JDU thread, April 5, 2013: If every aspiring lawyer was JeffM would they all be making $115K???
Today on MSNBC, a guest commentator invited to discuss the lackluster economic recovery and the high unemployment rate for people under 30 actually mentioned the huge surplus of liberal arts majors and especially those young people who become lawyers. In the same breath, he said he was paying for his son to go to law school, as he is rich. While he spouted BS about how STEM and medical fields still provide healthy job opportunities for young people just out of school—yeah, right, they are facing similar hierarchical education scams and huge debt—he discussed the lawyer glut as if it was common knowledge.
I saw this as a huge victory, showing that the message is spreading. Then, I saw an example of a person in our own profession who refuse to understand basic reality.
In this post, I use a recent message board discussion as a great example—one that some of our readers may be familiar with—where younger lawyers cited facts to try and get a poster named JeffM to see the light. For those not familiar with this commenter, JeffM frequently advertises a free feel-good “book,” which uses the vague language of a doctor’s office pamphlet or a college communications textbook, about how a good attitude will make you money regardless of supply or demand. Think positive, and you will succeed!
The younger posters could not get him to support his conclusion that lemmings were adequately warned five to eight years ago about the law school scam even though the schools were bragging about 95% employment rates, and he could not cite a single article, blog, or post from this period that revealed the fraud of the law schools. He criticized scambloggers as “losers,” because apparently all of us involved in these projects must be lazy bums, but he also claimed that scambloggers and scamblogger-types have provided fair warning about the low success rate of attorneys for at least 20 years (so it was unclear if we provide a valuable service or if we are horrible communist bums). He claimed that the $115,000 mean attorney salary shows that no supply and demand problem exists, but he failed to explain how it is not a problem that at least half of J.D. graduates, the ones who fall out of the profession and pay lifelong debt for a degree that they never use, fail to find jobs or clients. He could not explain why this does not constitute a supply/demand problem. The $115,000 salary statistic only includes practicing lawyers, including lots of the golden era boomer partners with abnormal incomes, and it does not factor in a huge percentage of past and recent J.D. graduates.
Just out of curiosity about the boomer Go-Get-‘Em attitude, I looked at his pamphlet for advice pertaining to my practice area, solo criminal law, and the only advice was to visit tittie bars and slide my cards between breasts, as many dancers have drinking, drug, and prostitution problems (and no money). I do not see how hundreds of dollars a pop for a New York City tittie club would garner me much money, especially when many dancers would qualify for Legal Aid. Besides, I am guessing, just a hunch, that my husband would prefer accompanying me to a few Go-Go-Boy clubs in Chelsea and the Village, but still, I doubt that I would make much money by slipping my business cards between a poverty-stricken dancing boy’s g-string and shaved balls, as most of these kids make barely enough money for groceries and sometimes rent.
JeffM represents a common problem with Generation Boomer, the idea that they had some struggles in the past, and therefore they have good advice for the present. Many posters here have touched on this disconnect between anecdotal experiences and current reality. Also, I will point out, per usual, that Generation Boomer did not deal with the current extreme glut and crushing debt. They can survive now because they had decades to enter safer jobs and to build their careers when the lawyer marketplace was much friendlier.
I use JeffM as an example for another reason: he provided on the message board a real time point-by-point record of the arguments of boomers and law school schills. Every time the handful of people, engaging in this hopeless exchange, confronted him with facts, he slipped into a different topic or used his fluffy refrain about how people can will themselves into success! If there is not enough legal demand, create the demand (I guess by framing people for crimes and hiring hitmen to set up personal injury lawsuits).
We are still in the midst of the messaging war. The message about oversupply is gaining ground. Unfortunately, the religious fervor of the free market zealots and the make-your-own-destiny crowd try to misdirect young people away from the harsh reality that most Americans do not have enough money to live month-to-month, let alone pay thousands of dollars for an attorney for any legal problem, no matter the seriousness. The few people who do have the money will spread their business between the hundreds of firms and thousands of solos in urban areas. The non-urban areas are just deserts.
No matter your will power, supply and demand matters. So does the economy. If people can’t pay for most services, and if the government is not hiring for indigent services, that leaves the representation of businesses. There are far more lawyers than legal matters, and so most lawyers will lose the jobs and clients lotteries. Sure, some of those people with positive attitudes and excellent work ethics will make it, but the majority of people with positive attitudes and excellent work ethics will lose everything.