Monday, March 11, 2013

Grey Dawn

One of my favorite episodes of South Park deals with the town’s attempt to restrict the driving privileges of the elderly after old drivers slaughter dozens of people each week during trips to Country Kitchen Buffet.  The town’s ban on elderly drivers leads to an AARP military occupation.  The younger residents cannot fight back because the old people wake up too early. 

On a couple of occasions, Prof. Campos wrote articles in Salon about boomer cluelessness and their disproportionate power over the political machine.  Now, I do not want to get on the boomer-bashing-bandwagon without recognizing that many lawyers from this generation have turned to our way of thinking, albeit in a passive manner, and vaguely support the law school transparency movement.  However, the main offenders of the law school scam industry are boomer administrators, professors, judges, and bar association leaders (not to mention the bankers that promote the predatory lending scheme).

For many new lawyers on the job market, trying to survive, it sometimes looks like the only way to ever practice law is to wait for this stubborn generation to die off.  The most influential boomers often speak with frustrating cluelessness about The New Normal, failing to understand that they have captured most legal markets through restrictive advertising rules, exclusive court-assignment systems, and the sheer financial advantage of I-was-here-first.

A New York Times article this weekend, about the NYU faculty’s vote of no confidence against university president John Sexton, provided an excellent example of the boomer attitude toward business, education, and society.  Sexton has expanded the university into a profitable multinational product, and he has planned huge campus expansions in the most expensive real estate market in the country (Manhattan). 

Sexton’s reign represents the typical boomer business mindset of nothing-matters-except-the-short-term-bottom-line.  He represents the typical fixation on eternal expansion.  Specifically, he represents academia’s fixation on revenue and rankings regardless of the long-term consequences and the hikes in tuition that will result from building new skyscrapers, expanding entering class sizes, and bribing more “superstar” faculty to obscure liberal arts departments.  It is the typical American obsession with treating everything—hospitals, schools, government—like a corporation trying to sell the most toothpaste (although toothpaste consumers have far more regulatory protections in place than education consumers).

Unfortunately, the boomer-generation (and their mindset) has a stranglehold on the legal profession and national policy for many reasons other than their long-term tenure in law firms, government agencies, law school faculties, and the political system.  Yet, they have in part earned this power by consolidating themselves into a strong, consistent voting block.  Yes, the so-called youth vote came out in droves for Obama in the last two presidential elections, but they have done little else (not since the storm troopers broke up Occupy).

Let me provide an example of what happens when the boomer-voting-block holds disproportionate financial, philosophical, and voting power over the rest of a community.  In some Florida counties, the boomer voters have helped to accelerate the transformation of struggling post-housing-bubble suburbs into ghost towns, voting for a series of self-serving measures that defund the schools and perpetuate the downward financial spiral.  Meanwhile, the old people enjoy lower taxes as they slowly retire into properties that they purchased during the olden days (1960s-1970s), when a house in that county cost $15,000.

Now, let me make clear, many suburbs in Florida and other parts of the country were decimated by the housing scam.  However, the boomer-voting-block adds to the misery through self-serving austerity votes.  By lowering taxes as far as possible, the public schools continue to disintegrate, the local governments hire less people on less desirable terms – sure, you can work as a cop for $30,000 and pay 50% of your own medical costs – and the universities become almost equally expensive for instate and out-of-state students.  Consequently, many parts of the state have seen a mass exodus of young people and young families.

This is great for boomers retiring into paid-off homes or moving into golf-cart communities.  Social security, savings, and pensions provide a monthly income that exceeds the current paychecks of most of us treading water after law school.  Plus, their voting power keeps them in control of how the government taxes property, the last major tax paid by older folks but the prime source of revenue for local education and government services.

As I paint this picture in very broad strokes, I will note that the financial and political powers continue to distribute resources to the older generation at the expense of everyone else.  Even the new healthcare law, forcing young people into the market to offset the care of old people, fits this model. 

And don’t wait for boomers to thank anyone, as they complain about young entitled brats.  You’ve heard/read the clichés a million times over the last few years: “In my day, we worked our way from the bottom to the top,” a 58-year-old lawyer might say, not realizing that he graduated into an immediate job with only $2,000 of debt.  “The problem today is that everyone feels entitled to everything right now,” he might say, as he chooses a cruise line for one of his biannual vacations or complains about the taxes on his six-figure income.

Granted, I am portraying a melodramatic stereotype, but I think it represents a greater reality.  When was the last time you heard the government raising a shit storm over a very modest restructuring or trimming of Medicare and Social Security?  Every day?  Every hour? 

Now, when was the last time you heard the government discuss a serious student loan revamp to slow the massive feeding-frenzy of colleges with expanding class sizes, higher tuition, and new campuses?  Never?  Ever?

Me neither.  In fact, we see mainstream politicians, including high profile figures like Chris Christie and Mitt Romney, give students the middle-finger, advising them to borrow from rich parents, attend schools within their “price range,” and suck it up.  You would never see any politician give that sort of response to a boomer asking about Medicare/Social Security – not even a fringe wacko like Paul Ryan!

We can learn a lot from the last two decades of boomer rule about mobilizing into a consolidated lobbying block.  Fine, we do not have their finances or established place in society.  However, we have ever-increasing numbers and the internet.

We have seen in the last year that we have the power to attack law school bank accounts.  The best way to erode their cash flow is to further drive down applications with impossible-to-ignore information.  Whether it is Surgeon General stickers, catchy fliers with information about ITLSS, OTLSS, and Nando’s brutally honest law school profiles, it only takes a few of us to canvass the parking lots outside of major testing sites at the upcoming June, October, and December LSAT.  I am in New York, others live in CA, and scam survivors live everywhere in between.

If our in-your-face information, provided right after the emotionally draining LSAT experience, causes 10% of those people to reconsider law school, we have dealt a crippling financial blow.  The dissemination of information, finally pushed into the mainstream media, already played a major role in the decline of new applications.  And the scambloggers started this momentum, even before Prof. Campos jumped in (and out) and helped to amplify the message.

The boomers have the power to yank the political chain to get what they want.  If we choose, we can wield a similar power by perpetuating the law school death spiral.


  1. The problem is not with "fringe wackos" like Paul Ryan.

    Academia is dominated, and I mean dominated, by the progressive left. They are are absolutely persuaded of their goodness of their cause, and have no problem: 1) expecting young people to pay for it all via Government sponsored loan instruments with terms which would make a loan shark blush, and 2) recoil with shock and horror, invoking notions of capitalist propaganda whenever the issue of the actual value of education is raised, as if academia is irrevocably insulated from any inquiry about educational value (or why educational costs have rise orders of magnitude above the rate of inflation).

    Yes, the boomers do have the power to yank the political chain. Yet the younger generation somehow trusts government and our academic institutions, neither of which stand for less government or markets which are reasonably free of government intrusion. This is what makes both the law school scam and the educational scam so difficult for the younger generation. They have been conditioned to look at government, and more government, benevolently, and are loathe to understand that government loan policies are by far and away the primary actor in this mess. And the beneficiaries are a class of progressive apparatchiks in academia which will disrupt any attempt by the younger generation to assert this all makes no sense.

    In this vein, I felt badly for the Occupy Wall Street crowd. They were on to something, but were simply incapable of understanding that their focus of operations should have been 240 miles to the south, right on the Capitol Hill steps. It just couldn't work for them, as many of their correctly intended targets were progressive Democrats - it was unthinkable for them, trained in a simplistic anti-corporate mantra. Don't get me wrong, most Republicans won't help students or young people all that much either. But heck, they are a much easier sell to get the Government largely out of the loan business (it could exist with severe caps and underwriting) as a means to end this insanity.

    I am in your corner. Good luck in adjusting your and your generation's political worldviews, because that is needed. Most won't be able to do it. No question, however, the bad actors are people with "wonderful intentions" They are hurting you badly. Again, good luck.

    1. Thank you.

      There is no need to get political, and the Democrats are no better than the Republicans when it comes to the scam.

      If anything, the people getting wealthy on this scam are predominantly leftists in academia.

      And whether or not one likes the Republican party, if you're going to end the law school scam in terms of government subsidies distorting tuition prices upwards, then you're going to need their help, too.

  2. Applications/Applicants continue to decline!

    Speak to the Boomers in the only language they understand - their pocketbooks.

  3. "Just How Bad Off Are Law School Graduates?"
    Time Magazine:

  4. What bothers me about the boomers isn't so much that they let generational short-term self-interest dictate American policy, it's that they're so damn oblivious and self-righteous about it.

    1. Yeah, whatever happened to "Hope I die before I get old..."?

    2. Funny how they were talkin' bout their generation up and until they became "The Man". Now, everyone after them is a damn dirty hippie.


  5. Law School Scam-alot:

    Man: You sit here, dear.
    Wife: All right.
    Man: Morning!
    Waitress: Morning!
    Man: Well, what've you got?
    Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and scam; egg bacon and scam; egg bacon sausage and scam; scam bacon sausage and scam; scam egg scam scam bacon and scam; scam sausage scam scam bacon scam tomato and scam;
    Vikings: Scam scam scam scam...
    Wife: Have you got anything without scam?
    Waitress: Well, there's scam egg sausage and scam, that's not got much scam in it.
    Wife: I don't want ANY scam!

    1. Deans: Scam, scam, scam, scam, lovely scam, wonderful scam! Scam sca-a-a-a-am Scam sca-a-a-a-am...!

  6. Rest easy. The disruption is coming, if it's not already here. Some of stuff in tech -- NLP, Optimality Theory, etc -- is going to game-change the nature of discovery, document review, etc. and hit boomers right in their pocket books. It's disrupting business models and methodologies right now. It's only a matter of time before it hits the legal field.

    If you want to read about how it works, here's an example --

    1. The bubble metaphor is getting attached quite a bit to legal education and legal practice. I can imagine legal academics are trying to remain nonchalant in public, but are commiserating and shitting themselves in small groups behind closed doors. Anyone who put themselves into the faculty hiring pool must realize they are so screwed. There is the potential for the spigot to go to a mere dribble by this time next year. It's nothing but negative press and stories about band-aids (ASU's bullshit law school firm idea, etc.)day after day, week after week. Also, if the stock market takes off, that's traditionally resulted in big declines in law school apps. Deans of Admission must be losing a lot of sleep. Interesting times...