Saturday, May 18, 2013

Epistle 7: Behold the Mighty Paralegal

Dear Disgruntled Law Grads:

Recently, there's been much discussion of making attorneys more "practice ready."  Please, stop.  You're only embarrassing yourself further, as this option already exists.  It's called being a paralegal, and you declined it in your pursuit of the prestigious riches of lawyerdom (which do, despite your claims otherwise, exist).

Have you ever actually looked at what they teach paralegals?  I'm guessing not, since you couldn't even be bothered to read the fine print (and do your own verifying research) on our misleading employment statistics.

Here is the syllabus for an introductory paralegal course in real property at Oakland University, a place not even (yet!) blessed with a law school.  Note that the class appears open to undergraduates, as many - if not most - paralegal studies courses are.

Here is a list of some of the topics covered/words mentioned on the syllabus that were not even remotely covered in my own 1L property class (it doesn't matter where I went - they're all basically the same):

-earnest money deposit
-title insurance commitment
-taxes, assessments and proration
-municipal presale instructions
-obtaining a mortgage loan commitment
-the closing process (settlement statements, escrow, etc.)
-state disclosure requirements
-RESPA compliance
-state landlord-tenant eviction procedure
Here are the specific facilities/class exercises mentioned:
-"The students will learn how to prorate summer and winter taxes."
-"For their class project the students will prepare a work sheet, purchase agreement and addendum.  The instructor will play the role of the purchaser. The students will have 10 minutes to ask pertinent questions to find out what they need to know to prepare the necessary documents."
-"They will learn how to prepare the notice to quit, summons, complaint, judgment and writ of restitution."
-"The students will prepare a Seller’ Closing Statement, Purchaser’s Closing Statement and Warranty Deed."
What a vulgar trade school.  Don't they feel disgusting actually preparing real-life documents they might see in their future professional lives?  Here's what my property class decided to teach me and my "thinkin' like a lawyer" mind instead of these things:
-Pierson v. Post and the theory of property
-Two or three weeks of Fees Simple, Fee Tail, Life Estate, remainders, executory interests (is if "shifting" or is it "springing"?), etc.
-the RAP, Rule in Shelley's Case, etc.
-eminent domain, due process, Kelo, etc.
-voluntary, ameliorative, and permissive waste
-lateral and subjacent support
-attractive nuisance doctrine
-how the First Amendment and city ordinances interrelate
-housing discrimination laws
All you idiots whining about law schools not teaching a practical curriculum are, well, idiots.  If you wanted the practical "this is how you lawyer on a day to day basis" education, you should have gone to get yourself a paralegal certificate.

But you chose something better.  You chose to be the doctor, not the nurse.  You chose to be the guy or gal who could not only help Everyday Anne, but who also knew an adverse possessor who claimed an interest void under the RAP like *that.*  You and I learned theory, had our minds crushed and reshaped to understand rights and justice, because these concepts are foreign to most Americans and cannot be learned through everyday practice.  THEY MUST TAUGHT IN SCHOOL BY TENURED PROFESSORS OF LAW.

Here's what something called "Kilgore College" teaches their paralegals about Torts and Personal Injury Law.  Only two weeks of intentional torts and then they have to fill the time by studying malpractice, workers' compensation, defamation, and automobile insurance.  They have them actually drafting pleadings - obviously these people are going to gain the ability to service most clients, but they aren't going to gain the critical thinking abilities that allow one to truly digest and pontificate about American civil justice or the nuances of Vosburg v. Putney or Rylands v. Fletcher.  They don't learn the rich history of actions for trover or the origins of product liability law that truly help one get Mildred her $30k from Big Insurance.

Here's a course from "Holmes College" that teaches Legal Research and Writing.  They teach literally every single major topic covered in my first-semester 1L writing class, plus they cover finding state statutes/municipal ordinances and some "cross-disciplinary" topics like jurisdiction and the rules of professional conduct.  Which, of course, means that they weren't trained in deep-thought areas like cognitive psychology, feminism, race relations, culinary anthropology, and numerous other areas that help lawyers lawyer.

They trained to be legal assistants and actually know what they're doing to service consumers.  YOU trained not to work for someone else, but to be an attorney at law, something much loftier.

If you wanted the practical skills to actually service clients, you should've gone to paralegal school.

So stop telling law schools they need to be more practical.  That option already exists, and YOU decided that you would rather subsidize pompous navel-gazing and hyperbole by pseudo-intellectual rentiers.

That was your choice, and might I add it was a good one.  Now, unlike a servant paralegal, you can set up your own office.  Why, with just a PC, a printer, and a suit and tie, you're ready to represent.  Don't worry if you didn't learn anything useful.  We only pick people who can swim on their own and leave those needing training to paralegal school.  Or something like that.


Law School Truth Center

P.S.  Harvard graduates do quite well, and Harvard teaches much less practical information than Cooley.  Obviously, the less practical law you learn, the more employable you are.

P.S.S. Apply now and we'll throw in a FREE WATER BOTTLE at graduation (that's $15.00 of your own $160k salary you won't have to spend!)


  1. You know...I work a full time job and was going to open a practice on the side to supplement my income. Was gonna partner with another lawyer to do so....just in case there was something I did not know. After reading this article, I think I will just hire a paralegal instead.

  2. Ahh. But the law skool-bound student and his proud parents crave the title, prestige and ticket upwards. It's only when the great 3-year sleepover comes to an end ...without any job offers... that the new solo-by-default starts clamoring for practice skills.

    But go ahead and get that practical training. It won't mean anything if the market's got no room for more practitioners. Practice-ready is only a virtue if there's a viable practice.

    1. The problem with this, for about 1.4 million people, is that once you have the law degree you are stuck. You are particularly stuck if you are in the second half of your career and too old to do something else that requires training or even experience.

      For some of us, who went to law school when the ratio of lawyers to the population was half of it was now, this is the worst scam. The law schools took away our careers by flooding the market with younger attorneys, who took our jobs. No one will hire the older attorneys.

      There is a lot of attention to first years and the oversupply. There is less attention to all of the experienced lawyers who have been put out of work by the scam. There is a huge level of unemployment and underemployment among experienced lawyers. It comes at all levels of the profession - from those who went to the bottom ranked schools to the Harvard Law Reviews.

      The law schools are still able to cover up horrific long-term outcomes and the fact that their degrees are useless for a huge percentage of older lawyers, not to mention many people in their 20s and 30s who once worked in big law.

      Useless means you cannot get any skilled job with your law degree. That has happened to many experienced lawyers.

      If this degree gave you an entree to paralegal jobs, of which there are many, there would be a fallback. But for most lawyers unemployment means that they cannot get any job. Maybe a drib or drab of temp work - with a T14 or T4 law degree - but no real job.

      Yes, there are lots of T14 grads and T5 grads who would gladly take paralegal work - myself included - to avoid literally years of unemployment. Sadly these law degrees, even the T4 and T14 law degrees, have no fallback - there is NO WORK.

      If I were a paralegal, I would have earned more in the last decade and had more steady employment than I had with my T4 law degree.

    2. Totally agree. The current focus on the plight of recent graduates' employment outcomes (or lack of jobs) has had the unfortunate effect of directing focus away from an evaluation of long-term career outcomes in law.

      The overproduction of lawyers has devastated the lives of experienced lawyers because it has all but ended the notion of having a career in law. Career outcomes are very poor in this profession.

      Sadly, our society is just getting to the realization that there are very few "first jobs" for law students. The dearth of good career outcomes is only a blip on the horizon... for now.


    Check out this gem from Paul Campos, from February 17, 2012:

    "There are a great number of things wrong with legal academia, but in the end the problem is this: There aren't enough jobs. Everything else -- the failure to prepare people to practice law, the intellectually vacuous and socially reactionary atmosphere of the law school classroom, the ridiculous publication system, the pernicious rankings, the puerile obsessions with status, the profligate spending etc. etc. -- is secondary to the fact that there aren't enough jobs.

    Let us do a little exercise.

    Contrary to the disturbing things you may have read in the New York Times, legal education is actually changing in all sorts of wonderful ways, which are making our students far more practice-ready upon graduation.

    There aren't enough jobs.

    Contrary to the disturbing things etc., legal scholarship has entered a golden age, and is producing all sorts of wonderful insights regarding how to make The Best Legal System in the World even better.

    There aren't enough jobs."

    Those with an IQ above 70 recognize this reality. Those who don't will continue to enroll in law school.

    1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Campos really was a great writer on the law school scam. I miss him terribly.


    2. There aren't enough jobs.

  4. Ummm. Hate to break the news but Oakland University does have a gigantic law school on its campus: Cooley Law School (Auburn Hills).

    1. Does that actually count as a law school?

  5. With all due respect:

    One elephant in the room is the mystery of why the so called great humanitarian Campos suddenly pulled up the stakes of his traveling internet blog and show?

    Maybe the God, Campos, whose heart strings are a lute, can post a little more over the summer?

    Kind of like a summer camp. Kamp Campos?

    I would be nice.

    The words from PC, born in BC (and with his annuity fund appropriately intact) will drip from his keypad like honey, and the swarm of anon busy bees here will be in heathen heaven.

    Anyway, here is hoping that a bolder note than his might swell within the political sky. Someday.

    And that day is probably a long way off.

  6. In other words, law school teaches useless things to people who will never be employed as lawyers.

    A double whammy/win for the scamster parasites.

    And when you throw in the mountain of non-dischargable debt, it's a trifecta.

    No institution in America destroys more innocent lives than law schools.

    1. Law school > drug dealers in terms of the damage they do to people.

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