Inside the Law School Scam was, without doubt, a blog of rare quality. Each and every post was well-written, thoughtful, respectful in tone (without losing a sharp edge), and a pleasure to read. I believe that with effort, this blog can show the same level of quality, on a technical level at least.
But can this blog, written by non-professors, carry the same intellectual weight? Can it attract the same coverage? Can it cause those on the brink of falling blindly into the law school scam to pause for a moment and listen to us as much as they listened to Professor Campos, then take a step back?
Many would say (and have said) that we can’t. After all, one of the big draws of ITLSS was that it was the first to be written by a law professor, someone inside the scam, someone who had a unique voice, a unique perspective, someone who could spill the beans. And that, I’ll be the first to admit, is something that we don’t have on our side. I’m not an insider. I’m sure some of the other authors will introduce themselves over the next few days, but as far as I know, they’re not insiders either.
But we have one thing in common that ITLSS did not have. We are outsiders. We went through the system and have seen it for ourselves. We have lived and worked as lawyers, employed and unemployed, in big firms and small, in private practice and public service. We have struggled in this economy, lost jobs, rebuilt practices, changed careers, reviewed documents, paid student loans, felt the stranglehold of Sallie Mae around our necks. This is our world. The real world. A world that Professor Campos did not experience firsthand.
And I’m not talking about just us, the writers. I’m talking about all of us – writers, readers, supporters, friends and enemies. We all have something valuable to say. And while Professor Campos provided a perspective from inside the scam, one could argue that there was always something of a disconnect between the subject matter of his writing and the actual experiences of those who were not just observing it, but who were living it on a daily basis. Professor Campos was not experiencing the effects of the scam in the same way we were. The misery of unemployment, of no health insurance, of not knowing where the next paycheck was coming from, the daily grind of billable hours, dealing with the actual practice of law and the anger of partners, opposing counsel, and clients. That is what we know best, and what we are uniquely qualified to write about. The thirty years of working life that you have to live through after you graduate, not just the three years of life spent in law school.
I don’t say that to denigrate the work done over at ITLSS. It was groundbreaking, and it brought legitimacy to the law school reform movement. It brought us all together. I say it to put forth the idea that we are capable of leading ourselves, and the idea that we have something equally valuable to say. Perhaps more valuable, in fact, as prospective law students may well pay more attention to individual horror stories about what happens When Good Law Degrees Go Bad. Instead of telling them what might happen via statistics and studies, we can show them in person. We can bring the discussion into sharp focus, stand in front of them face to face and let them see what a JD does to your life.
While I’d like to see this blog as a follow-up blog to ITLSS, taking the unity, the community, and the drive that was developed over there and building upon it here rather than having it dissipate and lose its strength, I also see it as being something completely different. As stated above, if we try to continue looking at the system in the same way as Professor Campos, we will fail; we’re not insiders, we don’t have that perspective, and we would become just a shadow of that great blog. But we can look at it as outsiders, those who have been through it, and who are living post-JD lives in various stages of success and failure. And that’s the quality discussion and expertise that we can bring to the table.