What follows is a brief history of the so-called "scamblog" movement for anyone who came aboard after Campos started and thinks the world began then.
This is not to suggest that at any particular time that information was "out" there for 0Ls. Most of this stuff was obscure in internet terms, and it's clear that law schools remained the authority figures on the law school scene, and it's difficult to recreate the scene for 0Ls.
Anyway, I wanted to write this to show where we've collectively been and where we're hopefully going, and why it's important to keep pounding the message through whatever means possible until the deans have lost all credibility when they spout nonsense and newly-licensed attorneys aren't stocking shelves at Piggly Wiggly.
Way back in 2004, something called The Calico Cat called law school "the big lie:"
Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.From as early as 2005, the Barley Legal blog run by two Illinois law students/lawyers was noting the severe problems with legal education, including this sardonic parody of Career Services, or this repost of a Wall Street Journal Article, or this missive to new law students:
If you are reading this, and you’re a law student who already received your first semester grades, and they aren’t top ten percent, then my advice is to drop out now instead of throwing more money down the law school black hole.
The law schools will trick prospective students with bogus statistics about the great career opportunities available to graduates. Don’t believe everything you read.
I further suspect that some law schools outright lie on their reported career placement statistics.
Law schools are run for the benefit of the law professors who have cushy six figure jobs, and the money for their salaries comes from the gullible suckers called law students.
Hello prospective law students. As I stand before this group today, you and I have something in common. We have all made a poor life decision, the decision to attend law school. But unlike you, I, as a 3L, am too close to the end to rectify my situation, but you all are not. Come Monday, you will step foot into this building and you will officially become a law student. If I were you, I would do some heavy soul searching this weekend and decide if you really want to do that. Take it from me, you do not.The message boards JDJive/JDPost.com were already attracting discontent - at least by 2005 - before they ended/were shut down in 2007/2008. Here is a sample of some JDJive stuff from early 2007. AutoAdmit.com had many posters who figured out the score a long time ago, as exhibited by this thread from mid-2006, which includes this post by someone who somehow thinks schools were generally honest with their stats:
There are already too many lawyers, and there are FAR too many law schools in the United States.Tom the Temp began blowing the sweatshop whistle on America's doc review mills in December of 2005. Within a few months, his posts had made the legal media rounds and he was receiving dozens of comments and emails. These included calling out student loans as "bondage" (May 2006) and this writing in May 2007 about New York Law School:
Much legal work is now being outsourced to paralegals/secretaries and other legally-trained professionals in India and parts of Southeast Asia. Law jobs are drying up all over the place, yet TTT's and FTT's are still cranking out grads that have relatively weak chances of passing the bar exam, and an even smaller chance of making a financially rewarding career as a lawyer.
New York Law School is one stinky toilet. Despite the fact that it is a tier 3 school and provides little in the way of opportunity for its graduates, New York Law School has the audacity to charge one of the highest tuition of any law school in the United States -- higher than even NYU and Columbia! The dean of the school, Richard Matasar, is a scumbag of the worst kind, making a comfortable living by destroying the lives of naive 21 year olds.And he directly took on law school fraud again in June of that year:
With the proliferation of heavily indebted law graduates and the growth of horrible temporary attorney sweatshops continuing unabated, an interesting article has uncovered the massive statistical fraud that has going on within the ABA and amongst our nation's law schools. With such twisted statistics (which paint an unrealistically rosy picture of the legal market), is it any wonder why such large numbers of sheep continue to wander over to the slaughterhouse?The article he spoke of was published in The American Lawyer by William Henderson and Andrew Morriss, professors at Indiana and Alabama, respectively.
In September of 2007, Amir Efrati published a landmark piece in the Wall Street Journal featuring Scott Bullock/Law is for Losers/etc. and noting the plight of recent law graduates:
But the majority of law-school graduates are suffering from a supply-and-demand imbalance that's suppressing pay and job growth.Throughout 2006 and 2007, an anonymous poster named Loyola 2L left numerous comments on articles and message boards calling out Loyola for its misleading employment statistics and bleak job prospects enough to be sought out by the Wall Street Journal and Loyola 2L wound up winning Law Blog Lawyer of the Year for the WSJ:
The legal sector, after more than tripling in inflation-adjusted growth between 1970 and 1987, has grown at an average annual inflation-adjusted rate of 1.2% since 1988, or less than half as fast as the broader economy, according to Commerce Department data.
On the supply end, more lawyers are entering the work force, thanks in part to the accreditation of new law schools and an influx of applicants after the dot-com implosion earlier this decade. In the 2005-06 academic year, 43,883 Juris Doctor degrees were awarded, up from 37,909 for 2001-02, according to the American Bar Association.
Many students "simply cannot earn enough income after graduation to support the debt they incur," wrote Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School, in 2005, concluding that, "We may be reaching the end of a golden era for law schools."
A comment from last summer was typical: “Two years ago I stupidly enrolled in Loyola Law School, thinking it would lead to a decent job,” he wrote. “Now I’m in massive debt and have been taught a hard lesson. … Students from tier 2 schools aren’t allowed to have good jobs, despite all the money and work we put into the education.”In July of 2008, Paul Campos published a traditional law review article called Shame about law professors, and in the next year, Herwig Schlunk wrote a traditional law review article on the bad investment of law school. Note that neither gained much traction anywhere.
Later, Bullock himself had numerous web presences hilariously skewering Seton Hall, as Skadden Farts, Law is for Losers (L4L) and on his own Big Debt, Small Law. Here you can see the anger coming through in an open letter to the ABA:
How do you endorse (and in fact, require!) an education model that renders recent graduates experts on the common law of 16th century England but wholly unprepared to litigate a client’s simple fender bender case here in good old 2009? It is nothing short of pedagogic malpractice, and given the soaring cost of tuition it is simply unconscionable.Nando started Third Tier Reality in 2009, stating this:
And thanks to the glut of lawyers that your “accredited” law schools have produced, small firms are constantly setting new floors for entry-level salaries. Recent grads are sending out bales of resumes to dead silence, as if trying to sell saltwater on a lifeboat.
Young lawyers are paying a dear price for the disaster that you’ve sown. Like the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath, many young barristers lead an impoverished, transient life, flocking from one document review project to the next while hoping to stay a paycheck ahead of the loan sharks at Sallie Mae. Some try to cut their teeth in the gutter of insurance defense “practice,” cutting and pasting reams of boilerplate dreck for less money than a day laborer on a landscape crew. The temp agency pimps and their masters in Biglaw routinely lie about pay and hours, treat their fellow attorneys like expendable pieces of garbage, and routinely engage in behavior that violates not only your Rules of Professional Responsibility but also our basic human dignity.
I am writing this blog because I get tired of BigLaw, the ABA, law professors and their apologists in the media (and blog message boards) who argue that those who complain about the law school industry’s lies are just a bunch of malcontents. Surely, some are. However, a very large number who decided to attend law school DID NOT ANTICIPATE OR EXPECT to make six figures right out of law school. Most had REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS, i.e. to be able to pay back their student loan debt; to be able to find work as a lawyer or in a law-related field; to be able to pay a reasonable rent or mortgage payment; to be able to afford a middle class lifestyle. Seeing that many law students end up with law school debt in excess of $70,000 (many are well above this amount), is it too much to expect to come out of law school making $60,000 or $80,000 at least within a few years of graduating and passing the bar? Tons of people make these figures without the rigid requirements, ethical obligations, and immense student loan debt that lawyers must face as a part of their job. The law school industry (by this, I am refering to the law schools and the larger universities, LSAC, casebook publishers, admissions counseling providers like Princeton Review, state bars, the ABA, media coverage, apologists, and those who further feed off the system by charging law students exorbitant fees for their services, such as flash cards, primers on how to write law essays, etc.) has created a nice niche for itself by providing a false picture of the legal job market. This fraudulent conduct should be exposed to the larger world!This may shock some people now, but Nando's initial posts did not feature feces and was much lighter on raw rage than he later became.
Around that same time, presumably inspired by Nando and Bullock and Tom the Temp, several other blogs started and linked into the existing ones. But I Did Everything Right, Esquire Never, Underdog Esq/JD Underdog (now defunct), the Legal Nihilist, SubprimeJD, Shilling Me Softly (defunct for practical purposes), Outside Lies Magic, Exposing the Law School Scam (defunct, may have started earlier), First Tier Toilet (old posts removed), Jobless JD (defunct), Tales of a Fourth Tier Nothing, Fluster Clucked, Law School Must Be Debunked, Rose Colored Glasses, Restoring Dignity to the Law (now defunct), Scammed Hard, Duped Non-Traditional, and probably a few others I'm not seeing/forgetting (with no slight intended). Later on we got PresTTTigious Legal Profession and Do As I Say Not As I Do (now defunct) and a few others. At one time, at least BIDER, Shilling me Softly, and Jobless JD were major blogs attracting a lot of page views.
While what people focused on was the piss and vinegar that these blogs spit/spat out, there is and was some really good writing, and many of these blogs often took a completely professional tone, notably some of Fluster Clucked's entries and the quasi-scamblog Law School Tuition Bubble, which started around May of 2010 with posts like this. Forgotten Attorney also writes a professionally-toned blog. Many, like BIDER or the quasi-scamblog BL1Y, were written by people who had "won" the law school lottery or were working, experienced professionals.
Around the same late 2009/early 2010 period, Elie Mystal began writing for the BigLaw-obsessed Abovet The Law and began pushing more content on student loans, high tuition, too many law schools, etc. A good early piece on the subject can be found here.
Law School Transparency started in Spring 2010. Law Professor Brian Tamanaha wrote his first epic article on the scam in June of 2010.
A landmark victory for the Nando/BDSL/Tom-style bloggers came in January of 2011 when David Segal published his seminal article on law school being a losing game. While it focused on the wrong people, it made a splash and broadly increased awareness in the movement, as did Segal's subsequent articles.
Campos started Inside the Law School Scam in August of 2011. Readership seemed to coalesce around it and it broke through with certain academic and professionals who rejected the giant mass of stuff above.
Most of the above blogs disappeared or slowed down given that Campos' blog became a go-to source; many cited the fact that the message was "out" now and that they had accomplished what they came for. But if you look at things like Google Trends, it's beyond clear that all those other blogs formed a necessary foundation to getting us where we are today.
While Campos was instrumental in helping the truth about law schools reach new heights, he was a neither a beginner nor an coup de grace, but merely one big link in a long chain. Every single thing Campos said can be found in the above blogs. There was noting magical about his tone. You can find every level of snark and seriousness in the blogs that preceded him, and none of them attracted his readership levels because they didn't have the title of "professor."
In any event, this blog continues the tradition that pre-dated him in a centralized location, and given the blog's increasing and notable readership, it's clear there's still a need for this information and writing to get out there. It's also obvious that a purely professional tone doesn't always do it, given the failure of law review articles or LSTB to gain significant public interest.
There are still people who don't believe what we say, and there are still institutional actors who would do everything in their power to make this message go away or terminate it with half-baked reform. This movement can not - and will not - stop until the people who are in a position to do something actively work towards reform and the system's apologists stop defending its most ludicrous elements.
Some malcontents and stooges have commented that this blog isn't achieving any kind of reform. Such sentiments betray a lack of knowing exactly what reform is and how it works. Obviously, ventures like LST play a role, but controlling information and changing public opinion is essential, whether it be through ironic mockery or hard-hitting journalism or some mix of the two, anonymous, pseudonymous or under one's birth name.
Blog authors like Bullock and Campos can tire of repeating themselves, but law schools will never tire of loading graduates with student debt and pushing self-serving/self-saving measures. Continuing to spread awareness is essential in making sure that there is not only reform, but meaningful reform.
By running this blog, we - mostly lowly lawyers - are influencing the strength and scope of reform much more than if we wrote earnest, professional letters for the ABA's paper-shredder.
If you need any more proof that so-called "scamblogging" can actually accomplish something, look at where we were in 2008 and look at where we were in 2012.
You can say "we've had too many lawyers for years" and claim with 20/20 hindsight that everyone knew about the problems long ago, but methinks the lack of serious official action or major journalism on the law school shell game suggests that maybe the "scamblog" movement has done more than its armchair critics wish to give it credit.
And it - on the whole - achieved that with a collective tone little different - if anything, less professional - that what you see on this blog.
So we - this blog and law school critics as a whole - are doing quite well, and we'll continue to do well because we have truth and moral superiority on our side. That's how these things work.