No one has it easy.
Bulls**t, I hear you say. That homeless dude I stepped over on the way to work? Get a job. That worthless slob over at the DMV? No way. That prissy pharmacist’s assistant at the local Walgreen’s? It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow. That know-it-all HR woman at the office? Same thing, if not more so. And what does that Boomer CEO actually do all day, besides play golf?
Notice the progression. Job or no job, it doesn’t matter. As we move up the educational ladder, it doesn’t matter. If we change genders, it doesn’t matter. If we modify the starting conditions and social capital, it doesn’t matter. “I” work hard. “You people” are entitled, special snowflakes that don’t deserve anything because you don’t work hard.
Our culture takes the Myth of Meritocracy to the extreme, and it’s destructive. It paints people into organic robot slaves at best, and completely inhuman trolls at worst. There is no “we”, only “I” and the rest of you dolts. And any respect or fealty that is given to others is ultimately grudging and false.
The Law School Scam plays right into this hubris and confirmation bias. “Yes, THOSE people couldn’t cut it, but YOU can. We are willing to anoint you with legal knowledge and expertise, because we bestow merit when we see merit. With this degree, you will change the world. 95% of our graduates have jobs requiring a JD at an average $135k per year. Sign here.” And then they diligently trot out the graduate from 10 years ago or more, who (if they are honest) talks about how they “fell into this such-and-such practice, then fell into that such-and-such practice, presto-change-o, so can you!”
Amway, higher-ed style.
What is the response of the masses? After the ego-stroke and the shock-and-awe tactics, one thinks “Well, in spite of all the bad data and the terrible odds, I’m willing to work hard. That will make the difference as to why I will succeed, and the other schleps will fail. Yeah, that’s the ticket!” See, e.g., http://subprimejd.blogspot.com/2013/03/fine-wine-and-law-school-applicant.html
Wait, but everyone “works hard,” remember? That’s not unique, it is actually beyond common. That is the flip-side of “no one has it easy.” Meritocracy is not where it’s at. We know this. The world demonstrates this on a daily basis. We’re not all special snowflakes. Grades are on a curve. Despite best efforts things sometime fail, even if they are the “better quality” solution (Hello, Betamax). What does succeed is often a serendipitous combination of things no one could have foreseen nor purposely, intentionally brought together (Hello, Facebook), or things that were just plain flat-out given to you and not to others (Hello, fourth-generation legacies).
Even with all of his advantages, did Mitt Romney just not “work hard enough” to become president? That’s the only “rational” conclusion, right? Did Hillary Clinton just not “want it bad enough?” I guess so. What other explanation can there possibly be?
The Law School Scam? They know the truth about the practice of law and of the marketplace – most of them got out as soon as they could, frankly, if there were ever in it in the first place. They know that “merit” only works for the top 5%, if it even works at all. I knew the top-five (not top 5%) at my school, and strangely they were not drowning in offers. The schools know what it is really all about.
Do they say so? No. They play right to our worst nature, and try to cover it up with a fancy façade of “defending liberty” and “pursuing justice.” At outrageous costs that are detrimental to most graduates. Once the snake-oil checks have been cashed, then and only then do they say “Look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.” My, how quickly things change once the money changes hands.
Do we need lawyers? Yes. Do we need 40,000 new lawyers a year? No. Do we need Law Schools to revert from profit centers to institutions that actually practice what they preach and serve their mission (which might not actually involve pumping out as many lawyers as possible)? Yes.
In short, we need Law Schools to stop shilling the Myth of Meritocracy, because, frankly, they know better. Their endowments are supposed to allow them to take the high road on these issues.
Oh, and also stop the lying heretofore about employment outcomes in general. That too. Kthxbai.