a kid would be better served in a trade school is a heretic. College for a lot of things is worthless. An english degree might make you an English teacher, but it's more likely to make you a starbucks barista. Go down the list -- history -- either you teach or you do something else.


Other than Math or Engineering or chemistry, you don't really need college. A BA is cheap, but it's costly to get. Kinda like paying $100,000 for a car. You still get a car, but you coulda got a used car for a lot less and have it do most of the same things.

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But you're not incentivi... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 4:59 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

But you're not incentivizing the students, are you? It's a wealth transfer to universities.

It's a wealth transfer to specific people enjoying cush jobs at and associated with universities. Don't weasel.

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If something is im... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 5:49 PM | Posted by Mal: | Reply

If something is immune to the laws of supply and demand, it's usually because someone deliberately set it up to circumvent those rules.

All law schools are free.

You say that as if that's a bad thing.

There are PhD's who are janitors. Why? Because all PhD's are free.

There are 854 MFA programs today, whereas there were less than 80 in 1975. Why? Because all MFA's are free.

Why?

For a Pirate who wrote The Terrible, Awful Truth About Supplemental Security Income I would think the answer would be obvious:

Do you want riots in the streets? How much does it cost to prevent Berkeley California (your choice) from catching fire?

Answer: $35,000 a year + room and board.

This is a lesson the English are learning the hard way.

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Are law schools a scam? Rea... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 6:06 PM | Posted by GT: | Reply

Are law schools a scam? Read this blog and decide for yourself.

http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/

It's written by a law school graduate who, it seems, gives the low down on law school education.

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What in the hell did you do... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 6:30 PM | Posted by Cosmicomics: | Reply

What in the hell did you do with the full cheerleader picture?!?!

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Jackpot:<a href="htt... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 6:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Cosmicomics's comment, by marcos: | Reply

Jackpot:
http://www.nietnuttig.nl/2010/04/21/girls-gone-wild-rugby-edition/

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That's 1 billion after taxe... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 7:05 PM | Posted, in reply to Cosmicomics's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

That's 1 billion after taxes..

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (3 votes cast)
I agree: a lot of this is j... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 8:09 PM | Posted, in reply to Josh's comment, by R. Kevin Hill: | Reply

I agree: a lot of this is just empirically wrong. Maybe the characterization of the students and their motives are in the ballpark, but not of the schools themselves. For example, the idea that grade inflation is typical of law schools and essentially similar to undergrad to such an extent that it makes it impossible for employers to read signals of employability is so far wrong that I don't know what to say other than: don't take one anecdote as representative. Most 1Ls have a stroke when they discover the difference between their undergrad GPA and their likely law school GPA. I teach undergrad and went to law school, and I've never seen an undergrad course taught on a forced curve, and I've never seen a law school class that wasn't.

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Anonymous 4:49 PM"... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 2:02 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Andrew: | Reply

Anonymous 4:49 PM

"Other than Math or Engineering or chemistry, you don't really need college. A BA is cheap, but it's costly to get. Kinda like paying $100,000 for a car. You still get a car, but you coulda got a used car for a lot less and have it do most of the same things."

Opportunity cost. Thanks econ degree!

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"This is as good a place as... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 4:17 AM | Posted by Jaykde: | Reply

"This is as good a place as any to point out that a huge portion of this failure to mature is the fault of the undergraduate college that gave him up for adoption. If four years of mandatory intellectual exploration not to mention electives in acid and penetration can't guide you to self-awareness then you probably paid too much for the experience."

I'm not quite yet up for adoption but this describes me pretty well. Anyone got suggestions? (I don't plan on going to law school but) I don't want to end up like the chump in the article.

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Okay, so there is some pate... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 6:36 AM | Posted, in reply to Josh's comment, by Guy Fox: | Reply

Okay, so there is some patent law in the salad bar, but do they teach you to make something of yourself? How to start a successful practice? Or maybe we should lower the bar a bit: how to join a successful practice without filming yourself fellating a partner or two or without an interview via daddy?

In other words, did they give you the knowledge and confidence that would make Jaykde's question sound ridiculous, or did they just give you the throwaway knowledge that Chinese patents are worthless and patent trolls can be bought? Encyclopedic knowledge of trivia is no substitute for chutzpah and perseverance.

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I think the issue is amoral... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 7:03 AM | Posted by Davey: | Reply

I think the issue is amoral universities run by people who would earn minimum wage in the real world, sucking in young people whose brains are not yet able to make rational decisions.

I put the blame on the shoulders of Universities. Society looks up to you and you betray them. Disgusting.

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Oh gawd, is that statue pic... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 7:18 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

Oh gawd, is that statue picture for real?

I'm not surprised this is happening to so-called guaranteed jobs of the past. What did we think was going to happen when they commercialized education.

Employers know that full well.

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>I'm not quite yet u... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 10:31 AM | Posted, in reply to Jaykde's comment, by jb: | Reply


>I'm not quite yet up for adoption but this describes me pretty
>well. Anyone got suggestions? (I don't plan on going to law
>school but) I don't want to end up like the chump in the article.

Which describes you pretty well? That you have spent almost 4 years at college, or that you have no self-awareness and paid too much?

And suggestions about what? How to avoid being a douchebag like the guy in the article? That's easy - don't assume the world owes you a living, and don't assume that choices you make today have no consequences. I mean, these are standard catechism:

* If something seems too easy, it's probably a scam
* If your vision for your future involves the phrase 'with luck' or 'perhaps', you're fooling yourself
* If you are considering purchasing/acquiring anything with 'no upfront cost', it's a BAD IDEA

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In the world of law, here i... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 11:51 AM | Posted by JP: | Reply

In the world of law, here is how it works with respect to rankings.

This is how it works. Don't ask questions about it. It's locked in. It never changes. Ever. It's like wondering if The Last Psychiatrist talking about narcissism. Of course he will. That's what he does.

There are three primary schools. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. In that order. These are the T3 (top three). If the economy is not in a severe recession, you can use your T3 pass to select whatever law job you want.

Then there are the secondary national schools. Columbia, NYU, Berkley, Duke, Penn, Cornell, Georgetown. I knew this list by heart when I was applying. I don't anymore. They are the T14 (top 14). If the economy is doing well, you can use your T14 pass to get a good job. In 2000, I used my T14 pass to get a good job that I then used to pay down my debt. The current state of the economy makes the T14 somewhat riskier these days.

Then there the bulk of the not complete garbage law schools. This is most of the schools. Graduate in the top 10% and you can get a good job or use your connections to get a job. If you aren't in the top 10%, you had better have connections because otherwise you are just getting $150,000 in debt. This is where the average law student ends up. It's usually a finanical trap these days.

Then there are the limited number of complete trash law schools. My best guess is that these are the bottom 25% or so.

And TLP is right.

The problem is that law school is free.

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This is much, much more com... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 12:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Davey's comment, by Laura: | Reply

This is much, much more complex than you think. Universities are subject to the laws of math, just like any other business (or government). The money that goes out cannot be larger than the money that comes in.

Given this, another fact is that their supply comes from students who want to go to a branded school in the top 10 in the USA today ranking system. Administrators, thus, have an incentive to keep students happy (no one wants rankings to drop because students can't hack it). Additionally, you want famous researchers that gain a lot of attention. Thus, their incentives are to be a great researcher, not a great teacher. Let's not even get into how crappy the pay is (although the administrators care a lot about money- i.e. you as a researcher doing research that requires grants- you as a teacher/researcher are supposed to do it because you love it).

I have taught medical students, pre-medical students, and other undergraduates. Getting undergraduates to do ANYTHING is like pulling your eyes out. Heaven forbid you ever accuse the little darlings of cheating. One university I was at had a pretty clear-cut case of cheating. The committee to investigate spent a year investigating the professor instead of the student.

And then there are the parents. Thank god for the law that states faculty cannot share grades with anyone other than the student (including parents)- it's been more of a blessing for faculty than for the undergrads themselves. Every parent believes their little darling "just worked so hard!"

So you're not wrong- the university system sucks- but the undergraduates themselves and their parents aren't doing anything to help (i.e. they believe in measures like the USA Today by applying to those universities, don't actually want do learn to improve critical thinking, writing, etc, and simply believe that working really hard is enough. But tip: When a student says, "but I worked so hard!" it typically means they didn't).

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"If it was true supply and ... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 1:26 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"If it was true supply and demand, #1 ranked Harvard and #100 ranked Hofstra wouldn't have the same tuition"

Ditto in terms of medical resident salary...

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So you want Law School to t... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 1:44 PM | Posted, in reply to Guy Fox's comment, by Josh: | Reply

So you want Law School to teach people "chutzpah and perseverance."? Can you point out any schooling anywhere that does that?

If you took all those courses, that wouldn't be a salad bar, that would be 20 credits worth of classes, which is a little over 25% of all the credits you get in law school.

And this is in addition to school sponsored externships or working 20 hours a week for an actual law firm that many students do during law school.

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The money that goes out ... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 2:36 PM | Posted, in reply to Laura's comment, by Jack Coupal: | Reply

The money that goes out cannot be larger than the money that comes in.

That does apply to any business. It doesn't apply to the federal government which just prints the dollars that need to go out. As long as it has ink, paper, and a printing press, it's "in business".

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If one graduates from law s... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 2:43 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

If one graduates from law school, is it a given that the person will pass the bar exam?

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If the government was print... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 2:49 PM | Posted by JP: | Reply

If the government was printing money, it wouldn't be as much of a problem.

The problem is the government is printing debt and letting law students hoard it.

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1. The only thing that you... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 9:09 PM | Posted by a billion plus one: | Reply

1. The only thing that you learn in law school that is of any use in real practice is how to use Westlaw/Lexis (and the books, if you're lucky) and what precedent is. This takes about three weeks.

2. Income based repayment and public service loan forgiveness is for federal loans only. 66% of my law school debt is private loans, and they don't care if you can't pay.

3. I am lucky to have a legal job. I like my legal job. But it doesn't pay well and I can't afford to pay my loans, so I work three jobs to pay for my loans. I received brochure after brochure about how much money graduates from my law school make. I didn't go to law school to make tons of money, I was just hoping to only have to work one job.

4. It was shocking the amount of fellow law students that said "It was either law school or medical school, and law school takes less time."

5. I will tell anyone who will listen that there should be a mandatory interning requirement before applying to law school. Work in a law office, see what life is like, see what the debt load is like for the younger attorneys. Not only will you get more out of law school if you start with a sense as to how things work (instead of completely clueless like me) but you will be able to make a much more educated decision as to whether the debt load is worth it.

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Oh for christ sake.... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 10:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Guy Fox's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Oh for christ sake.

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AWESOME!!... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 10:16 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

AWESOME!!

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Lawyer is more respectable ... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 10:47 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Lawyer is more respectable because there are more television shows and movies about lawyers. MDs and PhDs have a reputation as nerds and so are somewhat less desirable to imitate. Most every single doctor is significantly retarded in some or multiple social areas. Lawyers, on the other hand, are rarely found to be quite so "nerdish" as their profession mandates an excellent control of interpersonal skills. I work in healthcare and I have never met a totally "normal" doctor. They're huge nerds in some way or other. They do not deal with the social realm and have that quasi autistic thing going where the mind runs off into abstract highly detailed isolated worlds. Law isn't like that, it's about rules and manipulation and is entirely social.

Also, it requires more of a dedication to learning/study to be a MD or a PhD, thus is more difficult to fake. However law school is designed by lawyers themselves, so many more people are accepted into law schools (when they are actually poor candidates). Law schools, designed by lawyers, promotes the production of many fake lawyers for the profit of the schools. Lawyers have a sophisticated interpersonal/language ability, amoral, therefore are good at scamming people. This crap is more evidence of that.

If lawyers ran the medical schools, we would see this same trend toward diploma milling of medical education, useless specialties created with no practical niche/market so as to attract students who are not serious/qualified; and dumbing down the qualifications for admission, bluffing up the grades and so on. We don't see that because medical education isn't quite as tainted by lawyers who are by nature opportunistic and amoral and keen on social manipulation.

It is entirely possible to dumb down medical education; look at india, it's a 4 year degree over there. What stops easier access to medical degrees are the doctors themselves; doctors are hurt by more doctors competing for patients, on the other hand lawyers have an incentive to diploma mill their schools (because being a lawyer has always been about nepotism, no one who counts in law is going to be affected by the hordes of fake lawyers). Medical services are controlled by payments from government and insurance; there really isn't room for nepotism because if you have a medical degree you are 100% capable of practicing medicine, taking patients, unless of course your license is suspended or revoked for writing tons of scripts for percocets or molesting your patients during a routine physical exam, or malpractice, or something else insane like this. Doctors are limited by payments of medical services, and this is finite. The more doctors out there, the less payments for those currently in practice. DOCTORS HAVE A HUGE INCENTIVE to bottle neck the entry of more medical practitioners into the market. This is why they pitch a shit fit about the nurse practitioner/nurse anesthetist degrees and doctors immigrating from other countries and blah blah blah.

Law isn't quite like that; it's more who you know, if you can get in with a good practice and if your dad is important, it's always been that way. Legal services are not like medical services. Lawyers can profit from tricking people into buying a law degree, then they will. It is a useless degree, if you can find a job, it pays bullshit and the work is excruciating, unless you are a partner, in which case you are part of the in crowd and you aren't the common person who bought a law degree. Law has always been sorta a game of smoke and mirrors, legal services are always about manipulation of rules.
Medicine is more real, tangible, although there certainly is an element of manipulation in health services (tricking people into buying services they don't need - always has and will continue)... but if you get sick you need to see a doctor and they are very up front with the treatment. Here's a course of azithromyacin, it costs x amount, my exam costs y, your bill is this for these services. Very direct.

This is all to be expected, really.

College itself is a scam. Too many liberal arts majors being fed lies about finding yourself so as to avoid adulthood; 30 year olds going to school for a million years "learning" bullshit with more debt than they are worth. People don't like to work and be productive anymore, too many episodes of friends have convinced your average american that going to work every day is not necessary (did you ever see a cast member on friends go to work?)

People think they are entitled to the lifestyle of an heiress/heir even if their parents are truckers and waitresses. So we get people like this who have taken european vacations and lengthy educations, all on borrowed money. They are worth SHIT in terms of value or productivity. This guy is a worthless human being. He has no idea how to get a job and be productive at all to society. He doesn't know how to produce anything in terms of goods or services. He is a drain on this world and he is oblivious to it. I bet he looks down on welfare people too.

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"If you follow this, you th... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 10:58 PM | Posted by G. Abramowitz, Unemployed Copy Editor: | Reply

"If you follow this, you then discover that Mr Wallerstein is an unemployed law grad--let alone an entitled douchebag-- but a straw man."

Should read: ". . . Mr Wallerstein is not an unemployed law grad. . . ."

I got a lot out of undergraduate college, especially the required courses: I read Classical literature and philosophy I wouldn't have read otherwise (let's hear it for the liberal arts!) and learned to do a running dive off a board (what fun!).

Back then, a reasonably smart kid in New York City could go to college for free.

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I can honestly say I went t... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 11:09 PM | Posted, in reply to SteveBMD's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I can honestly say I went to school to learn a trade.

I had 100% intention of practicing what I went to school for, and I practice that profession, and I enjoy it a lot.

But then again I am not like your average college student, and I look at most people with puzzlement and/or disgust. People are so preoccupied with status and ego it makes me a bit ill. I have to wonder if they feel or think anything real at all.

I didn't "go to college" with zero idea of what I wanted to do. Well, actually, I did start out school that way, but that's normal. You're a kid, you can't know what you want to do. The point is to think about it and make a choice, a choice which is informed by your personality strengths and weaknesses, your innate talents and lack. This is how I approached my career path; honest self assessment, inventory, and I acted based on that information. When I went to school I went there 100% INTERESTED in learning/figuring out some kind of productive and profitable skill. I can not at all relate to these liberal arts retards who just "go to college" as a way of getting high/drunk and having promiscuous sex/date rape and basically being a giant infant forever.

I think the real problem is that many, many people don't think being a productive human being is necessary or all that important. Many, many people watch sitcoms such as friends, read tabloids about paris hilton and li-lo, and this becomes their reality. They begin to think it is acceptable to lie around all day living exclusively about yourself, acting entirely on impulse. This is totally abnormal, unnatural, and is corrosive to society. Sure, some people are parasites, living off of their parents wealth and hard work and fortune, but the problem is the blue collar and middle class adults now are under the delusion they can live this sort of lifestyle as well. Thus, the huge problem of student debts. Most student debts are not even for school tuition - they are for everything else but tuition as people live a work/productivity free lifestyle on bank borrowed cash.

I base this information by observing the young people I knew when I was a person in my late teens/early 20s, many in my family and such.

I'm glad I am not like this, I am a useful productive person and this is why I have zero debt and quite a lot of savings. I am intelligent, hard working, I produce a service that is valuable and skilled. I don't give a FUCK if I have letters in front of or behind my name or not.

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Ah, but Josh, how much of t... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 11:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Josh's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Ah, but Josh, how much of that debt is federally backed as opposed to commercial loans?

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4:49 is right...I ... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 11:35 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

4:49 is right...

I would also at this point in time that the made up disease called "ADHD" was invented as an answer to parents who happen to have given birth to a child who is a poor fit for schooling/professional work. Prior to the 70s, when it was considered acceptable to not be cut out for school, such a thing as ADHD wouldn't have ever existed. Such a child would be considered oriented for factory work or some other kind of non-scholastic path. After our economy changed and the factories moved to third world countries, more pressure was put on kids to go to college and be professionals. When it was discovered not all children are capable of doing this, because not all children are born with the dopamine systems for intense introspection study and focus, we started giving trucker speed to kids so they can study in school, when in reality they are better suited to being truckers themselves.

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This reminds of a scene fro... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 6:58 AM | Posted by Gil: | Reply

This reminds of a scene from "Spiderman" where Ben Parker is complaining that all jobs in the newspaper are computer jobs. In reality a qualified, experienced electrician is highly employable and people with computer degrees are unemployed reading the jobs section of the newspaper.

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No, I don't really want law... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 7:00 AM | Posted, in reply to Josh's comment, by Guy Fox: | Reply

No, I don't really want law school to teach chutzpah; that's either the job of the parents, or failing them, of the students themselves. The students should have it when they walk in the door, so that if little Josh's parents call and complain to the faculty that he worked so darned hard and really deserves an A (as Laura describes), Josh himself reams them out and shuts them out until they realize that he's at least trying to be all growed up.

My point is that instead of padding their curricula with 7 different courses about basically the same thing (intellectual property), which is really just a way to pad their students' stats with credits that require negligible additional thought or effort, they and their students would be better served devoting time preparing the students for a life outside the hallowed walls of Seattle U, i.e. how to make themselves useful, or at least not burdensome, for the rest of society. This might include developing a business plan, securing a loan (i.e. the type the bank reviews and you have to pay back), or freakin' lobbying for all I care. Indeed, students should be demanding this. But apparently they're not, which seems attributable to the fact that the ego-boost they receive from the title and certificate, which they can obtain by writing the same term paper/exam seven times over for 25% of total credit, suits them just fine.

As for whether my comment was for Christ's sake, I'd have to say that he and we'd all be better off if he had stuck to carpentry (a useful trade) instead of preachifying.

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>In reality a qualified, ex... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 8:05 AM | Posted, in reply to Gil's comment, by jb: | Reply

>In reality a qualified, experienced electrician is highly
>employable and people with computer degrees are
>unemployed reading the jobs section of the newspaper.

*Ahem* Everything I've seen indicates that qualified, experienced software developers are having a banner year. My experience: if you are an experienced software developer, it was difficult to even realize that there was a crisis.

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"Having said that, student ... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 8:53 AM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by Liz: | Reply

"Having said that, student loans should not be bankruptcy protected. The fear of bankruptcy is what keeps lenders from giving out money to people/projects that are too risky. $150,000 to get a degree in creative writing from Harvard? Without bankruptcy protection, this would not happen."

You're missing the point. If there was bankruptcy protection, then lenders would be far more cautious about what they would lend and to whom. That means that people might actually get a realistic assessment of what kind of risk they are taking on.

It would also mean that universities wouldn't be able to charge as much because there wouldn't be as many people *able* to take out loans to fund, say, a $150,000 degree in creative writing. It might not be such a bad thing for the individual if that degree did not happen.

The current system just takes away all incentives to be sensible - it would actually be better to get all government guarentees and money out of the system.

In the real world, your customers (I know some people hate using that term in hallowed ivory tower, but it's accurate) will either stop coming to you or run out of money. In the current system, that never happens - the loans are due after they graduate. The university has no incentive to lower costs or prices.

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I'm glad to know that I'm "... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 12:46 PM | Posted, in reply to Guy Fox's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I'm glad to know that I'm "little Josh" and I've got helicopter parents in your hypothetical, thanks. There's also no reason to be sarcastic about "the hallowed halls of Seattle U" I've got no hard-on for the school, and I admitted that it is definitively a mediocre school.

Did you look at the description of the courses? A good portion of them are practical classes. There are labs, there are specialist courses in patent defense and prosecution. "Basically the same thing" um, the law in this area *is* complicated and this is information that does need to be learned if you're going to practice in this area.

The way you characterize the information learned in these classes as " the throwaway knowledge that Chinese patents are worthless and patent trolls can be bought?" is very simplistic. Now, I'm not interested in IP law at all, but criminal law. Let's go through and see the sorts of classes that they teach for criminal law and how relevant they might be.

Criminal Law 4 credit first year course: needed introduction into the basics of types of criminal liability, the law of attempted crimes, and the law of conspiracy. All good things to know if you are going to prosecute a crime or defend an accused.

Criminal Procedure: Investigation: 3 credit course: teaches search and seizure, confessions, and the right to a lawyer. I've used the information learned here basically everyday so far. Much needed course.

Criminal Procedure: Adjudication: 3 credit course teaching the law governing "bail to jail." It's good to know what an Alford plea is, the ways to compel discovery, and how to file a halftime dismissal motion. No overlap so far, and a necessary course.

Evidence, 3 credits: This class was taught in a very practical fashion requiring us to actually argue motions and trial objections as we learned the rules of evidence. Still no overlap.

Criminal Pretrial Advocacy: 3 credits: In this class, you write a series of 5 pre-trial motions and argue them against other students before a currently sitting judge, getting critiques of both substance and form. Very helpful.

Forensics: 3 credits: A an entire class devoted to procuring an expert for trial, the law around what they can and cannot say, and how to best use an expert on the stand. Stars to overlap some with Evidence, but goes into detail for a very important aspect of trial practice.

Advanced 4th Amendment Law, 3 credits: yes, this class overlaps with Crim Pro Adj, but this class lets you write a research paper about a cutting edge topic in this field. You can use that to deal with a particular issue that you've come across in practice.

Washington State Con Law: 3 credits: looks at the particular rights you have under the state constitution. The paper I wrote for this class will soon be turned into a criminal trial brief at the behest of my employer.

Computer Crime, 3 credits: specialized course teaching both the computer fraud and abuse act, and the 4th/5th amendment problems that have developed out of new technology. I can attest from experience that many working attorneys do not have a good grasp of this area of law. I'll use this class and write a paper on how the state constitution works to provide more protection for computers, this will also be turned into a criminal trial brief for use by my employer.

Comprehensive Pre-Trial Advocacy, 4 credits: a course teaching not just criminal, but all aspects of pre-trial work. This course is taught using fictional cases and requires the students to act like they are actually representing a side in the case. Very practical, arguments are in front of actual judges.

Comp Trial Advocacy, 4 credits: assigned to a side in a trial, and walked through how to plan a trial and run a trial.

Externships, between 3 or 15 credits: There are programs where you can do a 15 hour a week internship with the prosecutor or public defender's offices. Or you can take an entire semester, work 40 hours a week, and get 15 credits.

Let's count all that up, if you did a full-term externship that would be over 50 credits (over half of your classes) that you can devote to developing expertise in one area, with practical classes and practical experience. These classes do not teach the same thing. When you combine this with working in the summers for an office and volunteering in offices your first and second years you're ready to go. These summers and volunteer jobs are where you get a feel for practice. If you need more help with practice, there is "Accounting for Lawyers" (2 credits); "Applied Law and Practice Management" (2 credits); "Client Counseling and Negotiation" (2 credits); and "Transitioning to King County Practice" (1 credit). This is an additional 7 credits of how to do a law practice.

Are there a lot of crap "theory" classes that are useless? Yes. Transgender perspectives on law isn't very helpful in practice. But you don't have to take those classes.

Oh, and there is a lobbying class.

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If you want to put an end t... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 8:02 PM | Posted by BHL: | Reply

If you want to put an end to this, the way to do it is to publish the truth about law. While there is an upper crust of elites who start at $160K a year out of Harvard or Yale, the rest of them have to hustle their asses off to get a small firm or sole practice job up and running. That means running a small business and convincing people to hire you, and then to pay you. That means knowing enough about your area of law not to get shut down by your law society for incompetence/criminality. That means working insane hours for little or no money, just to earn enough to afford your shitty townhouse and crappy car.

I'm in this job because I never wanted to do anything else, and as a youngster I had stars in my eyes about helping people and righting wrongs. Of course, I'm old enough that when I went through law school, I could do it without this kind of insane debt level by working three (shitty) summer jobs and taking out (small) student loans and occasionally begging my parents for a hand out. (Not to mention I'm in Canada where the tuition isn't quite as criminally high. Yay socialism!)

It took me five years to pay off the loans, but I did it representing abused spouses and deadbeat dads on legal aid.

I often take on co-op students from local high schools and show them what real litigators do every day. Only one out of five wants to stick with it after seeing what the job is really like. (My favourite quote: "Do you *always* have to read this much?")

In short, the more that we combat the TV version of law (i.e. "the brand") with the reality of small firm and sole practioner lawyering, the less Mr. Wallersteins will go to law school. (which would be a blessing, because these are the folks who the rest of us a bad name.)

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Either I suck I writing, or... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 8:59 PM | Posted, in reply to Liz's comment, by RC: | Reply

Either I suck I writing, or you misunderstood me. Either way, I agree with you 100%. I wrote:

"Having said that, student loans should not be bankruptcy protected. The fear of bankruptcy is what keeps lenders from giving out money to people/projects that are too risky. $150,000 to get a degree in creative writing from Harvard? Without bankruptcy protection, this would not happen."

I didn't say STUDENTS should not have bankruptcy protection, I said that STUDENT LOANS should not have bankruptcy protection. From the lender's standpoint, there should be no protection. You ought to lend money with an inherent risk of default, as better economic decisions are made this way.

Also, when I write in caps it's not to convey yelling, it's because I can't figure out how to write in italics here. Sorry, I'm not trying to be rude! *grin*

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Ah yes, I do suck at writin... (Below threshold)

January 27, 2011 9:01 PM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by RC: | Reply

Ah yes, I do suck at writing: within a minute of posting this, I've already found a typo! The communication problem must have been on my end. :)

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"I didn't say STUDENTS shou... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 6:04 AM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by Liz: | Reply

"I didn't say STUDENTS should not have bankruptcy protection, I said that STUDENT LOANS should not have bankruptcy protection."

Thank you for replying so politely. I'm sure part of the problem was with me reading it too quickly. So you agree with me? Good to know.

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I love all of the people wh... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 9:55 AM | Posted by PastaBagel: | Reply

I love all of the people who are citing the goofy three credit 3L classes on Computer Crime or Intellectual Property as if constituted training or preparation. They don't. They are transcript fillers. Nothing you learn in any of those classes survives contact with actual work for an actual client in an actual firm.

Law school is good for three things: 1. The Socratic method, in which a professor brutally humiliates your sloppy soundbite-based reasoning in front of your classmates; 2. Legal Writing, in which students learn that all the clever writing they did in college was garbage and rife with bad habits; and 3. Moot court, in which practicing attorneys and judges literally make hotshot students *cry* at the podium by interrupting them in the first 30 seconds that their argument to tell them that their argument is stupid and to come up with a better argument on the spot.

Everything else in law school is pointless. Why do you think students spend $2000 on Barbri to pass the bar? Because they have to learn all the actual law--what the law is--that they didn't learn in school.

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What about Sheppardizing Ca... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 10:49 AM | Posted, in reply to PastaBagel's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

What about Sheppardizing Case Law? Granted, Lexus-Nexus and Westlaw flag them for you, but what about drawing parallels between cases? What cases are on point with your case,etc.?

Court opinion is important, too.

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Too many law schools.... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 11:25 AM | Posted by DrTorch: | Reply

Too many law schools.

And a shortage of physicians.

Now, I hate gov't intrusion and excess spending, but how about this: The Feds pony up a sum (say $120M spread over 3 years) to any university that converts its law school into a med school?

Isn't having a Med school more prestigious than a law school?

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How's this to screw with yo... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 11:38 AM | Posted by lawyer: | Reply

How's this to screw with your mind: Ohio denies OSU law grad admission to the Bar because he "does not have a plan" to repay his $170,000 student loans, even though he is currently employed by a county public defender's office.

So he can't become a lawyer because 1) he owes to much money to OSU and 2) doesn't want to be a corporate lawyer but instead wants to be a low-paid government lawyer.

http://abovethelaw.com/2011/01/character-fitness-fail-for-graduate-with-no-plan-to-pay-off-his-debts/

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Pastabagel:Speakin... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 11:47 AM | Posted, in reply to PastaBagel's comment, by R. Kevin Hill: | Reply

Pastabagel:

Speaking as a member of the Illinois Bar, I would say you are *almost* right, but not quite. Exposure to caselaw, especially at the same time that one is doing the writing/research courses, rewires your brain in far-reaching ways that are a necessary condition of lawyering, independent of what you retain. I probably retained my 1L classes, Con Law, Evidence, some of Remedies, and (oddly) Employment Discrimination. But the rest of it was not for nought, because it set up that proverbial "thinking like a lawyer" thing. The danger of learning the law entirely through practice is that practices other than the big firms tend to specialize, and seeing the law through the lens of a small area can create an illusion of understanding about everything you don't practice in. Maybe that doesn't matter, but if I take my car to the shop, even if I take it to someone that only does brakes, I'd like her to know that "that transmission really doesn't sound right, you should have that looked at." Just saying. Where I went there were useful things that were not sexy, meaningless electives, things like clinic, pre-trial litigation, judicial extern. But clearly law school cannot replace experience. And though I don't think I would've passed the Bar without BarBri, the areas I had extra coursework in (mostly UCC stuff) did make the process of studying a lot easier, as I could focus on the stuff I hadn't taken more and get a cushion.

The question in my mind is whether this much law school, three years worth, is necessary or desirable. (Whether it should be so expensive answers itself). I think probably not, for a couple of reasons. In the past, and for all I know still in some Commonwealth countries, studying law meant *majoring* in it, as an undergraduate, and the content of the courses required for the major were close to what you now get as a 1L. At the end of the day, you'd get an LL.B. and then do whatever to practice. I think this makes more sense than our current system, but also more sense than a pure apprenticeship model. It would cut the law schools down to something more closely resembling a college in a university, which for the most part is what they are supposed to be, and eliminate the obscene, pig-in-a-poke cost of entry to the profession. But most important, it would give undergraduates an opportunity to learn something enlightening for *citizenship*. You really can't make sense of your own society as a political structure without knowing something about law beyond what you get from a newspaper, but as it is now, it's very unlikely that a non-lawyer will pick up enough of this to be able to (for example) see through the lies about Obamacare and vote responsibly. Majoring in polysci just doesn't do it. That's a shame. I don't want there to be less law school; I want it more equally distributed, and cheap enough that the cost of being exposed to it is at least no greater than being exposed to English literature. This, I would think, would also demystify the law a great deal, and take away some of the "identity-seeking" that sends some people to law school which has been commented about here.

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If a practicing attorney "d... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 2:40 PM | Posted, in reply to lawyer's comment, by Jack Coupal: | Reply

If a practicing attorney "does not have a plan" for repaying student loans, I don't think he/she should be representing any client in a matter of the law (e.g., bankruptcy). I'm assuming the "plan" requires sensible and specific terms. It sounds like the state of Ohio got that one right!

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Maybe if you live in Google... (Below threshold)

January 28, 2011 11:25 PM | Posted, in reply to jb's comment, by Gil: | Reply

Maybe if you live in Googletopia. Besides that's only one type of computer job. The scene in "Spiderman" implied any computer qualifications made you quite employable whereas tradies need not apply. However in the real world there's a trades shortage and the section in the jobs wanted sites that consistently has the fewest vacancies is the I.T. section. The glory days of I.T. was in '90s.

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Regarding useless degrees (... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 1:10 AM | Posted, in reply to Liz's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Regarding useless degrees (e.g. creative writing) and the problem of easy access to funding for decades long study in useless unproductive programs...

I would like to point out that amongst hipsters, it seems as if it is a trend and almost a badge of honor to be in debt for a post undergrad degree ...IF that degree is in a useless unproductive arty branch of study. So being heaps in debt for a masters in fine arts is cool, but not something practical like a sciences or math or business degree. Hipsters often joke about their degrees and how unprofitable they are. It's an underhanded way of saying "I am so creative and counter culture, I pursue my passion at the expense of money... how very bipolar artist of me, aren't I cool and special"

Much like ghetto teenage girls getting pregnant so as to be "cool" amongst their peers, we see a trend amongst upper middle class white kids who purposely gouge society and banks out of thousands of dollars they can never pay back, all to have a piece of paper which might as well say "authentic artist/hipster, not a poseur".

It's very annoying, because this borrow happy trend of such starbucks dwelling useless sacks of skin is probably going to have repercussions for the people who really care about being productive and making society not a shithole.
It's just as bad if not worse than people who tend to buy things on credit they can't afford. At least people who overestimate their earning potential TRIED to work in the first place. On the other hand these 20something or 30something hipster douches just steal thousands and thousands from the banks with minimal to no effort to learn a productive skill or trade so as to pay it down.

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Good thing someone is "stea... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 10:56 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Good thing someone is "stealing" money back from the banks that routinely steal money from regular working and non-working poor people. Those poor abused bankers and banking institutions that are run by upstanding, hardworking citizens that contribute so much to society...oh right, they're part of the social problem and at the very core of a cultural and highly systemically induced sense of unearned entitlement to ever increasing profits, wealth and bailouts at the expense of others.

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...which are entirely reinf... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 7:34 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by negativedge: | Reply

...which are entirely reinforced by Mr X. above, who thinks if you aren't a lawyer or a banker or an engineer you are a drain "on society" which is really a euphemism for "my world view." perhaps if a couple more people knew anything about "society" outside of being "productive" we wouldn't have subscribed to our cultural myths in the first place.

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The whole Income Based Repa... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 8:10 PM | Posted by Ex Student: | Reply

The whole Income Based Repayment thing is amazing. You can take out essentially an unlimited amount of loans, with checks made in your name, and then only pay what you can "afford." And if you work for government or a non-profit (i.e. not contributing to the tax base), you have the balance forgiven after 10 years.

So basically, the incentive is to there to take as much money as possible from the government and pay as little as possible back. It also creates the incentive to contribute as little to society as possible in order to keep your income low and IBR eligibility intact.

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Lawyers are drains. They a... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 8:19 PM | Posted, in reply to negativedge's comment, by Ex Student: | Reply

Lawyers are drains. They are rent seekers who only have jobs because they argue about laws they make up. A wise lawyer once told me, "We're in business because lawyers never agree. If there was one 'law', why would I be needed?" Could scientists make a living arguing over hundred year old questions? Nope. They don't make money on settled science. They have to pursue new questions and thereby contribute.

Anyway, I used to be a hospital hiring manager. I saw lawyers filing applications for entry-level non-law jobs all the time. Some were fresh out of law school and others had a few years under their belt. Even some from 1/2 tier schools. You would not believe the number of lawyers who talked a big game after court during the week but were emptying bedpans on weekends. The credit reports I'd run as part of the hiring background check often showed student debt in excess of $200,000 for undergrad and law school. We're talking $2,500 in monthly payments.

The funny thing is that our loss prevention policy required us to have anyone with massive debt work only in jobs with direct supervision. So we had a few Members of the Bar being watched by Puerto Ricans without a high school education.

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Dear TLP,"It's pro... (Below threshold)

January 31, 2011 10:10 PM | Posted by John: | Reply

Dear TLP,

"It's probably the same reason he didn't try some other hail mary like, say, borrow $200k and just open up a coffeeshop or become a daytrader. You could fail at those. Graduate from law school-- and everybody does-- and you can't possibly fail. (Surprise.)"

I've been reading since 2008 but this is my first comment. I admit to you I always experience a bit of a rush when you mention daytrading, as you often do, since I have been a (successful) daytrader since I graduated college several years ago. I wish someone would have encouraged entrepreneurship when I was a boy, because I was always much better at keeping my mouth shut and getting things done than doing what the teachers told me to do.

Of course, as you point out very often, daytrading is not standard small business. It just happened to be the only small business I got connected with without realizing it was Small Business, like the kind I thought you had to go to business school for. Many of my friends who committed countless hours per week, years of their lives, and dollars to student loans came out of school with the dismal job prospects you're getting at here. Even in the best cases a doctor just out of school didn't have nearly the earnings potential that a very successful entrepreneur would, and (in my experience) that entrepreneur would enjoy his job much more and be able to work many less hours per week should he choose to do so.

In short... thanks for reminding us that entrepreneurship is great. And thanks for the flattery by talking about daytrading like some unattainable wish-fulfillment. ;) (To be fair, I see ten or twenty guys come and go every year, several of them retirement-age folks who were successful in previous careers and now want to fulfill their great masculine wishes. All daytraders are male. Well, I've met two females. Neither is particularly good.)

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I was in complete agreement... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2011 11:52 PM | Posted by AnnMaria: | Reply

I was in complete agreement until you got to Washington University in St. Louis. I actually went there, on scholarship. Learned an enormous amount. Graduated $700 in debt. Went on to get an MBA, a Ph.D. and start a small business. It was worth the money.

When my kids went to school, I paid for it. Not everyone gets "free money". Although it was every extra dime we had to cover NYU, it was worth the money, too.

Harvard isn't on a plane by itself.

On the other hand, my children didn't go to law school, for the exact reason you mentioned. If they wanted to vacation in the south of France, and then be unemployed and hang out, I sure wasn't paying for it.

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Harvard Law isn't on a plan... (Below threshold)

February 6, 2011 1:16 PM | Posted, in reply to AnnMaria's comment, by JP: | Reply

Harvard Law isn't on a plane by itself.

It shares that plane with Yale and Stanford in law world.

And Yale is actually higher than Harvard in law.

Law world is different that the real world in many ways.

And generally not in good ways.

One of the few friends I remain in contact with from law school went to Washington University.

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"Which describes you pretty... (Below threshold)

February 7, 2011 7:02 AM | Posted, in reply to jb's comment, by Jaykde: | Reply

"Which describes you pretty well? That you have spent almost 4 years at college, or that you have no self-awareness and paid too much?
* If something seems too easy, it's probably a scam
* If your vision for your future involves the phrase 'with luck' or 'perhaps', you're fooling yourself
* If you are considering purchasing/acquiring anything with 'no upfront cost', it's a BAD IDEA"

That I've spent almost 4 years in college, and don't have self-awareness in the sense I really don't know what to do with my life... I doubt the field I'm getting a degree in (Engineering) is really one that I can love and do every day for years.
I'm not a douchebag and I don't assume the world owes me a living.

> This major doesn't seem too easy, but again I cannot see myself doing it for years and years
> My future doesn't involve 'with luck', except with luck I'll figure out what to do
> I will surely not purchase/acquire something without an upfront cost.

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Jaykde - life takes you in ... (Below threshold)

February 7, 2011 9:29 AM | Posted by jb: | Reply

Jaykde - life takes you in many directions - the fact that you have the wherewithal to finish a degree in Engineering is a good sign that you'll make pretty smart choices about your future.

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<a href="http://www.mbtfoot... (Below threshold)

March 24, 2011 3:51 AM | Posted by mbt shoes: | Reply

http://www.mbtfootwearusa.com

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Do not enough cash to buy a... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2011 12:35 PM | Posted by AshleySHANNON30: | Reply

Do not enough cash to buy a car? You should not worry, because that's real to take the loan to work out all the problems. Thus take a student loan to buy all you need.

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>>They aren't doing this al... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2011 2:20 PM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

>>They aren't doing this already? Before I got my student loans, I was made fully aware this stuff, more or less. I had to have a counseling session regarding my loan, I had to sign that I understood student loans were not bankruptcy protected. There was informed consent.

The "counseling sessions" can be done online now in just a couple of minutes. Not that they would help anyway since by the time you sign on the dotted line for the government loans, you've already matriculated and invested a ton of time, effort and probably cash in getting in, etc. In other words, you've already made the decision. I'd say some of the blame lies with undergraduate professors and departments. They encourage students to go to grad school, and the best grad schools at that, and often in particular law schools since it enhances their personal reputation as well as of the department and university. I know it's a bit cynical but I think it factors in.

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A friend of mine is going t... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2013 1:10 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

A friend of mine is going to law school. Not even middle-tier I think but our regular undergrad institution is middle-tier. Both he and I are first-generation university students so, frankly, we're going in blind. I plan to get a grad degree in literature (I do want to teach one day) but increasingly it looks like I won't do a program unless it's fully funded. My friend will probably get into a lot of debt.

Still I basically planned on working for the government anyway, and yes, my mother is a waitress.

Today I submitted an article to a Johns Hopkins journal! I await the rejection, but hey, at least I'm trying...

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